Monday, December 27, 2010

Hummus with Roasted Red Pepper, Capers and Cilantro

Last night, we finally had our first dinner party in the new apartment. Because of the blizzard, however, we had only one guest--Davey--my best friend and pseudo-brother. In his honor, I made roast beef (and broiled tofu for the Vegetarian), Spicy Broiled Eggplant and Hummus with Roasted Red Pepper, Capers and Cilantro. We also enjoyed a delicious box(!) of Merlot. Everything was delicious and, as usual, there was far too much food--even for three hearty eaters. However, the one thing there could have been more of was the hummus (which we first served with pita chips but then spread onto bread, tofu, eggplant--even the roast beef--until we were practically licking the bowls! (It was so good, and disappeared so thoroughly that we didn't even get to take a picture.) The Vegetarian kept declaring it "amazing" and we've already begun dreaming up new hummus combinations. This one was inspired by one in the The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen to which I added (among other things) capers since The Flavor Bible informed me they are good "esp. with roasted peppers". They were. Enjoy!

Hummus with Roasted Red Pepper, Capers and Cilantro
  • 2 red bell peppers, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons cumin, ground
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 5 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1 leek, finely chopped (white part only)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 bags pita chips
Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange peppers on foil-lined baking sheet, skin sides up, and bake 20 minutes, until skins char. Meanwhile, place sesame seeds on a small saucepan over medium heat and toast, shaking every minute or so, for about 5 minutes, or until they become fragrant. When sesame seeds are toasted, remove from pan and set aside to cool. When peppers are roasted, place in brown paper bag, roll it securely closed and set it aside 20 minutes to cool and steam so pepper skins are easy to remove. After 20 minutes, peel skins off pepper quarters with your hands.

In a food processor, combine chickpeas and vegetable broth until smooth. Continue the food processor and add peppers, cumin, lemon juice, capers, sesame seeds, garlic, hot pepper sauce and salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in green onions, leeks and cilantro. Serve with pita chips.

Links to other hummus noshes:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cajun Spaghettini with Walnut-Garlic Sauce

Technically, this pasta isn't Cajun cuisine. It includes neither bell pepper, onion nor celery. In fact, the only Cajun ingredient it does have is Cajun spice mix. And the pasta is really Italian in origin. However, it was the cajun spice mix that brought this walnut-garlic pesto, a variation of salsa di noce from the pedestrian to the delicious. In fact, the Vegetarian hasn't stopped cooking with it since we got it!

This is a truly delightfully easy recipe, which we served with sparkling wine and Pear, Feta and Lettuce Salad. Enjoy!

Cajun Spaghettini with Walnut-Garlic Sauce
Preheat oven to 350F. Place walnuts in one layer on an ungreased, light-colored baking pan and bake 5 minutes, until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Remove and allow to come to room temperature.

Place walnuts, olive oil, parsley, 1/4 cup broth, garlic, Cajun spice mix, breadcrumbs and salt in food processor. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Cook spaghettini in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain, return to pot and toss with remaining 1/4 cup broth and sauce. Serve and enjoy.

Links to other cajun noshes:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tomato-Fennel Soup

News! News and revelations! In July, the Vegetarian, Ozzy and I moved in together to a spacious one-bedroom in the Lincoln Center area of Manhattan. Moving in during the summer certainly made me more eager to cook (that and discovering the adorable Tucker Square Greenmarket only a few blocks away) but focusing on creating healthy vegetarian meals made me far less adventurous. So I invested in a few new vegetarian cookbooks, revisited ones I already owned and decided to let my kitchen creativity come out in other ways--meal planning, substitutions, etc. and let writing and creating my own recipes disappear.

Then I got busy. From October through December I've been working on no fewer than 3 projects at a time, which left very little time for cooking and even less energy. We began ordering in frequently, buying prepared foods, etc. Getting frustrated with our complacency, we joined a wine CSA. And when the wines began arriving, I started recipe planning again. Each new wine created a new list of delightful-sounding recipes culled from cookbooks and the internet. Of course, there are many more recipes than we can realistically have with one bottle of wine! But that was enough to get me back into the kitchen, tasting, experimenting and playing. Now, when we have free time, cooking together has become one of the Vegetarian and my favorite activities!

So, without further ado, here is the most recent creation: Tomato-Fennel Soup. With the recent cold spell, we needed something warming but, wanting to remain healthy, trim and energetic, I've been craving lighter, more summery flavors. Obviously fresh tomatoes are no good this time of year. But canned tomatoes can be cooked down into a delicious soup. And, with the addition of some fresh fennel and a bit of cumin, this turned into a lovely dish. Served alongside a Fresh Tofu Salad and a bottle of Sardinian Vermentino, it became a complete meal.

