Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

When trying to figure out how to best draw ratatouille for the climatic showdown with the food critic in Ratatouille, director Brad Byrd relied on his food advisor, Thomas Keller, for inspiration. When asked how he would serve this dish to a world famous food critic, Keller came up with a fan shaped design (seen right). However, traditional ratatouille calls for vegetables to be fried and then baked. Other recipes rough chop and saute all the vegetables together and serve like a stew or inside a crepe. This tradition changed in 1976 when a French chef named Michel Guérard developed a layering technique for presentation purposes. Using this technique, Keller developed this variation and named it after the Turkish dish, İmam bayıldı, which is like ratatouille stuffed inside an eggplant. As a side note, translated to English, the Turkish dish means “the imam (spiritual leader) fainted”. The story goes that the Imam’s wife served this dish and it was so delicious that he fainted. That’s good cooking!

The preparation for this dish comes in two parts. The first is a piperade which will serve as the base for the dish and flavor the vegetables sitting on top. The second is the ratatouille itself. The main challenge, however, comes not from the preparation, but from the presentation. Gravity is your enemy here and the picture above is virtually impossible if you accept the laws of physics. Given that I live in reality, and my guess is so do you, you may want to serve this family style alongside a heaping bowl of couscous or polenta.

Ingredients (Piperade)

  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 orange pepper
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 12 oz tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Herbs de Provence

Ingredients (Ratatouille)

  • 1 zucchini (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 1 yellow summer squash (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 1 small eggplant (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pepper halves cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes until skins give way. Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, dice the peppers fine. Turn the oven down to 275 degrees.

2. Cut the tomatoes and half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp into a small bowl. Squeeze the pulp and seeds to get as much juice out as possible. Throw away the seeds. Diced the tomato into cubes.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat (a 3 or 4 on the dial). Place the onion and garlic into the pan and cook until soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and Herbs de Provence. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the liquid has all but evaporated (about 10 minutes). Add the peppers to the pan and simmer until soft.

4. Reserve 1 tbsp of the piperade. This is to be used to make an accompanying vinaigrette just before serving. Place the rest of the piperade in the bottom of an 8 inch skillet or baking dish.

5. Slice the zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and roma tomatoes into thin slices. The thinner they are, the easier it will be to layer them in the baking dish. The goal is to make everything the same size. About 1/16 of an inch would be perfect.

6. Arrange 8 slices down the center of the dish first on top of the piperade, alternating in whatever pattern you’d like. Keeping the same pattern, continue to arrange slices around the outside of the center strip allowing about 1/4 inch of each slice to be seen. Continue until you have filled the dish. All slices may not be necessary. Top with olive oil and Herbs de Provence.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 2 hours. Make sure the edges are sealed well or the vegetables will turn to mush.

8. Uncover and continue to cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, if there is excess liquid (as in the juices cover the vegetables completely) in the baking dish, set on the stove over medium heat and reduce. For additional color, place the pan under the broiler until brown.

9. If you would like to make an accompanying vinaigrette, mix the 1 tbsp reserved piperade with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

10. Serve the byaldi hot on top of some couscous or polenta. Garnish with the vinaigrette.

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The Savoie region of France (seen on the map in red) is credited with the creation of tartiflette. Traditionally, this dish is made by building layers of sliced potatoes and sandwiching bacon lardons between. This is finished by covering the whole thing with white wine and an entire wheel of locally made reblochon cheese on top. How could this possibly be bad for you?

Reblochon (also from Savoie) is a soft cheese that is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Given the susceptibility of raw milk and the possibility of pathogens hitching a ride across the ocean, the US government does not allow this (or any unpasteurized cheese aged less than 60 days) to be imported. However, those crafty French refuse to let one little customs blockade stop them. Fromage de Savoie is virtually the same as reblochon except it’s made from pasteurized milk. However, even this may be very difficult to find, so substitute your favorite soft cheese like brie or camembert. If you have a Whole Foods near you, head to their cheese counter. The selection is amazing and their staff is extremely helpful.

I have taken the liberty to make several other substitutions from my French ancestors. I’ve substituted the lardons with smoked salmon and brie for the reblochon. I’ve also added gruyere for its nutty flavor. As you read through the recipe, you will notice that salt plays no part of this dish as the salmon and cheese bring all the seasoning you could ever need.

Ingredients (Serves 8 Appetizers; 4 entrees)

  • 5 – 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/4 lb brie (substitute camembert if you prefer)
  • 1/4 lb Gruyère
  • 1/3 c dry white wine

1. Boil the potatoes with their skins on in a large pot of water. This will ensure that the outside does not overcook and lose its shape. When the potatoes can be pierced easily, but still put up some resistance, they are done. This should take about 30 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are cooling, slice the onion thin and add to a saute pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). Saute until caramelized.

