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Archive for the ‘Entrees’ Category

OK, truth be told, this is probably more accurately described as “vegetable soup with some beets thrown in”.  It doesn’t have that full-blown, beet-topia experience that one gets at Veselka.  It’s still pretty tasty, and when it’s 30 degrees and sleeting, it’s a nice thing to warm up to.

serves 4

  • 3 medium golden beets, scrubbed and trimmed, with the greens separated, washed thoroughly and reserved
  • about 4 c of Vegetable Stock
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 large celery stalk, washed and trimmed
  • 2 c crimini mushrooms, washed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the beets in half, place in a baking dish and cover; roast in the oven until tender, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile, prepare the Vegetable Stock.

When the beets are done, remove them from the oven to cool (keep them covered, though, so that the skin comes off easily).  In a medium-sized pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic clove.  Roughly chop the carrots, onion and celery and add with several pinches of salt to the garlic.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Slice the mushrooms into 1/2-inch thick slices and add to the vegetables.  Saute until tender, another 10 minutes.

Peel the beets and roughly chop.  Add the cooked beets to the other vegetables; stir to incorporate.  Stir in the Vegetable Stock and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until the soup comes together (you’ll know it when you see it), about 20 minutes.  Serve piping hot with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

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There are some things about the West Coast that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to (to which I’ll never get used??).  For example, the other day, one of my students saw what I was eating for lunch and said, “Oooh!  Quinoa tabbouleh!”

Now, when I was 15, I didn’t know of the existence of either quinoa or tabbouleh.  If I had known of their existence, I would have reserved such knowledge strictly for use in games of Scrabble.  I certainly never would have imagined eating either of those two things, let alone wanting to.

Clearly, I’m older now.  It’s doubtful that I’m any wiser, but I at least have the good sense to enjoy quinoa tabbouleh.  Still, there’s part of me that’s a little disconcerted that any red-blooded American teenager would look upon a whole-grain salad as a cause for culinary excitement.  Imagine my consternation, then, when a SECOND 15-year-old student saw my lunch the next day and said, “Ooh!  Quinoa tabbouleh!”  (In fact, I had been eating quinoa with bok choy and tofu, but that’s neither here nor there.)  One quinoa-lovin’ teenager is a freakish aberration; two quinoa-lovin’ teenagers is a Militant Carnivore’s version of the Twilight Zone.

makes enough tabbouleh to feed a bunch of quinoa-lovin’ teenagers

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large shallots (there should be about 4 c sliced)
  • 2 bunches of green onions
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 2 bunches of parsley
  • 1 handful of mint
  • 1 1/2 c of mixed black and green olives (I like to include Kalamata olives as well as garlic-stuffed green olives)
  • juice of 6 lemons
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold running water:  Quinoa is coated with saponin, most of which is removed in processing, but it’s good to rinse it well before cooking to remove any traces.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with soapy tasting quinoa.  Put the quinoa, bay leaf and a healthy pinch of salt in a medium-sized pot and cover with water by an inch; cover and place over high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the quinoa has absorbed most of the water and a spiral appears in each grain of quinoa, about 20 minutes; the quinoa should be tender.  Drain the quinoa thoroughly and discard the bay leaf. Put the quinoa in the largest mixing bowl that you have.

The key to this or any tabbouleh is to season it with reckless abandon:  Add more lemon, pepper and red pepper than you think prudent.  Also, there should be at least as much non-grain stuff (onions, herbs, olives, tomatoes) as grain.  The olives, by the way, are the innovation of my Lovely Vegetarian Wife’s aunt.  A master stroke:  Once you try it, you’ll wonder why you ever ate tabbouleh without them.

Peel the shallots and slice as thinly as possible (I use a mandoline).  Put the shallots in a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss with several pinches of salt and set aside.

Wash and trim the green onions; chop into 1/2-inch pieces.  Add to the quinoa.  Wash the tomatoes and cut in half (or quarters or slices—knock yourself out); add to the quinoa and green onions.

Wash and dry the parsley and mint thoroughly.  Remove and discard the stems.  Chop the herbs rather finely (but don’t kill yourself), then add to the quinoa mixture.

Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, flatten the olives with pits.  Remove and discard the pits, then chop the olives roughly.  Add to the quinoa mixture.  Slice up the garlic-stuffed olives, then roughly chop.  Add to the quinoa mixture.  Add the sliced shallots to the quinoa mixture.

Put the lemon juice into a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until a creamy salad dressing is formed (you’ll need at least a half cup).  Add a judicious amount of salt (remember:  there are pre-salted shallots in this tabbouleh, as well as olives), lots of freshly ground black pepper and the red pepper flakes.

Toss the tabbouleh with the dressing.  You can eat it immediately, or let it ruminate for a while.  I like to make a huge batch on Sunday and eat it for lunch all week, much to the excitement of my students.

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Here at The Militant Carnivore Cooks for his Vegetarian Wife, we believe that health-conscious nutrition and irresponsibly wretched excess go hand in hand.  Thus, our scientists at TMCCFHVW Labs have created the Ultimate Multigrain Waffle:  It’s packed full of whole wheat flour, cornmeal and quinoa for all of the self-righteous fiber one could hope for at breakfast.  It also has a cubic s***load of butter thrown into it.  (That “c” that you see after the number “1” down below is not a typo.)

It’s not my fault:  The Joy of Cooking said it was OK.  I quote verbatim from its recipe for Basic Waffles:  “We give you three choices to prepare this recipe:  use 4 tablespoons butter for a reduced-fat waffle, 8 tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle; or 16 tablespoons for the crunchiest most delicious waffle imaginable.”

That’s not really a choice at all, is it?

makes 15-20 waffles

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c butter, melted
  • 2 c cooked quinoa

Mix the first five ingredients (aka, the dry ingredients) together in a large mixing bowl.  In another mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and butter.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  Preheat the waffle maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Make the waffles (my waffle maker uses a 1/3 c of batter at a time, and I like to use the darkest setting) and serve immediately, or keep warm on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.  Serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit or a savory ragout.  I would advise against putting extra butter on these waffles.

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Chili

I used to take it as dogma that chili, real chili, must contain beef—cubes of beef, not ground beef—and only beef:  no beans, no chicken, no nuthin’.  The very idea of vegetarian chili was ludicrous (and don’t get me started on that Cincinnati stuff that they serve on spaghetti).  Indeed, this is the kind of chili that’s prepared on the competitive chili circuit.  This, I believed, was the authentic chili.

But then I got to thinking:  One, I really needed to lighten up.  Two, a combination of beef and beans (or chicken and beans, or beans by themselves) in a tomato-y spicy broth is a fantastic meal, whatever it’s called.  Three, I happen to write a blog called The Militant Carnivore Cooks for his Vegetarian Wife, so I should probably be open to the idea of less meat-centric chilis.

The final straw was an article in a recent Cook’s Illustrated that discussed that “authentic” chili that is prepared on the competitive chili circuit.  In addition to being bean-free, that chili may not contain any visible traces of tomato or onion.  It consists of nothing more than beef and heaps and heaps of ground spice, added in layer after layer over several hours of stewing.

Eew.

So, I’m a convert.  I’m a born-again chili-head.  Beef, beans, chicken, turkey, mushrooms—whatever you want to use in your chili is fine by me.  (Well, OK, I draw the line at TVP.  Again, eew.)  The only ingredient that should be common to all chilis, in my opinion, is some form of chile.  (Call me crazy.)

So it was that I decided to turn a batch of pinto beans into an all-bean, vegan chili.  The recipe is very similar to the Soupy Lentils from last week, but the spices give it a very different flavor profile.  I was out of dried chiles and couldn’t find chipotles en adobo at the supermarket, so I turned to the one smoked chile that I always have on hand:  pimenton.  It worked like a charm.  I couldn’t decide how to cut the onions for the chili (did I want big chunks?  thin slices?); being lazy, I went for the path of least possible work and tossed the onion in the food processor and pulsed it into a coarse puree.  A fortuitous and felicitous phenomenon resulted:  The tiny pieces of onion in the finished chili gave it a coarse texture that resembled that of ground beef.  Voila!  Vegan chili with beefy, hearty texture, and no TVP in sight.

