Zereshk Polo, sort of (B)

August 31, 2006 at 6:07 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Grains, My brain, Persian, Quick weeknight recipe)

3I have some ancient barberries that I bought at a Persian grocery when I was in Vancouver ages ago. Since I had some leftover basmati rice I thought I might throw together a dish inspired by the great Persian rice dish Zereshk Polo, but without the chicken and butter.

1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup barberries, dry
10 cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 cup basmati rice, cooked

I heated the oil then added everything but the rice and fried it a bit, then added the rice to heat it and mixed it all thoroughly.

Despite their senectitude, the barberries added a vivid sweet/sour dimension. The fennel flavor came through nicely, and the cashews added a bit of crunch if not much flavor. The rice didn’t have that buttery rich mouthfeel that makes Persian rice so decadent, but it only had 1 tsp. oil so that was kind of to be expected.

In looking up a recipe for the real zereshk polo (or polow as it’s sometimes spelt), I discovered that it typically has not only basmatic rice, lots of butter and chicken, and barberries, but also saffron. Some recipes also call for onions and/or sliced almonds. I think that next time I’ll leave the cashews out and add carmelized onions and saffron instead.

My barberries (zereshk) have gotten quite dark over time. In reading recipes I found recommendations to keep them in the freezer to prevent this from happening. Another site suggested rinsing them, then soaking them in a few tablesoons of water and a couple of spoons of sugar, until they get plump and bright red.

I would really like to come up with some more recipes that use barberries. I love the flavor, but never know what to do with them. Maybe I can use them instead of currants sometimes? Other ideas are welcome.

Rating: B

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Zucchini Cheese “Casseroles”

August 30, 2006 at 6:30 am (Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, unrated)

These recipes are from the Smith and Hawken Gardener’s Community Cookbook. The first is from Joan Holmes and the second is from Phyllis Wright.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. sliced garlic
  • 6 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated aged Gouda cheese
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Add the onions and garlic and saute until slightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and saute until crisp-tender.
  3. Stir in the dil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan. Sprinkle the gouda over the top and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese melts and turns slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Serve right away. Serves 4 to 6.

This was very tasty, even with much less oil and cheese. The dill and gouda and red onions and squash make a very nice combo.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1.5 pounds green and yellow summer squash, such as zucchini, crookneck, pattypan, or scallopini, trimmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 cups cherry stomatoes, stemmed and halved
  • 12 good black olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, preferably French, Greek, or Bulgarian (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine the oil, thyme, and garlic in an 8 by 12-inch baking dish. Add the squash, tomatoes, and olives and toss to coat. If using the feta, sprinkle it over the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the zucchini and tomatoes have thoroughly wilted down but still hold their shape.
  3. Remove and cool enough to handle, then serve. Serves 6.

I made these with a regular tomato, chopped, and less oil, and found them quite tasty.

One more recipe from the same book calls for onion, paprika, dill, lemon juice, and soft chevre chese, thinned with milk to a yogurtlike consistency. Sounds good.

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Basic scrambled tofu (B+)

August 26, 2006 at 10:45 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu)

There are a lot of recipes out there for scrambled tofu. Most have you add tons of herbs and spices and lots of turmeric, which ends up yielding a sort of day-glo yellow, heavily seasoned, soft and somewhat wet, bizarre mixture that I personally find offensive. Go into any standard vegetarian restaurant that serves brunch and you’ll be certain to see this tumeric-ified (a cross between tumour and terrified?) concoction on the menu. Tofu doesn’t taste like eggs, people, even if you turn it bright yellow. Just accept it and love tofu for itself.

This recipe is the antithesis of such concoctions. It’s about as simple as scrambled tofu can get–just add nutritional yeast and salt and pepper (or soy sauce), and maybe a little garlic or garlic powder.

2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 pound medium or firm tofu
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
? salt
? soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

The Instructions

Oil your pan lightly and heat it up. (I use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet.) You want the oil to be hot, almost shimmering. Take a half pound (half a block) of firm tofu and crush it in your hands to sort of “mash” it, letting it fall into the hot oil. If you ended up with some large pieces you can break them up with a spatula, but other than that don’t mess with it. By leaving it in one place you will facilitate browning.

