Tag Archives: vegetarian meals

Broiler Tofu with Roasted Corn Mixture

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Friends, I have a new way to cook tofu that does not involve frying it (!). Don’t worry, I’m not going too crazy—it’s still tossed in soy sauce and put over high heat with some oil—but this time in the oven.

Plus, after all that meat at Christmas in Montana (roast beef, smoked ham, scallops (brought by me from Maine), meatloaf with pork and emu, elk, venison, lamb…) I needed something a little more my usual style. Although I am intending to buy half a pig or something similar with Christmas money (thanks, grandparents!).

It’s January (happy New Year!), so you are officially allowed to begin using up the contents of your freezer. Which may include corn (straight from the cob to your freezer) and tomatoes. And, maybe your roommates are kind enough to get you a mushroom starter bucket for Christmas, so you have a fresh supply of oyster mushrooms. Handy.

Year-end is habitually a time for reflection, resolution, and anticipation. True also in the food world. We’ve been imagining foods of the future for a while now, that still have yet to come to pass, like a food pill (sure, Soylent, you’re getting there). But maybe instead we’ll go back to our ancient roots and renew some old grains, like millet. At least we made some progress globally in 2015 regarding changing diets, and feeding the world… and we’ve got more changes, like more female farmers, to look forward to.

And some food of our own, too. You can even pretend this is healthy (okay, it probably is healthy, depending on your health stipulations) and contributing to that New Years’ diet, too, if you want. Don’t give up deliciousness or you won’t stick to your goals!

I did this with the broiler but I suspect it would be just as effective in a very hot oven, and possibly more efficient. I recommend cooking the tofu in a separate pan from the veggie mix because the tofu might otherwise absorb the excessive moisture produced by the tomatoes, diluting the soy flavor (and preventing crispiness, a real travesty).

Broiled tofu with roasted tomato, corn, mushrooms
Tofu (about 1/3 lb per person I find sufficient)
Soy sauce, a few tablespoons
Vegetable oil, a few tablespoons (separated)
Corn (frozen is fine, about 1 cup)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped (frozen or canned is also fine, if you can chop them)
Mushrooms (a large handful)
Balsamic, a dash
Coconut oil, a spoonful, if desired
Salt/pepper
Garnish: cilantro and feta

Cut up the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with soy sauce and oil in a shallow roasting pan, toss lightly, and put under the broiler. Broil for 10 or so minutes, flipping occasionally, until dark golden and crispy.

Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and mushrooms and toss with corn, a little more oil, balsamic, coconut oil, and salt. When tofu is done, or if there’s room, put in a shallow pan under the broiler and cook the same as the tofu, 10 or so minutes until golden, flipping occasionally. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Toss the tofu with the veggies (lots of tossing we’re doing here), then crumble feta on top and sprinkle with cilantro.

Seedy Stuffed Squash

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As promised, a vegetarian (vegan if you want) version of stuffed squash. This is an entirely different dish than the kale and sausage version I posted a little while ago—a new option, rather than a substitute. Nutty, textured, and delightfully salty due to a good dash of miso.

The base for the filling is quinoa, nuts, and seeds. Mushrooms for depth, cranberries for punch, miso for umami, and a little cheese if you like for creaminess. Other vegetables would be welcome, like chopped up kale or spinach, but not needed. Extra filling would be excellent topped with an egg for another meal.

In the news: as you may know, climate change convention last week. Agriculture did not play a huge role, but there are a few hopes for carbon sequestering in the soil, and climate change-related disasters will have a huge economic impact on agriculture. In that, as with our own Congress, food systems do not yet receive the attention they are warranted. We may get there.

To keep up on those strange farm-related activities in Germany, did you hear about the herd of cattle adopting a wild boar?

In other news, please enjoy this (#starwars):

And now on to an actual recipe (of sorts. We’ve been over the no-recipe recipe deliberation).

