Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Tostones – Puerto Rican Twice Fried Plantains

January 18, 2011

Tostones and Mojo

I have eaten and enjoyed Tostones for the past 40 years of my life but never made them as they are twice fried plantains and that just sounded like a lot of work. A couple of weeks ago there was an interview in the newspaper with Angie Morales of Villa Morales and she said she is so used to cooking them that she could do a batch in 10 minutes from start to finish. I decide to give it a try because I have been in her kitchen when she was making them for a large group and have seen other local cooks making them for smaller groups.

For those who don’t know, Tostones are a fried disc of plantain which is about two inches across and gets enlarged from the standard size during the preparation. They are extremely crispy and great with salt, ketchup, or the more traditional Mojo which is a garlic sauce you make yourself. The starting fruit is an unripe green Plantain. They are great as an appetizer, or as a side dish or snack. Think “French Fried Potatoes” and you will get a good idea of all the ways that children and adults enjoy Tostones.

Ingredients:
Plantain
Frying Oil
Salt

Directions:
1.Peal Plantain, use a knife to start.
2.Slice ½ to ¾ inch thick. (Thicker slices, cut on a diagonal will give a bigger finished Tostone)
3.Fry 2 minutes per side at 350 Fahrenheit (Hot Oil but not smoking) until just tender to the fork.

Fry Half Inch Chunks

4.Remove and drain on paper towel
5.Press flat with palm or flat object. I used a beer mug. They should end up ¼ inch thick. (Sorry about this Picture) If necessary, use a fork to separate them from the bottom of the mug.

Press Flat with Beer Mug

6.Return them to the pan and fry a couple more minutes on each side until golden brown.

Refry Compressed Discs

7.Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with Mojo.

Mojo (Traditional Garlic Sauce)
Ingredients:
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 heaping Tablespoons Crushed Garlic (6 large cloves)
2 Tablespoons Lime or Lemon Juice
½ tsp salt.
Optional:
1 Scotch bonnet hot pepper
¼ cup more oil.

Blend all the ingredients in a blender until a smooth liquid. and serve. The traditional Mojo has no hot pepper but since I like hot pepper, I added a whole one and some more oil and blended it until it had the texture of mayonnaise. If I were serving this to guests, I would definitely leave out the hot pepper and serve it in the traditional manner.

Acorn Squash and Pasta – A work in Progress

January 12, 2011

Acorn Squash And Pasta

I love everything about acorn squash. I love it baked in a half shell with butter and brown sugar, I love it as a base for a vegan or vegetarian soup. I even love the way it looks and and because of the affordable price I usually forget I have one and buy an another one before I use the one I have. Because I love to have a variety in my diet, I started searching for new ways to cook it and stumbled upon a Rachael Ray recipe for Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta.

Seem that this was not a crowd favorite as most people called it bland and the only ones who gave it high enough ratings to bring the average up to 3 stars out of 5 had altered the recipe and added meat to the meal because it wasn’t vegetarian to start with. Still it was an interesting concept and it got me to thinking?

What if I used Italian spices instead of pumpkin pie spices? What if I used a acorn squash instead of pumpkin? What if I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth? What if I used ricotta instead of milk and Hot pepper instead of Pepper sauce? The only way to find out was give it a try.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

3 shallots diced (optional)

3 coves garlic minced

1 thin slice Scotch Bonnet Pepper

1 onion diced

2 tsp Parsley

6-8 fresh basil leaves or 1 tsp dry

½ tsp thyme

1 bay leaf

1 acorn squash

1 Can Vegetable Broth

1 cup ricotta

½ tsp salt

Grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top

Directions:

  1. Cook the acorn squash until soft, and remove pulp from shell and set aside.
  2. In olive oil, simmer shallots, garlic, hot pepper, onion, parsley, basil, time and bay until onion glazes over.
  3. Add broth and acorn squash and let simmer for an hour.
  4. Remove Bay and hot pepper and blend in blender.
  5. Add ricotta, bring to temperature and serve over pasta. (I used a bowl with extra sauce).

