What Do I Do With ALL THOSE BEANS??!!

Scenario 1: You purchase a bean mix, thinking you’ll make a great batch of chili with it, and soup, and maybe…something else (it’ll come to you later)…then….it just sits in your cupboard until next year’s chili season.  And every time you open your pantry door, you see that huge container of mixed beans, still three-quarters or seven-eighths full, and feel a little guiltier each time you see it.  “What do I do with ALL THOSE BEANS??!!”  You ask yourself every.time.you.open.the.pantry.

Scenario 2: You were using those beans to make a large pot of Tomato Bean Chili for a multi-family chili pot luck, so you followed the container instructions and soaked a BUNCH of beans overnight, thinking you’d make two huge batches of chili.  You always forget how far beans go!  Sure, it was great to use up over half the container of beans, but you only used a third of those soaked/pre-cooked beans in the chili.  So now you have a bunch ready-to-use beans for….?

Meatless Main to the RESCUE!  Here are three recipes for the price of one bean:  Tomato Bean Chili, Full O’ Beans Shepherd’s Pie, and Beanie-Veggie Burgers!

My bean mix is from Epicurean Specialty, and includes dried kidney, white, pinto, and black beans, split yellow and green peas, and lentils.  I love this mix!  It’s hearty, versatile, warm, and as you’ll see, works great in more than just soup or chili!

bean mix chili


TOMATO BEAN CHILI

  • Servings: One Large Pot, about 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried wheat berries {or farro, barley, or other whole grain of choice}
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2(two) 8 oz cans tomato paste
  • 2(two) 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain.
  2. For the chili:  Coat bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Sauté the poblano peppers, whole grain of choice, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the pre-cooked beans, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and lime juice and let cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the vegetable stock, and continue to stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Now add the vegetable stock, allow to come to a boil, and reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least one hour, adding water as needed.  Test the beans for doneness, and continue to simmer as needed until the beans are creamy and the chili has come together, another 30-60 minutes.  Add water or stock as needed for desired consistency.
  5. Serve with chopped red onion, cilantro, green onions, and any other favorite chili toppings.

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On to the Full O’ Beans Shepherd’s Pie.  This is so hearty and warm–and topped with smashed sweet potatoes adds the perfect amount of subtle sweetness.  {I usually add a sweet potato to my regular potatoes if I’m making mashed potatoes–it adds more flavor, nutrients, and a fun orange color!}

bean mix shepherds pie 1

bean mix shepherds pie 2

bean mix shepherds pie 3


 

FULL O' BEANS SHEPHERD'S PIE

  • Servings: Makes One 9-inch or 1-Quart Baking Dish, serving 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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This is a snap to pull together if you have about 3 cups pre-cooked beans ready to go.  If you are busy during the week, soak and pre-cook your beans over the weekend, and just pull them out of the fridge to throw this together and heat up for dinner.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS:

  • 1 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal and set aside
  • 1/2 cup barley, farro, wheat berries, or other whole grain of choice, cooked and set aside

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SMASHED POTATOES:

  • 2 medium potatoes (any variety is fine), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR THE GRAVY:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2-2 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain any extra cooking liquid.
  2. Stir in the whole grain of choice with the beans in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. For the smashed potatoes: Put the chopped potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with two inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Reserve about 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain the rest, and put the potatoes back in the pot.  Roughly smash the potatoes with a smasher, fork, or spoon, adding the cooking liquid as you need.  You can also add a dollop of butter, vegan butter, sour scream, kefir, or any other potato-enhancing ingredient to your smashed potatoes.  Set aside.
  4. For the gravy: In a small sauce pan, heat the oil or butter over medium heat, then add the flour, whisking the entire time to incorporate and “cook” the flour.  Once it’s bubbling, add the vegetable stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Continue to stir until the gravy thickens and comes together.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. For assembly and bake: Spoon the bean/whole grain mixture into a greased casserole dish.  Next evenly layer the carrots on top of the beans and pour the gravy over the carrots and beans.  Spoon the smashed potatoes on top.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, until gravy is deliciously bubbly and smashed potatoes have crispy golden tips.

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Last but not least:  the Beanie-Veggie Burger.  Who doesn’t love a burger, right?!  The beans make a great base for any of your favorite additions.  I used 1/2 cup leftover cooked barley, chopped walnuts, fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and ground flax seed as a binder.

bean mix veggie burgers 1

bean mix veggie burgers 2

I had {believe it or not} 6 cups of leftover beans to use for burgers, even after using a ton of beans for that pot luck chili dinner, and about three cups of beans I used for the Shepherd’s Pie.  I think I initially soaked 6 cups of beans, and used that huge pot of pre-cooked beans in all three recipes!  Dried beans go a loooooooong way!!

