Posts Tagged "vegetarian"

One Method, Endless Pesto Possibilities

The key to learning to cook, and learning to cook well, is a willingness to experiment. If you must have exact recipes and exact ingredients then you will never feel completely comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking is learning a method and experimenting and tasting and tasting until you learn what works well together and what doesn’t.

Take pesto, for example. Sure, you can follow a recipe that shows you how to make a basic basil pesto. Or you can master the method behind making pesto. Once you understand the method, then the possibilities and ingredients are endless.

And so below are the things I have found make excellent pestos:

  1. Herbs, particularly basil. Basil is, of course, the key ingredient in a traditional pesto, and I have found it is by far the best herb to use, but why not throw in other herbs as well? Parsley works well. Even non-Italian herbs, such as cilantro, can give pesto a different twist.
  2. Greens. Not traditional, but such a good way to use greens! Spinach, arugula, and kale are my favorite. Each adds a unique taste and gives you a different pesto. Experiment with using different combinations.
  3. Garlic. Really, can you have pesto without garlic? I usually use at least 1-3 cloves, depending on how garlicky I want it to be.
  4. Nuts. Pine nuts are traditional, but, in my opinion, they are not worth the money. Experiment with other nuts. I personally love almonds and pistachios in pestos.
  5. Cheese. Though not necessary, I personally love adding cheese. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Romano, are best. Also good: feta. Just don’t add too much. A handful will do. You should have far more greens and herbs than cheese.
  6. An acid. Lemon juice is traditional. About 1/2 a lemon will do the trick. Also try: Lime juice. Vinegar.
  7. Olive oil. Just enough to make it smooth.
  8. Salt and pepper. Want it spicy? Add red pepper flakes.

A bulk of the pesto should be herbs and greens. Put everything, except the olive oil, in the food processor and pulse it several times. Add the olive oil while pulsing and process until smooth. Taste and adjust and write down what works well together.

Though my favorite way to serve pesto is on pasta (no surprise, right?), you can also put it on sandwiches or meat or use it as a dressing.

 

Pictured below is a combination of arugula, spinach, basil, slithered almonds, garlic, Ramon cheese, feta cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

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So what’s your favorite way to make pesto?

 

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Falafel

I love falafel but until now, I’ve never been able to make it. This recipe is perfect.

I got the recipe from The Shiksa in the Kitchen. I hope you don’t mind that I repost it here!

Here is the recipe, but I recommend you follow the above link because she gives a lot of good tips and easy to follow instructions:

  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)

I didn’t use as much oil as she did, so as you’ll see in the photos below, my falafel are not as evenly fried. I also used safflower oil, because that’s what I had on hand.

My tips:

  • You absolutely must use dried chickpeas. Soak them overnight or during the day while you’re at work. Canned won’t give the right texture.
  • Also, don’t skip the fresh parsley. Just don’t do it.
  • I used my cast iron skillet to fry them, which worked perfectly.

And my photos:

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Vanilla Pear Jam, Apple, and Roquefort Cheese Pizza

I swear, I do eat “normal” American-style pizza. You know, the cheesy kind topped with black olives, hot peppers and pineapple (ok, ok, so maybe my taste isn’t completely normal). But more often than not, I like unusual pizzas, or at least unusual in comparison to the greasy, cheese and pepperoni topped pizza that has conquered most chain pizza joints across the United States. I’m drawn to the ones topped with ricotta cheese or roasted vegetables or fig jam, prosciutto, and gorgonzola (amazing combination, by the way). So when I bought one of my favorite seasonal jams from the market (Vanilla Pear from Sweet Thing Gourmet Jams), and the owner recommended pairing it with gorgonzola cheese, I knew it was time, once again, to make pizza.

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I made a similar pizza late last winter using apples, caramelized onions, and gorgonzola (which is a delicious combination), but this jam, combined with the spiciness of the pepper flakes, gives this pizza an extra punch. I used roquefort cheese instead of gorgonzola, just for something different, but the taste is so similar that you could easily use either one. And of course, I don’t expect everyone to have access to such a unique jam, but I’m sure many other jams would work as well.

So to begin (and I apologize for the lighting in some of these photos. Dark kitchen.). You will notice in the below photos I’m using a pizza pan. It was my first time using one. Usually I use a pizza stone, but I found that the pizza pan works quite nicely as well.

Shape your pizza dough. Spread a thin layer of the vanilla pear jam onto the dough (a little goes a long way). Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, fresh garlic (about one small clove), and oregano or other Italian herbs. 

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Next add slices of apple and slices of banana peppers or another pepper of your choice.

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Between the peppers and apples, drop small chunks of roquefort or gorgonzola cheese. It spreads when it melts, so you don’t need much.