Sprinkle the top with nutritional yeast and salt, and when it starts getting browned and a bit crisp on the bottom, flip it. It’s not going to flip like a omelette where it all stays together, but you want to generally get the browned side up and the unbrowned side down. Sprinkle again with nutritional yeast and salt, then once the other side has browned, serve. I usually go relatively easy on the salt then add soy sauce at the table. In my mind the main purpose of scrambled tofu is to serve as a vehicle for soy sauce. The two soys together are heavenly. If you’re on a low-salt diet don’t bother with this recipe.


You want the heat high enough so that the tofu browns, but not so high that it burns. On my stove that corresponds to between medium and medium-high.

Too much tofu in the pan will mean the whole pan stays too wet and never browns. On my electric stove where a large pan doesn’t heat evenly, that means that I typically only cook 1/2 or 2/3 of a pound of tofu at once. In general, if you can’t see the bottom of your pan in spots, you’re trying to cook too much tofu at once, and it won’t brown. Similarly, I find that a pan with high sides (rather than a skillet) will keep in too much of the moisture and prevent the tofu from browning.

The nutritional yeast adds flavor, and helps the tofu brown, which adds the most flavor. (I’m not positive the yeast is essential, I’ll have to try it without and report back.)

Rather than crumbling the tofu by hand, the tofu can also be cut into slices and fried, which makes eating it on toast less challenging. I don’t recommend, however, dicing the tofu. Something about the shape tends to cause it to get dried out tasting, I don’t know why.

Finally, the type of tofu will matter. It should be firm, but not too firm. Soft tofu will cook away to almost nothing because it’s mostly water, plus it will never brown. On the other hand, I find that extra firm tofu often has too coarse of a texture and the mouthfeel is not as good. The perfect tofu will have the tender but still substantial texture of scrambled eggs. I’ve had good luck with Nasoya firm tofu.

The flavor of this preparation is going to be pretty simple, but the texture is great. Some may say it’s bland, but even Derek–who despises “bland” food–really likes tofu cooked this way.

Boy, for a “basic” recipe this sure has a lot of notes! The price of perfection I suppose.

Serving suggestions:

When I was a kid my mom would make scrambled tofu with toast a couple mornings a week for breakfast. Now I eat it less frequently, but when I really want a comfort-food breakfast, out comes the tofu and the skillet. I often eat it plain in a bowl with a little soy sauce, or sometimes over brown rice. However, my favorite use for scrambled tofu is probably to put it in a warm whole wheat tortilla with tomatoes (in the summertime) and lettuce and onions and salsa for a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) taco. Sometimes I even add kalamata olives.

Rating: B+

Update Feb 2012:

I made pan-fried tofu tonight in large cubes, and it came out great.  Here’s approximately what I did:

  • 400 grams medium-firm tofu, cut into large cubes (maybe 3/4 inch square)
  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil
  • 10 grams nutritional yeast
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • thyme
  • aleppo pepper

I heated my 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the oil was hot I added the tofu to the pan in a single layer, and turned the heat to medium.  Before flipping it I sprinkled on half of the nutritional yeast and salt and pepper.  After flipping I sprinkled on the rest of the yeast, some thyme and aleppo pepper.  After the cubes browned on the second side I mixed them up a bit more, letting them brown, then turning randomly a few times, until the tofu was mostly browned on all sides.  It was delicious.  I liked the thyme and aleppo combination a lot.  And the tofu didn’t even need soy sauce, because all that yeast added plenty of umame flavor.

I still had some extra space in my pan so next time I might try a full pound of tofu (450g).

Makes four small, three medium, or two large servings.

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Simple Brown Rice

August 26, 2006 at 10:05 am (Grains, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

3I’m posting this by request, for Derek.

I almost always buy short grain brown rice from the bulk section of the co-op. The grains are almost round, and often slightly tinged with green. I think I tried other types of brown rice long ago, and the short grain was my favorite, but I should probably try them again. In any case, here’s how I cook it.

1 1/2 cups short-grain brown
2 3/4 cups water (I think, maybe slightly less, 2 2/3 cups?)

Add the rice to a 2 quart pan, add the water, and bring the water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, immediately turn the heat down to a low simmer, cover, and cook on very low for 40 minutes. Then turn the heat off and let the rice stand, covered for another 10 minutes.

A note about electric stoves: Since there is a substantial delay in reducing the heat on an electric stove you can’t cover the rice immediately or it will typically boil over. You can watch it until it’s just above a simmer, and then cover it. Alternatively, you can have a second burner on very low, and when the water comes to a boil move the pan to the second burner and turn off the first one. Also, you want the heat to be extremely low. I actually use halfway between the warm and low settings on my electric stove when I make rice.