Back to the burgers…using 6 cups of smashed beans will make 9 burgers, using a #6 {about 3.5oz} cookie/ice cream scooper.  I cooked a few up for dinner, and froze the rest to cook up for a quick weeknight dinner later.  They were amazingly burger-iffic.

bean mix veggie burgers 3bean mix veggie burgers 4


 

BEANIE-VEGGIE BURGERS

  • Servings: makes 9 burgers
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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This is a snap to pull together if you have about 6 cups pre-cooked beans ready to go.  If you are busy during the week, soak and pre-cook your beans over the weekend, and just pull them out of the fridge to throw this together and heat up for dinner.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS:

  • 2 1/2 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BURGERS:

  • 6 cups precooked beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked barley {or farro, wheat berries, or another whole grain of choice}
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain any extra cooking liquid.
  2. Spoon half of the pre-cooked bean mix into a blender and pulse until the consistency of guacamole, sort of chunky-smooth.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining whole beans and the rest of the ingredients.  Stir until well mixed and fully incorporated.  Let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper.  Using a scooper to ensure equal-sized patties, scoop bean mixture and form into patties.  The mixture will be wet; press well to keep the mixture together and well-formed.  If you use a #6 {about 3.5 oz} scooper, you will make 9 patties.  Let rest to help bind everything together before cooking or freezing.
  4. These are great cooked in a skillet, indoor/outdoor grill, etc.  Without any meat or eggs, you just need to heat through and get a crispy exterior, about 5-7 minutes on each side.  Serve with your favorite burger toppings!

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First Time For Everything

My Number 1 Rule when I go out to a restaurant is to order something I don’t frequently make at home.  I have found, though, that there are fewer and fewer options I choose from, as I am willing to tackle almost anything in my own kitchen.  There has been one thing I haven’t tried yet…for the first time ever, I decided to tackle those shifty little potato pillows otherwise known as gnocchi.  “Gnocchi” means “dumplings” in Italian, and this girl is always up for a good dumpling.

I had some leftover broccolini in the fridge, so I decided to chop that up super tiny and make broccolini-potato gnocchi.  What could be better combination, right?!  I followed the recipe from Making Artisan Pasta, with the exception of adding the broccoli.  I was really concerned about adding too much flour, and having a tough, play-dough-tasting gnocchi, so I added just what the recipe called for, and worked it until just combined, as recommended.  I think I maybe should have added a little more, because they ended up incredibly delicate.

Simple ingredients:  potatoes, 1 egg yolk, finely chopped broccolini heads, flour, salt and pepper to taste.  I don’t have a potato ricer, so I googled “How to make gnocchi without a potato ricer”, and the best suggestion that worked for me was using the fine side of the grater.

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 1

gnocchi collage 1

Evenly divide the dough into six portions, then roll each one into little “snakes” and have your little sous chef cut up those little snakes into little squares.  He was a pretty happy sous chef.

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 10

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 11

gnocchi collage 2

I cooked up a fresh-made portion for dinner that night, and they cooked within 60 seconds tops, and were incredibly fragile and tender, maybe a little too tender.  The extra gnocchi got to sleep overnight in the freezer, to be homemade gnocchi at my fingertips for a lunch or dinner.  The next day I tried cooking up a portion, and became googly-eyed and nearly swallowed my tongue when the frozen gnocchi pretty much dissolved into a mushy potato blob the second they hit the boiling water.  Looking back, I wish I’d have taken a photo of that, because I can laugh about it now.  I decided to try cooking the next frozen portion like I would pan-fry a shu mai dumpling, and it worked pretty well, albeit a MUCH shorter cooking time.  I quickly threw together a yellow pepper ragú for the sauce, and sprinkled with sunflower seeds, and it was pretty much AH-MAZING.

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 13{frozen gnocchi}

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 15

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 14


POTATO-BROCCOLINI GNOCCHI

  • Servings: makes 70-80 gnocchi
  • Difficulty: medium-difficult
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Recipe directly from Making Artisan Pasta, with the addition of 3/4 cup finely chopped broccolini.  This book also explains which potatoes are better for making gnocchi and why.  I had Russets on hand, so that’s what I used; the book says Russets have denser flesh that requires less flour to thicken.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound (450g) large yellow potatoes (I used 2 large Russets)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons (6g) thinly sliced chives (optional)*
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Ground white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound (115g) unbleached all-purpose flour, Italian 00flour, or Korean flour (if using 00 or Korean flour, increase the amount to 5 ounces, or 140g), plus extra for rolling
  • *I omitted the chives and added 3/4 cup cooked, drained, and very finely chopped broccolini heads

