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!

16 Responses

  1. They look good. I am always looking for good vegetarian recipes.


  2. Michi, those look fabulous and I can’t wait to try them.

    BTW, quite some time back you had a recommendation for a book about how to eat a balanced vegetarian diet. Can you post that again?


    • Quinoa must be the best thing since sliced bread for a “balanced” vegetarian diet. It is the only grain that delivers a broad enough range of amino acids that it does not require another source to make complete protein. There are so many ways to cook it that you can use it as a side, a main, or a nutty addition to a salad. I think I posted some quinoa recipes here before. I’m just remarking on the “balanced” suggestion.

      After a busy week of catch-up after the L.A. trip, Rosanne and I have played full time custodial caregivers to our twin granddaughters since Friday, as daughter Jen is visiting her Aunt and Grandmother in Larchmont, NY. So my hands are still full, literally. We quite purposefully wore them out yesterday, but in doing so, remembered why parenting is meant for 30 YOs. We kept remarking to each other that we did not recall that it was this much effort with our own kids, but we knew we were doing the same stuff we did with them thirty years ago. If I recite yesterday’s schedule, those of you who are current parents would shrug your shoulders and say “so what”? I salute you.


  3. I’ve got bunches of them, Brent; we weren’t/aren’t vegetarians, but my ex and I tried to eat vegetarian at least three times a week for many years. I’ll keep that in mind for future B&P’s. okie, I think you might be thinking of my recommending “The Occasional Vegetarian” by Karen Lee; she gives ideas for entire menus as well as individual recipes.


  4. About to commit Libertarian heresy here:

    I’m in Asbury Park NJ this weekend for the 2012 Bamboozle music festival and I’ve been very impressed by NJ Public transit system. Clean trains that run on time, professional polite staff, and good security. Much more convenient than driving to the festival and no DUI worries.

    So, for the record, not all public services are bad.


  5. So, for the record, not all public services are bad.

    Date on calendar duly circled, jnc! 🙂


  6. Quinoa must be the best thing since sliced bread for a “balanced” vegetarian diet.

    I love quinoa, Mark! And it must be relatively easy to find in grocery stores in general, because Costco sells it in bulk. On the other hand. . . 2X 3YO girls–yikes! Maybe you can get your hands on some nice Christian neighbors and they can take the girls into church for Sunday school for a couple of hours! 🙂


  7. Thanks, Mark, re the quinoa. I never think of it, but that must just be habit so I appreciate the reminder. (LMAO about parenting is for the youngers. You’re brave.)

    Michi, thanks, the Karen Lee book is the one I was thinking of.

    jnc, what Michi said! The Bamboozle festival looks like quite the party. Good thing you have that service to avoid those pesky DUIs. Enjoy and stay safe.


  8. Ooohhh… I’ve been on the look-out for a decent vegetarian lasagna. It’s the one dish with veggies that Secondo will eat. Right now, I do one with a thickened tomato sauce (add white sauce) and using a spinach ricotta mixture. Gets a whole pound of spinach into the boy and the overall dish is reasonably balanced.

    Last night was a big dinner party. We have periodically had wine tasting dinners–everyone shares the cost of the wines and I cook my asterisks off. Today is also my lovely wife’s 40th birthday, so we did a Latin-themed menu. Here’s what I planned to make:


    Bay scallop ceviche with blackened tomatillo truffle salsa, served with plantain chips

    1er Cru White Burgundy, 2006; Vincent Dureuil-Janthial

    First Course

    Plantain Empanadas with black bean filling and grilled cheese sliders on brioche.

    Served with Salvadoran sour cream, green salsa, and guava sauce

    Eroica Riesling, 2010; Ch. Ste. Chappelle/Dr. Loosen

    Main Course

    Pan Seared Salmon and black bean risotto with mango salsa

    Klickitat Pinot Gris, 2010; Douglass Margerum, Los Olivos, CA


    Spiced caramel corn, served with a wedge of Salemville Amish blue cheese

    Quinta de la Rosa, 2007; Late Bottled Vintage Port

    The ceviche was made in advance, so that proved pretty easy. Grilled cheese sandwiches are really easy. I have picked up the technique of spreading mayo on the outside of the bread instead of softened butter. It spreads easily and browns perfectly. The caramel corn proved problematic as the recipe didn’t make enough caramel to coat the popcorn. I think it was half a matter of technique. Still, it was quite tasty.

