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Almond Soba Noodles with Broccoli and Green Beans

12 Oct

I made this unique dish, inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Almond Soba Noodles, for a recent Asian-themed potluck with friends.  My version replaced the pea shoots of the original recipe with steamed broccoli and green beans and the basil with a combo of parsley and cilantro.

Ingredients

2 crowns broccoli, cut into small trees

1 big handful of green beans, stems snapped off and cut into halves or thirds

2 tsp red Thai curry paste

1/3 cup almond butter (not the sweetened kind)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp sea salt

6-8 T hot water

1 package extra firm tofu

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Preparation

First, cook the broccoli and green beans, either by steaming them or boiling for about 5 minutes.  Salt the vegetables if steaming, and salt the cooking water if boiling.  You want the vegetables to still be crunchy.  When finished cooking, set aside.  I steamed them:

Boil some salted water to cook the soba noodles.  The noodles will take about 5 minutes to cook thoroughly. Drain and set aside.

Next, make the sauce.  Mash the curry paste and the almond butter together.

Add the lemon juice and salt, and mash to combine.  Next, add the hot water, a tablespoon at a time until you have a pourable sauce that looks about like this:

Lastly, chop up the tofu into cubes or matchsticks (I was going for the matchstick effect, but they ended up a bit big and of uneven size…oh well).  Dry off the tofu with a paper towel.  Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or safflower oil in a skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the tofu (don’t crowd the pan, or the tofu won’t brown).  Flip when one side is brown, and continue until all your tofu is browned.  Add more oil to your pan with subsequent batches of tofu.  I find that I usually have to add oil to brown multiple batches.  Place the tofu on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.  Finally, mix the veggies with the noodles, the sauce, and the tofu.  When mixed, add the herbs and the almonds.  I toasted my almonds in a skillet on medium low heat.

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Veggie Tofu Stir Fry

24 Sep


For a long time, I forgot the beauty and simplicity of a good stir fry.  A few weeks ago, I had a random urge to make stir fry, and I’ve made it twice since.  I’m on a stir fry kick, as it would seem.  There are two main keys to making a successful stir fry: 1) Brown your tofu separately from the vegetables, and 2) You must flavor your stir fry with good stuff, like garlic, ginger, soy sauce, peppers, and herbs.  If you don’t, it will be pretty boring.  The great thing is that those additions to your stir fry are easy to make, yet add a lot of flavor and interest to the dish.

Ingredients

A mess of vegetables, in a quantity large enough to fill a good-size skillet.  My combo included purple cabbage, broccoli, daikon (a type of radish often found in Japanese cooking), carrots, and onions.  Cabbage is really great for stir fry, I’ve discovered.  Use whatever you have around, or if you’re shopping to make your stir fry, buy whatever combo of vegetables that sounds good.  Other options include sugar snap peas, fresh corn, peppers, green beans, bok choy, and many others.  Here’s a picture of my heap of vegetables (what I happened to have on hand that day):

In addition to the vegetables, I used tofu to make this a meal.  I used organic Westsoy extra firm tofu.  Use whatever brand you like, just make sure the tofu is firm or extra firm so that it will stand up to cooking.  Don’t use soft tofu because it will fall apart in the pan.  Slice the tofu and squeeze each slice with a paper towel to remove some of the excess water.  I’ve found this step helps the tofu brown better. 

2-3 T neutral-tasting oil (I used expeller-pressed safflower oil)

About 1 T minced ginger (I used the jarred variety, though fresh would be great too)

2 T soy sauce, or more if needed

1/2-1 tsp salt, or more if needed, depending on the level of saltiness you like

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2-3 chopped scallions

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly or finely, depending on your preference

1/2-3/4 cup chopped herbs of your choice (cilantro is especially tasty here, but parsley would work fine too)

1/2 large avocado, or 1 small avocado, cut into slices (optional)

1/3 package soba noodles (I had some left over from something else, but these cook really fast and are easy to do while everything else is cooking)

