Monday, May 31, 2010

Cucumber, Blueberry and Corn Salad

Memorial Day Weekend. A time to give thanks for those who have defended our country and our freedom as well as the start summer which brings with it a bounty of fresh produce, much of which can be grown right in your own back yard. I love to experiment with lots of fruit and veggie combos, especially at this time of year when there is so much to choose from.
I saw this simple recipe in Better Homes and Garden magazine while sitting by poolside and I knew that before the weekend was out I had to try it! I modified it a bit; adding a little more jalapeno and lime juice and changed up the dressing using agave instead of honey.
This was so simple and easy and an unexpected but very pleasant combination. I think this is destined to be one of my signature salads. I also think it would go nicely on a bed of greens. Next time I may try adding some mandarin orange or tangerine slices as well. Enjoy!

Cucumber, Blueberry and Corn Salad

5 ears fresh sweet corn, husked 1 pint fresh blueberries
3/4 English cucumber, sliced
1/3 of a red onion finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 large jalapeno (or 2 small) peppers, seeded and finely chopped**
Juice of one fresh lime
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 to 1 tbsp organic agave syrup (to taste)
1 tsp sea salt for dressing and some for water to boil the corn
In a large pot bring salted water to boiling. Add corn and cook covered about 5 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool to the touch and then cut corn from the cobs.

In a serving bowl combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.
In a small screw top jar combine lime juice, oil, agave, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover; shake well to combine. Add to salad; toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours). Makes 5 to 6 servings.

**Be careful when working with hot peppers, they contain oils that can burn skin and eyes. I am living proof of this because of course I happened to touch my eye before I washed my hands when finished making this. OUCH. You may want to wear plastic gloves If using your bare hands like me, and wash them immediately after working with the peppers with soap and water.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spiced Creamy Celery Root Soup

I love technology. And I love social media. After all, if it were not for social media I would never have met my friend "JC". She is a like-minded (though half my age) person that I met on a social networking site geared toward health, nutrition and weight loss. We share recipes, cooking ideas and provide each other with support and inspiration when needed. This is her recipe and I think you will find this to be quite delicious. Who knows, maybe one day we will actually meet. Until then, I look forward to our continued virtual friendship. Spiced Creamy Celery Root Soup

1 vidalia onion, chopped
1 celery root, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 green apple chopped
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp raw cashews
1/4 cup soy, rice or almond milk

Sautee onion, celery root and celery stalks in olive oil until soft. Add broth and 3/4 of green apple (reserve the rest for garnish) and simmer about 10-15 minutes.

While soup base is simmering, puree cashews and soy, rice or almond milk in a food processor or high powered blender until it becomes a fine cream. Set aside.

Puree simmered soup in food processor or blender and add cashew cream until well incorporated. Garnish with the rest of the green apple and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rice Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I am a big fan of easy and simple. This is something I make often as a meal for myself and a side for my husband (can't get him off the meat). It is easy to prepare and tastes great. Lots of room for improvisation here and you either go all out making your own rice pilaf or cheat like I often do with the Uncle Ben's pouch of pre-done rice.

Rice Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4 Portabella mushrooms
1 pkg Uncle Bens Brown and Wild Rice pouch
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 shallot chopped fine
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp fresh thyme minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano minced
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except mushrooms in a bowl. Place mushrooms on a cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil cooking spray and fill with mixture. If you prefer your rice more 'done' cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes. For more 'el dente' rice do not cover and just bake for 30 minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Corn Salsa

Summer is good. Simple is good. Fresh is good. Guiding principles as the weather warms up and the summer months of backyards, decks and outside living are upon us. This is a quick, easy and delicious snack/appetizer/side for the summer months or those winter months when you want to feel like summer.

Corn Salsa
2 cans corn (or several ears grilled, steamed or boiled)
1/2 red pepper chopped fine
3 jalapeno peppers, chopped fine
2 small cans chopped olives
1 small jar pimento
fresh chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Serve with corn chips and enjoy some simple perfection.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Mushroom Walnut Sauce

I am a self proclaimed butternut squash freak. I love the stuff! On more than one occasion I have eaten mashed butternut squash with just salt and pepper as a meal.
Recently, I came across a few recipes for butternut squash ravioli and they sounded great but I have to admit I was a little bit intimidated about making pasta. Then, I read about how you can "cheat" and use wonton skins instead of pasta. Hmmm.... I can do that!

One thing to note- I did have some difficulty finding vegan wonton skins but ultimately found them at a grocer in Chinatown. The ones I saw in the grocery stores had egg listed as an ingredient.
This recipe is an adaptation from many that I have read and, I must say they were divine!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Mushroom Walnut Sauce

Ravioli
1 butternut squash halved and seeded or 1 pkg fresh cubed butternut squash
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
50 wonton skins
small dish of water and brush

Sauce
1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
6 oz shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable stock
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet. If using prepared cut squash place evenly on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake squash in oven until tender. You will be able to easily pierce it with a fork, about 45-60 minutes. Scoop or place the squash in a bowl and mash until smooth. Mix in the allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and nutritional yeast. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the ravioli place a wonton skin on a clean, flat surface. Brush edges with water. Place about one tablespoon of filling on the wonton skin. Cover with a second wonton and press to seal. Repeat with remaining mixture until complete.

Drop the ravioli into boiling water and cook 3 to 5 minutes until tender. Remove and drain. Keep warm until sauce is complete.

To make the sauce, place Vegan Buttery Spread into a saute pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and wine or vegetable stock and saute until tender. Stir in walnuts and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place 5 ravioli on a plate, cover with sauce mixture and garnish with parsley.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mercimek Kofti

This dish was a  staple in my home growing up and always showed up during family gatherings at the holidays. As a kid, I remember them being referred to as "football kofti" as they look like little footballs.


