Showing posts with label Vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vegetarian. Show all posts

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Swiss Chard Tart with Pine Nuts and Raisins

The end of February marked the 3 year anniversary of this blog. On 2/21/2011 I wrote my first post, about an eggplant dish I made from one of the first vegetarian cookbooks I bought after Michael decided to eat vegetarian.
I have been reflecting about my motivation on writing here, posting recipes, taking pictures of my food, and honestly felt a bit demotivated about it all for quite some time now. Nothing good can come from comparing your writing, your recipes, your pictures and your life in general to that of other bloggers.

I'll spare you all the self-criticizing thoughts I had in the past weeks/months, because what I mainly want to say today is: I just love to cook. Basta. That is the reason I started writing here those 3 years ago and still, this is the reason I come back to this space after being absent, again, for quite some time.
I realize it is already March, but back on New Year's Eve Michael and I talked about the highlights of 2013, and mentioned Marcella Hazan's Torta di Biete, or Chard torta as one of the best things I had made in 2013. It's been a while since New Year's Eve, so I am really sorry to have kept this recipe for myself for so long. (Although it is published in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, so it is hardly a secret) You really should have had the opportunity to make this since January 1st, with Swiss chard being in season and all.
The original torta is crustless, but there is a whole mess of toasted breadcrumbs involved. You could definitely make the recipe as Marcella Hazan wrote it (I found a closer version to the original here) and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it with this sort of breadcrumb crust. I came to prefer the version with a crust though, if only because the crust makes it easier to steal a slice here or there out of the fridge.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Buckwheat + Carrot Salad with Ginger and Sesame

This salad feels so summery to me, which suits my longing for the warmer days of spring and summer. We had a not so cold winter so far here, almost no snow the entire november/december/january - which means that those winter months were mostly just dark and dreary, without the snow that serves as a natural reflector and those wonderful blue skies that sometimes come with it.
Consequently I am longing for the warmer days of spring and summer, and I feel like this salad of buckwheat and carrots can sort of satisfy my fantasy of a picknick in a park on a warm summer night (a picknick I actually never have, not even in summer, but it just sounds so dreamy)
The buckwheat that went into this salad had been in my kitchen way too long before I used it today, me always lacking inspiration on what to do with it. Maybe you have a deserted bag of buckwheat groats in your pantry, too? Despite never cooking it, I actually really like the taste buckwheat has. Since they logically taste like Soba noodles (which are made with buckwheat flour), I decided to pair the cooked buckwheat with what I consider Japanese ingredients (ginger, soy sauce, scallions, sesame), though I don't actually know what I am talking about.
And with that, I had a summer fantasy in a bowl for dinner and feel optimistic that summer is near (Michael proclaimed February 1st the beginning of summer, and I am inclined to view it that way, too.)

Are you looking forward to summer, too? Or are you happy in the cold of winter?

Buckwheat Carrot Salad with Ginger and Sesame

1/2 cup uncooked buckwheat
3 carrots
1 scallion
1 knob of ginger, the size of half your thumb or so, grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds

Start cooking the buckwheat in plenty of lightly salted water. Drain when tender, after about 20 minutes and set aside to cool.
Roast the scallion either in the oven (mine was already on) or in a cast iron skillet until slightly charred and tender. Cut into slices
Cut the carrots into ribbons, using a vegetable peeler.
Mix the buckwheat, carrot ribbons and the scalllion slices in a bowl (or in the pan you cooked the buckwheat in) and add the grated ginger and the soy sauce.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until the white seeds start to brown. Add to the salad and mix.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Vegetarian Pho with Shiitake Broth