Well the jury is out on this recipe. Believe it or not I found it bland while my vegetarian friend loved it. I tried it before I added the ricotta, and the flavors were actually bolder. I do believe this will have a better chance of me cooking it again as a vegan meal with the addition of diced tomatoes and am actually looking forward to the challenge of getting a bold flavor out an acorn squash and pasta meal. I love my acorn squash and would like to eat it more often if I can find different ways.

Vegan Red Beans and Brown Rice

December 16, 2010

Vegan Red Beans and Brown Rice

Red Beans and Brown Rice is a very filling and flavorful Vegan Meal and if you ever read the label on a chili powder package you would blend your own spices as I do. The Spice Classics label uses chili pepper while I use the local hot pepper for flavor and paprika for the red color. I also use oregano and garlic as do they.

Now this is where the label gets interesting, they add more Silicone Dioxide (sand) to the blend then they do either Oregano or Garlic. Somehow, it never crossed my mind that I should add crushed rocks to my food. But then after raising a couple of children, I do accept that eating a little dirt every now and then never killed anyone. I just don’t like the idea of paying for it.

Over the past year I have made meals with similar ingredients but with each rendition, it has become allegedly healthier. The first time I made this meal, I used 4 ounces of Spam and black beans so an incredible 70% of the calories in the pot came from the fat associated with the Spam.

Upon reflection, I recognized that the spice blend was close to chili so that I could easily switch to Turkey Ham which sounds like a big improvement until you read the label. The one I purchased in a 2 pound block was more than 50% fat and looked and tasted like bologna which is fine if that’s the flavor you are looking for. I am using it up 4 ounces at a time and it should be done by next year some time.

This rendition which was excellent and was made vegan on purpose as I am doing my sort of traditional, Pre-holiday purge. I used red beans because I ran out of black beans and used olive oil to saute the onions, garlic and pepper.

Ingredients:

1 T. olive oil

1 onion chopped

1 tsp crushed garlic

thin slice scotch bonnet pepper, red pepper or other hot pepper

14.5 oz can of Red Kidney Beans with liquid

1 (15 0z ) can of crushed or diced tomatoes

1 can vegetable broth (15 oz.)

1/2 cup brown rice

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp paprika

Salt to taste (optional)

Directions:

  1. Saute the olive oil, onion, garlic and hot pepper until the onion is glazed, this takes about 30 minutes in my unattended coffeepot and a lot less on the stove.

    Saute the olive oil, onion, garlic and hot pepper

  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the pot or add everything to the Crockpot. If cooking on the stove you will have to watch it simmer for the next 30-45 minutes or until the rice is done.

    Add all the rest of the ingredients to the pot

  3. If cooking in a crockpot on low or the coffeepot, cook for 4 -8 hours. After four hours it is done but left alone it is still fine after 8 hours and everything blends better with slow cooking.
  4. If you want to add Ham or Turkey ham add it when the onions are being sauteed so the flavors bend.

Melt in Your Mouth Eggplant Parmesan

December 14, 2010

Melt in Your Mouth Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is one of those family traditions we just do – There is no such thing called a recipe. All that is involved is making the fried eggplant which as discussed previously is a critical but messy job, placing it in a pan, spreading sauce to cover each piece and placing fresh, whole milk, mozzarella cheese on top. If you start with great fried eggplant, you will make great Eggplant Parmesan, Depending on on your preference, you can sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on prior to cooking or as I prefer after cooking. For sauce we use whatever is in the refrigerator. If it was good enough to serve with pasta it’s good for Eggplant Parmesan.

The tradition method in out family is to layer it in a pan and if the pan is to be frozen we use a disposable aluminum pan. The following photo is a completely frozen pan of Eggplant Parmesan prepared at the same time I fried the eggplant as a side dish which I am saving for my niece at the end of December. Of course in the freezer it is covered with aluminum foil.

Frozen pan of Eggplant Parmesan

When I cook it, I will leave it out on the counter for about an hour or two to defrost and then the covered pan will be placed in the oven at 350 for ½ hour. After that the foil cover will be removed to cook as needed for 15 to 20 more minutes to develop a golden brown cheese on top.