3. When the potatoes have cooled and can be handled easily, remove their skins. If you rub your thumb over the skin, it should remove easily. Use a spoon to remove any black spots. Slice the potatoes evenly into 1/4″ slices. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Lightly butter a glass baking dish. In the dish, arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom, overlapping the potatoes. Top this with the onions and then the smoked salmon pieces on top.

Note: When cooked, smoked salmon brings a more subtle note to the dish than bacon would. It’s also a hundred times healthier.

5. Arrange a layer of potatoes on top of the salmon. Then layer the slices of gruyère over the potatoes. You do not want to completely cover everything as we want to leave room for the brie to melt into the potatoes. Pour the wine on top of the potato slices.

6. Top this with hunks of brie. My preference if to have the white rind facing up. This will allow the creamy brie to melt throughout the dish.

7. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese has melted. Turn the heat up to 425 degrees and remove the aluminum foil. Cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the top has browned.

8. This dish can be made as an appetizer or served with a crunchy salad for an entree.

Wine Pairings

A Savoie region dish deserves a Savioe region wine. In the French section of your wine store, look for bottles marked “Vin de Savoie.” Two bottles I can recommend are:

2009 Domaine Eugene Carrel Vin de Savoie Jongieux.


2009 Chignin de Savoie Domaine G. Belioz.


If your wine store has a limited supply of Savoie region wine, pair this dish with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Growing up in New England, picking apples fresh off the tree was a yearly event that announced the official end of summer and meant my days spent inside a classroom would not end for more than half the year. On an average trip, my family would bring home anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds of apples that would sit in large plastic bags in the basement for weeks waiting for their time to become pies, crisps, or cobblers.

Much later in life, I created an applesauce recipe. Applesauce is both incredibly delicious and easy to make. Unlike it’s jarred step-brother, homemade applesauce is adaptable to any ingredient changes you’d like to make including tartness of the apples, sweeteners used, and other flavor additives. This recipe uses gala apples because of their natural sweetness which allows me to cut down on the amount of sugar used. I’ve added a variation at the bottom of this page which uses bourbon as a sweetener and additional flavor.

I would like to first mention that I have long held an anti-unitasker philosophy when it comes to kitchen equipment. For those that do not know, Alton Brown coined this phrase on his show Good Eats. A unitasker is a kitchen gadget that can only be used reasonably for one thing. I have rid my kitchen of unitaskers with the exception of two that I could not live without. The first is a waffle iron and the second is an apple peeler/corer/slicer combination tool (pictured above). The advantage of this tool is that there is no usable fruit wasted when peeling or slicing the apples. If you work with apples annually or just simply love making apple pie, this is a must have tool that can be found in most stores that sell kitchen gadgets. If you do not have one, a regular peeler will do fine.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 6 large gala apples
  • 1/3c Light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp whole cloves

1. Start by peeling and coring the apples. Then, slice apples about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside.

Note: You can see in the pictures below the product of the apple peeler mentioned above. As it peels and cores the apple, it simultaneously spiral cuts the fruit as well. Run a knife down the middle and you have perfectly uniform slices.

2. Melt 2 tbsp unsalted butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). When melted, mix in sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir until combined. Let cook for two minutes.

3. Add 1/4c water. Do be careful as there will be quite a bit of steam rising from the molten sugar. Stir to combine.

4. Add apples to pan and mix until apples and spices are incorporated. Turn the heat down to simmer (a 2 or 3 on your dial). Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture has reduced in size by 1/2.

Your house will be filled with wonderful smells after about 10 minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if neighbors started inviting themselves to dinner. I also would like to note if you are selling your home, this would be a great way to prepare before an open house. The aroma will fill your house and make it more inviting. This gets the same results as cooking an apple pie, but is much easier to prepare and cleanup is a snap.

5. Once the apples are cooked, remove from heat. Remove the cloves. While cloves are edible, they are woody and not pleasant to bite into. Let cool for 10 minutes.

If you would prefer chunky applesauce, use a potato masher to mash apples until desired consistency. Serve warm.

6.If you would like a smooth silky applesauce, place applesauce into a blender or food processor. If using a blender, wait until the apples have cooled a bit. The steam will blow the top off the blender and potentially could cover you will scalding hot sugar and apples. This would not be a pleasant part of your day. While pulsing, add 3 tablespoons of butter (one at a time) until incorporated into applesauce. Serve warm.

