Archives for category: Vegetarian

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As an omnivore, I often have issues eating purely vegetarian dishes. Having been raised in a country at a time when meat was a commodity, most of my diet as a child have been vegetable based, seasoned with either lard, bacon, or bones. In my nearly 20 years in America, I’ve had no shortage of meat, yet I’ve only begun to appreciate meals that are completely vegetarian. Read the rest of this entry »

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One of the few things I don’t like to make is homemade ice cream. My ice cream maker is not the best in the world, and the results are so unpredictable that 90 percent of the time, the ice cream is too watery or icy. Recently I’ve been a fan of buying store bought ice cream and enhancing it at home to make it “gourmet”.

The trick is to make a recipe that incorporates really simple favors such as coffee, vanilla, and chocolate, and you will find it’s quite simple to dress them up. Read the rest of this entry »

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I bought Christina Tosi’s recipe book for Momofuku Milk Bar a few weeks ago, and got it in the mail last week. Milk bar is the sweets branch of David Chang’s growing Momofuku empire. A few years ago when I went to NYC to visit a friend, we went to Milk Bar and got their compost cookie, which is a cookie that has everything but the kitchen sink in it : coffee grounds, potato chips, pretzels… It sounded like the most unlikely combination for a cookie, but was it tasty!  Read the rest of this entry »

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This the last part of my Afro-Middle eastern inspired menu was a Swahili vegetable curry. Okra, green beans, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, corn, cauliflower, baby potatoes, carrots….Nine total vegetables are featured in this all encompassing vegetable curry.

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The vegetables are stewed in a coconut based sauce with a variety of spices, and I cracked my own fresh coconut to extract the coconut flesh.

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The spices are first heated in a pan until fragrant, and then are finely ground in a spice or coffee grinder.

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To make the spice paste, grated coconut flesh is sautéed with some olive oil until lightly browned,

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The coconut is transferred to a blender along with the toasted spices and onions.

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And blended until a paste forms. The paste is set aside until ready for use.

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To start the curry, sliced onions and mustard seeds are cooked in a large casserole over high heat, until the onions are browned. Turmeric, mace, Garam masala and bay leaves are added to the casserole, and cooked until fragrant.

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The coconut spice paste is added to the casserole and simmered over low heat for 10 minutes.

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The coconut milk and water are added to the casserole and brought to a simmer.

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Sliced carrots and potatoes are added to the pot, and simmered for 15 minutes.

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All vegetables, except for the okra, are added to the pot with the tomato paste and simmered for 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

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At this point, the curry can be made ahead of time, cooled and refrigerated over night, which is what I did.
The next day, the dish is slowly brought to a simmer, and the okra is added to the pot, and cooked for about 5 minutes. Fresh curry leaves and cilantro are stirred into the curry, adjusting the seasoning to your taste.

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I like to serve the curry with some hot sauce and basmati rice.

Swahili Vegetable Curry

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One of the recipes I picked for my Afro-middle eastern inspired menu is by Marcus Sammuelsson, a Swedish chef of Ethiopian heritage. Marcus won the title of Top Chef Masters a few years ago, and while I was rooting for a different chef to win, I’ve been intrigued about his heritage and cooking style. I found a brown lentil dip recipe from him that would be a great appetizer for our dinner, and i thought it would also give me a chance to learn about his cooking.

This lentil dip is made with brown lentils and loads of middle eastern spices. Beware of the recipe portions because although I made only half the recipe, it was still too much for our dinner. It did, however, made a great little snack for the rest of the week.

To cook the lentils, they are simmered with carrots and sliced red onions in water for about 35 minutes, until very tender and almost all of the liquid has evaporated.

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The lentils and vegetables are then puréed in a food processor.

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The spice mix used in this recipe consists of cumin, coriander, ginger, cayenne, nutmeg, and allspice.

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The spices are cooked in a couple of tablespoons of butter over low heat in a medium sauce pan until fragrant, about 3 minutes. To make this recipe vegan, substitute vegetable oil for the butter instead.

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The puréed lentils are added to the pan and stirred into the spice mixture, for about 5 minutes.

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The dip is finished of with some lemon juice and seasoned to taste. Before serving, I topped the dip with some chopped cilantro leaves, and served it with some baked pita chips.

African Spiced Lentil Dip

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This wild rice torte is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes to make. It’s got nuts, grains, dried fruits, fresh vegetables, eggs, and who says that vegetarian dishes are not filling? Making it is a little time consuming due to the preparation of each ingredient, which are cooked individually, then assembled together and baked, but the result is well worth the effort and leftovers are good for days.

