Category Archives: Vegetarian

Greek Salad the Greek Way (or so I hear)

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I’ve never been to Greece, but my sister-in-law has. She told me that every time she ordered a “salad” while on the trip, it came without lettuce and instead focused on the tomato, cucumber, and peppers. Given that my garden is happily producing these three ingredients, I was immediately on board. The key is the combination of vegetables with olives and feta cheese and a highly lemony dressing. Next time I’ll do more research and give some proper facts and history, but for now I’m too busy eating my big Greek salad.

Greek Salad Recipe

Ingredients:
2-3 medium sized tomatoes, cored, sliced into wedges and again into medium sized chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise twice and sliced crosswise
1 gypsy pepper (red, orange or yellow), chopped in medium to large pieces
1 small red onion, sliced crosswise and chopped medium
Handful of pitted kalamata olives, rinsed and chopped in halves or quarters
Feta cheese

Dressing:
1/4 (scant) cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 – 1 meyer lemon
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Prep and combine vegetables and olives.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients and toss with vegetables.
3. Serve with crumbled Feta cheese on top or sliced on the side.

Notes:
– I know some people don’t like raw red onion, but in this instance, the added bite is a nice and in my mind necessary, complement to the other flavors. That said, you may not want to eat this before, say, an interview or a first date.
– As vegetables vary in size, you’ll need to eyeball ratios. The main idea is equal parts tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
– Optional: Add 1 small clove garlic, crushed or chopped small, in with the dressing.

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TOMATO TIME :: Slow Roasted Tomatoes (aka. Flavor Bombs)

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It’s the time of year we’ve all been waiting for – finally, tomatoes are in season! After suffering from a dearth of garden tomatoes in foggy San Francisco, I am now experiencing the opposite in Marin – tomato heaven! Still, with truck loads of tomatoes all ripening simultaneously, suddenly one begins to wonder – what can I DO with all these tomatoes? The answer is – the sky’s the limit! I’ve been simmering vats of tomato sauce,which I’ve stashed in quart jars in the freezer for later use. You might also invest in canning equipment if you’re up for the challenge. Other lovely options include fresh homemade salsa, ratatouille, caponata (a personal favorite), or as follows, slow roasting!

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SLOW ROASTED TOMATOES

These slow roasted tomatoes are absolutely delicious. A wonderful option for a Sunday afternoon since the roasting takes about 3 hours. Or if you work from home, put them in around 3 or 4pm for an evening supper. Coarsely chop roasted tomatoes and serve on pasta, say spinach linguini, with the roasted garlic (removed from skins). Optionally, add fresh spinach or basil and chopped zucchini (briefly sauteed in a touch of olive oil for 1-2 minutes). Alternatively, store them in the fridge with a little extra olive oil for later snacking. (Serve with crusty, toasted bread – yum!)

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Ingredients:
A variety of heirloom tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Extra Virgin olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 225°F. Slice each tomato into thick slices and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle a touch of olive oil, and add a pinch of salt, pepper and herbs if you like.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for approximately three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.

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Udon Noodles in Broth with Enoki Mushrooms and Vegetables

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A flavorful, satisfying hot, slurping noodle-soup. Best to cook the noodles while prepping all the ingredients so that everything is ready to go since the vegetables cook quickly. The ingredient list and directions may look more daunting than the reality. This is basically a quick stir fry served in a broth with noodles. The jalapeno adds a nice kick.

Serves 2.

Ingredients:
-2 bundles udon noodles, cooked
-1 teaspoon grape seed or vegetable oil
-1 heaping teaspoon powdered ginger
-1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
-1 carrot, sliced
-1/2 red or yellow pepper, sliced in 1 inch pieces
-1 small or 1/2 large jalapeno, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
-1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
-1 small bunch beet greens (or chard), cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
-1 bunch enoki mushrooms, separated (or handful of sliced white mushrooms)
-1 handful green beans, cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces
-1-2 splashes Mirin
-1 quart homemade vegetable stock
-1 Tablespoon Shoyu (or soy sauce)
-1 Tablespoon Ponzu (if you have some on hand)
-salt and pepper
-sprig of fresh basil

Directions:
1. Boil water in large pot and cook udon noodles according to package directions. Rinse cooked udon thoroughly with cold water and set aside.
2. Separately, boil some water in a kettle and pour hot water into two serving bowls to heat. (optional)
3. Heat oil in large saute pan. When it starts to sizzle slightly, add the powdered ginger and stir it into the oil.
4. Add the chopped onion and carrots and cook over medium heat stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the carrot is softening.
5. Add the red pepper and saute a couple minutes until starting to soften.
6. Stir in the jalapeno and garlic and cook briefly (30 seconds or so). Add a splash or two of mirin and cook down in a minute or two.
7. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the zucchini, beet greens, mushrooms and beans. Stir in the Shoyu and Ponzu, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked.