I don’t soak or rinse my brown rice. I haven’t tried these steps, but I like it fine how it comes out. I also never salt my rice.

The key fact to remember is to use slightly less than 2:1 ratio water to rice. Other types of brown rice may need more or less water, I’m not sure. It’s important to use a pan with a tight fitting lid, so the steam doesn’t escape. Also, a pan with a thick bottom is ideal.

The total amount of cooked rice will typically equal the amount of dry rice plus the amount of water. So the recipe above will make just over 4 cups of rice. If you’re only making a small amount of rice a large pan won’t work as well as a small pan (it will be more likely to dry out too soon). In general, I’d recommend using a pan with a volume of around 5-6 times the amount of dry rice, and no more than 8 times.

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Vegan Key Lime Pie

August 26, 2006 at 7:13 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Dessert, From a friend, Pies and custards, Silken tofu, Soymilk)

I’ve never been a big fan of key lime pie, but my friend Ben’s girlfriend Deanna brought this vegan pie for dessert a few weeks ago, and I thought it was excellent. It has such a strong lime flavor, I couldn’t believe it only had 4 Tbs. of lime juice. After making lemon bars, I expected it to have about a cup! Deanna is a professional vegan baker, but she didn’t invent the recipe. In looking for the source of this recipe, I found it on the web, and the page said it was created by Jannequin Bennett, chef at the Jefferson Hotel. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wilted Escarole with Garlic and Lemon

August 24, 2006 at 4:33 pm (Dark leafy greens, F (0 stars, inedible), Italian, Jack Bishop, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

I was surprised to see escarole at the farmer’s market this summer, but was pleased to be able to diversify my greens selection. I have mostly used escarole for a “beans and greens” dish like at Girasole here in Pittsburgh, but decided to branch out and try something new. This recipe is from the Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook by Jack Bishop. Read the rest of this entry »

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White bean and beet green soup (B)

August 24, 2006 at 4:05 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, B_minus (2.5 stars), Dark leafy greens, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, soup)

Lately I’ve been too tired to cook much for dinner, and have just been throwing some white beans and veggies in a pot and calling it “soup.” But today my improvised soup came out better than normal.

a spray of canola oil
1 small dark green, mild chile pepper (don’t recall what type it was)
beet greens from one small bunch of beets (maybe 1/3 cup chopped greens?)
1/2 cup white beans + some of the bean cooking liquid
a little water

I let that cook for a bit until the pepper and greens were soft then added:
1/2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1/2 Tbs. parmesan cheese
some soysauce to taste

The beet greens went very well with the pepper and beans. I think it was better than the kale and white bean combo I had last night. The yeast and parmesan gave the soup a full body and flavor.

I tried making something similiar to this again today, but with kale. I forgot about it and let it boil on high for probably a good 10 minutes. The kale got that unappetizing color and flavor that is a common result of boiling it. The soup was edible but not great. When will I learn?

Update Oct 2007: I sauteed 1 mild 6-inch green chile in 1 tsp. olive oil, then threw in about 1.5 cups raw beet greens. I added 1 cup large white beans and 1/2 cup bean juice, plus 2 cups vegetable broth. When everything was cooked I added 1 Tbs. newt and 1/2 ounce parm. The beans were salted so it didn’t need soy sauce. The soup was unfortunately, pretty gross (for lack of a better word). The broth was almost like a thin nutritional yeast gravy–wrong texture for sure, and not even very tasty. Why, oh why, can’t I make beans and greens soup consistently?

Rating: B

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Jerk Tempeh

August 24, 2006 at 8:09 am (Caribbean, F (0 stars, inedible), Other, Tempeh)

Derek loves jerk seasoning, so I was excited when I found a recipe for jerk tempeh in the cookbook Some Like it Hot by Robin Robertson, a vegetarian cookbook for people who love spicy, hot food. But the recipe didn’t work out so well.

It called for boiling the tempeh for ten minutes, then sauteeing with oil for 10 minutes, then adding the spices. But the oil was absorbed into the tempeh after just a few minutes. By the time I finally added the jerk seasoning the pan was totally hot and the tempeh dry, and the seasoning didn’t stick, just fell to the bottom and sort of burnt. But Derek still liked it once I added okra and tomatoes to save it. He said he could taste the jerk seasoning, but I couldn’t. I’m going to have to try it again with a better technique next time. I’d love a better recipe for Jerk Tempeh. Anyone have one?