Seedy stuffed winter squash
Quinoa
Delicata squash, or other varieties (delicata cooks quickest)
Mushrooms, any variety
Nuts and seeds: almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
Anything else you feel like (chopped kale, 
Miso, 1/2 tablespoon or so
Butter or oil
A handful of cranberries (optional, adds an exciting tang)
Secret ingredient: seaweed flakes
Melty cheese, to top

Start the quinoa cooking: add twice as much water as quinoa, bring to a boil, then turn down and let it simmer until fluffy.

Roast the squash: wash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and cook for 20 or so minutes in a hot (350-400º) oven, until just soft. Remove from oven.

In the meantime, compile everything else: chop up mushrooms and sauté them briefly, pull out whatever nuts and seeds you like and toast them (on a baking sheet in the oven for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully so they don’t burn).

When the quinoa is cooked, take out however much you want to make into filling and put it in a large bowl. Thin the miso with a little water, mix with butter (or oil), and stir into quinoa. Add nuts, seeds, mushrooms, cranberries, and a few seaweed flakes (we have this mix). Taste and add more seasonings, as desired.

With cooked squash cut-side up, fill the cavity with the filling mix, piling it up nice and high. Top with cheese, as desired, and place under the broiler for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.

Makes for good leftovers #desklunch the next day, too (especially paired with a creamy tahini-dressed salad).

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Brussels Sprouts Cranberry Salad

Brussels sprouts salad with cranberries

2015 Winter Salad #1! This is the kind of vegetable-based meal I delight in. Manages to feel healthy and hearty at the same time, and provides a good balance of different flavors and astringencies. One important note: DO NOT overcook your Brussels sprouts. This happens fairly easily; I tend to roast vegetables until quite done and caramelized, but that’s not how these work. You want them crisp but still with a good crunch, so watch them carefully in the oven.

Lots of oven time on these ingredients; save time and dishes by toasting pumpkin seeds and walnuts in large batches ahead of time. You’ll be glad you did for future food forays, or averting hanger after a long work day.

I have alluded to this before, but the time has come (the walrus said [Brussels sprouts are a kind of cabbage, so that’s not totally uncalled for. And Europe had kings at one point])! I am off to Germany on vacation next week. Therefore, do not expect a recipe (or non-recipe as is my tendency) from me in the next fortnight. Do continue to follow me on Instagram, I endeavor to post pictures of fairy tale food and other similar adventures.

Roasting pan of Brussels sprouts salad

If you come, they will build it: lessons in supply and demand from our food giants—consumer demand is changing how large corporations are handling their supply chains, labor practices, and additives. Moral of the story: keep asking for better food.

On another note, how about a suffragette cookbook? Cake against injustice (that’s my kind of subversion…)!

Or, vegetables for justice!

Vegetable-based meal rule number one: start with the vegetable (surprise!). Brussels sprouts are truly excellent roasted, as long as you don’t overdo it (remember last year’s Brussels sprouts with bacon? Nom.)

Rule #2: Add protein: nuts and seeds, in this case (otherwise: a small amount of meat (this can add flavor too); eggs; cheese; tofu; grains like quinoa).

Rule #3 (more of a guideline really, but arguably the most important): flavor! Salt is crucial. Here, cranberries and apple cider vinegar create a sharp contrast, and a little paprika on the pumpkin seeds round it out with a smoky note.

Cranberry Brussels sprouts fall salad
1lb or so Brussels sprouts
A few handfuls of cranberries
Salt and olive oil
A handful of pumpkin seeds (pre-toasted if you can)
A handful of walnuts
A dash of apple cider vinegar

Halve or quarter the Brussels sprouts (depending on size), and roast at at least 400ºF with a little salt and oil until barely tender and crispy, not more than 20 minutes. In the last 10 minutes (or right in the beginning if you want them softer), toss in a few handfuls of cranberries.