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8. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a bit of salt and pepper or additional shoyu if needed.
9. Remove water from serving bowls and dry. Place a portion of noodles in each dish then ladle broth with vegetables over the noodles. Using chopsticks, lightly stir noodles into the broth. Top with fresh basil and serve immediately. Eat noodles and veggies with chopsticks and slurp broth with Asian-style soup spoons.

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Simple Summer Garden Salad for a Light Lunch

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Ingredients:
– Handful of mixed lettuce and large leaf arugula
– Red and sun gold cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
– 1 small or 1/2 large jalapeno, coarsely chopped, somewhat de-seeded
– Warmed pinto or Rio Zape Heirloom Beans
– Crumbled feta or cotija cheese
– Olive oil
– Kosher salt & black pepper

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Directions:
1. Gather vegetables from the garden. Clean and dry thoroughly in strainer or salad spinner.
2. Slice & chop vegetables.
3. Place lettuce pieces on plate. Lightly toss with a pinch of kosher salt. Add cherry tomatoes and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top.
4. Place ~1/2 cup warmed beans (strained with slotted spoon) next to lettuce.
5. Add jalapeno over the top and sprinkle with cheese and black pepper.
6. Serve immediately.

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Pot o’ Beans for Salads and Tacos

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These Rio Zape Beans resemble pinto beans, but are larger and profoundly satisfying. A great element to have on hand for quick tacos or served with a green salad to add flavor and sustenance.

Ingredients:
– 1 or 2 cups dried Rio Zape Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans, washed and soaked for six hours in 1-2 quarts water (if 6 hours pass, drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid and keep both on hand covered for up to 2 hours until you’re ready to start cooking.)
– 1 large onion, cut in half
– 1 or 2 celery stems, cut thirds
– 1 or 2 carrots, cut in half or thirds
– 2 garlic gloves, lightly peeled
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 bouquet garni of a few large parsley stems with leaves (tied with string in cheesecloth, net, sachet or coarsely chopped and stuffed into a large tea strainer)
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
1. Place beans and soaking water into large saucepan. Add water if needed – the water level should be at least 1 inch above the top of the beans.
2. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and parsley bouquet and bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer one hour.
4. Remove the parsley sachet and celery, then add salt to taste and simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour, until the beans are completely tender.
5. Drain through a strainer set over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the remaining vegetables and bay leaf and discard.
6. Adjust salt to taste, add pepper.
7. Serve warm in tacos embellished to your taste or along with a mixed green salad with freshly chopped parsley /or cilantro & feta /or cojita cheese.

Notes: Beans will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Store so they are just covered with some of the reserved liquid, which should be used to reheat them as needed. Save any additional reserved liquid in a canning jar – label/date and freeze for future use. Makes a fantastic “vegetable stock” for asian noodles or soup. Cooked beans can also be frozen in liquid for future use.

A Shakshuka Brunch – North African Fried Eggs

Ever since I received Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook for my birthday, Plenty, I’ve been obsessing. I think I could happily make a recipe from it each day until I’d made it through cover to cover. While I am not a vegetarian, I love cooking vegetarian fare and heartily believe it’s possible to develop deeply satisfying flavors without meat. It makes sense then that Ottolenghi’s book resonates for me as it is a “vegetables-only” cookbook (from a chef who is not a vegetarian) with recipes that combine unique flavors and techniques from around the world.

This recipe he calls Shakshuka, named for the man who served it in a tiny restaurant Ottolenghi found in Jaffa. This North African dish is fantastic and the author’s version shows once again his mastery of melding a multitude of flavors and spices such that no one flavor overpowers. That said, I think it’s the saffron that ultimately lends this fried egg dish a bit of an exotic aura.

