Posts Tagged ‘Vegetarian Recipe’

h1

September 27, 2015: Tri-color “Salt” Potatoes

September 27, 2015

Tri-Color Salt PotatoesOne is never sure what will work. Sometimes, what can seem at first mundane, is virtually unheard of to the world at large.

Back in December of 2010, I was stuck for a topic/food/recipe for the blog, and I got a brainstorm: I had never seen a recipe for “Salt Potatoes” in any of the sundry food blogs and magazines I subscribed to. At the time I thought that was because I couldn’t imagine anyone documenting such a common dish.

How wrong I was.

Growing up, salt potatoes were at least a weekly dish. We kids didn’t mind. Salt potatoes are tasty, go well with many meals, and with eight kids to feed…cheap and plentiful! Having an Irish woman as a mom probably added to the frequency with which she added them to the weekly menu.

Writing the original article, what I didn’t consider was how common this dish is to my locale and why. You see, I hail from Syracuse NY, which in an earlier American history was where much of our salt came from. The natural deposits of primeval salt in the local lakes made salt production easy and cheap. One main street of Syracuse is named “Salina Street” due to the impact the industry had for residents.

So, with cheap salt supplies and Irish workers digging the nearby Erie Canal, salt potatoes were pretty common. They are still often sold at open markets and fairs, often replacing french fries as the potato treat of choice.

So, I was pretty surprised when my (to my mind..a very, very basic) recipe was picked up by a national food blog! The recipe was “featured” as best recipe of the day and yielded my best day for the blog, with a total of 125 hits!

My sister Mary Lou, happened to call that day and I was excited to tell her the news. When, knowing my range as a chef, she asked what recipe was featured, and I told her…there was long pause. “WHY?” she asked! Turns out what a native Syracusan considers commonplace was not so for the rest of the world!

Salt Potatoes are indeed so basic, it is hard to improve them, but recently I picked up these tri-color baby potatoes in a local farm stand and these upped the ante! As well as color, each potato had its own individual taste, and I was surprised to find the inner part tinged with a slight color of the outside. The one that appears black, is actually a dark purple like a beet, so the inner potato had light purple color!

A good chef is always looking to improve on even the most basic recipe! Adding this one to my repertoire of cheap, easy, aesthetic, fun, and unusual dishes!

h1

September 17, 2015: Cucumber Soup

September 17, 2015

Cucumber SoupAs I mentioned in my last article, when my family visited last month we went to the Colonial Inn in Concord, Ma. Cooking for myself like I usually do, I’m very impressed when I go out to eat these days to find almost every restaurant caters to the vegetarian palate to some degree. Sometimes it’s just soup and bread, but I can almost always find something to eat.

Once in a great while I find a restaurant that raises the bar on their vegetarian dishes to the unique and noteworthy. Such was all the dishes we  tried at the Colonial Inn.

My niece ordered the Colonial’s Black Bean Burger. I saw this on the menu as was almost going to order it, but changed my mind at the last second. As she was on the other side of the table, I didn’t hear her order and was very pleased when she offered to share a taste with me.

One problem with black bean burgers, homemade and store-bought, is that they often add just a tad too much cumin in the mix. Cumin is one of those spices that it takes an expert hand (and tasting while tweaking the addition) to keep the balance from interesting that can quickly shift to overwhelming. The Colonial got that balance just perfect. Topped with a tiny corn relish and a fine roll, the taste was easily the best of any black bean burger I’ve ever had. The texture was very close to a meat burger, which shows the skill of the chef, as veggie burgers often fall to pieces when soft like this, but because we’ve never had one with such a delicate texture, both my niece and I agreed that it was rather unfamiliar.

I was pleased to find Truffle Fries on the menu and they were very good at the Colonial and seemed to be fried in truffle oil. But after one taste, I realized the down-side of knowing a master chef like Yoshio. He makes truffle fries and tops them with real grated truffle (which makes the dish far too expensive to make for mass distribution.) Yoshio has forever spoiled me this way, but the Colonial’s fries were a very delicious and welcome second.

