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Cambodian Spiced Eggplant

7 Mar

I like to go to dinners organized by a group called Dining for Women. It’s a deceptively simple concept: invite a bunch of women to a potluck and contribute the money you would have spent on a restaurant meal to a nonprofit that helps women and girls in a third-world country.

Well, a dozen or so women in the suburbs or Detroit aren’t going to donate more than a few hundred dollars, but when the dinners are repeated in dozens of locations all over the country, some serious moolah  can be raised. The national organization chooses the recipient nonprofit, and provides a DVD for the dinner hostess showing the work the nonprofit does.

Last month’s dinner featured an organization in Cambodia that helps street children by giving them a place to live and teaching them useful skills so they can earn a living.

I looked for a simple Cambodian vegetarian recipe and found this one. Now the problem with eggplant — I admit it! — is it’s so visually unappealing, at least to me. If that’s your impression of eggplant too, get over it! It’s a delicious vegetable, and this combination of spices is very complementary.

I couldn’t find Asian eggplants so I used a large regular eggplant. And I didn’t have the fresh herbs for sprinkling on top, but the dish was still delectable. It’s also very easy to make, and leftovers reheat nicely.

Ingredients

6 Asian eggplants (small skinny ones) or two small or one large regular eggplant
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. white wine or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
½ tsp. ground coriander
Fresh coriander and mint to serve

Directions:

Chop the eggplant into pieces about a half-inch square.

Heat the oil in a wok and add the eggplant. Fry over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.

Combine all the other ingredients except the fresh coriander and mint in a small bowl and mix well.

Add the seasonings to the frying eggplant and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened.

Sprinkle with the chopped fresh herbs.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

Serves 4 – 5

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Fresh Corn Salsa

8 Sep

Corn salsaWell, you could make this with frozen or canned corn, but it’s SO much better with fresh, and that’s SO easy to get right now that there’s no excuse.

This is a very easy dish to make, especially if you have a “corn zipper” tool to remove the corn from the cob. Leftovers will last about a week in the fridge.

Double the recipe if you’re serving a lot of people or taking this dish to a potluck.

Here’s a trick for cooking the corn easily:

Put it in the microwave, husks, silks and all, and nuke for 4 minutes at high for one ear or 8 minutes for two (don’t cook more than two at a time). When it’s done, cut about an inch off each ear above any stalk on the bottom. Then, starting at the top of the ear, squeeze gently and the corn will slide right out of the husks, without any silk (or very little) attached. You will probably need a potholder to do the squeezing, because the ear will be quite hot.

Ingredients:

Cooked fresh corn from 2 – 3 cobs
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1/2 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, chopped fine
1 small onion, preferably red, chopped fine
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. lime juice (or lemon juice if you don’t have lime)
1/2 tsp. salt or more to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Allow flavors to mingle for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Tahini Roasted Cauliflower

11 Aug
Roasted cauliflower with tahiniI’ve never been a huge fan of boiled or steamed cauliflower, but I love this vegetable when it’s roasted. Roasting makes it slightly sweet, with a crisp outside and a tender interior.
Here is an easy recipe I got from Cooking Light magazine. You can find tahini (sesame paste) at a Middle Eastern grocery store if your local supermarket doesn’t have it. Note that the tahini tends to separate in the jar, so be sure to stir it well before measuring it out.
The tahini flavor is mild, and the capers, lemon juice and red pepper give it just a little zing.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup tahini
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups small cauliflower florets
Cooking spray
Half a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Additional crushed red pepper (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475°. Combine tahini, capers, olive oil, and 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add cauliflower florets; toss to coat. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Roast 15 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove from oven; squeeze juice of lemon over top. Sprinkle with parsley, salt, and, if desired, additional red pepper.
Serves 4 to 6

Green Beans with Orange Essence and Toasted Pecans

22 Oct

Green Beans with Orange Essence and Toasted PecansI clipped this recipe from the Costco magazine, but that information didn’t appear on the recipe and I couldn’t remember where I got it. When I checked by searching online, it turns out the recipe was developed by Cooks magazine in 2003. It’s kind of a “potchke” so when I make it again, I will use candied pecans from the store (Trader Joe has good ones) and save a lot of effort. The first time I made it our guests included someone who wasn’t eating gluten, so I substituted cornstarch for the flour, and it worked fine.