Consideration in cooking meals for one.

When I scale down a recipe for myself, I don’t want excessive leftovers, I want it easy to clean my mess, and I hate to turn on the oven and heat up the kitchen for a single meal for me. These criteria make the fondue pot the ideal choice for this meal. My pot is Teflon coated for ease of cleaning, has a precision temperature control, and is the right size to cook a meal for one.

The steps are almost the same except, as will be shown below, you do not get the golden brown color that my wife shrived for but in my mind you get a fresher tasting melted cheese.

  1. Place the friend eggplant in the cold electric skillet (fondue pot) and cover with tomato sauce.

    Fried Eggplant Covered with Tomato Sauce.

  2. Slice the cheese and place a slice or part of a slice on each piece of eggplant.

    A slice on each piece of eggplant

  3. Cover the pot and turn the temperature on the dial to 300 Fahrenheit

    Cover the pot

  4. Cook for about 10 minutes until you hear the sauce and melted cheese sizzling in the pan.

    Cook for about 10 minutes

  5. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan.

Since I love eggplant fried and fresh mozzarella, I like this version just as well as the golden brown one and when making meals for one it is just the right amount. Don’t worry, when you come to dinner I’ll put the pan in the oven and make yours that beautiful golden brown but in the meantime I can cook great tasting traditional meals without excessive leftovers.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this great meal is vegetarian.

Thoughts on the Versatile Eggplant

December 13, 2010

Fried Eggplant

Years ago, eggplant never made it as one of my top ten vegetables for several reasons. Leftovers can be bitter when eaten after a day or two and it is messy to bread and fry the eggplant. Fortunately, I discovered several pieces of information years ago which pushed it to my top ten list. First, if you peal the eggplant and only cut off the pieces that will immediately go into the milk and egg mixture, you can prevent that ugly gray color and the breaded and fried vegetable is sweet and never develops that bitter flavor.

That first discovery lead to the second which is you can fry a couple eggplants at the same time and use it as a side dish one day and then preparing a tray of Eggplant Parmesan which can be held for future use in either the refrigerator or freezer. This is a perfect meat to prepare ahead, clean up the mess and then bake and serve for company in a day or two if refrigerated, and up to a couple of months, if frozen. So even though preparing breaded fried eggplant is messy, the one clean-up can create sever meals.

I also discovered that my children love the breaded fried eggplant ans they used to sneak up on their mother and steal pieces while she was cooking them for Eggplant Parmesan . I have to admit that she and I were just as bad so instead of yelling at the kids, she would just cook more than needed because it’s not the cooking that’s an aggravation, it’s the clean-up of the mess. When I operated a restaurant in St. Croix, I discovered that West Indians also eat fried and breaded eggplant as an appetizer or side dish, however they customarily cut them in to sticks about the size of fish sticks instead of discs like the Italians.

So for one clean up I actually made thee meals. After frying all the eggplant I set some aside to use as a side dish with lunch and set some aside to be used for Eggplant Parmesan. I also made a tray of Eggplant Parmesan and froze it for when my niece comes at the end of the month. Since the Eggplant Parmesan has too many pictures for a reasonably sized post, I have split the post in half. The first half shows the breaded fried eggplant and the second will show the Eggplant Parmesan.

These meals are a tribute to my Mother-in-law, Anne Cocozza Hill, who died yesterday at 103 years old. She was a great Italian cook who loved to cook for me because I loved to eat her food. She inspired both my wife and I to learn to cook real Italian, Naples Style, and she served everything from brains and sweet breads to liver and pigs feet. And Honest to God, it was all Great. In her kitchen, there was no vegetarian food and other food, it was all just food. Her Sister-in-law, Adel Cocozza was an equally good cook who focused more on seafood from eel to stuffed squid and it was all equally great. These meals are real Italian and they just happens to be vegetarian.

