the thin chef

Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

Smoky Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas are so versatile, aren’t they? I love their flavor, and especially their texture, which is perfect in soups, tossed over a simple green salad, or even as the base of a salad on their own. I thought I knew just about every way to prepare a chickpea until last week. I was trying to think of something snacky I could put out with cocktails for a little get together we had, and I didn’t want to rely on ordinary (read: boring) salted nuts. I remember seeing a recipe forever ago in a magazine for roasted chickpeas, which renders them golden brown and addictively crunchy.

You can prepare these in many, many different ways…tossing them with dried herbs, garlic, black pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil, or even Old Bay before roasting. I used my favorite smoked paprika, which gave them depth, and a warm, smoky flavor. I think they’d be perfect as part of a tapas spread.

If you look around for similar recipes, you’ll find varying times and temperatures for cooking; this is the method that worked for me. High heat to brown the chickpeas and give them a nutty flavor, and a low heat for drying out the excess moisture.

Smoky Roasted Chickpeas
Makes enough for a party of 10 or so

2 (14.5-ounce) cans chickpeas
2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil (enough to coat)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 425°.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and place them on a few layers of paper towels or a non-terrycloth dishtowel. Rub the beans gently to dry them. If the skins come off, remove and discard them, but don’t worry about getting every single one.

Place the dry chickpeas in a bowl, and toss with the oil, paprika, and salt. Taste one, and adjust the seasonings. Spread the chickpeas out on a sheet pan, shaking pan gently to distribute evenly.

Roast chickpeas for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven, and stir. Lower oven temperature to 225°. Wait a few minutes for the oven to cool, then return pan to oven. Bake for 20 minutes longer, or until chickpeas are golden brown and very crunchy.

Try not to eat them all before your guests arrive. Store any leftovers (if there are any) in a ziploc bag for up to a week.

Posted by on December 16th, 2010 2 Comments

Torta di Pasta

If you’re like me (and I hope I’m not alone), you cringe and feel terrible when you throw away food…but it happens more than you’d care to admit. Especially for those of us cooking for just two, leftovers are a fact of life. Many times, I love leftovers…but sometimes, they sit in the fridge for days before I cringe and throw them out. I hate, hate, hate to waste food. I know the sad reality that the majority of our planet would kill to have enough food to even have the option to throw some of it away. Without going any farther down that road, we’ll just leave it at the fact that wasting food is clearly irresponsible.

So. What to do with those leftovers? Pasta is one of my least favorites to eat the next day, but I always cook too much the night before. It’s almost never good simply reheated, since any amount of heat cooks it further, and it turns to mush in a matter of minutes. Pasta is almost always the leftovers I throw away.

But the other day, that all changed. Famished after running around all morning, I came home with the knowledge of two ingredients I wanted to combine: local eggs and a little glass container of pasta from the night before. I envisioned something Giada De Laurentiis made ages ago on her show—something called Torta di Pasta, an egg-and-pasta cake that’s similar to a frittata.

Seriously good, cheap, and filling, this might be my new favorite lunch. It’s crisp on the outside, yielding and creamy on the inside. The next time you find yourself with some leftover long-strand pasta sitting in the depths of your fridge, try this. It’s not even a recipe, it’s that easy.

Simply heat a small splash of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add enough pasta to the pan to cover the bottom generously. Let it sit for 1 or 2 minutes. Crack some eggs into a bowl. For a small skillet, you’ll need about 3; for a large one, maybe 6. Whisk the eggs, and add some salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan over the pasta. Let set until the bottom is firm and golden (maybe 3 or so minutes). Sprinkle the top generously with grated parmesan. Then you have a choice. If it’s a small skillet, use a spatula to flip the whole thing over. If it’s a big one, stick the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until the whole thing is firm and the top is golden-brown. Slice, and serve.

I dipped my bites in sriracha (of course), but some pesto or leftover warm marinara (or a mixture of the two) would be good to serve alongside.

Posted by on November 2nd, 2010 3 Comments

Food52

photo from Food52.com

I got some fantastic news today: My cauliflower recipe was chosen as a finalist on Food52.com. Are you familiar with the site? It’s a wonderful community of home cooks, sharing recipes, as well as insightful articles, tips, and inspiration.

They spotlighted my blog a while ago, which was so very lovely. And today, I found out I’m a finalist for the cookbook. Cue the happy dance. Amanda Hesser, one of the finalists, wrote Cooking for Mr. Latte (which I actually just referenced here last week). When I read that book, it stoked the little foodie fire in me and encouraged it to become a full blown passion. Amanda has always been a huge influence on me, and someone who I often look to for inspiration. So seeing pictures of her cooking a recipe I made, and reading the words that she and Food52 cofounder Merrill Stubbs wrote about it…well, to say it made my day is an understatement.

