Tag Archives: vegetarian

Ch-ch-ch-chia! Cherry-Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Pistachios

Ch-ch-ch-chia! Cherry-Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Pistachios

Chia Pudding 1 sm

Remember that animal-shaped terracotta pottery from the ’80s that you had to smear wet seeds on which would later sprout “hair” (grass)? Who knew that you could, A. actually eat those slimy seeds, and B. over 20 years later they’d be revealed as a healthy addition to your diet? Yep, I’m referring to the Chia Pet and those little chia seeds that adorned them.

Formally known as Salvia hispanica, the flowering chia plant is native to Mexico. Its seeds have been cultivated for food since the age of the Aztecs, being as important a crop to them as maize (corn). When soaked in a liquid, chia seeds puff up — absorbing about 12 times their weight — and form a gelatinous outer shell (chia “gel”). Aztec warriors would use them as a portable food staple during battles, supposedly being able to be sustained for a whole day after consuming just one tablespoon of chia gel.

What is it about the chia seed that’s got the health food community going ga-ga for them, you ask? They’ve got a ton of nutrients packed into their tiny shells: the USDA claims that one ounce of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, and provide 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. They’re chock full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (read: the good fats), too.
Read the rest of this entry

Not-so-mellow mushrooms: Sherry-Braised Wild Mushroom Salad with Pecorino and Hazelnuts

Not-so-mellow mushrooms: Sherry-Braised Wild Mushroom Salad with Pecorino and Hazelnuts

Mushroom Salad 3 sm

Though it’s an oxymoron, a warm salad is the perfect starter or main course for your table any time of the year, and I have just the recipe for you: sherry-braised mushrooms sautéed with shallots, thyme, and garlic, tossed with mixed greens, toasted hazelnuts and shaved Pecorino cheese.

Mushrooms are a great alternative to meat in a salad as they’re savory and hearty, pairing well with a variety of vinegars, nuts and cheeses. Many varieties of mushrooms are widely available in the winter and early spring months, which is why this is the perfect time to go foraging for tasty fungi at your local grocery store.

Though I didn’t go out and dig them up in my backyard, I’m using the term “wild mushrooms” with this dish because species of edible mushrooms that are either cultivated or harvested wild can be used in it. Examples of cultivated (or farmed) mushrooms include shiitake, Portobello, cremini, oyster, trumpet, etc.; mushrooms that are most commonly harvested wild (foraged) include truffle, matsutake, chanterelle, hedgehog, and, of course, the psilocybin-containing hallucinogenic ones (which I wouldn’t advise using in this recipe). Unless you’re a seasoned mushroom hunter, your safest bet is probably to buy them at the grocery store.

The key to this salad is adding the freshly sautéed mushrooms straight from the pan to the salad greens and tossing them together seconds before serving. The greens will wilt a few minutes after the hot mushrooms are added, so you don’t want them to wilt too soon before they’re eaten — they won’t taste bad, but a soggy pile of salad just isn’t pretty to look at.

Enjoy this salad as a main or first course, and pair it with a zesty Sauvignon Blanc or a medium-bodied Pinot Noir.
Read the rest of this entry

Soup for Dummies: Warm up with this easy-to-make curried cauliflower-apple soup

Soup for Dummies: Warm up with this easy-to-make curried cauliflower-apple soup

Cauliflower Soup 1 logo

When the temperatures start to take a nose dive and it’s finally time to dig out the sweaters, I have one thing on my mind (besides keeping warm): soup! Synonymous with warmth and comfort, no wonder it’s such a popular dish this time of year.

The best part about soup is that it’s so darn easy to make. Seriously. You throw everything into a pot, bring it to a boil, lower it to a simmer, then let it ride for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours (depending on what you put in it).

With most soup recipes, especially those that need to simmer for a long period of time, a lid is required during cooking to prevent the liquid from evaporating (or else you’ll just have a pot of soggy vegetables). Also, you’ll notice that soup is always cooked in a pot or saucepan with high sides instead of in a sauté pan with low sides. Why? The high sides prevent some of the moisture from leaving the pot and evaporating, while pans with low sides are designed to help wick moisture away — which is why they are great for making pan sauces and reductions.

Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup is a creamy, dreamy dish using currently abundant seasonal produce. Cauliflower is a great base for a pureed soup because, when blended, it acquires a creamed consistency; hence no cream (or the added calorie count) is needed. The Madras curry gives the recipe an Eastern twist and a pop of flavor, but feel free to omit it or change it up with your favorite curry blend.

Cauliflower Soup logo
Read the rest of this entry

Pumpkin and sage give macaroni and cheese an injection of autumn flavors

Pumpkin and sage give macaroni and cheese an injection of autumn flavors

Pumpkin Mac text

Since I’m still on my comfort food kick and totally inspired by the season, I decided to whip up another classic dish and given it an injection of autumn: baked macaroni and cheese with pumpkin and sage. Sure, mac and cheese is great as it is, but you’d be surprised how much better it can be with the addition of pumpkin, giving it the slightest hint of sweetness. Sage is my absolute favorite herb to cook with during the fall and it pairs perfectly with pumpkin, so I figured, why not throw it in this dish, too?

