October 30, 2014

No-fuss vegetable broth for soup season

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, gluten-free vegan, urban homesteading, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , at 6:08 pm by thecatwho

Cool weather naturally has me turning to tummy-warming soups and stews that benefit from homemade vegetable broth. I make broth on farmers’ market day when I come home loaded with vegetables that need to be trimmed to fit in the fridge—and I use those trimmings for my broth.

You will need a large pot, a large glass measuring cup, a mesh strainer that fits on top of the measuring cup, and a large screw-top bottle in which to store your finished broth.

Vegetable broth in 3 steps

Choose mild-flavored vegetable trimmings; avoid strong flavors like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, radish, and turnip. If you have them on hand and don’t mind the extra chopping, you can add potatoes, carrots, celery, fennel bulb, onions, and mushrooms if you like. I do not season the broth with salt because I use this broth as an ingredient in other dishes.

  • leek tops
  • green onion tops
  • fennel fronds
  • parsley stems
  • cilantro stems
  • celery tops
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Roughly chop the vegetable trimmings and separate out the large, dense pieces. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add dense pieces and cook, covered, stirring frequently, until browned bits begin to form on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Stir in the rest of the trimmings and cook for a minute or two. Add water to cover vegetables by several inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Strain the broth into a large glass measuring cup. Discard vegetable material from the strainer into the compost. Pour the strained broth into the screw-top bottle and chill.

October 24, 2014

Chickpea spread—savory and sweet

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, gluten-free vegan, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 4:56 pm by thecatwho

I enjoy chickpea spread with vegetables mixed in—see my post about adding steamed broccoli to hummus. This version was inspired by the fresh beets and cooked chickpeas waiting for me in the fridge. Don’t be surprised by the lovely color of this spread!

Chickpea spread with beets and olives

For a quick version, whirl the cooked beets, olives, and herbs, and mix in your favorite prepared hummus.

I prefer Chioggia or golden beets because they don’t bleed and aren’t as fibrous as red beets, but any beets will work. There’s no need to wash, scrub, or peel the beets because the skins slide off easily after the beets are cooked.

  • beets
  • cooked chickpeas
  • tahini (sesame paste)
  • lemon juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives with pickling liquid as needed or olive tapenade
  • garlic (optional)
  • fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, chervil, cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cut beets in half. Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Cook until easily pierced with a fork. Pour off cooking water, keeping beets in the pan. Cover beets with cold water to cool beets quickly. Rub beets to remove their skins.
  2. Whirl beets, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, oil, olives, garlic (if using), and your choice of fresh herbs. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.

October 17, 2014

Potato “pancakes” from the oven

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:17 am by thecatwho

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes—can’t get enough of them. This easy method of steaming, smashing, and roasting provides crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside pillowy pancakes. Inspired by Leaf.

Smashed and roasted potato pancakes

We served these potato cakes alongside a large green salad for dinner. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, crumble dried rosemary on the potatoes after they are roasted or top with fresh chopped parsley instead.

  • potatoes, fingerlings or small potatoes
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • hummus
  • sliced almonds
  1. Steam potatoes until soft but not mushy. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven or toaster oven to 450º. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet. Smash lightly with a pastry knife or a flat plate.
  4. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with fresh rosemary, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake until outsides are sizzling and crispy, about 15 minutes. Turn over and continue baking until second side is crispy, about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with hummus and almonds.

October 3, 2014

Discovering coconut milk

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:10 pm by thecatwho

Yes, I’ve had curries at Indian, Thai, and other restaurants, but I’ve never made anything with coconut milk that tasted good—until now.

California curry with red lentils and vegetables

I call it a “California curry” to distance it from a specific world cuisine, given I combined the flavors of New Mexico chile powder, olive tapenade, and whole-fat coconut milk without a hint of curry paste. The red lentils give the rich coconut sauce a nice thickness. I served this curry over packaged precooked polenta that I sliced and broiled until crisp.

  • coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • leeks, cut crosswise into rings
  • potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • cauliflower, cut in half and then into 1-in. steaks
  • full-fat coconut milk
  • vegetable broth
  • red lentils
  • chile powder, such as New Mexico and/or chipotle
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive tapenade or pitted chopped olives
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, potatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth to just cover vegetables (use water if needed). Bring to a simmer and stir in lentils and chile powder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils and vegetables are soft. Add more water if needed so the sauce doesn’t get too thick.
  3. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and olive tapenade. Serve with your favorite hot sauce if you like.

September 28, 2014

Using steam to cook eggs

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegetarian tagged , , , , at 9:32 pm by thecatwho

I like my eggs with runny yolks, so my favorite Brunch Chef makes me soft poached eggs on Sundays. I’m not sure where the Brunch Chef got the idea to steam-cook eggs, but the steaming process is easier, faster, and more foolproof than poaching eggs directly in water. If you like poached eggs, you’ll love this method.

Steamed “poached” eggs

You’ll need a metal or bamboo vegetable steamer and ramekins that fit your steamer.

  • extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • eggs

Put about an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Oil one ramekin for each egg you are cooking. Crack one egg into each ramekin. Place the ramekins in the vegetable steamer and cook, covered, 4 to 5 minutes for soft.

September 23, 2014

Potatoes to the rescue

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , at 6:08 pm by thecatwho

The potato has been my year-round friend, saving me from slumps in cooking energy and ideas. So it didn’t surprise me that potatoes came to mind for stuffing these cabbage rolls. But consider using this versatile mashed-potato mixture to fill peppers, dumplings, rice-paper rollups, and tacos or to accompany your breakfast eggs instead of country potatoes.

Cabbage rolls stuffed with mashed potatoes

To separate individual whole leaves from a cabbage, core the cabbage and microwave or steam the whole head for a few minutes to soften it, testing each minute to see if you can peel off the leaves. Then quickly blanch or microwave the leaves to soften them just enough so they bend instead of break or tear when you fill and roll them. If you don’t have leeks and fruit vinegar, replace with chopped onions and balsamic vinegar. Serve the rolls plain or topped with hummus, hot sauce, or salsa, if you like.

  • yellow potatoes, cut into quarters
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • leeks, sliced into half-rounds
  • sweet peppers, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • thyme
  • fennel seeds
  • parsley, chopped
  • chopped nuts, such as walnuts or almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • fruit vinegar, such as fig
  • toasted sesame oil
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • pepper
  • large leaves from a green cabbage
  • stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or tomato sauce
  1. Put the potatoes in a steamer basket over boiling water and steam, covered, until tender. Drain and pour potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Coarsely mash until no large lumps remain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and cook leeks, peppers, and mushrooms over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until brown bits form on the bottom of the pan and vegetables are soft. Add chopped tomato, thyme, fennel seeds, and parsley and stir, scraping up browned bits. Pour vegetable mixture into large bowl with potatoes and add nuts and seeds. Season to taste with vinegar, sesame oil, tamari, Sriracha, salt, and pepper.
  3. Heat oven to 375º. Spoon a scoop of filling into the bottom third of a cabbage leaf, fold over side edges, and roll up. Place each cabbage roll seam side down in a baking dish. Repeat until you have the number of rolls you want. Pour stewed tomatoes over the cabbage rolls, cover with foil, and bake until cabbage rolls are completely soft, about 1 hour.

September 21, 2014

Simple and delectable green cabbage sauté

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , at 7:40 pm by thecatwho

I was not a fan of cooked cabbage until I tried it sautéed quickly with mushrooms, onions, and seasonings. So pull out that cabbage from the back of your refrigerator, and try this recipe.

Quick green cabbage sauté

You can serve this dish hot or cold; if served cold, make sure that all of the cabbage pieces are cooked until thoroughly soft, but not mushy. Good over brown rice, lentils, split peas, or polenta; consider topping it with hummus, salsa, or drizzled toasted sesame oil.

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • onions, chopped
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • green cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • caraway seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • fennel seeds
  1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft.
  2. Stir in cabbage and cook, covered, over medium-high heat until softened. Add seeds, stir, and cook for another minute or two.

September 19, 2014

How to flavor up what you cook

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:51 pm by thecatwho

Aside from dried and fresh herbs and spice blends, I rely on certain seasonings and ingredients to enhance the flavor of what I cook. Here’s my list:

  • Olives. I add pitted, whole green Manzanilla olives to any dish that needs some briny goodness. I’ve been known to add the liquid from the olive jar to salad dressings and marinades.
  • Olive tapenade. The prepared tapenade that I use is a mixture of Kalamata and other chopped olives; add to salad dressings, soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • Raisins. When needed, I add raisins instead of sugar to a sauce, soup, or stew to give a bit of sweetness.
  • Toasted sesame oil. This oil enhances any Asian dish, salad dressing, or marinade with a nutty earthiness. Good mixed with Sriracha chili sauce.
  • Sriracha chili sauce. I adore Sriracha because of its sweet spiciness; try in dressings, marinades, sautés, soups, and stews.
  • Balsamic and fruit vinegars. Both white and dark, balsamic vinegar adds a mild, delicious tang to marinades, salad dressings, and any soup or stew. Fruit vinegars are tasty, sweet, and mild.
  • Nuts and seeds. I love the crunch and richness that nuts and seeds add to salads and almost anything else I prepare. Stir nut butters into hot vegetables, beans, and legumes.
  • Hot sauce. Instead of reaching for the saltshaker, I drizzle hot sauce (Sontava brand) on whatever I’m eating.
  • Tahini sesame paste. This paste has a toasty aspect that goes well with beans and legumes (it is a major ingredient in hummus), but it also adds flavor to sauces, soups, and rice.
  • Lemon juice. Like vinegar, lemon juice perks up a dish from the doldrums.
  • Mustard. Five different jars of mustard—from Dijon to mustard aioli—are open in my fridge because I enjoy the kick and tang that mustard can bring to any dish.

I’d love to know how you enhance what you’re cooking!

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.

  • 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.

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