If you feel so inclined, try the recipe (if you haven’t already) and lend me your vote. If my recipe “wins,” it gets a spot in the second Food52 cookbook, which is published and bound—a real book! But regardless, make sure to take a look around Food52 and see for yourself what a fabulous community it is.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a tasty Thai-inspired recipe!

Posted by on October 14th, 2010 2 Comments

Pasta with Greens and Lemon-Butter Sauce

You already know my love of pasta. It’s comfort in a bowl. I love short cuts, long strands, sheets of lasagna, and especially wide, slurpy papardelle. The name of the noodles derives from the verb “pappare,” to gobble up—which is what I do when I see a bowlful of this pasta.

I have an unabashed love of Trader Joe’s, and I stock up whenever we’re in a city that has one. My friend Sarah turned me on to their spinach and chive pasta, which I get every time. And last trip, I also grabbed a bag of lemon-pepper papardelle. Lemon, and pepper, and my favorite pasta? Yes, please.

I was waiting to cook the pasta until I could think of a sauce or preparation that would let the flavor of the noodles shine through, but also compliment them. I picked up bags of organic, locally grown arugula and watercress at the co-op last week, and I was reminded of a recipe from one of my favorite books, Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser. It involves pasta, lemon zest, creme fraiche, and arugula, and it’s fabulous. This is my take on it.

Pasta with Greens and Lemon-Butter Sauce
serves 4

1 pound long pasta, such as papardelle, linguine or fettucine
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons unsalted, room-temperature butter
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large handfuls arugula
1 large handful watercress, thick or tough stems removed and discarded
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta per package directions. Just before pasta is done, ladle out about 1 cup of the cooking water, and set aside. As the pasta cooks, combine the lemon zest and butter in a small bowl, mashing and stirring to combine. Drain pasta, and place in a large bowl. (I like to warm the bowl with very hot tap water so it doesn’t cool the pasta.)

Add butter-zest mixture, lemon juice, and olive oil. Use tongs or two large forks to toss the pasta together until it’s coated in the butter, oil, and lemon juice. Add greens, 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, and salt and pepper to taste. (Need guidance? Start with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and go from there.) Toss again until the greens are wilted and the pasta is coated in “sauce.” Add more pasta water, if needed, to keep the pasta slicked but not wet. Serve immediately.

Posted by on October 7th, 2010 3 Comments

Homemade Cheez-Its

This is the second post this week about a favorite, go-to snack that tastes even better when you make it from scratch. Why go through the trouble, you might ask, when you can easily grab a box of crackers at the grocery store and call it a day? Well, for one, these taste better. (And I am a huge fan of the non-homemade kind. I once, regrettably, ate an entire box in one sitting, and was very ill as a result.) Second, you know exactly what’s going in them, and there are only a handful of ingredients, instead of odd-sounding preservatives and trans fats. You can use organic ingredients, if you’d like, and local butter and cheese, if you’re fortunate enough to have access to them.

It takes 30 seconds to throw this dough together in the food processor and about 4 minutes to roll and cut the crackers. They bake for less than 30 minutes, and you can clean the whole kitchen and start a load of laundry in that time, so really, it doesn’t count.

Now tell me that’s not faster than a trip to Publix. That’s what I thought.

Homemade Cheez-It Crackers
makes about 40 crackers
Adapted from this Country Living recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 (7-ounce) bag grated extra-sharp 2% reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but recommended)
5 tablespoons cold water

Combine flour, butter, cheese, salt, and cayenne in the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse until crumbly. Pulse in water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together. (You may not use all the water.)

Wrap dough in plastic wrap, press into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350º. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick silicone mats. Set aside.

Place dough between two pieces of parchment paper. (It’s sticky!) Roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Carefully flip dough in parchment over, and gently peel off the top layer. Using a pizza cutter, trim dough into a rectangle, then cut into 2-inch squares. Carefully transfer squares onto baking sheets, using a spatula if needed.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until crackers are just slightly turning light brown, and are crisp. Quickly cool and taste one for crispness. If they are not crisp, bake just a few minutes longer. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (if they last that long!). If crackers are soggy after storing, re-crisp them in a preheated 400º oven for 3 to 5 minutes.

Posted by on October 6th, 2010 31 Comments

Autumn Is Here Apple Crisp

It’s been cooler—and far, far drier—here in central Florida than it usually is in October, which is a welcome and unexpected break from the heat and humidity of summertime. It actually feels like fall, and that’s pretty unusual for early October.

