‘Tis the season…

IMG_1140IMG_1141I bought morel mushrooms at the Dane County Farmers’ Market this weekend.  These  brainy-looking ‘shrooms are worth the expense, so if you don’t have a personal source, splurge– they’re worth it.  The season is ephemeral and nothing compares to the taste of fresh morels.

Sauté in olive oil with freshly sliced garlic until lightly browned.  Toss with pasta (I used capellini) or mound them over creamy, yellow polenta.   I ate quite a few straight from the pan.  For my taste, simplicity in preparation is the key.  There are oodles of recipes involving morels online if you are feeling fancy.

The photo on the bottom was the 2011 harvest from my yard in NY . Aren’t they lovely?  Life is short and needs to be enjoyed…  morels are on my list of necessary luxuries.

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Say Yes

Let 2012 to be a year of dietary adventure.  There is room for old favorites, but the plant world contains so many variations on the familiar, that merely including the vegetables you already love in new forms creates a fresh appreciation for the deliciousness of vegetarian dishes.  Color, texture, and flavor are so abundant that if you open yourself to the opportunities in a vegetarian diet, not only will your entire health profile improve, but you’ll send your taste buds reeling.

Here is an easy recipe that includes the delicata variety of winter squash.  The skin on the delicata is edible, so no need for peeling.  Leaving the skin on creates a prettier dish and boosts the dietary fibre.  Buy organic, so there is no chance of ingesting nasty pesticides.  A special thank you for the mushrooms to my friend Vickey, who so generously shares her CSA stash each week (you’ll be seeing some amazing watermelon radishes from her in my next blog update!)

Roasted Delicata Squash with Sherried Mushrooms

  • 2 delicata squash
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 cups of chopped mushrooms (baby bellas are nice!)
  • 1/2 c chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/3 c dry sherry
  • 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley (or 1 tbs dried)

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees

Slice the delicata squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and trim the ends.  Cut the halves into 1/2 inch slices widthwise.  Toss them in 1 tbs olive oil, lightly salt and pepper to taste.  Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, turning the slices over once half way through.  Cooking time may vary based on the size of the squash so check them after about 10 minutes.

The point at which you turn the squash is a good time to start the mushrooms.  Put 1 tbs olive oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until soft but not browned, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms with a grind of salt and pepper to taste; cook until they are soft, about another 5 minute.  Add the sherry to the pan, the alcohol will evaporate and the mushrooms will take up the flavor.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  At the end of cooking, add the parsley and mix in.

Arrange the cooked squash atop a generous ladle of mushrooms.  This makes a nice main dish to be served with a green salad (serves 2), or could be a side dish (serves 4) if you like.  The earthy flavor of the mushrooms with the sweetness of the squash is a beautiful combination.  Délicieux!

By the way, this dish pairs nicely with the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay…  I’m particularly fond of Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California.  If you find yourself in the San Francisco region, it is a great place to visit.   Shout out to my friends in the East Bay… it is this time of year, I especially miss my California days! Here’s a shot of my sister & I from a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, circa 2002.

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In 2012, Vegetables Reign Supreme

Hey, hey!

For the past 6 months I’ve been more of a flexitarian than a vegan.  Honestly, although I’ve enjoyed every succulent chicken wing and cheesy morsel, I just don’t feel as well physically, or psychologically.  So vegan Rosie is back, and reenergized.  I want to share delicious recipes that will tempt even the most carnivorous.   Here’s hoping more meatless meals find a place on your table or TV tray in the coming year.

The first recipe of the new year is Asian Cole Slaw from Jannequin Bennet’s Very Vegetarian cookbook.

  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 2 tbs rice wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 dried chilies, crumbled (I used a generous sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes)
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 2 thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tbs minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts (optional)

Mix the cabbage, carrot, shallot, and cilantro together in a large bowl.  Whisk together the lime juice, viengar, sugar, salt, ginger, and chili pepper.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss thoroughly.  Allow the mixture to stand for at least 15 minutes.  Topping with chopped peanuts just prior to serving is optional; I prefer the flavors of the salad without.

Madison, Wisconsin is ripe with used bookstores.  I found this out-of-print treasure in Half Price Books last week.  The Orrechiette with Butternut Squash & Thyme, Sweet Potato Falafel, and the Vegetable Soup with Lemon & Dill are all on my to do list.  Look for a copy in your local used bookstore, or find it as a bargain online via a reputable bookseller.

Happy, healthy new year to us all!

