Archives for category: Veggies

After last week’s labor-intensive cookies, I thought I’d lighten up a bit with one of the easiest, no-cook recipes around … hummus.

In fact, it always feels a little weird to have what is essentially an “assembly” recipe and call it “cooking.”  But, if you’re looking for a nice, easy dip with veggies or pita chips – or something nice to serve along with grilled meat and salad, you really can’t beat hummus.

I’ve tinkered around with this recipe for about 15 years, now – adding a little more lemon here … a little more cumin there … until I’ve finally found something that I’m very happy with.  It’s got just the right amount of olive oil it in to make it gorgeous and smooth.  Okay, I’ll say it – I’m very proud of how it’s evolved and finally turned out.  And I think you’ll like it, too!

My Favorite Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp tahini
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Pour the lot of it in a food processor and blend until very smooth.  To serve, sprinkle with a pinch of cumin and drizzle with the best olive oil you’ve got.

Hummus

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You know what I hate about the winter?  No, it’s not the shorter days.  It’s not the cold or the snow.  It’s not even the bleak gray skies that we have more often than not.

It’s the lack of good tomatoes.

Seriously, it really makes me crazy when you go to the store and you see these round, red things that look like tomatoes and even say tomatoes on the sign, but when you take them home, they’re mealy and flavorless and, let’s face it, just gross.

So, last night we had friends over for dinner – the menu was a beef stew, so obviously soup wasn’t going to be my starter of choice.  And, the weather is really too raw right now to make salads a viable option.  So, I wanted to do something that would be warming but light enough that it wouldn’t be too filling.  One of my favorite summertime starters is bruschetta – toasted bread with olive oil and garlic, basil and juicy, yummy tomatoes.  So, I thought it would be nice to adapt it for a cold winter evening and this is what I came up with.  This makes a good six pieces of sourdough bread.

Oh, and one more thing – if you can let this cook slowly over about two hours, it is well worth the wait, silky and smooth and incredibly tasty.

Winter Bruschetta

  • 6 pieces sourdough bread (cut about 1″ thick)
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium-sized red onions, about the size of a fist, trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly (about 1/4″)
  • 1 large red pepper, cored and seeded, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, plus one more peeled but kept whole
  • 8 oz. spinach or Swiss chard, chopped (I used frozen and it worked fine)
  • 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large shallow pan with a lid, drizzle in a couple of glugs of olive oil, add the red pepper flakes and turn the heat on – a good medium heat.  Let the oil get warm and the chilli flakes infuse, then add the sliced onions and the red pepper.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, then cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes or so until soft.  Add the garlic, stir in thoroughly, then cover and cook another five minutes.

Now, add your spinach.  If you’re using frozen, don’t worry about draining, just stir it in, then add the beans and stock.  Leave the heat on medium and let it simmer, partially covered, until the majority of the stock has been absorbed or evaporated.  Taste for seasoning.

When you’re ready to serve, toast the bread with a drizzle of oil until hot and lightly crispy (about five minutes in a hot oven will do it), then rub with the whole garlic clove and top with the onion mixture.  Top with some shaved or grated Parmesan and serve.

Winter Bruschetta

So, I just finished my first workout in the C25K program – essentially, it’s a workout program to help you go from the couch to running a 5K in two months.  While I’m in fairly decent shape because of the walking I need to do for work – not to mention, the full commuter combat that goes on everyday on the Tube – getting on that treadmill was a rude awakening.  But, I got through it and am now set up to feel nice and smug the rest of the afternoon.

You know the feeling.

That great, self-satisfied, “I just worked out and, boy, can’t you already tell how good I’m going to look” feeling.  I love that.  I just need to make sure that I don’t reward it with a half-dozen chocolate cookies!

So, along those lines, here is a fantastic hearty soup that is low in fat but high in flavor and is incredibly filling!  This makes about four servings and is perfect with some nice crusty bread on a damp Saturday afternoon.

Curried Celeriac and Parsnip Soup

  • Good glug of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp medium Madras curry powder (I like Barts)
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 celeriac peeled and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • small handful cilantro

In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, onion, celery and garlic and sweat until onion is translucent.  Add the curry powder and cook another minute or two, then add the parsnips and celeriac and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the vegetable stock, then bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer and cooking for another 20 minutes, until the parsnips and celeriac are tender.  Use a stick blender to puree, then taste for seasoning.

In a small bowl, use the blender to puree the yogurt and cilantro, then swirl a bit into the soup to serve.

Celeriac and Parsnip Soup

I dedicate today’s blog post to one of my oldest friends, Deni.  I’ve known her since we were in university then we worked just down the hall from each other in our first “real” jobs out of college.  She nursed me through a broken heart.  She cheered me on when I moved to Washington, DC.

She has amazing taste in music and films (in fact, her love of imported movies makes my taste look rather mundane).  And, outside of Darcy Bussell, there is probably no one else who knows more about dance.  She’s always worked in the issues she believes in, putting all her energies towards improving the lives of women around the world.  She’s truly an inspiration.

In fact, the only negative thing I can say about her is that she doesn’t like tomatoes.  I know!  Right?  But, alas, no one is perfect and we tolerate other’s foibles as best we can.  But, no tomatoes … (sigh) … how do these kinds of things happen???  So, on occasion, I like to post vegetarian recipes that are tomato-free with her in mind, and this is one of my favorites.

