Posts tagged #vegetarian

Rites of spring: A trip to Brimfield and a spring onion soup recipe

Note to self: don’t go to Brimfield by yourself again.

It was one of those perfect New England days. A slight breeze, puffy clouds floating in deep blue, temperatures hovering in the low seventies. I was having breakfast with my friend Louis when he told me he had been to Brimfield earlier in the week with his new friend. Snap.

You should go. It’s still early

, he insisted

. Just get in the car and go.

But you went with him

, I replied, feeling slightly miffed. I had forgotten all about Brimfield. I’m still living in March and we’re in the middle of May. That’s how life is right now. I count on Louis to remind me. It’s just something we usually do together in the spring.

Well, after all, it

was

a beautiful day, and my planned work involved paying bills and other secretarial duties in the interest of keeping this family on track. Blowing it off in a nano-second was a no-brainer. The trip takes about an hour, so I could easily be there by noon. Not. We’ve never encountered much traffic before, but the three-mile crawl from the main highway added an extra hour to the trip, so by the time I got there, I was hungry, thirsty, cranky.

I’ve learned a few things about trips to Brimfield with experience. I have seven rules.

1. Have no expectations.

2. Bring no more than $100.00 and when it’s gone, you’re done.

3. Eat as much junk food as you want, no guilt.

4. Bargain even though you hate to.

5. Go on the last day for the best prices. (I broke this rule.)

6. When in doubt, walk away. Bookmark the location in your head for later. Good luck.

7. Eat no more than two donuts. (This contradicts rule #3) (I broke this rule, too.)

I’m just here for the donuts.

I don’t even like cake donuts, but the donuts at

Faddy’s

stand at Brimfield….Let’s just say, I’m glad their donut shop is outside of Hartford (Connecticut), too long a drive for impulse donut consumption. I hesitate to talk about them or I will find myself in the car on my way to the last day of Brimfield five minutes from now. Luckily, I'm still in pajamas as I write this. By the time I change I will have reconsidered. 

The donuts are made with whole wheat pastry flour and apple cider. They’re small, so two donuts count as a normal portion size (rationalization here.) You can actually hear the crunch of sugar and crust as you slowly take the first bite. Inside is warm and soft, but not too soft, and not too sweet. The way a cake donut is supposed to be. Who knew? I have never eaten a cake donut before or since like a Faddy’s donut. Sometimes I bring them home for the family, but often they don’t make it there, unless I put them in the trunk of the car. Anyway, you can’t really replicate a warm donut just out of the fryer.

After I took these pictures of Mike and his donuts, he handed me another one. I guess three donuts are lunch. I didn't mind that they crowded out the other junk food I was anticipating on my long, slow drive. I missed Louis’s company and his keen eye for good stuff, so different from my own. I did find a few small treasures, but the pickings were slimmer than usual, or else I just found it hard to focus without a companion to keep me on track. It was worth it just for the donuts, though. And when I came home, I had some spring onion soup waiting for me, an excellent no-fuss light meal, not to mention, the perfect antidote to over-consumption of junk food.

If you want to go

:

Brimfield

is a huge antique fair located in Brimfield MA. 

Upcoming dates for 2012: July 10-15; September 4-9

Self+portrait+with+friends.jpg

About spring onions:

So what is a spring onion, exactly? The nomenclature is confusing, but a spring onion is not, as one might presume, a scallion. Rather, spring onions are simply regular onions that are pulled in the spring (April and May) to thin out onion beds. They look like large scallions with fat bulbs that are one to two inches across. If left in the ground, the bulbs grow large and round, the ideal size for storing over the winter. Spring onions, like other spring vegetables, are sweet and mild. After the fairly dead season of late winter produce, you can really get excited about cooking with them. That is, if you are the sort of person who gets excited about vegetables. And I am that sort of person (smiley face here).