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Sprinkle the top of the pizza with a combination of asiago cheese and pecorino (or one or the other). Add a tiny pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

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Bake at 475 for about 8-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and drizzle balsamic vinegar on top. (I used a specialty vinegar I received as a gift: Vanilla Fig. Plain vinegar will do, as well. Just make sure it’s a thick, high quality vinegar).

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It’s sweet. It’s spicy. It’s creamy and crunchy. It’s delicious. Enjoy!

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Roasted Tomatoes Part Three: Roasted Tomato Sauce with Peppers, Rigatoni and a Simple Basil Pesto

Ok, so these tomatoes are really only semi-roasted. When making sauces/soups/salsas, I like my roasted tomatoes to still be good and juicy. Still, this tomato recipe is everything I love about summer and tomatoes, all in one big dish.

First, before I get to the recipe, a few notes:

  • I often read recipes that first instruct you to remove the seeds and peel the skin off before using in a sauce. You’ll see that I didn’t do that here. If I was going to roast them for hours, I would probably remove the seeds, but for this sauce, I find it isn’t necessary. I don’t like to waste any part of these precious tomatoes. Of course, this is a personal preference, so certainly remove the seeds and skin, if you wish.
  • As for the pasta, I used rigatoni simply because I happened to have it on hand, and I was in the mood for a good, thick, chewy, white pasta. I think you could use just about any pasta shape, white or whole wheat, long or short (just as long as it can hold the sauce).
  • The pesto described below really isn’t a true pesto. Usually I use almonds and lemon juice when I make pesto, but for this dish, I really just wanted to savor the wonderful basil flavor with the tomatoes. The pesto, therefore, is very simple.

And now, the recipe:

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Begin with 6 large beautiful heirloom plum tomatoes. (For those of you in Ohio, I got mine from Northridge Organic Farm.) Cut them in half and sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper, and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Toss 3 cloves of garlic on there, as well (peels still on).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. They will look like this when they’re done:

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In the meantime, heat olive oil in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot. Add:

1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large red or green bell pepper, chopped
red pepper flakes

Sprinkle with salt and let them sauté for at least 10 minutes. Then add:

2 large tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup of water or white wine

Once the tomatoes and garlic are done, puree them in a food processor until smooth (don’t forget to remove the garlic peels!), then add them to the pot. Let everything simmer together for at least 20 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, make the pesto by adding the following ingredients to a food processor:

2-3 cups of fresh basil
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper

Pour in olive oil while pureeing the above ingredients until the basil is finely chopped and the pesto can easily be poured out of the container. Pour the pesto into a small bowl and set aside.

To serve, you can either mix the sauce in with your pasta of choice or spoon the sauce on top of the pasta while serving. Top the pasta with some of the pesto and sprinkle it with Romano or parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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Coleslaw

Even though it’s still August, I’ve already mentally transitioned to fall cooking. I’m starting to crave those hearty soups and stews and slow cooked food. But I can’t possibly transition to fall recipes yet without posting one of my favorite summer recipes: coleslaw.

Now, there are many things I despise about the typical midwestern diet, but I grew up eating creamy coleslaw, and I still love it. What I don’t love are the bottled coleslaw dressings sold at the grocery store or recipes that include mostly mayonnaise. Instead I use Greek yogurt and just a touch of mayo (which you could easily leave out, if you wish). And my secret ingredient? Old Bay Seasoning. Yes, that’s the stuff typically used in crab cakes, but trust me: it adds a wonderful touch to this salad.

There is one down side to this recipe. If you don’t have a food processor, it’s going to be a lot more time consuming, and you’re going to need some mean knife skills. A large food processor, however, makes the salad quick and easy to make. I use two different blades. One of the large slicing blades for the cabbage (I like thick shreds) and the small shredding blade for the carrots. Use whatever you have available.

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And now, the recipe. Below are instructions for about 2 servings of slaw.

Begin by whisking the following ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl:

1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon of mayo
1 teaspoon of mustard (either stone ground or Dijon)
1 teaspoon of rice vinegar
a few good shakes of Old Bay Seasoning (go by taste)
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder or fresh garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley (optional)

Mix it all together and set aside.

Next, cut off about a quarter of a small head of green cabbage. (Or a mixture of green and purple cabbage. The purple cabbage really makes a gorgeous slaw.) Once shredded, it’ll be about 2-3 cups. Also, shred 2 carrots.

Dump the shredded cabbage and carrots into the same mixing bowl that has the yogurt dressing. Using two spoons or forks, toss the veggies with the dressing until the dressing is evenly mixed with the veggies. Taste for seasoning. You can serve it immediately or let it sit in the refrigerator. It’s wonderful the next day as well, so it’s worth making extra. Enjoy!

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