Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ category

Tortilla de Patata

January 23, 2010

I am part of a gourmet lunch club at work.  When we get our schedules coordinated, we meet monthly and have a meal around a theme ingredient or cuisine type.  In the past, we’ve done Indian, cranberries, beans and legumes, chocolate (including savory dishes), and probably one or two more that I can’t remember.

This month, we joined forces with the other group that really “got into it” as well (as opposed to one group who went out to eat).  The theme was Mediterranean food.  I have spent time with Spanish friends and in Spain and one of my favorite dishes is the Tortilla de Patata.  I was fortunate to receive instructions from my dear friend, Charo Rueda.  If I hadn’t seen Charo make one, I don’t know that I’d ever have had the courage to do the plate flipping thing.  It’s well worth it!

Tortilla de Patata

5-6 yellow potatoes, peeled* and sliced not too thin, not too thick (1/8″-ish)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups olive oil – yes, TWO CUPS
2 t. salt
6 eggs

Have ready:  the widest round plate you’ve got.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying or high-rimmed saute pan at medium-high
heat.  Test the oil to be sure it’s hot enough by putting a little piece of potato in
it and watching for little bubbles all around the potato.

* – About peeling: I normally keep peels on to keep the good nutrients in food and I like the texture of peels.  However, out of respect for the good home cooks of Spain, I peel my potatoes for this.  All of the Spanish women I saw cooking peeled everything.  With knives.  Quickly.  It’s truly impressive.

Fry the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are soft and some of them are a little brown, about 20 mins.  Once fried, you have two options:  drain the oil out of the pan and use that pan for the tortilla, if medium sized, or, I used a strainer to take the potatoes out of the bigger pan and into a good medium sized non-stick pan (and then I hear Charo’s voice in my head that I’m so American to use two pans).

Important Note & Caution: It is essential that your non-stick is really non-stick.  If any food sticks to the pan, the tortilla won’t work well.  I’ve even bought a cheap, new non-stick pan when out of town just to make one tortilla.

Okay, so you’ve got your drained potatoes and onions in the non-stick pan.  Salt them liberally and stir a bit.  Now, put the heat at medium-low.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and add to the pan.  Be patient here.  Let it cook slowly.  Watch for the edges to be cooked.  Use a spatula to check for browning underneath.  When the sides are cooked and it’s brown on the bottom, loosen the sides with your spatula.

Here’s the hard part:  Place the large, round plate over the pan and flip the tortilla onto the plate.  Then, slide it into the pan so the raw-egg part is down in the pan to get cooked.  Cook until the bottom is lightly browned.

Serve at room temperature.


Vietnamese Bun – Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowl

January 23, 2010

In preparation for my friend and co-teacher Karen to come over for dinner after work one evening, I asked her about her taste preferences, banned foods, etc.  She mentioned that she likes the spice of Asian food.  I hadn’t cooked Asian food for awhile, so I decided on my favorite Vietnamese dish:  rice vermicelli salad bowl, or Bun.

Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowl – Bun with Lemongrass Chicken (or Tofu)

For 4 bowls:

1 package bun – rice sticks/rice vermicelli, cook according to directions.  (I find that boiling works better than soaking for most dried rice products.)
2 carrots, julienne cut (okay, now I want a mandoline)
2 cucumbers, julienne cut
2 cups lettuce, gently sliced to make ribbons
Lemongrass Chicken (below)
Nuoc Cham vinaigrette dressing (below)
to garnish:  lime wedges, basil, mint, and Sriracha/Rooster Sauce

My recipes came from a great and highly recommended book:  Vietnamese Home Cooking for Everyone.  Lots of photos and ingredient information.

Lemongrass Chicken (Could easily be adapted for tofu)
10 oz. chicken meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 T. cornstarch
1 T. vegetable oil
2 t. salt
Cooking Sauce:
2 T. chopped lemongrass
1 T. vietnamese soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (I did half reg. soy/ half teriyaki)
1/2 T. each fish sauce and sugar
1 t. chili flakes (I used 1/2 t. with the idea of spicing it up later w/Rooster Sauce to taste)
1 t. chopped garlic
2 dried chili peppers (I left these out to allow custom spicing)

1/2 red onion, diced
16-20 Thai Basil leaves
1/4 c. coconut juice (I flat out forgot to add this)

Sprinkle chicken with salt and cornstarch.  Combine cooking sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Heat oil in wok or other pan and saute chicken over medium high heat until lightly browned.
Add cooking sauce.  Cook and stir for a minute.
Add onion, basil and (if you remember unlike me) coconut juice.  Cook about 1 minute.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. fish sauce
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. lime juice (juice of 1 lime – microwave for 10-15 sec. first for max. juiciness – my Aunt Jane’s trick)
1/2 T. peeled leek in vinegar (I skipped this)
1 t. chili paste
1 carrot, shredded

Nuoc Cham Vinaigrette Dressing
1 c. Nuoc Cham dipping sauce
1/4 c. Japanese rice vinegar
1 T. lime juice
1 T. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced

Simple Spinach, Pear & Parmesan Salad

January 17, 2010

I can see a category emerging:  Rehearsal Foods.  This evening, our “Koffee House Players” group had a little dinner after a rehearsal for a parody skit for our synagogue’s Koffee House/Open Mike night.  The plan was soup & pizza, with desserts and/or salads brought by others.  I put together this salad and was asked for the vinaigrette recipe.  Always a sweet compliment!  I’m glad I had photographed the salad and written down the dressing recipe.

