Tag Archives: Vegetables

Garlic Confit

Garlic Confit

There is nothing finer or more mellow tasting than roasted garlic. And it’s so easy, why not try it?

Ingredients:
3-4 heads of fresh garlic, cut in half through the center, not stem to end
Extra virgin olive oil
A good-sized bunch of fresh thyme (lemon thyme is delicious)
About 20 whole black peppercorns

To prepare:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, In a glass baking dish set the garlic cut side down. Cover about halfway with olive oil and drop in the herbs and peppercorns. Cover the dish with foil and set in the oven to bake. The garlic takes about an hour and should look nicely caramelized. The garlic will slide out of the peel smoothly. Be sure to strain and save the oil, which will be full of infused garlic flavor. Use this garlic as a spread, as an addition in dressings, or as a garlic complement to any dish.

Peas for Kids

Peas for Kids

Vegetables are a tough sell for children, yet sugar and sweetened foods seem to go over without a hitch. Here is a recipe that takes sweet peas and makes them sweeter in a natural way that seems to appeal to most children. Pecans add chewy texture, nutrition, and yes, enough sophistication to make this a great adult side dish as well. Pine nuts or walnuts can be substituted for pecans, although pecans and honey make a great team.

Ingredients:
1 lb. frozen organic petit peas
1 1/2 T. vegan margarine
1 1/2 T. organic honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar
1/4 c. chopped pecans

To prepare:
Bring three cups of water to a boil. Drop in the peas and cook for 3-5 minutes or just until heated through. Drain well.

Melt the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar and the pecans. Stir and allow the nuts to cook for a minute or two. Add in the peas, stir to combine and serve.

If the peas go over well, try the same recipe with cooked frozen green beans, lima beans, or carrots. The pecan topping is also wonderful over lightly steamed or roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are another terrific tasting and very healthy vegetable, and children usually like them. Just be sure not to overcook them as texture plays an important role in acceptability. These vegetable sides are great served with a veggie burger, over rice, or with my Tofu Bites.

Caribbean Sweet Potatoes

Caribbean Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a wonderful root vegetable, sweet and flavorful, and loaded with dietary fiber (an important element in controlling cholesterol and some types of cancer). Sweet potatoes contain naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. They have almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when prepared and eaten with the skin on, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. To top that off, an average-sized sweet potato contains only about 130-160 calories.

Among root vegetables, sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating, because it digests slowly. This gradual rise in blood sugar makes you feel satisfied longer, which is also an advantage for maintaining weight or to shed excess pounds. With what seems like the entire population fearing “carbs,” sweet potatoes goes on the “good for you” list.

Try them mashed, baked, fried, in desserts, or prepared as I do in the recipe that follows. I picked up this simple recipe on a recent trip to the Caribbean where sweet potatoes overfill the bins in local groceries.

Ingredients:
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled or not, and cubed
1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
3 T. freshly grated ginger
2-3 T. olive oil
1 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground chipolte pepper powder (optional)
1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

To prepare:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the cubed sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, maple syrup or agave nectar, ginger, oil, cardamom, and chipotle, if using. Transfer to a large terra cotta baking dish or a large, deep cast iron frying pan. Cast iron pans make wonderful baking dishes.

Bake for about 20 minutes, then turn the mixture in the pan to get the pieces from the bottom of the pan to the top. Continue baking for an additional 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender and caramelized.

Top with the chopped peanuts, if you like, or serve as is over rice, black beans, tucked into my chickpea crepes or with my spicy Jamacan Jerk Tempeh or Tofu. I have used these leftover in roll up sandwiches with avocado, scallions, lettuce, and tomato. These make substitute for homefries with breakfast as well.

Wine-Braised Fennel

Wine-Braised Fennel

It’s a shame that fennel is often overlooked as a cooked side dish because it really is delicious. Usually served in its crunchy raw state in salads, fennel is also an easy, sweet, cooked vegetable and it’s quite popular that way in Europe. Here is a recipe that can be made with or without the Parmesan cheese (vegan or otherwise) and which offers options for other vegetable additions such as sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, or black olives.

Ingredients:
3-4 fennel bulbs, cleaned and trimmed
3-4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. good quality white wine
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. to 1/4 c. grated vegan or dairy parmesan cheese

To prepare:
Prepare the fennel by cutting off the stems and trimming the tough bottom. Remove also the thick outer layer which is sometimes quite woody. Slice the fennel into 1/2-inch slices.