    The empanadas proved the tricky point. It’s not difficult to make and I’d dry run it twice. Take four yellow plantains, not the unripe green ones or the really ripe black ones. Put them in boiling water for 20 – 30 minutes to cook, drain and let them cool. Remove the skins and toss in a food processor with a few tablespoons of salt and possibly a bit of flour. You get a dough with the right consistency to make empanadas. It is sticky, so you need to put wax paper top and bottom. Top each empanada with a tablespoon or so of refried beans and turn over to close. Fry in about an inch of vegetable oil.

    The problem was that the empanadas had matured in the four days since I bought them, so they split open while cooking and got a bit water-logged. I tried adding extra flour, but the dough was not going to set up. Maybe it would have worked if I’d kept adding flour.

    I’d used peanut oil to make some fried plantain chips and then fish sticks for the kids, so I decided that we’d be doing plantain beignets instead of empanadas. I brought the oil back up to 350 and dropped in balls of the plantain dough. It worked out pretty well. I dusted them with powdered sugar and served the black beans on the side (along with the other two sauces).

    Here’s the link to the original recipe. They are a great dish, just make sure that the plantains are yellow and keep an eye on them while cooking them. If they split, take them out immediately!



  9. Mmmmm. . . the spinach ricotta sounds yummy, although I would probably go with something with a bit more bite (maybe feta, although it wouldn’t melt right)(on second thought, probably a Mexican queso fresco) for dairy in this lasagna. And I’m with you on the mayo–I’ve started doing that on almost everything that gets toasted/grilled in the bread world since I like the extra little tang it brings to the party.

    Eroica Riesling is one of my favorite wines–I like your choices! Can I come to dinner at your place???


  10. It’s a recipe I’ve been using from the original Moosewood cookbook. Well, the 2nd edition. It calls for 1/2 a cup of sharp cheese. I use parmesan or cheddar.

    Eroica Riesling was one of the first wines that really opened my eyes as to cost/quality. We’d had some friends over for dinner one week and I picked up a bottle of St. Che. Michelle Riesling. We were hosting a visitor later in the week and I decided to find out if the Eroica is worth the extra $6 per bottle. Oh boy, was it!

    With regards to dinner, any time. I’m banking on an invite if I make it out to slick city.



  11. So now I need to wrangle an excuse to head to the greater D.C. area. . . maybe we could even get NoVA to join us! 🙂

    Red Iguana and either Squatters or Red Rock Brewery are already on the agenda if you get out here, although there’s a new place I want to take you, Epic Brewery, too. The food isn’t anything to write home about (although their cheese and meat platter is decent), but the beer is out of this world! Plus, as long as it’s outside-eating-weather, a new restaurant called Meditrina; I can’t eat inside there due to the acoustics, but the food is spectacular.


  12. All of that sounds yummy! Love thickened tomato sauce and have a cod recipe that is cooked in basically that, to which I add spinach. Maybe I’ll add that recipe next week or so.

    We have had storms (complete with thunder and lightning, but nothing severe) all last night and intermittently all day today. Don’t want to get out in the weather to go to market (lazy day) so I’ve been scrounging to see what I have on hand. Lucky me! I’ve thawed a couple of lovely fillets (California albacore loin steaks, pole-caught) which I shall grill. One will be dinner this evening and one will be used to make a tuna salad that is the best. I’ll definitely put up that recipe next week. Any suggestions on seasoning the grilled tuna for dinner?

    Break in the rain, so I’m out to harvest some herbs I will need this evening.


  13. Believe it or not, I think A1 steak sauce is great with grilled tuna.

    My other two go-to’s would be Emeril Lagasse’s Essence or an Asian-themed marinade of soy sauce/rice wine/five spice powder with extra garlic or the like.


  14. Good thought, michi, thanks. No A1 or Emerille anything, so I’m leaning toward Asian-themed or a new seasoning mix I’ve been experimenting with and really like. It’s Willies Hog Dust made in SC. Haven’t tried it much with seafood though.

    Edited countless times to get the effin link right.


  15. for grilled tuna, I marinade it in soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil for about 30 minutes.


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