Mastering The Art of Vegetarian Cooking

Day 38: Brown Sugar & Oat Coffee Cake with Basic Streusel

Everyone ate two pieces, and would have eaten more if I'd let them!

Coffee cake– the words conjure images of trays of cakes brought when someone’s died, or maybe what we called in the South “covered dish suppers” (known as hot dish dinners in other parts of the country, and potlucks in others). Still, it sounded good. Turns out, this is one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever had, which I believe may be due to the streusel topping– yum. It takes about 30 minutes to bake, and I put it together in about 15. That makes it a less-than-perfect choice for breakfast, but I made it for lunch on Sunday and the family all loved it.

Oat & Brown Sugar Coffee Cake, p. 635; Basic Streusel, p. 643


Day 37: Biscuits, Cookies, Soup & Sandwiches

I started out Saturday with Buttermilk Biscuits, made a toasty meal of soup and sandwiches for dinner, and gave in to the kids’ begging to make cookies before bed.

The biscuits were great– my mom would have loved them. (She did not approve of  “Cat Head” biscuits– the big, fluffy ones the size of a cat’s head.) These were tangy from buttermilk, crispy outside, and utterly delicious.

2009 11 14_Buttermilk-Biscuit

The soup and sandwich were great, too. Split Pea is a favorite around here, so it was a pretty safe choice, and an appropriate one for a snowy day. It takes a little over an hour for the peas to break down, so that left time to make the sandwiches. They were vegetarian club sandwiches– avocado, tomato, lettuce, and fake tempeh bacon. I had planned to make the “bacon” myself with a recipe from the book, but when I went to buy the tempeh I found pre-made tempeh “bacon,” so I went with that to save time. Every sandwich was a little different– no spicy mayo for Baxter and Sophie, and only a little for Madeline (which ended up being too much for her anyway), no avocado for Jon, only avocado and tomato for Sophie… I think I had the only one made according to the recipe, but it was good. (Wait– as I type, I realize that I didn’t make any according to the recipe– I left out the Swiss cheese from all of them!)

2009 11 14_Split Pea-Club

Then the children talked me into letting them make cookies, as long as they were from the book. Madeline chose Cardamom cookies; unfortunately, she didn’t read the whole recipe, and discovered at 7:30 that the dough had to be refrigerated before it was sliced and baked. Still, I managed to bake it and we had cookies before they went to bed. They were shortbread, with a nice spice from the cardamom; delicious.

2009 11 14_Cardamom Cookies

Buttermilk Biscuits, p. 649; Split Pea Soup, p. 227, Avocado Club with Tempeh Bacon, p. 119;  Cardamom Cookies, p. 715

Next: Oat and Brown Sugar Coffee Cake with Streusel

Day 35: Pizza Margherita, completely from scratch

I had another meal on the docket for Thursday night, but I decided that I didn’t want to prep it when we got home. Instead, I threw together a genuine, from-scratch pizza. This marks my third yeast dought (if anyone besides me is counting), and it came out great. I decided to divide the dough up into individual pizzas and let the kids add the toppings themselves.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos.

I put out fake pepperoni, shredded basil, and fresh mozzarella, and topped all but one pizza with the homemade pizza sauce. The kids did up their pizzas, and I baked them; they were a big hit. For the sixth pizza, I mixed crushed garlic with olive oil instead of the sauce and put basil and mozzarella on it. I think it was the best of the bunch.

Pizza Dough, p. 506; Pizza Sauce, p. 507; Pizza Margherita, p. 508.

Next: Split Pea Soup, Avocado Club with Tempeh “Bacon”, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Cardamom Cookies

Day 34: Beet Risotto, Romaine Hearts, and Butternut Squash Coins

Jon loves beets. I believe I have mentioned this before. If there is a dish with beets on the menu, Jon will order it, and he loves them all. But I have managed to find the one thing that mars his love of beets– lemons.

The Beet Risotto was amazing. It  called for three beets, shredded (and a little PSA: if you cut yourself while shredding red beets, it will not be possible to know right away if you are bleeding). As it turns out, that’s a lot of shredded beets– maybe three cups. And the recipe called for just a cup and a half of Arborio rice, so at first I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. I put in the stock (oh, I made my own stock, with beet stems, too!), and it didn’t even cover the mixture, so I added more. The risotto procedure was pretty standard– add stock, let it be absorbed, stir a lot, add more stock, lather, rinse, repeat. It turned out very well, though; the rice cooked perfectly, and it was a bright, almost alarming  magenta color. Then I added the lemon juice and zest, as instructed, and ruined it for Jon. 😦  Next time I’ll just use a little more Parmesan and very little lemon. I’m learning that he doesn’t like tart in his food, for the most part, and the kids object to sour, too.