Heat a heavy sauté pan, large enough to hold the fennel slices in a single layer. A little overlap is fine, but they shouldn’t be sitting on top of each other. Heat the oil just until it’s heated through, but not smoking. Slide the fennel slices into the pan, along with a little salt and pepper, and the wine. Cover and allow the vegetables to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the fennel is fairly tender. The fennel should begin caramelizing a bit and turning a light golden brown. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.

Turn the fennel slices, put the cover back on, and continue cooking until the other side colors – this should take about 5 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with cheese, if you’d like, and serve immediately.

This is a terrific side dish served alongside other dishes or by itself over nutty brown rice. I have also served it on rye toast or tuscan bread prepared as bruschetta.

Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

Watch this recipe being made.

Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

Roasting is one of my favorite methods of preparing vegetables. It’s so easy and roasting brings out the very best flavor in most vegetables. This recipe boasts few ingredients and is packed with flavor and flexibility. I will serve this as a vegetable side dish or light entrée. The roasted garlic is superb and the pan ‘drippings’ are caramelized to perfection, just waiting to be mopped up with warm bread.

Try this as a filling for Chickpea Crepes using the savory alternative version.

Watch this recipe being made online .

1 head cauliflower, broken or cut into florets
1 butternut squash, peeled, innards removed, cut into 2″ pieces
6-10 whole garlic cloves, with peel on (remove any loose papery skin)
1-2 shallots, quartered
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 to 1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 t. Herbes de Provence (optional)
¼ c. “Parmesan” style vegan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the garlic and with the heel of a knife, gently break the skin a little but leaving the clove in the skin. Place the cauliflower, squash, garlic, pine nuts, and shallots into a roomy work bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, reserving some to add as they roast. Season with about half a teaspoon of kosher salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and the dried herbs, if using. Toss everything well to combine. Put all the vegetables in a metal or glass roasting pan or terra cotta baking dish. I like to pile the vegetables somewhat so they aren’t completely in a single layer – this helps to retain the vegetables’ moisture content as they roast. Tuck the rosemary sprigs all around but don’t break off the leaves. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes.

After about 20 minutes, the top should be browning a bit. Turn the vegetables in the pan and continue roasting for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the squash pieces are fork tender. If the vegetables seem dry, drizzle with additional oil. When the vegetables are cooked, you’ll have a nice layer of caramelization on the bottom of the dish. Remove the pan from the oven and cover lightly with foil. Allow the cauliflower and squash to rest and “sweat” out their juices for five minutes or so, then season everything to taste, and serve.

This is wonderful as a side dish, filling, or main course with any grain recipe. The garlic is a real treat, so sweet, and each clove just pops out of the skin. Be sure to eat the squash with some of these delicious garlic treasures. The rosemary should be soft and fragrant. Any leaves remaining on the twig will easily slide off and can be mixed with the juices.

Optional additions include dried cranberries, black olives, or walnuts.

Rediscover Lentils

Rediscover Lentils

Lentils are one of the most ancient of cultivated crops, and they’re widely consumed throughout Europe, India, and Africa. They are wonderfully all-purpose, low in fat, high in protein and fiber, and unlike other legumes, they cook quickly and require no soaking. They are a terrific meat substitute for vegetarians in a variety of forms – as in burgers and loaves. Lentils have a mild, earthy flavor, and stand up well against more assertive flavorings.

Puy lentils or French lentils are some of the finest available. While they take a bit longer to cook than brown lentils, they’re worth the extra time because they hold their shape well after cooking. Puy lentils are smaller than brown lentils and they’re a beautiful blue green color. They will darken after cooking and I wouldn’t recommend they be used in a burger or loaf recipe as they cost more than brown lentils and they’re very refined. At one time they were only grown in the volcanic soil of Puy, France, but they are now also grown in Italy and North America, which makes them more affordable.

All lentils are best when simmered gently and shouldn’t be used just for soups. Use them as you would other beans – they make great tacos, for example. All lentils are a wonderful, protein-rich addition to salads or are a delicious side dish to any meal.

Dal (or split lentils) are often sold in Indian markets. They cook down quickly and are best puréed or added to soups.

Before cooking, simply rinse lentils and pick out any stones. Salting the water during cooking will slow the process, so season them just before serving. A delicious lentil dish can be ready in as little as half an hour. An essential pantry item, lentils of all types will last up to a year stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Recently during an informal get together, I made a simple stew with puy lentils, garlic and onions which I served over wilted baby spinach and cornbread with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped cilantro a squeeze of fresh lemon, and fresh cracked pepper. It was the easiest meal you can imagine, and turned out to be a great success with my supper guests. Next time you think of passing by lentils at the store, take the leap and grab a bag – you won’t be sorry.

