Category Archives: Vegetable Dishes

International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC) 2015

Eggplants on the counterEggplant – a key component of this year’s dish

Today, January 17th, marks the 9th International Day of Italian Cuisines.  This year, Eggplant Parmesan (parmigiana di melanzane) is the highlighted national dish.  As in past years, this is a celebration of Italian heritage and food culture as well as a way of emphasizing that what makes the cuisine of this country held in such high esteem is the attention to detail and quality of ingredients.  For this year’s feature, this is no less true than in past years.  The freshest, meaty eggplant combined with sweet-tart tomato sauce, peppery basil, and creamy mozzarella cheese come together on one plate in this recipe.

Eggplant ParmEggplant Parmesan – from a recipe from Food & Wine

I didn’t really grow up loving eggplant.  My mother actually tried to sneak it into quite a few meals that she fed to our clan, which was quite unsuccessfully received.  I think a few of my siblings still have nightmares about the time she tried to incorporate it into tacos.  Thankfully, I wasn’t around for that one.  Somewhere along the line, however, I tried this marriage of fried vegetables and gooey cheese with rich tomato sauce and fell in love with it.

Tray of Eggplant ParmesanEggplant Parmesan – from Mamma Agata Cooking School

When I lived in Italy, I discovered that this is considered a secondo, or second course, served after the pasta course.  I’m not sure why I would have thought it was a regular first course, but maybe that’s just because I grew up with just eating one course for Italian-style meals.  When I assisted Gennaro of Mamma Agata’s Cooking School a couple of years ago, he gave me several tips on how he prepares his version of parmigiana di melanzane, which I shared in my post about their cooking class.

Eggplant ParmesanServing of Eggplant Parmesan

As with any classic recipe, there are many regional variations.  I have seen recipes that call for dredging the slices in flour and then egg and then breadcrumbs and then fry them.  Some folks just dip them in flour and fry them.  There’s been recipes that call for roasting the eggplant instead of frying it.  Then, there’s the cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, mozzarella, mozzarella di bufala or any combination thereof.  Even on the IDIC website, the post about “The Authentic Parmigiana: A Glorious Italian Dish” has several adaptations.

Eggplant Parm sandwichFor the leftovers – an Eggplant Parm Sandwich

The organizers have included a recipe on their website, which recognizes some of these variations but still keeps to a pretty straightforward interpretation of its preparation.  Whatever way you decide to make it, the use of the best and freshest ingredients possible is still the most important way to prepare this dish.  That is in keeping with the letter and the spirit of what the International Day of Italian Cuisines represents.

Buon appetito!

IDIC 2012

IDIC 2014

Roasted Radishes with Garlic Scape Butter

Roasted Radishes w Garlic Scape ButterRoasted Radishes with Garlic Scape Butter

Remember the Garlic Scape Butter you made so as to keep on hand the bright green, slightly garlicky fragrance of this late spring produce?  The arrival of piles of bunches of gorgeous, colorful radishes is a perfect excuse to break out some of it to liven up your vegetable platter.

Piles of RadishesBunches and bunches of radishes

I’d read about roasting radishes in several places over the years, but I’d never actually tried making them.  Radish are another one of those food items that I’ve learned to like as I got older.  I particularly like the combination of butter, salt and radishes, with the addition of a herb like chives or garlic to give them a bit of a zing, as in the crostini I’d added to the restaurant menu.  So, I thought, let’s give cooking the radishes a chance and toss them with a bit of the butter I’d made earlier.  They were wonderfully peppery with a hint of richness from the butter sauce.  I just wished I’d had some crusty bread to sop up all the extra sauce left behind!

Bunches of radishesRadishes

Roasted Radishes with Garlic Scape Butter

Prep time: 30 minutes or less

Serving size: 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

2 bunches Radishes (any type)

1 tsp. Olive Oil

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 pinch Black Pepper, freshly ground

1 Tbsp. Garlic Scape Butter (click for recipe)

1 large pinch Sea Salt

Assembly:

Chopped Radishes in waterChopped radishes in water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Centigrade / Gas Mark 4).  Cut radishes into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces.  Place in a bowl of cold water until ready to cook so they stay crisp.

Radishes ready for the ovenRadishes ready for the oven

When the oven is heated up, drain the radishes and pat them dry with a towel.  Toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put them into a sauté pan that can go into the oven.