That said, I was disappointed when I returned for more of them at the market last week. But we cooks must learn to improvise, so I picked up a couple of large leeks instead. (Note, leeks must be scrupulously cleaned in abundant water since sand often lurks deep in the layers.) The tough green stalks of both vegetables should be removed. Slice them and tuck them away in the freezer in a plastic bag to use for stock. They’ll keep for about 3 months.

Spring onion soup recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil

3 spring onions OR 2 large leeks, white part only, sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 bunch scallions, sliced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 small zucchini, sliced

10 ounces (2 cups) fresh or frozen peas

4 cups light

vegetable stock

or water

1 large handful baby spinach leaves

1 handful parsley leaves (about 1 cup packed)

Finely grated zest 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Suggested garnishes: thinly sliced radishes, chopped chives and/or crème fraiche

Method:

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onions or leeks, celery, scallions, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently, stirring now and then, for 7 to 9 minutes, or until soft but not brown.

2. Add the zucchini and stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes longer. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and add the spinach leaves, stirring for about 30 seconds, or until they wilt. Stir in the parsley.

3. Puree the soup in a blender, half at a time, until fairly smooth; you are aiming for a slightly nubbly texture. Return the soup to a clean pot, and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Heat, and taste again. Season with more salt and pepper if you like. Serve garnished with one or all of these: a few thin slices of radish, a spoonful of crème fraiche, some chopped chives.

Posted on May 13, 2012 and filed under Soups, Vegetarian, Spring food.

Cooking 101: Vegetable Stock

Cooking 101: Vegetable Stock

Time passes. Thing change. Like it or not, we grow…. older. And so do our kids.

Just a few years ago I was crying in my soup (pun intended) because my one and only child was heading off to college. It wasn’t quite as horrible as I imagined. I had done most of my carrying on, worrying and grieving beforehand. So much so, that it came close to being a non-event. But that’s my style. Fear forward. If you can catastrophize ahead of time, go for it. Get the worst over with before it even happens. I don’t recommend that approach. And maybe, just maybe, this time I’ve learned my lesson. As it is turning out, Homer Simpson was right. It’s all good.

Although I have reckoned with my redundancy in the job of parenting, I still have some mopping up to do. For instance,

College Boy

, with one more year to go, still doesn’t know how to cook.  And I can safely say, many of his friends do not either. That is why I am introducing some fundamental recipes on this blog. They may not be over-the-top exciting, but they are necessary. If you want over-the-top exciting—of course you do if you’re in your twenties—you still have to know the basics.

So, welcome twenty-somethings  and your parents who are still fuzzy on the details (it’s never too late).

 Please ask questions or send me requests. I hope to make it easy for you to learn to cook something satisfying to sustain you through the times ahead. Whatever roller coaster you ride, and you will be on one, you gotta eat.

I recently noticed that many cookbooks, even the tsunami of new vegetarian cookbooks, do not have recipes for vegetable stock. Mysterious. It is convenient to opt for vegetable stock in cans or boxes from the market (and that must be the assumption behind the mystery), but I maintain you should save your money and either skip it (use water and vegetables in your soup if you’re vegetarian) or make your own. Do you use pre-fabbed vegetable stock? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. I think it’s awful. Disagree? Convince me.

Left front, light stock made with mushrooms; right, rich stock

About vegetable stock:

Three reasons to make your own stock:

1. Store bought stock tastes like dishwater.

2. Food you make with store bought stock tastes like it is made with dishwater.

3. Store bought stock tastes like dishwater.

BUT: I don’t have room to store it or a pot big enough to make it.

The recipe makes 2 quarts. It can be frozen. You can make half a batch. If you have room, double the batch, and optimize time spent on making it.

BUT: I don’t have time to make stock.

I’m not going to lie. Making stock takes time. Do you watch t.v? Multi task. Take ten minutes to throw some vegetables in a pot and cover them with water. Watch your favorite show. When the Mad Men episode is over the stock is ready.