If pumpkin seeds are not toasted yet (I usually just do it whenever roasting a pumpkin/squash), spread out on a baking sheet with a little salt, oil, and paprika (smoked or otherwise, depending on preference), and toast in the oven for at least 10 minutes, scraping up and flipping halfway through, until golden and crackly.

Toast walnuts on a baking sheet until fragrant and crunchy, about 5 minutes. This can happen while the Brussels sprouts are in the oven.

When sprouts are ready, toss with a little apple cider vinegar, then mix in the rest of the ingredients, salt to taste, and serve.

Other vinegars, like balsamic, would also substitute if you want something a little richer.

Auf wiedersehen!

Cream Cheese Leeks on Cheese Biscuits

leek cream cheese

Lunch, breakfast, dinner. It matters not. Not for these. Something like a classic bagel topping, but lighter, greener, and a little cheesier.

I adore leeks. And as it is now fall (you can feel it in the air and see it in the brilliant trees), they are quite available, and looking for attention. Let them shine on top of a simple cheese biscuit, with plenty of cream cheese.

Something about the cold weather is making me crave cheese and butter and all I can think about at work is coming come to bake something fatty and delicious. Good job body, preparing for winter. (You should too)

You may be interested to learn that my style of no-recipe teaching recipes is somewhat of a trend, as it happens. I think it’s a good one—after all, you can learn how to follow rules all day, but eventually shouldn’t you eventually know why they exist, and begin to create your own? (We should probably all go into policy, following that prescription.) It is indeed not about the recipe, but engaging you to think about food: the way certain vegetables lend their flavor to other parts of a dish, the composition that blends to create a whole mouthfeel. Yes, there are some ingredients that need to be exact—baking is particularly stickling (hence the detailed measurements below)—but more important are the ideas. The Internet is awash with recipes; I aim to offer you not only ingredients and methods but a conception of a meal, a menu, a combination, at the very least.

If you ever have questions, let me know.

Leeks on cheese biscuits with cream cheese
Biscuits:
2 1/2 cups flour 
1 tsp salt 
1 Tbsp baking powder 
¾ tsp baking soda 
1/2 cup cheddar, or other hard sharp cheese, grated
8 Tbsp cold butter (1 stick)
1 cup yogurt 

Leeks (1 per person, assuming you like them)
Butter, salt
Cream cheese

Make biscuits: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Blend all biscuit ingredients except yogurt in food processor (or knife/pastry blender) until a sandy texture, with small nuggets of butter, similar to making pie crust. Stir in grated cheese without destroying the large grated chunks, then add yogurt and pulse; mix until almost forms a ball. Roll out on a floured board about 3/8 inch thick. Cut out circles (big or small, depending on the crowd and what you want—large size is better for topping with leeks) and place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or so, until golden on top. Remove from oven, take off baking sheet and let cool for a few minutes on a rack.

Slice leeks lengthwise and clean. Sauté with butter and salt over medium-high until soft, shiny, and slightly caramelized.

Cut biscuits in half, slather with cream cheese, and drape with leeks. Add a little fancy salt and pepper if you’re feeling decadent. If you want something heartier (again, lunch/breakfast/dinner, top with a fried egg, or some salmon (smoked or otherwise).

leek cream cheese

Socca, Lentils, and Lemon Radish Salad

socca, lentils, and mint lemon radish salad

Ah, the challenges of assembling a meal. Particularly vegetarian meals, because often there’s no focal point, but instead an amalgamation of various sides seeking harmony. Today I offer you a combination: three elements that are quite tasty alone, but perhaps not spectacular, yet together create a marvelous dinner.

Socca (also known as farinata, is a vegetarian staple I’ve been meaning to make for a while, and I would’ve done it much sooner had I realized quite how easy it is. Chickpea flour, water, a little oil, some time, and heat—very little labor. And so, so delicious.

Would your grandmother call this food? Either way, it’s definitely worth eating.

