vegetarian recipes


I roasted two little Sugar Pumpkins this afternoon, at the request of Calvin, who is dying to try some pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin. Ever since people started putting up Jack-‘o-Lanterns before Halloween, he’s been begging to cook up a pumpkin. So I went to Trader Joe’s where they were selling Sugar Pumpkins, which are actually meant for eating, not carving. I bought two, because I knew violence would ensue if a pumpkin magically appeared at the behest of one child, and there wasn’t one for the other. And I always like to use the whole beast if I can.

Easy as pie, so they say. I sliced the little (baby-head sized) pumpkins in half from top to bottom, put them on a greased cookie sheet, skin side up, and baked them for an hour at 300 degrees. Then, when they were cooled down, I scooped out the flesh and pureed it with my stick blender. Actually, Derek was in the room and he asked me if I needed him to do the pureeing. I told him I was doing just fine, and he confessed that he thought it looked like fun, so I let him do the pureeing. Tomorrow, I will whip up some pie crust. Tuesday, I’ll make some pie.

As for the seeds, I put them in a big bowl, ran a little bit of water in, swirled them around, and picked out the big chunks of pulp. I ran some more water and they floated above the rest of the pulp, so I could just scoop them out onto a paper towel. Calvin has also been asking for pumpkin seeds, you see.

Candied Pumpkin Seeds

about 2 cups fresh raw pumpkin seeds, washed and patted dry
2 T butter or canola oil
1/4 cup real maple syrup (it would probably work just fine with only 2 tablespoons, but wouldn’t that be sad?)
generous pinch salt
1/8-1/4 t cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl. Add maple syrup, salt, and cayenne and mix well. Stir in pumpkin seeds and mix to coat. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast for 45-60 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until golden. The syrup should be dark golden brown and very sticky.

When you take the seeds out of the oven, stir them with a couple of spatulas for about 5 minutes while they cool, breaking up large clumps. Eat immediately. Yummy.

Derek and I ate the entire batch as soon as it was cool enough. I don’t know how Sugar Pumpkin seeds compare to carving pumpkin seeds, except that I was expecting them to be more woody. It seems like I’ve had the seeds in the hull before, and I had to chew and chew those suckers. Well, these ones I made today were not at all like that. In fact, they were so yummy that Zeeb ate a bunch, calling them “Pumpkin chips” and Kiki found a clump that had fallen to the floor and tried to eat it. I can usually get things out of her mouth, like when she eats rocks or marbles, but this time, she would NOT give it up. She had those jaws clamped tight, and kept mooshing her lips so I couldn’t stick my finger in there. It was amazing.

Anyway, if you want a yummy, good-for-you snack (and by that I mean not processed or including unpronounceable ingredients, not low calorie), try these. They’re so easy. I’m gonna make some for appetizers on Thanksgiving.

Compulsive Writer is on a dessert binge, and keeps posting cake recipes, so I have cake on the brain. But no zucchini! What to do?

I’m providing you with my mother’s famous chocolate zucchini cake, because every once in a while, you need you eat your zucchini in the form of dessert. For me, it’s actually hard to accumulate enough zucchini to make this, since I positively love zucchini, especially if it’s little and I can sautée it in a freaking hot pan until it has brown spots, add some salt and pepper, and serve it up with pasta.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Preheat oven to 350°, grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans (I think it’s 2, I’m gonna call my mom to make sure, so check back later, just in case).

In a big bowl, sift together:

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C cocoa
2 2/1 t baking powder
1 1/2 t soda
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon (optional)

In another medium bowl, cream together:

2 C sugar
3/4 C butter or shortening

Beat into the creamed butter and sugar:

3 eggs

Stir in:

1/2 C warm milk
2 t vanilla
2 C zucchini, shredded (packed, generous cups)

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to combine, so there are no little bubbles of flour. Pour equally into pans, and bake for about 1 hour, until they’re done, that is, when a toothpick inserted almost in the middle doesn’t come out gooey.

Frost this cake with chocolate ganache frosting, chocolate buttercream, or chocolate syrup. I prefer ganache, personally.