Preparation

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized pot to cook the soba noodles.  Meanwhile, slice the tofu and prepare the vegetables.  When the water boils, cook the soba noodles for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain when done.  Heat about half the oil in one skillet, the other half in the other over medium heat.  When hot, place the tofu and the veggies and salt in separate skillets.  To the veggie skillet, add the ginger, red pepper flakes, garlic, and soy sauce when the veggies are about half cooked.  You’re going for veggies that are still crispy, so keep that in mind when deciding what “half cooked” means in this case.  In should take about 10 minutes to cook the veggies enough for the stir fry.  The tofu will brown in about 4-5 minutes.  Flip, and cook the other side for the same amount of time, adding additional oil if necessary.  

When the veggies are cooked, add the herbs and scallions.

To serve the stir fry, place a layer of soba noodles on each plate, topped with the veggies and browned tofu.  Add the avocado slices and enjoy.

Caldo Verde

22 Sep

Caldo verde is a hearty soup of Portuguese origin, and usually includes kale, potatoes, and sausage of some type.  It’s a perfect cold weather soup.  Not that it’s cold in Austin, but I love fall and sometimes get ahead of myself by making fall dishes when it’s still hot outside.  Oh well.  Kale is a great winter vegetable I wish more people ate.  It’s literally the most or second most nutrient-dense food on Earth, so be good to your body and eat kale!  I didn’t eat kale up until about 5 years ago.  It may take some getting used to, but it’s such a great vegetable and SO good for you.  Though there are several varieties of kale, my favorite is lacinato, or “dinosaur” kale.  Look at this beautiful leaf:

I used chorizo made of seitan (wheat-based “meat”) for this recipe.  I made the chorizo using a base of wheat gluten and adding chorizo spices and steaming it.  Though not hard to do, I can imagine one not wanting to make their own chorizo seitan.  Field Harvest also makes an excellent wheat-based chorizo.  If you’re a meat eater, you can obviously use an animal sausage, which is used in the traditional dish.  Or, instead of chorizo, you could substitute white beans to provide a similar level of heartiness.

Ingredients

5 or 6 medium red potatoes

1 medium white or yellow onion

2 T olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 vegetable bouillon cube (I used Rapunzel, but Better Than Bouillon organic veggie bouillon is also really good) plus about 5-6 cups of water (you can just add the water with no bouillon too–I do this frequently with soups)

1 tsp thyme

1 bunch of kale

2 links of seitan chorizo or 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

2 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Red wine vinegar

Hot sauce

Preparation

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Meanwhile, chop the onion, potatoes, and garlic.  Once the pan is hot enough, add the onions.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, and add the garlic, potatoes, and thyme.  Stir to mix, and then add the water and bouillon.  Turn on high to bring to a boil.  As the potato/onion/garlic mixture heats to a boil, get out a skillet and heat a few tablespoons of oil to brown the chorizo.

Once the potatoes come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium/medium low, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.  While the soup cooks and you keep and eye on the chorizo, wash your kale and chop it into strips.  Once the potatoes are cooked, add the kale, stirring the soup the incorporate the kale.  Only cook for 1 or 2 minutes.  Remove the soup from the stove, adding the salt and pepper.  Mix in the chorizo, and serve with a splash of red (or white) wine vinegar and a bit of hot sauce if you like.

May Farmers Market Pasta

11 May

My Saturday morning ritual is going to one of the several fabulous farmers markets Austin has to offer.  When I first started making the farmers market part of my Saturdays several years ago, I went to the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, which has since moved to Barton Creek Mall.  That’s still my regular market, but this past Saturday I went back to Sunset Valley to check out the reconstituted market maintained by the Sustainable Food Center.  I saw a lot of familiar vendors who sell at multiple farmers markets.  I bought some wonderful stuff, including a bunch of carrots…..