This can be made days ahead of time and warmed right before serving.

Variation

Eliminate clove and water and reduce brown sugar to 3 tbsp. Use a sweet-tart apple like macintosh or empire. During step 3, replace water with 1/2c bourbon. This is what I call Drunken Applesauce. Don’t worry, this is kid friendly as the alcohol will cook off during the simmering process.

Leeks are great. They are the juggernaut warriors of the vegetable world. While their cousins and neighbors run from the cold, the leek is often left in the ground through the winter until needed. Given that they are in the ground longer, leeks sold in winter months are often far larger than summer sold leeks and offer much more value.

Ingredients

  • 1 leek
  • 2 small red potatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2c Ricotta cheese
  • 4oz Spring green mix (or any kind of lettuce you like)
  • 1 small lemon
  • Olive Oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dice the red potatoes into small cubes and put into a pot of cold water. If you see the water is dirty, rinse and repeat until the potatoes are clean. Set over high heat until boiling. Cook potatoes until tender, but not so much that they break apart. This could take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on how big your pot is and how much water is in it. Best to keep an eye on this periodically while moving on to the next step.

2. While the potatoes are boiling, clean the leek. Only the white and light green parts of the leek are generally eaten. The dark green stalk is quite bitter. To start, cut off the dark green stalk to reveal the light green underneath. I like to cut in an upwards diagonal motion, but do what feels comfortable to you. You can see in the pictures that there is quite a bit of edible stalk that would be lost if you cut the leek at the end of the dark green.

3. Now cut the leek in half lengthwise.  Leave the root end on. When you go to wash the leek, it will help keep everything together. It is important to wash leeks because they grow underground and are subject to lots of dirt particles attaching themselves inside the individual sheaths. Once cut in half, run the leek under running water and brush your fingers in between each wall. A pile of dirt can ruin any meal and you do not want to risk it by skipping this step.

4. Cut the leek into thin strips.

4. By this point, the potatoes should be done. Remove from the heat and drain. Before we go any further, now is the best time to prepare the rest of your ingredients as it will go quickly from here.

  • Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a separate bowl. Pour 3 times as much olive oil as their is lemon juice into the bowl. Add a pinch of sugar and salt. Whisk vigorously until the vinaigrette comes together.

5. Set a large nonstick, oven safe saute pan over medium high heat (a 7 on your dial). Place a couple tablespoons of olive oil and bring up to temperature. Once the oil is hot, place the garlic in the pan and saute until fragrant. Then, add the leeks and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If in doubt, put half the salt you think you should, stir to combine and taste a potato or leek. If it is tasty and not bland, you’ve properly seasoned  your vegetables. Otherwise, add a pinch more and repeat until you are happy.

6. When the leek is translucent (or just looks like the picture above) pour the egg mixture into the pan. Stir to combine ingredients in pan. Mound three scoops of ricotta cheese on top (alternately, you can whisk the cheese and the egg together and pour in all at once).  Stir a few times to combine ingredients. Cook until the egg has began to set on the bottom – 2 minutes max.

7. Place pan in oven for 7 to 10 minutes until the egg has set throughout and the cheese has melted. The edges should be browned and crispy.

8. Toss the spring mix in some of the lemon vinaigrette, and serve alongside a healthy slice of frittata.

Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest food consumption day in America coming behind only Thanksgiving. If you’re like more than 100 million people, you will be attending or hosting a Super Bowl party or enjoying the game in the comfort of your home. When deciding what to serve for food (or what you could bring), consider something a little outside the ordinary fare. My roasted tomatillo onion dip is fresh and tangy and something that will disappear faster than the Bills mid-season hopes of ever winning a Super Bowl. If you prefer something a bit spicier, remove the stem and seeds from a jalapeno and roast with the other vegetables.

Many people have never purchased tomatillos or may have no idea what they are. Raw, they have a tangy sour apple flavor. When cooked, the tang remains, but becomes mellow and more palatable. Most supermarkets stock tomatillos and can be found usually next to the tomatoes. When selecting, you want a firm flesh and bright green color. The husk should also be green. If it is beginning to turn yellow, the fruit has begun to lose its tanginess.

Ingredients (makes 2 cups)

  • 1 lb fresh tomatillos
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 large hass avocado, peel and pit removed
  • 3 large or 6 small garlic cloves
  • 1/2c creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Remove the husk from the tomatillo and wash the flesh of the fruit. Tomatillos usually have a tacky substance on the skin, so be sure not to skip this part. Cut the tomatillos into quarters. Peel the onion and cut into similar sized chunks. If adding jalapeno, cut in half.