Rating: D

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Tempeh Stir-Fry with Ginger and Lemon (B-)

August 24, 2006 at 8:04 am (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Miso, Tempeh, The Vegan Gourmet, Vegetable dishes)

My friend gave me this tempeh recipe from 15-Minute Vegetarian by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.

Tempeh Stir-Fry with Ginger and Lemon


2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. light-colored miso
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups sliced crimini mushrooms (button mushrooms also okay if you can’t find crimini)
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh broccoli
8 oz. soy tempeh, cubed
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained

In a medium bowl, whisk the conrstarch into 1 cup water. Add the lemon juice, honey, miso, soy sauce, and ginger, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir and saute for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms, broccoli, tempeh, and water chestnuts. Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine and add it to the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Each will have: 285 calories, 9 g fat, 16 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate; 5 g dietary fiber; 0 mg cholesterol.

My friend’s notes
I had to double the honey because it was so lemony, and I also substituted snow peas for water chestnuts (just because I wanted to). It came out pretty well, but not stellar.

My notes

I made a similar looking stirfry years ago from the same authors but from the cookbook The Vegan Gourmet that had what seems like 3 times as many ingredients. I never made it again because it was a lot of work but I remember it after all these years because it was probably the best stirfy I’ve ever made (I’m not so good at stir-frying). This one looks similar but more manageable. I wonder if it will be as good?

Okay, I tried it and thought it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t as excellent as I remembered from my version of the recipe, however, so I dug out my cookbook to see what was different in the “gourmet” version, and the biggest differences I noticed was that the 15-minute version used 3 Tbs. brown rice syrup rather than the 2 Tbs. honey (a sweetener) and mirin (which is also sweet). I enjoyed the lemon flavor, but found it a bit overpowering. It needed something to counter balance it. Derek suggested fish paste or anchovies to give it some depth, but I don’t eat either of those… Derek picked out all the tempeh cuz it was his favorite, and I preferred the vegetables, so we made a good team! Anyhow, I’m not sure if I’ll make it again, but I’ll enjoy it for lunch today 🙂

Update Dec 2006: I tried the original version again.  It’s the recipe above except another Tbs. of canola oil, only 4 ounces of tempeh, only 2 cups mushrooms, a 1/2 pound snow peas, 2 Tbs. mirin, and 3 Tbs. brown rice syrup (I used 2 Tbs. honey).  The consistency of the sauce was very good but it was too sweet, and just not that great.  Derek and I had it for lunch but threw out the leftovers.

Rating: B-

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Tempeh Rancheros (B-)

August 24, 2006 at 7:57 am (breakfast, C (2 stars, okay, edible), Quick weeknight recipe, Tempeh, The Vegan Gourmet)

This recipe is from 15-Minute Vegetarian by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.Tempeh Rancheros

1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
2 Tbsp. diced pickled jalapeno pepper
2 tsp. crushed garlic
2 tsp. pure chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
Several grinds black pepper
12 oz. soy tempeh, cut into 1/2 x 3-inch strips
8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover, and cook 8 minutes.

Remove the lid and nestle the tempeh pieces into the sauce. Cover and cook 3 minutes. Just before serving time, wrap the tortillas in a tea towel and heat in a microwave oven until steaming hot, about 1 minute (alternatively, you may toast the tortillas one at a time in a hot, dry skillet or over a gas flame, turning frequently).

Serve the tempeh in shallow bowls with a generous helping of sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheese and nestle folded tortillas in each bowl.

Yield: 4 servings
Each will have: 401 calories; 16 g fat; 21 g protein; 44 g carbohydrate, 5 g dietary fiber; 3 mg cholesterol.

My notes:

I didn’t follow the recipe perfectly, since I had all green pepper and no red pepper, and fresh tomatoes rather than canned, but other than that I was pretty close.

Although it was a very pretty dish, with red and yellow tomatoes, green peppers, purple onions, and brown tempeh, the flavors didn’t excite me. The tempeh flavor was very strong, and I typically prefer tempeh when the flavor is more muted. This tasted pretty much like raw tempeh with the other flavors added–it didn’t combine to one new flavor. The veggie, cumin, chili combo was okay, but not exciting to me. I think Derek would have liked it though, since it was a relatively strong flavor combo which he tends to like more than me.

