Category Archives: vegetarian

A Fall Feast: Baked Yam And Potatoes

This was the first time we cooked with yams or sweet potatoes.  Not surprising if you consider that yams are not common, or non-existent, in Italy.  A bit surprising if you consider the many Thanksgiving dinners I’ve had over the years.  Yet not surprising if you consider that I hate yams with marshmellows and blamed the wrong culprit  for this horrible recipe.

Recently I had baked yams at a restaurant and mentioned it to my husband.  Always interested in trying new things, he bought one yam and one sweet potato just to test the waters.  We also included russet potatoes to create a nice fall medly of vegetables.

Ingredients:
Russet potatoes (2)

Sesame seeds, enough to coat the russet potatoes

Sweet potato (1 – 2)

Yams (  1 – 2)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Recipe:

1 ) Cut the russet potatoes into medium-thin slices, brush with olive oil and then coat with a thin layer of sesame seeds. Saute in a pan with olive oil.  Add some salt.  Be sure to cook both sides.

2 ) Once the potatoes are well-coated on both sides, remove from pan into a baking dish. Broil at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

3 ) Slice the sweet potatoes and yams. Drizzle with olive oil and salt.   Since the russet potatoes take longer to cook, you may want to wait before you add the sweet potatoes and yams to the baking pan.  Broil for another 10 minutes until done.

4 ) Add fresh black pepper to taste.

The three ingredients balance each other out perfectly.  The biggest surprise was probably the sesame-coated potatoes.  Russet potatoes are a familiar ingredient and always good but the sesame seeds added crunch and flavor that made it an excellent stand-out dish.

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Simple Recipe #12: Baked Fennel Au Gratin

My husband once met someone who grew fennel in his vegetable garden. When he asked him how he cooked the fennel, the guy responded that he used the tiny leaves for tea and discarded the bulb (!)  Since then we’ve wondered how most people use this versatile and delicious vegetable. We see them in supermarkets all the time and it sometimes makes an appearance in magazines but we’ve never seen anyone buying them. Hopefully most people know better than to discard the good part!

This recipe is really easy and makes fennel a main dish or a very good filling side dish.

Ingredients:

1 ) Fennel bulbs (5 – 6)

2 ) Cotija cheese (or parmigano)

3 ) Breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning

4 ) Olive Oil

5 ) Salt and Pepper

6 ) Butter (optional)

Recipe:

1 ) Cut off the top leaves and discard.  Slice the fennel bulbs into thick slices.  Put in a large baking pan and drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil, plus some salt and pepper.

2 ) Broil for about 10 minutes until the tops are slightly brown.

3 ) Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and seal tightly.  Tip: This is what makes it so easy. Normally you have to watch it and stir the fennel bulbs over to prevent burning. By covering it up and ‘steaming’ it, you can bake it and forget it for about 30 minutes.

4 ) Once the fennel is cooked thoroughly and softened up, take off the foil and add shredded cotija or parmigiano.  If the fennel has shed too much water, take the time to scoop some of the water out of the pan. Then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the fennel, covering the entire pan.  Spritz some water to keep the breadcrumbs moist.  You can also mix in a slice or two of butter for flavoring.

5 ) Bake for another few minutes until the topping is brown and the cheese is nicely melted.

Ripieni Saga Continues: Stuffed Zucchini, Stuffed Lettuce And Tomato Sauce

This weekend, my husband continued making ripieni, or stuffed vegetables, by adding to the original filling from the stuffed red bell peppers and the pulp from the stuffed tomatoes.  “Leftovers” have never tasted so good! 

With the tomato pulp, he cooked up a simple red sauce with extra virgin olive oil, basil, fresh garlic, salt and sugar.  It was a good reminder that even the best store-bought sauce can’t beat homemade. 

At the same time, he carved out six large zucchinis and filled it with the ‘leftover’ stuffing.  By now, the filling is a mixture of soaked bread, white rice, eggs, capers, Mexican sour cream, marjoram, olives, parsley, olive oil, cotija cheese and probably a bit of tuna.

The recipe is similar to the one for stuffed bell peppers, only substitute the bell peppers with zucchini.  I’m excited because I have two leftover zucchini for lunch today.

For the stuffed lettuce, we filled a large romain lettuce leaf with the filling, wrapped it up, sealing it with a toothpick and then broiled. You have to be a little careful not to burn the lettuce; once it looks a bit brown, turn off the oven and leave it inside.  The heat of the oven should keep it cooking without burning.  We topped it with a bit of the tomato red sauce — delicious!

We took some good pictures so I hope to add some photos soon!

Simple Recipe #10: Roasted Bell Peppers

This is more of an ingredient than a complete recipe but roasted red bell peppers really add a distinct flavor to salads and other dishes.  All you need are red bell peppers, extra virgin olive oil and salt.

Recipe:

1 ) Brush bell peppers all over with olive oil. Add some salt.

2 ) Put bell peppers in a baking pan and broil. Turn when the skin gets a bit black.  All in all, I think I broiled the bell peppers for an hour.

3 ) Take out and put bell peppers in a large bowl. Cover with clingwrap and let it steam. This makes it easy to peel off the skin.

4 ) In about 20 minutes, take out of the bowl. Peel skin off the bell peppers.

Voila! You’re done. I added this to my a pasta salad with broccoli, red onions and cheese.  This would also be good with cannellini beans or just mixed with feta for the simplest of salads.

Simple Recipe #9: Ripieni or Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is considered “simple” by my husband, while I would put it in the not-so-simple category.  It’s fairly quick to make but I wouldn’t make it on a weekday night after 7:30 p.m. (like he did).