2. Place the tomatillos, onions, jalapeno and garlic gloves (with the skin left on) on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper (a pinch will do).  Put into oven for 10 minutes until tomatillos have released their juices and begin to lose their shape. The onions will begin to carmelize on the edges.

3. Take vegetables out of the oven and remove skin from garlic cloves. The best method here is to let them cool for a few minutes and simply squeeze the ends between your fingers. The garlic inside should pop out. Put the vegetables and pan juices into a food processor or blender and add remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste (go easy with the seasoning as you’ve already seasoned the vegetables).

Note: A food processor would work best here as the blades spin on the bottom of the bowl versus a blender which is designed for purees with more liquid. However, if you have a blender, shake the glass pitcher while the blender is running, turn off, and scrape down the sides, and repeat until you like the consistency. You should have no large chunks.

4. Set aside for at least 2 hours to let the flavors combined. The  guacamole will be quite thick once chilled, so let it sit out for a half hour before serving with tortilla chips or assorted crudite (raw vegetables).

Variation

  1. Cold, this makes a great sandwich spread.
  2. This recipe can also be used to make a delicious sauce. Substitute the creme fraiche or sour cream with equal parts buttermilk or cream. After pureeing, heat over medium heat (5 on your dial) until steam begins to form, then reduce heat to simmer (2 or 3 on your dial) for 10 minutes. The tangy, roasted flavor would pair beautifully on top of chicken or firm fleshed fish such as salmon and swordfish.

Sweet potatoes were a staple at my grandmother’s Thanksgiving table. They were always mashed and delivered in a large serving bowl. While my aunts and cousins  piled mounds onto their plates, I sat in silent protest. Growing up, I was always afraid to eat them because their bright orange color reminded me of carrots — my culinary arch-nemesis at the time — and I refused to even consider sweet potatoes as edible. It wasn’t until some time later that sweet potato fries were delivered alongside a bacon-cheddar cheeseburger. Much older and not afraid of food anymore, I decided now was as good a time as any. I dipped a fry in ketchup and put it in my mouth. I was in love.

I created this dish because every time I think about making scalloped potatoes, I love the taste, but disagree with the calorie count. This dish is a play on the traditional scalloped potato dish by substituting the cheese sauce with a béchamel (a milk based white sauce) infused with the delightful flavor of leeks. Best of all, this dish is incredibly easy to prepare. I will warn you though, like many good things, some assembly is required.

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 medium leek, dark green stalk cut away (substitute sweet onions if you prefer)
  • 2c low-fat milk
  • 1/4c parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 small bay leaves, or 1 large
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Then start building your dish by making the bechamel sauce. Measure out 2 cups of milk and heat over medium heat ( 7 on your dial) until warm. When you see steam rising, turn the heat off.

2. While the milk is warming, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large sauce pan. Cut the leek into thin strips and add to butter. Saute until leeks begin to turn translucent. Add flour to leeks and combine until leeks are coated throughout.

3. Your milk should be warm by this point. Pour milk into a measuring cup or a bowl with a spout for easy pouring. If you try to pour straight from the pan, the milk will dribble down the side of the pan and make a giant mess on your stove. While pouring, whisk milk into leek/flour mixture. Continue whisking over medium heat until sauce thickens to the consistency of oatmeal.

4. Turn heat to simmer (a 2 on your dial). Add bay leaves, stir, and let simmer uncovered for ten minutes.

5. While the sauce is simmering, slice the potatoes about 1/8″. A mandoline is a useful tool in getting uniform cuts. If you don’t have one, take your time to ensure your cuts are as similar as possible because thick cuts will cook slower than thin ones.

Note: Mandolines are relatively safe instruments even if they do look scary. The trick is not to do as the Iron Chefs do. They use their hands or a towel to slide the vegetables towards the blade. I cringe everytime I see this. Use the cutting guide that comes with the mandoline. You’ll protect your hands from the blade and make quick work of the potatoes and anything else you want perfectly uniform slices of in the future.

6. When the sauce is complete, sprinkle nutmeg into the sauce and take off the heat. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.

7. Place a layer of sweet potato on the bottom of a square baking dish. Top this with 1/3 of the sauce and then sprinkle with 2 tbsp parmesan cheese. Repeat this process two more times. This is just like building a lasagna. Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese and paprika on top of last layer.

8. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for another 35 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the top has browned. Cook time will vary depending on your oven and how thick your potato layers are.

9. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve alongside a small salad or as a side dish.