September 20, 2011 § 3 Comments
You’re going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I actually really like this two-thirds vegan kick I’m on. Now, let me clarify:
1a. Two-thirds vegan means two meals out of three meals each day are non-dairy, non-poultry, non-animal products. Not even a boiled egg on my lunchtime salad – and I love a good boiled egg, too.
1b. What about snacks, you ask? What am I gonna do, eat a meat stick? Almonds, an apple, hummus and chips if I feel the need.
2. I first mentioned the two-thirds vegan thing back in … was it March? April? Lest you think I’m Superwoman, I need to inform you that I haven’t been two-thirds vegan all the time. Vacations don’t count. Weekends away don’t count. And sometimes that boiled egg would find its way onto of my salad. And, last week … I had a whole mess o’ Old Bay-seasoned wings on my business trip to Baltimore. The only wings I’ll eat, and the only town I eat them in. There are rules about being two-thirds vegan, and I make them up as I go along.
3. And sometimes, you go away for the weekend and someone makes you a three-egg omelet. With mozzarella. And lobster. Just be sure there’s a veggie burger in your near future.
BUT! It’s a new season. And I have a renewed interest in sticking to the vegan thing. At least two-thirds of the time.
BUT! I need more protein. That’s what a recent doctor visit and blood test suggested. So, here come the beans, which are an
excellent source of protein and fiber awesomely tasty food. Rather than stocking up on cans upon cans of beans – they add salt and calcium chloride, which, by the way IS a salt! – we buy the dry. Oooo … I like the way that sounds, “buy the dry.” Plus, they are cheaper (I’m showing my frugal side).
Dry beans are NOT a pain in the ass to work with. It’s easy. If Dainty can do it, so can you. And you don’t have to wait around 24 hours while your beans soak, etc. etc. Invest in a pressure cooker and your beans will be done in 30 minutes, and that includes 5 minutes of prep time.
The recipe we use comes from Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. (Oooo … sassy.) Hey, meat lovers, there’s a roast chicken on the cover! That’ll assure you Lorna has added something for everyone inside. There are a bunch of bean recipes included – the one we use is for black beans with soft tortillas. We use just the first half of the recipe and add our own seasonings depending on what we’re using the beans for. Here, I’ll just go through the first process and produce a batch of pressure-cooked beans.
- 4-6 cups water (depending on how much bean broth you want)
- 1.5 cups dried black beans, pick over to remove icky ones, small pebbles, etc. and rinse
- 1 small onion
- 4 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 TBS oil (apparently it prevents or controls foaming)
- 1/2 tsp salt
-Combine everything in a 4 qt. pressure cooker.
-Lock the lid in place. If you’re like me, you’ll do it three or four times, making absolutely sure the lid is on and won’t fly off. Seriously though, when it’s locked, it’s locked. No hardhat needed.
-Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure over high heat. READ YOUR PRESSURE COOKER INSTRUCTIONS! It will tell you how you can tell when it has reached high pressure. For our Fagor pressure cooker, high pressure is indicated when two red lines are visible.
-When it has reached high pressure, turn down the heat to a temp that will maintain that high pressure. For ours and on our gas stove, that means at a point between “lo” and “2”.
-Let the beans bubble away in there for 25 minutes. Then turn off the heat. Let them sit there as is – don’t open the lid! – and let the pressure come down naturally. READ your cooker instructions to find out how you can tell on your device.
-When the pressure has come down, open the lid AWAY from you. You don’t want to get a face full of super-heated steam, right? Always always always be careful.
-The beans should be tender. If not, lock it up, stick ’em back on the heat and cook for another couple of minutes. Repeat the heat coming down and all that.
What you have now are several cups of firm yet tender beans in broth. If you used 6 cups of water, you are halfway on the path to making a black bean soup. If you used 4 cups of water, you have a bit less broth. Letting it sit, the beans and broth will thicken slightly but not much.
We use 4 cups of water, and after the beans are pressure cooked, we typically add a touch more salt, some pepper, several shakes of red pepper and a diced small tomato. We then serve it over a bowl of rice. We’ve added other things, as well – roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, for example.
If you have any suggestions for what to add in to the black beans, I’d love your suggestions. We need to keep up the variety. Please leave your comments below!
April 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
Why these are called Napoleons, I’m not sure. Maybe because they are short squat layered stacks. I’m almost positive it wasn’t because the guy had a tasty complexity of flavors. In my book, these take the victory.
Here’s the idea: Layers of eggplant, ricotta and asparagus. Simple. Delightful. And they do have a mysteriously complex flavor, thanks to grilling.