Simple Spinach, Pear & Parmesan Salad

Approx. 8 oz baby spinach leaves (about 1/2 of the container of organic stuff from my beloved Costco)
1 pear, cut into 1 1/2″ slices
Approx. 1 oz. parmesan cheese, shaved (as much as possible with a cheap cheese slicer)
Freshly ground black pepper

2 t. lemon juice
1 t. white wine vinegar
1 t. dijon mustard
1 t. agave nectar (I think honey or sugar would work fine)
1 t. salt
1/4 c. olive oil – the more olive-y tasting, the better.  I used the California Estate stuff from Trader Joe’s.  I’m almost out and am contemplating my next pilgrimage to Vegas – my closest Trader Joe’s – 6 hours away.  What I will do for good, cheap wine and good, cheap olive oil…

Whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, agave nectar, and salt together.  Drizzle olive oil while whisking.

Recession Special: Bulk Bin Bean Soup – Dressed Up

January 17, 2010

Occasionally, I’ll try a multi-bean soup mix.  This time, I had a beans & barley mixture from the bulk section of one of my local stores.  My friend Wendy and I put together an impromptu 4-course meal with things we had in our respective fridges instead of going out to eat one evening. This was the first course, followed by some Trader Joe’s multigrain pasta & TJ’s Organic Vodka pasta sauce.  Then stir-fried onions, zucchini, and shrimp (seasoned with garlic & lemon pepper), and some of the leftover thumbprint cookies for dessert, washed down with a $3.49 bottle of Malbec.

Here are my guesses on proportions & spices I used:

Bulk Bin Bean Soup
1-1/2 cup bean and barley veggie soup mixture
2 cups of different vegetable stocks (I use Trader Joe’s broth packets & some powdered stuff)
3 cups of water
About 1/2 teaspoons each:  garlic granules, onion powder, marjoram and basil
Plenty of salt & pepper

Cook in slow cooker around 8-10 hours on low. Garnish with carmelized onions and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  *Voila*  A cheap, but sort of elegant, little bowl of soup.

Zesty Chick Pea Soup

January 3, 2010

It’s Sunday, when, if I get my act together, I cook ahead for the week. Today, I made a few adjustments to this recipe.

Zesty Chick Pea Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. basil
1 t. garlic granules or garlic powder
1 t. salt
plenty of ground black pepper
3 1/2 c. vegetable stock
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can peeled/diced tomatoes
lemon wedges
chopped cilantro

Sautee the onion and celery in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until onions are transluscent. Add cumin, coriander, basil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Sautee for another minute.
Add stock, chick peas, and tomatoes. Simmer for at least 30 mins, or all afternoon if you can.
Squeeze lemon and sprinkle cilantro over.

“Massaged” Kale Salad: How I’m sure to get my dark green leafys.

January 3, 2010

Mmm…kale.  It’s packed with nutrition and is useful for way more than salad bar garnishes.  My favorite way to eat it is in a salad-like manner, with a little bit of “cooking” to soften the leaves.

“Massaged” Kale Salad

1 bunch kale of any sort
2 teaspoons-1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt

Tear, wash, and dry the kale.  Place in a medium-sized bowl.  Whist the lemon juice, olive oil & salt together in a small bowl and pour over the kale.  Massage the dressing into the kale.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Keeps well for 3-4 days.

Two Legume Dishes: Imjadara/Mujadara & Spiced Chick Peas et al.

January 3, 2010

Once a month, I help with Dinner-In-The-Shul at my synagogue, a Shabbat meal for dozens.  We’re never quite sure how many are coming, with RSVPs as a vague indicator.  My role in the cooking group is to make a protein-filled vegan or vegetarian option Although I eat meat, I hate to see veggies go without protein!  Two challenges a la “Dinner Impossible” are 1) make a dish that will go well with just about any other dish and 2) limit cooking to baking because the stovetop in the meat kitchen is fairly useless.  These are the legume dishes I’ve done in the past two months. Proportions are scaled to regular meals, not the 50 people we fed with the first dish!

Imjadara/Mujadara:  Lentils with Carmelized Onions

First – bake brown rice using Alton Brown’s brilliant recipe.
1 1/2 cup of brown rice
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
dash of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8” X 8” baking dish.  Put rice in the dish and pour the boiling water over it.  Add oil & salt.  Cover with foil.  Bake 1 hour.  Fluff with a fork when cooked.

Next (or beforehand depending on method) – carmelize the onions
3-4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil.
Salt & pepper
3 options:
1 – stovetop – preheat oil to medium high heat.  Add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low to low.  Stir the onions every 10 minutes or so for 45 mins. to 1 hour until they are golden and carmelized.  .
2 – oven – put onions & oil in a dutch oven.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 2 hours, stirring the onions every 20-30 minutes.
3 – crock pot – onions & oil in the crockpot.  Cook on low 8-10 hours.  Add about 1/2 extra onion as some sticks to the side and you lose a little this way.  But, it’s the easiest.

And then – cook the lentils
2 cups lentils with 4 cups of water
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2-3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for approx. 20-30 mins. until lentils are soft but solid.  Mix about half of the rice, the onions, and the lentils together and season according to preference.

Spiced Chick Peas et al.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
You can combine any combination of about 3-4 cups of other beans/peas
I used:
1 lb. bag frozen peas
1 c. frozen butter peas
Mix in a big bowl.  No need to thaw the peas.  Add seasonings (proportions approximate):
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. ground pepper
3/4 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. smoked or other paprika
1/2 t. ground coriander
2 t. olive oil
Toss to mix well.

3 T. butter or margarine:  cut up into little squares.
1/4 c. water
In the bottom of an 8 X 8 baking dish, put 4 little cubes of butter or margarine and add water.  Pour half of the bean mixture.  Put 4 more little cubes on this layer, then pour the rest of the beans in and then top with a couple of cubes of butter. Cover the dish with foil

Bake for 30-45 mins.  Stir every 15 mins. or so.  Add water if the beans are getting dry.