I also wanted to write up this particular recipe to teach you readers a thing or two about classic cooking techniques. I recently featured a recipe here that used the classic “mother sauce” Béchamel — milk thickened with a roux (equal parts fat and flour) to make a white sauce. This one uses the basics for Béchamel but adds cheese to it, thus making it a Mornay sauce (read: fancy name for cheese sauce). See? You can make easy, tasty food and learn some fancy cooking skills along the way.

While you can use just about any cheese you’d like for this recipe, I suggest using a white, mild-flavored cheese, like white cheddar, Gouda, or Gruyere, as it won’t overpower the pumpkin flavor or hide the bright yellow-orange hue imparted by the pumpkin puree. And while this mac and cheese doesn’t need to be baked after the creamy sauce is cooked, popping it in the oven gives it a firmer texture and and crispy exterior.
Read the rest of this entry

Creamed Kale and Sweet Onions: Try this (slightly) healthier twist on classic creamed spinach

Creamed Kale and Sweet Onions: Try this (slightly) healthier twist on classic creamed spinach

Creamed Kale text

For my next autumn fare installment, I decided to take a classic comfort dish, creamed spinach, and give it a more modern makeover by using the very popular cruciferous vegetable kale in place of the spinach. Kale has such a great reputation for being so healthy and nutritious, so I figured it could handle being slathered with a butter-laden cream sauce. The vitamins and minerals in kale negate some of the calories in the sauce, right?

I’ve seen creamed spinach done every which way — simmered with cream, mixed with cream cheese, etc. — but I’m a fan of using the old school, classic Bechamel sauce for this application. It’s quick, easy, and it’s a good basic sauce-making skill to have in your culinary repertoire (if you don’t already). Bechamel is one of the five basic “Mother Sauces” in classic French cuisine made up of a roux and milk. A roux is a thickening agent for liquids that is equal parts fat (butter, oil, animal fat, etc.) and flour cooked together before adding the liquid.

Try this out on your table this season for a (somewhat) healthier take on the standard creamed spinach. It’s a side that’s sure to please even the pickiest eater or green veggie hater.
Read the rest of this entry

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Proving that tomatoes can turn a classic dessert into a savory delight.

Even though turning on the oven in the middle of August isn’t on the top of most people’s list, there are a few dishes that are worth the extra mercury on the thermometer. Tomato cobbler is one of them.

“Cobbler? But that’s a dessert!,” is the reaction of most folks. Not in this case. This cobbler is a savory take on the classic sweet dessert and uses fresh and juicy summer tomatoes in place of the fruit (though, technically, tomatoes are also considered to be fruit).

Why tomatoes, you ask? Sure, you could throw them in a nice, cold salad, but have you ever popped them in the oven and baked them until they burst? Their natural sugars are enhanced with the application of heat and roasting them brings out their sweetness and even more flavor over eating them raw. In short, roasted tomatoes are a-mazing. If you have access to heirloom tomatoes, splurge and use them in this dish as they have even more “meat” and flavor to them than most tomatoes in the market.

To make this easy tomato cobbler, the vegetables (or “fruit and veg”) are cooked in a pan and poured into a baking dish over a cornmeal batter. To give it an even more homey and rustic look, use an ovenproof or cast iron pan to cook, bake and serve it in. And if you get the hankering for this savory side dish and tomatoes aren’t in season, simply use drained, canned tomatoes (the no-salt added kind). It tastes great when served fresh out of the oven, but tastes even more heavenly if it is allowed to sit and cool a little while and served at room temperature. It also makes fantastic leftovers when reheated and served the following day.

Grab the sumptuous flavors of late summer while you still can, crank up that oven, and make this mouthwatering cobbler as soon as humanly possible.
Read the rest of this entry

Roasted grape, goat cheese, and walnut tart

Roasted grape, goat cheese, and walnut tart

20130811-172648.jpg

The word “tart” is probably one of the most used homonyms in culinary terms. First of all, “tart” used as an adjective has to do with taste — like bitter, sour or acerbic. But today I’d like to focus on “tart” the noun. This kind of tart can come in many, many forms: sweet, savory, shortcrust based, puff pastry based, fruit-filled, custard-filled, cheesy, etc., and is usually served as either an appetizer or dessert.

The tart I’ve decided to whip up this week is a mix of sweet and savory — roasted grapes and goat cheese — on a bed of flaky puff pastry crust. It’s an easy-to-prepare, classy appetizer that’d be perfect for a fête during any season.