I also ordered what the Colonial called their Cucumber Gazpacho Soup. The name was a little confusing (as gazpacho is usually a tomato-based broth and cucumber soup is usually a cream-based broth) so I asked the waitress to describe the soup. She explained that it was a cold, creamy cucumber soup with a topping of salsa. I loved the addition of a tiny bit of heat into the cool, slightly sweet, very smooth, cucumber base and I was inspired to make my version. Again, made for mass-consumption, there was nothing wrong at all with the Colonial’s soup….I just tend to like my soups a bit more on the savory side and I don’t mind a slight amount of texture that the Colonial carefully got rid of.

Cucumber Soup

2 Medium Leeks (washed thoroughly; chopped; green part for stock)

6 Large Cukes (washed; de-skinned (save skins for stock); de-seeded

2C. Baby Kale (washed; chopped)

6 Tblsp. Fresh Dill Weed   2 Bullion Cubes

2 C. Heavy Cream         3 Tblsp. Butter

Make stock of cuke skins, green part of leeks, and baby kale stems. Sauteé veggies in oil until tender. Add 1 Qt. H2O. Add bouillon cubes to fortify. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain.

Sauteé white part of leeks in butter until tender. Add de-seeded cukes (cubed into 2″ pieces) and baby kale. Add stock and H2O to cover veggies. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until veggies are tender. At the end of the simmer, add dillweed, salt & pepper and grind with an immersion blender. Add cream.

Top with a splash of hot sauce, then sour cream and a dab of mild salsa.

h1

March 08, 2015: A Riff On A Classic

March 8, 2015

Riff On A ClassicMost of my adult life I have been prone to slam my mother’s cooking. In recent years, I’ve come to realize how unfair my attitude has been.

Like most children, I suppose, we don’t find the true worth of a parent until it is far too late. My mother had to cook, daily, for ten people. If she sometimes found shortcuts to stretch my dad’s salary and cover what must have been a huge drain on our household…well, now that I am older and perhaps a bit wiser, I realize she did a pretty decent job, all in all.

Like most women of post-WWII, my mom took advantage of popular foods of the day. Many of these included, frozen and canned foods. Some were bland and awful…and a few were pretty spectacular! One dish my mom made often was “her” tuna fish casserole. I seem to remember that it came right off the back label of a Campbell’s mushroom soup can. It was a combination of boiled noodles, a can of tuna fish and two cans of the mushroom soup (plus milk) then baked. It was cheap, fast, fed a lot of hungry kids, and was a no-brainer. Best of all, as kids, we loved it! No wonder my mom made it often!

I thought I could make a healthier, veggie-based, slightly more jazzed-up version of this dish:

Peel skins off 3 large portobello mushrooms (I put these in a sandwich bag and keep them frozen until I make my next broth.) Slice them 1/2″ thick, and saute in 4 Tblsp. melted butter until soft. Add the juice of 1 lemon and a splash of sherry. Continue cooking a little until the shrooms almost absorbs all the liquids.

Chop 1 head of broccoli. (In keeping with my mom’s economy sense, I used the stalks as well, but chopped them a bit finer.)

I set about 4 Qts. H2O to boil while I made my veloute. This is always slightly different, depending on the dish, but this one was:

4 Tblsp. of melted butter+4 Tblsp. flour whisked together on medium heat until it has turned a slightly tawny color. Add 2C. whole milk and 1 can mushroom soup and continue whisking until just thick enough to pour easily. I had some organic mushroom gravy so I added 1C. of that. Normally, I would have used veggie broth instead.

When the H2O came to a boil I added 1 bag (12 Oz.) wide egg noodles. These usually boil for about 7 minutes, but I did them for 6 (knowing I was to bake the dish, a bit al dente is best) adding the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain.

Butter the bottom and sides of a large (18″ X 12″) Pyrex pan and add drained noodles and broccoli. Top this with mushrooms and add veloute. I then topped this with 1/2C. each grated Swiss, Asiago, and Colby Jack cheeses and a sprinkle of each ground pepper and herbs de Provence and baked at 325°F for half hour.

A crunchy, cheesy top with tender noodles and veggies underneath. Best of all was the earthy, tangy, lemony shrooms that accented every bite.

