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Tag: vegetarian (page 1 of 7)

Secret Vegetarian: Eggplant & Walnut “Meat”balls

I found this neat-sounding recipe whilst putzing about online one day at lunch last week. From Alice Medrich’s genius brownies at Food 52 I somehow managed to wend my way to Oui, Chef and these tasty little “meat”balls.

Given that these days everyone and their mom seems to have some crazy food preference or issue –real or imagined–it’s nice to have a stable of vegetarian, gluten-free, non-dairy, paleo, psychosis-friendly recipes at the ready. I’d think that water would be the only thing that meets ALL of those criteria, but despite JUST being vegetarian, these sounded quite tasty, with roughly ground walnuts and eggplant subbing for the usual meat.

Tasty they were, even though I decreased the cheese by half and added some red chili flakes for some pop. Tossed with a quick tomato sauce and snuggled in a nest of pasta, they made for a great supper, and I’d imagine they’d be great in a sub or atop a pizza as well.

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A Healthy Post for the New Year: Kale & Sesame Salad

Happy New Year, all! So, yes, I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Mr. T and I had a wonderful time gallivanting around the snowy north with various permutations of family, which is always fun. But, helas, we’re now back to the grind and I at least am feeling the need for something cleanse-y. Of course, I have a fairly hardcore cleanse lined up and ready to go, but apparently I’m something of a hosebeast during the process, so I have to wait till Mr. T is on travel to do it. Sigh.

Meddlesome partners aside, it seems that most of you are looking for something similarly fresh and healthy after some holiday excess. I did an informal poll on the PassionFruits’ facebook page (which, obviously, you should check out if you’ve not already) and kale salad was a clear winner over the red velvet cake and pecan squares I’d lined up for the next week or so.

So, kale salad it is. In case you’ve not recently been accosted by a juicer, raw fooder, vegetarian, Prevention magazine-reader, or other holistic evangelist (lucky you), kale has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late. It is ridiculously, insanely good for you and thus is popping up in all sorts of places, both traditional and not.

Now, while I have yet to investigate kale chips up close and personal, the latest method of consuming the superfood du jour did intrigue me. Massaging the kale with oil or acid to relax it a bit–a pre-chewing, if you will–makes the whole eating endeavor less work and more pleasure. I tried it out while we were in Boston over the holiday and lo, it worked. Very cool. It was lovely tossed with a light vinaigrette, sliced green apples, fennel, and toasted pecans. So, there’s that version.

But I also wanted something a bit more substantial, a salad that could stand on its own for lunch. So, I turned eastward with a sesame-miso dressing, added some more veggies and a bit of chicken, and voila, a delicious salad that’ll keep the 3pm munchies at bay. An easy victory for healthy eating in the new year. And, having written this up, I can now get back to baked goods! (I’ll keep eating the salad though, and you should too!)

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Maybe They CAN Cook: Mrs. T’s English Roast Potatoes

Bland, industrial, cooked-to-death, greasy, occasionally tasty… but only when it’s chicken tikka masala. I think that covers the waterfront on English food jokes, yeah? Despite a significant renaissance on the British food scene, the associations with droopy chips and sad boiled dinners tend to cling like sulfurous fumes to overcooked cabbage. National pride wounded, however, Mr. T does insist that English food, cooked in the home, is a very different and delicious beast.

And these roast potatoes, courtesy of his mom–excuse me, “mum”–Mrs. T, fall firmly into that different and delicious category. Indeed, everything that I’ve eaten at home on our visits to London has been quite delicious. Both Mrs. T and her sister, Auntie T, are very accomplished home cooks. (I am currently on the hunt for Auntie T’s uh-mazing chocolate apple cake.) His brother, Artsy T, spent time as a restaurant chef; and even his sister, Dr. T, has significantly upped her game since the arrival of the niecelet.

In any event, roast potatoes. I imagine that these accompany the big, juicy Sunday roasts that one reads about in Charles Dickens novels–generally only towards the happy ending, though. They’re basically what would happen if French fries and potato chips had illict, delicious babies. Crack their crisply burnished, golden brown crust to reveal pale and creamy potato innards. People, particularly those who have never had a traditional roast dinner, flip the bojangles OUT when presented with these. English expats are similarly thrilled. For Mr. T, who is quite the potato connoisseur, these represent the acme, epitome, the ur-potato experience. In short, they pretty much make everyone ridiculously, deliriously happy.