On corn tortillas and topped with salsa, more fresh tomato, and a bit of melted cheddar cheese this dish was reasonably tasty, but by itself I don’t think I would make it again. I preferred my bean rancheros that I posted last week to this dish.

This recipe actually reminds me of a dish I made from the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley for a mediterranean style tempeh with tomatoes and olives, that I also didn’t like that much (nor did Derek for that matter).

My favorite tempeh dishes all require baking it in the oven, but I’d love to find a quick stovetop recipe that I really enjoyed. Any suggestions?

Update: I added some Pace Picante Sauce then took the leftovers to work with some corn tortillas and a tomato and thoroughly enjoyed my tacos. Mostly I tasted the crispy corn and the fresh tomatoes, but the tempeh texture was pleasant. Occasionally I got a whiff of something very familiar, but I couldn’t place it–maybe chiliquiles?

Rating: B-

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Potato and Tomato Casserole with Olives and Herbs (D)

August 22, 2006 at 7:32 pm (F (0 stars, inedible), Italian, Jack Bishop)

This southern Italian casserole is supposed to be sort of like a lasagna, except with potatoes instaed of pasta and a “pungent herb paste” instead of tomato sauce. The recipe is again from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop.

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
4 medium baking potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
10 large black olives, pitted and chopped
6 small, ripe but firm tomatoes (about 1.5 pounds), cored and sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the herbs and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the ingredients are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add 2 Tbs. of the oil to form a thick paste. Scrape the herb paste into a small bowl and stir in the salt and pepper.

2. Place the bread crumbs in a small bowl and drizzle 1 Tbs. oil over them. Mix just until the crumbs are moistened.

3. Brush a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with one half of the potatoes, overlappiing the slices slightly. Sprinkle half the olives over the potatoes. Cover with a layer of half ot he tomato slices and then dot each tomato with a tiny bit of the herb paste. Repeat the layering of the poatoes, olives, tomatoes, and herb paste. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top.

4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the juices are bubbling and the bread crumbs are lightly browned, about 25 minutes more.

5. Let the casserole cool on a rack for 10 minutes so the layers solidify. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

I had extremely high hopes for this recipe, maybe because I love lasagna so much. But it was utterly disappointing. Now, I do have to confess, as usual, I didn’t correctly follow the recipe. I didn’t have fresh oregano so I used some dried and added some fresh parsley. I also didn’t use the bread crumbs, but instead sprinkled a Tbs. of parmesan on the top layer of potatoes. My kalamata olives were small so I used double the number called for. Finally, and probably most importantly, I forgot to add the salt. I suppose it is possible that this would have transformed the dish, but I doubt it.

The tomatoes let out a lot of water as they cooked so the bottom half of the dish boiled rather than baked. The herb paste was actually surprisingly watery. I added an extra Tbs. of olive oil to it because the processor blades wouldn’t turn, but still the end paste was watery. Maybe I didn’t dry my herbs well enough. The tomatoes had a sort of stringy texture, and the peel often became separated from the flesh, so there were lose circles of tomato peel floating around. There weren’t enough olives to really infuse the dish with olive flavor, and the herb paste tasted dull and watered down. It’s possible that the salt would have helped the herb paste stay bright tasting, but then again it did get boiled for almost an hour… The only part of this dish I enjoyed were the crispy potato slices on the very top of the casserole, that had the browned parmesan on top of them. Clearly, I would have rather just eaten oven-fries.

I gave the rest of this dish to a coworker who is always happy to try my “disasters”, and he ate it all up. He said he thought it was pretty good, and was surprised because the most flavorful part of the dish was the potatoes.

Rating: D

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Sauteed Mushrooms with Garlic and Herbs (B-)

August 22, 2006 at 7:27 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Italian, Jack Bishop, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

I bought mushrooms to make white bean pate, but radically overestimated the amount I needed. I bought two pounds instead of two cups. So I decided to use the rest up in this simple dish from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop.

1.5 pounds white button mushrooms
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh herbs

1. Clean mushrooms. Halve small mushrooms and quarter larger ones.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and saute over medium heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are golden brown and the liquid in the pan has mostly evaporated, about 8 minutes.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the herbs. Cook for 1 to 2 minute just until the pan is dry. Serve immediately.

