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Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Easy as pie!

grilled fresh vegetable pizza

One homemade whole wheat crust, pre-cooked and brushed with a couple of tablespoons of hot chile oil.  Layer coarsely grated mozzarella, provolone and asiago cheeses evenly over the crust.  Before you clean the grater, finely grate some Parmesan for dusting the top as a finishing touch.

Next thinly slice one medium zucchini, break up 3 medium broccoli florets and thinly slice one half of a red onion.  Mix the vegetables in a bowl and spread them evenly over the cheese layer.  Slice 4 green onions into little rounds and set aside to reserve for garnish.     Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and sprinkle them over the top.  Dust the top with Parmesan.

Put the pizza pie back on the grill* until the vegetables brown and the cheeses melt.  Slice into serving sized pieces.

Garnish with the green onions and serve with your favorite beer or wine.

*This works well under a broiler also.  So  if you don’t have a grill or the weather is inclement this is the way to go .

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One of my favorite and easiest dinners is a simple risotto with spring vegetables.  I knocked this one up a notch by grilling the asparagus and the chicken.  I used fresh-shelled peas, homegrown asparagus and some organic chicken.  I had some wonderful Australian chardonnay (a gift from a recent guest) to use in the risotto (and then for drinking along with it) and a touch of onion, garlic and lemon with a palm full of Parmesan to bring the flavors to a taste bud high.  It worked.  I decided to garnish the dish with some fresh chopped parsley and some toasted walnuts with a hint of walnut oil.  Nothing else was necessary for dinner except that chilled crisp glass of wine.  Dessert?  Hmm, would you believe Girl Scout cookies?  Yes, that’s the truth.  Served with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a squirt of local honey.  Break the cookies up with a spoon, mix them with the yogurt and honey.  Divine.  Trust me.

Here’s the small dish:

risotto dinner4

And here is the large dish:risotto dinner

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Simple Stir Fry Vegetables

 

A simple vegetable medley that makes a great side dish or becomes a whole meal with the addition of some protein.  Fresh snap peas, thin slivers of red cabbage, crimini mushroom slices, caramelized onion with a touch of garlic and a small knob of fresh ginger finished with a splash of seasoned rice wine vinegar.  I love the colors!  Delicious.

 

 

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Holidays are a great time to share food with friends.  This year I decided to make a quinoa salad celebrating the theme for the Fourth of July. So I chose to make a Red and White Quinoa Salad and serve it in a big blue bowl.  This salad is large enough to feed 35  people during a progressive dinner so you might want to scale it down for a family or small gathering of friends.

Red and White Quinoa Salad in a Big Blue Bowl

Ingredients:

12 ounces white quinoa, cooked

12 ounces red quinoa, cooked

2 large red peppers, chopped

8 ounces of crimini mushrooms, diced

6 scallions, sliced

½ of a large red onion, thinly sliced

Generous handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped

15 ounces garbanzo beans

(I make big batches of beans and freeze them so I measured, defrosted and allowed these to dry a bit.  If you use canned beans, rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry a bit.)

8 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1 cup slivered almonds

Lemon Vinaigrette (recipes follows)

 

Lemon Vinaigrette:

3 large lemons (about ½ cup)

1 ½ cups olive oil

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (adjust to taste)

Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Process all ingredients in a small food processor or use a whisk to emulsify the vinaigrette.

Begin by cooking the quinoa.  While the quinoa cooks, begin chopping your vegetables.  Your quinoa will finish cooking before you finish chopping so when the quinoa is done, remove it from the heat, fluff with a fork and let it rest covered for another 10 minutes or so.  Then remove the cover and allow the quinoa to cool while you finish chopping.

When all your vegetables are chopped, fold them into the quinoa along with the feta cheese crumbles and almonds.

Add the vinaigrette in increments of about ½ cup at a time until you are satisfied that your salad is seasoned properly to your liking.  Leftover dressing can keep in the refrigerator for several days and can be used for green salads and pastas salads too.

Cover the salad and set it in the refrigerator to chill.  This salad is best served chilled or at room temperature.  It makes a great potluck side dish because it travels well.  In fact, I take containers of this salad with me when I travel so I get my protein and vegetables, i.e. a complete meal, in flight and I don’t have to worry about spoilage or bringing a cooler as carry-on luggage.

 

 

 

 

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For quite some time, the ultimate vegetarian “meatball” recipe, which should possess great strong flavors and a sturdy texture that is slightly dense, eluded me.  One or the other was easy to attain but finding the right combination that would not crumble or be as bland as a wet noodle meant many hours of testing and tasting. 

