Archive for the ‘can make vegetarian’ Category


Fall ushers in soup time. The house is cool enough that I can leave a pot of chicken stock on the back of the stove overnight, and winter squash and root veggies are everywhere and make hearty, warming meals.

I made this butternut squash soup for lunch. Butternut squash soup is perhaps the most ubiquitous winter vegetable soup and is so easy to make.

I cut about three inches off the small end of a butternut squash and chopped it into 1″ cubes. In a saucepan I covered them with water and boiled until tender. I drained some (but not all) of the water and added homemade chicken stock– ladled right out of the pot (about 1 1/2 cups). After throwing in a large clove of garlic, salt, pepper, about 1/2 t each of ancho chile powder and paprika, and 1/4 t cumin, I blended it until it was fairly smooth. It’s better to start with less liquid and add after blending so you get a consistency that appeals to you.

When served you can add chopped parsley or cilantro and avocado…


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I made this pesto for my daughter and her vegan friend. My daughter often is not fond of pesto because of the strong basil taste. This recipe incorporates spinach, which makes the flavor much more mild and eliminates the need for a side salad or veggie. I had mine with macerated tomatoes on the side (diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, chopped basil and Italian parsley– combine and let sit for an hour or more).

In a food processor, combine (amounts are approximate– adjust for your taste– I added a little extra basil when I made it again for myself):

1 (packed) cup basil leaves, rinsed
2 (packed) cups baby spinach, large stems removed if you’re ambitious, rinsed (don’t worry about residual water)
3 cloves of garlic
1 t sea salt
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, cooled
1/3 cup raw walnuts (adjust nuts to your taste– I like a lot. The walnuts add good protein)
Olive oil until the pesto is combined and soft– approx 1/3-1/2 cup. I like a lot of olive oil– it makes the pesto creamy and soft.
If you like, add a couple 1″ cubes of Reggiano cheese.
Blend until creamy. Combine with cooked pasta– something that hold the pesto well. Serve with macerated tomatoes and red wine (water for the kiddies).

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I wish that I had photographed all of the steps and stages of this meal, but alas, I forgot. Again. It seems to be routine. Perhaps I just get too hungry, or distracted… whatever it is, it puts the onus on you to use your imagination and create your own visual images for the missing parts and pieces. So sorry.

So I had been wanting to make this dish. It is called different things all over the world: Socca in France,  Farinata in Italy, Karantita in Argentina, and Calentita in Gibralter. Other places have other similar dishes, but the basic ingredients are chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil. The mixture is let to rest, then baked in copious amounts of olive oil until brown. Sometimes cumin is added. Unable to follow even the most straight forward instructions, I added a few things and turned it into an experiment…


I took 1 cup of fresh (canned) chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) and processed them with some salt and a clove of garlic. I made this twice, the first time adding the fresh chickpeas and the chickpea flour together in the food processor. The second time I added the ground chickpeas and garlic to the batter already prepared. I preferred the texture of the latter. Combine 2 cups of chickpea flour with water. Start with about 1 cup and add until it’s a thick batter. The first time I made it thicker, and I was forced to spread it in the pan, which was difficult. I advise adding water until it is thick but pourable. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (more if you like), and 1/4 t cumin (if you like). Add the ground chickpeas and garlic and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.

It was about 100 degrees outside, so I decided to make it on the grill in an iron skillet. Many people cook it under the broiler or in a hot (450 degree) oven. The grill is nice because with the lid down it creates a very hot oven environment and surface heat.

Right before I cooked the socca I added about 1t of baking powder. As far as I can tell no one else advocates this, but I think it made it a tad lighter. I heated up the grill well, then put two iron skillets right on the grill. When they were hot I added a lot of olive oil– probably about 1/4 cup to each. When the oil was hot I poured in the batter, swirled it around to make it even, then shut the lid. After about 5 minutes I flipped the socca with a large spatula (don’t time it, make sure it’s nice and well browned). The socca in the larger skillet fell apart (I just flipped over the pieces– it tasted just as good, ya know). I let it brown on the other side then took it off the grill.

I cut it in wedges and served it with eggplant that I had previously sliced, salted, rinsed, oiled, and grilled, and red peppers I had blackened over a flame, let steam in a brown bag, then cored, peeled, and cut into strips. I salted both and poured on more olive oil and some chopped parsley.

I served the socca with the eggplant, peppers, toasted pine nuts, crumbled goat cheese, and an arugula salad (sorry, no photo evidence). I think it was a success and my 9 year old loved it. It’s gluten- free, wheat- free, and has a high amount of plant protein. Paired with the veggies and all the olive oil– healthy!