Mom’s dish was more easily made than mine, but with just a tiny bit more effort and time, this classic turned into a real treat!

h1

July 11, 2014: Go-To Salad

July 11, 2014

Go To SaladNow that the hot weather is here, I’m more active (running and kayaking more; working in the yard, etc.) and I’m looking for foods that are filling and nutritious, but still light enough to allow me to move without being weighed down. The best food solution (for me) is salad: cool, crunchy, light , satisfying, guilt-free, and infinitely variable. In Summer I practically live on salads. The best is (like now) when local farms introduce the fresh lettuces.

But even during the colder months, good salads are available to us. My perennial favorite is a salad with a base of one of several pre-cut cole slaws mixed with a little taboule. The cole slaw by itself is a bit plain, but the taboule (fresh parsley, chopped tomatoes, cracked wheat germ, olive oil and lemon juice) is just the thing to liven the cole slaw up. I often add a little viniagrette…’tho you don’t need much with the taboule. Tightly sealed,  I find both the cole slaw and taboule last all week-long.

With the addition of extras to this salad base, I can have a different salad each day of the week, so this salad never gets old. I often add some combination of fresh veggies, olives, garbanzo beans, cottage cheese, and nuts. The salad pictured above is cole slaw, taboule, red peppers, and pecans. As dressing, I used a few drops each of Blood Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar  from the Saratoga Olive Oil Company. A fine collection of salad condiments from Saratoga was given to me by my friends Christopher and Sara, who shortly will fly from the Yankee-land of snow and ice to grace their company on the The Lone Star State.

To Chris and Sara, much luck on your new life. Your intelligence, good company, generosity, guidance and inspiration (not to mention entertainment…both personal and professional) will be sorely missed by all your fans here in the cold, cold, North.

h1

June 15, 2014: “Green Brain” Sushi

June 15, 2014

%22Green Brain%22 SushiTwo weeks ago I helped Yoshio cook for his daughter’s wedding. Yoshio had a tough job as he had all the responsibilities of a father of the bride plus he was also food designer and had to make sure his creations were made to his specification…all this for close to 100 people! It was also a tough job for the wedding couple, Katrina and Jonah, also to whittle down Yoshio’s immense list of food options to what they wanted. They did a fantastic job choosing dishes that were personal, as well as visually pleasing and delicious!

My job was to help organize the food and do as much prep work as possible. The true star of the food crew, ‘tho was Baba Takashi. A friend of the family, Baba was imported from Japan by Yoshio as a sushi chef for the reception. Yoshio had ordered all the sushi supplies, including the fresh fish, which arrived on ice just before Baba himself arrived from Japan.

Baba and I worked together for almost eight hours, the day before the reception. I can’t tell you how hard it was to work with a master sushi chef in the room! All I wanted to do was to watch every move he made, and it was only my dedication to Yoshio, the wedded couple, and to my obligations, that kept me from doing just that! The great part of working with a sushi-master (and a kind and generous one at that) was being offered a few of his creations as the evening progressed. Every once in a while, Baba would come over with one of his unique (vegetarian) sushi variations. Not only was each piece visually stunning, but absolutely delicious!

One of my favorites of Baba’s sushi I nicknamed “Green Brain” sushi.This was thinly sliced avocado wrapped around sushi rice. Simplicity itself…right?

Not so simple when I tried to make it for myself. Remember what I said about wanting to watch Baba? Well, I never got to see how he created “Green Brain” sushi. It took me several trials to get the thickness of the avocado right. Then, when I formed it, it was a decent effort, but not even in the ballpark of correct.

I got to catch up with Yoshio this weekend. We were so busy working the weekend of the wedding, we never got to visit. Between sips of a very good bourbon, delicious cheeses and  frites  truffe (truffled french fries…made the correct way by Yoshio) he was able tweak what I had done wrong and to shorten the road to my making Baba’s sushi better. My second effort came closer to what I wanted….not perfect, mind you, but better…thanks to Yoshio’s input.

The day of the reception, I was very busy, but I occasionally caught glimpses of Baba’s work: Every one of his creations a masterpiece! The queue of guests waiting to partake of his sushi was wrapped all around the yard! At one point, just about every guest was chanting his name! If any sushi chef ever came close to rock-star status, it was Baba!

