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!

Bites & Pieces (Saturday Night Food Edition)

We’re having our usual slightly schizophrenic fall weather here in Salt Lake City. . . it was in the mid-to-upper 60s Thursday and Friday, and then I awoke to snow this morning. Not too bad–nothing what like Scott and Brent got last weekend–but enough to actually break out the shovel and get rid of it from the driveway and front walk. I live in a neighborhood called “SugarHouse” here in SLC, so called because one of the first things that the Mormon pioneers did when they started to settle the valley was to designate a site for a sugar mill and this is the neighborhood that sprang up around it. One of the things about SugarHouse that makes it stick out is the trees–since the sugar mill was sited here there is, of course, a stream that runs year-round running through this general area of the city, and we have some beautiful mature trees that line every street of the area. Unfortunately, many of them are non-native horse chestnut trees (otherwise known as, ahem, buckeyes)(yes, quarterback, buckeyes) that don’t drop their leaves until after there is a serious frost and several below-freezing nights. . . which don’t happen until well after the first snow here at altitude. Luckily today’s snow was “shovel-able” but not terribly heavy, so no limbs have come down yet.

Whenever the weather really starts to turn like this (many of you will remember that we had our first snow here over a month ago) I start thinking of stews, and even though lamb is traditionally a spring dish, it makes a lovely fall stew also. Plus, the eggplant puree has enough heft to it that, if you’re serving a mixture of carnivores and (non-fussy) vegetarians you can serve them both this dish and everyone will feel full. Score!
Lamb Stew with Eggplant Puree
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mediterranean Cooking by Michigoose
Serves 4 – 6, and both the stew and the puree are even better the next day (just don’t combine before storing)
For the eggplant puree:
4 – 5 lb Eggplant
4 T Unsalted butter
4 T Flour
2 c Heavy cream, warmed
1 t Nutmeg (freshly ground)
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat an oven to 450. Prick each eggplant all over to vent, then place in a baking pan and bake, turning occasionally so they cook evenly, until very soft (45 – 60 minutes). Remove from the oven, place in a colander to cool, and, when cool enough to handle, peel them and leave the flesh and seeds in the colander. Let stand for 15 minutes to drain off the bitter juices, then transfer the flesh to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly (i.e., make a roux) until thickened but not browned (i.e., a blond roux). Add the warm cream and whisk until thickened, 3 – 5 minutes. Season the cream sauce to taste with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg. Add the pureed eggplant and Parmesan cheese to the cream sauce, mixing well. Heat through before serving.
For the lamb stew:
2 T Unsalted butter
1 T Olive oil
3 lb Boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
2 ea Yellow onions, chopped
1 t Allspice, ground
4 t Thyme, chopped (fresh, preferably from your herb garden [it survives under the snow here in SLC])
4 cl Garlic, minced (I really like garlic)
2 c Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced–I use two cans of good quality peeled tomatoes for this, rather than fresh, and break them apart with my fingers
1 c Chicken stock
In a heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil. Divide the allspice and thyme in half and toss the lamb with the spices. Add the lamb and brown well on all sides (working in batches if necessary). Add the onions and salt and pepper to taste and saute, stirring, until the onions are soft and pale gold.
Add the remainder of the allspice and thyme, garlic and tomatoes to the pot and cook for about five minutes to combine. Add the stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lamb is tender, 45 – 60 minutes. Stir from time to time and add more stock (or water) if needed; when the lamb is done, there should be enough sauce to coat the meat and spill over onto the eggplant. Taste and adjust seasonings.
To serve, place a mound of eggplant puree in the middle of a bowl and heap around with the lamb stew for the carnivores, or just drizzle with some of the juice from the lamb stew for the vegetarians who aren’t fussy about it. This is about twice the ratio of puree:lamb stew than the original recipe (along with a fiddling of the original spices) since I’ve discovered that it is virtually impossible to have too much of the eggplant puree. . . even for those who think they don’t like eggplant. Enjoy, and stay warm!

Update: Post renamed per okie’s suggestion. Why didn’t I think of that???

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