Category Archives: vegetarian

Grain Salad, Two Ways

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking on Sundays and eating the food throughout the week.  This week I tried a really good salad at the local Coop deli and decided to make some myself, especially since it used feta, and I was still trying to use up that same old block.  I decided I would get sick of the salad though if I had 4 servings of the same thing though, so I divided it in half and dressed up one half sweet with dried cherries and toasted almonds, and the other more savory with basil and kalamata olives.  The only thing about this that is at all difficult is that you have to remember to soak the spelt berries overnight (or for 8 hours or so) before beginning to cook.  Don’t be intimidated by them: they’re a lot like barley, with a chewy texture and nutty flavor.

how to cook the spelt berries

1. soak 1 cup spelt berries overnight in a pot of water
2. drain and rinse
3. add 5 cups of water to the spelt berries and bring to a boil
4. reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 45 minutes.  spelt berries should still be firm but tender.
5. drain and rinse, and return to the pot
6. stir in 2 tbsp olive oil to keep the grains from sticking
7. divide grains into two bowls.

basil, olive and feta salad

1. Chop 1/4 c. feta and 1/4 c. kalamata olives and add to grains.
2. Grab a handful of basil and remove the stems.  To chiffonade the basil (the fancy word for cutting it into strips), lay the leaves one on top of another.
3. Next, roll the stack of leaves into a tube.
4. Now slice the tube into discs.
5. Add the basil and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar to the grain mixture, and stir.

cherry, almond and feta salad
1. Add 1/4 c. chopped toasted almonds, 1/4 c. chopped dried cherries, and 1/4 c. chopped feta cheese.
2. Add 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and stir

Wheat Berries on Foodista


Steamed Silken Tofu with Scallions

My friend R. sent me a link to the droolworthy foodgawker today, and the first thing that caught my eye was the Steamed Silky Soft Tofu.  And just like that, I had to have it.  R. and I were already planning to cook something tonight with the fresh thai basil and mushroom soy sauce I got this morning at the Asian supermarket in Austin.  I ran out to get some silken tofu and we were in business.

This might be one of the easiest recipes a person could make.  All you need is a big pot and a steamer basket.  The original recipe used a heat safe plate as a steamer plate, but I just went for the basket to be safe.

what you need:
– 1 box of Silken brand firm tofu
– about 1 tablespoon mushroom flavored soy sauce (I’m partial to Healthy Boy brand)
– about 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce or oyster sauce
– 1 scallion, thinly sliced

what to do:
Place the steamer basket in a pot with about 1/2 inch of water.  Place the tofu in the basket – if you need to cut it into two or three pieces so it fits, that’s just fine.  Turn the heat to high and cover the pot.  Steam the tofu for 15 minutes, watching to make sure there is still water left in the pot.  If the water gets too low, add a cup of hot water, 1/2 cup at a time.  If you are feeling fancy, while this is going on you can sautee some sliced shallots until crispy, but I left the shallots out because I forgot to get them.

After 15 minutes, gently remove the tofu from the steamer with a spatula.  Drizzle the tofu with soy and hoisin, and sprinkle with scallions and shallots if you’re using them.

And that’s all!  So easy, and surprisingly packed with flavor.  Enjoy!

Leigh on Foodista

Mid-Week Quickie: Goat Cheese & Asparagus Mac & Cheese

This is a super fast and easy mid-week recipe with almost no cleanup.  It took about 20 minutes start to finish and used one pot and one bowl – doesn’t get much better than that.  This recipe originally came from Smitten Kitchen, but I made a few changes.  Here you go!

ingredients (serves 2)
1/2 lb whole wheat gemelli pasta
1 small lemon
1/2 lb asparagus
1/2 red bell pepper
sugar snap peas or broccoli
1 bunch spinach, rinsed
about 3 oz goat cheese (half of a 5.5 oz log)
2 tbsp olive oil


1. boil water in a big pot.  add 1/2 tsp salt and the pasta to the boiling water.

gemelli – if you haven’t had it, try it – so good for cheesy pastas!

2. prep your veggies.  snap the hard ends off the asparagus by bending the stalk and letting it break naturally.  then cut the asparagus stalks into thirds or quarters.