No, I do not know where to find zucchini eggs. I don’t believe they lay eggs. This is just my favorite way to use up those millions of zucchini and tomatoes in the middle of summer. I love them both, so I try lots of different ways of preparing them. But I’m telling you, this one is just extra good stuff. Even my little boys kept begging for more. The chartreuse color of the eggs may be a little shocking. In fact, if you just look at the eggs without the rice, tomatoes and yogurt, it is not entirely appetizing, but assembled, it looks great. You can also skip the curry powder and the yogurt, and it would be good that way, too.

Curried Zucchini Eggs for 4

2 T olive or canola oil
1 or 2 T good curry powder
1 medium or 2 small (cigar sized) zucchini, grated
4 eggs, beaten
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt
cooked brown rice
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat 1 T of the oil on medium-high. Add the curry powder and stir around, then add the grated zucchini. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until the zucchini is soft, but not totally dry. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl or plate.

Return the pan to the stove and lower the temperature to medium. Add the other T oil, swirl to coat the pan, and add the beaten eggs. Scramble a little, until beginning to set, then quickly add the zucchini and scramble some more, until the eggs are done. Remove to the same plate as before.

To serve, make a mountain in this order: Rice, zucchini eggs, chopped tomatoes, a dallop of plain yogurt, salt and pepper to taste.

It seems like people don’t really do yummy summer refreshers just for everyday enjoyment. We go on walks in the afternoon, and by the time we get home, we are hot, sweaty, and lethargic. Snacks never sound good, but cold drinks are always desperately needed. Here are 3 of my favorites. These are especially great for serving to non-imbibing friends and children.

Agua de Jamaica

This is the deep red, sweet-tart drink served in Mexican restaurants. I love it so much that I buy a bunch of jamaica blossoms at a time, so I can make it all summer. It’s about as hard to make as a pot of tea.

2 ounces dried jamaica blossoms, aka hibiscus blossoms*
6 cups water
1 1/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine jamaica, water, and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and boil for 2 minutes. Transfer to a glass bowl or pitcher and let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Strain out the blossoms. Taste it, and dilute with a little filtered water if it’s too strong. Serve with ice.

*You can buy Jamaica flowers at Mexican and International markets, and at regular supermarkets in areas with a large Mexican population. They come prepackaged in 2 ounce bags, and are usually near the dried pasilla and ancho chiles, and all those little bags of spices.

Persian Rhubarb drink

This one is made from a syrup, or sherbet in Persian. And now’s  the time, since rhubarb is in season. You can also pick lots of rhubarb, chop it, and freeze for a later date. The frozen rhubarb gets a little mushy, so it’s not ideal for pie or crisp, but great for something like this drink.

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lime juice
fresh mint sprigs

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for about 1/2 hour. Strain, discard the fiber, and return to the pan, with the sugar and lime juice. Simmer on low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer another 1/2 hour, until it looks syrupy. Strain into a glass bowl and cool.

To make the drink, combine about 1 cup syrup with 4 cups ice water, stir, and taste. If it’s too strong, add more water, and add more syrup if you like it stronger. Pour over into ice-filled cups and add a sprig of mint.

Mango Lassi

Who hasn’t gone to an Indian Restaurant and ordered the mango lassi? If you haven’t, something is wrong with you.

1 cup chopped fresh mango, or 1 cup canned mango puree*
1 cup plain yogurt (be sure it is made with no gelatin)**
1 cup milk
sugar
1/8-1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
ice cubes

In a blender, combine all ingredients except ice, starting with just a Tablespoon or so of sugar. Depending on the variety of mango you use, it will need different amounts of sugar. Yellow Manila mangoes are less fibrous and sweeter that the green and red fatter mangoes at the supermarket. I’ve seen similar yellow ones labelled Champagne. If you want a thicker lassi, add more yogurt. For thinner, more milk. When the flavor and consistency are good, throw in a bunch of ice cubes and blend until frothy.

*Mango puree can be found at Indian and International markets. It is always sweetened. It is pretty runny, so you may need less milk.

**If you use low-fat or fat free yogurt, you will probably need more sugar to offset the tartness of the yogurt.

Calvin went shopping with me a couple months or so ago, and at the health food store, spied the goat cheese in it’s tiny, round package. He asked what it was, and proceeded to beg for some the rest of the shopping trip. I felt sure in my heart that he would not like goat cheese, and I didn’t really have any good ideas of how to use it if no-one in the family liked it. I have had a dessert of goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and honey, but I don’t really make dessert that often, so it seemed like too much of a burden to buy the dang cheese.