Ingredients:

¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. unsalted butter or margarine
2 Tbs. maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
2 shallots, minced
⅔ tsp. grated orange zest
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 Tbs. all purpose flour
1½ lb. green beans, trimmed
⅔ cup chicken broth
⅓ cup orange juice
1 tsp. minced fresh sage (or ½ tsp. dried sage)

Directions:

Toast the pecans in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1 Tbs. butter, maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Return skillet to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the nuts are dry and glossy, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. butter to the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, orange zest and cayenne, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour until combined, then add green beans. Add broth, orange juice and sage. Increase heat to medium-high, cover and cook until beans are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender and sauce has thickened slightly, about 4 minutes. Off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with pecans.

Serves 8

Roasted Asparagus

30 Apr

Roasted AsparagusIt’s asparagus season, so make the best of it! Fresh asparagus is fine steamed (for about 5 minutes, till it’s bright green and tender but not mushy) — but it’s even better roasted!

Look for medium-thick stalks that are firm and unwrinkled. Avoid any bunches that have moist tips.

The easiest way to prepare asparagus for cooking is to simply snap off the hard part at the bottom by bending it with your hands — it will snap in the right place.

I sometimes vary this recipe by sprinkling the asparagus with a mixture of spices instead of the garlic and lemon peel. I have a great one that I got in New Orleans called Joe’s Hot Stuff (with a husband named Joe, how could I resist?). It includes garlic, paprika, red pepper and thyme. Trader Joe’s “21 Seasoning Salute” is also good.

If you have very thin stalks of asparagus, they will take less time to cook. Remember, overcooking asparagus is worse than undercooking!

If you have any asparagus left over after your dinner, cut it up to use in an omelette or salad.

Ingredients:

1 lb. fresh asparagus
2 tsp. olive oil
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. grated lemon peel

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (if you’re already cooking something else in the oven at a lower temperature, you can do the asparagus at the same time, just plan to cook it a little longer).

Wash asparagus and snap off the hard bottom part. Line a large baking pan with foil and lay the asparagus on it in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the garlic powder and lemon peel over the asparagus.

Roast for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once during the cooking. You should be able to pierce the asparagus easily with a fork, but it should still be firm, not mushy. It might brown slightly; that’s OK.

Serves 4

Vegetarian Chopped Liver

31 Mar

Vegetarian Chopped LiverI had seen variations on this recipe for ages and it always sounded disgusting – I mean, walnuts and canned green beans, really! Then I went to a cooking demonstration led by the wonderful Annabel Cohen. She made this dish and distributed the recipe. It was delicious! I’ve been making it ever since (modified slightly) and sharing the recipe. With a food processor, it’s very easy to prepare.

I make this for Passover. If your custom is not to eat green beans at Passover, you can substitute 12 oz. of mushrooms; slice them and cook till all the moisture evaporates and cool before processing. (Opening a can of green beans is a lot easier!)

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 cups walnuts (halves or pieces)
1 can (14-16 oz.) green beans, drained
½ tsp. salt, or more to taste
Pepper to taste
3 hard-cooked eggs

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions until they are golden brown. Add the walnuts and continue to sauté, stirring frequently, another 3 minutes or so until the walnuts are toasted (they’ll start to become fragrant). Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.

Put the onions and walnuts in the food processor with the canned green beans and process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the food processor once or twice. Add the salt and pepper. Cut the hard-cooked eggs in half and add them to the food processor. Pulse just until the eggs are chopped; you’ll want to see little flecks of egg in the mixture.

Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Serves 8 as an appetizer, more as a party spread

Roast Potatoes

8 Feb

Roast potatoesHere’s a very simple recipe for roast potatoes, which make a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken, any kind of meat roast and broiled or baked fish. My mother used to make potatoes in the same roasting pan as the chicken or beef, but somehow they never got as crispy and brown as when I make them in a separate pan.

Ingredients:

4 large potatoes (or more smaller potatoes)
1 medium onion
2 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees for convection setting (recommended) or 375 degrees for regular baking. (If you’re not cooking a chicken or roast at the same time, you might want to do them at 400, and they’ll cook faster.)

Peel the potatoes, rinse them and dry with a paper towel. Cut them into pieces roughly 1 to 1½ inches square. Place potato pieces in a bowl with the oil and paprika, and use your hands to toss so that the pieces are evenly coated. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray – the pan should be large enough to hold all the potato pieces in a single layer. Spread the potatoes in the pan and roast for about 20 minutes.

Cut the onion vertically into thin pieces and add to the pan; stir the potatoes and the onion. Continue to roast until they are nicely browned, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. This will take 1 to 1½ hours in a convection oven, a little longer in a regular oven.

Serves 4