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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

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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

Butternut Squash and Three-Bean Chili

7 Jan

Vegetarian Chili w butternut squashThis is a perfect recipe for these frigid days. You’ll know what I mean if you live anywhere in the top half of North America. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is not freezing your tushie off this week, you might want to save this one for colder days.

The recipe came from my friend Greta Zalman, who adapted it from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine from 2010. It’s very flavorful and – be forewarned – quite spicy.

Our synagogue recently hosted a group of homeless people for a week – Christmas week to be exact. Greta multiplied this recipe by four and served it for Saturday night’s dinner, where it was scarfed up by our guests.

Here a few comments and tips. It’s a lot easier to buy peeled-and-cubed butternut squash from Costco, Whole Foods or Trader Joe than to peel and cube your own, even though it’s quite a bit pricier. Ditto for roasted peppers; buy a jar of them from Trader Joe and save yourself a lot of hassle.

I like to roast the butternut squash before adding it to the pot, but if you’re pressed for time you don’t have to.

If you don’t have the three kinds of beans, use three cans of any kind of beans.

Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers (or use a jar of Trader Joe roasted peppers and skip the broiling)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp.crushed red pepper (use less if you like less heat)
1 tsp.paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups peeled butternut squash cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
Shredded cheddar cheese and/or broken tortilla chips for topping, optional

Directions:

If you want to roast the squash, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the squash cubes in a single layer on a lightly oiled  baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the squash starts to caramelize and brown. Set aside.

Do the next five steps if you don’t have a jar of roasted peppers.

Preheat broiler.

Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes.

Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 15 minutes, until blackened.

Place pepper halves in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes.

Remove the charred skin and chop the peppers.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cumin, red pepper, paprike, salt and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add bell peppers, broth, squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle with green onions and, if desired, shredded cheese and tortilla chips.

Serves 6 to 8

Sephardic Zucchini and Chickpea Stew

31 Dec

Sephardic Zucchini & Chickpea StewThis recipe is adapted from one created by the wonderful Annabel Cohen, who made it for a cooking demonstration I attended. I halved her recipe, but it still makes a large amount. It can be your main dish or a nice side dish, especially if your table includes a vegetarian guest. It’s good served with rice or a similar starch that can soak up the juices.

The spices give it this dish an exotic, Middle Eastern flavor. The photo is by my friend Mandy Garver, who got the recipe from me and now makes it often, especially since two of her kids are vegetarians.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped celery
3 cups (2 cans) cooked chick peas, drained
2 cups zucchini, or summer squash, or a mixture, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup fresh chopped parsley or ⅓ cup dried parsley
1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ cup raisins or dried cranberries
Grated peel of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté onions, garlic and celery until the vegetables are soft. Place the cooked vegetables in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss well to combine. (Actually, to save time and reduce the number of dirty dishes, I usually mix everything in the casserole or baking pan I’m going to cook it in.) Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish or casserole. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. (Or cook in a slow cooker for 6 hours or more.)

Serves 6 to 10

Winter Squash, Spinach and Pine Nut Pasta

4 Nov

Butternut Squash and Spinach PastaButternut and other winter squashes are plentiful right now — and I think they are becoming increasingly popular, because I’ve been seeing a lot of recipes for them. I love butternut squash, and so I’ll probably be featuring a few recipes for it myself this winter.

This one is adapted from a good food blog I follow called MediterrAsian, which focuses on Mediterranean and Asian foods.

The original recipe called for pumpkin, but I used butternut squash instead. I’m sure the squash or pumpkin tastes fine boiled with the pasta as the recipe directs, but I roasted it ahead of time instead of boiling it, and just put it in with the pasta for a minute to get hot. I also increased the amount of spinach a bit from the original.

You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash at Trader Joe and other upscale groceries. It’s pricey, but it makes the process much easier.

I used tri-color penne. You can use plain or a similar shaped pasta such as rotini or ziti.

It tasted really good and we had enough left after dinner (for the two of us) for a lunch.

Ingredients:

6 oz. penne pasta
12 oz. pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
3 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ tsp. fresh rosemary, or ½ tsp. dried
3 cups firmly packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve, optional

Directions:

Cook the pasta and pumpkin in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water for 8 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain, reserving 3 Tbs. of the pasta water. You can start on some of the other steps while the pasta is cooking.

If the pine nuts aren’t already toasted, toast them in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned (shake the pan and watch them carefully so they don’t burn). Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same skillet heat 2 Tbs. olive oil and cook the onion for 6 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the pine nuts, salt, pepper, remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and the 3 Tbs. of pasta water.

Toss the pasta and pumpkin with the spinach and onion mixture. Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serves 3 as a main course or 4 to 6 as a side dish

Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

28 Oct

warm lentil saladHere’a nice recipe that appeared recently in the New York Times.

You can cook the lentils up to four days ahead and store them in the fridge. Bring the lentils back to a simmer before proceeding with the recipe.

You can serve it as a main dish for a light meal.This recipe makes quite a lot. We halved it for the two of us and still had some leftover.

If you can’t spot the chives and/or parsley in the photo, that’s because I forgot to add them at the end. The dish would probably have been even tastier if I hadn’t left them out!

Ingredients:

2 cups (14 oz.) green, brown or black lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 small or ½ large onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
¼ cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
| cup broth from the lentils
3 to 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup minced chives or parsley or both
2 cups wild or baby arugula, or mixed greens

Directions:

In a medium pot, combine the lentils, onion, two of the garlic cloves and the bay leaf with 6 cups of water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.

Add salt to taste, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils are cooked through but still have some texture (they should not be mushy). Taste and adjust the salt.

Using tongs, remove onion and bay leaf (though the onion may fall apart!)

In a small bowl mix together the vinegar, remaining garlic, salt to taste and olive oil. Set aside.

Place a strainer over a large bowl and drain the lentils. Reserve ¼ cup of the broth. Return the lentils to the pot.

Whisk the reserved broth into the dressing. Stir the dressing into the lentils. Add the goat cheese and stir until it melts into the lentils. Season to taste with pepper and stir in the herbs.

Line a platter, salad plates or wide bowls with the arugula or greens and top with the lentils. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6

Eggplant Pasta Sauce

21 Oct

eggplant pasta sauce1If you’re of a certain age, you probably have a yellowing copy of Anna Thomas’s book The Vegetarian Epicure on your shelf.

We bought this book, published in 1972, soon after we were married when we were getting away from the old meat-and-potatoes meals and discovering fresh vegetables and all these years later we still enjoy some of the recipes.

This recipe makes a very tasty sauce. It’s easy and it makes a huge amount. You can freeze half of it unless you’re serving a large number of people. It will also keep nicely in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

I’ve altered the recipe a bit, mostly by cutting the original amount of oil and tomato paste by half.

I like to serve it with grated Parmesan cheese, but it’s good without cheese as well.

Ingredients:

½ cup olive oil
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.), washed but not peeled and chopped into small dice
2 green, red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced
½ to 3/4 cup sliced black olives
3 to 4 Tbs. capers
1 tsp. crushed oregano
½ tsp. crushed basil
salt to taste
lots of freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. tomato paste
2 cups white wine (more if needed)
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the garlic and heat gently.

Add the peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, olives and capers, and stir well to coat the vegetables with oil.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir again and cover the pot. Lower the heat to a very small flame and allow the sauce to simmer gently for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking, and add more wine or water if it gets too thick.

Serve on your choice of hot pasta, topped with shredded Parmesan if you like.

Makes about 2 quarts