Archives for posts with tag: vegetarian

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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Confession time:  Last night, I ate two big bowls of this soup in one sitting.  Partly because it tastes soooo darned silky and yummy, and partly because it reminds me of my grandma.

See, my heritage is Italian – Northern Italian in the Piedmont region, to be specific.  So, while everyone else immediately thinks of tomatoes and mozzarella when they think of Italian food, I think of lighter fare – and, particularly the way my grandma cooked, spinach in everything. (Side note:  her version of ravioli was chicken and spinach served in a chicken broth.  The first time I ever saw ravioli made with beef in a tomato sauce, I was revolted.)

My second confession – I keep this soup very simple – I don’t throw in a lot of potatoes or butternut squash, nor do I add any herbs.  I just wanted the simple flavors of the root vegetables to come through.  You can add layers of flavor by adding some dried thyme when you’re cooking the vegetables, or finish with chopped dill just before serving.  Or you could chop up some waxy potatoes or butternut squash for additional filler, extending the soup even farther.  But, that’s the nice thing about soups, isn’t it?  It’s so easy to adapt and change, depending on what you have in your fridge or pantry.

One other thing – this could easily be turned vegan by substituting vegetable stock – or, if you’d like to make it a little heavier, you could add some chicken or pork, so feel free to tinker with you as needed.

But, if you just want to keep it at it’s basic foundation, you’ll be just as happy – the final result is gorgeous and hearty, filling you and warming you on a cold winter night!

Garlicky Winter Vegetable Soup

  • Good couple of glugs of garlic-infused olive oil (about 4 Tbsp)
  • 3 large leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2″ discs
  • 3 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • About 4-6 oz frozen spinach (don’t worry about thawing and draining)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, add the leeks, carrots and celery, cooking until the leeks are very wilted and the carrots are soft.  Add the garlic and cook a minute, then add the chickpeas and stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Add the spinach, then cook another 5-10 minutes until everything is thoroughly heated.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.

Serve with big honkin’ pieces of garlic toast.

Garlicky winter veg soup

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

Finally … FINALLY … we’re starting to have some real summer weather here in the UK – after 40 days and 40 nights (and then some) of rain, we’re seeing gorgeous sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s just in time for the Olympic opening ceremony!  It’s enough to make one want to call in sick and head to the park with a good book and a picnic!

Since I have a few things I actually have to do today, pulling a sickie just wasn’t an option.  So, I did the next best thing, instead, and took a nice walk through Green Park on the way to the office this morning.  I thought it might be nice to capture for you a little of what London is like when the weather is nice.  I’ve always loved the park culture of renting one of their green stripey chairs and lazing about to catch some sun – so here it is, the calm before the onslaught of office workers who will take an extra-long lunch later today:

So, anyway, what better time to enjoy a nice, summery salad?  This one is actually adapted from Leon‘s Tuk Tuk salad – and, since every travel documentary I’ve seen about Thailand shows scores of mopeds, I decided to upgrade the name as well as the recipe.  Serves 4 comfortably.  And, of course, if you want to keep this totally vegetarian, then leave out the chicken.

Moped Salad

  • Medium bunch salad greens of your choice (I like arugula, but the mister doesn’t, so we compromise on watercress, which works well here)
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked, and cut into cubes (I like to add them still slightly hot, but they’d be just as good cold)
  • 1 package microwave brown basmati (I like Tilda, but use whatever brand you prefer), cooked per directions
  • 2 large carrots, trimmed peeled and grated
  • 1 basket cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped
  • 1 large bunch cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 medium bunch mint, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish

Moped Salad Dressing

  • 4 Tbsp lime juice
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 red chilli pepper, trimmed, seeded and finely minced

Before making the salad, make your dressing to let the flavors mingle as much as possible and set aside.  In a large bowl, toss the greens with the herbs then add the warm rice (it will really intensify the flavor of the herbs).  Toss with the chicken, carrots, tomato, bell pepper and spring onions, mixing throughly, then top with the dressing and toss well.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.

I’m just entering into the nutty-crazy-busy season at work – in fact, last week, I sat down and mapped out all the things that are coming up between now and early October and all I can say is YOWZA!  It’s going to be a busy few months!

So, I have a feeling that you’re going to be seeing a lot of two things in the coming weeks:  either fast and furious meals that you can make mid-week or meals that you can cook ahead on the weekend.

Or, as in today’s recipe, helpful tips for make a good dinner quickly.  Today’s tip:  a non-stick wok is your workday friend. It’s a great way too quickly cook meat or vegetables in a hurry.

This week, I had a mad hankering for the taste of the Med, particularly the flavors in a good pasta puttanesca – yummy olives, sunny peppers, juicy tomatoes and salty-like-the-sea capers.  But, instead of having a hot pasta sauce, I decided to break it down into its components and serve it as a pasta salad – perfect for an easy summer dinner!

Deconstructed Pasta Puttanesca Salad

  • 1/2 lb fusilli pasta
  • 1 punnet cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, trimmed, seeded and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/2 red onion (halved lengthwise), sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, crumbled
  • 1 cup basil or flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli paste (red pepper flakes in olive oil)
  • Drizzle of garlic oil
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – 2 chicken breasts (sliced thinly) or mushrooms, halved

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.  While that’s boiling, heat a non-stick wok on high to lightly cook the onions and peppers – that makes them so much nicer and brings out their sweetness than if you leave them raw.  Drizzle a little peanut or vegetable oil to cook them – they’ll only need 3-4 minutes, total – you don’t want them mushy, you want them somewhere between raw and totally soft.  If you’re adding some mushrooms (I just happened to have a half-dozen that needed a home), quickly cook those in the wok afterwards.  Continue to add the ingredients into the bowl as you go.  When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander, then drizzle and toss with a little garlic oil – this adds a touch of garlic flavor while keeping the pasta from sticking at the same time.  Don’t use too much – you just want to lightly coat the pasta, not make it oily.  Toss the hot pasta onto the remaining salad ingredients and drizzle with the regular olive oil and lemon juice.  Toss thoroughly and taste for seasoning – be sure to wait until this stage though – the capers and olives will give it plenty of saltiness, so you’ll need to add less than you think.

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.

Everyone I know seems to have a cold right now.  I just got over my Great Sinus Explosion 2011 but everyone else seems to be in one phase or another of being sick.  And, criminey, when you turn off your iPod riding the train in the morning, it sounds like a TB ward (which is why I turn it up so I don’t have to listen to the snuffles, snorts, sniffs and sneezes – hearing all your fellow passengers just reminds you that you’re in a Petri dish with wheels).

So, instead of a stew, this week I’m going to feature a nice, hearty, spicy soup – because, let’s face it, if tomato soup doesn’t make you feel better, get to the ER because there is something seriously wrong with you.  If you’re not a fan of chard, you could also substitute spinach – but, since all my chard is ready for harvest, I decided to add some to this soup and it is just lovely.

Serve with a grilled cheese sammich and it’ll cure what ails you.

Tomato Chickpea and Swiss Chard Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, trimmed and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (as a gauge, I used 1 1/2 tsp and it made a soup that bites back – it is seriously spicy)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups tightly packed chopped Swiss chard (I remove the stems, but you can keep them if you like)

Heat the olive oil over medium low heat, then add the onions, celery and carrots, season with a little salt and pepper and cover to cook for 5-10 minutes until soft.  Remove the cover and add the microplaned garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and stir to cook a minute before adding the chickpeas, tomato, stock and chard.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.  Serve topped with a good grating of pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

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