And some red Russian kale….(yes, that is my cat sniffing out the kale–he loves greens and purrs loudly whenever I feed him green leaves)

Naturally, I had to come up with a dish incorporating these two lovely local vegetables.  One of the easiest things to do with vegetables is to throw them into a pasta dish, and incorporate other ingredients you have on hand.  So, my pasta was a combination of the kale, roasted carrots, fresh dill, red onion, walnuts, local Pure Luck goat cheese, and whole wheat pasta.

Ingredients

4-6 ounces dried pasta

1/2 large bunch of kale

1 bunch of carrots (2 lbs. or so), peeled and sliced into

1/4 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2-2/3 cup chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

Olive oil for cooking the kale

1 T butter

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put a pot of water on high heat to boil, salting the water. Prepare the carrots by peeling, chopping off the ends, and cutting into sticks.  Toss with olive oil and salt on a cookie sheet and stick in the oven once it’s heated.  Bake for about 25 minutes or so, until tender.  Meanwhile, heat about 1 T of olive oil over medium heat in a big skillet.  Wash the kale, chop, and place in the skillet.  Cover until the kale starts to wilt.  It will shrink substantially.

Whenever the pasta water starts to boil, throw in the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes (I used a short pasta, as pictured.  Can’t remember at the moment what it’s called).  In a large bowl, place the dill, onions, and walnuts in the bottom.  Drain the pasta.  Toss together with the items in the bowl, the kale, and the carrots.  Salt to taste if necessary.  Add the crumbled goat cheese and the butter.  Toss until the butter melts and the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Serve.

Red Lentil Soup with Brown Rice and Vegetables

30 Jan

I love lentils in general, but red lentils are especially fun because they cook so fast and break down to make a nice, smooth soup.  Red lentils are always a soup ingredient, whereas green or brown lentils retain their shape much better and can be used for other types of dishes, like salads.  I normally use them to make Indian dal, with ginger, turmeric, cilantro, and the other ingredients, but lately I’ve been making red lentil and brown rice based soups.  That combination in and of itself is fabulous, but I’ve also started adding vegetables like potatoes and carrots.  This time I threw in some frozen peas and corn for fun.  I happened to have some cornbread I made a week or so ago still in the freezer (I like to make a pan, cut into pieces, and freeze them to heat individually.  That way I don’t end up eating a whole pan of it, and nothing goes to waste either.)  So, I ate some of this soup just now with some cornbread with pieces of corn, some butter and a drizzle of honey.  Yum!!  Also, a green salad would be an excellent way to round out the meal.  However, I just at a big bowl of soup and a lovely piece of cornbread, and that was really enough.

Ingredients

2 T olive oil or butter

1 onion, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, ends cut off and sliced

1 medium potato, chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp minced ginger

2/3 cup red lentils

1/2 cup brown rice

Salt (start with 1 tsp, add more if needed)

5-6 cups water or broth

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen corn

1 cup fresh spinach

Instructions

Heat the butter or oil in a pot.  Add the onion, stir to mix with the butter or oil.  Cook for a few minutes, then add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and ginger.  Stir to mix and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the carrot, celery, and potato.  Cook all together for about five minutes.  Add the lentils and rice.  Add the water and salt.  Turn on high and bring to a boil.  Once the soup boils, cover the pot and lower the heat to medium low.  Set a timer for 30 minutes.  Five minutes before the timer goes off, add the peas, corn, and spinach.  Cook five more minutes, taste to make sure the rice is cooked and to test the soup, adding additional if needed.

And you’re done!

Nori Wraps

22 Jan

Instead of using tortillas to make a wrap, I experimented with using sheets of nori, typically used for sushi.  The contents of this wrap could be almost anything, but here I went with a red bean hummus, avocado, arugula, some basil leaves, and sliced red onion.  First, the hummus.  I love making my own hummus.  Store-bought hummus is usually pretty fake tasting, and whipping up a batch is pretty easy given you have a device suitable for pureeing.  A blender would work, but is more difficult.  If you have a food processor, making your own hummus is a breeze.  I really like traditional, chickpea-based hummus, but I made it with red beans and added some cilantro this time for variety.  Here is the recipe and the process:

Ingredients

1 can red beans

3 T tahini

Juice of one lemon

3 T olive oil

Pinch or two of salt

1 clove garlic

2/3 cup fresh cilantro

Instructions

Put all ingredients in a food processor, process until smooth.