BUT: I hate all that chopping and peeling.

You don't have to be too precise in the chopping; the aim is just to get the pieces small enough (1-2 inches) so you can extract maximum flavor out of them. It's more like hacking than chopping. Just rinse the vegetables. You don't need to peel, though it is easier to cut onions if they are peeled. 

These are not rules; they’re guidelines.

The short version

: cut up carrots, celery, onions, etc. Cover with water. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Strain. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Two kinds of stock

Light vegetable stock:

The vegetables are covered with water, some part of which can be white wine (2 cups to 10 cups water for example). This is good for delicate soups or risottos that need a flavor boost.

Rich vegetable stock:

  The vegetables are roasted in the oven first, for a darker, more intensely caramelized flavor. Good for winter stews and hearty risottos or farro dishes.

Vegetables to use in stock

As you will see from the ‘recipe’ much of what you might ordinarily throw away can go into stock, especially if you are a Frugal Frieda and tuck away bits and pieces in your freezer. Vegetables that are on their last legs are sometimes the best candidates for stock because as they dry out their flavors become more concentrated. Day-old mushrooms, for example, are a steal at the grocery store.  Avoid vegetables with overpowering flavors in your stock. Yes, you are using stuff you might throw away otherwise, but not everything.

Good for stock                                          Not good for stock

Onions                                                         Strong tasting veggies (overpowering flavors)

Carrots                                                         Broccoli

Celery                                                          Cauliflower

Leek greens                                                Cabbage

Scallion greens                                           Turnips

Parsley stems                                              Parnsips (too strong)

Thyme stems                                               Squash

Garlic                                                           Potatoes (will make stock cloudy)

Mushrooms (optional)

Tomatoes (optional)

Ginger root (for Asian soups)

Vegetable stock recipe

Makes 2 quarts

6 cups of sliced onions, leek greens and/or scallion greens

4 medium carrots, scrubbed put not peeled and thickly sliced, to make about 1 1/2 cups

3 to 4 celery stalks including leaves, sliced, to make about 2 cups

4 cups (12 ounces) sliced mushrooms, optional

3 tomatoes, diced, optional

1 small head of garlic, separated

1 large handful fresh parsley, or an equal amount of parsley stems

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 cups water (or 10 cups water plus 2 cups white wine)

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil if making rich stock

For light vegetable stock:

1. Place onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt in a large pot. (A small amount of salt enhances the flavor of the stock, without compromising it if you plan to reduce it. If you add too much salt at the beginning and want to reduce the stock later, it may be too salty.) Add the water, and wine, if using.

2. Bring stock to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so that the stock simmers. Cook, uncovered, for at least 1 hour. If you have more time, cook longer, up to 1 1/2 hours is sufficient.

3. Strain and store in containers in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Season with salt when ready to use.

For rich vegetable stock:

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread the onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, or until browned.

3. Tip vegetables into a large pot. Pour a little hot water onto the sheet pans, and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom with a flat-ended wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the water into the pot.

4. Add the parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt, water, and wine, if using, to the pot. Bring stock to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so that the stock simmers. Cook, uncovered, for at least 1 hour. If you have more time, cook longer, up to 1 1/2 hours is sufficient.

5. Strain and store in containers in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Season with salt when ready to use.

Tip:

When straining the stock, place the ‘receptacle’ pot in the sink and set a strainer over it. Then pour the stock into the pot. This enables you to pour at below waist level, instead of trying to heft a large pot of liquid at countertop level.

Posted on May 6, 2012 and filed under How To, Soups.

At the bitter(sweet) end of summer: eggplant casserole

Yes, I do realize it is fall, but I am not listening. I am not ready to embrace squash and pumpkins. Why? I missed summer. I didn’t feel the sand between my toes, or even put on a bathing suit (which for most of us ladies is always a blessing). It just turned out that way. I’d explain, but frankly, it is not that interesting.

