Monday, April 25, 2016

Vegetarian Chili

This is so full of flavour & satisfying, you won’t miss the meat.  I like to serve this with a salad, along with bread to sop up the thick sauce.

French Du Puy lentils work better than normal brown lentils, as they retain their shape better, and their smaller size add a pleasing meat-like texture to the chili.

1 c dry Du Puy lentils (sometimes labeled as Puy lentils)
1 T vegetable oil
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
227 g mushroom, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Stalks from one bunch of cilantro, chopped (optional)
798 ml can tomatoes, crushed with your hand
½ of a 156 ml can tomato paste
4 t chili powder
1 t oregano
1 t cumin
¼ t chili flakes
1 t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 t sugar
1 T lemon or lime juice
Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

In a large saucepan, cover the lentils generously with water, and soak for one hour.  After the hour has elapsed, bring the lentils to a boil, then simmer, covered, for approximately 25 minutes or until tender.  Drain & set aside.

Give the saucepan a quick rinse, dry, and put on stove over medium heat.  Once heated, add the oil, celery, carrot, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring regularly, until mushrooms have released their liquid and the majority has evaporated.  Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute or so.

Add the cilantro stalks (if using), tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cumin, chili flakes, salt, black pepper, sugar and citrus juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered, stirring often, for one hour or until all the vegetables are tender.    

Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cabbage, Carrot & Beet Salad

If, like me, you get tired of lettuce salads, give this one a try.  It's crunchy, keeps well, and most importantly, delicious.  Best if made early in the day or the day before.

¼ medium green cabbage, cored and finely sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2-3 beets, peeled and grated
¼ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ t celery seeds
2 T sugar
4 T rice wine vinegar
4 T vegetable oil
Finely chopped parsley, optional

Combine all and toss well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lime & Basil Shrimp Salad in Wonton Cups

As you may have noticed, I love hors d'oeuvres.  Anything bite-sized and delicious is fair game, with a little drink on the side, natch.  A perfect start to an enjoyable evening.  

18 wonton wrappers
18 frozen raw shrimp (31-40 size)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T lime juice
4 T olive oil
2 T minced basil or cilantro
½ red bell pepper, diced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325F. 

Spray one side of each wonton wrapper with vegetable oil.  With the oiled sides down, line each section of a mini muffin tin, gently pressing to form to the shape of the cup.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, and cool in pan for five minutes.  Remove each shell from the tin and put onto a wire rack.  Repeat process with remaining wonton wrappers.

Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add shrimp and cover.  As soon as the water comes back to a gentle boil, drain shrimp and put into iced water.  Peel (if necessary) once cool.

Dice shrimp into ½ cm size pieces (don't worry if the shrimp aren't fully cooked; the lime juice will finish the job).  Add remaining ingredients, toss well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until just before serving.

Spoon a teaspoon of the shrimp mixture into each wonton cup, garnishing with additional basil if desired.

Creamy Black Beans

Properly-made black beans are a thing of beauty.  They should be tender, well-seasoned, and surrounded by a thick, starchy sauce.

As with all bean cookery, acids cannot be added to the beans until they are completely tender. Doing so prematurely will result in a complete halt of the the cooking process, and the beans will never soften. Similarly, salting beans prematurely will result in tough skins.

These are even better if made the day before, but I rarely have the foresight to do so.  

1½ c dried black beans
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 t cumin
1 t oregano
Stems from one bunch of cilantro (optional), rinsed & tied together with string
¾ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of one lime
Chopped cilantro to serve

Soak the black beans in plenty of water for 8 – 12 hours.  Drain, return to pan and top with three cups of fresh water.

Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, bay leaf, cumin, oregano and cilantro stems, if using.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until tender (taste for doneness), 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Remove cilantro stems & bay leaf.

At this stage, your beans should still have quite a bit of broth surrounding them.  Remove the lid and add salt, pepper and lime juice.  Stir through.  Increase the heat to medium-low, and simmer the beans uncovered, stirring often, until broth reduces and becomes gravy-like, 20 to 30 minutes.    

Serve with rice, and garnish with cilantro.  Coleslaw makes an excellent accompaniment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beauty in the Kitchen

Hot cherry peppers from St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, awaiting their pickling fate.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Polenta Parmigiana

I try to make at least one vegetarian dinner per week; this was this week’s.  It was wonderful; creamy, smooth and delicious.  Definitely company-worthy (although I would likely use a homemade meat sauce for company).  Serve with a tossed salad and crusty bread.

1 c cornmeal
3 c cold water
¾ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 t chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/3 t dried, crumbled)
1 T butter
¼ c grated Parmesan
1-1/2 cups tomato (homemade or otherwise)
1 c grated mozzarella cheese
Torn basil leaves or chopped parsley, to garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine cornmeal, water, salt, pepper and rosemary.  Whisk to combine.

Cook over medium heat, whisking often.  When mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium-low and switch to a wooden spoon.  Continue cooking, stirring often, for approximately 25 minutes.  Polenta is done when a wooden spoonful turned upside down doesn’t fall off.

Remove from heat, stir in butter and Parmesan.  Pour into lightly greased 8 X 8; spread out evenly.  Cover surface with plastic wrap and chill.

Once chilled, remove plastic wrap.  Cut polenta into four; preheat a griddle to high.  Cook, undisturbed, until edges against griddle begin to brown.  Turn over polenta slices and repeat. 

Preheat oven to 325o.  Remove browned polenta to a foil-lined baking sheet (leaving a space between pieces) spayed with a little vegetable oil.  Top each with a quarter of the tomato sauce and a quarter of the cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

Garnish with basil or parsley, if desired.

Serves four.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sausages & Peppers with Polenta

An Italian classic.  Ease to throw together, and excellent for entertaining.  The sausages and peppers can be made completely ahead of time, then just reheated before serving.

Sausages & Peppers
1 t vegetable oil
1 lb Italian sausages (mild or hot)
1 onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, de-seeded and sliced
227 g button mushrooms, cut in half (or quartered if large)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t red wine vinegar
1 t sugar
½ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 T tomato paste
¼ c chicken stock, if needed

Cut sausages in half crosswise.  Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat until hot; add the oil, tilting the pan to cover the surface.  Add the sausages, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Brown all four sides of each sausage until golden; remove to a plate.

Add the onion, peppers, mushrooms and garlic to the frying pan (reduce heat if pan seems too hot).  Continue cooking slowly until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and tomato paste.  If sauce is too thick, thin out as necessary with up to ¼ c chicken stock.

Return the sausages to the frying pan, increase heat to medium, and stir through until heated.  Garnish with fresh basil, if you've got it.  Serve with polenta (either soft or hard).

1 c fine cornmeal (I like medium grind)
3 or 4 cups of liquid (I use 50/50 chicken stock & water)
¾ t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 t chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
1 T butter
¼ c grated Parmesan

If making soft polenta, use four cups of liquid.  If making hard polenta (to cool, slice and grill or sauté), use three cups of liquid.

Combine cornmeal and cold liquid in medium saucepan, and whisk. Cook over medium heat, stirring often.  Reduce heat to medium-low as mixture begins to thicken, stirring every two minutes or so.  Total cooking time will be 20 – 25 minutes (20 for soft and 25 for hard). 

Remove from heat, add herbs, butter and Parmesan.  Serve immediately for soft polenta, for stiff polenta, pour into lightly greased 8 X 8 or loaf pan; spread out evening.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill.  Slice as desired, and either grill or sauté until browned.