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Mar 25, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘quick and easy dinner’

Meatless Monday: Summery Spring Vegetable Soup

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Part of our mini-tour through Paris, London and Dublin involved a little reprieve into the countryside with a two-night stay in Bath. In Bath, the pace was slower, there weren’t so many cars to dodge and we never had to hop on and off The Underground. Yet, there was still a plethora of history and architecture to admire every day — and delicious food to eat!

My favorite place was a little tea room called Bea’s, which was recommended to us by a local resident. When we walked in, it was like stepping back into the 1940s: lots of vintage lace and embroidered tablecloths, a mixed assortment of vintage teacups and saucers stacked on tea carts and comfort food that was simple but flavorful.

We ate many things during that visit, but what left a lasting impression on me was the soup. Big chunks of carrot and potato simmered with herbs and spices in a light vegetable broth that wasn’t too heavy for these suddenly spring-turned-summer nights. In my version, I couldn’t help but add a slew of other vegetables too, but the final feel of the dish stays true to its inspiration.

Summery Spring Vegetable Soup
Makes 6 to 8 servings

5 cups vegetable stock
2 medium unpeeled potatoes (any kind you prefer), halved and sliced
1 large unpeeled carrot, sliced
¼ cup uncooked brown rice
2 Tbsp. butter
1 leek, sliced
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 stalks asparagus, tough ends removed, sliced in 1-inch pieces
2 cups chopped spinach
3 cups milk

• In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Add the slices of potatoes and carrots and the rice. Reduce to a simmer and cover.
• Cook until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
• Meanwhile, in a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the slices of leeks and mushroomss and the thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute the vegetables until just tender, and then add the entire contents of the pan plus the asparagus and spinach to the potato-carrot mixture in the pot.
• Add the milk, and season again with salt and pepper to taste.
• Simmer, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
• Serve in bowls with slices of crusty bread.

Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Monday, May 13th, 2013

On our first night in London, we had just arrived by car from the Portsmouth seaside and were beyond tired (Reversing all the traffic rules you’ve ever known while driving somewhere you’ve never been will do that.). Unfortunately, we were also very hungry, so we dropped our bags at the hotel and wandered down the street to the first pub we could find. It was called The Prince Edward Public House and Kitchen, and at first glance, it looked like a typical pub — dark wood, a bar brimming with beer options, bowls of pistachios and lots of TV screens showing lots of “football.”

Then we ordered dinner, and, suddenly, the word typical no longer applied. I ordered the butternut squash, which arrived tender, wrinkly and stuffed with arugula, roasted cherry tomatoes and goat cheese. On the side was an asparagus-mushroom pilaf. Instead of slicing the squash lengthwise as we often do over here, this one was sliced off at the neck, leaving the bottom, bowl-like third an edible serving vessel. And the flavor the chef was able to get into all that orange-y flesh was astounding. Hopefully I’ve done it justice!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
2 servings

2 small butternut squashes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 pinches salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
Olive oil
2 oz. goat cheese
1 handful arugula

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Cut the neck off each squash, leaving just the bowl-shaped bottom. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon.
• Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick spray and place the squash bowls on it. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in each squash, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Brush the rim of each bowl with olive oil.
• Put the squashes in the oven and let them roast until the sides start to wrinkle and the insides are very tender, about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the sizes of the squashes.
• Meanwhile, in a bowl, coat the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet and then place in the oven 10 minutes before the squashes are finished.
• Once the squashes and cherry tomatoes are properly roasted, remove from oven, but keep oven on. Set tomatoes aside. Pour out all but a teaspoon of butter from each squash bowl, and then place 3 to 4 quarter-size pieces of goat cheese (about 1 ounce) in each one. Return them to the oven and roast another 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese softens.
• Remove from oven and place 3 to 4 cherry tomatoes in each bowl, followed by a few arugula leaves, then the rest of the cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Serve with salad or rice pilaf.

Just Five: Fried Tofu with Dipping Sauce

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

My 15-year-old recently announced that she’s become a vegetarian. This isn’t the most uncommon thing for a teenager to do and is far less upsetting than multiple piercings or tattoos, but, nevertheless, this does mean I have to tweak my day-to-day cooking. Back in college, when I was a vegetarian, I mostly subsisted on boxes of macaroni and cheese along with the occasional falafel wrap and salad. I tried eating tofu frequently but never really loved it, except when it was fried. Fried anything is good! A friend told me that the secret to great fried tofu was to drain out as much moisture as humanly possible, and then dredge it in cornstarch, which gives the tofu a nice crispiness.

