Archive | Vegetarian main dishes RSS feed for this section

Tofu in Mali Sauce

16 Nov

tofu-in-mali-sauceLast month I went to a potluck dinner for Dining for Women, an organization that pools contributions from small local events to make a big donation that helps women in Third World countries.

The theme of the evening was Mali (the funds raised would go to a program that supports literacy and numeracy education for women) and so I looked for a vegetarian Mali dish and found this. It was very easy to make and very tasty. I’ll definitely make it again.

The original recipe called for a full cup of water. I used a half-cup and the sauce was still pretty thin. I used home-made tomato sauce made from the last tomatoes in our garden and cooked it down significantly to thicken it a bit. Use your judgment — you don’t want the sauce to be too watery.

Ingredients:

1 package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
½ cup onion, finely chopped
Cooking oil
2 Tbs. peanut butter
1/2 cup water
1 Tbs. palm sugar or raw sugar (I used agave nectar – can probably use cane sugar or honey)
1 Tbs, soy sauce or tamari sauce
1 cup tomato sauce or chopped and mashed tomatoes
2 cups cooked white or brown rice to serve

Directions:

Bring water to a low boil, then add the peanut butter. Cook for one minute while stirring. Remove from heat.

Add the sugar, soy sauce and tomato sauce or mashed tomatoes and cook for two minutes. Set aside.

In a separate pan, saute the tofu cubes with the chopped onions in the oil over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until onions are soft and tofu is starting to brown.

Put the tofu cubes into a serving dish and pour the sauce over.

Serve over boiled rice – or over stir-fried vegetables or baked potatoes.

Serves 4

 

 

 

Armenian Stuffed Grape Leaves

8 Jul

grape leavesWe have a bumper crop of grape leaves in our yard, so I just made another batch of these wonderful stuffed grape leaves. The easiest way to tell you about it is to share the post I wrote about them last year for my other food blog, Feed the Spirit. Here it is:

My husband has a wooden swing in the backyard where he likes to hang out on summer afternoons, but it’s right in the sun and can get a little uncomfortable.

To provide some shade, he planted two grapevines next to the swing, one on each side, a couple of years ago, hoping they’d climb up over the swing. I have no idea what kind of grapes they are – one is white, and one is red.

Our grapevine-covered backyard swing.

Our grapevine-covered backyard swing.

Last year we even had two minuscule clusters of grapes, which the birds enjoyed. This year, we had enough to make a couple of pints of grape juice.

But I was also interested in the vines for grape leaves. Living in Detroit, with its large Greek, Chaldean and Arab populations, we’ve been enjoying stuffed grape leaves for decades. They’re often stuffed with lamb, but we eat vegetarian versions. I’ve never made them, but with lush grapevines growing right outside my kitchen window, I thought this was a great time to try.

 

I’d been interested in trying my hand at stuffed grape leaves since last spring, when I participated in a program about food with Jewish and Chaldean (Iraqi Catholic) women. One of the Chaldean women told how almost every cook in her community keeps a large supply of grape leaves on hand.

The women frequently gather in groups to stuff grape leaves, she said, kind of like a Middle Eastern version of a quilting bee.

One family she knows almost got in trouble because of her grape leaves. The family had a house fire, and after the firemen took care of the emergency, they were about to arrest her; they had looked in her freezer, which was full of grape leaves, and thought she was growing marijuana illegally!

Thank you, Joan Nathan!

Joan Nathan

Joan Nathan

What convinced me to finally take action was this video and recipe from Joan Nathan, the doyenne of American Jewish cooking, which showed up in my Facebook feed. Her book, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, is one of my all-time faves.

I followed her recipe and her directions, and the result was dee-lish! As she says, you don’t need to grow your own grapes or raid a neighbor’s vine; jarred grape leaves, available in any Middle Eastern or specialty grocery store, will do equally well.

These Armenian stuffed grape leaves are super-flavorful, with onions, tomatoes, currants and pine nuts, and a variety of seasonings including mint, dill, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice.

The filling isn’t hard to make; the only fiddly part of the recipe is actually stuffing and rolling the leaves, which was a little challenging to one used to making the much larger stuffed cabbage rolls. It also takes awhile because you need to prepare the filling, then let it cool, then make the rolls, then cook the rolls.