Other side note shareables: tips for container garden growing! Also, farmers are starting to use microbes (yep, the same organisms that are receiving accolades in the yogurt-kombucha-aged cheese-loving world) instead of pesticides! Keep working while we attempt to figure you out, nature.

socca batter

The Creation of this meal Story: I had been thinking about socca, and then I got some beautiful purple and red radishes in my CSA this week, along with some mint, and figured radish salad would be a lovely fresh addition. I could be happy with that combination for myself, but I like to fill out the plate a little more when there are other people around (and also, leftovers). The little gray cells landed on lentils: easy, a flavorful accompaniment, but generally not terribly exciting as a main course. Here, they perform their role more than admirably, providing heft and spice and heartening out the other two dishes. As for the salad, the lemon on the radishes cuts their sharpness enough to enjoy a plateful, and the mint wonderfully brightens the warmth of the lentils when ensemble. All scooped up with aromatic socca, I was quite pleased, and I think you will be too.

rosemary for socca

Socca recipe from Mark Bittman, the rest I just threw together.

Socca, lentils, and lemon-mint radish salad
Socca:
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup lukewarm water
Salt and pepper
Rosemary
1/2 onion, if desired

Red lentils, with plenty of spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger
Onions, chopped
Oil

2 bunches radishes
A few sprigs of mint
1 lemon
Salt and pepper

If you have time to mix the batter for the socca ahead of time, do so. Put chickpea flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then add water slowly, whisking to avoid lumps. When smooth, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and whisk again.

While that is sitting, cook the lentils: heat up dry spices until aromatic, then add oil and onions and cook until onions are soft. add lentils and stir until the lentils take on some color, but don’t let them burn—have water on hand. Add water, bring to a boil, then simmer until soft, around 20 minutes (red lentils disintegrate fairly quickly).

When ready to cook the socca, put a large cast iron pan in the oven and preheat to 450ºF. When hot, remove pan and add a little oil and some rosemary (you could also cook a few onions at this point, returning the pan to the oven until onions are brown, then adding them to the batter). Pour batter into hot pan (don’t forget oven mitts at any point in this process!) and cook for 10 or so minutes, until golden brown and set (actual length depends on how wide your pan is, which determines the thickness of the pancake; I admittedly burned mine a tad).

While the socca is cooking, wash and cut the radishes into quarters, or bite-size chunks depending on their size. Chop up mint and place both in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon (including pulp) over the radishes, add a little salt and pepper, toss, and taste. Adjust as needed.

Serve, and don’t worry if lemon juice from the radishes (it may even turn pink!) seeps into the lentils. Do try to avoid making the socca soggy though.

Chickpea Red Sauce

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“Enough with the winter vegetables already! I’m sick of turnips and beets and cabbage!” you say.

Fine. Me too (well, a bit anyway). It is March, after all (!), so I will allow us a brief respite.

Time to pull out all those tomatoes you made into sauce into the summer. Just kidding, I wasn’t that good this year. I’ll do better next year, promise (I did freeze some of them, but not enough for lots of pasta sauce). Fortunately, you can still buy tomato sauce, and some of it is pretty good! Look for brands without added sugar. Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen sells Maine-made tomato sauces; and if you aren’t in Maine or aren’t as ridiculously neurotic about eating locally as I am, go for the fancy Italian ones. They grow delicious tomatoes.

Speaking of tomatoes, here’s an interesting article about seed-breeding, and making it open-source (it’s funny to me when agriculture borrows terms from tech. Mostly it’s the other way ’round). Breeding for flavor?? What a novel concept.

This sauce is hands-down my favorite go-to quick vegetarian (vegan, even) meal to feed a crowd. It’s easy, delicious, nutritious, and almost universally loved (I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love it, but I’m hardly ever ready to entirely reject the possibility).