Bishop suggests using sage, oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, parsley, and/or chives. I used a combination of sage, basil, parsley, mint and dill. Unfortunately, as is typical, my small deviation from the recipe was unsuccessful. The mint and dill flavors didn’t quite work with the earthiness of the mushrooms. I also used slightly less olive oil than called for, but I think that worked fine. The mushrooms weren’t as decadent, but they still tasted rich enough and they browned nicely (although I did have to add a few spoonfuls of water to start the cooking process). The texture of the mushrooms was pleasantly chewy in my opinion, but I know Derek wouldn’t have appreciated it at all.

Although these mushrooms were reasonably tasty, I think they were a bit boring for a side dish, and would work better as a component of a more complex dish.

Rating: B-

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Yogurt Taste Test and Dilemma

August 21, 2006 at 7:52 pm (Product Reviews)

3I decided to stop buying low-fat yogurt even though I like it much better than nonfat, because of Dr. Greger’s talk at the vegetarian summerfest about the high levels of dioxins, pcb’s, pesticides, and other toxins in animal fat (even the fat of organic animals). But trying to choose a non-fat yogurt is always a bit of a dilemma here in Pittsburgh.

My favorite nonfat yogurt is made by Brown Cow. Unfortunately, though, it’s 1) not organic, and 2) from the west coast. It is free of growth hormones, and according to the Brown Cow website the milk supposedly comes from family farms, where the cows are fed grains like corn but no animal meal. (BTW, Brown Cow was recently bought by Stonyfield Farms.)

The organic brands that I can get in Pittsburgh are:

Seven Stars Rating: 5/5 Phoenixville, PA (281 miles)
Stonyfield (yogurt) Rating: 4/5 Londonderry, NH (617 miles)
Butterworks Farm Rating: 5/5 Westfield, VT (717 miles)
Wallaby Yogurt Rating: 4/5 Napa, CA (2550 miles)
Nancy’s Rating: 4/5 Eugene, OR ( 2676 miles)

The rating is based on how resonsible their organic practices are, based on their responses to a survey conducted by the Cornucopia institute. The miles is the distance to Pittsburgh.

Seven Stars is by far the closest, and got a top organic rating from the Cornucopia Institute. (5/5). However, their yogurt is terrible. I’ve tried it multiple times and it’s always lumpy and runny and off-tasting. I cannot imagine who actually buys it?

Butterworks is also an East-coast brand, but like Seven Stars it’s pretty bad. It’s also lumpy and runny, but the flavor is perhaps a bit better than the Seven Stars yogurt.

Stonyfield yogurt isn’t bad. Right now it’s my top choice out of the East Coast organic brands.

Wallaby is a very thin yogurt, but very smooth with good flavor. Unfortunately it’s a west coast yogurt.

Nancy’s is another west coast brand, and I think I’ve tried it and it was somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I’m not positive.

Then there’s Horizon, of course, but the Organic Consumer’s Association is boycotting that brand, so I’ve actually never even tried it.

So for right now, when I buy nonfat yogurt in Pittsburgh I stick with Stonyfield Farm, but I really wish there was a better tasting Organic yogurt from the East Coast available. Can anyone recommend another brand? Maybe I can get the co-op to carry it instead of all those west coast brands.

Or maybe buying from the west coast isn’t so bad? Does anyone know? And how different is the Brown Cow yogurt from truly organic yogurt? Are their cows actually treated pretty similarly to organic cows since they’re (supposedly) from small family farms? Anyone have any hard facts about this?

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Raw Southern Greens and Tempeh Salad (B)

August 19, 2006 at 11:18 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Cruciferous rich, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Tempeh, Website / blog)

I was looking for a recipe with tempeh and basil and came across this recipe in a blog. I’d been wanting to try raw greens for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

4 curly green or red kale leaves, or a mixture, stems removed
2 collard leaves, stems removed
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp salt
dash cayenne

Chop the kale medium fine and transfer to a mixing bowl. Destem the collards, fold in half lengthwise, and roll tightly like a cigar. Slice into thin strips and chop medium fine. Place in the bowl with the kale and add the basil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Work the dressing into the greens with your hands. Marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature before serving. Stored in a sealed container, Southern Greens will keep for three days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Excerpt from Blogger’s Notes