Tonight I decided to skip going to the cinema with Michael and stay home alone instead, putting very old pictures into my photo album (Hello 2010 me, you look sooo young!), choosing more pictures to order so the new album does not end in 2011 (eventhough that is an improvement to 2009), making myself a cocktail (more on than later) and just generally doing what I really want today.
This living together thing is sometimes a balancing act, with being too close and simultaneously not spending enough real time together (compared to sitting next together but me checking out Instagram and Michael reading the news) and to be honest I (or we) don't naturally gravitate to a balance that makes us really content.
There is this expectations towards relationships that they should be easy or else you are with the wrong person, but over the last few months I came to realize for myself that easy when it comes to relationships means safe and a bit boring first, but can turn to just mostly weigh you down and make you silently unhappy. And I am not really speaking of my relationship with Michael, though we do not just have a wonderfully easy and always peaceful perfect relationship.
I have been quiet here the last few months after returning from our trip to South America and I think it has to do with the fact that everytime I start writing I seem to only want to write about the end of the relationship of my parents last summer, but have felt like it is inappropriate to write about here. My mom moved out of our home last July while I was away in Cuba and since then most of what I think about concerns the question where my home is now and what I can learn from their relationship that did not work out in the end. (My conclusion is basically that if you follow the principles outlined in this book you'll have a lot of work in front of you but things should turn out fine).
And it is in this spirit that I decided to have a lazy evening at home (not taking a bath because that only sounds relaxing but just bores me) cooking this soup (a soup I have been thinking of since Deb posted her Chicken Pho almost two weeks ago) and choosing photos to order so as to be a happier person tomorrow, and in consequence a better partner, too.

And the soup turned out as lovely as I imagined it to be those two weeks ago. I have made vegetarian broths before, with kitchen scraps as Tamar Adler suggests in An Everlasting Meal but was never too happy about it. It did not seem worth the trouble of steaming up our whole kitchen when it came to flavour. I guess I overdid it with the vegetables, the heat and the cooking time (Oops). This broth, though? It is really really good, so good that I drank a whole bowl full of just the plain broth right before doing my dishes, leaving me overly full but so satisfied. I used to not be a huge fan of Shiitake mushrooms, but here I came to love them - they are meaty and mushroomy and strong but addicting tasting and make a broth that has a clear simple flavour, like I always wanted vegetarian broth to taste but never actually have tried before.
The spices you use in the broth give it only a subtle flavour, so I can imagine using any leftover broth in ways not related to Vietnamese cooking, with which I am trying to say you should probably make more than just what you need for the Vegetarian Pho if you go through the troubles of making broth from scratch (especially if you have more space in the freezer than we do, with our ice supply and a fondue mix that together fill up 1/2 of our tiny freezer).

When it comes to the add ins for the pho, I went without mung bean sprouts because we already have our fridge full of veggies we seem to have no time to eat this weekend, but I think they would be lovely if you can get them. The cilantro and lime are essential, in my opinion, anything else is up to you.

Vegetarian Pho with Shiitake Broth
Adapted from the chicken pho that Deb Perelman posted earlier this January, which was barely adapted from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan.
Note: You don't need to use more shiitake for the broth, but I really loved them in the soup, which makes me think that next time I am going to cook additional shiitake with just a little water so I would not have to share 7 mushrooms between 6 people. For more ideas for garnishes and a recipe for crispy shallots to top the soup with, go to Deb's post on Chicken Pho. (I did not want to deal with frying shallots just for myself though so I just went without and was absolutely happy with my soup)

for the broth:
2 onions, peeled, halved
3 slices of fresh ginger, smashed (about 1/2 inch thick)
7 dried shiitake mushrooms (that is what I used and I found the flavour of the broth to be just right, but one more or less wont make that much of a difference I guess)
2 star anise
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp szechuan pepper
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 small pieces kombu seaweed (optional)
1/4 cup soy sauce 

for the pho:
300g dried rice noodles
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 scallion, thinly slices
2 limes, cut into wedges
hoisin sauce

Either char the halfed onions and the ginger slices over the flame of your gas range or preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C, place onion halfes and ginger slices on slightly oiled baking sheet and roast until softened and slightly blackened for about 30 minutes.