The last three years, we lived in Birmingham, Alabama, which (among its other delightful aspects) actually has four—count ‘em, four—distinct seasons, something we just don’t get in central Florida. So I was, let’s say, a little wistful on the first day of fall, knowing I was back in the two-seasons-at-best Sunshine state. But then…oh, then…the air dried out, the temperatures dropped to a chilly 75 degrees, and we had fall.

So, what do I do in response? I make apple crisp. I had planned to make apple brown betty, but I decided that the chunkier texture from a crisp or crumble is really what I wanted. I am not really a dessert person, and I am certainly not a baker. But I love a fruit crisp. This, really, is what autumn is all about, no? Eating warming, seasonal foods that remind us that the seasons (like life) are always in motion, are always changing, and are something to be celebrated.

Classic Apple Crisp
serves 4 to 6
My version is light on the sweetness, so adjust the sugar accordingly if you know you like your desserts super sweet. If you don’t have pure maple syrup on hand, please do not use pancake syrup. Substitute with brown sugar (and go buy some pure maple syrup!). Whole wheat flour adds an extra hint of heartiness, but if all-purpose is all you have, by all means, use that. Finally, you can easily double this recipe using a 9×13-inch baking dish.

4 small gala apples
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, depending on the sweetness of your apples
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons room-temperature butter

Preheat oven to 350º.

Peel apples; slice the “cheeks” off of the cores, and discard cores. Slice apples into 1/4-inch slices, place in an 8×6-inch (or similar) baking dish, and toss with lemon juice and maple syrup. Taste a slice, and see if it tastes sweet enough; if not, add a bit more maple syrup. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, almonds, and cinnamon. Using your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture resembles wet sand, and it sticks together in clumps. Taste, and add more sugar if you think it should be sweeter.

Pour topping over apples in the baking dish. Bake for 22 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and apples are just tender. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream for extra oohs and aahs.

Posted by on October 5th, 2010 2 Comments

Homemade Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a very American snack. I was amused to see it on the “USA” aisle in a French grocery store a few years ago. In fact, in Paris, there is a shop called Thanksgiving, and its shelves are stocked with things like Pringles, McCormick’s gravy mix packets, Oreos, Campbell’s soups, and, yes, peanut butter.

But I really wonder why it hasn’t caught on worldwide as a favorite food item. It’s a favorite in our house, whether spread on soft bread for a PBJ (or PBBH—peanut-butter-banana-honey), warmed in the microwave and drizzled over ice cream, or just eaten out of the jar with a spoon. My friend Amy won’t keep it in her house, because she knows she’ll eat it out of the jar, spoonful by spoonful, until it’s gone.

Amy probably shouldn’t make this homemade version. If you love the store-bought stuff, you’ll find this to be a revelation. (I am being dramatic, but not overly so. This stuff is good.) Easy, cheap, and ever so satisfying, peanut butter is one of those things that’s just better—and, most likely, better for you—when you make it at home.

I used Alton Brown’s recipe, and it worked pretty much perfectly. The peanut butter is on the crumbly side, but spreads easily when warmed for 10 seconds in the microwave, or left at room temperature for a half hour before using. You can always drizzle in a bit more oil for a more spreadable consistency.

You can also customize the flavor…
*Maple: Use 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup instead of the honey
*Cinnamon-Raisin: Process with 1 teaspoon cinnamon; stir in raisins after processing
*Spicy Asian: Process with 2 teaspoons soy sauce instead of salt and 1 teaspoon sriracha
*Honey: Increase honey to 1 tablespoon

Homemade Peanut Butter
Adapted, very slightly, from Alton Brown’s recipe

15 ounces shelled, unsalted roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons peanut oil (you can sub vegetable oil, as long as it’s flavor is neutral)

Place the peanuts, salt, and honey into the work bowl of your food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process while drizzling in the oil; process until the mixture is smooth, adding oil bit by bit until desired texture is reached. Place the peanut butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Posted by on October 4th, 2010 3 Comments

Greek “Bruschetta”

In Birmingham, there is a Greek restaurant. It will remain unnamed because I have nothing very kind to say about it, but it’s an institution, and it has a lot of fans. It was very close to where Jason and I lived, so we tried to like it. We really tried to like it 4 or 5 times. But it just wasn’t very good or very authentic. However, they did have one dish that had a really nice idea behind it—Greek bruschetta. A thick slice of bread topped with fried eggplant, roasted peppers, and feta cheese. The flavors were there, but it wasn’t executed very well, mainly because of the copious amounts of grease from the eggplant and olive oil on the bread, both of which literally dripped down my forearms as I ate it.