It is a simple, peasant food and, I believe to be considered a Turkish dish. I do mine classically simple like my Grandmother, Aunts and Mother did but there is certainly opportunity to dress this up if you would like.


Mercimek Kofti

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 cup fine bulgur (#1) (can be found in most grocery stores these days)
1 medium onion halved and sliced very thinly
1/8 cup olive oil*
salt to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
chopped parsley (optional)
chopped green onion (optional)
Paprika (optional)

Put water and lentils in a 3 qt pot, bring to a boil and simmer until tender (approximately 10-15 minutes). Add bulgur, remove from heat, cover and let stand until bulgur is soft. Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion and saute until tender but not browned. When lentil and bulgur mixture has softened add onion and oil mixture.

When cool add salt, green onion and parsley if desired. With one hand shape about 1 Tbsp of mixture into 1 1/2"x2"x3/4" pieces with tapered ends (they should look like little footballs). Use cold water to moisten hands so that pieces do not stick to your fingers. Arrange on plate, and garnish with parsley, green onion or paprika if desired.

Serve at room temperature.

*You may adjust the amount of oil to compensate for the moistness of the kofti. If you find them a bit dry simply add a little more olive oil and mix until you achieve the desired moisture level.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pine Nut Phyllo Triangles

Everything is better wrapped in Phyllo.

Seriously. I just love the stuff. Even though it can be hard to work with and requires a delicate touch, a relatively little known fact is it is very forgiving. A little rip here, or tear there can be easily fixed and when baked it comes out great no matter what!

Below is a lovely base recipe for a basic filling. You can be creative and add whatever you would like to the base mixture- the sky is the limit!

Pine Nut Filled Phyllo Triangles

1 box frozen phyllo dough sheets
2 cups pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 shallots chopped finely
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp nutritional yeast
4 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Butter, melted
Flat leaf parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Take phyllo dough sheets out of the freezer and allow to thaw according to the directions on the box (at least 30 minutes). Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pine nuts, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and shallot in a food processor and blend until smooth. Melt Earth Balance vegan butter. Remove Phyllo from the box and lay it flat on a cutting board or counter. Cover with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out. Be sure to keep phyllo covered except when retrieving a sheet during the process.

Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it flat on a surface you can cut on. Brush it with some melted Earth Balance vegan butter. Place cut parsley leaves face down on the sheet. Cover with another sheet of phyllo and brush with the Earth Balance. With a knife or pizza cutter cut three ~ 3-4" wide vertical strips of phyllo dough. Place a tablespoon of filling at the end of each strip and fold into a triangles. For step by step directions you may click here:


Place phyllo triangles in the oven and bake until golden brown (about 20 minutes or so). Since ovens vary, keep your eye on them as they will burn easily. These are easily reheated so don't fear if you make 'extras'.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tabouleh

My Father is from Beirut, Lebanon. And my Mother, of Italian descent, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY spent many hours learning to cook Middle Eastern food with my Grandmother (Metzmama). Neither spoke the other's language but I guess food, like love, is a universal language.


As a kid, I was served and ate a great variety of foods, and we always sat down to dinner as a family. Things like hummus, tabouleh, lentils and falafel were staples in our home. I hope you enjoy this recipe. This is one of my favorites and is now one of my daughter's favorites. In fact, she can make this dish by herself though I usually start the chopping for her. And, what makes this even more special, is that the recipe is contained in what was once a blank recipe book now filled with my favorite recipes written in my Mother's hand. I treasure it and will add to it and give it to my daughter one day.

Tabouleh

1/2 cup fine ground bulgur wheat (can be found at some grocery stores, whole foods or a middle eastern grocer, look for a number 1 grind)
1/4 cup water
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped (I use the English cucumbers)
1/2 green pepper chopped
fresh parsley chopped (to taste, the dish should be very green)
fresh mint chopped (to taste)
juice of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons
olive oil (to taste about a 1/4 cup)
salt (to taste)

Put bulgur in a bowl with water and allow to sit for about 15 minutes until the consistency of play dough.  Add chopped veggies and herbs. Add lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.

Serve with romaine lettuce leaves. Wrap mixture in a lettuce leaf to eat.

Enjoy. Super healthy and super delicious!

Eggplant "Parmesan" Casserole

Here we go. I have been promising to start a food blog for the better part of a year. And, finally, here is my first post.



A little bit about me-executive at a big Telecommunications firm, am married with two beautiful kids ages 7 and 11. I have spent much of my adult life as a vegetarian,and about a year ago decided to try a vegan diet. People told me I was crazy, it was "too hard", "too limiting", impossible to get proper nutrition and generally seemed to think I was just plain nuts. Well, the fact is I have never felt better and have found that it is not limiting at all. You see, cooking is a true passion for me. And the further I travel down the path of this vegan journey the more limitless the possibilities seem.

I hope you enjoy the blog and get some ideas for some good meals too, whether you are vegan, vegetarian or hard core meat eater.

I look forward to cooking with you!

Eggplant "Parmesan" Casserole (adapted from my Grandmother's Eggplant Parmesan recipe)

Two eggplants
Marinara sauce (I make my own but you could use a jar sauce)
2-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast(my substitute for the Parmesan cheese)
1/2 cup (or more) olive oil for cooking eggplant
Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel eggplants and cut into 1/4" thick slices. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Remove eggplant and pat until very dry with paper towels.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry eggplant until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a paper grocery bag to absorb any excess oil.

Once all eggplant has been drained on the paper place into a 9x13 or 9x9 glass pan a layer of marinara sauce and sprinkle with nutritional yeast and salt (if desired) and finish with a layer of eggplant. Repeat until all of the eggplant has been used finishing with a marinara and nutritional yeast on top.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until warmed through and bubbly. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.