As a result of all the stuff I’m not bothering to bore you with,  I realized I needed to get OUT. Somewhere. Anywhere. Away.

Being a procrastinator has its upside. You avoid the crowds.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

Oh, right, this is a food blog. 

So these beauties were still in the market and here's what I made with them: eggplant casserole. I also bought up the last of the tomatoes to make fresh tomato sauce to use and freeze. You can too.

If your market or your garden is still hanging in there with tomatoes (and basil) you can make this sauce and freeze it. Don’t want to bother with sauce from fresh tomatoes? then try this quick one from

Jody and Ken (Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant in Cambridge MA and writer husband Ken Rivard just started blogging; you should check them out and pick up a few of Jody’s tips, such as how to peel tomatoes something I'm too lazy to do Jody's way.) I won’t be too jealous if you decide to make their eggplant Parm instead of this one.

Speaking of eggplant: Eggplant’s texture is like a sponge and it therefore soaks up a lot of oil. Older eggplant is like an even drier sponge and soaks up more oil. Brushing it lightly with oil and broiling it cooks the eggplant without drowning it in a bath of oil, if that is your concern. Older eggplant can be bitter, too. 

Instead of sweating eggplant with salt to avoid bitterness, give your eggplant a squeeze before you buy it. Fresh eggplant should not be bitter. It should feel firm and the skin should be taut and smooth. You can be a bit more freewheeling with this casserole than some other recipes. 

Want more than 4 servings? Just buy more eggplant and make more stacks with more sauce and cheese.  It freezes well, too, nice to have around when you want to take a day off. At the beach.

Fresh tomato sauce

Makes about 6 1/2 cups

5 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves, garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

12 basil leaves, torn in small pieces

1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Set a large bowl and a colander side by side in the sink.

2. Core the tomatoes with a paring knife and cut a small, shallow cross at the tip of each one.

3. Working with half the tomatoes at a time, place them in the bowl in the sink and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 20 to 40 seconds, or until the tomato skins pull easily away from the tomatoes. The riper the tomatoes, the less time this will take.

4.With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the colander to cool slightly. Discard the water in the bowl. Repeat with remaining tomatoes and more boiling water.

5. Pull off and discard the tomato skins. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half over an empty bowl to pop out the seeds. Discard the seeds. Cut in 2-inch pieces.

6. Slowly heat the olive oil and garlic together in a large pot over medium heat, until the garlic sizzles. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft.

8. With a potato masher, break up the tomatoes in small pieces. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium-low heat for 15 minutes longer, or until it thickens slightly. Total cooking time is about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you like. Stir in the torn basil leaves.

Stacked eggplant casserole

Serves 4

2 (1 pound each) eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch thick rounds to make 24 slices

About 1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 cups fresh tomato sauce

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

8 large basil leaves

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Set an oven rack 8 inches from the broiler element and turn on the broiler.

2. Spread the eggplant rounds in one layer on 2 large, rimmed baking sheets. . Use a pastry brush to coat them with oil. Turn them over, and brush the other sides with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Broil the eggplant for 4 minutes on each side, turning with tongs, until golden and cooked through. Cool briefly.

4. Decrease oven heat to 400 degrees.

5. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Using the largest slices first, set 8 slices over the bottom of the pan. Spread each slice with a tablespoon of tomato sauce and sprinkle with a tablespoon of Parmesan.

6. Top each eggplant round with a second slice. Spread with a tablespoon of tomato sauce. Top with a basil leaf and a slice of mozzarella. Cover with remaining eggplant slices. Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato sauce over each stack.

7. Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining Parmesan, parsley and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each stack with about 2 tablespoons of the crumbs.

8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until hot all the way through and golden brown on top. Serve 2 stacks per person and spoon the sauce around them.