Add 4 quarts of water, the onions, ginger, shiitake, the spices, salt, sugar and the kombu in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, lower the heat and let gently simmer for at least an hour.

Before serving, strain the broth, setting aside the shiitake to add back in later. Add the soy sauce to the broth and adjust the seasoning to taste, adding more salt as you see fit.

Prepare the noodles: In a seperate pan, heat enough water to cover the noodles and prepare them according to the directions on the package. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Right before serving, reheat the broth, prepare all your garnishes, divide the noodles and scallion slices among 6 (large) bowls, ladle the broth over the noodles and top with your garnishes. (In fact, only use part of your garnishes in the beginning and add more as you eat so as to keep the herbs fragrant and any sprouts you might be using slightly crunchy)

Serves 6.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chou Grillé + Spain

I started this post back in December, when I thought it was strange of me to post a salad recipe just before Christmas when everyone (including myself, obviously) is eating way too much. And then I left Switzerland to visit Spain (Bilbao, Madrid and a few smaller places inbetween) and ate so.much! Spain is not the best country to travel to as a vegetarian, but we always found something to eat, and had a few wonderful Pintxos in Bilbao that I think I want to recreat now that I am home. (I still have to get over my reluctance to deep frying for that though, it is a miracle the Basque don't also fry the bread that is the base for all the lovely pintxos they serve)

But now I am back home, and craving salad and greens and vegetables and good pasta like a crazy person. I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, mostly because I know I can in no way ever keep them, so please don't look at this sort of kale salad as something you have to get yourself to eat now that it is January and the pants are tight and you are starting to plan your summer holidays.
This salad of sorts is the other gem Amy, Nicole and I had at Le Mary Celeste back in November in Paris and it is one of the best things I ate last year. Carrots and cabbage are such humble ingredients, but together with the spicy dressing the taste anything but virtuous. This is a dish I think about often, you really should give this a try!

Roasted Kale and Carrots in Chili Bean Sauce
Note: Adjust the amount of chili bean sauce depending on how spicy you like it. And as you see in the title, this dish was originally called chou grillé, so if you have any way of grilling the carrots and cabbage, please give it a try. I don't so I did not test it, but I imagine you'll have to precook the carrots and cabbage for a bit longer to avoid having charred carrots that are still hard inside.

1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into pieces about 3-4 cm long (if they are huge, you might want to cut the pieces in half or quarters)
1 pound kale or savoy cabbage, the cabbage leaves cut into strips (I actually preferred the cabbage version I made the first time, but kale is lovely too)

1 tbsp chili bean sauce
1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar
1/2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Start with bringing a pot of salted water to boil and precooking first the carrots for 2 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and then the cabbage for 1 minutes.  Let them cool down and dry before proceeding.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Add the carrots and cabbage to a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and salt massage the olive oil into the leaves of the cabbage. Put the vegetables on a baking sheet and roast until the carrots are fairly brown (for about 40 minutes). If the cabbage leaves seem to be getting to dark, remove them and finish roasting them.
In the meantime, wisk together the chili bean sauce, the vinegar and the soy sauce.
In a small skillet, toast the pumpkin seeds until you hear them pop.

While the carrots and the cabbage are still warm, drizzle on the dressing and mix well. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds and serve.

Serves 4 or so as a salad.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Endives au Tamarin

Two weeks ago I went to Paris and I returned with only a few pictures, almost none of food and just one Instagram photo of Amy who I spent most weekend with. I feel like I returned with one of those stupid t-shirts for you instead of a great souvenir. I am sorry for that, but I do bring back a recipe for the best endives you'll ever have. At least that was our verdict after having a plate of Endives au Tamarin en salad, échalotes, menthe, coriandre at Le Mary Celeste. The Chou Grillé (more on that one at some later point I hope, still trying to figure how to replicate this at home) and the deviled eggs were amazing too, I'd consider our dinner there one of the most memorable meals ever.


