Archive for August, 2009

Tacos: Rice, Beans, and Greens

Tacos

These tacos represent a coming together of some of our favorite side dish recipes. The flavours in each (garlic in the spinach, cumin in the rice, rich dark beer in the beans) come together for a satisfying, complex mouthful of taco goodness.

That being said, this recipe can look a little intimidating given all of its various elements. Each of the recipes are quite easy, and I’ve included instructions for timing everything so that it takes the least effort and all comes together at the same time. If you are short on time or energy, though, you can use store-bought prepared beans (I especially like Trader Joe’s canned “Cuban Black Beans” but any brand of baked beans should work if you can’t get those). You’ll need about 2 cans.

This recipe can be easily doubled and is great for a fun, laid-back dinner party. Have your guests make their own tacos from the ingredients you’ve prepared. The different elements keep well in the fridge for about a week. Just keep them in separate containers and put tacos together whenever you want them.

Tacos: Rice, Beans, and Greens

10 small flour tortilla shells or taco shells
1 recipe cumin garlic rice (below)
1 recipe beer-stewed beans (below)
1 recipe garlic greens (below)
1 cup salsa, store-bought or homemade
1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)
1 cup cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded (optional)
1 avocado, sliced (optional)
hot sauce to taste (optional)

  1. Put the rice on first, because it takes the longest and doesn’t need supervision.
  2. Next, work on the beans. They are better the longer they simmer. When they are done (if you aren’t), just turn the heat off and put a lid on the pot.
  3. Do the spinach last, because it doesn’t take long and it shouldn’t be over-cooked.
  4. Gather the rest of the ingredients, and put together your tacos as you eat. Enjoy!

Cumin-Garlic Rice
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2¼ cup water (or follow instructions on your rice cooker)
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Put all ingredients in rice cooker and cook according to manufacturer directions for 1 cup of brown rice. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can find instructions for cooking brown rice in a pot here.

Beer-Stewed Beans
(Adapted from Vegetarian 5 Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atlas)

4 cups pinto beans or black beans or kidney beans (cooked or canned)
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup beer (preferably a dark beer)
½ cup vegetable broth
½ cup cilantro, minced

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Garlic Greens
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
10 oz. fresh spinach or other greens (collards, kale, chard, bok choy, etc.)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar or red wine vinegar or white wine

  1. In a large pot or wok, heat oil and add garlic, sauteeing until fragrant (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add spinach and vinegar or wine, and cook until spinach is bright green, and has reduced to about a quarter of its original size (about 5 minutes).
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August 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Garlic Grape Gazpacho

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I didn’t mean for this to be a blog recipe; I really didn’t. I had every intention to just follow the recipe in my new issue of Vegetarian Times for a quick, easy (and oven-less!) dinner. Despite my intentions, though, I revised the recipe pretty heavily as I went along – substituting more grapes when my cucumber proved too small, and adding blended arugula to the soup itself. I also amped up the garlic, switched out the almond milk for coconut milk, and well… generally created a new recipe in the process.

I’m sure that the original recipe was excellent, too, but since we enjoyed this revision so much, I thought I ought to share it with you. It was super-simple to whip up and it made a perfect, refreshing (but filling) summer meal. And did I mention that I didn’t have to turn on the oven, or even a burner?

Garlic Grape Gazpacho
Serves 4 – 6

2 cups sliced almonds, divided
1 large cucumber, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 cups green seedless grapes (plus ½ cup for garnish)
½ cup onion, chopped
1 cup baby arugula (plus 2 cups for garnish)
2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon sherry
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil (plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish)

  1. Place almonds in toaster oven and toast 10 minutes at 350F, or until lightly browned. Don’t let them get too dark, because they will continue to cook  a bit, even after you take them off the heat. Set aside to cool. If you don’t have a toaster oven, you can toast nuts in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat until lightly browned.
  2. In a blender or food processor (or using a hand blender), combine 1 cup of almonds, with the cucumber, grapes, onion, garlic, arugula, coconut milk, sherry, vinegar, and oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Serve immediately, or chill 2-3 hours to let the soup get cold.
  4. Garnish each bowl with a small handful of arugula, 4 halved grapes, 2 Tablespoons of toasted almonds, ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with thick slices of crusty bread, if desired.

August 22, 2009 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

Blueberry-Cheddar Fritters

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Sometimes the best inspiration for new recipes comes not from a wealth of ingredients, but from a dearth of them. Such was the case when, as I tried to use up my perishables at the end of the week, I found myself with a ton of blueberries, a block of organic cheddar, and not much else.