  • 1 large onion, peeled, cut into rough 2-inch chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 1 T dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 T pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 1 28-oz. can of tomatoes
  • 1 12-0z. can of PBR (or another appropriately cheap and hipster-worthy beer)
  • 4 c cooked or canned pinto beans

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Toss the onion and garlic into the food processor.   Keeping your face well back, pulse until the onion is coarsely pureed.  Add to the Dutch oven with a generous pinch of salt and saute over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, pound the cumin seeds and oregano in a mortar and pestle until roughly ground; add to the onion mixture along with the pimenton and cook for about 2 minutes.

Drain the liquid from the can of tomatoes into a bowl; reserve.  Using scisscors, roughly chop the tomatoes inside the can, then stir into the onion mixture.  Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato juice and beer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until most of the alcohol has evaporated off.  Stir in the beans.  Add water to cover and stir to combine.  Simmer until the mixture comes together, about 10-20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and spice; if desired, add a few dashes of hot sauce or cayenne pepper.  Serve with grated cotija or Monterey Jack and/or a dollop of sour cream and any other garnishes you wish (particularly chopped green onions).  Definitely add some cornbread on the side.

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Soupy Lentils

This was supposed to be lentil soup, but the bast laid plans of mice and Militant Carnivores…

That’s OK, though:  I think I like lentils this way even better.

First, cook your lentils.  Actually, first buy your lentils:  French green lentils (lentilles du Puy) are what you want here, and for all other lentil applications.  They hold their shape well and seem less dingy and sludgy when cooked then traditional brown lentils.  Next, sort through the lentils to make sure there are no stones or clods of dirt hiding in there.  So now you have:

  • 2 c dried lentilles du Puy
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf

Dump everything in a  pot and cover with water by an inch.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain the lentils, reserving cooking liquid, and discard garlic and bay leaf.  You could eat the lentils at this point (with a little salt), but just wait.  You’ll want to eat these soupy lentils all winter long.

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium celery stalks, trimmed, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) of tomatoes (Whole tomatoes, please.  I always buy whole tomatoes.  Diced tomatoes are treated with calcium chloride or some such chemical that keeps them from ever fully breaking down in a sauce, and tomato puree tastes precooked.  Stick with the whole tomatoes.  I don’t care if you use chi chi San Marzano tomatoes flown all the way from Italy or if you use Costco brand tomatoes.  Whole tomatoes are the way to go.)
  • cooked lentils from recipe above (this probably yields about 6 c of cooked lentils)
  • 1 c of reserved lentil cooking liquid (see above)
  • 1 big handful of parsley, thoroughly washed

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to use mirepoix more often.  Mirepoix is a traditional French combination of carrots, celery and onion that is sauteed as the foundation for a soup, sauce, stew or other recipe.  (I know, I know:  I have weird New Year’s resolutions.)   In the past, I rarely used carrots and celery in my cooking, but now I understand that they function the way that bitters and sugar function in a cocktail:  The carrots, like the sugar, add sweetness while the celery (and the bitters) provides bitterness, thus ramping up the amplitude of a dish (or a cocktail) and creating a fuller flavor profile.  So, mirepoix it is:

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaf and a generous pinch of salt.  Saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Add the *liquid* from the can of tomatoes to the pot.  Stir into the vegetables with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze.  Stick a pair of kitchen shears into the tomato can and cut up the tomatoes (this is much faster and neater than trying to chop them on a board).  Add the chopped tomatoes to the pot and stir to combine.  Cook until the tomatoes break down and become integrated with the other vegetables, about 10 minutes.

Add the cooked lentils and a few generous pinches of salt; stir to combine.  Add the lentil cooking liquid and about 3 c water (or stock, if you have it) to cover.  Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When the liquid boils, reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture comes together, about 10-15 minutes.  (You’ll know it when you see it.)

There you have it:  soupy lentils.  Ladle into bowls.  Roughly chop the parsley and scatter over top.  Drizzle with the best extra virgin olive oil that you have and sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top.  Serve with bread (or even better, bruschetta) on the side.

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When you’ve had all the turkey-cranberry sandwiches and reheated mashed potatoes that you can stand, it’s time to make croquettes with the Thanksgiving leftovers.