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I usually put it over pasta, but today I decided to do potatoes. Mostly because I have approximately a bazillion potatoes and they are almost sprouting so need to be used. I have this idea in my head that I don’t like potatoes that much—I never seem to have an urgency to use them—but it’s not true, whenever I make them I devour them quite happily. In any case, using potatoes with this recipe has the added benefit of sharing another interesting tidbit, a tomato-potato plant! Apparently, they are in the same family and can be grafted together. So, not only could you grow the ingredients for this recipe in the same place, they could be the same plant.

Fried potatoes with chickpea red sauce
Potatoes
Oil and Salt

Olive oil
An onion 
Garlic
A few sprigs of rosemary
1 cup cooked chickpeas (to cook: soak overnight, then boil and simmer with an onion until soft. Add salt near the end, and make sure to keep the broth for another use)—canned will do in a pinch
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (home made or bought)
Salt and pepper
Cheese to top, if desired

Do the potatoes first. Chop them up into small chunks (if you want them crispy, make them skinnier and smaller). Sprinkle generously with salt and oil and put in a hot oven (400ºF ish) until crispy, at least 20 minutes and probably longer.

For the sauce: Chop the onions and garlic, and sauté in oil with the rosemary until soft and aromatic. Add half the chickpeas and sauté a little longer, making the chickpeas golden. Add the tomato sauce, then purée, either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. It’s also good not blended, just not as original. Add in the rest of the chickpeas, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve over the roasted potatoes, topped with cheese as desired.

Like I said, it’s also great over pasta. Or sandwiches, for that matter.

Rutabaga Caponata

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So I had some deliberation on whether to use this title because caponata doesn’t mean much to most people. In fact I had a hard time remembering the term myself. But, we all need to learn new things, right?

Ordinarily, I now understand, caponata is an eggplant dish. Not having made the original version, I have nothing to compare this with. However, I can tell you that Wikipedia’s description is fairly apt, a sweet and sour vegetable dish that could be used as either a side or main. It’s pretty exciting and has interesting flavors that I would probably never think to put together on my own. Always looking for new rutabaga outlets, I came across this recipe from Saveur and I think it’s a keeper. It should end up sweet but hearty—the flavor of the rutabaga plays nicely with the array of spices.

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I’ll have to try the eggplant version sometime.

On another note, I broke ANOTHER paring knife. That one in the picture, actually. It’s got a good core but part of the stone piece fell off. I’ll have to find the right adhesive material. I guess maybe I am overusing them, because my larger knife feels a little flimsy and anyway mostly I’m just cooking for me, which doesn’t generally require too much knife power. Except that apparently it does. Ah, well.

Saveur's Rutabaga Caponata
2 rutabagas
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
A couple cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons currants (I didn't have these but they'd be good)
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (you keep them around now, right?)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or a little cayenne if you don't have them)
A small spoonful of honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg
A tablespoon of cocoa

Start by roasting the rutabaga. Rutabaga is friendlier than squash to chop quickly, although it does have quite a thick peel that takes a little practice. Anyway, peel (with a knife) and chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Drizzle with oil and bake in a hot oven (around 400ºF) for 30 or so minutes, turning over every once in a while, until soft but not mushy.

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Chop the rest of the veggies. Heat up oil in the pan and cook the onions first, then when they begin to soften add in garlic, shallots, currants, and raisins. Then add the vinegar, and scrape the pan (deglaze) to collect anything that might have gotten stuck. Add the pine nuts and spices, going easy on the honey and cocoa until you taste it, and adjust as necessary.

I ate it with some water buffalo sausage, because I felt like, but it’s also perfectly acceptable as a main course by itself.

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In other news, the just 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released a new report detailing diet suggestions for the American populace. You can read the Executive Summary if you don’t want to get into the whole thing. Basically, though, we need to be eating more vegetables, less red meat, and considerably less sugar. If you are surprised by this, I’m glad you’re here, because you have some indoctrination in store. It’s getting harder in the winter, though. Hence the rutabagas.