Sweetening Red Onions

Sweetening Red Onions

I like using raw red onions in salads, with pasta, and on sandwiches because they have a unique sweetness that white or yellow onions often lack and add a nice sharpness that Vidalia onions just don’t have. Whether diced, sliced, or quartered, marinating in vinegar brings out a subtle “softness” to the onions. Simply add one medium red onion cut to your desired shape, to three tablespoons of vinegar with a pinch of salt. It’s not necessary to use Balsamico Tradizionale (more expensive) but, if you’re a balsamic vinegar addict, it works just as well as the less expensive varieties founds in most supermarkets. A good everyday red wine or sherry wine vinegar also works perfectly.

Let the onions sit in the vinegar for at least half an hour, tossing every so often. If you do this in a closed container, you can simply flip it over periodically. Use what onions you need for whatever you’re making and store the rest for up to four days. After your onions are gone, you can use the leftover onion-infused vinegar in a dressing. This is also great if you’re planning on grilling the onions – they’ll be twice as sweet and will caramelize nicely. Should you only need a half or quarter of an onion, just reduce the vinegar. You really can’t mess this up – just don’t forget the pinch of salt.

We often take onions for granted, considering them as little more than a base for any number of dishes, but this little step puts them in the forefront of any recipe, adding delicious flavor and texture. Marination in this manner also makes raw onions more digestible for some people – another desirable benefit.

Spring in Italy

Spring in Italy

I recently returned from my annual spring trip to Italy. Every time I go back, I discover something new, partially because it’s virtually impossible to sample everything in one trip, but also because there are seasonal foods available in different regions. If you travel around the country, you’ll always be sure to come across fresh vegetable dishes prepared in a manner the local populations are accustomed to.

This trip I traveled with a friend and our two middle school aged sons. We went to Lucca with my sister-in-law Daniela and decided to ride our bikes along the great medieval wall that surrounds the city and then to have lunch in one of the local family-run restaurants called a hosteria. In Italy you have ristoranti, trattorias, and hosterias. Historically, each type of eatery has a different purpose and level of formality and therefore offer menu selections that are unique from each other. The place we chose had a limited menu in the sense that not everything you might get in a typical Italian restaurant was available, but the choices were many and each sounded better than the next.

We all selected different dishes so we could sample as much of the available vegetarian fare as possible. Our favorite that day, was a plate of raw baby artichokes, small and tender, sliced very thinly and topped simply with a little salt, olive oil, and shavings of pecorino cheese.

It was a memorable day all around and it just doesn’t get better than that.

Pesto Unlimited

Pesto Unlimited

Pesto brings to mind large handfuls of fresh basil, olive oil, and nuts and, while this is the most common way people think of it, lots of other vegetables and leafy herbs can be turned into a pesto, which simply means “paste.”

Last night I made a broccoli pesto, but I have also made pesto from asparagus tips, leeks, artichokes, roasted peppers, or even spinach. What follows isn’t an actual recipe, it’s more of a “method” it’s dead easy.

Take about a quarter to a half pound roughly chopped steamed broccoli tops and place them into your food processor bowl. Add two ot three cloves of fresh garlic and some salt. Pulse the broccoli-garlic mixture into a fine chop, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pine nuts or almonds and process the mixture into a paste. Drizzle in some oilve oil and continue to process until you have a nice smooth consistency. I usually add a bit of crushed red pepper, but it’s optional. Toss the broccoli pesto, as you would basil pesto, with your cooked pasta and serve it hot. This is also totally scrumptious spread on toasted Tuscan bread as a bruschetta.

Light and Healthy Vegetables

Light and Healthy Vegetables

White vegetables and grains have the unfortunate reputation that they’re lacking in vitamins, minerals, and overall basic nutrition. Not true! Today’s blog subject is one of my favorite white vegetables: the noble cauliflower. Cauliflower is virtually fat free, low in calories and loaded with phytonutrients. Like its close relative broccoli, cauliflower is also a cruciferous vegetable, which means it contains strong cancer fighting nutrients.

One reason I like cauliflower so much is that it has a sweet, mild flavor and great texture. It’s great in stirfries, mashed, added to soups, or steamed and browned in olive oil. And, if you’re having a hard time getting your children to try vegetables, try mixing steamed cauliflower into cooked potatoes before mashing or make a dairy-free rich and creamy soup using puréed cauliflower topped with toasted almonds. I’ve found that heart healthy nuts added nutrient rich, mildly flavored cauliflower are a winning combination for most children.