Archive for the 'Vegetarian' Category

Fettucini with Ramps and Asparagus

Fettucini with Asparagus and Ramps

If you’ve read this blog before, it becomes readily apparent that I’m not a vegetable-centric cook.  But after a long winter where the only vegetables at the farmer’s market were lettuces and carrots, the arrival of asparagus, ramps, and tomatoes yesterday really got me excited.  The sign at Westmoreland Berry Farm’s stand announcing that there would be strawberries in two weeks didn’t hurt.

While running errands later in the day, all I could think about was what exactly I’d do with my vegetable bounty. I settled pretty quickly on pasta but the details were still a mystery. I contemplated using pancetta or bacon. Then I wondered if I should add cream or cheese.

In the end, I went for the route of simple.  No pork products.  No cream.  No cheese.  Just saute the vegetables in butter and use the pasta water as a sauce.

It’s amazing what such a simple sauce can provide in flavor.  In a word, it tasted like spring.  The pasta absorbed the flavor of the asparagus and ramps and tasted nearly perfect.  The flavor was mild such that anything richer or heavier, like bacon or cream, would’ve over powered it.

Ramps and Asparagus

Fettucini with Ramps and Asparagus

6 large stalks of asparagus
8 oz. ramps
3 tbsp of butter, divided
salt and pepper
1 large shallot, diced
fresh pasta made with 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs

  1. Break the bottom off the asparagus and discard the bottom.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin on the bottom portion of the asparagus.  Cut the asparagus into 1″ pieces.
  2. Clean the ramps.  Separate the leaves from the white parts of the ramps.  Tear the leaves into 1″ pieces.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the asparagus and white part of the ramps.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring regularly, until the asparagus and ramps begin to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the shallots and cook for a minute more.
  5. Add the ramp leaves, season with salt, and cook until the ramp leaves are wilted.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until slightly undercooked.  Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water.
  7. Add the pasta to the skillet.  Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to the skillet.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the pasta water is mostly absorbed and the rest is thickened.
  8. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 tbsp of butter.  Stir until the butter is incorporated into the pasta.
  9. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

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Uova in Purgatorio (Eggs in Purgatory)

Uova in Purgatorio

It’s time to end my self-imposed exile.  Summer was eventful.  We traveled.  We visited friends and family and friends and family visited us.  We hosted several parties and attended a few.  We ate good food at home and away.  But now summer is over and it’s time to return to the rest of life.

If your summer garden is anything like mine, everything but the tomato plants have died of neglect.  But, somehow, despite the almost vegicidal neglect, my tomato plants have not only grown they’ve thrived.  In fact, they’ve thrived to the extent that it’s starting to become a problem: what to do with all those tomatoes?

This is one of our new favorite meals.  It’s simple.  It’s fast.  It’s good.  And it helps use up some tomatoes.

The first time I made this earlier this summer it instantly entered the rotation of frequently made dishes.  It’s fast enough to be made after a late return home on a weeknight with a stop at a bakery for bread but it’s satisfying enough to make it more than worth the minimal level of effort.  It becomes slightly more work to use fresh tomatoes but the taste makes it worthwhile.

Sometimes, with the plethora of ingredients available at easy reach, it’s hard to realize exactly how good something so simple can be.  While I feel like I’m straining into hyperbole here, this is a truly satisfying meal in all its simplicity.

Homegrown Tomatoes Cooking

Uova in Purgatorio (Eggs in Purgatory)

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
salt
1 tbsp diced garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 to 4 tomatoes, skinned and pureed or one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 eggs (depends on the size of the eggs)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook for a minute more.
  3. Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt to taste, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the tomato sauce thickens slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Break the eggs into the tomato sauce.  Season them with salt.  Cover the skillet and poach the eggs in the tomato sauce 3 to 4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked through and the yolks are still runny.
  5. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and crusty bread.

Serves 2.

Penne con le Zucchine Fritte, Piselli e Pomodori (Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes)

Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes

When I announced to Angela what I was making for dinner last night, she was distinctly less than excited.  In her defense, my motive for choosing this recipe was mainly that I had a zucchini that had been sitting in the fridge long enough that I had started to worry whether or not it had turned into a home for something else.  Luckily for us it had not.

I say luckily as both Angela and I enjoyed it immensely.  This pasta was significantly better than it had any right to be given its ingredients.  It’s very simple and I always appreciate simple food but, looking at the recipe alone, I didn’t see anything that would differentiate it from the mass of other pasta recipes that have a base of tomatoes.