The Romaine hearts were a simple affair– I just made a lemon vinaigrette and put a little in each leaf, and the kids ate them with their hands. Perhaps it was the finger-food aspect, but Sophie loves Romaine hearts, too. I’ll turn my pickiest into a salad eater, yet!

I planned the squash coins in conjunction with a later meal, since it only called for the neck of a butternut squash. I saved the rest to cube up for a gratin, and cut the necks into discs. (FYI, I peeled them after cutting them into coins– the way my mom taught me to peel rutabegas.)  It’s a simple recipe– fry them up in about a half-inch of oil, turning halfway through. So to perk them up (and get another recipe on the books), I made Chermoula sauce. I’d never heard of  it, but the recipe calls it “Moroccan Green Sauce,” and it’s good. Garlic, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin & cayenne, with oil and lemon juice– it is definitely more than the sum of its ingredients, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the sweet-ish squash. Yum.

2009 11 11_Beet-Risotto-Squash-Coins

An exceptionally delicious meal.

 Beet Risotto, p. 553; Romain Hearts with Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette, p. 142; Butternut Squash Coins, p. 440, with Chermoula, p. 56

Next: Pizza Margherita

Day 32: Portobello Stew, Polenta, Braised Radishes, and a near tragedy

This was a good meal, but not really worth burning our house down for.

I did something stupid; I put a pot of 8 quarts of water on the stove before I left to get the kids, thinking I’d heat it until I left, then turn it off. Except I forgot the turning off part. I didn’t realize it until after I’d sat in car line, loaded up the kids, run to the toy store to get an emergency Webkinz (yes, an emergency Webkinz). As I swung back onto the road home, it hit me– I didn’t turn of the stove.  Did I turn off the stove? I didn’t. Did I? Oh, crap. And I started saying, “oh no, oh no, oh no…” And then the kids wanted to know what was wrong. And I told them. Bad move– Baxter burst into tears immmediately, saying, “I don’t want our house to burn down! What about my Lego?”  (Gee, thanks, buddy.)

I assured them that it was unlikely that the pot would catch on fire, since there was nothing in it but water (and I left the lid on). I figured the pot would be ruined, but no fire. I hoped. I drove home, silently hoping. As we got closer, I could see there was no smoke, no fire trucks (and Baxter noted that, too). I ran in to a steamy house– yep, I’d left it on. Crap. And my predictions were exactly right– no fire, ruined pan. Whew. But I grabbed the lid (with an oven mitt, which was totally burned beyond use), then put the whole pot in the sink, never thinking about how hot it was (it was really hot). I burned my sink, possibly irreparably. Oh, well– better than the whole house.

2009 11 10_burned-pan

Not a pretty side effect of my project.

So, on to the actual meal. I knew Winter Portobello Mushroom Stew would be a hit with the whole family;  I’m fortunate that my children all like mushrooms, and Jon has even gotten used to them after being married to me for 14 years. I snuck a little wine into the broth, and used the garlic and rosemary the receipe called for, but I went easy on the red pepper flakes for fear of scaring the kids off again. Overall, I think I underseasoned it a little, but it was still quite good. I served it over the polenta, which Sophie did not eat. That’s not too odd, I guess, given that she only sporadically eats the grits I serve for breakfast on a regular basis. I saved the leftover polenta, thinking I could find another recipe for it later on.

The other dish I made seemed like a longshot– braised radishes. Braised radishes? Never heard of ’em. I like radishes, but I wasn’t sure that I could sell them to the kids. Lo and behold, they loved them! Madeline commented that they tasted like Brussels Sprouts, and they did. Except that Baxter and Jon liked them, too. I even manage to reduce the sauce as Deborah instructs.  They were delicious. Who knew?

2009 11 09_Mushroom-Radish-Polenta

I threw in a spinach salad with the lemon vinaigrette I had left over.

Winter Portobello Stew, p. 254; Polenta, p. 523; Braised Red Radishes, p. 416

Next: Beet Risotto, Romaine Hearts with Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash Coins with Chermoula Sauce.

Day 31: Navy Bean & Pasta Gratin, Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Butter, Cooked Carrot Salad

Every menu is a puzzle. From the very first one I put together, I consider not only how the recipes go together, how to balance starches, green vegetables, other vegetables, but also I have to try to cook something for everyone. Jon hates mustard, so if there’s something with mustard I try to be sure there’s something else he’ll like alot. That gets a little harder with the kids’ various dislikes, but if I know there’s something they’ll likely hate (coughcoldsoupcough), I try to put in something they won’t.