DIRECTIONS

  1. Steam the potatoes in their skins, or boil them in salted water until tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes.  (Don’t peel the potatoes before boiling, as they will absorb too much water).  Drain well and cool them just long enough to be able to handle them, then peel the potatoes and put them through a potato ricer or food mill while still hot.  Chill the potatoes in the refrigerator.  (By chilling the potatoes, you will need less flour to make a dough firm enough to hold its shape when cooked.)
  2. In a large bowl or on a wooden work surface as shown, combine the potatoes with the egg yolk, chives (or finely chopped broccolini), salt, and white pepper.
  3. Form the potato mixture into a ring and place the flour in the middle.  Gently, using only your fingertips while patting and pinching, mix the flour into the potato mix to make a fairly firm mass that doesn’t stick to your fingers.
  4. Work until just combined, as if you were making a pastry dough.  The object here is to use the minimum amount of flour and to develop its gluten only enough to stick the whole thing together.  Rough handling will result in touch, gluey gnocchi.
  5. TIP:  Before shaping all the gnocchi, it’s a good idea to test 1 or 2 to make sure the dough is firm enough to hold its shape when cooked.  Try cooking a couple in salted boiling water.  if they fall apart, which usually happens toward the end of the cooking time, gently pat in an ounce or so (30g or so) of flour.
  6. Throw a little flour onto your work surface and gently roll the dough into a thick sausage shape.  using a bench scraper, or a knife with a flat blade, divide the dough into 6 portions.  Start rolling 1 portion at a time into a “snake,” starting from the center.  Use an up-and-down motion while moving your hands toward the outside.
  7. Roll each snake until it is about the thickness of your index finger and relatively uniform in diameter.  Dust each rope with flour and then roll again to even out the snakes.  Cut the dough into pillow-shaped pieces 1/2 to 3/4 inch (1 to 2 cm) long to make individual gnocchi.
  8. To cook, bring salted water to a boil in a wide, shallow pot.  Add the gnocchi, reduce heat to a light rolling boil, and cook he gnocchi until they float the the top.  Cook 2-3 minutes longer, or until the gnocchi are cooked through but still firm.  Skim them from the water using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon.  These gnocchi are too fragile to drain in a colander.  Toss gently with melted butter and grated cheese or other sauce, such as fresh tomato ad shredded basil with small cubes of fresh mozzarella, and serve immediately.
  9. NOTES: If desired, dust each piece lightly with flour and roll up from the cut edge in a C shape along the outside tines of a dinner fork to form ridged gnocchi.  Or, roll up on a ridged wooden gnocchi or garganelli board.  Set aside on a board dusted lightly with semolina or cornmeal without touching.  It is best to cook the gnocchi as soon as they are formed, as they will become sticky and soft as the flour is absorbed into the dough.  Alternatively, freeze the gnocchi.  Do not defrost before cooking.

YELLOW PEPPER RAGÚ

  • Servings: makes 1/2 cup sauce
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock (or cooking water from the gnocchi)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium.  Add the yellow pepper, onion, and carrot to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until just tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Pour into a blender and add the parsley and start with 1/4 cup stock/water.  Pulse until you have the desired consistency and texture.  A chunkier sauce will require less liquid; a smoother sauce needs more liquid while blending.

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The Mighty Cruciferous

I know we’re always told to “Eat Our Rainbows”, and that usually white foods lack nutrients.  Usually.  Cauliflower is white, but one cup has tons of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, the B Vitamins, Fiber–in short, it’s a fantastic nutrient-dense choice to add to your dinner plate.

In combination with Potassium, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Protein from Cannellini Beans, Potassium and Vitamin C from Yellow Onions, and Potassium from Garlic, your dinner plate will make for one happy and healthy meal.

cauliflower noodles ingredientsThis is a two-pot meal; one for the pasta, and a large sauté pan for everything else.  I love grating garlic on a medium-ribbon grater–it’s a quick and easy addition to your pot or skillet.

cauliflower noodles garlicStir together the pasta and cauliflower, add some julienned basil, and you have a big bowl of healthy happiness for your dinner table.

cauliflower noodles basilcauliflower noodles basil 2cauliflower noodles finished


PASTA AND PAN-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

  • Servings: 4 large bowls
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 large basil leaves, julienned

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Sauté onion, cauliflower, and minced garlic with salt and pepper to taste.  Add 1/2 cup water while sautéing to help the cauliflower soften.
  3. When cauliflower is tender-crisp and the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and stir everything together, including the drained Cannellini beans in a large bowl.  To serve, sprinkle with basil and, if desired, grated parmesan cheese.

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New Years Resolutions Schmesolutions

I’ve never been one for New Years Resolutions.  If I am going to do something, I am going to do something, regardless of any given arbitrary calendar day.  And you bet I’m going to stick with it.  I was so excited the first time I registered for a sprint distance triathlon–in the middle of spring, not January 1st.  I found the triathlon through some website and after reading up on it, decided right then and there it was something I could do.  At the time I was more a swimmer than runner, and as for biking…when I got home from work and excitedly told my husband what I’d registered for, he raised an eyebrow and said, “But Michal, you need a bike for a triathlon.”  Didn’t phase me one bit–I started training and ended up placing third in my age category.  {Let’s be honest, though…I think there was a total of three women competing in my category.}

So as far as making January 1st the super big end-all-pizza-eating-start-all-salad-eating-and-burning-1,000-calories-a-day deadline…I’m not a huge fan.  Habits are lifestyle choices and your lifestyle is chosen by your habits; in other words, if you aren’t a huge salad fan before January 1st, why would you be after?  And if you’re already a big salad fan, you’re going to be eating them year-round, not just in January.

I’m a big salad fan.  I especially love winter salads–they are warm and colorful and have such a deep flavor from roasting squash or potatoes, adding lentils, toasted seeds, a splash of citrus.  My Golden Winter Salad is a sweet ray of roasted vegetable sunshine that is sure to hit the spot for you on a grey January day.  Just look at it!

golden salad 1

First roast golden beets, carrots, yellow onions, and sweet potatoes.  They get so sweet, and a crispy on the outside, velvety on the inside texture.

golden salad ingredients

Peel and slice the beets–circles, triangles, squares, whatever shape you like in your salad.

golden salad beets

And just artfully arrange all the ingredients on a log slab from your backyard and dig in!  Couldn’t be easier to summon a ray of golden sunshine.  I guarantee you’ll be eating this more often than just the month of January!

golden salad 2


GOLDEN WINTER SALAD

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: an Easy New Year's Resolution
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INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD

  • 3 small golden beets, washed and trimmed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in thirds
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thickly sliced (leave the slices whole, don’t pull them apart or they will burn while roasting)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch slices and then quartered
  • handful of walnuts per salad
  • sprinkling of feta cheese per salad (optional–vegan option would be to sprinkle Nutritional Yeast Flakes over the salad)
  • handful of mixed greens per salad

INGREDIENTS FOR THE LEMON VINAIGRETTE

  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • roughly 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Place the beets (left whole after washing and trimming the greens/stems), carrots, onion, and sweet potato in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and stir until all the vegetables are coated.  Pour onto a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. At the 20 minute mark, “stir” the vegetables on the pan–Because the beets are whole and the other salad components are sliced, there will be varying degrees of doneness.  Keep an eye on the onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots so they don’t burn.  If need be, flip them over with a spatula, remove them from the pan sooner than the beets, etc.  Roast the vegetables for another 20-40 minutes.  Done:  The onions will be melted and sweet, the carrots will be soft but not mushy, the sweet potatoes will have some caramelization and a velvety texture, and the beets will be soft when poked with a fork or knife.
  4. Let the beets cool, then peel and slice.  Place the beets, the rest of the roasted vegetables, walnuts, feta, and mixed greens in a large bowl.
  5. To make the vinaigrette, add the lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper to a small mixing bowl.  Whisk in just enough olive oil until the mixture is emulsified.  Pour over the salad and gently toss.  Serve with toasted crusty bread and olive oil for dipping for an extra dash of sunshine.

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Brazilian Feast Part III: Recommendations

brazilian feast 1

I’m calling this “Recommendations” because I don’t think you’ll need a recipe.  Just recommendations for the salad, collard greens, mango, and goiabada “substitute”.

The salad is super simple and surprisingly delicious.  Just thinly slice a cucumber, tomato, and half of a medium onion.  Place in a bowl and squirt with the juice from one lime.  It’s bright, crunchy, fresh, and zippy.

The collards have a tough spine down the middle.  Cut around it (it’ll end up looking spear-like), pull it out, and roll up the leaf and slice to get thin julienned strips.  Just saute it up with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  If you wish to add a little more flavor, finely dice up carrot, celery, and onion to add while sautéing.  You’re going to saute it pretty quickly; no one wants mushy collards.

brazilian collards 1

brazilian collards 2

It’s hard to find tropical fruits {pineapple, mango, kiwi, etc.} that haven’t been picked way before their prime to ship here for US consumption.  I remember eating mangos and avocados the size of footballs when I was in Brazil.  I found slightly-larger-than-softball “Green Mangos” on sale at the grocery store, and thought I’d maybe make a green mango Thai salad or something, and then life got in the way and those poor mangos sat on my counter for a good week or more.  When I decided to make this Brazilian Feast, the mangos had ripened to these beautiful, golden orange, perfectly juicy, sweet mangos.  My one recommendation picking out fruit at the store:  smell them.  If they don’t smell like the fruit is supposed to smell like, I don’t get it.

And, finally, the best Brazilian dessert:  Goiabada.  This is kind of like guava jam and cheese on crackers, only the guava is a super thick, cuttable paste.  The cheese should be a soft, white, creamy cheese {traditionally a cheese from Minas Gerais is used}.  My American substitute?  Quince paste and Havarti cheese.  The Quince paste ended up being suuuuuuper sweet, way too sweet for me, but was a fun substitute nonetheless.  Next time I’m definitely going to have to find a specialty “South-of-the-Border” Grocery Store and try again for that traditional Goiabada taste!

brazilian feast 2

Brazilian Feast Part II

brazilian mandioca

For Part II of this Brazilian Feast, I’m handing over my favorite mandioca goodness.  Have you ever spied a weird waxy, bark-like covered root at the grocery store and wondered what in the world it is and what in the world to do with it?  It’ll be labeled Yucca Root in your grocery store, but it’ll always be mandioca (mahn-gee-yolk-uh) to me.  This is the root of the Yucca, or Cassava plant.  You want to pick a root that is hard and doesn’t have any obvious dry splitting or mushy parts.  It’s kind of impossible to know what it’ll be like on the inside until you get it home and it’s at the mercy of your cutting board.  You only want to keep and prepare the white parts; discard any discolored (brown, green, yellow, etc.) pieces.

Once you cut away the tough exterior you’ll expose its white flesh, which is hard and solid–you don’t want to eat it raw, that’s for sure.  It’s a starch, so cooking it is very much like a potato–it can be mashed, stewed, fried, boiled–and has a very mild, almost sweet flavor.  My two favorite preparations are frying, of course {think a mildly sweet french fry}, and gently boiling it into a stew {think potato soup-ish} to pour over rice.  Starch on starch?  Well, that’s how the Brazilians did it, and that’s how I love it!

