Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rosotto Several Ways

Risotto is so tasty and very elegant for serving at dinner parties. It is easy to prepare but takes time in the kitchen – not long, but you can’t walk away from it and you need to serve it immediately. The basic recipe can be augmented in any number of ways with whatever seasonal and fresh ingredients are available. There is no protein in this dish, but we don’t have to have proteins at every meal!

1 small onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6-8 cups vegetable stock (might be more like 4-6 cups, but better to have more on hand than not enough)
2 tablespoons butter or vegan substitute (my favorite – and so buttery – is Earth Balance in the green tub available at Whole Foods)
½ cup parmesan

1. In a sauce pan, heat the vegetable stock to warm to low simmer. It does not need to be boiling, just hot.
2. In a wide, large bottom skillet with deep sides (a paella pan works well too) start by sautéing ½ cup finely chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
3. When the aromatics are soft, add 1 cup Arborio rice and stir so the rice is coated with the oil. Add 1 cup good white wine. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just a wine that you would drink. If you do not want to include the wine, you may omit this step. The alcohol cooks off and only leaves the flavor behind, so it is okay with kids, but some prefer to leave it out. Stir until nearly all the wine has absorbed.
4. Start adding the stock, one ladle-full at a time. Stir constantly and allow each ladle of stock to absorb into the rice before adding another. You don’t want the rice to go completely dry, so when you barely have liquid left, add another ladle.
5. Season with salt and pepper as you go.
6. Continue this process, stirring slowly, but almost constantly, until the rice is cooked to your desired tenderness.
7. Finish with a couple of pats of butter and the parmesan. The butter will give it a nice gloss and a rich finish.

This is the basic recipe. Now you can enhance with any number of things.
· Mushrooms: You can sauté the mushrooms in advance and add them, liquid and all, when the rice is nearly cooked, about 1-2 ladles before tender. Thawed, frozen fancy mushrooms, chopped, work very well in this. Add them after the wine or first stock addition if starting raw. Rosemary makes a nice addition to a mushroom risotto.
· Add fresh English garden peas and/or fresh corn at the end of step #6. Fresh roma tomatoes, diced and seeded are also good for a spring risotto. It is important to seed them, removing the inner gelatinous flesh and seeds.
· Add asparagus, cut in 1” pieces, about ¾ way through (1-3 ladles left to go) the rice cooking process.
· Add pumpkin puree or diced and roasted winter squash, again nearing the end of the rice process so that it has time to heat through. Fresh or dried sage is an excellent accompaniment to squash.
· At the end, before the butter and parmesan (after rice is cooked) add chopped fresh spinach, basil and toasted pine nuts. You could also mix in some pesto and sun-dried tomatoes at the end.
· Radishes, cauliflower, broccoli and such are not good for the delicate risotto. They are too strong and don’t go well.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vegan Tarragon No-Chicken Salad

What do you make when catering a vegan lunch when the majority of the guests are not vegan? This "no chicken" salad will have everyone walking away exclaiming how they never knew vegan food could be so good. Somewhat of a back handed compliment, but we'll take it. I served this at a volunteer appreciation luncheon and some of the most unlikely people asked me for the recipe. If you are not vegan or don't have access to vegan mayo and sour cream, you can certainly use the real stuff.

Vegan Tarragon No-Chicken Salad

1 bag Quorn Chik’n Tenders
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
¼ cup diced fresh red onion or 1 tablespoon dried onion
olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
juice of ½ lemon
dried garlic powder or granules
1 cup Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise)
1 cup Tofutti sour cream (vegan sour cream)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (my favorite brand is Maille, but Grey Poupon is good too – these both have the kick that other brands don’t)

1. Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice and garlic. You can use the vegan products I mentioned or regular mayo and sour cream. If using dried onion instead of fresh, add it here. Some people do not like raw onion and the dried gives good flavor without that bite of the raw. This is best if left to marry in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight, but it is not necessary.
2. Sauté the Quorn in some olive oil along with the dried oregano and dried tarragon, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each until browned and hot throughout. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature completely.
3. Mix cooled Quorn with celery, walnuts, grapes, red onion, fresh tarragon and dressing.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Add more or less dressing to desired consistency.
6. Serve on bread as a sandwich or in butter lettuce cups. It is even better the next day!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My first recipe post. This has been a favorite of colleagues when I bring it to work on a cold winter day. It has also been repeatedly requested for an annual board meeting of environmental professionals. Make a big pot for game days or stew it up on a Sunday to last for lunches throughout the week. It freezes well in serving size containers for quick meals on the fly.

Veggie-Bean Chili

1 eggplant peeled and diced
3 cups chopped carrots (fresh)
3 cups chopped green beans (fresh)
1 cup diced onion
1 cup chopped celery
3-6 cloves minced garlic
2-3 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
2-3 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
2 cans dark red kidney beans
2 cans black beans
14-ounce can tomato puree
14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
several cups tomato juice
vegetable stock
1-2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons smoked paprika
olive oil

1. Sauté the onion and celery in olive oil until soft and add the garlic and spices and sauté for another minute. You can go easy on the spices at this point and add more later to suit your own taste. I like my chili fairly smoky and spicy and that is reflected in the quantities above.
2. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute or two.
3. Add the eggplant and stir it about to coat the eggplant with the spices.
4. Add the beans, carrots and fresh green beans. If using frozen beans, add those later with the corn and peas.
5. Add the tomato puree and crushed tomatoes and pour in the tomato juice to cover the vegetables plus another couple of inches. You can add more or less depending on how thick or thin you like it. Let this simmer on the stove until the veggies are cooked to your desired tenderness.
6. Add the corn and peas and heat through.