I took them to a holiday lunch at a friend’s house and they were scarfed up in no time!

Joan suggests trying the same stuffing with chard leaves. We had some chard in our garden, so I made a few that way. The taste was great, but the chard leaves, which are long and thin, were actually harder to roll than the grape leaves.

If you make more than you can eat at once, you can freeze them. Put the extra rolls in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to make sure all the rolls are lightly coated with oil, then place them in a plastic freezer bag. Defrost in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients:

One 15-oz. or 1-lb. jar of grape leaves (about 70 leaves) — or 70 fresh grape leaves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup currants
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup snipped fresh dill
1 Tbs. dried or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 Tbs. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 cup short- or medium-grain rice, uncooked
1 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes or 1 cup diced canned tomatoes, with juices
2 lemons

Directions:

If you use fresh grape leaves, blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water. then drain. If you use jarred, drain the grape leaves, then carefully unwrap each leaf, remove and discard any stems. Put the leaves in a large bowl with water to cover. Let soak while you prepare the filling.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large covered skillet, and add the onions. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover the skillet and sauté for a few more minutes until beginning to turn golden.

Add the pine nuts, currants, parsley, dill, mint, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, salt, pepper, rice, 1 cup of water, sugar, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the rice is almost cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the juice of 1 of the lemons, then set aside to cool slightly.

Line the bottom of a heavy 6-quart pot with 10 of the leaves, dull side up.

Put 1 leaf on a flat surface, dull side up, with the stem end toward you. Spoon on 1 tablespoon of filling near the stem end of the leaf and flatten the filling to the width of the leaf. (Editor’s note: I’m sure she means one level measuring-spoon tablespoon; don’t use a soup spoon or you’ll have too much for one leaf. It may be easier to use a teaspoon.) Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold the sides into the center and roll away from you. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.

Arrange the stuffed grape leaves, seam sides down, in rows along the bottom of the lined pot, then stack them on top of each other.

Pour 1 cup of water over the leaves and place a small plate on top to keep the leaves weighted down. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 minutes more. Allow to cool in the pot, then drain.

Serve warm or at room temperature as an appetizer, sprinkled with the juice of the remaining lemon and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If you like, you can also top them with yogurt.

To freeze: drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly to cover all the stuffed grape leaves with a thin film of oil, then pack into a plastic freezer bag or container.

Farmer cheese casserole

5 May

farmer cheese casserole

I bought a package of farmer cheese for Passover because I like to make a matzo-cheese-leek pie. Farmer cheese is kind of like a smooth and dry cottage cheese, a little like feta cheese but not as crumbly and with a less tart taste. Unfortunately, I forgot that my recipe called for half a pound of farmer cheese, and I bought the larger, one-pound package.

After Passover, I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the farmer cheese, so I took a look at what was in my fridge and came up with this recipe.

If you don’t have farmer cheese, you can substitute small-curd cottage cheese (drain it before adding to the rest of the ingredients) or finely crumbled feta cheese.

I had leftover rice so I used a little of that to add starch and thickening, in place of the flour I would normally use. Don’t make rice just for this recipe; use flour instead.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
half a bell pepper (I used yellow), diced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 10-oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3 eggs
1 cup farmer cheese
1 oz. cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese, cubed
1/4 cup cooked rice or 3 Tbs. flour
salt and black pepper to taste (the cheese may be salty enough that you don’t need to add any)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano or basil

Directions:

Heat half the butter or oil in a medium skillet and saute the onions and peppers until soft. Add the chopped tomato and spinach, and continue cooking until any liquid is evaporated. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the remaining butter or oil in an 8-inch square baking dish (or use a glass pie plate) and put it in the oven for a few minutes until the butter melts or the oil is heated.

Beat the eggs and add in the farmer cheese and cubed cheese, then the cooked and cooled vegetables, rice or flour, and spices. Mix well.

Pour the melted butter or hot oil into the mixture, and then put everything into the greased baking dish or pie plate.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until firm and slightly browned.