Ingredients:

1 Egg

1 cup Milk

1-2 Eggplant

Flour as needed

Olive Oil as needed

1-2 cloves Garlic

Method:

  1. To start Mix together one egg and one cup of milk. Mix with fork. Add another egg and another cup of milk as needed.

    Peal and slice the eggplant

  2. Peal the eggplant. Slice off pieces as needed and put into the milk/egg mixture.

    Soak slices in the egg and milk mixture.

  3. Cover the pan bottom with olive oil and put in garlic slices. Remove as they char and add fresh. Replenish oil and garlic as needed.
  4. Place flower on plate about ¼ to ½ inch deep. Place the eggplant from the milk/egg mixture on the flower and turn over until coated.Coat the eggplant with flour or bread crumbs
  5. Place in hot oil when garlic starts to sizzle.

    Cooking in Olive Oil

  6. Fry until golden brown.
  7. Serve as a side dish or appetizer or set aside to make Eggplant Parmesan.

When was the last time you had delicious fried eggplant?

Pinto Bean Curry (Rajma Chawal) – A Tribute to Monica

December 12, 2010

Pinto Bean Curry (Rajma Chawal) – A Tribute to Monica

One of the best thing about being an active blogger is interacting with people of similar interests from all over the world. Monica is a fantastic cook and an equally fantastic food portrait artist. She is also one of those very supportive bloggers who is there to compliment, and assist and even prod you to action if you have been dormant too long. (Tes is the other one but her turn will come.)

Before learning of Monica’s Blog I had never either eaten or cooked Indian Food. I had tried it a few times in Philadelphia when I was a student and simply was not impressed with either the quality or flavor. But Monica’s Pictures and enthusiasm for her native cuisine was enough to convince me to give it a try and I am glad I did.

The most important decision I made was not to try any of the recipes until I acquired all of the spices. Only in the most extreme cases of a minor ingredient did I compromise and try a substitute. This forced me to skip many recipes because she is using spices I have never heard of and are not locally available but the results are fantastic when the recipe is followed precisely so I guess my decision was correct.

Monica has now opened a restaurant and if her offerings are as good as her blog and her presentation as pretty as her pictures, she should be a phenomenal success especially if she can find employees who like to smile at her customers.

Pinto Bean Curry (Rajma Chawal) is one of those inexpensive, flavorful vegan meals that probably evolved out of poverty. It is rice and beans with tomatoes and the thing that separates this meal from other cultures is the wide variety of aromatics and spices. This recipe calls for eleven different ones.

Once again it is fast moving and easy to cook. I used my fondue pot but upon reflection I don’t see any reason I couldn’t make it in my coffee pot. I also staged the spice blends because I am still not familiar with all of the different spices and in a fast moving recipe that I am trying for the first time, I don’t want to make a mistake.

Ingredients:

1 can Pinto Beans with liquid (14.5 oz.)

3 T Olive oil

1 tsp. Cumin seeds

1 Onion (rough cut)

2 garlic cloves (rough cut)

1 thumb sized piece of ginger (rough cut)

1 thin slice hot pepper (scotch bonnet) or 1 green chili

1 small bunch cilantro (fresh coriander)

1 can diced tomatoes with liquid

1 tsp salt

½ tsp. garam masala

½ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. Paprika

½ tsp coriander powder

Directions:

Make the aromatic paste

  1. If you use a blender to make the aromatic paste, you will need to add 2 tablespoons oil to the blender then add the rough cut garlic, onion, ginger, hot pepper and cilantro. Otherwise use a food processor.

    The aromatic paste

  2. Heat the rest of the oil (1 T.) in the pan along with the cumin seeds and cook on low temperature until they sizzle then add the past to the pot and stir.

    Spices read to be added

  3. Cook for 3 more minutes and add the rest of the dry spices while stirring until uniform.

    Golden Brown Cooked Spices

  4. After five more minutes add the tomatoes and stir until uniform.
  5. Cook for five more then add pinto beans.

    Cooking the Curry

  6. When it is hot 5-10 minutes it is ready.

This was excellent and even better on the second day. I am really starting to enjoy Indian food especially the vegan recipes because of the bold flavors. I doubt that I will ever become a zealot about vegan or vegetarian foods but the change is fine, if the food is good and filling.