I halved the recipe, and it serves a 4 or a generous 2. I don’t have more than one large cast iron dish, so was unable to fry up the portions individually as described in the recipe, but it was no problem to do all the eggs in one pan. I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes since they’re no longer in season, so I used a jar of my own canned tomatoes, plus I threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes I’d recently frozen (slightly defrosted in the microwave first). I didn’t have muscovado sugar on hand, so threw in a couple pinches of demerara sugar. Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you. Most don’t take long to prepare and you can start cooking down the onions while you prep the herbs. Serve with fresh hunks of toasted, crusty bread. Combined prepping and cooking time is about 40-45 minutes.

Recipe Ingredients:
Serves a generous 2.
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Generous 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 tsps muscovado sugar (or 2 pinches of demerara)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 jar canned organic tomatoes chopped)
1/4 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne peppers
salt and black pepper
up to 1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Directions:
1. In a large cast iron pan, dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

2. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. (I didn’t add much water here, but the canned tomatoes were already quite watery.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)

3. Remove the bay leaf, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the peppers mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Yum! Below a photo from the cookbook showing the individually cooked portions.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage and Celery

Stuffed and Roasted Acorn Squash

This recipe is a delicious combination of flavors, it’s filling and comforting yet healthy and a a great way to utilize wintertime squash. The recipe calls for wild rice- I actually used a blend of wild rices that I threw in my rice cooker w/ the chicken stock. (Wild rices usually cook at a ratio of rice to water of 1:3.) I decided to use toasted pecans and fresh thyme in place of walnuts and sage since that’s what I had on hand. The trick with this recipe is to be sure to roast the acorn squash until it is basically fully cooked. Then stuff with the rice, bake another 10 minutes or so, and serve hot. I usually end up with extra rice, which makes a tasty lunch served on top of a bed of mixed lettuce or arugula the next day.

roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage, and Celery

2 acorn squash, halved top to bottom, seeds and strings removed
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 small apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 onion, chopped small
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
Small handful of chopped fresh sage leaves
Olive oil to brush or drizzle lightly on squash &/or to saute the vegetables
1 to 1 1/2 cup walnut halves or 3/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
4 tablespoon butter, divided
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
salt, pepper

Directions:
1. Bring stock to a boil.  Add uncooked wild rice, reduce heat and simmer about 50-60 minutes or until tender. Let sit.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Score the insides of the squash several times. Put the squash cut side up on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil lightly on top OR coat the inside with 1/2 Tbsp butter and drizzle with a touch of maple syrup. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for about 1 hour until soft and the tops are browning.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil), and saute the onions and celery until becoming soft, around 7 minutes. Add the apples, sage, and walnuts or pine nuts. After about five minutes, add the brown sugar and toss to coat. Continue to saute until the celery and apples begin to soften. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the skillet contents with the wild rice in a big bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven when it’s ready. Fill the squash with rice stuffing, drizzle each with olive oil or butter and salt, if needed.  Return to oven for 10 minutes or until a knife goes easily into the flesh of the squash along the top. (If any rice mix is left you can bake it in a separate bowl or heat it in a skillet and serve alongside.)

7. Pull the squash out the oven.  Serve when cool enough to eat.

8. You can make the rice stuffing beforehand or even pre-bake the squash in advance leaving the final 10-15 minute bake before serving.

roasted acorn squashServe this heart-shaped acorn squash on Valentine’s Day! ;)

acorn squash

Serve leftovers with lightly dressed arugula for lunch.

Green Beans with Chard

This recipe is a nice variation on steamed green beans. The beans look pretty mingled with the chopped chard, and it makes a great side dish for dinner parties.

Ingredients:
1 generous bunch Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3-4 generous handfuls of green beans
2-3 shallots, outer skin removed and chopped
olive oil, butter
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
lemon juice or vinegar
toasted pine nuts (optional)

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil while you prepare the chard. Fill a bowl with ice water. Tear the leaves from the stems and wash thoroughly in two changes of water. Discard the stems or set aside for another purpose.

2. When the water comes to a boil, add the Swiss chard leaves. Boil 1 minutes (from the time the water comes back to a boil) until tender but still bright green, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer and transfer to the ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.

3. Wash green beans, cut off ends and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

4. Steam green beans until bright green and slightly softened, about 4-6 minutes.

5. Heat 1 T olive oil and 2 T butter in saucepan, about 30 seconds. Saute shallots, ~1-2 minutes.

6. Toss chard, beans and butter/shallot mix. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with juice from 1/2 lemon. Add toasted pine nuts if desired.

(Alternative addition if in season: toss in 1 heirloom tomato, chopped.)

