September 15, 2014

A burst of tomato flavor

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gardening, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:48 pm by thecatwho

Yes, cherry (small) tomatoes are the perfect size for eating raw as a snack or cutting in half to add to salads. But think again: When you cook whole cherry tomatoes until soft but still mostly intact, they give you a burst of tomato flavor when you bite into them that can’t be beat.

Cooking with whole cherry tomatoes

This spring, I planted eight cherry tomato plants, each a different variety. The plants did well, so they presented me with 1 inch or smaller yellow, orange, pink, red, and green orbs, all with a glorious balance of tanginess and sweetness. Here are a couple of ways I found to prepare my ongoing harvest.

  • Microwave leftovers: Put cooked rice, legumes, beans, and/or vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl; toss in a few whole cherry tomatoes; and add one or more seasonings: nut butter, hot sauce, salsa, hummus, toasted sesame oil, tamari, balsamic vinegar, olives, tapenade, pesto, etc. Cover and microwave for 1 minute. If the tomatoes have softened a little, take the bowl out of the microwave; if not, microwave for an additional 30 seconds, check, and repeat until cooked the way you like. Stir and enjoy.
  • Stovetop sauce: Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add whole cherry tomatoes in one layer. Allow tomatoes to brown on one side (don’t stir for a minute or two). Add chopped onions and mushrooms and sliced summer squash and cook until browned a bit. Add a fresh large tomato, tomato sauce, wine, or broth if the mixture needs liquid. Season with curry powder, chili powder, fennel seeds, and/or sage or your favorite spices. When the vegetables are soft and the cherry tomatoes have softened but are still mostly whole, the sauce is ready.

Once you start to cook with whole cherry tomatoes, I’m sure you’ll come up with other ways to use them. Know that I’d love to hear about your cherry tomato cooking adventures.

September 2, 2014

Yes, tasty vegetarian ramen is possible

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:58 pm by thecatwho

Ramen—thin noodles served in a meaty broth topped with fresh vegetables—is quite the craze here. There are four ramen restaurants nearby, but what is usually called “vegetarian ramen” is nothing more than noodles in what closely resembles hot water. How to make a yummy vegetarian ramen broth became our quest, and I think we nailed it.

Mushroom ramen bowls

For the vegetable stock in the recipe, you can use a vegetarian bouillon cube or similar product (such as Better Than Bouillon), but you can also make your own stock: Use what you have on hand (I had green onions, a fennel bulb and fronds, parsley leaves and stems, mushroom stems, and sweet peppers). Chop, sauté in oil until soft, add water to cover by a few inches, and simmer for 45 minutes or so; strain the stock, and discard the solids.

Look for fresh ramen noodles in the refrigerator section of well-stocked grocery stores and at Asian markets or use dried.

For gluten-free, use brown rice or other gluten-free spaghetti and wheat-free soy sauce (tamari) or a soy sauce alternative.

Broth
  • vegetable stock
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • mushrooms, such as shiitake and cremini, sliced
  • ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (or use a vegetable peeler)
  • garlic cloves, pounded and minced
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • ground spices, such as smoked paprika, coriander, chipotle, turmeric, and sage
  • tahini sesame paste (optional)
  • kombu (dried kelp), 1 strip about 6-in. long
  • fresh ramen noodles (see Notes)
  • miso
Possible toppings and seasonings
  • hard-cooked eggs
  • chopped spinach
  • shredded cabbage
  • toasted sunflower seeds and sesame seeds
  • seasoned or unseasoned firm tofu, cut into strips
  • green onion, thinly sliced
  • roasted peppers
  • daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
  • nori, cut into 3-in. squares (1 per soup bowl)
  • soy sauce, tamari, or soy sauce alternative
  • ponzu sauce (soy sauce with a citrus tang)
  • hot sauce
  • chile powder
  • black pepper
  1. Prepare vegetable stock (see Notes). Add stock to a large pot and heat to simmering.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion and mushrooms until soft and beginning to brown. Add mushroom-onion mixture, ginger, garlic, and sesame seeds to large pot with stock. Simmer, uncovered, until broth is reduced by a fourth or so. Add ground spices and tahini if using.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare toppings and put in separate small bowls; assemble seasonings. About 20 minutes before serving, add kombu to broth.
  4. Right before serving, add a ladle of broth to a small bowl and dissolve miso in bowl; return dissolved miso to pot with broth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. To serve, add noodles to individual bowls, ladle hot broth over noodles, and add desired toppings and seasonings.