We visited the Le Mary Celeste after reading a post by David Lebovitz (there are some great pictures over on his blog, it was way too dark to take pictures when we were there) and originally only wanted to drop in after eating at Candelaria but ended up ordering quite a bit of food, wine and a couple of drinks. We were the first to turn up after they opened the Restaurant/Bar but all regular tables were reservées so we were sat at the bar, which turned out to be great spot. A French hipster with a very nice moustache spent the whole evening shucking oysters right in front of us and answered all of our questions regarding the dishes we had ordered.
I tried making the endives first on the Friday after returning home, and today I want to share a somewhat improved version. You should give this salad a try, these really were the best endives we ever had.

Endives au Tamarin
Note: Until now I did not find a subtle way to add shallot. Next time I'll try a quick-pickled version and might update this recipe then if it turns out well. Adding it straight to the dressing gave off a too strong flavor after marinating and frying the shallots (as seen in the pictures on this post) is way to strong, too. The salad is fantastic as is, though.

3 endives (about 500g), leaves separated
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp mint leaves
1 tbsp cilantro leaves

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

In a small bowl mix together the tamarind paste, the sugar and the sesame oil. Layer one third of the endive leaves in a bowl, drizzle on one third of the tamarind dressing and massage in gently with your hands. You want all the leaves to be dressed lightly. Repeat for the other two thirds. Add the mint and cilantro leaves, toss gently and let the salad marinate for at least an hour. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds right before serving.

Serves 1-4, depending on how willing to share you are.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Quinoa Maple Granola

Currently I am kind of unable to eat, thanks to a wisdom tooth removal on Thursday. Consequence nr. 1 of this is that I am actually kind of really grumpy, and walk around with the urge to punch people in the face so that they have swollen faces, too. (I get really hangry, sorry for that). And Nr. 2: I do some cooking nonetheless, preparing things I'll be able to eat once I can open my mouth again. Case in point: This granola.

I am not usually one to plan that much ahead when it comes to Christmas presents, but I made this not only to have something to cook today, but also because I wanted to give this recipe I came up with a test-run before preparing it for my friends in December. This urge to try a new granola recipe (not the urge to punch people) rose in me after seeing Melissa's granola two days ago and then reading on food52 about how to get really clumpy granola. I combined recipes, also remembering the müesli Talley posted quite a while ago, and this is how I ended up with this mixture. And unlike with Deb's recipe (it is in her book), I actually ended up with big clumps in my granola. Yay.
This is not a one bowl quick situation though.  You need different bowls to soak the quinoa, whisk the egg white and melt the coconut oil. And it actually requires to process the oats in a food processor to ensure maximum sticking power.

It is all worth it in the end, and if you make a big batch of granola in one go, you'll have quite a few breakfasts taken care of until you need to repeat the whole process again.

Quinoa Maple Granola

2/3 cup water
1 cup quinoa
4 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans, or a mix of both)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup ground flax seed
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
1 egg white

First, add the quinoa to a bowl, bring the water to a boil, pour the water over the quinoa, cover with a plate and set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor, slighly process the oats, until you have some fine pieces between the regular sized oat flakes. You don't want to end up with oat flour, though. Add the processed oats to a large mixing bowl. Add in the sunflower seeds and the coconut, chop the walnuts into smallish pieces and add them to the bowl, too, together with the salt, cardamom and flax seed.
In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, and stir it, together with the maple syrup, into the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Stir the quinoa into the granola mixture, then add the frothy egg white and mix well.

Distribute the granola mixture evenly on the two baking sheets. Make sure to press the granola down with your spatula and keep it nice and tight.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the granola is golden and toasty. If you have an old gas oven like mine, which has the amazing feature of having bottom heat only, you probably want to bake this granola on the top rack of the oven, that way you don't have to stir the granola, and end up with big chunks of granola that you can break up into the size you want them to be.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Minestrone

Autumn Day
Lord: It is time. The summer days were grand.
Now set your shadows out across the sun-dials
And set the winds loose on the meadowland.