First, the wild rice is cooked until tender, then drained and set aside. Whole portobellos and halved tomatoes are roasted in the oven until soft. The portobellos are sliced and tomatoes peeled.

A very thinly sliced onion is slowly caramelized in a pan.

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Then the onion, half of the sliced mushroom, along with raisins and chopped dried apricots are added to the wild rice, and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

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To assemble the torte, 5 thin sheets of phyllo dough are spread out and overlaid in a circle. The layers are sprayed with Pam, and topped with chopped parsley. Be careful with the phyllo sheets since they are very delicate, but you can always overlay any broken sheets.

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The process is repeated for another 5 layers of phyllo. The phyllo sheets are then carefully transferred to an 8 inch springform pan, with the edges hanging over the pan.

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Then the wild rice filling is spooned and packed into the phyllo lined springform, and topped with the remaining half of sliced mushroom and the tomatoes.

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4 eggs are beaten and poured over the tomatoes, and the torte is topped with chopped roasted almonds and parsley.

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The edges of the torte are trimmed to about 1/2 inches over the pan, and the torte is baked in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, until the edges of the phyllo sheets are a golden brown.

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The Torte can be made 4 hours ahead of time, and served at room temperature, which makes it great for a dinner party. It can be served as a healthy side or a delicious vegetarian main.

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Middle Eastern Rice Torte

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The main course for our Sunday meal is Kitsune Udon, which is a Japanese style soup traditionally made with aburaage tofu, fish cakes, and dashi. The name Kitsune Udon comes from a folk tale that foxes love aburaage tofu, therefore the soup literally means “fox udon”.

I added peas, carrots, and shrimp to the aburaage to my udon, but the recipe is easily adaptable to your personal taste.

The first step is to make the dashi, which is the same one I used for the Yosenabe recipe. Since Dashi is made from dried bonito flakes, the soup is not truly vegetarian, however, you can try omitting the bonito and just use the seaweed and dried shiitake mushroom to make the broth. It will not have the unique fishy, saltiness that dashi is known for, but some people may not like the bonito taste anyway.

For the vegetables, I blanched sliced carrots and frozen peas in salted, boiling water for a couple of minutes, drained them, and set them aside.

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I bought premade fresh udon noodles and aburaage tofu from my local Asian supermarket. You can make you own udon noodles and aburaage tofu, but I felt lazy Sunday. To prep the noodles, a pot of water is brought to a boil, and the noodles are quick cooked for a couple of minutes.

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Then the noodles are drained and rinsed in cold water, to stop the cooking process, and set aside.

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While you are preparing the veggies and the noodles, the dashi should be brought to a slow simmer. When you are ready to serve, the noodles, veggies, aburaage, and whatever else you want should be arranged neatly in a bowl.

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Then the hot broth ladled over each bowl, topped with some scallions and sesame seeds, and the udon is ready!

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I also made some cucumber and seaweed Sunomono, which basically means a variety of vinegar based dishes, and “su” means vinegar in Japanese.

My parents were visiting last week and brought with them a ton of Chinese cucumbers from their garden. Chinese cucumbers are longer and crispier than the cucumbers you buy at your local markets. Sometimes they are sold as English or Japanese cucumbers, while I’ve never seen them grow in Japan or England, it’s the only cucumbers I’ve seen in China.

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My Sunomono also consists of hijiki and wakame seaweed. Hijiki seaweed are short skinny things, with a dark red tint to them. Wakame is the more popular type used in miso soup, with a deep green tint. Both seaweeds need to be soaked before eating.

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Wakame takes about 5 minutes or less of soaking in cold water, while hijiki takes about 30 minutes to get fully hydrated. The seaweed should be drained and set aside after it rehydrates.

While the seaweed is soaking, I very thinly sliced my cucumber, then sprinkled the slices with some kosher salt, and set the cucumbers aside to drain for a few minutes.

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The slices should be squeezed of all excess water, then tossed with both seaweeds, and a vinaigrette made from rice vinegar, sugar, and light soy sauce. The Sunomono should be set aside to marinate for about 5 minutes, and finished with toasted sesame seeds and green onions.

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Kitsune udon recipe
Sunomono recipe

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Finishing up our special Tuesday dinner, I made my boyfriend’s favorite dessert with a twist. Creme brûlée is not something you want to play around too much with because it’s such a classic dessert. The simple combination of egg yolk, sugar, cream, and vanilla makes the silky and creamy custard filling, and the ingenious sugar crust really elevates it as a sophisticated dessert.