Serves 4

 

Fresh Corn Casserole

18 Aug

Corn pudding

Fresh corn is everywhere these days, from farmers’ markets to your local supermarket. In many states, including Michigan, it’s local produce — fresh and delicious — and a great buy at this time of year.

Here’s a good recipe for fresh corn if you want to do something besides eat it off the cob (which, honestly, I think is the best possible thing you can do with fresh corn).

Save the recipe to use again when corn season is over; it’s also fine with frozen corn.

Serve it as a main dish with a nice salad for a luncheon or light supper, or as a side dish with grilled fish or (if you’re not a kosher-keeper) chicken.

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh corn kernels (4 or 5 ears)
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup diced Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup cornmeal
1 small can diced green chilies
1½ tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

Puree 1 cup corn with melted butter and eggs in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the pureed mixture and blend well.

Pour into casserole and bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares or wedges to serve.

Serves 8

Eggplant Wraps

30 Jun

eggplant wrapsI clipped this recipe from the Detroit Free Press just a couple of weeks ago. The Freep adapted it from Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking by Mary McCarney. I don’t usually rerun recipes so quickly. To tell the truth I don’t even usually try them so quickly! But I liked this one so much I wanted to share it with you.

It’s a bit of a bother to make, but it would be a great dish to serve to vegetarian guests because it looks so fancy. Eggplant is nice and meaty, so this dish should appeal to carnivores too. Each wrap has only 95 calories, 7 grams of  fat, 5 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

You can assemble the wraps ahead of time and heat them up just before serving. Half the original recipe (the amounts I give below) made eight wraps, so we had them for two meals, and they reheated nicely.

The Free Press suggests using a serrated knife to cut the eggplant.

I will give you the recipe almost as it was in the Freep, except that I’ve halved the amounts — except for the oil. I found I needed at least as much oil as originally called for even though I was making half the recipe. But I’ll also tell you the changes I made and provide a few other suggestions for variations.

I didn’t have any marinated sun-dried tomatoes, only dried ones, so about a half-hour before I started cooking, I covered the dried tomatoes with olive oil to marinate. After I took the tomatoes out, I used the oil (with some added) for the recipe.

For the mixed herbs, I used minced garlic, basil and parsley.

I didn’t have fresh spinach, but my garden was producing lots of chard and kale, so I used a mixture of those.

Most importantly, after I had fried the eggplant slices, some were not really flexible enough to bend into wraps (perhaps I sliced the eggplant a little too thickly?). So I popped them into the microwave in a single layer for 30 seconds and they became perfectly pliable.

Here are some other variations you might want to consider:

  • Use thinly sliced or diced fresh tomato instead of sun-dried. Drain as much juice from them as you can before adding to the wraps.
  • Use goat cheese or feta instead of cheddar.
  • Use slivered almonds instead of pine nuts.
  • Add a few slivered kalamata olives

Ingredients:

Olive oil or cooking spray
1 medium to large eggplant
3 Tbs. sunflower oil or light olive oil (you may need a little more)
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. dried mixed herbs
8 oz. baby spinach
8 sun-dried tomatoes marinated in olive oil, each cut in half or thirds
1 1/2 Tbs. pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 1/2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 8 slices
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a sided baking sheet with olive oil spray or use a nonstick baking sheet.

Cut off the top, bottom and rounded sides of the eggplant and discard. Then slice the eggplant lengthwise into 8 pieces, each about 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick. (If you have a very large eggplant, you may have some left over. You don’t want to make the slices too thick.)

In a small bowl, mix together the herbs and oil. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat.

Working in batches, lightly brush each slice of eggplant on one side with the oil mixture and place in the hot pan. Fry until golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Brush the top side lightly with oil and flip to fry that side, another 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside the slices until all are cooked.

(If the slices are brown but still a little stiff, you can microwave them for 20 or 30 seconds until they are pliable.)

Wash the spinach well in cold running water, spin dry and then heat in a large skillet to wilt, using just the water that is clinging to the leaves. Drain off the excess liquid.

Assemble the wraps: Take one slice of cooked eggplant and place a little of the wilted spinach on one half. Then place a few pieces of sun-dried tomato on top, sprinkle with a few toasted pine nuts, and top with a slice of cheddar.