Bid the last fruits grow full upon the vine,
do them the good of two more southern days
then thrust them on to their fulfillment, chase
the final sweetness into bodied wine.

Whoever has no house yet will build none,
Whoever is alone will stay alone
And stay up, write long letters out, and go
Through avenues to wander on his own
Uneasily when leaves begin to blow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Marcella Hazan's Ragu Bolognese - A Vegetarian Version

After admitting my lack of knowledge of the great food writers of our time last Friday, I decided to get my act together and actually do something about my ignorance.
And so I found myself this Saturday, both cooking Marcella Hazan's Ragu Bolognese and reading her book The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking on my phone, whilst stirring the aforementioned Ragú Bolognese and doing some homework for my Russian class.
And Marcella Hazan already feels like part of the family, her way of teaching sounding a bit like an Italian version of my own grandmother, who loves to cook for us and is kind of old-fashioned about her way of cooking. You see, my grandmother never really go into that whole pasta thing, and to this day I don't think she ever cooked pasta for me. Maybe egg-noodles, but not the eggless, dried Italian kind of pasta. And to this day, she is famous in our family for her crispy skillet-fried potatoes.
I was reminded, too, of my grandmother, when the smells of the Ragú Bolognese started to fill the kitchen, with that scent of wine and mushrooms and butter it smelled as if I stepped into my grandmothers kitchen, leaving me with the desire to one distant day in the future be that grandmother, too.
Do you know that feeling? I can't really picture myself having kids and all, but I have such clear images of myself as a grandmother. I guess I am kind of weird.
Well, so I found myself stirring Marcellas meat sauce, without the meat. I don't know what she would think of that, of that new vegetarian thing. I know my own grandmother is baffled as to what to cook for me, and probably does not understand one bit. But other than substituting the meat for lentils, and adding some mushrooms to compensate for flavour loss, I actually followed Marcellas recipe almost to the letter. I just committed one sin, using red wine instead of white because I had to open bottles of the red and did not want to go out and buy white wine, which I really don't like that much to drink. But other than that, this is as original as a vegetarian version of a meat sauce can get.
I don't know who the original sauce tasted, having learnt about Marcella Hazan only after becoming a vegetarian, but my vegetarian version turned out fantastic. This is something I'd love to serve guests, seeing as it is more difficult to find a vegetarian recipe that is worthy of being served to guests.

Lentil Ragú Bolognese
adapted from this version on Leite's Culinaria

Note: Marcella Hazan's recipe in the book the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking asks for only one cup each of the milk and wine, and thus requiring less cooking time. I went with the version linked to above since I bought the cookbook only after starting the sauce. I suspect you could cut the liquid ingredients back without compromising flavour all that much. And while I served my ragú with spaghetti, apparantly that is not authentic. If you want to be true to Marcella's recommendation, go with homemade fresh tagliatelle instead of the spaghetti.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/3 cups chopped celery
1 1/3 cups chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped dried porcini mushrooms
salt and freshly ground black pepper 
2 cups whole milk 
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
2 cups red wine
3 cups canned imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juice
200g brown lentils, uncooked 
As much spaghetti as you wish, cooked and drained  
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the oil and 6 tablespoons butter in a heavy 5-quart over medium heat until the butter melts and stops foaming. Drop in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it has become translucent, about 5 minutes. 
Throw in the celery, carrot and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well with the fat.
Turn the heat to low. Pour in the milk and simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has cooked away completely, about 1 hour. Stir in the nutmeg.
Pour in the wine and let it simmer, stirring frequently, until it has evaporated, about 1 hour.
Add the crushed tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat everything well. When the tomato puree begins to bubble, turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface.
Cook, uncovered, for at least an hour stirring from time to time. If the sauce is getting to dry, add 1/2 cups of water as necessary. 
In the meantime, cook the lentils in plenty of water until soften but not until done. You just want to make them soft enough to give them a quick chop before adding them to the sauce. 
In the last 30 minutes of cooking the sauce, add the coarsely chopped up lentils (I just gave them a quick chop on a cutting board, the food processor seems to skin them rather than cut them into pieces) Cook the sauce until the lentils are soft. At the same time, bring a pot of water to a boil and your pasta according to package instructions, until they are al dente.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the hot pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Roasted Delicata Squash with Chinese Flavours