3. cut the bell pepper into strips, cut the stems off the spinach, and snap the hard ends off the peas.  if you’re using broccoli, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

4. when the pasta has 3 minutes left to cook, add the asparagus, red pepper, peas and broccoli.  2 minutes later add the spinach.

5. when the spinach wilts, drain the whole pot, reserving about 1/2 c. of the cooking water.

5. in a large bowl, combine the goat cheese, a splash of pasta water (about 1/4 c), olive oil, zest of the lemon, and the juice of half the lemon.

6.  with a fork, mash the goat cheese into the liquid until the mixture is smooth.

you caught me – i switched to a big bowl when i realized that trying to mix this in a little bowl was about to spell disaster.

7.  when the mixture is smooth, add the pasta and vegetables to the bowl, and toss to combine, making sure you scoop up the goat cheese sauce from the bottom to really coat the pasta.


Mid-Week Quickie: Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

As I’ve ventured into my significantly-less-carnivorous diet, I have been a little wary about meat substitutes. But I love the Morningstar Chik Patties, so I figured I’d give their meatless crumbles a try. I didn’t feel like spaghetti, so after a little brainstorming, I settled on makeshift sloppy joes. Now, to see if I can remember how I made them…

1 bag meatless crumbles
1 onion
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 of a 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
hot sauce to taste
olive oil

1. Food process that onion.

2. Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Salt the onion lightly, and saute about 3 minutes until translucent.

3. Add the crumbles. Let them cook awhile until they are hot – make sure to check the package for specific cooking instructions.

4. Add in all the other ingredients one at a time, stirring to mix. Let that all simmer for a minute or two once combined.
5. Serve over toasted hamburger buns or rolls of your choosing!

Mid-Week Quickie: Mushroom Walnut Tofu Burgers

I think the noticeable lack of meat dishes on my blog bears mentioning. Over the last few years I’ve read all the books about local food, and small producers, and become more and more disturbed by the factory farm industry. Finally, this year, I committed to significantly reducing the amount of meat I eat. So while I’m not entirely vegetarian (as you can see from the various chicken recipes), I generally don’t cook meat at home. The good news is, meatless food does not have to be boring (or filled with granola, as the myth seems to be).

Today I was reading Bon Apetit while I got my oil changed, and they had a recipe for wild mushroom cakes. That got me thinking that I had a bunch of things in the fridge I wanted to use up, and that I had everything I needed to make my own version of a mushroom burger. It came out great – give it a try!

ingredients (makes 2 burgers)
4 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced with the stems removed
1 egg, beaten
1/3 container extra firm tofu
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1/8 c. parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 c breadcrumbs
1/4 c walnuts

1. toast the walnuts in a dry nonstick pan over medium high heat. just toss them around in the hot pan every minute or so, until they start to smell good. drop those babies in the food processor.
2. put a splash of olive oil in the pan, and when it shimmers, add the mushrooms. saute 2 minutes. add the garlic and stir, and cook 1 additional minute, stirring occasionally. add to food processor.
3. slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick planks and add to the hot pan. saute for 1 minute, until they look drier – you don’t want to add excess water to the food processor. add them to the processor.
4. add the egg and breadcrumbs to the mixture in the food processor, and blend until chunky but combined. mold the mixture into two patties.don’t panic if it looks a little loose at this point – it will firm up in the pan.
5. heat another splash of olive oil over medium high heat. when it shimmers, add the patties. cook about 5 minutes on each side, until brown and crispy, and cooked through.
getting crispy!
6. serve on a roll, or over a salad. I topped mine with spicy-sweet pepadew peppers, a little parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinagrette.

Chard-Wrapped Risotto Pockets

how could this be bad?

Since I started food blogging, I’ve had a lot of friends offer to be my guinea pigs. And by offer, I mean suggest hopefully that perhaps I need taste testers. I invited a few friends over for dinner on Friday night and decided to make a recipe that I printed out about two years ago and always wanted to try, but never found the time. This NY Times recipe is based on a dish from La Zucca Magica (“the magic pumpkin”), an Italian vegetarian restaurant on the French Riviera. Also on the menu were chicken peperonata (recipe to come soon) and ratatouille with balsamic vinagrette. For the ratatouille, I left off the chickpeas since it was just a side dish, and actually used eggplant. And for dessert, the talented R. made black sticky rice with toasted coconut and fresh mango.