If you have great (read: varied) recipes for winter vegetables (turnips, cabbage, carrots, beets, potatoes), send them my way!

Stir Fry: Lazy Delicious

This is another of those don’t-really-feel-like-cooking but must-use-up-vegetables kind of meals. Stir fry is awesome because you can basically cook anything and it’s still delicious and nutritious. And it takes like 5 minutes.

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As with other vegetarian meals, I do worry a bit about protein intake (although this might not be a super valid concern, I do tend to notice that I get hungry faster without it). Beans, chick peas, tofu are all great (and vegan) and I eat lots of them. But they take some time to make. Fast, easy, and delicious are eggs. Eggs are also dairy-free, in case you didn’t realize they came from chickens, not mammals. Although not vegan. I don’t really care about labels or sticking to a very particular dietary regime, and thankfully do not have any food allergies. I don’t eat a lot of meat, as has been established, but enjoy it on special occasions, which feels right to me for both environmental and ethical reasons. I think that animals are essential to any food ecosystem and eating them is a part of that, within reason (if you disagree with that, read this). A lot of my meals happen to be vegan, but mostly because I base my meals primarily around whatever fresh vegetables I have (meat has seasons too, but freezes much better and therefore is more flexible). It’s also much cheaper. Anyway, I find that I eat very well, whether vegan, vegetarian, or full-on omnivore.

And now, an ode to eggs. Those of you who know me have probably been waiting for this. But seriously, eggs are so awesome. Scrambled, poached, fried, hard boiled, soft boiled, made into an omelette or quiche or frittata, mixed with a little flour and milk for crepes or pancakes or popovers; whites can be whipped for meringue or angel food cake or marshmallow frosting (or frozen for later use!); yolks can be used for puddings, custards (even to thicken frosting…just wait), crème brûlée,  whipped up in fresh mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce… the list is endless. They are fantastic and delicious and nutritious and if you are the type of person who only eats egg whites, I’m sorry but you are silly. Unless you have a family history of cholesterol.

So there you have it. Stir fry, maybe over some rice, or pasta, or whatever else you have lying around (rice: put rice in pot. Cover with a thumbs-width of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer til soft, about 20 minutes. Same process for other grains as well as quinoa, beans, lentils, etc).

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Stir fry
Vegetables, chopped (I used Napa/Chinese cabbage here, but other cabbage will work, or carrots/onions/celery/chard/kale/beet greens/most things
Oil 
Salt/pepper/whatever seasonings you want (soy sauce, cumin, hot sauce, peanut butter...)

Eggs
Rice

Heat up oil in a pan, then add vegetables. Or just add everything all at once, it doesn’t matter that much. Medium heat is fine, although if you are in a hurry you can turn it up and just make sure to mix it a bunch; or if you need to do other things you can leave it on low and give it a stir every once in a while. Cook until soft.

To fry an egg (this will be more specific because it is actually shockingly hard to get perfect every time): Heat up the pan first with a little oil, medium low heat. Add a little salt and pepper and spices if you like (I like turmeric and oregano). Tap the egg on the counter to break it, then open with your thumbs and drop it into the pan, careful not to break the yolk. I like my eggs medium, which means cooked white and runny yolk. Let the egg cook until the white is mostly opaque, with a little translucent layer on top (shown below), then slide the spatula under the egg, making sure it’s not sticking, and flip it over in one motion. Let it cook for a tiny bit longer (maybe 30 seconds) and then slide it off. You can kind of poke the center – gently! – with the spatula where the yolk and the white intersect, since that’s the last place the whites will cook. If it’s still wobbly, leave it on a little longer (you can also flip it again if you need to, although some might call it blasphemous).

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Pile onto your stir fry, or some toast, and enjoy! Best eaten hot, although they can also be good cold. I find the yolk makes an excellent sauce. Putting eggs with some grain (quinoa is nice), veggies, and a few fried eggs into a container for lunch is also a good meal.