Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day 13

What I ate today. . .
Asiago cheese bagel with cream cheese, chocolate chip cookie, homemade chai tea with milk and a splash of vanilla, 2 shots espresso with tsp sugar and tablespoon whipping cream, bowl of strawberries with oranges, lots of pizza and breadsticks from Pizza Hut.

I got a book (one of the Barnes and Noble discoveries that I requested at the library) today with some great recipes. It’s called “The Accidental Vegetarian: Delicious an Eclectic Food Without Meat” by Simon Rimmer. The intro explains the “accidental” part of the title, saying he purchased a vegetarian restaurant thinking to hire a chef when he later found he couldn’t afford one and had to become the cook, himself a meat-eater. While he includes the usuals — appetizers and salads that are typical of many restaurants —, he goes on to some very creative large and small plates, followed by creative desserts. I’d be happy to make a four-course meal using these dishes, and I’m confident that any meat-eaters attending the meal wouldn’t notice the lack. These are the types of creative vegetarian recipes that I feel are lacking in restaurants today. Every type of cuisine has several token dishes that are thrown onto the menu, almost as afterthoughts. With a bit of effort and creativity, all types of restaurants could easily lure and retain vegetarian eaters. I’m going to share a few recipes here that sounded amazing to me (I’ll test them later, of course), partly to share them with readers and partly because I don’t want to forget them when the book goes back to the library in three weeks.

Here’s one of my four-course meal plans. . . slightly adapted because I don’t like long descriptions of how to do things. If you’re intrigued by the recipes, get the book! I promise there are many, many more.

First, Sweet Potato Salad (page 32)
14 oz golden sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
chili oil
handful fresh mint leaves
7 oz arugula
4 shallots, finely sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Brush the potato slices with chili oil and season, then griddle for a couple minutes on each side. Make the dressing (follows) by simply whisking everything together in a small bowl. Put the mint, arugula, and shallots into a serving bowl, pour over the dressing and toss gently, then sit the sweet potatoes on top.
For the dressing
1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 T light soy sauce
juice of 1-2 limes
1 tsp superfine sugar

Second,Black Bean and Eggplant Chili
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 lb eggplants, cut into 1” cubes
2 red onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
10 small red chiles, chopped (seeded if you like)
4 c. canned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
9 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
2 T best-quality dark chocolate, grated
vegetable oil for frying
salt & pepper
sour cream, for serving

Heat oil in a pan and fry eggplants for about 4 minutes to color and soften. Remove and dry on paper towels. Fry onions and garlic in same pan until soft, then add chiles and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, spices and eggplant and simmer for 5 minutes. Add beans, season well, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in chocolate and serve with dollops of sour cream. Feeds 6 as a meal or 10 as a starter.

Third, Moroccan Spaghetti as follows with a side of Gruyere-filled Beefsteak Tomatoes or Parmesan-Roasted Parsnips
10 oz spaghetti
1/2 c olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch of turmeric
1 c. toasted, slivered almonds
1/2 c. chickpeas, drained and rinsed
handful each of fresh parsley, mint and cilantro, finely chopped
salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry onion and garlic until soft. Add tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tomatoes break down. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti to package directions. Season the sauce and then add almonds and chickpeas. Drain pasta and divide between four plates, fold herbs into the sauce and mix it with the pasta. Serves 4.

Gruyere-filled Beefsteak Tomatoes
4 beefsteak tomatoes
1-3/4 c. heavy cream
2 zucchini, finely diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and finely diced
3 oz. white button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1-3/4 c. grated gruyere cheese
vegetable oil for frying
salt & black pepper
handful of fresh arugula leaves, to serve (optional)
For the dressing
tomato pulp from the tomatoes
1-1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
5 T extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Skin tomatoes (however you like), slice off the tops and put to one side. Scoop out the pulp into a bowl without breaking the flesh, and put to one side. Season the tomato cavities well. Put the cream into a heavy bottom pan and bring slowly to a boil, then cook to reduced volume by half. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a large pan and gently fry zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 2/3 cup of the cheese to the reduced cream and stir until melted. Remove from heat and fold in the fried vegetables. Divide filling between the tomatoes, top with remaining cheese, sit the lids on top and put onto a baking sheet. Cook in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until the cheese melts. To make dressing, press tomato pulp through a strainer and season the juices, add vinegar and whisk in oil. Toss the arugula in dressing and sit the tomatoes on top of the leaves, if using.