Tomato Potato Stew

Tomato Potato and Green Bean StewThis is a new favorite of mine, Tomato Potato Stew. It’s derived from the fact that I keep buying too many tomatoes in all the excitement of tomato season. Then, when I’m running out of vegetables in the fridge, usually what seems to be left are a few carrots and potatoes. Thus, Tomato Potato Stew was born.

Potato and Carrot Stew Simmering on the stove top

This is a hearty, comforting stew. The idea is to cut all the vegetables in large chunks because you want a long simmer to get everything to meld nicely. The tomatoes I cut a bit smaller than everything else since they mostly cook down.  The stew takes about an hour and a half, mostly unattended. I usually place  everything in the pot, get it boiling, then turn it down to a simmer,  wandering off, but checking and stirring occasionally until it’s done. It might be advisable to set the timer for 15 or 20 minute increments so as not to forget about it entirely.

Tomato Potato Carrot and Green Bean Stew

I like serving it over jasmine, basmati or short brown rice. Once you’ve prepared all the veggies and they’re on the stove simmering, it’s a good idea to get the rice going as well. I put it in my rice cooker so it can cook also unattended while the stew is a’stewing.

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Black Beans and Colorado

Black Beans with Sunny-side Up EggSince I’ve been at Libre in Colorado, my meals have consisted of simple, vegetarian fare. One of my favorites has been variations with black beans, which seems somehow fitting in Colorado, just like wearing my boots around in the dusty terrain. (Boots never made so much sense.) The beans I’ve been making are from dried black beans and take a bit of time- mostly unattended- so I usually set them on the stove in the morning, and they’re ready for lunch or dinner. I make more than I need and then keep them in the the fridge for a few days, reheating on other occasions.

To get a bit of protein in my system, a favorite lunch has been black beans with a fried egg on top, usually sunny-side up. Accompanied with freshly sliced avocado and briefly sauteed spinach then makes for a tasty (and healthy) meal. For today’s lunch, I threw in a handful of cooked brown rice leftover from last night along with freshly cut corn and heated the whole shebang up that I served with crumbled feta on top, and the usual fried egg, sliced avocado and heirloom tomato. For dinner another night, I quickly stir fried zucchini, sweet pepper and corn, threw it on top of the beans and served it with mixed greens.

Black Beans with Zucchini, Corn and Tomatoes

Regarding the beans- here’s the low-down. Rinse the beans first- say 2 cups or so. You don’t really need exact measurements- just eyeball a quantity that looks about like what you’ll want. (Remember, they do expand as they absorb water.) Once the beans are clean, place them in a saucepan and cover with water about 1 to 2 inches above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, turn off the heat, cover and leave to sit for 1 to 2 hours. (OR, soak beans overnight, up to 8 hours, then you can skip this step and start at the next paragraph.)

When the beans are starting to soften (they won’t be ready yet), drain the water, reserving about a cup of the soaking liquid. From here on out, there are many variations, but this is what I’ve been enjoying recently. In a separate pan, saute 1/2 to 1 chopped onion and a minced garlic clove or two in a little oil, depending on the amount of beans and your taste. Mix them in with the beans. Add the reserved liquid and vegetable or chicken stock- again, enough to cover the beans by an inch or two. Add a dash or two of salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme. Stir well. Sometimes I add a can of diced tomatoes with juice at this point. (If I have fresh tomatoes, I wait until later. Or, I add some to cook in with the beans to add flavor and then add additional fresh tomato when serving.)

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and begin a slow simmer, partially covered. Check beans every 15 minutes or so, and stir. The time it takes the beans to be completely softened varies, depending on the beans, altitude, etc. I’ve found I like to cook them at least an hour, sometimes as much as 2 plus hours. Keep tasting them and adding more salt and pepper along the way, as needed.

The stock/water will cook down into the beans. Add additional water if necessary, although it may not completely cook off. Once they’re done, I often keep the beans in the fridge in extra liquid which I use to reheat them later. I like to serve with chopped sweet peppers, which I’ll sometimes stir in, or serve on top. The same goes for ripe tomatoes or fresh sweet corn. You might also saute minced jalapeno to add a bit of spice.

For the amount of words it’s taken to explain, it’s actually pretty simple, although it does take a bit of pre-planning. Once they’re done, it’s great to have black beans around for a quick, tasty feast.

Boots in the land of dusty Colorado