I searched the web for blueberry cheddar recipes, and found this amazing concoction at Omnomicon (it’s worth clicking just to see the gorgeous picture) and I would have followed it faithfully, but I could not. The original recipe calls for making two batches of pancakes – one blueberry and one cheddar – but I didn’t have enough baking powder or flour for that. I did, however, have more than enough cheese and berries, so they went together into a single batch of pancakes that ended up being absolutely delicious.

Not quite pancakes, not quite fritters, this recipe brought diverse flavours together even better than I’d hoped. The savoury flavours of the cheddar and olive oil stand out while the sugar and vanilla add a subtle depth, and the blueberries add a refreshing burst of sweetness. All that, and they’re just as easy to make as regular pancakes. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Blueberry-Cheddar Fritters
Serves 4 – 6

1½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
1½ cups water (or soymilk, if you have it)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ fresh blueberries

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and flax seeds until well combined.
  2. Add water, olive oil and vanilla and stir until just mixed. Note: The olive oil adds a lovely, savoury flavour to the fritters but if you would rather use a lighter tasting oil (like corn or canola or safflower), that would work too.
  3. Fold in the cheese and the blueberries, but don’t overmix.
  4. Lightly oil a skillet or frying pan, and heat over medium-high heat. Add batter ¼ cup at a time for best results.
  5. Cook until the edges of each fritter are solid, and the middles begin to bubble (about 3 minutes).
  6. Flip and cook 2 – 3 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown.
  7. Repeat with remaining batter and serve immediately.
  8. You can also freeze these for later in any freezer-safe container. Thaw them in a pan or toaster oven, but don’t refreeze ones that have already been thawed. This can be dangerous when dairy is involved.

August 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment

Basil-Balsamic Baba Ganoush

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I brought home a bag of baby eggplants the other day to make the eggplant and goat cheese pizza that I posted last week, but it soon became clear that I had too many eggplants for just one culinary project. Falling back on an old standby, I decided to whip up a batch of baba ganoush, a Mediterranean dip similar to hummus that I like to use as a dip for veggies and crackers. It also makes a great addition to sandwiches and wraps.

I roasted my eggplants and then opened my cupboards, and found that I was missing two out of the five ingredients for this extremely simple recipe. Time to improvise! I substituted balsamic vinegar for lemon juice, basil for parsley, and pine nuts… well, those I just threw in for fun. In the end, I had a dip very much like baba ganoush but different enough from the original recipe that I thought I should share it with you. I hope you enjoy it!

Basil-Balsamic Baba Ganoush
Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. eggplant (about 1 medium eggplant or 3 baby eggplants)
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place face down on a cookie sheet. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the skin is blistered and the flesh is soft and browned. Let cool.
  2. When the eggplant is cool, scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a blender or food processor.
  3. Add other ingredients to blender (or food processor) and pulse until smooth.

Adapted from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles

August 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Eggplant Pesto Pizza

Eggplant Pesto Pizza

It may surprise some of you to learn that I had never heard of eggplant as a pizza topping until a few years ago, when Sean and I visited Rome. It was there that I first experienced what the smoky flavour of a thinly sliced, roasted eggplant can do for a pizza – and I was impressed.

It wasn’t until we moved to New Haven, though, that I really fell in love with eggplant on pizza. Here, the eggplant is breaded and fried and often (at least in our circles) combined with the piquant bite of pickled cherry peppers.

For this recipe, I combined the flavours that we remember from Rome with the combinations that we’ve come to know in New Haven. I roasted the eggplant, both for health’s sake and because this method really allows the smoky flavour of the eggplant to shine through. That flavour is complimented here by the piquant peppers and the creamy goat cheese, while the mellow, melty mozza ties the whole thing together.

Eggplant Pesto Pizza

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 prepared whole-wheat pizza crust
1 small eggplant (about 10 ounces)
olive oil cooking spray or a spray bottle of olive oil
½ cup pepperoncini, cherry peppers, or other pickled peppers, sliced
½ cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
½ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

  1. Place all basil, oil, and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice the eggplant as thinly as possible, leaving the skin on. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and spray lightly with oil. (Putting oil in any clean run-of-the-mill spray bottle works well and it’s cheaper than cooking spray).
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Place eggplant in oven while it’s preheating.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the peppers, shred the mozzarella, and crumble the goat cheese. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface.
  5. When the oven has preheated, remove the eggplant. Place the pizza dough on the cookie sheet. Spread with pesto, and layer eggplant on top, grating pepper over the eggplant. Sprinkle with goat cheese, peppers, and mozzarella.
  6. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until mozzarella has melted and crust is browned.

August 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment


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*All entries tagged "vegan" and "gluten free" meet those dietary requirements to the best of my knowledge as long as the vegan or gluten free instructions are followed (where applicable). It is always wise to double-check ingredients (especially when dealing with packaged foods) and to confirm ingredients and preparation methods at restaurants.