Radishes out of the ovenRadishes out of the oven

Cook for 15 minutes until the radishes are tender when a knife can easily pierce them.  They shouldn’t look withered or pick up lots of dark color.  Place the saucepan (remember to keep an oven mitt on the handle!) on the stovetop.

Garlic Scape butter added to radishesGarlic scape butter added to radishes

Add garlic scape butter to the roasted radishes in the pan.  There’s no need to turn on the heat underneath the pan, as the residual heat from cooking the radishes in the oven will melt the butter.  Swirl the butter and radishes around until the butter melts and coats all the vegetables.

Bowl of Roasted RadishesBowl of roasted radishes with garlic scape butter

Pour the radishes and the garlic scape butter into a bowl and serve them while still warm.  Make sure to have some crusty bread on hand to soak up all the delicious garlicky-salty-butter sauce at the end!

Buon appetito!

Crostini with Peas, Ricotta and Spring Garlic

Pea-Garlic-Ricotta CrostiniSpring Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Fresh Garlic

Along with the Radish and Chive-Butter Crostini that I mentioned last week, that same trip to the Greenmarket also inspired another menu addition: Spring Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Fresh Garlic.  This bright, verdant small bite makes a colorful contrast on a plate when paired with the radish crostini.  We were offering these as a small plate item as they are a great match for any beverage to kick off an evening meal.

Shelling fresh peasShelling fresh peas

I know that the television shows highlight the glamor and excitement of working in professional kitchens, but there’s lots of other jobs, too.  Coming in on a Sunday to find a pile of smashed glasses on the floor of the kitchen (no one has yet owned up doing to this) and having to clean it up, was just one of my many tasks the in past few weeks.  Others include throwing all that expired food out of the walk-in refrigerator.  Think it’s not a great job to do at home; try doing it when the volume and “mystery food” factor is multiplied.  Having bought fresh peas at the market, I took on another necessary but mundane cook’s task – shelling peas.  Someone has to do it.

Spring GarlicSpring Garlic

Then, I worked on the rest of the dish.  I didn’t want it to be too pea-forward.  (Being related to someone who absolutely, vehemently cannot stand peas, along the lines of the way that I dislike raisins in things, I am sensitive to the pea-adverse community.)  The spring garlic is the stage between ramps and the bulbs that we buy year-round.  It has a bright garlicky flavor with the greens lending it some of the herbaciousness that ramp tops have.  Then I tempered it a bit with the ricotta to make it more spreadable on the crostini.  These were another hit with the staff who tried them.  Alas, I couldn’t get the non-pea-eaters among them even to take a nibble, although they did admit it was pretty to look at.

Spring Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Fresh Garlic

Prep Time: Less than 30 minutes

Serving Size: Makes about 1 pint of chive butter, enough for 40 or so crostini

Ingredients:

 

1 recipe Crostini (see here)
1 lb. Peas, freshly shelled (will yield 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 large pinch Salt
3 stalks Spring Garlic, white and green parts
1/2 Lemon, juice and rind
2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
Microgreens for garnish (recommended ones are micro watercress or micro basil)

 

Assembly:
Blanching peasBlanching peas

 

For this recipe the peas need to be cooked briefly, just enough to soften them up a bit but not too much to actually cook them through to the mushy stage.  To do this, put a saucepan of water on the heat to boil.  When the water comes to a boil, add a large pinch of salt and the peas.  Count 30 seconds and then pull the peas off the water, drain them, and dunk them in an ice bath.*
Ingredients in blenderIngredients in blender

 

Pour the cooled, cooked peas into a blender or food processor (We use a Vitamix which I also have at home.) along with the spring garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, 2 tsp. of the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Blend until everything is a relatively smooth paste and there are no visible chunks of peas or the garlic.
Pea & Garlic pureePea-Garlic Mixture

 

When you are done, it should look like the photo above.  To get the mixture to this consistency, it takes about a minute or so in the Vitamix, perhaps a bit longer in the food processor.  Scoop the pea-garlic mixture out of the blender and place it in a bowl.
Pea-Garlic Puree with RicottaPea-Garlic-Ricotta mixture

 

Add the ricotta and the lemon zest and fold to combine thoroughly with the pea-garlic mixture.  Taste.  Adjust for seasoning, adding a bit more salt, pepper, olive oil, or lemon juice as it needs.

