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Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian recipes’

I am probably one of the few non-Southerners who loves okra.  I usually don’t buy it at the supermarket – only when it pops up at the green market in August does it make it to our table.  It is such an interesting looking vegetable, particularly when it is the purple variety. When I have time and the price is right, I will pickle a good amount of okra.  It makes a great accompaniment to charcuterie or cheese platters.  But, as often as not, I will give it a quick stir-fry all by itself or mix it up with some tomatoes and onions.  But occasionally – particularly when I’ve made cornbread or have shrimp on hand – I’ll turn them into my version of maque choux, that traditional Louisiana side dish that usually features just corn, bell peppers, and onion.  Cornbread makes a good dipping tool and shrimp can turn it into a sorta gumbo.  I never cook okra very long as I’m not a fan once it starts to get slimy.  Although recently someone told me that if you blanch it for a minute or so, it stays bright green and doesn’t get slimy.  I haven’t tried that method so can’t recommend it, but you might want to give it a try.

Maque Choux

Serves 4

2 tablespoons bacon grease (or any fat you like)

½ cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced hot green or red chile or to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cup fresh corn kernels

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

2 cups sliced okra

¾ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

½ cup chopped scallions

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Hot sauce, optional

 

Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, chile, and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until the onion is softening.  Stir in the corn and bell pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until just barely tender.  Stir in the okra and then quickly add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or just until slightly thick.  Don’t cook too long as you don’t want the okra to start oozing – you want it slightly crisp.

Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions and parsley.  Taste and, if necessary, season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve hot.

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beef-vegetable-soup
All during the NY winter months soup is often on the dinner table.  There is nothing better with a tossed green salad, some homemade bread or a crusty baguette, and, of course, a glass of red.  I normally make a non-meat vegetable soup, but I had just one beef shank in the freezer so thought I’d use it to add some oomph to the vegetables.  Beef shanks are less expensive than many other cuts of beef and, because they are a cross cut from the leg which is well-used muscle, shanks need a long slow braise to melt the connective tissue and tenderize the meat.  Whole shanks are often braised in red wine rather like boeuf bourguignon or cut into pieces for use in all types of stews.  For my soup, I first cooked the shank in a combination of water and stock seasoned with leek greens, a couple of cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper until it was beginning to pull away from the bone.  I used a fairly large soup pot so I can make a big batch, part of which can be frozen for another day. I lifted the cooked meat from the broth and then stained the broth, discarding the solids.  I returned the broth to the pot and added the following with enough extra water to cover the mix by at least an inch, but you can add or subtract anything and still have a terrific pot to feed your body and your soul.  The soup needs to cook for about an hour to allow the flavors to be extracted from the vegetables.

Makes a big pot

One 28 ounce can chopped plum tomatoes
4 large button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced into small pieces
¼ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 cup frozen peas
A few large handfuls of baby spinach I had leftover from a salad
Salt and pepper

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vegetable-chili

 

Everybody seems to have a favorite chili recipe, but I generally just wing it.  I do from time to time stick to my mom’s method (see a post from November 13, 2012) but as often as not I do some type of vegetarian chili.  Since the weather had cooled and I had a mess of cooked red beans on hand, I decided it was going to be easy to put dinner together.  I sautéed a big chopped onion and a few minced cloves of garlic in a little canola oil.  I added a large can of plum tomatoes (that I had squished), a medium can of tomato puree, a couple of dollops of tomato paste along with 4 chopped carrots, 2 chopped zucchini, 1 chopped red bell pepper, 1 minced jalapeño, and some mushrooms that were needing to be cooked.  To be honest the additions were based solely on what I had on hand.  Seasoned the mix with a good amount of seasoned chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes and, of course, salt and pepper.  Had I had some winter squash or sweet potatoes on hand I would have added either of those also.   I added the cooking liquid from the beans and then let the vegetable mix cook for a while before adding the cooked beans as they were already pretty soft and didn’t really need much more cooking.  I baked some corn muffins, quickly tossed a green salad, and Eh! Voila! dinner was on the table and we had lunch ready to go to our besties at Loupe Digital.

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Mom's_Chili_IMG_3032

 

Since the weather has cooled down – ranging from the high 40s to 50s, braises, stews, and soups have come to mind.  The other day Steve suggested some chili – not the Texas kind said he, but the kind with chunks of ground meat.  Told him he had to wait a day ‘cause I would have to soak some beans before I could put the chili together.  I always have dried beans on hand, usually from Rancho Gordo (www.ranchogordo.com), but they do take some extra time to soak so you can’t whip up a bowl of red in a few.  (Although if you are really desperate you can use canned beans and have a pot going pretty darned quick).  Lots of chefs disagree about the soaking part and boil dried beans for an hour and then proceed with a recipe.  I do not like firm beans, so I follow the old rule of soaking in cool water for at least 8 hours.

So, I soaked a pound of pinto beans overnight and then got the pot going the next morning.  I decided I would make the same chili I had seen my mom make hundreds of times – rich, filling, and aromatic.  Here’s what I did.

Drained the beans of their soaking water and then added enough cold water to cover them by at least 2½ inches.  Placed over high heat and brought to a boil; then, lowered the heat and kept them simmering while I tended to the other ingredients.

