Tag Archives: vegetarian

Roasted grape, goat cheese, and walnut tart

Roasted grape, goat cheese, and walnut tart

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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.

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

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

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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!
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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.
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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.
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Sinful Sides: Indulge in this creamy kale and butternut squash gratin

Sinful Sides: Indulge in this creamy kale and butternut squash gratin

Your waistline may hate me, but your taste buds will thank me.

Forget the lean turkey and ham, the holidays all about the tasty, rich side dishes. These are some of the only days of the year that most folks let themselves indulge in rich, indulgent foods without a second thought on the calorie count (until the following day). Even healthy vegetables like sweet potatoes, green beans and kale get an oleaginous makeover with additions of bacon, butter and cream. Why? Because they make foods taste better!

If you’re going to load up on calories, it had better be worth it and taste amazing, and this following side dish is just that. So don’t even bother trying to make a “lightened up” version of this butternut squash and kale gratin with skim milk and light butter spread, go all the way with whole milk, cream and good quality cheese. Your waistline may hate me, but your taste buds will thank me.
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Savory makeover for a Thanksgiving classic: Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda Gratin (with a secret ingredient)

Savory makeover for a Thanksgiving classic: Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda Gratin (with a secret ingredient)

Cheesy, smoky, creamy and downright delicious!

Many people associate sweet potatoes as a sugar-sweet side dish for Thanksgiving — swimming in butter and brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows. While this classic dish is fantastic, I decided to give it a savory makeover this year with the help of a secret ingredient.

Instead of boiling and mashing the sweet potatoes, I went for a twist on the classic baked gratin dish. I thinly sliced the raw sweet potatoes into 1/8″ thick rounds (a mandoline would make this job even easier) and layered them in a baking dish, scattering grated smoked Gouda cheese in between each layer (ending up with three layers of potatoes). For a typical gratin, cream is poured over the layered potatoes before baking. To spice this up a bit, I added chopped garlic and Stubb’s Pork Marinade — which contains spices garlic, lemongrass and ginger — to the cream.

The result: a tasty casserole that’s cheesy, smoky, creamy, slightly spiced and with a hint of sweetness from the sweet potatoes. After tasting this, I may never go the typical brown sugar and marshmallow route for Thanksgiving again.
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Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Here’s looking at you, carrots.

In keeping with my culinary exploration of flavors from around the globe, I decided that my next sojourn would be to the fabled land of Morocco. But being that I can’t afford the airfare, this trip would have to take place in my kitchen.

Moroccan food has always appealed to me because of its use of vibrantly colored and flavorful spices. The cuisine reflects Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and Berber influences, its dishes even more heavily spiced than those of the aforementioned locales.

Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger and saffron are just a few of the many spices often used in Morocco’s signature tagines, couscous dishes, pastillas, soups and sides.

Besides the meat- and lamb- heavy main dishes, Moroccans use a wide range of fruit and vegetables in their cookery. That’s why I’ve chosen this flavorful carrot soup as the vehicle for my “spicy” fix.

Great for any time of the year, this brightly colored, puréed Moroccan-spiced carrot soup is creamy, bursting with flavor, easy to prepare and also quite healthy. The featured ingredient is chock full of dietary fiber, antioxidants and vitamins — namely, beta carotene and vitamin A, which is great for eye health.

(Though unfortunately the urban legend that eating lots of carrots will allow one to see in the dark isn’t true.)

Feel free to play around with the spices in this soup, adding more or less of whatever pleases your palate, or throw in a different combination of flavors typical of Moroccan cooking. And instead of orange carrots, why not grab some purple, red or yellow carrots to give it a colorful makeover?

My last piece of advice on this recipe: If you have a food processor, use it. It will surely save your hands from all of the chopping required and will cut your prep time in half.

Bil hana wish shifa’!
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Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

No lettuce required: Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Salads are a staple of summer and they come in many forms. What pops into most folks’ heads when the word “salad” is uttered is most likely a plate full of leafy greens. While lettuce based salads are well and good, there are other forms of “salad” to consider this time of year, like ones consisting entirely of veggies and/or fruit. They’re a great way to utilize the best produce that this season has to offer and can be a great way to boost the nutritional content of your meal (barring they’re not swimming in mayo or sour cream because that kind of negates the “healthy” aspect).