Pea-Garlic-Ricotta CrostiniSpring Pea Crostini with Ricotta and Fresh Garlic and Microcress

Slather some of the pea-garlic-ricotta mixture on the crostini (they should be room temperature and not just out of the oven at this stage).  Top with a sprinkle of microgreens and serve.  The microgreens should be added at the last minute, but the crostini can be made up to 20 minutes in advance.

Buon appetito!

 

*Kitchen Witch Tip:
Cooked peasBlanched peas

 

A little trick I’ve learned from blanching cases of vegetables is that it’s much easier if you drain the hot liquid and peas in a sieve or colander and then place that, peas and all, into the ice-water combo.  That way, you don’t have to spend time fishing errant peas from the liquid, and you can drain the peas simple by lifting the strainer out of the water.

Radish and Chive-Butter Crostini

Radish and Chive Butter CrostiniRadish and Chive-Butter Crostini

This past weekend, I hosted a couple from Virginia for a short visit to the Big Apple.  When I asked them what they’d like to see/explore/do/take in on their brief trip up here, he replied, “What do New Yorkers typically do on Saturdays?”  I said that sometimes we head to the Greenmarket to pick up seasonal produce, before correcting myself and responding, “Actually, the first thing we do is to check the MTA website to see what subway trains are running, and then we figure out what we’re going to do that day.”  With so many subway lines under construction or repair alerts these days, the latter statement is much closer to the truth.

Onion chivesOnion Chives

The intermittent subway disruptions plus my kitchen work schedule have made Wednesday my usual day to visit the market at Union Square.  Now that we are past the bleakest of the winter months and charging full speed ahead into summertime’s seasonal bounty, more colorful and vibrant products are appearing each week.  A couple of weeks ago, I designed a few small plate items for the menu, taking advantage of some of them.  These gorgeous Onion Chives were just begging to be purchased.  What to do with them, I wondered?

Radishes - slicedSliced radishes

A pile of red finger nail polish-colored radishes had caught my eye when I’d been roaming around the market earlier.  Knowing that we had a bunch of bread that needed to be used for crostini sitting in the walk-in refrigerator at the restaurant, this dish started to form in my head.  It is a spin on a French-style snack or breakfast of radishes dipped in sea salt and then served with a luxurious slash of rich, cultured butter on a fresh baguette.  For our menu, I figured that mixing up the onion chives with Ronnybrook Farm‘s (also a vendor at the market) unsalted butter then topping that with the radishes and a few pea shoots would make a nice version of that treat.  These small bites got a big thumbs up from the staff who graciously offered to taste test it.

Radish and Chive-Butter Crostini

Prep time: Less than 30 minutes

Serving size: Makes about 1 pint of chive butter, enough for 40 or so crostini

Ingredients:

1 Baguette or a couple of mini baguettes

Extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter (good quality butter is best), softened

2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground

1 1/2- 2 Tbsp Onion Chives, chopped finely

1 bunch Radishes (red, white, red and white – your preference)

2 oz. Pea Shoots (I used Dwarf Grey Sugar Snow Pea Shoots from Windfall Farms)

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place however many pieces of bread you are planning to serve (allow 3-4 per person) on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.  Using a pastry brush, dab each piece of bread with olive oil.  Bake for 5-10 minutes until lightly colored and crisp.

Pay close attention to these as, depending upon your oven, they can go from unbaked to burnt quite quickly (see the Eddie Izzard routine about making toast, as it is very apt).  Remove from oven and set aside to until ready to use.  As you don’t want the butter to melt into the crostini for this recipe, you’ll want them to cool off before you put them together.  (These can also be prepared in advance, per this Kitchen Witch Tip.)

Chopped chives added to butterChives added to the butter

While the bread is toasting, chop up the chives.  Once the bread is out of the oven and cooling, you can turn your attention to mixing the ingredients for the chive butter.  Add the salt, pepper, and chives to the butter and combine thoroughly.  This is a good task to do by hand, as it just takes a few minutes to come together.

Trim the green tops from the radishes or have them do it at the farmers market.  These would also be delicious pan fried with a bit of the butter and served as a side dish.  Slice the radishes very thinly.

Slather a bit of the butter on the now-cooled crostini.  Add a few radish slices on top of that and then sprinkle a couple of pea shoots on top of the radishes.  These make a perfect appetizer or snack and can be prepared a little bit ahead of serving (not more than 30 minutes).

Radish and Chive Butter CrostiniRadish and Chive-Butter Crostini with Pea Shoots

Buon appetito!

