Thursday, March 29, 2012

Zucchini and Artichoke Farro with Kale Pesto

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I think I might be addicted to kale pesto. I mean, I really liked kale before I discovered its potential as pesto, but I find the pesto to be so versatile. I added it to some pasta and tossed it with some asparagus and tomato. That was delicious. This time, I added kale pesto to some nutty, chewy farro and tossed it with some garlic sauteed zucchini, marinated artichoke hearts, chopped parsley, and some lemon juice. So good and such an easy and healthy meal.

Check out my kale pesto recipe while I think up other dishes in which to use the pesto.

Mystery Produce of the Week: Fresh Fenugreek

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Last week, we went back to our local farmer's market. As we strolled through produce stands, I was immediately drawn to this leafy herb. It was very pungent smelling, like I just walked into an Indian restaurant. The vendor told me that this is fenugreek and that we can simply sautee the tender leaf tops, but he also warned that it's "a little bitter."

I'm not easily deterred, so we bought it anyway. Turns out, it wasn't that bitter. I made an aloo methi with the tender leaves and served some homemade roti with it. The stems of fenugreek are really tough and definitely not edible. Despite the pungent smell, it really mellowed out after cooking.

Would I buy this again? Maybe. But only if I figure out what else to do with it besides this aloo methi (although that was pretty good).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kale Pesto Pizza

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Just to be clear, it's kale pesto pizza and not kale on pesto pizza. Some say you can make anything into pesto -- I don't know about that, but kale definitely works. This kale pesto is surprisingly sweet, not at all bitter. It's green and creamy and works great on pizza. I think it would be delicious on pasta as well. VB said this is one of the best pizzas he's ever had. All I can say is every cook needs someone like him (but he's MINE! Get your own appreciative, complimentary, non-picky eater).

For this kale pesto, you will need:
  • 3 cups (packed) kale, cleaned, stem removed and sliced into 1-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2-inch strip of lemon peel
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
Chop kale, cashews, garlic, lemon peel and capers in a food processor. While processing, stream in olive oil until paste becomes sauce. Season with salt. Set aside.

To complete the pizza, you will need:
  • one portion of your favorite pizza dough recipe (try this)
  • sliced mozzarella
  • toppings -- I kept it simple and used young asparagus and sauteed portabella mushroom
Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees, preferably with a pizza stone in it. Roll out pizza dough. Place pizza dough on a baking sheet. If you have a pizza stone, place dough on a piece of aluminum foil for easy transfer. Spread kale pesto over the top, leaving 1-inch edge all the way around. Top with a layer of mozzarella slices. Then top with your desired toppings. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until top is browned and bottom is crispy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vegan Moussaka

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My first vegan moussaka attempt ended in failure. The problem was making a good vegan bechamel sauce without it tasting so soy-y. I think this time I managed to make a decent vegan bechamel sauce with arrowroot powder, which gave it the thick, saucy consistency that I was looking for. Also I cut back on the use of soy products so that it wouldn't taste like... well, soy products.

For this (not so photogenic) vegan moussaka, you will need:
  • 3 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, medium diced
  • 1 spring fresh oregano, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint brown button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • salt to taste
  • 1 portion vegan bechamel sauce, recipe below
For vegan bechamel sauce, you will need:
  • 5 tablespoons butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder (if arrowroot powder is hard to find, use 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy, non-soy milk (I used almond milk, but there is a variety of options on the market, like coconut milk, rice milk, and hemp milk)
  • 4 tablespoons non-dairy cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Rub sliced eggplants on both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Alternatively, you can also spray both sides of sliced eggplant with non-stick spray. Roast for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a medium pot, heat up 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Sautee diced onion until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and minced oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and stir until softened, about 3 minutes. Add ground allspice, ground cloves and ground cinnamon. Stir a few times. Add vegetable stock, cannellini beans and dice tomatoes. Season with salt. Turn heat up high until mixture boils. Turn heat back down to medium and allow it to boil, uncovered, until mixture reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt 5 tablespoons butter substitute over medium heat. Sprinkle in arrowroot powder or all purpose flour and whisk vigorously until all the dry ingredient is incorporated and the mixture thickens. While whisking, slowly pour in non-dairy, non-soy milk. Bring sauce to boil. Turn down the heat and allow mixture to simmer. Whisk in non-dairy cream cheese and freshly grated nutmeg. Allow mixture to simmer for 5 minutes while whisking.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray baking dish with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the dish with eggplant slices. Pour about half of the bean mixture on top. Spread out evenly. Top with another layer of eggplant slices. Pour and spread the remainder of the bean mixture. Top with another layer of eggplant slices. Pour vegan bechamel sauce over the top and spread it out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes. Broil on high for an additional 3 to 5 minutes to brown the top. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mock Lamb Curry

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Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I'm back from a short trip and ready to get cooking again! Today, we have mock lamb curry from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. This sort of became my go-to cookbook for vegetarian dishes with some spice. I made minor changes to the recipe by substituting Tofutti Sour Cream with a squeeze of lemon for yogurt and turned this into a vegan dish. It turned out really flavorful with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne. I paired it simply with couscous with chopped green onion and mint. As for the "lamb," it's actually cubed seitan.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spicy Purple Cauliflower Soup

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I have to admit that this purple soup can be some sort of gag food, like something you'd serve to Prince (The Artist Formerly Known As). First of all, it's purple. Really purple. It doesn't look like something that exists in nature and it certainly doesn't look particularly delicious. Secondly, this purple soup looks creamy and sweet but is in fact spicy and tart. The little squeeze of lime juice in the end turned the soup a bright bubble gum pink (must be some sort of food voodoo... it would be a good party trick). Appearance-wise, this slips into Franken-food territory. But it is actually really flavorful and packs a good spicy punch.