I think this is the appropriate moment to thank Katie and Luisa for introducing me to Fuchsia Dunlop. I love to think of myself as someone who is into reading food writing but honestly, I don't really know all the great food writers everyone else seems to know. Expect for M. F. K. Fisher, whom I just adore, I have not read any of the classics and I also don't know the more recent writers.
So I have never ever heard of Fuchsia Dunlop before reading Katie's post a while ago (which made me turn to amazon and order her most recent book Every Grain of Rice)
Dunlop really is a wonderful writer, and as Luisa pointed out in her post about one of Dunlops recipes, she can make stinky fermented tofu and slippery sea urchins sound so intriguing you want to run out to buy everything you need to make these dishes.
And ever since receiving the book, I can't seem to stop myself from trying her recipes or just infusing just about anything with Chinese flavours. And that eventhough I haven't done much Chinese cooking so far, but her book shows such a different kind of Chinese cuisine than what I am used to from Chinese restaurants here.

Today I made her mapo dofou recipe, which you can find at the guardian and this delicata squash to go with it. I have actually never bought Delicata squash before, but now that I tried it, I don't think I'll ever turn back. I love its delicate sweetness and the fact that you don't have to peel it. Yay. Just cut it into slices, remove the seeds, brush a little olive oil on the slices and throw them in the oven.

Once roasted, I just topped it of with a sprinkle of Szechuan pepper a drizzle of Chinkiang vinegar and chili oil and some finely sliced scallions. And then I ate almost all of the squash myself, leaving only a few slices to Michael who got home from university later.

Roasted Delicata Squash with Chinese Flavours

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Slice a delicata squash into rounds and remove the seeds. Brush the sices with a mixture of 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp sesame oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the squash is browned in places and tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle 1/2 tsp roasted, ground szechuan pepper on top, then drizzle on 1 tbsp of Chinkiang vinegar and 2 tsp szechuanese chili oil. Finely slice the green part of a scallion and scatter over the squah.

For the chili oil, you can buy chinese chili oil, but it is hotter than szechuanese chili oil (so you might want to use less) or follow Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Eggplant, Tomato and Zucchini Gratin with Parsley Breadcrumbs

I have tried writing about coming home for the last four weeks, unsuccessful as you can see. But we are back, and I am cooking again. It is good to be back after such a long hiatus. I might write about the rest of our trip on a later date and maybe about coming home, but right now I don't find the words and prefer to enjoy the moment instead of looking back.

I was so happy not to have missed all of summer's vegetable bounty. When we returned, tomatoes were just getting really juicy and sweet and lovely sprinkled with a little salt and the olive oil we brought back from Italy back in spring. And since we've been back in our apartment, we've had a bowl full of San Marzano tomatoes on our kitchen table. Ready to be eaten. Ready to be cooked down into a simple, garlicky tomato sauce. We made a lasagne with fresh tomatoes (which actually turned out dry, sorry mum) and today I made this gratin I found in Vegetable Literacy, a cookbook I bought just before leaving for Bolivia and haven't actually used it much since then (for obvious reasons).
Like Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, Vegetable Literacy is divided into chapters according to vegetable family, which is very helpful when you find yourself with an abundace of summer squash, green beans or run out of inspiration in the middle of winter on how to use carrots or cabbage. And considering the fact that the gratin I made today turned out wonderfully, I think I am going to cook from this cookbook quite a few times in the future.