So why did I pick puff pastry over a short crust pie dough? Honestly, I’m a lazy baker and puff dough is as easy as grabbing from the freezer, thawing then baking. It’s also a party food lifesaver and should always be kept onhand for last-minute appetizers, main dishes accoutrements and desserts. For flavor, always choose puff dough made with butter, not vegetable shortening, as it will give you a buttery, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth product versus one with a weird aftertaste. Another cook’s tip: an egg wash (see recipe below) will give puff pastry a golden-brown kiss of color.

Try out this sweet, savory, and not too tart (the adjective) tart recipe that’s topped with roasted grapes, goat cheese, walnuts and fresh rosemary. It’s a breeze to bake up and your party guests will surely be impressed.

Read the rest of this entry

“Quick and Dirty” Greens: Braised collard greens with mustard spice rub

“Quick and Dirty” Greens: Braised collard greens with mustard spice rub

Collard Greens logo

Though traditional, “low and slow” cooked collard greens are grand, these greens can also be cooked (as I like to say) “quick and dirty” in a fraction of the time. Braising or stir frying collard greens at a high temperature keeps their verdant color and also helps to tenderize them quickly.

To kick up my collards, I like to use dried spices and — as every good Southerner does — a splash of red wine vinegar. Dried mustard powder goes well with sauteed greens, so I decided to use Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub. The dried mustard, smoked salt, honey and garlic complement the slightly bitter taste of the greens.

The next time you need a quick, vitamin- and nutrient-packed side dish, be sure to give this dish a try!
Read the rest of this entry

Swoon-worthy ‘Shrooms: Mushroom Bourguignon, a vegan take on the classic French dish

Swoon-worthy ‘Shrooms: Mushroom Bourguignon, a vegan take on the classic French dish

What if I said that you could take an amazing dish that’s traditionally made with beef and make it equally as delicious with a swap-out of mushrooms?

If you’re thinking about taking on the seemingly daunting task of cooking for your sweetheart this Valentines Day, but haven’t a clue what to make, then you’ve come to the right place. Yes, you could go the usual route and do the steak and potatoes thing, but it’s so…common. And what if your date isn’t of the omni/carnivore persuasion, eh? What if I said that you could take an amazing dish that’s traditionally made with beef and make it equally as delicious with a swap-out of mushrooms? Now you’re curious. Read on.

The following is a great twist on the classic French dish, Boeuf (beef) Bourguignon, where beef stew meat is cooked with carrots, onions, herbs and tomato paste. It is then simmered in red wine until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened and concentrated all of those lovely flavors into a savory, gravy-like sauce. This mushroom bourguignon replaces the beef with hearty mushrooms, like portobellos and criminis, but uses the same techniques — and most of the same ingredients — as the original. The traditional dish uses pearl onions, but I opted for peas as they give the dish some more color. Even better, this mushroom version takes a fraction of the time to cook.

Lastly, I must give credit where it’s due. This recipe was adapted from the original incarnation of Mushroom Bourguignon by Deb Perelman on SmittenKitchen.com. It’s featured in her new cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and the first time I laid eyes on the recipe — and the book — I was smitten. I highly recommend picking up this book; it’s full of dazzling looking dishes that are great for cooks of any skill level, and it features both meat and vegetarian main dishes.
Read the rest of this entry

Shades of Verde: Baked egg in avocado with pepita pesto

Shades of Verde: Baked egg in avocado with pepita pesto

Makes for a healthy, filling breakfast.

I must admit that two of my favorite things in the food world are avocados and breakfast. I could eat the soft, green fruit (yep, it’s a fruit) on just about anything and even by itself, and breakfast to me isn’t just a meal that can only be eaten during one time of the day.

Recently, I’ve been pondering: How can I incorporate avocados into breakfast? Yeah, I could chop it up and put it on top of my eggs or slather it on toast, but what about using an avocado as the star attraction on my morning plate? Then it came to me. Instead of putting avocado on top of the eggs, why not put the eggs into the avocado? So I baked an egg inside an avocado half. Think ‘Toad in a Hole’ minus the toast and replaced with an avocado.

Now I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near the first person to attempt this, but the recipe I used below is a fresh and jazzed up way to eat huevos en aguacate (free Spanish lesson for ya there). By itself, the dish is a bit plain, so it definitely needs to be topped with a salsa or sauce. I whipped up a batch of pepita (pumpkin seed) pest with basil and cilantro, and the culinary marriage was a match made in heaven, as the tangy pesto cuts through the fattiness of the avocado and egg. Finish it off with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or hot sauce and you’re set.

Now don’t limit this to just a breakfast — this could easily serve as a lunch or dinner main dish as well. It’s also very filling, so one half of an avocado and one egg per serving is plenty. Bonus: for you folks with dietary issues or on special diets, this recipe is vegetarian, gluten- and nut-free, and perfect for someone following the Paleo diet.
Read the rest of this entry