For this spicy purple cauliflower soup, you will need:
  • 1 head purple cauliflower, florets only
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 Thai chilies, lightly crushed
  • 5 slices ginger, lightly crushed
  • 4 small white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • salt to taste
  • sliced green onion for garnish
  • lime wedge for garnish
In a heavy medium pot fitted with a lid, heat up canola oil or peanut oil. Stir in diced onion and sliced garlic. Saute gently until onion becomes translucent, about 8 minutes. Add Thai chilies, ginger slices, potatoes and vegetable stock. Season with salt. Bring liquid to simmer and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes. Potatoes should break apart easily at this time. Remove ginger pieces and Thai chilies. Stir in purple cauliflower. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes until cauliflower becomes soft. Add coconut milk and blend the mixture into smooth soup with an immersion blender or stand blender. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with green onion and serve with a lime wedge for cool color change effect and some acidity.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chard Galette

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One of my biggest cooking challenges is how to make vegetables the star of any meal and not just a collection of bit part players. Over the years, I've found that vegetables should be paired with grains, pasta, or just some sort of carb in order to be substantial enough to be the main course instead of a side dish. For this chard galette, I took essentially two side dishes -- mashed potatoes and sauteed chard -- and made a main course by adding a pie crust. This rustic galette is actually really easy to make and quite delicious. The turnip mashed potatoes is creamy yet light and paired extremely well with the earthy chard.

For this chard galette, you will need:
  • 1 portion of whole wheat tart crust with olive oil, recipe below
  • 2 bunches chard (I used a mixture of Swiss, rainbow and yellow. Other hearty greens like kale and collard greens can also work here), chopped
  • 5 small turnips, peeled and quartered
  • 1 Russet potato, peeled and medium diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste
For the whole wheat tart crust with olive oil (adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), you'll need:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoon active yeast
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Begin by mixing warm water together with sugar and active yeast in a large bowl. Set aside and allow the yeast to foam, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt. Mix together and knead lightly for 5 minutes. Cover with damp paper towels and allow to proof for 45 minutes. Dough should double in size. Punch down the dough and knead a few times. Cover again and allow to proof for another 30 minutes.

In the meantime, place potato and turnips into a large microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 8 minutes. Test pieces by piercing with a fork. If fork inserts easily, they are done. If not, microwave on high for 2 more minutes and repeat until done. Mash together. You can use either a masher, a ricer or a food mill. Stir in butter or butter substitute. Season with salt and set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat up olive oil. Add red pepper flakes and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chard, season with salt and stir. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chard should turn dark green and become soft. Strain and roughly chop. Squeeze out any residual liquid. Mix together with toasted pine nuts and red wine vinegar.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Punch down the dough and roll out to a 12-inch round piece. Place rolled out dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread mashed turnips and potato in the middle, leaving about a 2 to 3-inch edge all the way around. Top with chard mixture. Pull the edge up and fold into wide pleats. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Turnip Potato Soup with Sumac

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We picked up these turnips at the farmer's market. How can we not? They looked pretty darn irresistible. I turned these turnips into a velvety soup that's hearty and creamy with that slight peppery flavor from the turnips. But, that's not all. I "kicked it up a notch" ("BAM!") with sumac, a Middle Eastern spice with a lemony floral taste. The sumac really elevates a delicious soup by giving it some variety and acidity. Normally, I put a pinch of sumac on VB's hummus breakfast sandwich. But it works beautifully here.

For this turnip potato soup, you will need:
  • 5 medium turnips, trimmed, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 large Russet potato, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • sumac for garnish
  • chopped chives for garnish
In a lidded heavy medium pot, gently saute onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add turnips, potato, and vegetable stock. Season with salt. Bring stock to simmer. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the turnip and potato pieces fall apart easily. Add cream/half-and-half. Blend into smooth soup with blender. Garnish with sumac and chopped chives. Serve warm.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mystery Produce of the Week: Chinese Cauliflower

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I was told at our local farmers' market that this funny looking cauliflower is "Chinese cauliflower." Immediately, two shoppers, myself included, chimed in and said "I've never seen that before." I tried googling, but couldn't find a definitive name for this cauliflower. But I'm glad that I took a chance and brought it home. This tastes like no ordinary cauliflower, which I detest mostly because I don't like the flavor of the florets. This is the perfect kind of cauliflower for a hater like me -- tiny florets and the stems are so sweet, crunchy and not fibrous at all. I took a bite and decided the best way the showcase its natural sweetness is to consume it raw. I chopped it fine and mixed it with some quinoa for a delicious salad. AND! I used another ingredient that I've never used before -- tarragon. The licorice flavor complemented the sweetness of the cauliflower really well.

For this cauliflower tarragon quinoa recipe, you will need:
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (I guess regular will do if you can't find this kind), finely chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 spring tarragon, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
  • juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
Begin by bringing butter or butter substitute and vegetable stock to simmer in a medium pot. Once simmering, stir in quinoa. Simmer gently until liquid evaporates and quinoa becomes cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together quinoa with cauliflower, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Finish by drizzling olive oil and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.