Next,  prepare the wraps.  Put a sheet of nori on a plate, and spread some hummus in the middle. Then, add some basil leaves (optional) and some avocado slices.

Then, add the red onion, and top with argula. (I forgot to take a picture with the arugula on top, but I used about a cup.)

Finally, roll up the nori into a wrap/burrito-like shape, and cut in half for easier eating.

Marrakesh Minestrone with Cilantro Puree

14 Jan

I have a cookbook called The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld that I absolutely adore.  Every recipe I’ve tried has been divine, and this one is no different.  The book has very interesting and flavorful combinations, most with an international flair. The book is based on the idea of “flexitarianism,” or eating a mostly vegetarian diet, but not eliminating meat entirely.  I’ve been eating this way for a about four years, though lately I’ve been trending more toward eliminating meat altogether.

I decided to make this particular dish because this past weekend my Foodies group (I found a group of people who love to cook as much as I do!)  had a Middle Eastern-themed extravaganza.  We each took a different dish, and I picked this Moroccan-style stew, which mixes sweet with spicy in a really amazing way.  Other featured dishes included hummus, rice with dried fruit and pistachios, garbanzo soup, tzatziki, roasted leeks and carrots, an amazing dessert made with rice and almonds, tea flavored with cardamom and cinnamon, and several others.  Yum!  I was truly amazed by the range of wonderful dishes everyone made.

This stew is very hearty and can be eaten as a meal.  The starchy vegetables in combination with the couscous and garbanzo beans along with the rich spices come together to make for a very satisfying stew for a cold night. I made a change here and did not use saffron–I tossed in some turmeric instead.  Saffron is pretty expensive and I didn’t feel like buying it on this particular day.

Ingredients

2 T olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pinch saffron threads (I used about 1 tsp of turmeric)

1 tsp ground fennel seed (I left mine whole)

1 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I used more–about 1 tsp–because I like it spicy)

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used closer to 1 tsp)

1-14.5 oz. can whole tomatoes

5 cups water

1 cup sweet potato, chopped

1 diced carrot

1 zucchini, sliced

Salt to taste

2 cups finely chopped Swiss chard or chopped spinach

1/4 cup couscous

2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 can, rinsed

Black pepper

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Cilantro Puree

1 tsp whole or ground cumin

2 T olive oil

1 T lemon juice

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 garlic clove

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne or red pepper flakes

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Toss in the onion to cook for about 7 minutes.  Then, add the garlic, saffron, fennel, coriander, red pepper flakes, ginger, and cinnamon.  Stir, and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and their juice, and crush the tomatoes a bit with the back of your spoon.  Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  (As the tomatoes cook, it would be a good time to wash the chard and chop the vegetables to use your time most efficiently).

Add the water, sweet potatoes, carrots, and zucchini.  Cover and turn the heat to high.  Bring to a boil.  One the soup starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium low.  Add 1 tsp salt.  Cover the pot, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Next, add the couscous, chard, and garbanzo beans.  Stir.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.  Add the pepper and the lemon juice.  Taste the soup and add more salt if necessary.

Now, let the soup sit to cool and make the cilantro puree.  You can do this with a blender, but I used my food processor, which is much better at chopping than a blender.  Add the cilantro, cumin, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice.  Pulse until the ingredients are finely and evenly chopped.  Then, turn on the processor and pour in the olive oil through the top.  You may have to scrape the sides of the bowl if the puree doesn’t mix evenly.

Spoon some cilantro puree over the soup, and enjoy!  I’m definitely going to make this again.