Anyway. I do love the idea of putting Greek flavors on a thick, toasted slice of bread, so I made my own version. It was not swimming in oil, but it did have lots of great flavors. A quick, delicious lunch, for sure. Do me a favor, though, will you? Please use fresh, fresh, fresh tomatoes that are bursting with juice. And please only use imported (read: sheep’s milk) feta, which has a superior nutty, briny flavor. Don’t buy the grocery store brand, even though it’s cheaper—you can taste the difference, and the extra dollar or two are Worth. It.

Greek Bruschetta
Serves 1

I’m fortunate enough to grow oregano outside, but if you don’t have fresh, just sprinkle a touch of dried right on top of the bread, so the moisture of the oil and tomatoes can rehydrate it a little bit. As an afterthought (meaning 4 bites in) I realized roasted red pepper would be a lovely addition. If you have any on hand, pile them on.

1 thick slice good, crusty bread
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
3 slices ripe tomato
1/2 roasted red pepper, cut in half, and patted dry with a paper towel (optional)
3 to 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices feta cheese
4 (or so) leaves fresh oregano, torn into pieces

Preheat toaster oven (or broiler). Brush bread with olive oil, coating well. Broil for just 1 minute or so, until the bread is golden. Remove from oven, and top with tomato slices, roasted red pepper (if using), and feta. Return to oven, and broil for 2 more minutes—watching closely the whole time—until the cheese is softened and golden. Sprinkle fresh oregano over top, and eat immediately.

Posted by on September 3rd, 2010 4 Comments

Zucchini Carpaccio

I’ve seen this beautiful zucchini preparation a few times recently in magazines and around the internet, so when I picked up two pounds of the pretty green squash from our co-op, I thought I’d give it a try myself.

I love cooked zucchini, but thinly sliced, zucchini is also really tasty raw. Simply dressed with lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil, and studded with fresh basil and mint, it’s a lovely little salad. I sprinkled some feta over top (my crazy cheese-hating husband doesn’t like it, which is why it’s only on half), which added a perfect creaminess and saltiness. It would probably also be delicious with shaved parmesan or creamy fresh ricotta (or both).

Summer squash is crazy abundant right now, and this is the perfect use for it. It’s a perfect accompaniment for just about anything, but I imagine it would be most delicious next to some grilled fish. If you don’t have a V-slicer or mandoline for cutting the zucchini, you could always peel them into long strips with a vegetable peeler, or just use your best knife skills to cut them as thinly as possible.

Zucchini Carpaccio
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini, stem tops and bottoms removed, sliced paper thin
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
4 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Arrange zucchini slices on a serving plate. Sprinkle with lemon zest and juice, then drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper, and evenly distribute herbs over the plate. Top with feta.

Posted by on August 20th, 2010 No Comments

Sushi Rice Risotto

In an effort to eat more cleanly, more locally, more healthfully, Jason and I have cut meat out of most of the meals we eat at home. I was a vegetarian for about a year in high school (and even flirted with veganism until I remembered how much I love cheese), and even though I do enjoy eating meat—hello, did you read my last post about bacon?—I am usually completely satisfied with meals created without it.

Perusing the recipes at vegetariantimes.com, I stumbled upon this brilliant idea to cook sushi rice like risotto (it’s short-grained and high-starch, after all, just like arborio or carnaroli), using miso broth instead of stock. I didn’t follow their recipe exactly…I just took the method and tailored it to the vegetables I had on hand. Even if you don’t love miso soup—Jason doesn’t—the nutty, salty flavor adds a perfect something extra to the flavor. And of course, I used copious amounts of garlic and ginger for even more flavor.

Totally satiating, a bowlful of this vegetarian risotto is a perfect dinner paired with sliced cucumbers simply dressed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil.

Sushi Rice Risotto
Serves 4

3 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 or 4 large cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions, sliced (about 1 cup)
1  1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice
2/3 cup sake or dry white wine
1 pound baby bok choy, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine miso with 6 cups water in a saucepan, whisking to combine. Bring broth to a simmer, and adjust heat to keep at a simmer.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add pepper, and cook until just tender. Transfer to a plate, and set aside. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in the stockpot over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and green onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sushi rice, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add sake, and cook 1 or 2 minutes, until liquid is almost completely absorbed.

Ladle in 1/2 cup miso broth; cook and stir until broth is almost absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing rice to absorb most of liquid before adding more. When rice is mostly done, stir in bok choy, stirring until wilted. Keep adding broth until rice is tender and cooked through. Add red pepper back to pot, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper, as needed. Add sesame oil, and serve immediately.

Posted by on August 19th, 2010 2 Comments