That leads us to  last Sunday’s menu. Anything that says “gratin” has a good chance of succeeding in my household, so I started there. Then I added brussels sprouts– Madeline and I love them; the rest, not so much. This recipe has mustard, too, but since Jon’s not a fan of the sprouts in the first place, less of a worry. Then the carrots, for color (we must “eat the rainbow,” you know!), with cilantro salsa because I love cilantro.

First, the gratin. It was not uncomplicated. The complications begin with the fact that, as usual, I forgot to soak the beans overnight. Out came the pressure cooker, and I cheated those beans cooked in about thirty minutes. Then there were a mountain of herbs to chop, garlic to chop coarsely, Parmesan to shred, and pasta to boil. Oh, and tomatoes to chop. Just as I got all that done and was about to combine it in the baking dish, I dug to the back of the fridge (which is very crowded with ingredients and leftovers) to discover that, contrary to my failing memory, I did not have any ricotta cheese. Fortunately, Jon had just left to pick up Baxter from a playdate, so I called and asked him to pick some up. Then the final instruction: “slip spoonfuls” of pesto and ricotta into the beans, “poking them beneath the surface.” That sounded easier than it was, but poke I did, and into the oven it went.

The carrots and sprouts both had to be steamed, so I got the carrots on early, since they were to be served at room temp. After I’d cleaned the food processor from the pesto for the gratin, I made the cilantro “salsa.” Deborah said that if you wanted it creamy, more like a sauce, you could food-process it. So I did. And here’s the thing. I love me some cilantro, but I do not love me too much olive oil. And I used way too much. I wish I had started with half and tasted as I went; instead I dumped in the whole amount. It ended up a waste of a whole bunch of my precious cilantro, so I just used a little on the salad and considered it a lesson learned– I definitely need to get better at tasting as I go, learning to get the feel of the flavors as they develop. (Can you tell I’ve been watching Top Chef?)

Finally, the Frankensteining of the mustard butter… I committed the additional faux pas of failing to read through all the recipes in advance. The mustard butter was supposed to be made with room-temp butter, with the mustard and herbs blended in, then re-refrigerated and used over time. I had not put out the butter, so I ended up making a fraction of the amount with melted butter. I know, I know, not what Deborah had in mind. Perhaps I won’t count it, but it was actually quite good. Madeline and I gobbled up all the brussels sprouts.

2009 11 08_NavyBeanGratin-BrSprouts-CarrotSalad

Navy Bean & Pasta Gratin, p. 322; Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Butter (p. 52), p. 344; Cooked Carrot Salad with Cilantro Salsa (p. 56), p. 154

Up next: Winter Portobello Stew, Polenta, and Braised Red Radishes

Day 30: Red Lentil Dal w/Lime, Arugula with Lime and Mint Vinaigrette

What do you do when you aren’t planning to cooking on a Saturday because your husband isn’t going to be home, but then about 4:30 you start to think about lentils? Oh, and when you are committed to cooking through a HUGE cookbook in a year (or so)?

You whip out the book and make Red Lentil Dal. Red lentils are fast, of course, making them the perfect impromptu choice. And, since the lentils had lime juice in them (I made sure to moderate the amount as I added it this time!), I found a vinaigrette that had limes and mint.

First: The dal was GREAT. I served it with a dollop of yogurt, as recommended, and though the kids were doubtful at first, they all finally asked for the yogurt and decided it made the lentils even better. It had crushed cumin seed, too, so now I have that in my spice rack, too.  The arugula (more arugula!) with the lime and mint was great, too. It was the perfect, light dressing and the citrus went great.

Kudos go to Deborah Madison for writing a cookbook that is full of labor-intensive recipes that take me hours to make AND recipes like these that I can whip up with what I have on hand in time to serve the family a delicious meal.

Couldn't find my camera, so I took this with my phone...

Red Lentil Dal with Lime, p. 226; Arugula with Lime and Fresh Mint Vinaigrette, p. 187

Next: Navy Bean & Pasta Gratin, Cooked Carrot Salad with Cilantro Salsa, and Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Butter

Day 29: Mushroom Turnover, Mixed Green Salad; Buttermilk Soup with Barley

Last Friday I took on another challenge: My second yeasted dough. For this menu I paired something I knew the family would love (Mushroom Turnovers) with something I suspected they wouldn’t: a cold soup.

I used a mixture of shitake, cremini and white mushrooms for the turnovers. First I made the dough so it could rise, and then I worked on the mushroom mixture. I cheated a little by getting sliced creminis and button mushrooms; I only had to cut up the shitakes. The filling had tomato paste and sour cream in it, which I found a little odd, but it turned out well. The dough came out great, too, doubling as intended; I had to break out the rolling pin for the first time, and the turnovers turned out fine.  Jon and the kids were impressed– they look harder than they are, I think.