I ate my way through many vegetarian restaurants (Plant Café, Greens and Sun Café to name a few) trying to hone in on their secret to a vegetarian “meatball” or even a meatless “meatloaf” that makes people smile.

My vegetarian vegetable patties fared better because of the larger surface area.  Once they seared on one side, they were easy to move—so they held together.  Typically, my patties are seasoned with Indian spices so the resulting flavor is bold and exciting. 

My NotMeat-Balls, however, crumbled and refused to stay “glued” together.  If I rolled them in breadcrumbs and fried them, they almost held together better but I did not want a fried NotMeat-Ball that was greasy or oily on the tongue.

On the rare occasion when the texture was spot-on, the flavor was drab and dreary.  Without a strong ethnic flavoring, the complementary sauces overshadowed the poor things so that they seemed to lack any taste of their own.  

Until this week, that is!  Success!  These babies are firm to the tooth carrying a light herbal aroma and a palate-pleasing flavor.  They didn’t dissolve into chunks of vegetables when the sauce bathed them and they were easy to cut in half. 

I learned that the process was integral to the success of these morsels.  Roasting the eggplant/mushroom mixture first allowed the flavor level to heighten in the vegetables.  Draining the mixture removed a lot of unwanted moisture lending more than a hint of success in the binding of the vegetables later in phase two of the recipe.

To ensure your success, I recommend that you read the recipe all the way through at least once before you begin.  Nothing about this recipe is difficult.  The phases are both easy but be aware of the timing of the steps so that you aren’t still cooking past your dinner hour.

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Phase One: NotMeat-Ball Mixture

Before beginning the prep work, gather all your ingredients so that you can work smoothly though the both phases of this recipe.  Read the recipe from start to finish so you can collect all your ingredients.  Then separate them into two groups as they apply to either phase one or phase two of the work.

If you begin preheating the oven to 350° now, by the time your prep is finished, the oven will be ready.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  I use a 12”x17” pan.

Ingredients for Phase One:

1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped (should yield about 3 cups pulp)

2 large Portobello mushrooms with stems, chopped (should yield about 3 cups)

1 large white onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 vegetarian chicken bouillon cubes (you can use low sodium chicken cubes if you prefer but      the recipe won’t be vegetarian)

¼ cup + 1 Tbl. olive oil

2 tablespoons high quality balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Italian herb blend (best if you make your own)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon black pepper, fine grind

Chop each vegetable into pieces the size of a fine dice and pour each onto the prepared baking sheet when the size is right.

OR

If you have a food processor, you can use it to chop the eggplant, mushroom and onion quickly and efficiently.  Add the coarsely chopped eggplant to the bowl and pulse 4-6 times to create pieces that are about the size of a small dice.  You do NOT want a paste!  Dump the eggplant onto the parchment lined baking sheet.

Next, add the coarsely chopped mushrooms to the food processor bowl and pulse 4-6 times to create pieces the size of a small dice.  Pour the mushroom pieces onto the baking sheet with the eggplant.

Finally add the chopped onion and garlic cloves to the food processor bowl and pulse until you have small pieces.  Do not over-process or you will end up with onion juice that can make the vegetables too watery.

Crush or crumble the bouillon cubes and combine them with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian herbs, garlic powder and black pepper in a bowl and whish until it emulsifies.  Alternatively use a salad dressing shaker bottle.

Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables.  I use my hands to toss the mixture but if you prefer you can use two large spoons.  Level the vegetables and spread them into a layer that almost covers the baking sheet.  Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes.

When the mixture is ready, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool until you can easily handle it to pour the mixture into a colander placed over a large bowl.  Allow the mixture to drain the excess moisture before you proceed.  If you do not drain it, the meatballs will be too loose to hold together.

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Phase Two: Making NotMeat-Balls

Ingredients for Phase Two:

NotMeat-Ball mixture from Phase One

1 cup homemade breadcrumbs (not fine breadcrumbs) 

(The store- bought containers of breadcrumbs, like Progresso brand, are too fine for this recipe.)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (alternately, Asiago or Romano work well too)

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup heavy cream (half-and-half will work too)

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, minced

1 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)

Olive oil

¼ -½ cup homemade tomato sauce (store-bought works as long as it is thick)

In a large mixing bowl, assemble the NotMeat-Ball mixture, breadcrumbs, tomato paste, cheese, eggs, heavy cream, herbs and red pepper flakes.  Let the mixture rest for about 20-30 minutes at room temperature.  Waiting is important as it lets the mixture meld the flavors.