Regardless of the preparation, you’ll need to use a very sharp knife to cut the root into manageable pieces and remove the waxy-barky exterior.  FYI:  Throw the scraps in the trash, not your garbage disposal!  I was constantly warned by Brazilians to remove the fibrous string that runs down the center of the root, because it contains cyanide, but I’ve never read anything verifying the cyanide claim…So maybe they were all poking fun at this blonde American?  Whether or not there’s cyanide, it’s still too tough to eat, so cut it out and discard it.  I usually do this step the same way I cut out the core of a pineapple.

brazilian mandioca 1brazilian mandioca 2

brazilian mandioca 4

{The section below is the part I discard}

brazilian mandioca 3

To fry, I cut up equal-sized “sticks”.  You can make them smaller, if you’d like it to be more like a french fry, but I like the thicker cuts because the flesh has such a different flavor.  To make the Mandioca Stew, I chop it into large chunks.

brazilian mandioca 5

brazilian feast 2


MANDIOCA FRITA {Yucca Root Fries}

  • Servings: 1 large root will make 1 large batch of fries, serving 2-4 adults
  • Difficulty: pretty, easy, although there are a few steps
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large yucca root
  • oil, deep enough in the pot to cover and fry the fries
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the yucca root by first cutting into thirds.  Cut the waxy bark off and throw away.  One at a time, core each third like coring a pineapple and discard the center core with the fibrous strand.  Cut into equal-sized thick strips for fries.
  2. Place the fries in a large pot and cover with an inch of cold water.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.  Boil the fries until they are soft–a knife or fork will easily poke them.  Drain and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of vegetable oil, at least 2-3 inches deep, over medium to medium-high heat.  If you have a candy thermometer keep it on the side of the pot and when the oil reaches 375F, you can start frying.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil will be ready when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil and bubbles form around the spoon.  Fry in batches so the oil temperature doesn’t drop too low.  Fry until golden brown and scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon onto a cooling rack with paper towels underneath (this will keep the fries crispier than placing them on just a paper towel).  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

SOPA DE MANDIOCA {Yucca Root Soup}

  • Servings: 1 large root will yield about 4 cups of soup, so 2-4 servings total
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large yucca root
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the yucca root by first cutting into thirds.  Cut the waxy bark off and throw away.  One at a time, core each third like coring a pineapple and discard the center core with he fibrous strand.  Dice into equal-sized large chunks.
  2. Coat the bottom of a medium sized pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Saute the onion with salt and pepper to taste until translucent.  Add the yucca root chunks and quickly saute for a few minutes, until all the yucca root is covered and mixed well with the onion.
  3. Add 4 cups water and let come to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and let the soup simmer and reduce, stirring occasionally.  The yucca root will thicken the soup while cooking; you may need to add more water during the cooking process to get the consistency you want.  Ideally, it’ll be a thick stew-like soup to pour over rice.
  4. To serve, you can pour it over rice, or treat it like a potato soup and add your favorite “potato soup toppings”.

 

Happy Holiday Treats

I debated posting these recipes, as they have nothing to do with a plant-based diet, and are only slightly vegetarian…but they have everything to do with holiday treats!  That and I’ve been asked for the recipes enough times I figure the blog is the place they should be, so everyone can share the magic!  I make these treats every year for the holidays–they mail well, share well, and are always loved and devoured!

hot chocolate mix


DARK HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

  • Servings: makes 8 cups mix
  • Difficulty: super easy
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I usually double the recipe and keep this mix in a tupperware container on my shelf all year long.  This also makes a great mix to share with neighbors for the holidays!  Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups dry milk powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 cups Special Dark Cocoa (I’ve only found this in Hershey’s Brand, in 16oz containers)
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl.  Working in batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor or blender until the chocolate is finely ground.  Store in an airtight container.
  2. For hot chocolate, stir 3 tablespoons of the mix in a mug of hot milk.

sweet potato ice cream


 

SWEET POTATO ICE CREAM WITH CANDIED PECANS AND MARSHMALLOW FLUFF

  • Servings: makes 1 quart
  • Difficulty: medium, due to time and multiple phases to make ice cream. But it's your very own gourmet homemade ice cream!
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Adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup pureed sweet potato, chilled
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare sweet potato puree by baking one large sweet potato.  Pull off the potato skin and puree the potato flesh in the blender.  This step is best done the day before making the ice cream so the potato will cool in the fridge overnight.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl.  You can freeze the egg yolks for another use, or simply discard.
  3. Place a candy thermometer on the side of a medium pot.  Put both sugars, cream, half and half, salt and cinnamon in a the pot and heat until the mix just scalds and there are tiny bubbles around the perimeter of the pot (it’ll be roughly 100F).
  4. Using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg yolks and gradually ladle the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking.  This will temper the egg yolks and avoid having scrambled eggs for ice cream.  Keep whisking the eggs while adding 5-6 ladlefuls of the heated cream mix.  Once it looks soupy and the eggs are well-tempered, add the entire mixture into the cream mixture in the pot.  Continue to whisk the mixture while cooking to 180 degrees.  Remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.  Fill another large bowl with ice and the bowl with the ice cream mixture to cool on the ice.  Once room temperature, place in the fridge and cool at least two hours or overnight.
  5. Once cooled, pour 4 cups ice cream mixture in the blender, one cup chilled sweet potato puree, and 3 teaspoons vanilla in the blender and mix until smooth.
  6. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
  7. While ice cream is freezing, make the candied pecans.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan and add the pecans.  Stir while pecans are toasting, and gradually add the sugar, spoonful at a time, until it no longer melts into the butter and remains crystallized on the pecans.  Once completely “sugared”, pour the pecans into a bowl and wait until ice cream is made.
  8. Once ice cream is ready, scoop some ice cream into your ice cream container, then add a couple small spoonfuls of marshmallow fluff, then sprinkle pecans.  Continue layering ice cream, fluff, and pecans so when you scoop some ice cream to serve, it’ll be nicely swirled throughout.