This butterscotch creme brûlée substitutes brown sugar for white sugar, and adds milk chocolate to the cream mixture to give it a darker flavor. To make the filling, heavy whipping cream, brown sugar, salt, and milk are heated in a pot over medium low heat until the sugar completely dissolves and tiny bubbles starts to form on the edges of the pot. Melted chocolate and vanilla are whisked into the pot, and the hot cream mixture is slowly poured and whisked into egg yokes. The hot liquid will cook the egg yokes, which is why you need to whisk constantly as the cream is poured into the eggs.

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The liquid is strained to rid of any large bits of eggs that may have been formed during the whisking process. This will ensure the Creme brûlée is silky smooth and not gritty. The cream mixture is poured into ramekins, the ramekins placed in a roasting pan, and hot water poured into the pan until it reaches half way up the sides of the ramekins.

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The Creme brûlées are baked in a 300 degree oven until the edges of the custard sets and the centers are slightly jiggly, about 40 minutes.

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The custards are chilled for at least 5 hours in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, brown, turbinado, or Demerara sugar are sprinkled on top of the custards.

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You can brown the sugar in the oven with the broiler, or you can use a mini torch which is what I used. Either way, the custard should be placed in the freezer immediately after the sugar browns for the custard to stay chill, about 5 minutes.

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The butterscotch Creme brûlée are topped with a few caramel corns, and served with more on the side. The recipe includes instructions on how to make your own caramel corn, but I cheated and used store bought ones.

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Butterscotch Creme Brûlée with Caramel Corn : http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/butterscotch-creme-brulee-with-caramel-corn

My boyfriend bought me a siphon for valentines day, and up until Thursday dinner, I have yet to use it. In fact, the reason why I went with Ferran Adria’s recipes is because he is an avid user of specialty cooking tools, and in his home cook book, there are a few dessert recipes were a siphon is used. If you don’t have a siphon, you can use hand mixer or stand mixer for this recipe. The siphon would give you much lighter and airier Yogurt foam, but I think the other options are a good substitute. This dessert is also relatively simple to make, and very healthy.

First, yogurt (I used greek style) and heavy whipping cream are stirred together in a bowl. I added a bit of honey to sweeten the foam.

The mixture is then poured through a sieve. This step is very important if you are using a siphon, since large pieces of food will clog up the siphon during dispense.

The yogurt and heavy whipping cream mixture is poured into the siphon, and chilled in the fridge for 1 hour before serving. If you are not using a siphon, you can just chill the yogurt cream in a large bowl until almost ready to serve.

When it’s time to serve, dispense the yogurt foam through the siphon, and top with sliced fresh strawberries. If not using a siphon, beat the yogurt cream with a hand mixer or stand mixer until firm peaks form, then divide into bowls and top with sliced fresh strawberries.

The second recipe Ferran Adria recipe I tried as a part of our Thursday dinner was a Saffron Risotto. Risotto is a classic Italian dish where a high starch, short grain rice is cooked in broth and cheese to a creamy consistency. Every time I come across risotto, I always think of Gordon Ramsey’s show Hell’s Kitchen, where risotto seems to be one of the hardest dish to make. In reality, I found that if I follow the instructions, and pay attention to what I’m doing, risotto is pretty simple to make. This would be my second time in cooking risotto, and I’m really becoming a fan of it.

For this risotto, I needed 1 cup of Arborio rice, 2.5 cups of chicken broth, a teaspoon of shallots, fresh squeezed lemon juice, few tablespoons of white wine, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, 1 tbs of butter, and 2 white button mushrooms. The recipe calls for saffron threads, but one of my friends gave me some really good quality ground saffron that I’ve been rationing off for years, which I used for this recipe. The chicken stock is heated until boiling and kept warm on the side until ready to use.

In a medium sauce pan, the shallots is sauteed on medium high heat with a little bit of olive oil, and the saffron powder, then the wine is added to the pan and cooked for a few minutes.

The rice is added to the pan, and cooked for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring continuously.

At this point, the rice should turn yellow from the saffron powder, and a ladle of hot chicken broth is added to the pan. After scraping through the bottom of the pan, the rest of the chicken broth is added, and the heat is turned to medium.

The rice is stirred and cooked on medium heat until the liquid is almost all absorbed.

Butter and lemon juice is stirred into the risotto.

The shaved Parmesan cheese is added and stirred into the risotto until creamy.

Finally, the risotto is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, and sliced button mushrooms are placed on top of the rice.