Tomato-Fennel Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
  • 4 shallots, chopped finely
  • 2 baby carrots, chopped finely
  • 1 28-ounce can whole sauce tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup mushroom broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons fennel leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Heat oil in a medium stockpot over medium-low heat. Add fennel bulb, shallots and carrots and cook, stirring, 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, salt, cumin and pepper. Raise heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Still covered, return heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes with your spoon. Remove from heat and blend, using an immersion blender. You can leave the soup as chunky or as smooth as you desire. Ours was somewhere in between. Serve hot, sprinkled with fennel leaves and cilantro. Enjoy!

Links to other tomato fennel soup noshes:

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Passover Cooking: Mushroom, Onion and Tomato Matzoh Brie

In honor of the last day of Passover, I'd like to share with you the savory matzoh brie I made for dinner last night. As I've mentioned before, matzoh brie is the ultimate "easy meal" to make during Passover, that holiday when leavened food (chametz) is forbidden to Jews. Matzoh brie is like a cross between French toast, a frittata and scrambled eggs. I like to make mine mish-mash style, where you break it up into pieces while it cooks, but there are those whose matzoh bries are far prettier than mine and closely resemble pancakes.

As Passover draws to a close, we've been most missing Italian flavors (not to mention pasta!), so I decided to make a matzoh brie using ingredients one would find in a pasta sauce. Though not pretty, this was delicious, filling and, cold, made an excellent lunch. Enjoy!

Mushroom, Onion and Tomato Matzoh Brie

Heat oil in a large skillet until it runs as easily as water. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place broken matzos in a bowl and cover with chicken stock. Let soak 10 minutes or so. Crack eggs into another bowl and beat until frothy and uniform in color. Squeeze excess moisture out of matzohs and add them to eggs. Add matzoh-egg mixture to pan, along with tomatoes, salt and oregano. Cook--cutting, stirring and flipping--until eggs are set. Add basil leaves and serve. Enjoy!

Other matzoh brie noshes:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Penne with Creamy Vodka Sauce

After several months of not being allowed to drink (another mono complication), my most recent blood test finally showed normal liver functions. To celebrate, Ozzy and I took a trip to the liquor store and picked up a bottle of vodka, since I'd been craving a Bloody Mary after reading about using them as a fun substitute for maror, the bitter herbs eaten at the Passover seder, on The Liquid Seder.

Once we'd purchased the vodka, however, I realized that Bloody Marys do not a dinner make. That, and a bottle of Nero d'Avola (my favorite wine) was sitting unopened on the table and calling my name. So, instead of drinking my vodka, I decided to cook with it instead!

Flipping through my favorite cooking bible, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I lighted on a recipe for Creamy Vodka Sauce and, tweaking it a bit as is my way, it was not only a perfect accompaniment to the Nero d'Avola, but an easy meal the Vegetarian and I could both enjoy equally. Score!

Penne with Creamy Vodka Sauce

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once it has boiled, add the penne and cook until al dente, around 9 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it moves around easily in the pan, add onion and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, cumin and piment d'espelette. Cook 8 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in vodka and heavy cream and cook an additional 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Keep warm while penne finishes cooking.

When penne is cooked, drain and toss with the sauce, adding some of the cooking water if necessary. Enjoy!

Links to other vodka noshes:

Monday, February 08, 2010

Lady Amalthea's Spice Mixture

Before beginning the food and recipe portion of our program, I owe it to you to bring you up-to-date on what's been happening in Amalthea's world. First off, Ozzy and I moved out of Chinatown and into our own apartment in Chelsea. It's a studio with a small (though serviceable!) kitchen. However, since it's just the two of us, there hasn't been anywhere near as much cooking going on as there once was--hence the long silence. And, since Ozzy (usually) justs eats his own food, I'm really just feeding myself, so experimentation has fallen to the bare minimum.

However, there is now an (increasingly regular) eater in our apartment, who presents a unique new eating challenge. Yes, Lady A has a new beau--a vegetarian. While the Vegetarian (which shall remain his title until further notice) certainly enjoys my cooking, his dietary restrictions are influencing (and changing!) it. Add to that the fact that I've recently become anemic (due to mono, not a side-effect of dating the Vegetarian!) and my cooking is in a state of transition, to put it lightly.

That said, I was fiddling around in the kitchen today and decided it was high-time to excite my taste buds and create a new spice mixture to be used in all sorts of exciting ways, as yet undiscovered. If you have suggestions (preferably vegetarian-friendly!), post them in the comments!

Lady Amalthea's Spice Mixture

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!