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I only wish I was able to flatter Baba more. I only hope that sometime in the future I can get the chance to see Baba (my new rock-star friend) in action again!

h1

April 17, 2014: Wendy’s Surprising Breakfast

April 17, 2014

Wendy's QuinoaI enjoy the unexpected perk of having the owner of the company I work for, being not only an excellent cook, but very generous with his creations. The other day, he offered his most delicious veggie lasagna and a Hungarian borscht (his addition of paprika and cabbage making it Hungarian) for lunch. I welcomed and enjoyed both, but I was most intrigued with the dish he did not offer. “What’s the quinoa dish?” I asked. Jim made a kind of gagging face and replied, “Oh. That’s Wendy’s breakfast.”

Jim is considered to be quite adventuresome when it comes to food. If you remember, he was the one that once prepared “Boar’s Head.” It seems Jim will try anything once, but he also has specific things, that once tried and disliked, are stricken from his palate forever! Wendy, his wife and the company’s co-owner, is more of a middle-of-the-road culinary adventurer. Knowing not very many people who have even tried quinoa….and never for breakfast, I had to follow-up.

Wendy’s Quinoa Breakfast is simplicity itself: cooked quinoa, chilled, and yoghurt added. Fruit and nuts optional. As easy as oatmeal, yet far more healthy. Wendy says she switched to quinoa, because she wanted a lower glycemic index, higher protein, and lower fat than oatmeal. She realized that a lot of traditional American breakfast is so much “junk food” (eggs, pancakes, processed cereal, etc.) at the same time she  found how important breakfast is to her. She finds this quinoa dish to be filling, but also light. It easily lasts her to lunch, and makes her “more focused” and her day “more complete.” She tries to have this dish 5-6X a week.

Of course, I could not help to make my own version, but this comes very close to what Wendy had made. Wendy adds flax seed to this dish as well (which I did not….but only because I forgot that I had some at the time of cooking.)

Wendy’s Quinoa Breakfast
Wash 1C. Red Quinoa and add to 1.25C. H2O. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Chill.

I added 1/4C. crasins half way through the simmering. A greek yoghurt laced with honey seemed right. I topped it with a sprinkling of cardamom and toasted pecans.

I found this dish to be as tasty and rewarding as Wendy had made it out to be. Wendy made the mistake of giving Jim the cooked quinoa before adding the yoghurt, hence his “face.” I know very few people who can take their quinoa straight like this. Wonderful as a side dish or mixed with other foods, quinoa has a distinctly “earthy” flavor. Since making Wendy’s breakfast, I have found other quinoa breakfast dishes. One, by another fellow-food blogger is “Quinoa Grits” which is cooked white quinoa, lightly spiced and fried in oil.

h1

September 27, 2013: Harvest Moon Cornucopia

September 27, 2013

Harvest Moon CornucopiaLast week, I got an opportunity to visit my friend Ellen, whom I had worked with at my last temp job. The job was a miserable, dirty one scrounging trough and cataloging old financial records. What made the job palatable were the fine people assigned to get this odious chore done.

Ellen was a particular solace. She is one of those rare individuals who is not only easy to converse with, but who constantly looked out for her fellow workers. To my memory, not a single day went by that Ellen did not supply us with baked goods, either made by her or from various bakeries. She also had a knack for bringing in cleaning supplies, that she had collected from sundry supply centers to repurpose to people she knew. With every penny counted, it was a relief for me not to have to worry at all where detergents were coming from. While reading a story of Lafcadio Hearn, where he cites the particular human quality of “active beneficence” it was a revelation to look beyond my page and recognize a living example of this quality in one of my fellow workers.

Ellen’s active beneficence does not end with her fellow humans. She is very committed to programs that help to neuter abandoned cats and dogs, and even uses her own home as a half-way house to help place strays to willing and responsible owners.

Ellen used to tell me about her husband, Jack and his fine garden. As gardening is one of my  interests that have fallen to the wayside due to hard financial times, I was curious to see his.