August 28, 2014

Summer rice with a bit of autumn

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 4:58 pm by thecatwho

I know it is still August, but the mornings have their chill as we move toward fall. That’s why the idea of mixing summer treats— like tomatoes, squash, sweet peppers, and fresh herbs—with rib-sticking yellow split peas and brown basmati rice sounded spot on.

Rice pot with summer vegetables and split peas

I used 2 parts brown rice to 1 part split peas and both standard and cherry tomatoes. I also soaked my rice for several hours and then rinsed it well. My cast iron dutch oven was perfect for preparing this dish.

  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • jalapeño chiles, sliced (optional)
  • sweet peppers, chopped
  • long-grain brown rice, such as basmati
  • yellow or green split peas
  • white or red wine (optional)
  • salt
  • mixed summer squash, such as pattypan, zucchini, and cousa, halved and sliced
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • olive tapenade (optional)
  • fresh herbs, such as oregano, basil, and parsley
  • pepper
  1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Cook onion, chiles, and sweet peppers, stirring occasionally, until soft.
  2. Mix in rice and split peas and cook, covered, for a few minutes to soften. Add wine if using with water just to cover and sprinkle with salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Add squash and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and cook, covered, stirring occasionally. If mixture begins to stick, add more water and cook until rice and split peas are completely soft.
  3. Stir in olive tapenade if using and fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

August 17, 2014

Briny, nutty, and spicy pesto

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:27 pm by thecatwho

Big, bold bunches of basil are prominent at the farmers’ market now, so we moved pesto-making to the top of our culinary to-do list.

Here is a pesto that has briny olives instead of parmesan and pecans instead of pine nuts. The arugula (thanks, Zelda!) adds an herby-spicy, green quality, and there’s a jalapeño for a little heat.

How to use pesto? In salad dressing, on eggs, and in vegetable, bean, pasta, and rice dishes either at the stove or at the table.

Spicy pesto with arugula, olives, and pecans

  • garlic, coarsely chopped
  • raw, unsalted pecans
  • jalapeño, coarsely chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla
  • basil leaves
  • arugula leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Whirl the garlic, pecans, jalapeño, oil, and olives along with some of their brine in a food processor until puréed.
  2. Add basil and arugula and whirl until smooth. Adjust flavors, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

August 10, 2014

Morphing cauliflower into “rice”

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:23 pm by thecatwho

I can’t help myself. Here’s another way to serve cauliflower—which I believe is a most versatile vegetable (see why I think it is a magic vegetable). I thank the Green Kitchen Stories blog for this recipe’s inspiration.

Cauliflower “rice” salad

  • cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh basil
  • 
pumpkin seeds
  • 
lemon juice, lime juice, or your favorite vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • red and yellow sweet peppers, diced
  • 
olive tapenade or chopped briny olives
  • toasted almond slivers
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Put cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and whirl until the size of rice. Pour the cauliflower into the boiling water and simmer for about 4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, toast pumpkin seeds in a skillet on medium-low until golden; set aside. Finely chop herbs.
  3. Drain cauliflower in a sieve. Pour cauliflower into a large serving bowl. Mix in herbs, lemon juice, oil, sweet peppers, tapenade, pumpkin seeds, and almond slivers. Adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

August 5, 2014

Cooking is a radical activity

Posted in cooking, food, health, motivations, sustainability, values, vegetables tagged , , , , at 3:04 pm by thecatwho

I am not alone in agreeing with Michael Pollan that cooking could be the most important step someone can take to make our American food system healthier and more sustainable.

Just look at the growth of farmers’ markets across the country: The Fresno Bee reports that the 2014 National Farmers’ Market Directory showed a 76 percent increase in farmers’ markets since 2008—now we have more than 8,200 markets nationwide.

Why are farmers’ markets on the rise? We are spending our food dollars at farmers’ markets because they are the kind of food system we want. My local farmers’ market has grown by leaps and bounds in the 14 years I have shopped there—an increase in both farm vendors and shoppers. Shoppers are hooked on the relationships they build with the small farms that grow their food; on what they learn about food from one another; and on buying just-picked, nutrient-dense produce, some of which they cannot get at the supermarket.

And what does everyone do with the farmers’ market bounty they bring home? They go into their kitchens, prepare farm-fresh homemade meals, and make a statement about the kind of food they value for themselves and their families—a very radical act indeed.

 

August 2, 2014

Hunting and gathering in my kitchen

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:17 am by thecatwho

Cooking from my fridge and pantry gets my creativity pumping, especially because foraging helps to make space for my Sunday trip to the farmers’ market. Here’s what I found.

Kale, corn, and tomato sauté

A mélange like this is a great time to use leftover sauces and dips. I added a few remaining marinated artichokes and the last of some roasted red pepper spread to this one when I stirred in the tomatoes. Serve over brown rice or pasta.

  • ears of corn
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • mushrooms, chopped
  • jalapeño or Fresno chiles, chopped
  • large tomatoes, chopped
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt
  • kale leaves, stripped from center stem and chopped
  • raw pumpkin seeds
  • fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
  1. Microwave unhusked ears of corn or steam husked ears of corn, about 3 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs.
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms, chiles, and corn. Cover and cook until browned bits form on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add kale and stir continuously until kale is cooked the way you like. Add pumpkin seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and serve.

July 26, 2014

A South American take on tofu salad

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:13 pm by thecatwho

Marinating tofu isn’t new, but this inspiration from Mark Bittman uses a lime juice marinade and serves the tofu cold, like seviche. Here’s my version.

Lime-marinated tofu seviche salad

For the marinade, Sriracha chili sauce added a little heat and a touch of sweet; instead of salt, I used a few tablespoons of the liquid from the jar of pitted green Manzanilla olives. For the salad, the corn kernels and sweet peppers balanced the tangy lime juice and briny olives, and the almond slivers added nutty crunch.

  • lime juice or vinegar
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • green onions or red onion, thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
  • super-firm tofu, such as Wildwood or Trader Joe’s, cut into small cubes
  • cucumber, chopped
  • fresh corn kernels cut from the cob
  • red and orange sweet peppers, chopped
  • pitted green olives, whole or chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pepper
  • avocado, cut into cubes
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, parsley, and/or mint
  • toasted almond slivers

1. Put lime juice, Sriracha, salt, and some water in a bowl. Whisk to combine, then add the onions, jalapeño, and tofu. Toss gently and chill for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

2. Drain the tofu mixture, reserving the pickling liquid. Put the tofu mixture in a large bowl. Mix in cucumber, corn, sweet peppers, and olives.

3. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pickling liquid, some olive oil, and pepper and toss. Gently stir in avocado. Season to taste with salt and more pickling liquid if you like. Sprinkle with herbs and almonds and serve.

July 21, 2014

Breakfast rice

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:16 pm by thecatwho

Coming up with different ways to use leftover brown rice is a passion of mine. To that end, I cook up the maximum amount allowable in my rice cooker so that I have some brown rice to play with.

I love savory breakfasts, so it is natural for me to consider combining rice with vegetables, eggs, herbs, nut butter, nuts, beans, mustard, salsa, and/or any sauces in the fridge.  Here is one of my combinations.

This recipe uses a microwave oven.

Brown rice with tomato and herbs

I had fresh oregano and almond butter in the fridge, so that’s what I used with great success.

  • cooked brown rice
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, parsley, cilantro, thyme, or basil
  • nut butter, such as almond, cashew, or peanut
  • hot sauce or salsa
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Put the rice, tomato, herbs, nut butter, and hot sauce in a microwaveable dish. Cover and microwave until warmed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Stir to combine the nut butter with the other ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

 

July 12, 2014

Sweet and savory slaw

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:18 am by thecatwho

Based on a forage in my refrigerator and an idea from a friend (thanks, Pam!), I created this unlikely but successful combination to bring to a potluck dinner picnic.

Kale-cabbage slaw with strawberries

If you have it on hand, leftover brown rice added heft although it disappeared into the slaw (no one knew it was there), and shredded carrot could add color, crunch, and a bit of sweetness.

  • kale, center rib removed and leaves shredded
  • cabbage, shredded
  • sweet pepper, chopped
  • green onion, thinly sliced
  • ripe, organic strawberries, sliced
  • leftover brown rice (optional)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pumpkin seeds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • toasted sesame oil
  1. Mix kale, cabbage, sweet pepper, onion, strawberries, and rice, if using, in a large bowl. Toss with vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for an hour or so, tossing occasionally.
  2. If you have time, allow slaw to come to room temperature. Add seeds and sesame oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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