pecan bars


PECAN BARS

  • Servings: makes about 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: pretty easy, but there are a few steps
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From Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  To make even more delectable, dip the bars in chocolate.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CRUST

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (8 oz) pecan halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Make crust: Put butter and brown sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in salt.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition.  Continue mixing until dough begins to come together in large clumps.
  2. Press dough about 1/4 inch thick unto a 9×13-inch baking pan.  Pierce the dough with a fork.  Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.  Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Reduce oven to 325F.
  3. Make filling:  Place butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, and heavy cream in a saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat; stir in salt, nuts, and vanilla.  Pour filling into the cooled crust.
  4. Bake until filling bubbles, 15-20 minutes.  Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Run a paring knife around edges of the pan and invert onto a cooling rack.  Invert again onto a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 1×3-inch bars.  Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

peanut brittle 1


PEANUT BRITTLE

  • Servings: about 2 1/2 pounds
  • Difficulty: medium
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Adapted from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking.  I have made this with peanuts as well as mixed nuts, and the results are always gourmet.  To make them even more special, dip them in chocolate.  Note: I have used rice syrup with great results, but I’ve never tried a vegan butter substitute.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (or rice syrup)
  • 1/4 cup butter (no substitutes), cubed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups salted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. In preparation:  Grease two large baking sheets with sides and keep warm in a 200F oven.  Combine baking soda, 1 teaspoon water and vanilla in s small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, combine sugar, 1 cup water and corn (or rice) syrup.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 240F (soft-ball stage).
  3. Stir in butter, salt and peanuts; heat and stir until the mixture reaches 300F (hard-crack stage).
  4. Remove pot from the heat; vigorously stir in baking soda vanilla mixture.  Quickly pour half the mixture over each cookie sheet.  Let cool completely before breaking into pieces.

 

 

Giving Thanks Feast

When Americans celebrate the most American Holiday, Thanksgiving, my mind honestly doesn’t rest on turkey or pumpkin pie or pilgrims or Native Americans or large family gatherings with the awkward what-are-you-thankful-for go around the table {What?  It isn’t awkward for your family?…Please tell me the secret}.  I instead go back to my two International Experiences.  I look at these experiences as the two times in my life when I felt supremely grateful for all that was being given me, and the two times in my life that were the most educating, refining, clarifying, and soul-searching-humbling.

First was Italy.  I knew I wasn’t ready for college right out of high school, and long story short, I ended up in Italy.  I nannied for an Italian family; traveled; taught English; learned Italian.  I turned 18 while I was in Italy, and acutely felt all those growing pains that accompany coming of age.  It was an odd sort of existence because I felt so isolated and alone but at the same time had a tight group of American, Canadian, and Italian families that reached out to this lost girl who was trying to find herself.  I cannot express how deeply indebted I feel to the families that housed me, fed me, gave me their children to tend, their houses to sit, used their time, energy, and fuel to pick me up from a remote area where I was nannying to bring me to church and spend the rest of Sunday with their families.  I was there for only six or seven months, but how deeply those months shaped me.

Second was Brazil.  A few years later when I turned in my papers to serve a mission for the LDS Church, I was convinced I would be returning to Italy.  They ask if you speak any other languages, and places you’ve lived.  I very excitedly filled in those blanks: “I lived in Italy; I speak Italian; I teach Italian at a Community College.”  Imagine my surprise when I got my papers back, being called to serve in São Paulo, Brazil.  And so I spent 18 months speaking, living, breathing, loving Brazil.  Brazilians are so inherently and deeply loving.  Brazil, and the people of Brazil, swept me up in their arms and taught me how to love, and with that love I was finally equipped to start my journey of healing my broken parts.  I will always be thankful.

And, ironically, I was more culinarily influenced in Brazil than Italy.  Missionaries live on a strict monthly budget, and to help compensate, members of the congregation of the area volunteer to feed the missionaries.  I was so touched, moved, and humbled each lunchtime spent with these families.  There were a number of families that signed up to feed the missionaries on a weekly basis, despite the burden that placed on their budgets or food stores.  I’m sure they rationed their rice and beans all week so they could make extra portions for four or more guests {mostly tall, hungry American young men who ate way more than a Brazilian}.

Rice and beans are the staple.  Food is regional, so where I was, onions and garlic were used to flavor the rice and beans.  Every house used the same ingredients, but every bowl of rice and beans we sat down to tasted different!  I asked every mom of the house their recipe, and they all–every single time–threw back their heads and laughed at this silly blond American, “Recipe?!”

One mom made us a delicious “Tomate com quiabo e frango” {Tomato with okra and chicken}, and when I asked her for the recipe, she laughed and looked at me like I’d just asked her to lick my foot.  “There is no recipe!”  She said.  “Well, how about the ingredients?”  She shrugged, slightly bewildered by my request.  What she finally wrote for me consisted of one line: “Tomato.  Okra.  Onion.  Garlic.  Chicken.”  I have tried a number of times in the almost 14 years since being home, but I have not been able to replicate that delicious dish.  Despite having the recipe.