Croquettes are essentially breaded and deep-fried anythings.  Usually, these anythings include bechamel sauce as a binder.  The key, then, to post-Thanksgiving croquettes is to make a big ol’ batch of rather thick bechamel and to mix it with any and all of the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables and/or turkey.  The recipe for the Rather Thick Bechamel:

  • 1/2 c olive oil and/or butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • nutmeg for grating

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil (and melt the butter, if using) over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, to cook some of the rawness out of the flour, about 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in about 1/2 c of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the rest of the milk.  Reduce the heat to low and add the bay leaf.  Peel and smash the garlic cloves and toss them in as well.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes; the bechamel should feel like thick cream.  Grate in a little nutmeg and some black pepper; add salt to taste.  Remove and discard the bay leaf and allow the bechamel to cool.  It should set up like that paste you remember eating in kindergarten.

This year, by food-processing the bechamel with an equal amount of filling, I made turkey croquettes; sweet potato and almond croquettes; and mushroom, arugula and Fontina croquettes.  (Don’t overprocess the croquette batter:  You want the filling to have some texture, hence the almonds mixed with the sweet potatoes.)  I also made potato croquettes with leftover mashed potatoes, but I didn’t add any bechamel to this:  I just stirred in an egg and a handful of flour to give the potatoes some more structure.

At this point, if you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’ve done plenty of the work for the day.  You could put the croquette batters in the fridge (or freezer) and wait until later before assembling the croquettes.  However, if you’re ready to press on…

Create a frying station like you see in the picture above.  Get out three medium mixing bowls and a large baking sheet; line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the first mixing bowl, add several handfuls of flour; stir in some Seasoning Salt.  In the second bowl, crack two eggs and stir them together.  In the third bowl, add a bunch of bread crumbs.  Take a spoonful of croquette batter (vegetarian croquettes first, please).  Drop the batter into the flour; toss it around to coat, and try to work it into roughly a dumpling shape.  Put the croquette in the egg and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croquette to the bread crumbs; toss to coat completely.  Place the croquette on the baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining croquettes.

Again, at this point, you could call it a day and freeze the croquettes until tomorrow, or until next Thanksgiving.  If you’ve gone too far now to turn back, pour an inch of oil into a cast-iron skillet and place it over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, CAREFULLY place five or six croquettes in the oil, starting at the back of the skillet.  When they’re golden brown on the bottom, after 2-3 minutes, carefully flip the croquettes and cook on the second side, about 1-2 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet; you can keep the croquettes warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.  Serve hot on a bed of greens with leftover cranberry sauce (preferably homemade cranberry-orange relish).

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Who knew that making waffles was incredibly easy?

For some reason, I thought waffle-making was an almost impossibly difficult task, involving seasoning and re-seasoning a finicky waffle iron that was as likely to burn your waffle to a crisp as produce something edible.  Maybe that’s never been the case, or maybe waffle iron technology has improved exponentially since the last time I checked, but I have to say that my new Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express makes waffle-making a snap.  The waffles come out perfectly—and quickly.  In fact, I can get waffles on the table in ten minutes from the time I think, “Man, I could go for some waffles this morning.”

In the month that I’ve had this thing, I’ve made waffles four or five times, never using the same recipe twice.  I made these savory waffles (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)  at my Lovely Vegetarian Wife’s request; I served them for dinner to company along with mushroom gravy and collard greens.  Who said that waffles were just for breakfast and maple syrup?

makes about a dozen waffles

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 T sugar
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2c buttermilk
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 3 or 4 green onions, trimmed
  • 1 c smoked cheddar, coarsely grated

Preheat your waffle iron, following manufacturer’s directions.  If you want to serve all of the waffles at the same time, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  (All waffles are better hot out of the iron, though.  See if you can persuade your guests into being served one at a time.)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate and smaller mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, butter and mustard.  Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined (there should still be some lumps of flour in the batter).

Chop the green onions and stir them into the batter along with the cheese.  When the iron is ready, add a scoop of batter (my waffle iron takes 1/3 cup of batter).  Follow the directions for the waffle iron.  Serve immediately with any condiments, sweet or savory, that you choose.

(Full disclosure:  The picture below is of a plain buttermilk waffle, not a smoked cheddar waffle.  We were too busy eagerly devouring them to get a good picture!)

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