However, the distinct flavor of the fried zucchini slices makes the dish truly compelling.  It provides a nice counterpoint to the acidity of the tomatoes.  The peas are nice but mainly from a color and nutritional perspective.

But what will really keep me coming back to this recipe is how quick it is to make.  The longest part of the preparation is waiting for the water to boil and then cooking the pasta.  The sauce can be made entirely in the time that the pasta cooks.  It also reheats the next day fairly well.

Zucchini Frying

Penne con le Zucchine Fritte, Piselli e Pomodori (Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes)
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking: More than 200 authentic recipes from Italy’s family-style restaurants

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely diced
salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp butter
1 lbs penne
1 cup grated Parmigiano Regiano

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne for one minute less than the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini and cook until both sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Add the garlic and stir briefly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over high heat until most of the tomato juice has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the peas and the butter and cook over low heat until the peas are warmed through, about 1 minute.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for one minute over medium heat, stirring regularly.  If the pasta is dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the parmigiano.
  8. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parmigiano.

Serves 4.

Sliced Zucchini

Fettucine con Salsa di Gorgonzola (Fettucini with Gorgonzola Sauce)

Fettucine with Gorgonzola Sauce

Angela left me to my own devices this past week as she was out of town attending a wedding.  Some may look at this as a tragedy; I merely look at it as an opportunity to eat things she doesn’t like.

In college, I independently developed something similar to this recipe.  It developed as an elaboration of a fettucine alfredo recipe I found in a Betty Crocker cookbook that was owned by my roommate.  I no longer make that recipe as I’ve moved on to better and (to my thinking at least) more authentic recipes.

However, there’s a bit of a story to that fettucine alfredo recipe.  It was one of the first things I ever cooked from a published recipe.  But, more importantly to me at least, was that it was the first thing I ever cooked for Angela.

As documented in the about page, this was an effort to impress here. And apparently it worked.

But that has very little to do with this recipe as Angela doesn’t like Gorgonzola cheese (or really any blue cheese) which is why I made this recipe when she was gone. It’s a rather simple recipe. The most time was taken up in making the pasta.

My pasta making technique has been modified a bit now.  I tend to add a little bit of olive oil and salt to the dough.  I’m not sure if I can taste a difference or not but it’s been working for me.  I also use large eggs now as I’ve started buying the dark yolk eggs from Trader Joe’s.  If anything, the dough has been easier to work with with large eggs as opposed to extra large eggs.

The Gorgonzola sauce is quite good if fattening.  The flavor of the Gorgonzola definitely ripens as it is allowed to sit at room temperature but the sauce itself is very well balanced.  It went well, for me, with a 2005 Palmina Dolcetto.

Homemade Pasta

Fettucine con Salsa di Gorgonzola (Fettucini with Gorgonzola Sauce)
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1/4 lbs. Gorgonzola, left at room temperature for at least 6 hours
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tbsp butter
salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 lbs. fresh fettuccine (preferably homemade)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan, place the gorgonzola, milk, and butter over low heat.  Stir with a wood spoon, breaking up the gorgonzola.  Cook for a minute or two or until the butter melts.
  2. Add the heavy cream and increase the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the heavy cream has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until slightly undercooked.  Add the pasta to the sauce.
  4. Cook the sauce for 1 minute more, stirring in the pasta.
  5. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  6. Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 4.

Cajun Corn

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Growing up, we usually had meals which featured a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. I usually liked the protein and starch well enough but, like most kids, I stayed away from the vegetables. At that point, I was what would could only kindly be described as a picky eater. The list of vegetables I’d eat was pretty limited. It didn’t help that about the only vegetable we ever seemed to eat was canned green beans.

I’ve gotten better about vegetables but I’m still significantly vegetable challenged. I like them enough but it’s rather frequent where I’m making dinner and can only muster enough effort for a protein and starch. To compound the problem, I don’t have that many different recipes for vegetables that I like. Vegetables must be cooked well for me to like them.

I don’t remember when I first started making this recipe. It was awhile ago. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t require a whole lot of effort. It’s easy to make along with something else. It also has strong flavors that go well with spicy foods.

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This time I tried something different: I used the Creole Seasoning recipe from the cookbook. In the past, I just used some Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning that I had purchased at some point in time. I suppose it might make me a bad person to use a premixed seasoning but it was easy and it was there.

