Monday, May 3, 2010

James Beard Foundation Media and Book Awards-- and the winner is...

Love Soup by Anna Thomas won the 2010 James Beard Award for best cookbook with a healthy focus.  She is the author of The Vegetarian Epicure  A quick glance at the 160 recipes and I'm getting hungry. "Green Soup" and all it's variations has captured my attention.  As Anna says, "you're getting a week's worth of dark leafy greens in each bowl".  Check it out on page 90.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Search Of Wild Leeks

I love the month of April in the Hudson Valley. The wooded banks along the Shawangunk Kill start to reveal the sweet sight and taste of ramps, also known as wild leeks.  This is my first chance to get my fingers dirty in the spring soil.

It doesn't take long to gather up a large bunch of these spring delicacies.  This is good because I am trespassing on private land and I don't want to get caught. Although I am sure they would forgive me if I invited them over for dinner and shared the wild leek feast with them.

I briefly sweated the wild leeks in a very hot pan then pureed them with some vegetable stock  I used just enough stock for the consistency to be like a sauce not a soup. I tossed some sauteed mushrooms with the wild leek sauce and some white beans I defrosted from the freezer. ( See January 10th blog entry.)  The mushrooms and beans were coated in the bright green sauce and I spread it on toasted garlic bread. This is why I love April in New York State.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tempeh Stuffed Peppers

These peppers blend the best of the carnivore and vegetarian worlds.  Garlic bread, steamed broccolini and a great bottle of pinot noir will complete this meal. Serves 4

4 strips bacon
1 (8 oz) pkg Three Grain Tempeh
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can, no salt added, petite cut diced tomato
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbls ancho chille powder
2 Tbls worcestershire sauce
2 Tbls brown sugar
2 large red bell peppers, seeds removed and sliced in half
2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, reduced fat

1. Cook bacon in saute pan until crisp, remove bacon, crumble and hold.
2. Pour off all but 2 Tbls bacon fat and add crumbled tempeh. Cook until lightly browned.  Remove tempeh and mix with crumbled bacon. Set aside.
3. Sweat peppers, onion, garlic in pan until soft. Splash in liquid from canned tomatoes to prevent sticking.  Once vegetables are soft add to the tempeh mixture and set aside.
4. Sweat the mushrooms in the pan with liquid from the canned tomatoes until most of their moisture is released.  Add tempeh mixture back into the saute pan and season with pepper, salt, chille powder, worcestershire sauce and brown sugar.  Allow to simmer while you prepare the peppers to be stuffed.
5. Microwave pepper halves for 1 minute until just soft.  Lightly char the outside of peppers over an open flame or under the broiler.  Do not over char the pepper or they will get too soft.  Remove the charred sections of the pepper skin.
6. Stuff the peppers with tempeh mixture and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trying Tempeh--part two

I've made the commitment. I opened the package of tempeh and I'm ready to cook with it. I consulted some of my favorite vegan cookbooks -- The Artful Vegan, by Eric Tucker and Bruce Enloe of The Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco and Great Chefs Cook Vegan, by Linda Long.  But this was all a delay tactic to avoid what I really needed to do, taste the plain tempeh. I warmed it up slightly in the microwave for 20 seconds so the real flavors would be noticeable.

The aroma from the warm tempeh hooked me. It was a little like some rice pilaf or cooked oatmeal.  I even picked up a hint of something sweet like a fresh baked muffin.  It became infinitely more appealing after I broke it into crumbles. This could easily replace the ground turkey I use in sloppy joes. I'm off to the grocery store for some red and green bell peppers, onions, garlic and crushed, canned tomatoes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Considering Tempeh

I have a shrink-wrapped package of tempeh in front of me. I'm stumped. What can I do with this fermented block of organic soybeans, millet, brown rice and barley? I've read every inch of the packaging looking for ideas and I finally notice "SELL BY MAY 7 2010". Wonderful, problem solved, put it back in the refrigerator. Boy I love vegan cooking.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Small Steps

An easy first step to including more vegetarian meals in your life is to serve the chicken or meat in "appetizer-sized" portions for your main course. This means you need to tame your appetite before you sit down at the table.  So while you are cooking, dip red bell pepper strips into some store-bought hummus or a yogurt-based dip.

Also try starting your meal with a soup to increase your satiety and satisfaction.  Consider a  soup with beef or chicken broth as the base but loaded with vegetables, beans, rice or barley. Now you are primed to savor a 3-4 oz portion of protein without feeling deprived.  Use the best quality meat or poultry you can afford and serve it with a pan sauce you create from the browned bits of meat and poultry that stick to the pan as you are cooking it.

To create a pan sauce, after you brown the meat on both sides in a saute pan, remove it and hold in the oven to finish cooking or keep it warm while you prepare the pan sauce.  Add some diced onion, celery, garlic or other aromatic vegetables.  As they sweat in the pan splash in some wine to loosen up the browned bits of meat in the pan. Allow the wine to almost evaporate.  Now pour in about a cup or more of  chicken or beef broth and allow it to boil to reduce and thicken it.  You can also add a slurry of 1 tsp corn starch dissolved in a little liquid to the boiling broth and it will thicken it to a sauce consistency.  Soak up the sauce with bread, rice, pasta or some other grain and you won't miss the other 4 + ounces of animal protein that you usually eat.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Enjoy A Little Flesh This Valentine's Day

Moist, pink, succulent ... I'm referring to salmon of course.  This Valentine's Day try it steamed in a Savoy cabbage leaf with a chive ribbon to tie it up.  Each little "present" of salmon is opened at the table to reveal the pretty contrast of pink and green.  Blanching the cabbage leaves and chives softens them so they can be folded around 2-3 oz portions of salmon and herbs before they are steamed.

Romance flows naturally when you prepare a fun, interactive meal with your partner.  The menu should engage all your senses--sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  Start by steaming whole edamame, sprinkle with sea salt and eat them in the traditional Japanese manner by pulling the pod through your teeth to release the beans.  Stimulate your sense of smell by toasting some walnuts in the oven until fragrant.  They will make a wonderful sauce for pasta with good olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

Consider skipping the flowers this year and invest in a pasta-rolling machine instead. Using your hands to transform flour, eggs and salt into smooth and satiny dough will inspire even a mismatched couple.  As you roll out your pasta dough be adventurous.  How long can you make one strand of fettuccini?  The sound and sight of slurping long noodles will interrupt any dull moments of your meal.  Saute some arugula in olive oil and add the toasted walnuts.  Toss in the pasta that has been boiled in salted water for 2 -3 minutes until it is al dente.  Use a little of the pasta cooking water to help make a sauce.  Grate Parmesan cheese over the dish and enjoy.

For dessert, well, I'll leave that to your imagination.