Monday, February 24, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts have had quite a long season in the Northwest this year. But the season is nearly over and Alm Hill Gardens, was the only farm still selling Brussels sprouts at the U District Market last Saturday. The farm vendor said they had about 2 or 3 more weeks until all the Brussels Sprouts are gone. "Buy them now," he'd said. These sprouts were so good, I may have to get more next week.

This was the first time I'd bought the sprouts from Alm Hill Gardens.

I had great Brussels sprouts from Willie Green's Organic Farm.

 And I've had sweet sprouts from Nash's Organic Produce.

I can't recall how much the sprouts, cost, probably around $5 a pound, but since I'm on a budget these days, I only bought a few, and the ones I got weren't exactly all the same size. I often find I don't really need much, and I appreciate flavors more when I don't buy an overload.  

It's in those sweet moments in life to lose myself to the flavor of something delicious.  Eat slowly and savor the moment.

 My Cooking Assistant would disagree.  The faster he eats something, the sooner he can look for more.

Including oranges.  An orange isn't safe for long around this boy.

You don't need this many oranges.  Just one. I'm using the remainder for coleslaw I'm making tomorrow.

You could use balsamic vinegar if you want a deeper flavor.  But I like the orange flavor to come through more, so apple cider vinegar was my choice for this dish.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
(Serves 4 as a side dish)

1 pound Brussels sprouts, all roughly the same size
Sea salt 
1 tablespoon canola oil
Juice of 1 blood orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or a generous pinch of sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.  Wash and trim Brussels sprouts. Place in a shallow baking dish and toss with oil while oven preheats.  

Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 40 minutes, turning the sprouts every 10 minutes.  Brussels sprouts will be browned on the outside and soft on the inside when done.  

Combine orange juice, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, garlic and white pepper in a small bowl.   Whisk for a few minutes.  When Brussels sprouts have cooked, toss them with the vinaigrette and then serve.   These Brussels sprouts are great as a side dish or if you're looking for a great vegetarian main dish, add them to quinoa, rice or millet with mushrooms with red beans, seitan or tofu.

My Cooking Assistant thinks there aren't enough recipes for Brussels sprouts.  Next week, I'm trying a Meyer Lemon-Mustard Sauce--another figment of my imagination at this point.  I'm glad to have two more weeks of this amazing vegetable. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

White Beans and Cabbage with Potatoes and Shallots

Every week I peruse cookbooks for new inspiration.  I'm always looking for new budget-friendly vegan or vegetarian recipes. This week, I took Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day off my shelf to check out recipes I'd marked to try. Her recipes are mostly easy and basic.  I found a recipe simply called White Beans and Cabbage.  What could be more warming in winter than beans?

But recipe didn't really look substantial enough for a one-dish dinner, my favorite kind of meal, so I added a few vegetables.  Well, more than a few because there is always room for one more vegetable in the pot.

You can find varieties of white beans at the farmers' market, or you can buy more budget-friendly white beans at the grocery store or even Grocery Outlet.

The same goes for cabbage. You can find real bargains in the grocery store.  While cabbage is more expensive at the market, it's often more tasty and tender varieties. Local cabbage can turn cabbage haters into cabbage lovers. 

I bought a savoy cabbage at Nash's at the market.  It's a splurge, but it's worth paying extra because the subtle sweet tones of this great local cabbage really make this dish special. 

I had saved a number of shallots last fall.  Since they often cost more than onions, I use them sparingly, and these were a treat in this dish. But when I looked in the box I'd kept the shallots in,  I was shocked and disappointed to see they are already starting to sprout.  

Did I leave them in too much light?  Is spring on the way?  I asked Tom if he thought we should plant them instead but as he pointed out, the shallots we've been lucky enough to grow are always so small.  Besides I wanted to eat these shallots, they're sweet with a delicate flavor--perfect for white beans and cabbage.

I had the variety on the right--grey French shallots. I used them anyway and the green sprout didn't seem to affect the flavor, once they were cooked.

I also splurged and got two Purple Majesty Potatoes from Olsen's Potatoes at the market.  I love their potatoes, but you don't need to use fancy potatoes in this dish because, the purple potatoes seemed to disappear into the background when I used the pressure cooker.  But these potatoes may hold their shape better, if you're cooking on the stove top.

I changed this recipe, adding peppers, shiitake mushrooms and a sweet potato.  I also substituted kalamata olives for the Parmesan cheese, and if you want, add a squeeze of lemon for good luck.

Here's the recipe:

White Beans and Cabbage with Potatoes and Shallots
(Serves 4)

1 to 2 cups shiitaki mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 medium red, white, or purple potato, diced
1 small yam or sweet potato, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's Peppers, chopped
1 cup white beans, soaked over night, and drained or 2 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives (optional)
Fresh Meyer lemon to taste (optional)
Sea salt to taste

Dry fry shiitaki mushrooms in a heavy soup pot over medium heat until mushrooms soften.  Add olive oil, shallots and pepper.  Stir and cook until shallots begin to brown.  Add potato, yam, garlic, Mama Lil's, white beans and water.   Cover and simmer until beans soften, about 1 hour.  Or cook this in the pressure cooker for 10 minutes, then let pressure come down naturally.  (This takes about 10 minutes.)