Using a one of my great nonstick Scanpan frying pans, I sautéed about 2 pounds of lean ground beef (You can also use ground pork, chicken, or turkey or big chunks of beef stew meat.  I’m not a fan of lamb chili, but if you like the flavors, why not?) along with a large diced onion, about half a head of chopped garlic cloves, and one jalapeño chile.  (If you like, you can also add some chopped bell pepper to the mix).  The pan was a little too full so it took a bit of time to get the meat browned and most of the liquid to evaporate.  This was good because it gave the beans some time to soften slightly.  I added the meat to the simmering beans along with a lot of seasoned chili powder, ground cumin, and ground pure chile powder along with smaller amounts of cayenne, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes.  All of these should always be done to taste – I like mucho heat and lots of seasoning, but you don’t have to agree with me.  I let the mix simmer for about 30 minutes and then I added one large can of tomato puree and one large can of diced tomatoes along with a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.  Seasoned with salt and black pepper and let the whole mess simmer for another hour or so.  Then, I took the pan off the heat and let the mix cool down before putting it back on the heat to get very hot for dinner.

I always serve chili with some diced sweet onion on top – I love the contrast of the crisp, cool sweetness with the flaming hot chili.

 

Mom's_Chili_IMG_2924

 

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Okra_purple_IMG_0587
I bought a bagful of itty-bitty purple okra at the farmer’s market the other day and then just sat them in the middle of the table for décor so we could enjoy their slightly weird look.  Eventually I decided to cook them knowing full well that purple okra would become perfectly ordinary green okra once the heat hit.  That’s why you’ll get no photo of the finished dish – okra just ain’t real purdy when it has been cooked.  But, it is delicious – or it is to me.  Here’s what I normally do –
Heat a couple of spoons of olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add one chopped onion and a couple of cloves of minced garlic and sauté for a few minutes.  Then, I add a basket of cherry tomatoes along with the okra (stems removed and left whole if tiny, sliced, crosswise, if large), a few leaves of basil and a hint of fresh oregano.  I don’t cook it very long – just long enough to get the tomatoes to pop and the okra to soften slightly.  Too long and you get a kinda slimy mix – still delicious, but not the greatest texture on the palate.

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Oyster mushroom_9884

 

A couple of weeks ago I rediscovered the Chelsea Market – a spot called by its founders “an urban food court.”  Oh, I knew it was there, but just too out-of-the-way for everyday food shopping.  Located on 9th Avenue about 16th Street in the old National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) factory, many of the artifacts of its previous life remain which makes a visit there a little bit other-worldly.  Running along the center courtyard-like hall are wonderful food shops offering prime and sometimes unique products.  Since everything is so inviting, it is yet another place that tends to make me spend more than I have in my pocket.

Manhattan Fruit Exchange is one of my favorite shops in the Market.  They have been around forever supplying restaurants, but are most welcoming to everyday shoppers.  You can always find an array of exotic fruits and vegetables, the first products of the every season, and a wide variety of fresh and dried mushrooms and herbs.  It was the mushrooms that caught my eye the other day – especially a beautiful stack of floral oyster mushrooms.  I couldn’t resist buying a big lump of fresh-looking “petals.”  Along with the mushrooms I got some of the best spring asparagus and a few spring onions and I knew exactly what I’d do when I got home.

Here’s my plan:  I trimmed the asparagus, split the onions in half, lengthwise, and laid them out on a baking pan along with my bouquet of mushrooms.  I seasoned with sea salt and pepper, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and added some fresh orange and lemon juice to the pan.  Roasted them all together in a hot oven to serve as an appetizer (with a spritzing of aged balsamic) for a little quiet welcome spring dinner.  Yum, yum, yum!

 

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©Stephen Kolyer_Pea Soup

 

Most split pea soups have some type of meat as flavoring – ham hock or bone, bacon, ribs – but I almost always keep mine fit for a vegetarian.  Occasionally I might use chicken stock, but as like as not water or vegetable stock will be my choice.  It is such a simple soup to make that a mid-afternoon stint in the kitchen will create a lovely warming dinner on a cold winter’s day.  And, to top it off a bag of split peas – yellow or green – will usually set you back somewhere around a dollar.
There are a myriad of variations to the basic recipe.  You can add almost any herb or spice you like – I opt for curry powder (about 2 teaspoons) and/or a big spoonful of chopped fresh dill.  You can add chopped cooked sausage, ham, or any smoked meat to turn the soup into a hearty meal.  You can chill it and serve with fresh mint and sour cream.  And on it goes – just get the basic down and go from there.

1 pound split green or yellow split peas
    1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
    1 large onion, peeled and chopped
    1 stalk celery, well-washed, trimmed, and chopped
    3 quarts water, vegetable or chicken stock
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Tabasco sauce to taste
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine the peas, carrot, onion, and celery in a large saucepan.  Add the water and place over high heat.  Bring to a boil; then, season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring from time to time, for about an hour or until the peas have disintegrated and the soup is thick.  You may have to add more liquid as the soup cooks down.
Remove from the heat and either puree directly in the pan using a hand-held immersion blender or pour the soup into a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree.
Return the soup to a clean saucepan.  Add the lemon juice and taste.  If necessary, season with additional salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  If the soup is very thick, you can thin with stock or heavy cream.  I like to drizzle a little heavy cream or thinned plain yogurt on top before serving or sometimes I add a handful of crisp rye or sour dough croutons.

 

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