Super Vegan Acorn Squash Soup

December 10, 2010

Super Vegan Acorn Squash Soup

Whenever I find a recipe I like, I try to tweak it and improve it. Most of the time it’s different but still good, very rarely is it weaker and occasionally you hit a rock your socks improvement. My adjustments are small. If it’s 90% vegetarian with the exception of chicken broth and butter why not try it with vegetable broth and olive oil and make it vegan especially when you cook for friends who are vegetarians. They will appreciate the effort.

My friend Vanise is not a pure vegetarian but leans in that direction by preference. When eating out or ordering a plate of food to go, she will usually order a vegetarian meal. I eat almost anything of any genre as long as it has bold flavors and is not sweet. I love to make people happy with my cooking so if I know what your favorite is and it’s a rich spicy food, I am going to do my best to make you happy and cook your meal your way. It simply never crossed my mind that anybody would compare the rich cheese flavor of the Penne and Cauliflower in white sauce to a vegan soup.

But I got over it when I recognized that both were creamy rich sauces with bold flavors and pasta. Vanise loved the cauliflower meal but loved the acorn squash soup even more. This meal started with a recipe for Italian Pumpkin soup which immediacy morphed into an acorn squash soup and now that I have added bay, deleted butter and changed to vegetable broth and eliminated Parmesan, we have arrived at our Souper Vegan Acorn Squash.

Ingredients:

1 T. olive oil

1 medium onion diced

2 garlic cloves

1 thin slice hot pepper (scotch bonnet, optional)

1 Bay leaf

1 small acorn squash

1 can (15 oz.) vegetable broth

1 tsp. Salt

½ cup elbow macaroni

Fresh ground white pepper and nutmeg to taste

Directions:

  1. Saute onion, garlic, olive oil, hot pepper and bay in the coffeepot for ½ hour.

    Saute onion, garlic, olive oil, hot pepper and bay

  2. Peel and cube the acorn squash. Get rid of skins and seeds.

    Peel and clean the acorn squash

  3. Take out the hot pepper slice and add the squash and broth to the pot. Cook for 2 hours until squash is soft to a fork.

    Add the squash and broth to the pot

  4. Remove Bay leaf and puree the rest of the soup in a blender. Return it to the coffeepot and hot plate.

    Remove Bay leaf and puree the rest of the soup

  5. About ½ hour before serving add the elbow macaroni to the pot.
  6. Serve with fresh grated white pepper and nutmeg.

Even though the whole pot only contained 750 calories with about 1/3  from the olive oil, this was actually enough for two people. I had mine for dinner and Vanise had hers for lunch when she stopped by to check on me the next day. It is very flavorful and filling. It just happens to be vegan.

Penne with Cauliflower in White Sauce or “Penne con Cavolfiore”

December 9, 2010

Penne with Cauliflower in White Sauce or “Penne con Cavolfiore”

Simply Stated, this is my best vegetarian meal ever. I always thought I hated vegetarian food because it lacked the rich spices and full flavor of Italian, French, Spanish, Caribbean, Indian and Thai foods so I petty much ignored the genre until I started cooking in my coffee pot. While searching for adaptable recipes, I discovered everybody in the world has full flavored hearty vegetarian meals that might satisfy me except perhaps America, Pizza is the one American exception but Italy seems to have reclaimed that meal as their own,

At the time, I naturally went to my favorite cookbooks and one of my best for Italian foods is Carla Capalbo’s “The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking.” Now my daughter and niece were not just on my case to lose weight by eating less, they wanted me to eat more sensibly; more vegetables, less ham, less fatty meat and pork etc,

One of the first things I saw was that there were many Italian Vegetarian Recipes and the reason is obvious. They had hundreds of years to develop real food that tasted Italian on all those meatless Fridays and Thank God they did. I immediately tried a few vegetarian recipes and each one was more fantastic than the last. I held off on this recipe, Penne with Cauliflower in white sauce because I generally don’t like sauces made with cream or milk and locally cauliflower is too expensive to waste on a bad meal. The simultaneous occurrence of a sale on cauliflower and left over milk from my Great Nephews visit was a sign for me that I must try this meal and I am glad I did. It is not only the best white sauce I have ever had, it was also the best vegetarian meal I have ever eaten.