Well Calvin didn’t let up. He asked for chèvre every day. He reminded me, any time I went to the store, that he really wanted some goat cheese. Sometimes, he’d forget what it was called, and he’d ask me for “that stuff that’s white, and round?” I took him on another shopping trip to Costco about a month ago. In the cheese aisle, he asked what all the different cheeses were. This is a child who loves a good cheese. Among his favorites is aged Gouda. I don’t buy it because it’s so freaking expensive, but if we ever do have it, he wants it. Anyway, he spied the 1 pound log of chèvre, and commenced with the begging.

I decided to humor him, because I didn’t want to drive to the health food store for one little thing. We bought the cheese. We also bought the 3-pack of Boursin garlic-herb cheese, as a backup. We took them home, and the boys, including the Derek, devoured on of the Boursins, but I was reluctant to break out the chèvre.

Then, about 3 weeks ago, I went to dinner with some lovely girls, and I ordered the special salad. Arugula, strawberries, pine nuts, and goat cheese, with vinaigrette. It was a decent combination. So I came home with goat cheese on the brain.

For the next few days, I experimented with our salads, using baby spinach and arugula stolen from a neighbor’s garden, toasted pine nuts, and dried cranberries, since I’m unwilling to purchase those baseball sized, white-cored “strawberries” they sell at the supermarkets around here, and balsamic vinegar.

When we spent the weekend with Derek’s parents, I made them a couple variations of the salad, which were eagerly devoured, in spite of them being pre-dressed. I personally prefer salads as an ensemble, with the dressing being a main ingredient. And I cannot abide the dressings that come in a bottle, so I always make my own. But Derek’s parents didn’t have any goat cheese, so I went to the Costco around the corner from their house and picked up a log, figuring I’d leave it there for them to deal with. Except they didn’t want it.

So with my 2 logs of goat cheese, I resolved to find delicious ways of consuming them before the dreaded expiration. (The expiration of a cheese is where, with one last dying gasp, the cheese heaves itself onto it’s haunches, staggers, and collapses into a sweaty, smelly heap.) So I give you two salads and a spread. Do not be afraid of the log. Go buy yourself one, and discover the beauty of a mellow, slightly tart, slightly sweet, soft cheese.

Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

1 bunch arugula
6-8 ounces tender baby spinach
mixed greens
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
a handful of fresh strawberries, sliced, or a handful of dried cranberries
3 T toasted pine nuts
1-2 ounces goat cheese, in small pieces

Rinse and spin the arugula and spinach, and place in a salad bowl with the mixed greens to fill the bowl. Add the oil and the vinegar, and gently massage the leaves until mixed and coated with dressing. Add the remaining ingredients. I like to put the small stuff on top, instead of tossing it. I hate it when you get just a bunch of lettuce, and all the nuts and fruity things fall through to the bottom.

Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

10 ounces mixed salad greens
1/4 cup chopped dried pears*
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
2 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 T hazelnut oil
1 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In a jar or small cup, mix the oils, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Place the greens in a salad bowl and pour the dressing over. Massage to coat. Add the nuts, pears, and cheese.

*My dried pears are extremely leathery. I think I dried them about a day too long. So I put them in a small bowl with water to cover, then microwave them for one minute. They get soft enough to chop without giving me carpal tunnel syndrome, and are just slightly juicy, but not hydrated. You only need to do this if the pears are hard. If they’re soft, like raisins, just chop them without the soak. (Then I use the pear water to mix the baby food for Kiki.)

Goat Cheese Spread

4 ounces goat cheese
2-4 T Trader Joe’s India Relish, or some other spicy chutney
3 T currants

Mix all in a bowl. This stuff is great on crackers. I had something like this once at Trader Joe’s, when they were giving out samples. I bought 5 jars of the India Relish right then, because I liked it so much. I guess if you don’t have goat cheese, you could do it with cream cheese, but it wouldn’t have that tang.

I’m in love with all the cruciferous vegetables, but nobody ever talks about cabbage. I once went shopping at the local health-food store, and bought a regular old head of green cabbage. I took it to the check-out counter, and the kid behind the register picked it up, turned it all around, and asked what it was. “Cabbage,” I replied. He took out the little produce code sheet, looked up and down, found the cabbages, and asked me, “What kind?”