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This is my favorite lentil soup. Beginning when I was a teenager in Michigan, we visited almost weekly a small Lebanese restaurant. To this day I have not had Lebanese food as good as we had there. Many of my Middle Eastern dishes I develop are aimed to taste the way they did at this small family restaurant. What makes this lentil soup unique is the fresh lemon and the greens. I prefer to use swiss chard, but many people use spinach or just parsley. I think the chard holds up better. What makes this soup really extraordinary is the fresh lemon juice. You’ll never make lentil soup another way…

Begin by chopping a small yellow onion [I used half of a large onion], 2 carrots, and 2 stalks of celery and sauté them in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium size soup pot. If you want, you can sauté the onion alone until it’s brown, and then add the carrot and celery; this makes for a richer broth. I like the soup light, I think it’s nicer with the lemon. I leave the veggies in medium size chunks so they don’t disappear into mush when cooked.

After the veggies have sautéed, add about 2 cups of dry green lentils that have been rinsed and looked over. As with beans, you will sometimes find small stones amid dry lentils. Rinsing them washes away any contaminates and any lentil dust that might thicken or cloud the soup liquid. Add the lentils to the veggies and sauté for a few minutes to let the flavors absorb into the lentils.

Add chicken stock and water. Homemade stock is of course the best, but I use a 1 qt. container of organic, low sodium chicken stock and 4 cups of water. I don’t think it’s as good if it tastes too much like chicken. To make vegetarian or vegan use vegetable stock or just water. You can add more liquid as the soup cooks to maintain the consistency you like; I don’t like it ultra thick and always end up adjusting the liquid. Add a bay leaf, 3 [or more] large cloves of garlic peeled and whole, about 1 T of [preferably white] whole peppercorns, and a small cinnamon stick. I prefer the peppercorns whole, as I enjoy biting into them unexpectedly, but you can omit them or put them with the garlic in a bouquet garni with some parsley stems. Let the soup simmer for about an hour, skimming the top when needed, until the lentils are tender.

When the soup is ready, cut the ribs out of two or three large leaves of chard. Cut the ribs into small pieces [I like to cut them on the diagonal– they’re pretty] and sauté in olive oil or coconut oil in a skillet. I pretty much keep an iron skillet on a burner constantly that I cook greens in. When the chard stems start to soften, add the leaves that have been cut into small strips. When the leaves are wilted, add them to the soup. If you’re using spinach you can just throw it in the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a large wedge of lemon [I like Meyer lemon, the flavor is less acidic and richer]. You can add the lemon juice to the pot, and if you add a little it keeps the greens fresher looking; but I like the fresh juice squeezed when served. I don’t like the taste of lemon juice after it’s been sitting in food.

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i’m still working my way through the middle east and yes, i realize this photo looks a lot like the kefta photo. i could put yogurt on everything and be totally content forever…

in college i used to buy the middle eastern falafel mix, and honestly, i don’t think i could have told you what was in it. this recipe is from scratch, and it’s almost an entirely different food altogether. i looked around for different recipes, and created this one taking what i thought were the best aspects of all of them. most of the recipes used only chickpeas, but a couple used chickpeas [garbanzo beans] and fava beans. i used the combination of the two, the fava beans are a little softer and give the falafel an overall softer, more delicate texture.

the first thing i noticed when i finished was the lack of salt. either by mix or from a restaurant, the falafel i have had has been a lot more salty. i liked the less salt, but if you are expecting the more salty taste, adjust the seasoning.


to make falafel from scratch you need to reconstitute the garbanzo and fava beans. add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans, and 1 cup of water to 1/2 cup dried, skinned fava beans. soak overnight. the next day rinse and drain the beans.


put a pan with about 1″ of canola or vegetable oil on low to heat.

chop the fava beans and garbanzo beans in a food processor until they are finely ground. move them to a large bowl. put 1/2 cup each cilantro and parsley in the food processor with 1 small, cut- up yellow onion, and 4 cloves of garlic. add the parsley and onion mixture to the ground beans along with 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, 4 T flour, 1/2 t sea salt [1 t for more traditional flavor], 3/4 t baking soda, 1/4 t baking powder, 1/2 t paprika, 1/4 t turmeric, 1 1/2 t ground coriander, 3/4 t ground cumin, 1/8 t ground cardamom, 1/4 t cayenne pepper [optional], and ground black pepper. mix well, and add just enough water so that the mixture sticks together well when patted into a ball. if you are making the mixture in advance, do not add the baking powder and baking soda until 10-15 minutes before cooking as they will lose their activity.


take a handful of the mixture and form it into a small patty with your hand. smooth out the surface, if it is too crumbly, add a bit more water; you want it wet but not soggy. gently drop the falafel into the hot oil. you can add a tiny bit of the mixture into the oil to check for temperature. the falafel will absorb too much oil if it is not hot enough. when brown, flip over and continue to cook until brown. remove with a slotted utensil and drain on paper towels. we ate ours with plain yogurt seasoned with cumin, salt, lemon juice, and chopped parsley and had chopped tomatoes on the side. i had three; they were amazingly crunchy on the outside and soft and fragrant on the inside.