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Beet Burgers…

I’ve been craving bbq fare.  It’s grilling season , and the aroma of steaks wafting over the fence is almost more than I can bear.  My grilled portobellos have been amazing, but I need variety.  This evening I tried a veggie burger made from beets (click on link to open recipe).  Essentially, it is a combination of grated beets, brown rice, carmelized onions, nuts and seasonings.  With the food processor they are a snap to assemble, shape easily into patties and fried up in about 12 minutes.  They’re insanely good. Put them on a toasted ciabatta roll with your favorite fixings, and you’ll choose beet over beef next time.    As condiments, I spread some Vegeniase, dijon mustard, and horseradish, but dress it any way you like!  PS, there are tons of delicious-looking recipes on the same blog titled Veggies on the Counter

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Going can-free…

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is bad.  It’s a neuroendocrine disrupter linked to a plethora of health problems including developmental impairment and cancer.  There are many articles online explaining why we should steer clear of BPA, so I won’t expound on the subject except to make a specific point.  BPA is present in the lining of most canned goods.  As consumers, we should rethink how much risk we are willing to accept for the convenience of using canned products.  Some companies, like Eden Organic are going to BPA-free enamel lining, however this makes their products more expensive.   Pomi brand tomatoes  are another example of BPA-free packaging, and their boxed chopped or strained tomatoes can be found in many supermarkets.

As a vegetarian, I have been highly reliant on buying canned beans.  Finally, I’ve started buying my beans dried and in bulk.  The Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany is my source for inexpensive and organic dried bulk products, but wherever you are, dried legumes are easily available.  Using dried beans takes a little planning, but the end result is an inexpensive, better tasting, better textured, BPA-free bean.

I particularly rely on chickpeas (garbanzo beans) as a stable.  Here is a very easy way to reconstitute your chickpeas.  The one to three ratio can be adjusted to end up with less beans, but they will keep for a few days in the fridge or frozen (freeze them spread out on a tray, then pour frozen beans into a container).  You can also skip the salt if you are watching your sodium intake:

  • 3 cups of dried chickpeas
  • 9 cups of water
  • 1 tsp salt
Place everything in your crockpot on high for about 2-3 hours.  Check the texture, but it isn’t an exact science and you can very the time for a softer or firm result.  Drain.                 
PS… on the heels of the VegNews scandal  (in which they were using stock photos that weren’t even vegetarian), I’d like to add that all photos are my own.                                                                                   
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Hello, Dal…

Austin, Texas is a city that knows how to do BBQ right.  Frankly, despite my commitment toward a completely meat-free diet, I recognize the human condition and allow myself transgressions on the path toward dietary enlightment.  In other words, I succumbed to the siren call of some delicious brisket and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Frankly, meat just isn’t very good for your health.  Given all the delicious plant-based alternatives for protein, I haven’t changed my opinion that veganism is the optimal diet…  on that note that I have two more really terrific vegan recipes to share.
The first is a recipe I found on the internet for dal (or dahl or daal or dhal).  Dal is a spicy
lentil dish, traditional to Indian cuisine.

Spicy Lentil Dahl

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. sesame oil or, alternatively, olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t. coriander
  • 1 t. tumeric
  • ¼ t. cardamom
    • ¼ t. cayenne pepper
    • 1 t. salt, or to taste
    • 2 T. tomato paste

In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.

2. Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.

3. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more, or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water to the dahl if needed.

The second recipe that turned out well was Vegetable Curry from a 1976 cookbook by Karen Brooks titled The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.  If you see a copy in the used bookstore grab it, even if it is old and yellowed.  I changed the recipe a little because I didn’t have all the ingredients, and find it very flexible and would be successful with most any veggies you have on hand.      
                                        
Vegetable Curry 
  • 2 tbs earth balance “butter”
  • 3 c cooked brown rice
  • 1/3 c zucchini thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c yellow squash thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c chopped green pepper
  • 1 small tomato chopped
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • dash black pepper
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 2 tbs water
Heat “butter” in a large skillet or wok.  Add the rice and brown lightly over moderate heat.   Add the vegetables, seasonings and water.  Cover the skillet with a lid.  Turn heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender.
I used a cup of zucchini, about a cup of frozen spinach, and 1/2 c green pepper instead of the suggested vegetables, so be creative.                                           
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Celeriac, the Quasimodo of the vegetable kingdom…

Celeriac, or celery root, is a gnarly looking thing.  Uncertain what to do with this lump of vegetable, I found a terrific Creamy Celeriac Soup recipe in Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables.  Once peeled, celeriac is sort of potato-ish.  It can be used raw in a salad, but it is coarse in texture, so I like it best cooked –  as it is in this recipe.

I’ll be searching for other great recipes to use this root.  Nutrition-wise, using a variety of vegetables gives the body an excellent balance of minerals and vitamins.   I’ve added a link to the recipe which is available from an online excerpt, but I recommend adding this cookbook to your shelf.

The soup recipe I’m featuring here is basically chopped onion, celeriac, nuts and potato simmered in vegetable broth until tender.  I always have raw cashews on hand, and I used them here in place of the almonds. It is then pureed.  I veganized the recipe by substituting Earth Balance instead of butter, and soy creamer instead of dairy.    The nuts add protein and creaminess to the soup.  Once blended in, you would not know they are there.  For those with nut allergies, I think omitting the nuts would still leave you with a great tasting soup.  A little nutmeg rounds out the beautiful flavors.  Oh, and as its name implies celeriac… has a mild celery flavor.

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