They’ve even replaced mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving table. The traditionalist martinet in me (oh yes, I’ve got one of those) was not pleased at first, but EVERYONE is just totally taken with them. The mash just can’t hold a candle to these golden beauties.

Said potatoes require a screaming hot oven, some time, and a lot of lubrication. Since the roast dinner is not something that gets a lot of play these days, certainly in the US at least, allowances have to be made. We use a mild olive oil rather than more exciting goose fat or beef dripping. That said, for extra-super delicious bonus points, Team Goose Fat is the winner. You’ve go buckets of that floating around, right? I’ve only made them once with goose fat–for obvious reasons–but, damn, they were really, really good. So, next time you’re roasting a goose, save those um, “juices”!

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Vegetarian Dinner Crisis Averted: Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Pop quiz, hotshot. You’ve got people coming to dinner: Ms. Foodie Italian, Mrs. Foodie Indian-American, and Mr. Foodie Italian-Peruvian-Nerd. Two of them are vegetarian. What do you serve? WHAT do you serve?

Ok, so not exactly as pressing as saving a bus full of screaming passengers with Sandra Bullock at the wheel, but this was still the closest thing to a crisis that I had to deal with last weekend. I was not about to throw down anything Italian, and Indian too–my go-to vegetarian dinner party option–was similarly off the menu. I toyed with Indonesian, given the “I” theme that had developed, but then it got a bit chilly and the idea of gado gado and smoked tofu summer rolls seemed a bit premature.

Instead, at the suggestion of  dear friend and PassionFruits Edinburgh correspondent Lady Dae-Dae, I whipped up a lentil-based shepherd’s pie based very loosely on several recipes by Nigel Slater (English foodie institution) and Sophie Dahl (English foodie… something).

Yes, yes, I know I just wrote about my “African” sheperd’s pie, but bracketed by tapenade and goat cheese toasts, fennel apple salad, and a flourless chocolate torte, the lentil-based pie made a perfect, hearty centerpiece to a tasty, veggie-friendly meal that didn’t rely on any of my guest’s native cuisines.

While definitely savory and substantial enough to stand on its own, the shepherd’s pie would also be absolutely stellar as a side for lamb chops… but then, what DOESN’T go with a good lamb chop? In any event, though, it was such a delicious success that Ms. Foodie Italian refused to leave till she’d extracted a promise that I’d share the recipe–which I gladly agreed to, with the warning that I’d have to write it down first!

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Sex, Lies, & Eggplant: Baba Ghanouj

Ok, so: eggplant. Such an unappealing name for what, ultimately, is quite the delicious team player. Of course, it’s not helpful at all that many people’s first introduction to the fruit is eggplant Parmesan–decidedly not the vehicle to play up its finer characteristics. So often the dish ends up a heap of wan, bitter, grease-sodden cutlets dribbled with indifferent marinara and glued together with industrial adhesives (er, “mozzarella”), that most eggplant parm qualifies as a UNESCO food crime. We shall, however, overcome.

Before we get any further, though, a note on purchasing eggplants–particularly of the common purple variety. First up, we want heavy, unblemished fruit (they’re actually berries–who knew?!) with taut, shiny skins. All those things being equal, you’ll then want to reach for a boy eggplant–you can sex your eggplant by looking at its belly button. Boy eggplants have small, round belly buttons and fewer seeds, which makes them less bitter, allegedly. Girl eggplants, with their larger, oval belly buttons and abundance of seeds are supposed to be more bitter. I’ve never really been bothered by bitter eggplant, though, so I’m just propagating this fairly tale to irritate anyone uptight enough to huffily draw broader conclusions of produce aisle gender inequity. I figure they deserve it.

Ok, so questionable folk food science aside, the major problem here is fighting against eggplant’s inherent sponginess. No amount of breading, begging, or bleeding (the whole slice/salt/sit/rinse palaver) will change the eggplant’s propensity to suck up whatever liquid you pitch at it. And, while it is possible to do nice things with eggplant and oil, it’s always going to be a lot of mess and effort. Frankly, I’d rather save my kitchen OCD for more rewarding challenges.

SO! We get around this by overwhelming the sponge with forceful application of really wet or really dry heat. In the first, we want to stew the eggplant into, well not oblivion, but close. Lengthy cooking in abundant liquid allows absorption of flavors and a relaxation of texture that’s light years away from the leathery eggplant of cafeteria parm. My friend the Persian Princess produces divine dips that are basically onion, garlic, and eggplant, cooked low and slow into silky submission. Similarly, my ratatouille is–if I do say so myself–a radiant example of eggplant at its hearty, toothsome, yielding best.