Now I do have a great advantage over other cooks. It seem that the coffee pot is the ideal kitchen appliance for making a white sauce. When I was still checking for the limits of coffeepot cooking, I made a pot of Clam chowder using milk and condensed soup and went to an all day festival. I returned to my pot of soup 7 hours later and nothing was burnt, scalded or ruined, I was amazed.

The next discovery I made was that a room temperature rue works just fine if you make it an hour ahead of time and work the flour into the butter using the amounts called for in the recipe and then letting it sit at room temperature. As a matter of fact it is far easier to work the cold rue into milk that has come to 160 Fahrenheit (2 hours) using a whisk or fork then it is to work the milk into a hot rue that is very gummy and slightly too hot.

Ingredients:

The flowers from1 medium cauliflower

2 cups low fat milk

1 bay leaf

½ stick butter

½ cup flower

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black or white pepper freshly ground

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Mix the flower and butter together with the back side of a fork until a smooth past is formed let sit at room temperature.

    Preparing a Cold Rue

  2. Place the cauliflower flowers with 1 tsp salt in the coffee pot and add sufficient water to the coffeemaker to cover them completely. I did this a cup at a time so as not to overfill the pot. Cover with Aluminum foil and hold for ½ hour.

    Cooking the Cauliflower

  3. They should still be crisp. Drain and set aside.

    Cooked Cauliflower

  4. Put the milk in the coffee pot with the bay leaf and let come to temperature about 2 hours.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the rue, the sauce will thicken right away. Add the cheese and stir in the pot. When all is smooth, add the cauliflower to the pot and gently stir until uniform. Be careful when stirring in the rue and the cheese. I used a fork to transfer the rue to the pot and a whisk to stir so as not to crack the glass pot. I used a Teflon spoon to stir in the cauliflower.
  6. Serve over pasta and don’t worry if you have to hold it a few hours, just dilute with a little more milk if it thickens too much. No burning, scalding or separating will occur even when you microwave the leftovers.

This meal was fantastic and my vegetarian friend absolutely loved it.

Your Choice, Pickled Beets or Pickled Red Beet Eggs

December 6, 2010

Pickled Red Beet Eggs

Before my Picture Perfect Borscht, the only other form of beets I would eat was pickled beets. Now that I am eating healthier, I have been including the pickled beets in my salads and enjoying them more. That reminded me of that old bar room appetizer of my ill spent youth, the Red Pickled Egg. Since you always ate them whole, I never realized how attractive they are until now and served these eggs cut in half on a tray with the accompanying pickled onions and beets as a side dish. This recipe is very flexible and there is enough liquid to pickle 0 to 12 eggs.

3 Hard Boiled Eggs, shelled

Ingredients:

1 can of beets, 15 ounce

1 onion sliced thin

3 hard boiled eggs, shelled

2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

1 thin slice Scotch Bonnet pepper.

½ cup white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Drain liquid from beets into coffee pot, add Brown Sugar,hot pepper and vinegar to the pot and place on the warmer to heat.
  2. Place layers of sliced on on the bottom of your container or widemouthed jar and place pealed whole eggs on top.

    Add beets and the rest of the onions

  3. Add beets and the rest of the onions to the container.

    Poor the warm liquid over the beets

  4. When all the sugar has dissolved, remove and discard the hot pepper slice (or not for hotter flavor) and poor the warm liquid over the beets.
  5. After one day the beets have full flavor after 3 days they color goes to the yoke.

After one day the beets have full flavor

With the pepper removed as above, this is a mild yet flavorful variant of Red Pickled Beet Eggs made with white sugar and no hot pepper.