Tag Archives: vegetarian

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.

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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

 

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

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

Mujadrah

17 Jun

MujadaraSome friends and I were talking about making rice. One noted that she’d started making rice and lentils together, and I asked if she’d ever tried mujadrah, the Middle Eastern lentil pilaf. It’s very easy to make. What makes it taste so good are the sliced onions that are browned to a crisp in oil before being added to the pilaf.

Top with plain yogurt, if you like, and serve  with a tossed salad or an Israeli salad* for a satisfying supper.

Note: Bobbie’s Best Recipes is going on vacation for a couple of weeks, so don’t worry if you don’t get your weekly recipe next week. We’ll be back!

Ingredients:

1¼ cups brown lentils
½ tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
1¼ cups rice
4 large onions
4½  cups of water or vegetable broth
1½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
⅓ cup olive or vegetable oil

Directions:

Combine lentils, water, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until lentils are starting to soften. Add rice, cumin, allspice and cayenne pepper. Cook another 20 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender. (Check after 15 minutes and add a bit more water if necessary.) Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

While lentils and rice are cooking, quarter and slice the onions vertically. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and fry the onions in oil until they are dark brown. Drain the onions and reserve. Pour any remaining hot oil over the mujadrah and mix well.

Sprinkle the onions over the top of the mujadrah.

*Make an Israeli salad by finely chopping tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (optional) and onion – roughly equal amounts of tomatoes and cucumbers and about half as much onion. Drizzle over a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6

Moroccan Lentil Soup

21 Jan

Moroccan Lentil SoupI adapted this recipe from one given to me by my Hadassah friend Eva Lande, who got it from a friend who lives in France. The coriander and mint give it a little different flavor from standard lentil soup. It’s a good recipe for a cold winter day!

Ingredients:

1 tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion
8 cups water
1 package or cube vegetable stock
1 lb. brown lentils
1 can (15 – 16 oz.) chickpeas
1 can (14 – 15 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 potato (optional)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 Tbs. dried
1 – 2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbs. fresh mint or 1 tsp. dried
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a Dutch oven heat the oil and sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the water and vegetable stock powder and bring to the boil. Add remaining ingredients, return to the boil, cover and simmer for at least two hours.

To thicken the soup, you can mash it with a potato masher in the pot or blend a portion of it (in a blender or using an immersion blender) and return the blended portion to the pot with the unblended portion.

Serves 8 or more

 

Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake

7 Jan

Eggplant Mushroom Polenta 2I love the Internet! I found myself with an aging eggplant and some aging mushrooms that had to be used quickly. So I googled “eggplant mushroom recipe” and found more than a dozen possibilities, including this one, originally posted by Amy Wisniewski on chow.com. It was described as an “Italian take on a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.” It’s a little time-consuming to make because there are a lot of steps, but it’s not difficult, and it’s delicious.

You can easily halve the recipe to serve 3 or 4. If you do that, you can use a smaller skillet, but for the first step, you may want to roast the eggplant on a baking sheet because a smaller skillet may not be big enough to hold the eggplant before it’s cooked. I made half the recipe. I roasted the eggplant in a 10-inch skillet before I realized it would be too large, then used an 8-inch skillet for the rest of the process, and it was perfect.

You can use regular cornmeal, like I did. If you don’t have fontina cheese, substitute Swiss, Monterrey jack or cheddar.

Half the recipe made four good sized servings. There are only two of us so we had leftovers, and it was good reheated too.

Eggplant and Mushroom PolentaIngredients:

3 Tbs. olive oil
1½ lb. Japanese eggplant, cut in large dice (I used a medium-sized regular eggplant for half the recipe)
1 lb. white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
⅓ cup dry red wine
Small onion, diced fine
1 tsp. dried oregano
¾ tsp. red pepper flakes (if you like extra zing, use a little more red pepper)
Kosher salt
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 (14-15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
2 cups milk
2 tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ oz.)
1½ cups grated fontina cheese (about 5 oz.) (I used Swiss cheese)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Place a large, well-seasoned cast iron or enameled skillet in the oven while it is heating.

When the oven is hot, drizzle 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet and let it heat for a few minutes. Add the eggplant and arrange in an even layer. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once.

Remove the skillet from the oven to the cooktop. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl and set aside.

Add 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet and place over high heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the eggplant.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet and heat for a minute. Add the onion, oregano and red pepper flakes and season with salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another minute.

Add the olives, the reserved vegetables (along with any juice in the bowl), the tomatoes and water, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. As the stew cooks, start making the polenta.

Place 3 cups of water and the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat and slowly pour in the polenta or cornmeal while whisking or stirring, until all the polenta is incorporated and there are no lumps.

Cook, stirring frequently, about 15 or 20 minutes, until the polenta pulls out from the sides of the pan and the grains have softened (if it gets too thick before it is soft, add a little hot water, ¼ cup at a time). Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Heat the oven to broil; keep the rack in the middle.

Pour the polenta over the eggplant and mushroom mixture and spread it into a smooth, even layer. Evenly sprinkle the fontina cheese over the polenta.

Place the skillet in the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8