The soup was something else entirely. It had a buttermilk base, and had barley in it. That just sounds weird, doesn’t it? Honestly, it wasn’t as strange as it sounds, but I couldn’t sell it to anyone else. Everyone tried it (a huge victory in itself), and everyone (except me) left it in their bowls.

The salad was supposed to be “mixed greens,” but as I stood in the produce aisle I thought about the arugula I already had, and couldn’t bring myself to buy any other greens. Besides, Sophie and I love arugula, and I thought it would be a wise idea to serve something Sophie loves alongside cold buttermilk soup. I put in radish sprouts, too. (I adore sprouts.) The dressing had mustard in it, making it less appealing for Jon. It turns out Sophie didn’t love the dressing, either, as she left her beloved arugula on the plate.

So, if you’re keeping track: this meal tied at 1.5 to 1.5.

2009 11 06_MushTurnSalad

2009 11 06_BtrmlkSoup

Doesn't look bad, does it?

 Mushroom Turnovers with Yeasted Tart Dough (p. 489), p. 502; Buttermilk Soup with Barley, p. 238; Mixed Green Salad, p. 138.

Next: Red Lentil Dal with Lime, Arugula with Lime and Fresh Mint Vinaigrette.

Day 28: Corn Bread, Mixed Beans in Broth, Chopped Broccoli with Lemon

I knew that I needed something quick on Tuesday because it’s our late day– Madeline has Krav Maga (that’s Israeli martial arts) and Baxter and Sophie have Mad Science after school. I decided on Mixed Beans in Broth because it can be made in a pressure cooker– a must for me because I can NEVER seem to remember to soak beans the night before. I used pinto beans, navy beans, and small red beans. It was good, and easy, and quick. The perfect dish.

The chopped broccoli has the distinction of being the second preparation for broccoli that makes my children’s favorite vegetable unappetizing to them. The idea was that you cut the broccoli up very small, and it “completely changes the taste,” according to Deborah. And that’s probably true, if the cook does not get distracted and add WAY too much lemon juice to the broccoli. It was too sour for anyone but me.

I had intended to make Quinoa Muffins, but just before I put the Quinoa on to cook I realized I didn’t have Quinoa Flour. (I seem to be having a problem with the shopping app on my iPhone– my fingers are so big I inadvertently check off two items at once sometimes). I had the ingredients for Basic Cornbread, so I went with it. Basic Cornbread differed from the skillet cornbread a little– they were both made with a combination of whole wheat flour and cornmeal, neither of which did I love. This one was a little “cake-y” for me, though not as sweet as the skillet version.

2009 11 05_BeansBrothCornbreadBroc

Basic Corn Bread, p. 647; Mixed Beans in Broth with Parsley & Parmesan, p. 316; Chopped Broccoli with Lemon, p. 342

Next: Mushroom Turnovers, Mixed Green Salad, and Buttermilk Soup with Barley.

Day 25: Carrot Soup and Coleslaw with Buttermilk/Horseradish Dressing

So this one was totally spur of the moment. I had not planned to cook last Monday, but at 5:30 I decided to make dinner after all. Since I still had plenty of carrots from Miller Farms, I found a carrot soup recipe. I also had plenty of cabbage, so I decided to take the risk of making coleslaw (not particularly popular with anyone but me) to go with it.

The soup was fairly fast and easy, and it came out great. Deborah had specified Onion Relish to go with the soup, and it was great– white onion, serrano chile, cilantro, basil and lime juice and zest. The citrus flavors totally brightened up the carrot flavors.

The slaw was maybe a different story. I shredded up the cabbage, but when I went to make the dressing I realized I didn’t have prepared horseradish. I had just thrown some out– the only time we use it, usually, is at Passover for the seder plate. (And I’m the only one who eats it then.) I had used that jar for two Passovers, so I figured a year and a half was probably too old for horseradish.  So– that left me with no horseradish for the dressing. I decided to punt and use the horseradish sauce I had on hand, in place of the mayo and the prepared horseradish.

It was okay, but no one was over the moon about it. I ate it a second time, but ended up throwing the rest of the slaw away tonight.

2009 11 02_CarrotSoup-Slaw

The onion relish really made the soup!

 Carrot Soup with Onion Relish, p. 204; Coleslaw with Buttermilk/Horseradish Dressing (p. 190), p. 152

Next: Mixed Beans in Broth, Chopped Broccoli with Lemon, Basic Cornbread.