And what a garden! Even in late-Summer, Jack’s garden had an obvious bounty of peppers, sunflowers, squashes, eggplants, various greens and tomatoes. Through the blur of my imagination, I could picture how full it looked a month ago, at the height of a home garden. I love talking to experienced gardeners like Jack. They are always full of helpful advice and knowledge, and especially a pride in what they have grown.  I found his use of support of vines by 5′ aluminum poles to be a practical (and perennial) solution. To be truthful, I did not absorb all he told me about the individual pepper plants he had, but one thing stuck: watering peppers well decreases the capsicum (the “heat” element) of peppers.  I found this true when I made a tomato and cheese omelette  and topped it off with not only grilled spring onion and peppers from Jack’s garden but also with Ellen’s wonderful homemade salsa.

Tomato and Monteray Jack Omelette, topped with Ellen's homemade salsa and Jack's grilled spring onions and peppers

Tomato and Monteray-Jack Omelette, topped with Ellen’s homemade salsa and Jack’s grilled spring onions & peppers

Jack and Ellen supplied me with a cornucopia of delicious veggies from their garden:

Garlic; Tomatoes; Spring Onion: Summer Squash; Eggplant(both Globe and Japanese varieties); Swiss Chard; Bok Choy; Various Peppers; Thyme; Cantaloupe; Beets and Beet Greens.

Harvest Stir Fry

Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Beet Green, Spring Onion, Pepper stir-fry with Black Rice/Orzo and Basamati Rice in veggie broth and Thyme

I also made  fine stir-fry from all the greens, onions and peppers. A splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus a grind of pepper was all it needed. I made a combo of black rice+orzo and basamati rice, both cooked in the veggie broth from the green leavings and flavored with Jack’s fresh Thyme.

As Ellen was taking me around to show me her flower gardens, it was clear where she had gotten the habit of repurposing. Generations of her family members had repurposed, what was essentially junk, into quaint, personal, and eclectic decorations for the yard: a huge, brightly colored windmill and the painted planters made from old factory hardware held Ellen’s beautiful late-Summer flowers.

I wanted to meet all the animals, both owned and boarded. I first met “Nippy” a miniature Pincher who, despite his name, did not nip at all, but was quite friendly. He was a bundle of constant energy ‘tho, and did not once stop moving until we had a tug of war with a tennis ball, where his abundant energy was momentarily stalemated by mine.

Next was a beautiful Siamese: clear, crystal blue eyes with soft fur of shades from brown to black. At first skittish, he quickly decided I was the OK sort and cozied up. Ellen said he was most likely abandoned due to the “imperfections” in his markings. Ellen had matched him up with a young Cambridge couple, so he was off shortly to a new, posh life.

Then there was a tiny black kitten. As I picked him up, he was so gentle and content that my first thought was “Oh, here is an old soul.” The poor little thing was suffering from a cold and as soon as my attention was on him, this set off Nippy to rough-housing with him, in a bid for attention. The besieged kitten finally had enough of his ears being chewed on and gave Nippy  a soft bat with a hiss and went up on a table, snuffling out of reach.

As I was heading home, my trunk full of Ellen and Jack’s active beneficence, the tawny Harvest Moon skipped over the bough-tops and I thought of those words we associate with this season: harvest, bounty, cornucopia (the “horn of plenty” representing the harvest bounty.)

HMC-BannerI do admit, in my darkest hours, I consider my own late harvest to be a bitter one: my good and earnest labors left wasted as if a barren field. Still…life is painted by so many forms and is colored by so many sundry good things…so I will take these precious moments: the generosity of the wise and the good (which can never be undervalued); the cleverness of repurposing our resources; the richness of a well-tended garden and the bounty of the good Earth.

Even the little ones had lessons to teach: the friendly comfort of a sultry, posh kitty; the stillness-in-tension from a hyperactive puppy; and the zen-like patience of a beleaguered, snuffling kitten.

By this age, I am supposed to be wise, yet often feel anything but (save if wisdom be the stoic acceptance of one’s ocean of ignorance.) But, the cornucopia of kindness and experience, acquired my Harvest Moon evening west of Boston, is something I can safely say is truly known.  One could not  wish for a better bounty.

%d bloggers like this: