Wednesday, January 13, 2010

vegetarian feasts

Lula doesn't approve of a vegetarian lifestyle, but digs e-commerce

I like cooking, but I don't always use recipes or cookbooks, so many times the ingredients and directions on this blog are approximations.
I was thinking about how I enjoy vegetarian cooking, because I see it as a challenge. I eat meats, but Blokey does not, so cooking vegetarian is about getting a good balance of flavors without resorting to sugar, fat or oversalting the ingredients (also known as the American processed food sucker punch).

The thing about veggie food is you need non-meat, non-uber processed substitutions for the savoriness meat provies. This can be olives, sauteed mushrooms, carmelized onions (carmelization in general is a great flavor booster), a small amount of strong cheese/dairy (stinkier the better, use a microplaner/zester to avoid too much fat), soy sauce, browned bread, and sour flavors (lemon or a good vinegar help to bring out flavors without too much salt). A little heat also helps.

This meal is great because it incorporates a lot of these flavor enhancers and avoids the usual short cuts. The pita is lightly browned, the soup and pate uses faux carmelized onions, vinegar and sour vegetables. I add no sugar, there's not too much fat, little salt, and lots of fiber and greens. I used up some of the ingredients leftover from our winter CSA share: potatoes, leeks, salad greens (from the hothouse), as well as some out of season stuff that I wish we could get locally year round (but I am unwilling to move to a temperate climate to do so). I used buttermilk, which is getting to be a favorite ingredient of mine (it is less than $2 at the store, you guys!), which is healthful because it is cultured, which has a lot of benefits. You can substitute regular milk or plain yogurt (or a mixture of this) if you don't usually have buttermilk on hand. I also made some lentil pate, which I riff off of the one I used to buy the Wedge co-op in Minneapolis (minus the walnuts).

This meal also marks the return of the Kitchen Aid immersion blender, which I mangled my hand in about 2 weeks ago. It is healing relatively nicely.

I used this recipe for the pita, although I added a bit more olive oil this time.
These mofos puffed up nicely

Before cooking, I sauteed 1 1/2 large chopped onions and 4 or so chopped cloves of garlic in 2 Tbs of butter (and added water as necessary) over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes (and continued to stir ocassionally while copping other things).

looks pukey, tastes bitter-lovely

Salad greens and Arugula potato leek Soup (roughly adapted from here)
about 1/2 of the carmelized onions
about 1/2 of a bag of wild arugla (approx 4 oz.)
handful of salad greens (mine had mustard greens in it)
2/3 c. of buttermilk
2-3 chopped and scrubbed potatoes
2 teas. of olive oil
2 leeks (the white and light green parts- I eat lot of it), well washed and sliced (I slice lengthwise once, and then chop into 1 cm long bits)
salt, pepper and paprika to taste
3 c. of water
handful of chopped parsley, washed (optional)

1) Sautee the leeks in olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. While this is cooking (about 5 minutes) roughly chop the salad greens. Add potatoes and the quasi carmelized onions.
2) After another 2-3 minutes of sauting the potatoes, add the water and increase the heat to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes (until potato can be pierced with fork, but before it gets mushy)
3) Add the salad greens and argula. Add buttermilk (it will curdle a bit and then turn into crazy delicious fresh cheese. Don't worry, we'll blend out the lumps). Simmer another 10 minutes.
4) Use the immersion blender to make it fairly creamy and get rid of most of the potato lumps. Salt, pepper, and add paprika and parlsey to taste.


Lentil Pate
the other half of the onions/garlic mixture
about 1 1/2 c. of dry lentils
bay leaf
5-8 baby bella mushrooms
olive oil
1/4 c. of roughly chopped and washed parsley
1 Tbs. of dried oregano
1-2 Tbs. of olive tapenade
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
lemon juice

1. Cook lentils with bay leaf. You can do this as you're starting the process for the soup. They take about 20 minutes. During this time, saute the mushrooms in about 2 teas. of olive oil (and season), and set aside. Drain and remove bay leaf.
2. Put lentils and the onions/garlic, parsley, mushroom, and oregano. Pulse until it is smooth.
3. Season with salt, peppers, and lemon juice. Add the olive tapenade about 1 Tbs. at a time (I only used one). This adds a great oomph to the pate.
4. Serve cold or room temperature. Yummy with pita, crackers, or veggie crudites.

Blokey liked his arugula soup with a wee bit of sheep's milk feta swimming on top

Monday, January 11, 2010

recent adventures with cabbage

Sadly, my New Year's resolution to blog more often hasn't been great, but I have been cooking a lot (having a dining companion helps), although sometimes we have to go into the city to run errands and we end up having some kind of bland (but kinda cool in a retro way) diner food.
I have a bit of backlog now, and one of the more interesting "meals" we ate last week was my attempt to make pirogies/piroshkies after reading this NYTimes article about Veselka in the East Village. Blokey and I stumbled upon it once after "going out" in the Lower East Side last summer, and as a 24 hour place, it's a favorite for us after seeing a late movie at Film Forum or the IFC Center (both of which he likes less than BAM).
Anyway, it was cold that night, and I wanted pirogies or something else Eastern European and potatoey. I dragged myself to the late night grocery store and picked up cabbage, and from there, appropriated this baked pirogy dish, which ended up seeming like Jamaican patty or broadly pan-Latin empanada. Delicious nontheless.

Multi-Kulti hand pie
Potato filling:
2-3 potatoes, peeled, cut up and boiled
1/2 cheese
1/2 onion, diced
2 Tbs butter
1/4 buttermilk or regular milk
salt and pepper to taste
chopped (or dried) parsley
Directions: Sautee the onions in a bit of oil until soft. Add the potatoes and mash with a fork or a potato masher thing. Add cheese, milk, and butter, and stir until well blended. Season to taste.
Dan Quayle's favorite

Cabbage and Chickpea filling
2 c of cooked (well done) chickpeas
1/2 head of cabbage, cored and sliced
olive oil
Hungarian paprika (or regular)
buttermilk or tomato paste
the other half the onion, diced
Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the cabbage and stir fry until it gets kinda golden around the edges. Add the chickpeas and sort of mash them down as you cook with a wooden spoon (it won't get as smooth as the potatoes). Add paste/milk (I did not, so it was too dry, so don't make my mistake), salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.

Cruciferous goodness
Outside dough
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 teas salt
1/3 c. of olive oil
1/2- 1 c of buttermilk or milk
Add the first 4 ingredients together roughly until the form coarse crumbs. Add the milk about 1/4 cup at a time until a dough with pie crust consistency forms (you may end up not using the whole cup of milk). Save some flour for rolling out the dough.

Roll out balls of the dough (I made about 4 balls) quite thin, like a pie crust. Be sure to flour your surface and the pin.

The next part is kind of tricky. I placed generous spoonfuls (like 2-3 tablespoons) of filling in the dough, and then I just cut it in half diagonally and pinched the seams. See? It was very empanada-esque.

Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees
I baked these little fellas for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Some of them split open.
Serve with your favorite bright red horseradish-beet condiment, and yogurt or sour cream with dill and a bit of salt. I had loads of that cabbage mess leftover, so I served it as a messy side salad.

Not quite Veselka, but decent faux Eastern European food for Bed-Stuy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cold ass NY

It's been fricking cold out in NY. Like makes your eyes water cold. This is the best kind of weather for roasting vegetables in a cast iron skillet, warming up your long skinny apartment with oniony odors. Yum.
Saturday night's dinner was nothing new, except I had to vegetarianize my favorite lentil salad. As I stole off Mark Bittman's blog, there's nothing like a good bacon and lentil salad, with dijon mustard and not much else. However, Mr. LC doesn't like bacon or other dead animals in his food. He's missing out, I know. I don't like paying for or eating meat analogs (although I plan to do vegetarian biscuits and gravy soon, whenever I can get my hands on some Gimme Lean veggie sausage, as my buttermilk is chillaxing in my fridge), so I try to get my savory other ways.
Enter the humble baby bella mushroom. Satuee these suckers up with some onion and butter, and you'll be rolling in the animal-free umami (the meaty, savory taste that we enjoy in meats, cheese, coffee, etc.). Also, cheese helps as well.

Vegetarianized Bittman's lentil salad
1 1/2- 2 c. of dry lentils
handful of parsley, chopped
juice of half a lemon
cayenne (optional)
3 oz. of feta cheese, crumbled
dijon mustard
1/2 onion
8-9 baby bella mushrooms

1. Boil and cook the lentils. If you start now, they'll be done once you finish prepping the rest of the salad.
2. Dice the onion and cook in butter (about 1 Tbs) over medium heat. Clean and chop the mushrooms, in the mean time. As the onion starts to become soft, add the 'shrooms. Mix occassionally. Cook for a while, maybe 7 minutes, until they get really soft. Turn off the heat.
3. Season the onion and mushroom mixture with salt and pepper. Add parsley.
4. When the lentils are done (they can be a bit al dente, or softer based on your preferences), drain and rinse (like pasta). Add to the mushroom mixture. Stir it all up. Crumble feta on top, add lemon juice, and mix in dijon to taste. Season with more salt and pepper if you'd like.

I served this with roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts. We were in cold weather food heaven.

