Bites and Pieces, A Quiet Saturday Edition

Most of you who have heard of Steven Raichlen will have heard of him in his roll as BBQ guru, but I first came upon him as the author of a series of “High Flavor Low Fat” cookbooks, in which he espouses the use of spices–and lots of them–to make food satisfying and comforting. Some of his substitutions are more successful than others, but these three recipes from his “High Flavor Low Fat Vegetarian Cooking” book are some of my favorites, especially as the weather starts getting hotter and gardens start ripening (I think Lulu’s going to love the third recipe–I bet she’s got everything except the saffron and noodles growing in her garden!)

Peking Tacos

  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 10 scallions, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 2 1/2 cups red-cooked beans
    • 1 cup Chinese rice wine or sherry
    • 1 cup water
    • 4 T soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 2 star anises
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3 pieces dried tangerine peel or 2 strips fresh tangerine or orange peel
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 2 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh ginger
    • 3 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce

To make the red-cooked beans, combine all of the glaze ingredients in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil the mixture until thick, glazy, and reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Stir occasionally to keep it from boiling over.  Strain the mixture into a large nonstick frying pan and add 2 1/2 cups cooked beans, then cook over medium heat until the beans are thickly coated with glaze, 3 – 5 minutes.  Correct the seasoning, adding soy sauce or sugar as needed so that the beans are sweet, salty and aromatic.

Place the bean sprouts in a strainer and pour boiling water over them; drain well.  Soften the tortillas by heating, then assemble the tacos by brushing some hoisin sauce onto a tortilla, sprinkle scallion rounds and some bean sprouts on, then top with red-cooked beans and some cucumber matchsticks.  Fold (or roll) and enjoy!

Crusty Millet Cakes with Feta Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups millet
  • salt
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced as finely as possible
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced as finely as possible
  • 3 T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the millet in 3 cups rapidly boiling, lightly salted water for 20 – 30 minutes, or until tender.  Drain in a strainer and let cool; do not rinse.

Heat 2 teaspoons EVOO in a nonstick skillet; add teh garlic, scallions, bell peppers and parsley and cook over medium heat until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.  Combine these vegetables and the millet, cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well; correct seasoning if needed.

Note: This is where I depart from Steven’s recipe: he has you fry them in oil over medium low heat, but I could never turn them without them falling apart. . . so I bake them.

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees; form the millet mixture into 12 3-inch patties and place them on a baking sheet.  Bake 10 – 15 minutes, until heated through, then brown by placing under the broiler for a minute or two 1″ from the heat.

Grilled Zucchini Lasagna with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

For the Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 4 large red bell peppers
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 t saffron, soaked in 1 T hot water
  • 2/3 cup vegetable (or other) stock
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper

To finish the lasagna:

    • 6 medium zucchinis cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices
    • 1 to 2 t EVOO
    • 9 lasagna noodles
    • 21 basil leaves

Make the red pepper sauce by roasting, peeling, and coring/seeding the red peppers.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet and cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until soft but not brown.

Combine the peppers, onion mixture, and bread crumbs in a food processor and puree to a smooth paste.  Add the vinegar, saffron and enough vegetable stock to obtain a thick sauce (the mixture should be the consistency of soft ice cream.)  Correct the seasoning, adding salt, pepper, cayenne and vinegar to taste: the sauce should be very highly seasoned.  Preheat your grill to high (this is where Brent and Brian can get excited about this recipe!)

Lightly brush each zucchini strip with olive oil and grill until limp(2 – 4 minutes/side) or, if you must, broil or oven-roast the strips.  Cook the lasagna noodles in 4 quarts rapidly boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until al dente; drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil an 8 x 11-inch baking dish; spread 3 lasagna noodles over the bottom, then arrange 1/3 of the zucchini strips over the noodles, 1/3 of the basil leaves, and 1/3 of the sauce.  Repeat for layers two and three.  The lasagna can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead to this stage.

Bake the lasagna for 30 – 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Enjoy!

Note: I usually make about twice as much sauce when I’m doing this, since it also is a great dip/spread for veggies and good bread.  Bon appetit!

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