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i have turkey stock on the back burner that i have been adding to and using as i need it, just like grandma. it makes the house smell great, and reminds me of her. i love simple soups that are just one single vegetable and stock. so easy and so comforting, especially in the winter. when you have stock available just bubbling away, you can just make a small pan, a couple bowls worth, for yourself.

i was alone this afternoon, and made a small pan of butternut squash soup for a late lunch. it was great to just be able to ladle fresh, hot, homemade stock out of the big pot.

i peeled and cut into chunks about one third of a butternut squash, i had it left over from something else. in a small pan i heated some olive oil and added the squash, two cloves of garlic, and a little dried thyme.

when the squash and garlic were starting to take on a bit of color, i added a few ladles from the stockpot through a strainer to just cover the squash.

when the squash and garlic were quite soft, i used a hand blender to puree, then added a little half and half, grating of fresh nutmeg, salt, and pepper. often when i make this kind of simple vegetable soup, i also add some chile pepper flakes. i have a sea salt grinder that is full of coarse sea salt and red chile flakes that i use to season food at the table; my daughter does not always like the spicy flavors.

i served it with a pistou, as i often do with soups. it’s similar to pesto, but without nuts or cheese. it’s great with white bean soups as well as winter squash soups. to make the pistou, chop italian flat- leaf parsley, coarse sea salt, and a fresh garlic clove on a cutting board. when it’s quite fine, add some olive oil and continue to chop until it’s nearly a paste. you can do this in a food processor or blender if you like, as you do pesto, but i like the inconsistent texture that chopping it on the board creates.

serve the pistou in, or beside the soup. i suggest serving it on the side for guests, as the raw garlic can be borderline offensive for those not in love with it’s sting.

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this is how i make pasta any day of the week. it’s not a recipe as much as a technique, and you can use vegetables and meat you have no other plans for. it’s also one of the only ways i can get flora to eat vegetables, she will like one veggie one day, and hate it the next. i can get her to eat just about anything with reggiano on it. this pasta is one of those meals that you don’t have to shop for, just use what you have.

penne is the pasta staple in our house; it holds up to anything, unlike more dainty pasta which can easily become overcooked when you’re cooking very casually as i tend to do. put a large pot of water on for the pasta. you want to salt the water, but not until it’s boiling, or it can create pits in the pan. the boiling of the water and cooking of the pasta takes longer than preparing the other ingredients, so start the pasta ahead of time. you can even cook the pasta, drain, add a bit of olive oil, toss, and replace the lid. put it back on the warm burner, turned off; it will remain warm for awhile.

separate your ingredients into those that have similar cooking times, the slowest to fastest. i’m using broccoli, scallions, dark kale [sliced into 1/2″ ribbons, tough parts -but not all of-  the stems removed], roasted red pepper [see technique below], and leftover chicken, cut into small chunks. other favorites include broccoli rabe [rapini], beet greens, fresh peas, roasted tomatoes, roasted winter squash, and ricotta salata cheese. really, the list is endless…

heat a saute skillet, then add some olive oil. you should always heat the skillet a bit before adding fat, it keeps things from sticking. add the most hearty vegetables, those that will need some time to cook: broccoli, pearl onions, cloves of garlic… let them brown slightly, then add about 1/4 of water or stock, put the lid on, and steam for a few minutes until the vegetables are partially cooked [they are still going to cook on the heat, if they are fully cooked by now they will turn mushy by the end]. remove lid and let water evaporate. add a bit more olive oil and add the next vegetable that needs the most time to cook, from the remaining veggies. in this case, i added scallions, chopped in 1″ size pieces, white and green parts. saute for a minute, then add your next ingredient until you have everything combined. i added the chicken [already cooked…
if using uncooked chicken, brown in the pan with the broccoli at the beginning], strips of kale, and the roasted red pepper, cut into strips.

add about 1/2 cup of white wine or stock, and scrape the bits of brown from the bottom of the pan.; it’s a lazy deglazing. add a couple tablespoons of butter and toss until all the ingredients are combined and the butter is melted [you could add more olive oil instead of butter].

season the vegetables and toss with the pasta.

there are lots of options at this point; you can toss in [or serve on top after plated] toasted bread crumbs, grated cheese, red chili flakes, walnuts or pine nuts, cooked bacon, fresh tomatoes, chopped parsley, or chopped herbs like basil or thyme. i served it with chopped italian late leaf parsley and parmaigano reggiano grated with a serrated knife. i like the uneven texture it creates. you can also use a potato peeler to make strips, or grate.

a grind of pepper and eat.

to roast a red pepper, place pepper on top of the burner grate over a flame, right on the electric coil on your stove, or under a broiler. allow the pepper to char, then turn. keep turning until most of the pepper is black. don’t walk away, if the skin chars and continues to burn, it will catch fire for a few seconds. use tongs to turn the peppers.

when the pepper is done, you need to put it in a closed container to steam [and cool].
a glass microwave container with a top is good, a brown bag works well, or a plastic bag. i try not to use plastic bags, but when it comes time to peel the charred skin off the pepper, you can just push the pepper around in the plastic bag to remove the skin without getting your hands messy. if using aother container, remove the pepper and peel away the skin. get off as much of the blackened skin as you like. i don’t rinse them; i like a bit of the charred skin remaining. cut around stem, pull out top and core, and remove seeds and ribs.

this technique can be used for chiles as well, for stuffing or making chile rellenos.

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