The recipe looks a little complicated at first, but now that I sucked it up and made the risotto, poached the chard, wrapped the risotto and baked the whole thing, I must concede that it was well worth it. This is a great dish for a party – it looks fancy and makes neat little individual servings.

1 c. arborio rice
5 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
6 ciliegine (the fresh mozzarella balls about the size of grape tomatoes), or buy a bigger piece and cut it into small chunks.
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
large pinch saffron
salt and pepper
6 chard leaves, rinsed, with hard middle stems removed

1. mix one cup of stock and the rice in a pot, and bring to a simmer. heat 2 more cups of stock, either on the stove or in the microwave.
2. mix the lemon juice and saffron in a small bowl.
3 when the liquid in the pot is just about all absorbed, add a little more and stir.

Starting to get risotto-y...

4. as the liquid is absorbed, keep adding hot stock until the rice is just tender. it took me about 3 cups of stock to get there. remove from heat.

now we're talking

5. add the butter, lemon juice and saffron, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste to the risotto. try to resist the urge to eat the risotto directly out of the pot. let cool slightly, until you can bear to handle the mixture. warning: do not refrigerate to make this go faster.
6. while you’re waiting for the risotto to cool, bring the remaining stock to a boil in another pot. poach the chard leaves for about 30 seconds each. you may have to do them individually – i found that was the easiest way to do it. drain the poached leaves in a colander. reserve the poaching liquid.
7. preheat the oven to 350.
8. wet your hands and form the risotto into six balls about 2-3 inches in diameter. dig a hole in each one and push in a ciliegine, and mold the risotto around it. wrap each ball in a chard leaf. resist the urge to laugh at the number of times the word “ball” is used in this step.
9. place the risotto balls in a close fitting baking dish and pour the leftover poaching liquid over them to reach about 1/2 inch up the sides.
10. bake 20 minutes at 350. serve immediately. try not to swoon.

oh baby.

better-than-delivery vegetable lo mein

all the ingredients...because i forgot to take a picture once it was cooked and ate it all. whoops.

I love chinese food. I really love good, authentic chinese food, but there’s also a special place in my heart for crappy takeout. And sometimes, you just crave greasy lo mein. If you make it at home, it’s a lot less unhealthy, and you can add in whatever fresh veggies your foodie heart desires.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying, with a woeful lack of success, to replicate the flavor of take-out lo mein at home. At last I have succeeded. Let me know what you think!

Mushroom and Scallion Lo Mein (adapted from “Shiitake and Scallion Lo Mein,” found in the October 2009 issue of Food and Wine Magazine)
1 bundle round udon noodles (about 2 servings)
4 oz baby portabello mushrooms, with stems removed, and sliced
1 head of baby bok choy, or other cabbage if you wish, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into strips. (you may substitute a leafy green if you prefer, such as chard, but note: if you use chard, you must add it earlier in the cooking process, since it requires more cooking time than the bok choy).
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced or shaved into thin strips
1 one-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz tofu, sliced into strips
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/8 c (eyeball it) soy sauce
1/8 c (eyeball this too) apple cider vinegar. (the recipe calls for mirin, but i didn’t have any, and the vinegar worked just fine).
1 tbsp water
2 scallions, greens sliced into 1-inch lengths, and whites sliced thin.
1 egg

1. cook the noodles according to the package instructions. make sure you don’t overcook them. drain and rinse under cool water.
2. white the noodles are cooking, heat the canola oil in a large nonstick frying pan or wok if you’ve got one, over medium high heat. add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook 2 minutes, until the onions soften.
3. add the carrots and tofu and saute about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots soften and the tofu gets a golden brown.
4. add the mushrooms, garlic, ginger, bok choy, and 1 tbsp water. the heat should be high enough that the water sizzles when you add it. saute 2-3 minutes, until the bok choy wilts and the mushrooms look done.
3. in the meantime, in a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil.
4. add the cooked noodles to the vegetables, and pour the soy sauce mixture over top. toss to coat with sauce and saute 1-2 more minutes.
5. if you like, push all the ingredients to the side of the pan, and crack and egg into the empty space. let it set, then stir to scramble. mix with the other ingredients.