Fold the eggplant over to form the wrap and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. Sprinkle each with sea salt and fresh black pepper.

Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

 

Vegetarian Sausage, Bean and Tomato Ragout with Polenta

5 May

Vegetarian Italian sausage, bean and tomato ragoutI clipped this recipe from Cooking Light. It wasn’t meant to be vegetarian, but first of all, it’s hard to find kosher Italian sausage, and secondly, I preferred to make it veggie. Just know that the original recipe called for meat sausage. You could also use soy crumbles instead of veggie sausages, but the taste would be different; the Italian sausage has unique spices.

The original recipe called for instant polenta and plain yogurt, neither of which I had on hand, so I looked up another recipe. Polenta is really bland, so I added a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, making the entire dish dairy.

There are a lot of ingredients, but the recipe is easy. The ragout recipe says to cook for 8 minutes, but you can keep it simmering while you cook the polenta. (Or you could start the polenta and make the stew during the 30 minutes the polenta cooks over a low flame.)

When you serve the polenta straight from the stovetop, it will be creamy. If you have leftovers, put them in a flat-bottomed container. The polenta will harden. To reuse, you can cut it into slices and fry them up in a little olive oil or butter, or bake them in the oven topped with a sauce (or leftover ragout).

The Cooking Light recipe said it serves 4, but the two of us ate large servings and there was still enough left over for 4 more, so I’m saying it serves 6!

Ingredients:

For the ragout:
6 oz. bulk hot Italian sausage
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup vegetable stock
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Dash crushed red pepper
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 2/3 tsp. dried)

For the polenta:
3 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. fresh rosemary (optional)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 Tbs. butter (optional)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you use real sausage, crumble it in the pan and cook for until browned; remove from pan. Add oil to pain, then saute onions for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add wine, cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen any browned bits. If you use vegetarian sausage, which is pre-cooked, crumble it into the pan now.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. If you browned the sausage at the beginning, add it back in now and heat through.

For the polenta, bring the water and salt to a boil in a 2 or 3-quart saucepan. Add the cornmeal gradually, whisking vigorously as you do so no lumps form. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently. Lower the heat as low as possible and continue to cook for 20 or 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot when you stir, so the polenta doesn’t stick. Whisk in the rosemary, butter, cheese and rosemary (if you use dry rosemary — use 1/2 tsp. — add it when you put the cornmeal into the water).

Serves 6

Pasta Puttanesca

17 Mar

pasta puttanesca

Full disclosure: I occasionally participate in something called a Bzz campaign. I get a free sample of a product with the understanding that I’ll create “buzz” about it by telling my friends.

A week or so ago I got a free sample of a new brand of pasta called HemisFares, available at the Kroger family of stores. There are many varieties; I got fusilli bucati lunghi, which is great, because my pantry had spaghetti, fettucini, rotini, rigatoni, jumbo shells, lasagne and elbow mac — but no fusilli!

The HemisFares pastas are imported from specific regions of Italy.

I did like the HemisFares sample. The long strands of corkscrew pasta had a homemade look. When cooked, it had a nice, firm texture, and the corkscrew shape held the sauce well. Of course, as my husband said, “It tastes like pasta.”

But if you shop at Kroger, give it a try!

I made it with two sauces, puttanesca and wild mushroom; I’ll give you the recipe for the second one another time.

This flavorful and somewhat spicy puttanesca sauce recipe is slightly altered from one by Annabel Cohen that appeared in the Detroit Jewish News. The olives, capers and red pepper flakes give it a nice kick.

The name of the dish can be translated as “pasta in the style of a whore.” No one is sure why. Maybe ladies of the evening in Italy cooked it to entice people into their establishments. Maybe they cooked it for themselves because it’s fast and easy to make. In any event, it’s delicious!

Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1½ cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
3 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 2-oz. can anchovy fillets with oil
3 Tbs. capers
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped green or Kalamata olives (or a mixture)
1 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.

Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

If you like, you can blend slightly with an immersion blender, but the sauce should still be chunky.

You can add grated Parmesan cheese before serving if you like.chee

Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Serves 12