Parmesan-Roasted Parsnips
14 oz parsnips, peeled and cut into 2” batons
1 garlic clove, sliced
1-1/2 c. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
olive oil for roasting
salt & pepper
parsley, chopped, to serve

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour olive oil into a roasting pan and put into the oven to heat. Toss parsnips in garlic and seasoning. When the oil is smoking, add parsnips to the pan and roast for about 25 minutes, shaking occasionally. Then add the cheese and roast for another 10 minutes. The cheese will begin to melt and form a yummy, stringy coating. Serve parsnips topped with black pepper and a little chopped parsley.

Fourth and lastly, Rosemary and Olive Oil Cake with Honeyed Figs
4 eggs
3/4 c. superfine sugar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2-1/2 c. flour
1 T baking powder
pinch of salt
finely chopped fresh rosemary, to taste
butter for greasing pan

For the honeyed figs
3-1/2 T. marsala wine
2T honey
8 figs, halved

For the ricotta
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. whipped cream
2 T superfine sugar
black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whip eggs with sugar until pale and fluffy, then drizzle in the oil. Keep mixer on low and add flour, baking powder and salt. Turn out into a bowl and fold in the rosemary. Pour into a 10” greased loaf pan and bake 45-50 minutes. Cool, then turn out. For the figs, put the marsala an dhoney into a small pan and bring to a boil, then quickly coat the figs. Mix all the ricotta ingredients together. Serve slices of the cake with figs and ricotta. Feeds 8.

Thus ends my dinner party for six. I will continue to write recipes from this book, because they sound amazing. I’ll let you know how the testing goes as well. In the meantime, here’s my soup recipe from last week. It rated a crazy 4 from George, who hates beans. I think it partly rated this high because I served it with cheese quesadillas, but dollops of sour cream over the top are also a lifesaver.

Black-Bean Soup
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T vegetable oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 12 oz jar medium salsa
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chili beans in sauce
1 c. vegetable broth
salt & pepper to taste

Using a heavy-bottomed soup pan, warm the stove to medium-high heat and add the oil. Saute the onions and garlic in the oil, until browned and cooked. Pour in the vegetable broth, salsa, and beans. Let come to a low boil, and then reduce heat to low. Season as needed. I usually let this simmer for at least an hour, but there’s no need to if you’re in a hurry. On the side, I serve a little dish of grated cheese, sour cream, and more salsa and chips. Serves 6 with seconds.

Oven-Baked Cheese Quesadillas
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
4 flour tortillas, regular size
vegetable oil
kosher salt

Heat oven to 450 degrees on the broil setting. Brush oil onto one side of each tortilla and sprinkle with salt to taste (I like them salty). Lay two tortillas oil-side down on a baking sheet, spread cheese inside each, and place the other tortillas oil-side up over the top. Bake for two minutes on each side, until browned and crispy. Slice into eighths and serve with salsa and sour cream.

When you have leftover bean soup, here’s something easy to make with it.
Lynn’s Taco Salad
2 c. chili beans, with sauce or leftover black bean soup
1 large tomato, diced (if using leftover soup, you can leave this out, or keep, as you like)
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, diced to bite-size
1 c. cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 c. Catalina dressing
1/4 c. salsa
1/2 yellow onion, diced
handfuls of Doritos brand taco or spicy nacho chips, slightly crushed

Mix the leftover soup or chili beans with the dressing and salsa and onions. Add the tomato, lettuce and cheese and mix to coat with dressing. Just before serving, mix in the chips. Eat right away, while the chips are crispy. (If you’re not serving it immediately or don’t need as much, reserve half of the mixture in the refrigerator and add chips to it later.) Serves 8.

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