How many kinds of round cabbage are there? There are two: Red, and Green. What color was my cabbage? Even a colorblind person can tell the subtle differences between a pale green cabbage and a deep purple cabbage. I know this because I’m married to a colorblind person. Although he cannot tell between a green car and a gray car.

I didn’t laugh at the check-out boy. Nearly every time I go there, someone asks me what I’m purchasing, or at the very least, “What on earth you DO with that block of tofu, that bunch of watercress, or that pristine acorn squash?” (Did you know that watercress grows in the wild in all 50 states? And it’s another cruciferous, delicious, and vitamin-ey vegetable? It’s one of the main ones in V-8)

I buy a lot of cabbage, both red and green. I love it. I love it cooked, I love it raw. I love it in curry, with peanut sauce, braised with onions and raisins, stir-fried with chiles and mustard seeds, sauteed with butter (and bacon, if I have any), mixed into mashed potatoes, added to soups, and maybe most of all, in cole slaw.

Cole, or Kohl is the Germanic word for cabbage, and Slaw comes from Sla, which is the Dutch word for Salad, which is an alteration of Salata, the Italian for “salted.” So to be a salad, it has to be salted. When I went to Rome, we were served piles of lettuce with salt and pepper on them when we ordered salad.

I like to make a big bowl of cole slaw, and have it for lunch every day. Today, I asked Calvin if he would like some. Miraculously, he has decided that he loves cole slaw. His friend, T, was here  for lunch, and Cal asked T if he would like some too. T asked what it was. Calvin said, “It’s cabbage with mayonnaise and sugar.” Then he looked at me and asked what else was in it.

“Mustard, salt, and vinegar.” Calvin repeated everything I said, and then informed T that vinegar is “like what you sometimes put on salad.” He’s really fond of balsamic vinaigrette.

I’m glad that I decided to make cole slaw just for me. I never used to make it, because no-one else would eat it. Derek hates it. But after about 2 weeks of having it nearly every day, now one of my sons loves it. I feel successful.

Standard Cole Slaw 

1 head cabbage, red or green, shredded
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 T white vinegar
2 T agave syrup or sugar, more or less to taste (I almost always add more)
1 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Put the shredded cabbage in a big bowl. Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl, then combine. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, if you have time.

Variations:
1. add 1 T curry powder.
2. Add 1/2 cup raisins to green cabbage slaw, or 1/2 cup golden raisins to red slaw. Add these just before serving, because they plump over time.
3. Add 1 Cup shredded carrots to green slaw.
4. Add all of the above.
5. Use 2 T plain yogurt and 2 T mayonnaise.
6. Use other shredded cruciferous veggies in place of some or all of the cabbage. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Broccoflower, Daikon Radish, Turnips, Kale, Collards, etc.

The first time I made this salad, I used fresh baby greens that I had picked out of my own garden, and the chives and rosemary came from my herb garden. I had dried the pears the fall before. I felt such a sense of love for my food, since much of it had come from my own toil. I don’t know how much of that feeling translated into how much we loved the salad, but this was the one that converted Derek into a salad person. The arugula is a central part of why it is so good, so please don’t leave it out if you can find it.

Spring Salad for 2-4

6-9 oz mixed baby salad greens, such as red leaf, green leaf, arugula, frisee, etc.
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (don’t use the garlic or pepper feta, just plain)
a handful of chives, snipped
a sprig or two of rosemary, chopped
a handful of dried pears, chopped into slivers, or dried cranberries or golden raisins
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
pepper and salt to taste

I like to put the greens into the bowl, then add the olive oil and vinegar, and gently “massage” the salad until the leaves are coated with the dressing. Then I add the other ingredients, and toss just a few times, so all the chunky stuff stays mostly on top and doesn’t get sifted through to the bottom. Taste the salad before you serve it, and add vinegar, salt, pepper, or whatever it needs to taste finished.

The very best part is the combination of dried pears, balsamic vinegar, and arugula. It makes me smile every time. Arugula gets more bitter and peppery as the summer progresses, so this works best with tender baby arugula. I like it with about 1/4 arugula, and 3/4 other mild greens.

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