Roasted Eggplant and Asparagus Pizza

This recipe will make 2 large pizzas with a medium crust or 3 medium pizzas with a thin crust

Pizza Crust

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 3 1/2 cups regular bread flour
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary chopped as small as possible
  • 1 2/3 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil plus more to line bowl
Topping
  • 4 medium sized eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • garlic-infused olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 8 stalks of thick asparagus, shaved with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 block feta cheese, crumbled
  • drizzle good quality olive oil

In the bowl of a standing mixer fixed with a dough hook, put all the dry ingredients in and stir on low to combine, then slowly pour in the water and olive oil.  Continue to use the mixer to knead the dough for at least another 10 minutes.  The dough should be sticky, but not too wet.  If it feels wet, add a teaspoon of breadflour and knead in thoroughly.  When it’s done kneading, lift it out of the bowl, then drizzle with a good glug of oil, then rub around before putting the dough back in and turning to coat.  Let rise for two hours.

While the dough is rising, prepare your toppings.  Preheat the oven to 400 and line a rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil.  Drizzle the foil with a good few glugs of garlic oil, then sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper onto the oil.  Place the halved eggplant onto the oil, cut-side down and bake for about 45 minutes – the eggplant will absorb the oil and seasonings and be all squidgy when finished.  Let it cool until you can handle it, then gently scrape out of the charred skin into a blender and puree until smooth.  Add a little extra oil and taste for seasoning.

If you have a pizza stone, throw it in the oven and raise the temperature of the oven as high as it will go.  Once the dough is finished rising, divide it into however many pizzas you’re making and spread out onto pizza pans fairly thinly, then prebake for about 5-7 minutes so that you can have the crispiest crust possible.  Remove from the oven, then spread with the eggplant puree and scatter with the asparagus ribbons, pepper, onion and feta, then drizzle with olive oil and place back in the oven to cook for about 10 minutes until cooked.

It’s been an absolutely glorious weekend here in the UK.  The mister and I took Friday off to give the house a MUCH-needed spring cleaning and have worked our patooties off.  But, when the sun is shining this brightly – and the temperatures are around 70 – there is nothing nicer than opening all the windows to give the place a good airing, cranking up the iTunes and getting the house all sparkly.

So, to celebrate a clean-clean-CLEAN house, I made us a gorgeous dinner last night – Nigella’s Za’atar chicken with fatoosh, roasted carrots with cumin and fancy-pants rice on the side.  This dish takes a few steps, but it is sooooo worth it! The flavors meld so nicely – it’s great with chicken and would be amazingly good with roast lamb.

Fancy-Pants Rice

  • Olive oil
  • 3 red onions, trimmed, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons

In a medium pan over medium-high heat, add a good drizzle of olive oil and cook the onions until soft.  When done, set aside in a large serving bowl.  Rinse the rice in cold water, then put the same onion pan back over the heat, add a little more oil and then the rice, stirring to coat with the onion-y olive oil.  When everything is hot and lightly browned, add the water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover until cooked.

While the rice is cooking, chop all the other ingredients and add to the bowl.  Once the rice is finished and fluffy, toss with the other ingredients, a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon juice.  Taste for seasoning and serve.

February is such a weird month.  You have days – sometimes an entire week – where the weather turns mild, making you think that, hey!  it’s spring!!  The crocuses start to come up one day, then you’re out scraping frost off your car the next.

This week is Mardi Gras and I have a special treat planned for Pancake Day, so check in later in the week!  In the meantime, since it’s still a little cold, I thought I’d post some spicy tomato soup to warm you up a bit! 

I’ve really only become a convert to the flavor combo of tomatoes and sweet smoked paprika in the last couple of years – but, now, I can’t get enough. And, that’s what really makes this a killer soup – the curry powder brings on the spice, but the smoky base note is what really makes this a great soup.  Give it a try!

Curried Tomato Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, trimmed, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled, trimmed and diced
  • 1 red pepper, cored and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 3 Tbsp curry powder (I used a madras curry powder)
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, pour in a good glug or two of olive oil and, when it’s hot, add the onions, carrots and peppers and cook 10-15 minutes until softened.  Add the curry powder and paprika and cook for another 2 minutes before adding the garlic and cooking another minute.  Then, pour in the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer and cooking for another 20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning, then use a blender or stick blender to puree.

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting here watching “Independence Day” with the mister and the Wondermutt.  (The mister has never seen “Independence Day” – can you believe that?!)  We’ve had a quiet day after the excitement of a busy week at work and then friends over for dinner last night.  Sometimes you just need a lazy day to recover from the week that was and prepare for the week that’s about to be – and that’s exactly what we’ve done today.  (We also watched “The Guard”, with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle – very good flick).

So, on a day like this, it’s nice to have a dish that’s not labor-intensive, but tastes like it is.  I love those dishes – you know the ones I mean – they take a tiny investment in time but taste like you’ve been slaving away for hours.  This is one of them.  AND it’s a soup, so it’s perfect for when you want to make something to eat on during the rest of the week (which is exactly what I did this last week).

Oh – please note – in this recipe, I don’t specify red peppers.  I like to throw in a yellow or orange pepper to make a mixture of the three – just know that it’s going to affect the color of the soup. 

Spicy Roasted Pepper Soup

  • 8 peppers, cored, halved and seeded
  • Olive oil (you can use chilli- or garlic-infused oil, if you like)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 chilli , seeded and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Place the peppers cut side down on a large rimmed baking sheet or lasagna pan and drizzle with olive oil, then sling them on the top shelf of the oven and roast for 30 minutes, until the skins are charred.  Place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let them cool and sweat.  While they’re cooling, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot and sweat the onions over medium heat until translucent.  Add the chilli pepper, spices and garlic and cook another minute.  Add the stock and stir to combine.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins (they should easily pull right off) – don’t rinse them – and drop them into the pot.  When all the peppers are in, raise the heat to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Use a blender to puree until smooth and put back into the pot.  Taste for seasoning, then add the creme fraiche.

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