Tofu Noodle Stir-Fry for Oxo & Plated Contest

Oxo box of toolsBox of Oxo kitchen tools

I’ve been a big fan of Oxo‘s kitchen tools, which make my life much easier in the kitchen.  I’ve raved about their cherry pitter, which was put to great use this past summer in making several batches of my Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup.  Their vegetable peeler was my constant companion during culinary school, and comes with me to every catering gig as part of my standard toolkit (where it is borrowed on a regular basis).  When I received an email asking for recipe suggestions for using a selection of their utensils as part of a contest sponsored by Oxo and Plated, a meal delivery service, I knew that I wanted to take part in it, squeezing it into my busy working chef schedule.

Vegan Tofu Noodle Stir-FryTofu Noodle Stir-Fry

For a while, I’ve been tossing this recipe around in my mind, thinking that it would be a great thing to tackle.  There is, however, the issue of prep time.  Slicing piles of vegetables takes time, which, as I run between jobs, isn’t always possible.  On the nights where I’m not working or attending a networking event or culinary activity, collapsing on the couch and putting my my aching feet takes first priority.  Several of the tools in the box that Oxo mailed to me to use for this contest minimize prep time and make this recipe very doable for a weeknight dinner.  I also chose to make this recipe vegan and gluten-free, as I try to build up more of a repertoire of those dishes for potential clients.

Oxo ToolsTools for this project

For this recipe, I picked out the tongs, the small whisk, the slicer, and the salad dressing shaker.  Each of these utensils are very handy to have in the kitchen for all sorts of jobs.  The salad dressing shaker was my marinade mixer, with the handy cup measurements on the side helping me to figure out the right proportion of oil to vinegar.  I combined everything with the whisk and then closed the top to help me pour the marinade, minimizing spills and splatters, much like using a squeeze bottle (on which we rely heavily in professional kitchens and in catering).  The slicer created beautiful, thin strips of vegetables, making them easy to cook.  The three different sizes of thickness as well as the fact that you can lock down the blade when you are done, makes this a resourceful tool for slicing.  Tongs, I can’t really say enough about tongs, as I use them quite a bit in my cooking.  I have another pair of Oxo ones that are workhorses in my kitchen.  This extra pair might go into my knife kit, but I’m hesitant, as I can see someone falling in love with them and them “disappearing” at some point.

IngredientsIngredients

I wanted this dish to have an Asian feel to it.  It’s sort of Thai-ish with cilantro and lime and sesame oil.  The cooking time (including prep) is supposed to be under 30 minutes for these dishes, according to our instructions.  We were also limited to using 12 ingredients, which I maxed out on completely.  The vegetables retain some of their nice crunch with the noodles and tofu giving the dish a hearty, substantial feel and additional texture.  I’m definitely going to enjoy eating the leftovers.

Tofu Noodle Stir-Fry

Prep Time: 25-30 minutes

Serving Size: 2 adult portions

Ingredients:

2 oz. Thai-style Rice Noodles (about 1-inch diameter bunch)

1/8 tsp. Garlic Powder

1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger

1 wedge Lime Juice plus more for garnish

1/4 c. Rice Wine Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil

1/3 c. Canola Oil, plus 1/4 teaspoon for stir-frying

6 oz. Extra-firm Tofu

1 medium Carrot

1 medium Red Pepper

6 large Brussels Sprouts

Fresh Cilantro

Assembly:

Cook noodles as you would pasta, by putting a pan of water on the stove to boil.  Toss in the noodles and let them cook until tender.  Drain and set aside, tossing the hot noodles with two teaspoons of the marinade.

Mixing up marinadeMeasuring the marinade and mixing it together

Make the marinade for the tofu and sauce for the noodles by pouring the garlic powder, ground ginger, lime juice, and rice wine vinegar into the salad dressing shaker.  Using the whisk to stir continuously, add the sesame oil and the canola oil to the mixture.  Place the top on the salad dressing shaker.  Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and place in bowl.  Pour 2 tablespoons of the marinade over the tofu and let it sit while preparing the vegetables.

Brussels Sprouts on slicerSlicing sprouts

Using the slicer on width setting #1, cut the carrot.  For the red pepper and brussels sprouts, use width setting #2 to slice.  Everything will come out more or less the same width, which will allow them all to cook quickly and evenly in the pan.  I used the blade guard for the sprouts, but cut the carrot and peppers down to about 1-inch left in size on the slicer and finished with a knife, as the blade guard didn’t work as effectively with those vegetables.