Giada DeLaurentis, aka food porn queen, made these in a recent show. The recipe is easy enough to recreate. Just a warning, these require some grilling. We have one of those indoor grills that you plug in AND a 16-in. All-Clad grill pan. We used both at the same time for these.
Eggplant Asparagus Napoleons
(gives you 4 short stacks)
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-in. slices, at least 12
- asparagus – about 12 stalks
- 3-4 tbs freshly chopped thyme
- salt/pepper to taste
- ricotta cheese, about 2 cups
- 1/2 lemon
-Set oven to 200F-250F
-Put about two cups of ricotta in a medium bowl. Add about half of the chopped thyme and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir to incorporate. Set aside.
-Put eggplant slices in a big bowl. Dowse with olive oil, sprinkle with two big pinches of kosher salt, a couple of twists of pepper, and the remaining chopped thyme. Get your hands in there (or use tongs) and make sure it is all evenly coated. The eggplant will suck up the oil – that’s okay, don’t overdo it.
-Set indoor grill or grill pan or maybe even your outdoor grill to medium and let it heat up. Place 12 eggplant slices on the grill – reserve the bowl they were in. If it looks like some of the slices missed a bit of oil, take some olive oil and a brush and brush them up a bit. Let them grill up on that side for a few minutes.
-Meanwhile, chop the woody parts off your asparagus. Place in that bowl, add a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can grill these up in a separately as I did, or you can wait until your eggplant is done.
-Speaking of eggplant, check to see how the undersides are coming along. When they get golden grill marks on the bottom, flip ’em over. Maybe some of the ones you just turned over need another wash of oil. Your decision. Give them another couple of minutes to grill up – just take them off before they get limp and burned.
-Grill up the asparagus on medium. It won’t take as long as the eggplant. Move them to get all sides as best you can. 4-5 minutes max. You don’t want them wimpy; pick one up and hold it sideways – it shouldn’t sag. Place them on cutting board when done and chop them in half.
-Here’s the assembly part: On a baking sheet place four slices of eggplant. Spoon on a dollop of the ricotta – not too much, just enough to cover the slice but don’t spread it thinly either like butter on toast. Now add three asparagus sections on top of the ricotta. Add another layer of eggplant. More ricotta. Another three sections of asparagus. Now top it off with eggplant. You should have yourself a nice short stack.
-Pop the baking sheet in the warm oven for about 10 minutes or so – enough time to bring everything up to temperature.
Use one napoleon as a side dish or use two as a meal and serve with some sort of protein. I made a side of quinoa with roasted cherry tomatoes and shallots.
February 25, 2011 § 2 Comments
Without a doubt, the best fish tacos in Boston can be found at La Verdad on Landsdowne. I am right, people. If you beg to differ, please speak up. But I’ve had my share of fish tacos from coast to coast (actually, only on the coasts), and Ken Oringer’s are tops.
Now, I’d love to head on down to La Verdad every single day and have a plateful of those delicacies, but that’s not possible. And we’re still trying to nail down ingredients and technique to replicate those at home. Meanwhile, to satisfy the fish taco craving, we’ve taken a turn at a Boston Globe fish taco recipe. It’s tasty and pretty darn easy.
- 1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small lime, juiced
- handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a large shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Let it sit for about an hour.
- 1/4-1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
- zest and juice from half a lime
- hot sauce of your choice
Whisk together yogurt, zest and juice. If it’s too thin/watery, add a touch more yogurt. Add in a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.
- 1+ lb. firm white fish. We use tilapia for our fish tacos. We’ve used cod and that’s fine, too. Tilapia is less expensive. So sue me.
Cut fish into 1/2-in. pieces and place into a small bowl. Add a swig of evoo – about 1 TBS – and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss. If you want to add another level of flavor, go ahead. The original Boston Globe recipe suggests about 1 tsp of cumin. We tried that. It’s fine. Although it gives the fish an off-putting grey-brown color when prepared.
To cook the fish, we take about half of the fish, place it on the tray that comes with your toaster oven, and just broil it in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes. And that’s it – done!
Heat a whole-wheat fajita wrap (the 8-in. size) in a dry pan of medium heat. Fill with about a third of the broiled fish. Top with the cream sauce and slaw. The first batch of broiled fish will make about three tacos. For a dinner for two, have one each, share the other (no, there’s nothing gross about that), and have a side of something like caramelized onion and mushroom quinoa.
While you’re cleaning up the dinner dishes, pop the other half of the fish in the toaster oven for 5 min. It heats up well for a lunchtime fish taco the next day.