Ingredients:

Red bell peppers (4)

White rice (enough to fill 4 bell peppers)

Capers

Eggs (3)

Tuna packed in olive oil (1 can)

Mexican sour cream (or a light type of cheese?)

Breadcrumbs

Extra virgin olive oil

Oregano, marjoram or other herbs

Recipe:

1 ) Slice the bell peppers in halves and take out stem and seeds. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and salt. Bake in the oven until softened.  (When I asked my husband how long, he said “by eye”)

2 ) In the meantime, boil white rice. We had leftover rice, which we helped push this dish to the simple category.

3 ) Mix the steamed rice with tuna, chopped capers, Mexican cheese, herbs, eggs, and olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4 ) Stuff the baked bell peppers with the rice/cheese stuffing.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top, covering the top entirely. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Again, go by eye.

5 ) Let it cool before serving and eating.

A quick tip about ripieni: The next night, my husband used the same filling to make stuffed tomatoes.  He added parsley and bread soaked in mik, but otherwise the filling was pretty much the same. In other words, make a lot of filling! Ripieni keeps very well and actually tastes even better the next day. 

I also noticed that I have tons of recipes with red bell peppers. Not surprising since I do love them.  If you love these versatile vegetables, too, check out some past recipes that include red bell peppers:

Singapore Noodles

It was a relaxing Sunday, the stars were aligned, chores were done or could be postponed, so I actually made lunch with enough leftover for dinner. This is a slight exaggeration; I do actually cook from time to time… Anyway, I admit that I was so glad that my husband liked the dish. Since I learned how to cook from him, it’s hard to impress him!

I had clipped a recipe for reference but improvised it based on memory.  My mom often made this dish on lazy Sunday afternoons. It takes time but it’s not difficult.

My mom usually made this dish with green bell peppers, shrimp and barbecue pork. I modified it based on foods that were expiring in our fridge. Luckily the result was still pretty good.

Ingredients:

1 ) Rice noodles (available in any Asian market and probably some ‘regular’ supermarkets)

2 ) Chicken Broth (1 can)

3 ) Curry Powder

4 ) Yellow Onion (half)

5 ) Red Bell Peppers (1-2)

6 ) Baby Bok Choy

7 ) Eggs (3 -4 )

8 ) Soy Sauce

Recipe:

1 ) Soak the rice noodles in chicken broth and water for about 10 minutes. Be sure to cover it completely.

2 ) In the meantime, chop the bell peppers and saute in a wok or deep pan. A wok works best.

3 ) When the bell peppers are half-way done, add in the chopped yellow onions.  Stir frequently. To make the vegetables more tender, you can add a little bit of water and cover the pan, letting it steam.  Add some soy sauce for color and taste.

4 ) While the veggies are cooking, break 3 – 4 eggs in a small bowl and whisk.

5 ) In a small metal bowl, add water and curry powder and mix.  Set aside. You’ll need to mix a large enough bowl to cover the rice noodles. If you’re not sure how much you need, start small and add more water/curry powder later.

6 ) Once the veggies are done, scramble the eggs in the same pan. You can also use a different pan if you like. Once the eggs are done, take out of the pan and set aside.

7 ) Drain the rice noodles. By now they should be fairly tender.  Cut up the noodles with scissors so that the length isn’t too long.

8 ) Saute the rice noodles in the pan or wok. Add soy sauce and the curry/water mixture. It should give the noodles a like yellowish color all over.

9 ) After 3 – 5 minutes, add in the cooked bell pepper, bok choy, onions and eggs. Mix well.  This is when having a wok really helps.

10 )  Once the noodles are done (taste it!), the dish is ready to serve.

Simple Recipe #3: Vegetable Stir Fry

This “simple recipe” series is a personal challenge to come up with 31 recipes  for good, simple meals on those days that you’re busy, tired, stressed or your favorite show is starting in 20 minutes!

Nothing is simpler than stir fry. Chop in a few vegetables, add in tofu or meat if you like, sauté with soy sauce and voila!  I admit that I’m not a master at stir fry. My dishes always turn out well but it’s not like my mom’s versions. I lack practice and more importantly, I don’t own a wok.  You can use any deep frying pan but a wok makes it ten times easier because it allows you to stir vigorously without flipping food on the stovetop.  Try it and you’ll see the difference. I should get one but I digress…

What I love about stir fry is the variety. I prefer bean sprouts, red bell peppers, broccoli or spring peas, tofu and mushrooms.   Last night, I did not have any of the above ingredients except broccoli so I improvised by using zucchini and a yellow squash. I wasn’t sure if they would ‘take’ the soy sauce well so I didn’t add too much. 

Ingredients:

Broccoli (2 crowns)

Zucchini (2)

Yellow squash (1)

Soy sauce

Extra virgin olive oil (any oil is fine)

Sesame oil (optional)

Recipe in 3 simple steps:

1 ) Drizzle olive oil in a deep frying pan or wok. Add in chopped broccoli and drizzle with soy sauce and a bit of sesame oil. Add in a bit of water. Cover with lid and cook until broccoli is more tender, stirring occasionally.   

2 ) Add chopped zucchini and squash. Drizzle a little soy sauce and stir around.

3 ) Re-lid the pan if the broccoli is still tough; otherwise you can keeping stirring until all the vegetables are cooked.

In the meantime, I made steamed rice.  Top the rice with the stir fry vegetables and you have a delicious, healthy meal.