Making an Asian-style sauce with only three ingredients is no small feat. I knew hoisin and peanut butter would make for a good base. I then tried adding fish sauce, teriyaki, soy sauce and, finally, seasoned rice vinegar. The first three just added saltiness that the sauce didn’t need, but the vinegar added just enough of a sweet and acidic note to give the sauce more depth. If I had more ingredients to play with, I would have added chopped cilantro and Sriracha, but my daughter happily ate it as it was.

Fried Tofu with Dipping Sauce

1 block extra-firm tofu
Oil (vegetable, peanut or canola)
1 cup cornstarch
¼ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup chunky peanut butter
1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar

• Drain the tofu on paper towels for 30 minutes, changing the towels regularly to make the tofu as dry as possible. Cut the tofu in half and then into ½-inch slices.
• Fill a large skillet with a ½-inch layer of oil.
• Cook the oil over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering.
• Working in batches, dredge each piece of tofu in the cornstarch, shaking off excess. Carefully place pieces in the skillet. After about 2 minutes, turn each piece over and fry for 1 to 2 more minutes. Each should be lightly browned. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate.
• Mix hoisin sauce, peanut butter and rice vinegar together in a small bowl. Serve alongside the tofu.

Meatless Monday: Spring Spinach Salad

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Last week my husband and I returned from the trip of a lifetime (Although I’m hoping it will happen at least once more!). We spent 17 days roaming around Paris, London and Dublin, getting our fill of art, history and, most importantly, delicious, mind-blowing food. The camera on my phone hardly rested as I snapped photos of my meatless meals throughout the trip. For the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun to try and recreate some of my favorites.

This week I’m starting with one of the best salads I’ve ever had. It came from a little cafe in Paris called Le Petit Cler, situated on a cobblestone pedestrian road among shops and flower stalls (Yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.). Although simple in ingredients, the freshness and flavor of this spinach-based dish had me practically licking the bowl.

Spring Spinach Salad
4 Servings

For the Salad:

8 cups baby spinach, washed and patted dry
4 cups trimmed, halved and blanched green beans
12 Campari tomatoes, quartered
Dressing (recipe follows)
2 cups prepared brown lentils
2 cups freshly shaved Parmesan
4 large eggs, soft-boiled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• In each of 4 bowls, place 2 cups of spinach, 1 cup of green beans and 3 quartered tomatoes. Drizzle with 1/8 cup of dressing (or more to taste) and stir to combine.
• Top with ½ cup of shaved Parmesan, followed by 1 egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Dressing:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. sugar
1 minced garlic clove
1/8 tsp. salt
8 grinds black pepper

• Place all of the ingredients in a lidded jar. Screw on the lid and shake vigorously for about 1 minute.
• Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 45 minutes to let the flavors marry.

Meatless Monday: Kale “Caesar” Salad

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Like so many dishes that have become staples in international cuisine, the history of the Caesar salad – and who first brought it to life – isn’t 100-percent clear. The most widely accepted story circles around Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who lived in San Diego and opened a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico during Prohibition. According to his daughter, Cardini created the salad on a particularly busy night when supplies had run out.

In the many decades since that fortuitous night, chefs, home cooks and foodies the world over have adapted the classic into too many variations to count, but the original recipe, interestingly enough, didn’t even use the anchovies that are standard in today’s version. So, technically, this vegetarian could have just told you to buy some vegetarian Worcestershire, leave out the little fish and call it a day. But that’d be too easy.

Instead, I’m going to put you to work, starting with making your own croutons, which, if you haven’t done so already, couldn’t be simpler. And once you taste a fresh batch from the oven, you won’t even glance at the bagged variety again, especially since this DIY project is the perfect way to use up that day-old bread currently drying out on your counter. As for the dressing, I chose to go with the creamy, mayonnaise-based variety to help balance the bitterness of the kale. (Yes, the nutrient-packed green is in here … and it’s raw … and you’ll like it.) And pinch-hitting for the anchovies will be another edible from the murky waters below: kombu. This dried Japanese seaweed supplies that force of fishy flavor that vegetarians and carnivores come to expect with a Caesar salad. Meat-a-tarians can just close their eyes and pretend it’s the real deal.

Find the recipe for Kale “Caesar” Salad, here.

Meatless Monday: Portobello Steaks with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Some nights the husband comes home and wants a big, juicy steak, especially once the weather gets warmer and the grill is ready to emerge from its winter hibernation. On these nights, I have to admit, the idea of something smothered in a flavorful marinade and later dipped in steak sauce sounds pretty darn good. But what’s a vegetarian to do? Easy. Remember the fungus among us! Portobello caps are a great steak alternative. They have a meaty texture; they can absorb flavors really well, and they can stand up to the high heat of a grill (or a grill pan, in this case). Served over some simply prepared roasted vegetables, this is a hearty dish you’ll come back to again and again.