This first recipe utilizes fresh, raw veggies that are tossed in (my take on) creamy Green Goddess dressing and it makes for a great side for a summer gathering. Instead of smothering this dish in a mayo and/or sour cream based dressing, it gets its creaminess from avocados and buttermilk — the latter being much healthier than you might think (one cup contains less than 100 calories and only 2.2 grams of fat). Make the dressing a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry and feel free to toss the veggies together with the dressing up to an hour before serving.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 4 servings

2 ears of sweet corn (raw)
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 bell red or orange pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed and minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
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East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

East Meets West: Enjoy a twist on a classic with these Indian-inspired enchiladas

Not the prettiest enchiladas, but the bold flavors make up for its looks.

Experimenting with food and flavors is a passion of mine and I love to “explore” the globe through its cultures and their cuisines. Sometimes, I like to be region-specific with my cooking, and other times I, in the immortal lyrics of Fleetwood Mac, like to “go (my) own way” by using a basic flavor profile and letting the creativity flow.

This past week, my culinary journey was at a fork in the road. You see, I had a craving for cheesy Mexican enchiladas with tomato sauce, but also had the itch to experiment with some Indian flavors and wanted make the dish a little healthier. Thus, these vegetarian, gluten-free Indian enchiladas were born. I used a few basic spices that can be easily found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores — save for the Indian chili powder that can be found at an Indian grocer or easily substituted with regular chili powder — and some easy-to-find ingredients commonly found in most Indian cuisines, like butternut squash, chickpeas and tomatoes.

Paneer cheese, a fresh farmer-style cheese that doesn’t melt, is a star ingredient in the filling. It holds up to high heat cooking and adds both bulk and protein to the filling. Paneer can be found at specialty and Indian grocery stores, but can be easily substituted with firm tofu (this would then make the dish vegan as well).

Even if you’ve never cooked Indian food before, this recipe is very approachable and can be adjusted to your taste and spice level: leave out the spicy chilies for a milder sauce or add more if you’re a heat-seeker, substitute the kale with spinach, and you can even use different types of winter or summer squash in the filling if you please.
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You say tomato, I say soup: Creamy Sherried Tomato Soup with Herbs

You say tomato, I say soup: Creamy Sherried Tomato Soup with Herbs

This easy-to-prepare tomato soup is comforting goodness in a bowl.

No matter the weather or season, any time is a great time for tomato soup. There’s something comforting and restorative about a warm bowl of tomato soup — homemade tomato soup, that is. For me, it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. This version in particular is so easy to prepare that you’ll be on your way to culinary bliss in no time.

When I first found this recipe and saw some of the main ingredients — tomato juice and chicken base — I worried that it would turn out tasting like something grandma would made or simply like I’d opened a can of Campbell’s (which is decent, but like I said, homemade simply tastes better). Turns out the ingredients totally work — the juice gives it added tomatoey oomph and the chicken base is a shortcut to using broth, which one would have to simmer for ages to achieve the same flavor.

The result is a pinkish-hued bowl of comfort to be served warm or piping hot (depending on your mood and the weather outside). I like to stir in chopped herbs like parsley and basil just before serving for a pop of color and flavor. As for the sherry, Ree used cooking sherry, whereas I prefer to use real sherry wine.

Sherry is a fortified wine that originates in Jerez (“Sherish”), Spain, and is typically served as an an aperitif used to “finish” and add flavor to dishes. I go by the old adage on cooking with booze: “If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.” Cooking sherry is a version of sherry which has been treated with salts and other additives so that it can be stored in the cupboard at room temperature. While this is all well and good, I’m not a fan of its flavor and prefer using standard dry (not sweet) sherry wine in its place. Don’t have sherry on hand? Not a problem. Try substituting a cup of dry red or white wine for the sherry — just add it before you throw in the tomatoes to let the flavors meld while they’re simmering together — or leave it out altogether.

Feel free to get a little creative with this recipe and personalize it as well. For added flavor, try throwing in a teaspoon or two of fresh, chopped rosemary or thyme when sweating the onions. Don’t want to use the cream and/or sherry? Not a problem. Try substituting a cup of dry red or white wine for the sherry; just add it before you throw in the tomatoes to let their flavors meld while they’re simmering together.

Not only is this tomato soup approachable for any cooking skill level, it’s perfect for a weeknight meal, as it only takes minutes to throw together and you can get it on the table in a flash. Serve it alongside a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and call it dinner.
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