It should take 1-2 hours depending on how al dente or soft you like it and how low you let it simmer. It also works very well in a slow cooker set low all day. You can add the corn and peas when you get home from work.

This makes a rather large pot and I have the quantities as they are so that the ratios are good in proportion to an average sized eggplant. You can cut it down as desired by finding a small eggplant or only using half. It freezes really well and I freeze meal-sized containers for easy and homemade lunches to take to work.

You can use dried or canned beans and whatever variety you like. In this recipe, I prefer a combination of kidney and black beans. I also like to use the 15-bean mixed bag of dried beans. If using dried beans, you will want to soak them overnight and then par cook them before adding them with the eggplant. They will take much longer than the eggplant and carrots to get soft if only soaked and not par cooked and you will end of with mushy veggies while you wait for the beans to get done.

You will need more or less tomato juice and/or vegetable stock depending on taste
and also on the eggplant. Some release or absorb more liquid than others. When raw, it seems like a lot of eggplant, but it does cook down. I like to thin mine a bit with some vegetable stock.

If you like the chili seasoning packets, you can use those too instead of the spices I mention.

If your family doesn’t care for beans, you could leave those out and add the “beef” crumbles instead for the protein. If you prefer a simpler bean and meat chili, you can leave out the vegetables (#3 & #4) and add crumbles and adjust the liquids and spices to suit. If you do this, I would add 1 cup of finely chopped carrots to the onion and celery mixture for more depth of flavor in that base.

Serve it as is or over rice or quinoa, with cheddar cheese, sour cream or whatever your family enjoys. A cheddar and jalapeno corn bread goes along great with this dish. Beans combined with rice is a complete protein and combined with all of the vegetables, this is a highly nutritious dish.

If you are watching your weight, this is a very hearty and tummy-filling meal that registers low in calories and fat and high on veggie intake! That certainly leaves room for corn bread, desert or wine/beer without guilt.

Vegetarian for Everyone

This is my first foray into blog-land. I have had many friends and colleagues ask for recipes, so why not post them for all to enjoy.

Growing up in Iowa, I was an unlikely candidate for a vegetarian lifestyle. But at an early age, I made the connection between the animals’ lives and the food on my plate. Later, I'll tell you the story of summers at my lovely great aunt Dorothy's farm in Nebraska. I am pretty sure it was Lambie-Pie, cousin Doug and a Sunday dinner that turned me veg at age 6.

It hasn’t always been easy and up until about 5 years ago when I started work for an animal protection organization, I called myself a vegetarian, but occasionally ate fish and seafood. While I am not a strict vegan, I have eschewed eating animals in any form, but I occasionally use eggs (from happy chickens), milk/cream and I haven’t decided I can live without cheese just yet.

Family and friends didn’t understand my choice, thought it was fleeting fancy or just thought it plain silliness. From Thanksgiving dinners where I would eat nothing but the mashed potatoes (avoiding the green beans with cream of chicken soup, stuffing cooked inside the bird, gravy all being off limits) to going to lunch at a famous barbeque joint in the heart of Texas where even the coleslaw and potato salad was made with animal products (thankfully they had good pickles and bread, yes, I at bread and pickles for lunch that day while others gnawed on my animal friends) I have had to overcome ridicule and overall wonderment at my choice to live in a way to promotes humane treatment of animals. I can hardly visit friends for a weekend without having hearing about how tasty pig can be or answering the endless of questions of “why?”

Despite all of this, friends are quite complimentary of my cooking. They never leave my house hungry or wanting more. Vegetarian cooking is for everyone, whether an avowed vegetarian yourself or a meat-eater looking for healthy and humane alternatives, or simply something to serve to your veg-friends other than salad or pasta with tomato sauce.

I have become adept at adapting grandma's recipes to a vegetarian version that sate and even fool the most discerning of carnivores. I also love all of the tree-hugging-crunchy-granola-liberal-hippie-freak foods like tofu, quiona and bulghar wheat. I regularly use meat substitutes and love them.

I hope you enjoy my foods. I'll try not to get too preachy about the valuable lives of animals, but when it slips in, please understand that I am a moral vegetarian. There are many reasons that people choose this lifestyle, for health, animal ethics or environmental, I love them all! My reasons, your reasons, or any reason for wanting to live veg or just cook one great vegetarian meal - it's all good.

I am not a chef. I have not been to culinary school. I am entirely self taught. I watch a lot of Food Network and read cookbooks and take what I like and adapt it to my taste. My recipes will assume that you have a modicum of cooking skill, and I won't always give measurements. But if you are a beginner and want or need more specific directions, feel free to write and I'll do my best to answer.