Portobello Steaks with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
4 servings

½ cup soy sauce
6 Tbsp. honey
2¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, divided
9 cloves garlic, minced, divided
2 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. ground ginger
1½ Tbsp. dry sherry
4 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
1 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, halved
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Steak sauce

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes, 6 cloves of minced garlic, lemon juice, ginger and sherry.
• Place the mushroom caps in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them, making sure they’re evenly coated. Let the caps sit for about 10 minutes, then flip them over and marinate for another 10 minutes. Set aside.
• Meanwhile, lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. In a large mixing bowl, add the potatoes, Brussels sprouts, olive oil, three cloves of minced garlic and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients, making sure the vegetables are evenly coated. Pour the vegetables onto the baking sheet and bake until potatoes are lightly browned and sprouts are starting to char, about 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
• When the vegetables have about 10 minutes left to roast, heat a nonstick grill pan to high heat. Place mushrooms caps underside-down and grill for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip over and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a platter and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes before slicing.
• Serve over roasted vegetables with a side of your favorite steak sauce.

Meatless Monday: Double-Decker Tacos

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Okay, confession time: Sometimes I miss Taco Bell; specifically, the Double Decker taco. Yes, I know both Taco Bell and said taco still exist, but after going vegetarian so many years ago, I’ve hardly crossed the border since there aren’t many meat-free options. So for those nights that I want that wondrous combination of crunchy and soft, I make the following recipe, subbing a combination of meatless crumbles and chickpeas for the ground beef and leaving everything else pretty much the same. Just be sure and check the tortilla ingredients to make sure they’re not made with lard.

Double-Decker Tacos
Makes 8 tacos

1 lb. meatless ground beef crumbles
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 can chickpeas
1 can vegetarian refried beans
½ cup milk
8 soft taco-size tortillas
8 hard taco shells
1 large tomato, diced
Lettuce, shredded
Shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)
Sour cream

• In a lightly oiled medium nonstick skillet, cook the meatless ground beef crumbles until they begin to brown.
• In a large nonstick skillet, prepare the taco seasoning mix according to directions, subbing the meatless crumbles and chickpeas for the ground beef.
• Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the refried beans and the milk. Stir to combine and cook until heated through. If the mixture is ready before the taco filling, cover and turn heat to lowest setting until ready to serve.
• To assemble the tacos, spread about 2 tablespoons of refried beans on a soft taco shell and then wrap the taco shell around one hard taco shell. Place the taco filling inside the hard shell, followed by the tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and Sriracha (all amounts to taste).

Meatless Monday: Bean, Mushroom and Asparagus Cassoulet

Monday, April 1st, 2013

As you read this, I’m sitting on a plane, somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way to a city that makes any foodie salivate: Paris. I’ve never been, so over these past several months, the planner in me has reared its annoyingly thorough head. I have a very long list of things I want to do, including all the food I want to eat.

All of this to say, I thought it would be appropriate to cook a French-inspired dish for this week’s Meatless Monday. Cassoulet, which originated in the south of France, traditionally features meat (usually pork), white beans, herbs, wine and stock that are cooked slowly in order to develop a really deep, hearty flavor. So for this vegetarian version, I’ve subbed in some mushrooms and asparagus for texture and sun-dried tomatoes for saltiness. But, perhaps my favorite part is what the dish is served over: Israeli couscous. Once those little grains absorb the juices in this dish, they’re like pearls of heaven.

Bean, Mushroom and Asparagus Cassoulet
4 servings

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. oil from sun-dried tomato jar
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
30 oz. canned great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
¼ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. dried marjoram
1½ cups vegetable broth
1½ cups Israeli couscous
1 Tbsp. butter

• In a large pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover and let cook for a couple of minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cooled. Set aside.
• In a large saute pan, heat the sun-dried tomato oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir the mushrooms so they are coated in oil. Saute until browned, about 7 to 8 minutes.
• Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated, then add the beans, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme and marjoram. Season again with salt and pepper, then add the vegetable broth.
• Simmer until liquid has almost cooked out and mixture is thickened, about 12 minutes.
• Meanwhile, bring 2¼ cups of water to a boil in a medium-size pot. Add the couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit until water has been absorbed, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork, then add the butter and season with a little salt and pepper.
• Once the bean mixture has cooked, add the asparagus to the mixture, stir to combine and cook a minute more.
• Serve the cassoulet over the couscous.

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