Adding vegetables to panFrying tofu and vegetables in pan

Heat the canola oil in a 12-inch skillet (do not use a non-stick pan) until it starts to show ripples in the oil (before it starts to smoke).  With the tongs, remove the tofu with the marinade and place it in the hot oil.  Let it cook for about 1 minute, moving it around with the tongs to heat evenly.  Add the sliced vegetables and cook for 1 minute more.  Then, add the noodles and warm everything through to heat it up.  Pour over a couple of tablespoons of the marinade and toss it all together.

Vegan Gluten-Free Noodle stir-fryTofu Noodle Stir-fry

Place the noodles, vegetables, and tofu on two plates.  Chop the cilantro and sprinkle it on each of the plates.  Garnish each plate with a lime wedge, if desired.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Indian Chickpea Yogurt Salad from “The Great Vegan Bean Book” by Kathy Hester

Philharmonic in Central ParkThe New York Philharmonic in Central Park

Last night, I accepted the invitation from some friends to take part in one of New York City’s great summertime traditions – listing to live music al fresco.  The New York Philharmonic was doing its annual concert in Central Park (this event rotates through parks in the five boroughs).  I mulled over what I could bring as my contribution to the evening’s picnic that would go along with the music.  In general, I usually make something sweet.

Indian-Chickpea-Yogurt-SaladIndian Chickpea Yogurt Salad

Then, I realized the perfect dish for this kind of gathering was already right there under my nose.  I had received a copy of Kathy Hester‘s The Great Vegan Bean Book and was supposed to participate in her blogger book tour a few weeks back, but life kind of intervened.  I really wanted to bring something tasty and fresh to this picnic, something that didn’t take an incredible amount of prep time and a dish that would be cool and light in this oppressive heat we’ve been going through lately.  Kathy’s Indian Chickpea Yogurt Salad seemed like the ideal solution.

Salad ingredientsVegetables mixed together

To make this dish a bit more transportable and outdoor-dining friendly, I decided to mix the two main components, the vegetables and the dressing, separately.  I drained the canned chickpeas and tossed them together with the cucumber, potato, and onion.  The potatoes I used were red new potatoes, so I cooked a couple of larger ones to include in this salad.  I also seeded the cucumbers so that the other ingredients wouldn’t get mushy from any extra liquid those might add.  The ingredient list in the original recipe mentions the onion as optional, but I felt that the sharp crispness of a red onion would give a boost of flavor and texture to the dish.  All of the ingredients should be cut so that they are roughly the same size as the chickpeas, with the exception of the onion, which should be chopped smaller than that.

Yogurt DressingYogurt dressing

I mixed the ingredients for the yogurt dressing together in a separate container.  This would a. keep the salad from getting too soft and potentially slimy and b. allow the guests to combine the dressing and salad to their own tastes.  To keep this dish completely vegan, and as I was curious about cooking with vegan yogurt, I used the coconut yogurt suggested in the recipe.  For me, it added a slight sweetness and wasn’t as tangy as regular yogurt would have been, but it had a nice creamy consistency.  I decided not to use the kala namak (a black, Indian salt), as I have a prohibition about buying one-use ingredients for my pantry.  Instead, I used regular kosher salt.  This, I added to taste, which I highly recommend doing.

Indian Chickpea Yogurt Salad al frescoIndian Chickpea Yogurt Salad outdoors

The salad was a hit at the picnic as we all relaxed on the grass and took in the concert.  It had a meaty bite from the chickpeas with a crisp crunch from the cucumbers and the onions.  The dressing was cool and creamy with a backnote of heat and plenty of spice.  The cilantro gave the salad an extra freshness and lift.  It was the perfect summertime refresher and could sit alongside any kind of grilled meat or vegetables.  This would be a great dish to serve alongside an Indian food feast at any time of year.

The Great Vegan Bean BookThe Great Vegan Bean Book

This cookbook has other fantastic recipes, too, all based upon the many uses for and dishes you can make with beans.  It covers many different types and styles of these legumes.  Instructions are also included throughout to accommodate the range and variety of vegan and vegetarian diets, so it is a great resource for those who would like to include this protein as part of their culinary staples.  As a promotion for this book, I’ll also be giving away a copy of it on this website.  I’ll post the giveaway later on this week.

Buon appetito!