Stir in cabbage and cook for about a minute or just until the cabbage softens.   Top with kalamata olives and add sea salt to taste.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Best Vegan Corn Muffins

I've been finding lots of excuses to make these corn muffins lately--baked beans, chili, split pea soup and barbecue tempeh.  They are perfect for the budget minded chef, and if you're lucky, you could find some of the ingredients, like flour, locally.

BlueBird Farms sells a variety of grains

I created this muffin recipe, and when I made it I forgot to add the oil.  I realized it after I'd popped them in the oven--the absolute worst time to realize an omission, but it didn't seem to make any difference in taste and texture.  It was only a few tablespoons of oil, but now I leave the oil out when I bake them.  

Don't use cupcake papers to line the muffin tins because the batter seriously sticks and they can be hard to remove.  I made these corn muffins with papers the first time I made them and discovered what a disaster that is. A good portion of them stuck to the papers.  Even adding two tablespoons of oil, didn't make much difference.  These muffins just stick to papers. 

Remember to oil the muffin tins before baking and be sure to let the muffins sit for 5 minutes after baking and before removing from tins.

Without papers the sides get more caramelized.    

These muffins, like all muffins, are best served warm.

Real food looks best in color, don't you think?  

Try these muffins, they're perfect in the morning and so good with baked beans or soup in the evening.

The Best Vegan Corn Muffins
(Makes about 9 muffins)

1 cup coconut, soy or almond milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
I cup unbleached flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 tablespoons water
1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil muffin tins.  Combine lemon juice and coconut milk and set aside.

2. Sift together: flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda.  In another bowl mix together flax seeds and water until frothy.  Use a mixer or a hand blender for this.   Mix with maple syrup and coconut milk.  

3. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.  This batter is more like a cake batter than a cookie dough.

4. Fill muffin tins no more than 3/4 full.  If any tins are empty, add two tablespoons of water to them before baking.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tins.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rustic Vegetable Pot Pie

I like rustic, imperfect dishes.  Simple foods remind me of my grandmother's cooking. I was looking for a pot pie recipe as I thumbed through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  He didn't list a pot pie (and why not I wonder, with a book titled How to cook Everything?) but I found a kale pie and that gave me the idea of adding kale to my vegetarian pot pie.  Even if he doesn't have exactly everything, I still get plenty of ideas from his book.

I figured I could cook a lot of vegetabes in a skillet, top it with a crust, and bake it until the crust was done.  It couldn't be any more difficult than that. Or so I thought. I could add just about any vegetable and my trusty Cooking Assistant would be happy.

I'd wanted sage, but it didn't look fresh at the market, so I used thyme and rosemary for flavor.  I also made a honey-mustard cabbage--a dish with three ingredients--cabbage, mustard and honey--from an old recipe in this old Dean Ornish book.

I'm all for easy to when it came to making and putting a crust on.  And I had a couple frozen pie crusts, so I thawed one and decided the easiest option was to tip the frozen crust upside down on the vegetables, then patch it together. This is what happens when you try to do that.  If company is coming, you might want to rethink your options.  The taste and texture are there, and next time I might seriously work on presentation.

Then again, maybe the lazy cook would just go with the same option as I tried the first time, because as far as taste and texture were concerned, it worked.  

I've got a busy week lined up and this is a great budget-worthy start, especially if you grow your own potatoes and kale.  I served this vegetable pot pie with honey-mustard cabbage and balsamic marinated beets with avocado. 

The best part is we have leftovers!   This is also my favorite kind of breakfast.  

Rustic Vegetable Pot Pie
(Serves 4)
Look for seitan in natural food stores.  If you can't eat wheat, use eight ounces of crumbled tempeh instead.

1 to 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
2 to 3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup, cubed seitan, cut into small pieces
1 cup diced rutabaga
1/2 small sweet potato, diced
2 small potatoes, diced
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried, chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable broth or water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1 frozen pie crust, thawed
Earth Balance buttery spread or butter
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1. Saute onions and mushrooms in oil, until mushrooms soften.  Add carrots, garlic, seitan.  Stir and cook until carrots soften.  Stir in garlic, seitan, sweet potato, potatoes, wine, rosemary and thyme.  Stir and cook until wine evaporates.   Add tomato paste, kale, Mama Lil's peppers, vegetable broth and sea salt. Stir until well blended.

2. Preheat oven to 350F.  Transfer mixture to a quiche or deep pie pan.  Place frozen crust carefully on top.  (You can roll it out again, so it will fit your vegetable pie much better than mine fit.

3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is nicely browned.

My Assistant prefers to start with the cabbage.