KITCHEN SONGS:

Michael Franks:Eggplant

Rainbow Lasagna: The Queen of Vegetable Lasagnas

The farmers’ market today bore out the perfidy of the seasons. Tomatoes! Corn! Basil! Eggplant! In Massachusetts! At the end of October!

I like it.

Now there was plenty of squash, too—golden, speckled, and deep saffron-colored beauties of all different shapes and sizes. And kale and other greens and lots of fall inspiration. But I know there is plenty of time for them. I did buy some greens, and am snacking on crispy kale even as I write this. I wish I had bought those little pears so I could be eating a poire belle helene (that’s French for something a whole lot better than kale.)  However.

I’ve been fiddling around with ingredients to play along with the blurring lines of summer into fall. The result is this delicate, light, fresh, colorful lasagna. I know. Those are not words you normally would use to describe the ubiquitous dish that graces the table of every soccer team in the USA relentlessly throughout the fall.

My family, or at least College Boy, could never really get enthusiastic about lasagna—the Italian-American version, that is. It is usually so heavy with cheese and ground beef and sausage and tomato sauce and cheese and then, more cheese.  Sinks like a stone, it does.

So here is the light, veggie version that fits well with your girls’ soccer team. The young ladies these days seem to prefer the vegetarian version and that is what you will get here. Lots and lots of vegetables.  As for those who turn up their noses, I think you will find this dish pretty (and tasty) enough to entice even the most vegetable-averse   family member to the table.

The key to success with this lasagna is to slice the vegetables thinly and to salt them for 20 to 30 minutes before assembling them. The salt both softens the vegetables and extracts excess moisture, which eliminates pre-cooking. It also draws off the potential bitterness of the eggplant. The lasagna comes together with a white sauce instead of the familiar tomato sauce and has enough cheese to give it plenty flavor without hitting you over the head with an excessive dose. Also, if you can find Barilla no-boil lasagna, use it. More than a few people who tried this have asked me if the pasta was homemade. As if.

Rainbow Lasagna (Serves 6 to 8)

1 small eggplant, cut in 1/4-inch thick, lengthwise slices

2 medium yellow (summer) squash, halved crosswise and then cut in 1/4-inch thick, lengthwise slices

2 medium zucchini, halved crosswise and then cut in 1/4-inch thick, lengthwise slices

Salt

3 cups milk (low-fat is okay)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Freshly ground pepper

Olive oil for the baking dish

1 large orange, yellow or red pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup ricotta (8 ounces)

1 cup grated Parmesan

2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound), sliced

1/2 package no-boil lasagna noodles (about 8 noodles)

1. Sprinkle the eggplant, yellow squash and zucchini slices lightly with salt. Lay them in a colander set over a bowl and let drain for about 30 minutes while you make the béchamel sauce.

2. Heat the milk in the microwave or in a saucepan on top of the stove until it bubbles at the edges but does not boil. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until the mixture is uniformly bubbly, about 2 minutes. You want to cook out the raw taste of the flour without allowing it to brown.

3.Take the pan off the heat and gradually whisk in about 1 cup of the hot milk, whisking until smooth. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk until smooth and return the pan to medium heat. Bring the sauce to a low boil, stirring constantly. Cook for about 3 more minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Lightly oil a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

5. Pat the eggplant, squash and zucchini dry with paper towels and wipe off excess salt.

6. Spread the pepper slices on the bottom of the baking dish and top with the eggplant slices. Dollop the ricotta in heaping teaspoon-size mounds over the eggplant and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Cover with 4 lasagna noodles. Spread half the bechamel over the top of the pasta.

4. Place a layer of yellow squash over the bechamel, followed by the tomato slices. Top with 4 more lasagna noodles. Add the zucchini in one layer and spread the remaining bechamel over the top of the lasagna, making sure to cover the edges with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until golden brown. Let the lasagna rest and settle for about 10 minutes before slicing into serving pieces.

Posted on October 24, 2010 and filed under Fall recipes, Main dish, Pasta, Vegetarian.