The recipe for the gratin can be divided into two parts, first you make a rataouille of sorts, cooking the eggplant and tomatoes into a thick stew while lightly steaming the zucchini slices that Deborah Madison makes you place on top of the sauce, keeping them from falling apart.
Then you scatter breadcrumbs over the ratatouille and after 25 minutes in the oven soft pieces of eggplant and tomato and zucchini with a herby crunchy topping emerge.

Eggplant, Tomato and Zucchini Gratin with Parsley Breadcrumbs
Adapted from a recipe in Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison
Note: Deborah Madison has you top the ratatouille with slices of mozzarella, which in my opinion, does not much for the dish itsself, so next time I would omit the mozzarella and maybe stir in some parmesan with the breadcrumbs or keep this as is.

for the ratatouille
1 eggplant, quartered lengthwise and cut into slices
2 onions, cut into thin wedges
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried rosemary
4 San Marzano tomatoes (or 5-6 of regular round tomatoes), cut into dice sized pieces
2 smallish zucchinis, cut into slices the same width as the eggplant
salt and pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste

for the topping
1 clove of garlic
a bunch of parsley
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 tbsp olive oil

Before preparing the other vegetables, slice the eggplant and lightly salt the slices. After prepping everything else, dab the excess moisture off of the slices.
Preheat the oven to 375°F/200°C.
In a skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent and fragrant, then add the dried herbs and garlic and let cook for another minute or so. Then stir in the eggplant and tomatoes and sauté a minute or two before turning down the heat. Place the zucchini slices on top of the eggplant and tomato stew, cover the skillet and let cook, on low heat, for 20 minutes or so.
While the ratatouille cooks, prepare the topping. Putthe garlic and parsley into the bowl of a small food processor and give it a whiz until cut into smallish pieces, then add the breadcrumbs and pulse until the breadcrumbs are mostly green. Stir in the olive oil and set aside.
With two spoons remove the stew from the skillet into a baking dish and mix in the tomato paste with the liquid that remains in the skillet. Add this liquid to the ratatouille. Top everything off with the green breadcrumbs and bake for 25 minutes.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Spanish Salad

Time flew by since I last visited this space. Our days were filled with all those minor things we needed to cross off our to do list before leaving (in 10 9 days!!!) and some quality time spent in the loveliest house at Lake Brienz with Michael and a few friends who dropped in for a visit.

Days there are slow, filled with second and third rounds of coffee, short swims in the lake (it is still very cold), walks, late night bonfires and simple cooking.

I am back home already, but this is a salad similar to something we'd make there. I call it a Spanish salad because it is a riff on a salad we had in Nerja, Spain last year. Michael referred to this as the best thing he has eaten in a long time - which might say more about him than about the salad. He is a salad lover for sure. But it makes for a great lunch, he is right on that.

A Spanish Salad
1/2 head of lettuce, cut into bite sized pieces
1/3 cucumber, core removed, sliced thinly
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1/4 - 1/3 cup olives
a handful dried tomatoes in olive oil, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, cut into slices
olive oil
lemon juice (the juice of 1/4 - 1/2 lemon)
salt and pepper
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the salad ingredients except the avocado. Dress the salad with olive oil and a little lemon juice, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on large plates, arranging the avocado slices on top of the salad.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Enchiladas Verdes

As I am finally getting my acts together and actually write that short paper that I have been talking about for months, the one little thing left between me and my bachelor's degree, I thought it might be appropriate to tell you about my summer plans.
Between now and September, when I'll head back to university for another two years (for a Master's degree) Michael and I have planned a little adventure. Until now I have barely left the continent, Turkey almost still belongs to Europe in my opinion, but now, we have a plane ticket to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in Bolivia that is going to take us from Frankfurt in Germany to Bolivia in 30 hours (crazy) with a stopover in Santo Domingo and a 6 hour stay in Panama.
From Santa Cruz we are going to make our way through Bolivia (and I think I am most excited to see the Salar de Uyuni, the salt lakes) and through Peru until we reach Lima sometime at the end of July.
And from there, we'll head to La Habana, to Travel Cuba for a few weeks (and unlike Beyonce and Jay-Z, we can easily enter Cuba. 42 Swiss Francs, a half an hour wait and a little paper that notes my name and passport number was all it took to get a tourist card that will allow us to enter Cuba and stay for a month)