In the second, I like to char the bejeebers out of the whole eggplant on the grill stovetop (gas, natch) and then throw them in a hot oven to cook through.  There’s enough water already in ‘em, you see, so that holding them over a violent fire doesn’t do a whole lot of damage. Instead, it just kickstarts the cooking process and adds a smoky depth of flavor unobtainable by other means.

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Menu Monday: Back to School with Apples & Squash

If there was a ever a time I wish I vlogged, it would be now, so I could give you all a big ol’ “HELLO!” a la My Drunk Kitchen. (MDK is totally worth the clicks, btw. Harto’s antics crack me up without fail, and that’s saying something, Frederick!) Sadly, they say the camera adds 10lbs, so my video debut is still SEVERAL Pilates sessions away.

In any case, though, I can assure you I’m back from, well… let’s see: late-summer blogger malaise, crazy work (it’s year-end for Feds, and that’s about as much fun as a barrel of bubonic monkeys), serial party-throwing, and, oh yeah, a faboo week in Costa Rica (looks tragic, right?) communing with birds and frogs and snakes and monkeys of the non-bubonic variety.

Now, while I am absolutely a-twizzle with new fun things to write , I did want go get back into the swing of doing Menu Mondays. It’s one of the few things I’ve gotten good (ok, ANY) feedback on lately, so tally ho. And, since we’ve been luxuriating in deliciously crispy fall weather here in D.C. for the past few days, I thought a tasty meal that celebrated back-to-school, the impending harvest, and the no-longer-so-far-away holidays would be just the thing.

We kick off with a crisp, juicy salad of fennel and apples with a bright cider vinaigrette, and continue in that sweet-savory vein with a toothsome combination of roasted butternut squash, kale, and raisins tossed with pasta and Parmesan cheese. Plums nestled in a almond-y batter and quickly baked off make a suitably autumnal conclusion.
These dishes’ dependence on seasonal produce links them together in a very appealling fashion. If, however, you’re like Mr. T and look slightly askance at sweet-savory pairings, you can omit the raisins from the pasta and reduce the cider in the vinaigrette. I absolutely love them as they are, however, and I’d encourage you to try them as-is first.

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Song of Summer: Corn, Tomato, & Basil Salad

Sweet corn. Tangy tomato. Pungent basil. It doesn’t get more summery. Put them together, and you pretty much have the apotheosis of hot weather deliciousness. And put them together we shall, tossed together with a lightning quick vinaigrette that delivers a little extra zing that makes this easy salad compulsively nibbleable.

Given that this is the glory season of spectacular beefsteak heirloom tomatoes, I feel kind of dreadful recommending cherry tomatoes for this… but they really work better. The big tomatoes, delicious as they are, kind of break down and get all weepy while the little ones hold their shape and flavor better. I’ve made this several times since the version pictured, and it’s just better with the baby tomatoes. Keep your big fancy tomatoes for eating on their own or in a Caprese salad.

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Instant Gratification: Baked Feta with Thyme

Despite my recent foray into Southeast Asian cocktail catering, I’ve found myself doing lots of Mediterranean cooking this summer as well.

The region offers a dizzying array of dishes that are fast and light but don’t skimp on the flavor; perfect for easy entertaining on days when it’s so hot and sticky that the mere thought of hoisting more than a wine glass is exhausting.

And, while it’s beastly hot here in D.C., I find it’s always nice to have at least one hot dish on the table all the same. This is a lovely appetizer/snack that hits that hot, cheesy spot with amazing ease. It takes about 5 minutes to prep and since it’s just broiled briefly, it doesn’t even heat up the kitchen–just the thing for a random weeknight cocktail guests.

It’s lovely on its own with quick pre-dinner drinks, but you could just as easily add a few more things for a quite respectable spread and forget dinner altogether: olives, baba ghanouj, various salumi-type things, stuffed grape leaves, and the like (most of which are easily purchase-able).

Oh, and don’t be weirded out by the rather agressive amount of jalapeno, the broiler tames their heat and all you’re left with a lilting spicy tingle. You’ll need to find yourself a nice, shallow, oven-safe dish that will snugly accomodate the cheese in a single layer. I generally use a 10″ square dish with a low rim and it’s perfect.

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