Near the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 350°.  Line the baking sheet with a clean sheet of parchment paper.

Using a round tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, portion the mixture into balls on the parchment lined baking sheet.  Line them up close together to ensure that you will have enough space for them all.  They do not swell during the baking so they can be very close as long as they aren’t touching each other.

Drizzle the NotMeat-Balls lightly with olive oil.  Roast the balls at 350° for 10 minutes.  Take the baking pan out of the oven and brush the balls with the tomato sauce to cover them.  Roast the balls for another 10-12 minutes.

These can be eaten as a main course (I like a sundried tomato cream sauce drizzled over them) with a green salad and vegetable side.  I have served them as an appetizer, drizzled with basil pesto, at parties, too, served on a small square of rustic Italian bread.

My favorite way to eat them, though, is with a thick homemade tomato sauce over penne pasta or fusilli, sprinkled lightly with additional cheese and red pepper flakes.  They are great leftover also, if you have any left over.  Sadly, we did not.

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As much as I love and embrace summer fruits and vegetables, there is something particularly comforting about produce in the autumn and winter times.  Warmer flavors as well as warmer colors that are rich and mellow invite family and friends to gather around.

This is a very flexible soup in terms of additions or subtractions.  I make it every year and each time it changes.  So feel free to use whatever is available to you locally as long as the flavors make good partnerships.  This soup keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.  In the unlikely event that you have leftovers you want to freeze, this soup freezes beautifully.

2 Tbl. Good quality olive oil

1 large onion (yellow or white), medium diced

3 carrots, medium diced (not the colossal ones; medium size is fine)

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 ½ cups of winter squash, peeled and cubed into bite size pieces

(I used butternut squash but other hard winter squashes work fine.)

½ teaspoon allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (can add more to suit your taste)

1-2 Tbl. Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)

Coarse sea salt

1 quart chicken broth (if not using homemade, use no-fat, low or no sodium)

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

Several sprigs of thyme (whole) or several leaves of sage (chopped) (your choice)

2 cups of greens: chopped kale, beet greens, or chard leaves  (I used kale)

1 cup chickpeas (or cannellini beans)

(if not using dried peas, drain and rinse the canned peas)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the carrots and onions and cook them, stirring often, until they begin to get soft.  On my stove this took about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for only a minute more.  Be careful not to overcook the garlic or it gets bitter.

Add the squash, allspice, cloves and cayenne.  At this point, throw in a generous pinch of coarse sea salt and the jalapenos.  Stir to mix and then add the broth and tomatoes (with their juices) slowly so it doesn’t splash.

Stir the pot well and add the herbs.  Bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat to medium.  Cover the pot and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.

Add your greens and chickpeas (or cannellini beans) and leave the pot uncovered.  Cook this for another 10-15 minutes until all the greens and squash are tooth tender.

Taste and adjust your seasonings.

(If you used thyme sprigs, remove the sprigs before you serve the soup.)

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After a summer that never happened, I expected our garden to be a disaster this year.  With cloudy skies obscuring the sun day after day, certainly those vegetables would lack flavor, refuse to thrive or turn to mulch after too long.

What a surprise it was when those raised beds yielded plenty of greens, vegetables and herbs to feed us fairly well for quite some time.  In fact, it’s going so well that we are still harvesting tomatoes, eggplant, swiss chard, santa fe peppers, Serrano peppers, lettuces and now even some beets!

The kitchen has become a production area for roasting and drying to preserve some of those wonderful flavors.  The rest is being reduced to sauces and stocks for the freezer so that we can enjoy our summer bounty though the cooler months.

With a few additional ingredients from the farmers market, we’ve enjoyed some terrific meals like this Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad.

Simplicity at its best: Roasted Homegrown Heirloom Beets with homegrown Heirloom Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, dressed in a Walnut Vinaigrette, garnished with crumbles of goat cheese and chopped walnuts (not pictured).

It’s a complete meal when paired with this Roasted Vegetable Tart.

Roasted vegetable tart with roasted broccoli, roasted fennel root, roasted heirloom beets, beet greens, roasted red onion, roasted garlic, roasted leeks, homemade olive tapenade, store-bought crust for testing purposes, and crumbled goat cheese. Yeah, I’ll keep it but it needs a homemade crust. Thinking about wholewheat cheddar or parmesan.  Inspiration from a Moroccan Tangine and a vegetable casserole recipe from a talented friend.

Those garden beds just keep giving us love.

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