New Year's Dinner, take two

Since I was too mangled too make a spinach pie on what was left of New Year's Eve, we made the spinach pie on New Year's Day, which I thought wasn't a bad deal.
I've tried many versions of spinach and cheese over the years. Delis in midtown west around my work serve alot of spanikopita, which requires buttery, flaky layers of phyllo. Tasty but complicated, fussy, and kinda price to DIY. Plus, blokey doesn't care for it. I've made regular pie crusts (doubled), and soda bread style whole wheat crusts. For this recipe, I used the leftover pita dough (half of the recipe) as the crust, and it came out as something between a pizza, a calzone, and a galette/tart. It was good, and I mostly fudged the recipe.
LeftyCook's 2010 Spinach pie
1 standard supermarket bag of baby spinach from that organicky brand (or two washed, rinsed, chopped heads of spinach)
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 baby bella mushrooms (optional),
1 Tbsp of butter
1/4 c. of walnuts, crushed (for crunch, also totally optional)
Hungarian paprika
3 oz. of feta cheese
1 egg
1/2 of the mostly whole wheat pita dough (see previous post)

cook off, liquid!

Preheat oven to 375
1. Saute onions and garlic in butter over medium heat, until fragant and soft/translucent. Add the mushrooms. If it seems dry, add more butter. Cook, stirring occassionally, until mushrooms begin to give off liquid.
2. Add the spinach. This will start to wilt and also give off liquid. The key to this recipe is you want to cook of as much liquid in the pan so it doesn't soggy up your pie. Ick.
3. After the liquid is mostly cooked off, add salt, pepper and paprika to taste.
4. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add most of it to the spinach mixture, but not all of it or it will get all sogg again.
5. Divide the dough into 2 balls. Roll out until relatively thin but not breaking
6. This gets difficult. Spoon about half the spinach mixture into each dough circle. Then try to close it. As this fails, do the best you can to make a crush or galette type encirclement on top.
7. Bake about 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees or until the mixture is set.
Serve with a tomato salad (chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley, olive oil, lemon and salt), some olives, and cucumber/yogurt sauce (see previous post)
rollin' out the dough

more like a chicago-style deep dish spinach pie

this one is more like a rustic gallette spinach pie

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve Fail

Not from an exclusive club's NYE bash

Yesterday, Mister and I were trying to figure out what to do for New Year's Eve. There was a hipster art thing in the Lower East Side that was big on the agenda, but we spent the afternoon hoofing all over lower Manhattan because the weather was perfect (a little bit of a snow, just a little bit of sun, no wind, and low 40s) and Mr. had a desire to buy construction, DIY equipment. When we finally got home at 6, we didn't have the energy to go back out in an hour to get to the venue at 8. So I decided that a low key, vegetarian meal for two would be perfect, and we could listen to the neighborhood revelry from our windows at midnight. I was even going to blog about baked falafel, homemade pita, spinach pie, and other deliciousness.
But instead, about 2/3 of the way through blending up the parsley, spices, onion/garlic, and fresh chickpeas, my hand blender got stuck. I turned it around, and stuck my finger in it, like a genius, and accidentally pressed on. Ow.
So, after a short negotiation and a few pit stops, we ended up in an upper east side emergency room. In and out. Three stitches.

Back in Brooklyn by 10:30. Blokey made me eat a gross egg sandwich just outside the hospital and it tasted like shite, so we finished the meal best we could and ate a much better NYE dinner, modified. Included relatively successful homemade pita.

Baked Falafel: not perfect. Needed tahini and more olive oil (and salt)


the one on the lower left failed to puff

mostly Whole Wheat pita (adapted from the Kitchn)
1 c of lukewarm water (use your wrist, not your fingers, to test)
2 c. of King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 c. of white flour
2 teas of dry active yeast
1 1/2 teas of salt
2 teas of olive oil
1 glug of honey

1. In a small bowl, mix the warm water, honey, and yeast. Let set about 10 minutes until frothy and beer smelling. Then add the olive oil.
2. Mix with all but 1/4 c. of the flour. Start to knead by hand (the fold in half and the knead with the heel of the hand method) for about 10-12 minutes. Add the extra 1/4 c. as needed. Cover with warm tea towel and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch down. Refriderate until just before read to bake.
3. Preheat oven to 500. Stick in a baking stone or cast iron skillet if available (I just used cheap aluminum foil lasagna covers for the shiny surface). Divided dough into 8-10 balls. Roll out with a rolling pin until about 1/4" thick. Bake about 7 minutes, or a few minutes past puffy. They should pocket up.

Cucumber yogurt sauce:
Make your boyfriend grate a picking cucumber and mince 1-2 cloves of garlic. Press out some of the water. Add plain yogurt to incorporate the ingredients. Add salt, parsley, lemon juice, and tahini to taste.

Serve with fancy feta cheese (I got Bulgarian because it's cheap), olives, cherry tomatoes, and spinach (Spinach pie has to wait for a non-gimpy evening).