So.  After my very roundabout introduction to this Giving Thanks Feast, if it were up to me, every fourth Thursday of November, I would make a feast using Brazilian-inspired ingredients.  This feast represents abundance, love, richness of life, simplicity, humility–everything a Giving Thanks Feast should represent.  I ❤ this feast.

brazilian feast ingredients

A few hours later…

brazilian feast 2

brazilian feast 1

There are a lot of things going on here, so we’re going to take a few recipes at a time.  The feast consists of: Rice and Beans, Fried Mandioca, Collards, Pão de Queijo, Mandioca Stew, Simple Salad.  We’ll start with the Rice and Beans and the Pão de Queijo.

For the Rice and Beans, I am a bit old-fashioned and soak the beans for 24 hours, and use 8-10 hours to cook the beans in a Big Pot.  If you use dry beans, soaking for at least 8 hours is recommended, but I prefer a full 24 hours; I think it makes the beans have a creamier texture.  Ok, the truth:  I am mostly a ninny when it comes to trying new things, and a pressure cooker quite frankly scares me.  A pressure cooker would obviously cut down on your cook time, but I’ve never tried one, so I can’t even begin to advise your pressure cooker bean cookery.  So the recipe reflects the time and effort into cooking beans the old-fashioned way.  Let me know if your pressure cooker speaks to you, and what it says on my behalf.

brazilian rice and beans 1brazilian rice and beans 2brazilian rice and beans 3And the Pão de Queijo {AKA:  light and fluffy bits of airiness that fell from the heavens} is so simple to pull together with this recipe.  You just blend everything together in the blender, bake, and eat straight from the oven.  A family in the first city I served in whipped these up for us every time we visited them.  The mom did not give me an odd look when I asked for the recipe, but said, “Look, Sister, it’s so easy!  Just this and that, see?”  It took a little while for me to get this recipe down with American-ingredient equivalents, but I finally got it as close as possible to how I remember them tasting.  You will love these scrumptiously edible, delectable, addict-able popover-like-roll-breads.

brazilian pao de queijo ingredients

brazilian pao de queijo 1brazilian pao de queijo 2brazilian feast 2


BRAZILIAN RICE AND BEANS

  • Servings: serves a party (although I have frozen the beans for two different meals, and they defrost really well)
  • Difficulty: difficult-ish, just because of the time required
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INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS

  • 2 cups beans, soaked in 8 cups water at least 8 hours, overnight/24 hours preferred (pinto are traditional, but you could also use black beans…but then it would have to turn into a feijoada…)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Loads of water, at least 15-20 cups

INGREDIENTS FOR THE RICE

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a large pot with olive oil and heat over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and salt and pepper to taste and saute until the onion is translucent.  Drain your soaking beans and add them to the pot to saute for another 5-10 minutes.  Add enough water until the beans are covered by 1-2 inches.  Let come to a boil and lower heat to medium.
  2. Let the beans cook, uncovered, and the liquid reduce until you can see the beans, then add water to cover the beans by 1-2 inches, and continue the process, cooking, reducing, adding water, etc., stirring and talking to your beans lovingly.  This whole process will take a good 8-10 hours.  After about 6-7 hours, you will notice the liquid has magically turned from watery beans into a sort of thick almost-stew-like consistency.  This is when you’ll add your last amount of water, and let it cook down just enough until you have beans and bean “gravy” to serve with your rice.
  3. To prepare the rice, first saute the onions, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste over medium heat until the onion is translucent.  Then add rice and water and cook the rice according to package directions.

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PÃO DE QUEIJO DE LIQUIDIFICADOR {Pão de Queijo in the Blender}

  • Servings: makes 24 in a mini muffin tin
  • Difficulty: super easy and super addict-able
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup half-and-half (makes them fluffier than just milk)
  • 3/4 cup oil (olive, vegetable, canola all work equally well)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups tapioca flour/starch (find down the gluten-free aisle in any grocery store)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender in the order listed.  Blend until fully mixed.  The batter should look like thin pancake batter or crepe batter.
  2. Generously grease mini muffin tins and pour the batter until just to the top of the muffin tins.
  3. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until just golden brown around the edges.  Don’t overtake or they will be crunchy and tough instead of soft.  Best served hot from the oven.

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Coconut Lime Sweet Potato Curry with Forbidden Rice and Pakora Vegetables

Do you have any sweet potatoes hanging out in your pantry that didn’t make it into any buttery-baked-marshmallow-topped-Thanksgiving casseroles?  Have you had enough leftovers and are you in the mood for something slightly…new?  Try mixing coconut, lime, sweet potato, cilantro…are you catching my drift?  You are going to love this rich-and-light-at-the-same-time Coconut Lime Sweet Potato Curry.  Serving it with forbidden (black) rice adds a perfect nuttiness to the dish.  And if you want to add an extra touch, just whip up some Pakora Vegetables on the side.  Seriously.  They’re whip-uppable.

This curry is adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries, a pretty serious Indian Encyclopedia Cookbook. This is an impressive 800+ page book filled with so many amazing curry recipes, as promised, and so, so much more–it’s a great read on Indian culture and cuisine (you read cookbooks like novels, too, right?).  If you want authentic, deep, complex Indian flavors at your fingertips, this book needs to be on your shelf.