I just one short month we'll already have rented out our apartment and be living at our parent's homes for a few days before we head out and start this adventure. And I am excited and super happy and super nervous about this all. (and I just bought crazy expensive merino leggings that I hope are going to warm my legs throughout Bolivia and Peru and cold busrides in Cuba).
Until I am off, I plan to continue blogging, but between June 6th and August 20th, I won't be around too much.
Right now, since we'll leave our apartment in the hands of a lovely lady who is going to live here while we are away, I am trying to clean out the kitchen a bit. I had this salsa verde around for a while now. I'd bought it on a whim, not quite knowing what I was going to do with it.
You see, Mexican food is not really something Swiss people know a lot about. One part of it is the Mexican restaurants we have here are quite bad, and once you don't eat meat, things get even worse. And then actually finding even Jalapenos is difficult, so it should not be a surprise to you that I have never ever seen a tomatillo in my life. And this salsa verde does not count, really, it being all mashed up in a sauce already. But for now, it has to suffice.

And with the store bought salsa verde, I made enchiladas verdes, something else I never had before. And you have to excuse me if I commited some cardinal sin with these, because I really don't know any better. But authentic or not, I really loved them. The lentils in the red velvet mole are one of the best things I made in quite a while. And since you use lentils instead of beans, they come together really quickly. I bet they would be great served over rice, too. (I actually feel I need to make them again, like tomorrow.)
Maybe our next long trip should be to Mexico, and maybe then I'll actually know my Mexican Food 101. And while I am at it, I probably should read up on Cinco de Mayo? Because other than seeing post all over the web for Cinco de Mayo themed recipes, I don't know a thing about it (And by now it is Nueve de Mayo which really does not has the same ring as Cinco de Mayo)

Enchiladas Verdes
Note: My salsa verde was relativly picante, so the filling itsself is mild, but if you do like it spicy or have a not so spicy salsa verde, feel free to add some heat to the lentils, or jalapeno slices in on top of the mushroom slices)

8 tortillas
1 1/2 cup salsa verde
lentils in red velvet mole (recipe below)
3 big mushrooms
salt and smoked paprika
1/2 cup cashew sour cream or real sour cream
1/4 cup grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Prepare a baking dish that fits the tortillas you are using. Spread a cup of the salsa verde in the bottom of the baking dish.
Cut the mushrooms into thick slices, heat a little oil in a skillet and sear the mushroom slices for a minute or two on both sides. Sprinkle with a little salt and smoked paprika while in the skillet, then set aside.
On each tortilla, spread a little sour cream (off center, so you can roll them up better). Spoon some of the lentils over the sour cream, then lay two or three mushroom slices on top. Roll the tortillas up, nestle them close together on the salsa verde, then spread the rest of the salsa over the top, sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes until heated through and the cheese is slightly browned and bubbling.

Lentils in Red Velvet Mole
adapted from the Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskovitz

1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, slivered
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp tomato paste
1,5 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup lentils
1/4 cup raisins

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Saute the onion until translucent, a few minutes. Turn down the heat and stir in the spices, herbs and the garlic. Saute for another minute or two. Then add the lentils, the tomato paste and a cup of water (You probably need to add more water later, but the amount of water the lentils need until cooked through can vary greatly). Turn the heat up to medium, stir in the cocoa powder, the salt and the raisins and cook until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.
Serve the Lentils in the enchiladas above, or over rice.