I figured using a homemade spice blend would clearly be superior to the premixed variety. But I was wrong, sort of. The two different spice blends yield very different results. The Zatarain’s is spicier and saltier. The homemade spice blend has a smoky flavor and has the savory flavor of the herbs. I prefer the homemade spice blend but Angela liked the Zatarain’s. It’s still up in the air which I’ll use in the future. Most likely, I’ll use each at different times depending on what we’re eating it with.

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Cajun Corn
Adapted from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse

4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups frozen corn, defrosted
5 tsp Creole Seasoning
salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

  1. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter has stopped foaming, add the garlic and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the corn to the sauce pan and mix well.
  3. Add the Creole Seasoning and season with salt to taste. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes to allow the corn to heat through.
  4. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and stir in the parsley.
  5. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.


Creole Seasoning
Adapted from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse

1/2 cup paprika
1/2 cup powdered garlic
1/4 cup powdered onion
3 tbsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground white pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/4 cup dried thyme
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp sugar

  1. Mix together all ingredients and place in a sealable container.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon)

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At some level, I’m quite in touch with my German heritage. Cabbage, whether braised or pickled, frequently graced our table while I was growing up.

As winter approaches and the farmer’s market thins out, I become drawn to the vegetables that are still available. Even in southern California we have seasonality with our produce (despite the fact that tomatoes are still available).

Angela dislikes cabbage and so it takes several weeks before I’m willing to indulge myself. It’s hard to make just a little bit of cabbage and it takes time to properly cook it. I also need to prepare myself for it.

My particular preference is for the red varieties. To me, they have a deeper flavor. I specifically remember having some outstanding braised red cabbage in Germany (as well as excellent sauerkraut); I barely remember any sausage or pork roast that I ate. That may give you some idea of my appreciation of good cabbage.

I bought this copy of Saveur in the airport to read on our flight to Florida for Christmas (and then our unexpected “vacation” in Milwaukee). While looking through it, I happened upon this recipe for braised red cabbage. And, then and there, I knew I’d have to make it for myself.

So what that it serves 6 to 8? I apparently will have to eat leftover cabbage for the next week (I found out today that it works pretty well stuffed into a pita with leftover pork and reheated). Sometimes dealing with the leftovers is worth the initial splurge.

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Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon)
adapted from Saveur, December 2007

1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 slices of bacon, cut into lardons
1 tbsp sugar
1 yellow onion, diced
salt and pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly choped
1/3 cup port
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large head of red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup red currant jelly

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar and cook for 30 seconds, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the onions to the dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the apples, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the apples are soft, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add the port, vinegar, and cabbage to the dutch oven. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken and beef stock and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high to bring to a simmer. Cover, and decrease heat to medium-low. Simmer for 1 1/4 hours until the cabbage is tender.
  7. Uncover and stir in the red current jelly. Season with salt and pepper and cook for4 to 5 minutes more.
  8. Serve with roast pork.

Serves 6 to 8.

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet (Madame Cartet’s Potato Gratin)

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The first time I bought crême fraîche (at Trader Joe’s) I was asked by the cashier what I used it for. I had to admit that I had never used it before but that I was hoping to use it for some kind of gratin.

I had tried several different gratin recipes from a simple scalloped potatoes to Julia Child’s Gratin Dauphinois among others. And, most of the time, they ended up good but either the potatoes fell apart because of being parboiled or they didn’t get cooked all the way or were sitting in a sea of cream. It was just hard to be satisfied with them.

Because crême fraîche is initially a solid, it’s easier to get it to cover all the potatoes without it settling to the bottom of the dish. It also means you don’t need to parboil the potatoes so they don’t fall apart when you put them in the dish.

I appreciate this dish because it’s simple. I can throw it together in 10 minutes and put it in the oven and not worry about it until dinner is done. And cheese is always good.

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Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet (Madame Cartet’s Potato Gratin)
Adapted from Bistro Cooking

1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup crême fraîche
salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Rub the inside of a 6-cup gratin dish with the cut side of the garlic clove. Rub until the gratin dish is well lubricated with the garlic
  3. Layer half the potatoes in the bottom of the gratin dish. Spread half the crême fraîche over top. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the potatoes and season with salt.
  4. Repeat the previous step with the remaining potatoes, crême fraîche, cheese, and salt.
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  6. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.