Take note–authentic, deep, complex Indian flavors require authentic, deep, complex Indian ingredients.  Iyer also emphasizes the importance of procuring spices whole, when possible.  He devotes an entire section to educating the reader about spice blends and pastes, and how just one spice can offer at least eight different flavors, depending on the preparation used (toasted, ground, soaked, etc.).  I am lucky enough to have an Indian Specialty store within 20 minutes of where I live.  You can find most of the ingredients at local grocery stores, but there is an occasional ingredient that will be “specialty” (like asafetida in this recipe).  You can either omit it, or try and find a similar ingredient you have access to.

For example, asafetida is the ground root of an herb indigenous to India and the surrounding mountainous regions.  On its own, its odor is quite…odorous (to be nice), but when it’s mixed in with a curry or other sauce, it adds a more rounded savoriness, and a fuller flavor to a vegetarian dish (as described to me by my Indian Specialty Store Owner).  I’ve read it delivers a flavor similar to leeks, so you could in theory add some sliced and sautéed leeks to the recipe.  This recipe calls for such a small amount (1/2 teaspoon), that you would probably do better to just omit it.  You won’t miss it with the sweet potatoes, cilantro, coconut, lime…this dish is sort of an Indian-Caribbean Fusion with so much going on!

coconut lime sweet potato curry 2

coconut lime sweet potato curry


COCONUT LIME SWEET POTATO CURRY WITH FORBIDDEN RICE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium, two pots will be going at the same time!
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Adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or 2 teaspoons ground cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2-1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed, and finely diced (optional, depending on how much heat you want for your curry)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • Juice and zest of 1 large lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup forbidden rice, prepared according to package instructions

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the forbidden rice according to package directions.  While the rice is cooking, prepare the coconut lime curry.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin, asafetida, and turmeric, and cook, stirring, until you can smell the spices, about 10 seconds.  Add the potatoes and jalapeño, and salt and pepper to taste, until the potatoes are coated with the spices.
  3. Pour coconut milk, shredded coconut, and 1 1/2 cups water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are velvety smooth, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lime juice and zest, cilantro leaves, and black beans.  Add 1/2 cup more water if you need to thin out the sauce.
  5. Serve with more chopped cilantro.

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PAKORA VEGETABLES

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy, it's batter-dipped and fried veggies--yum!
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Directly from Iyer’s 660 Curries Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons chaat masala, or just salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4-6 cups of varied sliced vegetables (vegetables that work really well are cauliflower and broccoli florets, large slices of sweet onion, large slices of green bell pepper)

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make the batter, mix the two flours, cornstarch, baking soda, chaat masala/salt, cayenne, and turmeric in a medium-size bowl.  Pour in about 1/2 cup warm water, whisking the ingredients together to form a thick better.  Add more warm water, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking after each addition, to make a smooth, thick batter that coats a spoon.
  2. Pour oil to a depth of 2-3 inches into a pot.  heat the oil over medium heat until a candy or deep-frying thermometer register 350 degrees F.
  3. Prepare a cooling rack with a few sheets of paper towels underneath.  After frying, the vegetable will rest on the cooling rack and won’t get mushy.  Once the oil is ready, drop a few of the vegetables into the batter, completely coating each piece.  Carefully drop the coated vegetables in the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crisp all over.  Remove them with a slotted spoon or a spider and let them rest on the cooling rack.

 

 

Fav Red Sauce

I remember a few months ago starting to panic because I was making pizza for dinner, but had run out of red sauce from my freezer stash, and didn’t have any store-bought sauce in the pantry, and no car to go to the store.  And then I stopped dead in my tracks.  “Wait a minute!  Canned tomatoes?  Check.  Onions?  Check.  Garlic?  Check.  Herbs?  Check.  Well, then, get crackin’!”

Homemade red sauce isn’t too hard to pull together, and makes your meal so homey and warm.  It seems as though everyone has their favorite type of sauce–spicy, zippy, herby, and using their favorite herbs and spices.  This is a very basic red sauce–a great base–and if you prefer zippy or spicy, feel free to add your flare to the sauce!

If you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, the one tip I would give is to use quality canned tomatoes.  I’ve used the on-sale-store-brand-99-cent cans, and it’s ok, but if you can splurge and get the Cento San Marzano brand, your dinner will be ah-mazing.  The Cento tomatoes are sweet and rich, not as tinny as other canned tomatoes, so your sauce will reflect that flavor.  {My husband once asked if we could just plant the San Marzano Breed of tomato in our garden.  I guess we could if we lived in Italy.  Pompeii, to be exact.  San Marzano is a region in Italy downwind from Mt. Vesuvius, so the soil has been enriched over time from volcanic eruption(s), making the tomatoes the benefiters.}   red sauce 3Let everything simmer together in the pot for 30-60 minutes, blend with an immersion blender, or a “normal” blender, and voila–everyone will think you slaved over a hot stove for ages.

red sauce 2

red sauce 1


BASIC RED SAUCE

  • Servings: makes 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from The Italian Dish Blog

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 28-oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, or 2-3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot and saute onions and garlic with salt and pepper to taste until the onions are soft and translucent, about 7-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and break up with your spoon.  Add the herbs, sugar, and half cup water, and reduce heat to low.  Let simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  2. Puree the sauce in the pot with an immersion blender, or scoop into a blender and puree until desired consistency.

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