I didn’t have collards so I just added a little more kale. I also used some really pretty purple basil, cut down the lemon juice to 1.5 tsp and eventually changed it to lime juice (was pretty lemony, I like it better with less), and used a pinch of nice kosher salt. It was good, but it was still kinda less than spectacular. So, … I lightly sauteed up some tempeh, splashed it with soy sauce (would have used sesame oil if I had it, sadly don’t…) and cut it into squares. I pulled out my mortar and pestle and put the torn basil leaves, the garlic, lime juice, salt, and cayenne in the mortar, then mashed it all up. I dumped that on my kale, then poured the oil on top. After mixing it up well, I tossed the tempeh on top, mixed it up, and let it sit for about 3 hours (I made it in the morning for lunch at work.) It was divine! I was surprised what a difference the tempeh made. I don’t know if it was any different because of mashing the seasonings together, but something today was very spectacular, so I recommend you all try it.

My notes

I used half lacinato kale and half collards. I did as the blogger suggested and mashed the garlic and salt and basil in a mortar and pestle. It was kind of hard to get out since it was such a tiny bit so I just threw the ribbons of greens in the mortar as well and mixed them around, them dumped the whole thing in a salad bowl. I followed the rest of the recipe as written, except I was hungry so only let it sit about 10 minutes. I tasted it… Hmm, interesting. Not too hard to chew, a bit grassy but the lemon/olive oil mixed together well and gave it a nice flavor. I couldn’t taste the basil though, so I added another 5 leaves or so. Interesting. I like the basil, although I’m not sure it melds with the green flavors exactly, more like just sort of sits on top and waves. But at this point it kind of tasted like a typical lettuce salad, so I decided to add a medium tomato, diced, since I had one begging to be eaten sitting on the counter. That was nice as well. An unusual but surprisingly familiar tasting salad.

Since the blogger was so enthusiastic about the tempeh, I thought I might as well try it. I heated my little skillet to high, sprayed with canola oil, tossed in 2 ounces of cubed veggie tempeh and tossed it while it browned, then added some mirin and soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to flavor it. Once it was cooked I threw it into the salad. The hot tempeh contrasted nicely with the raw greens, although I don’t think I could really taste the tempeh, it did add a nice contrast in mouthfeel. And it made the dish more substantial. I actually ate the whole thing as a filling and tasty and very healthy lunch.

Rating: B

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Vegan Zucchini Bisque (C)

August 19, 2006 at 9:56 am (F (0 stars, inedible), Farm recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Tofu)

I’ve been wanting to try some recipes from the cookbook Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler (from the Farm). It’s been sitting on my shelf forever and finally I pulled it down, and found this recipe for zucchini bisque. Well…, bisque is a bit of a stretch. It’s really just a soup.

* 2 Tbs. olive oil
* 1 medium onion, choped
* 1.5 lbs zucchini, sliced

Add to the suateed vegetables, cover and simmer 20 minutes:
* 2.5 cups stock or water
* 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
* 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Remove from the heat and cool 5 minutes.

Blend in a blender until smooth and creamy:
* 1/2 lb. tofu
* 1 Tbs. olive oil

Stir blended tofu mixture into sauteed vegetables. Heat, but do not boil. Add salt to taste.

Makes 6 cups.

My Notes

I only made half the recipe, and I used less olive oil (1 Tbs. total). I also added more nutmeg since I couldn’t taste it.

The soup was okay, but tasted a bit too oily. I think maybe if I had blended the zucchini with the tofu the oil would have combined better and given it a better texture. Or maybe using soymilk instead of blended tofu would help. I any case, I ate it all, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.

Rating: C

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Steamed and Sauced

August 19, 2006 at 9:43 am (Dark leafy greens, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

Steaming is supposed to be one of the healthiest way to cook vegetables, but I find that steamed vegetables are often rather bland. The solution? Add a small amount of a strongly flavor sauce. This maximizes flavor, health, and has the added advantage of being extremely easy. Once you make a sauce it will often keep in the fridge or freezer, ready to be used on a number of different vegetables (or grains or other dishes) at a moment’s notice. I’d like to eventually have at least two sauces that go well with every vegetable. Here’s my repetoire so far. I’ll keep updating this as I get new ideas. Additions/suggestions are welcome!

Beets: mustard vinaigrette | japanese carrot dressing
Broccoli: sesame soy dressing | japanese carrot dressing | sesame noodle dressing
Brussels sprouts: mustard lemon yogurt
Cauliflower: salsa verde | lemon mustard vinaigrette
Chard: guacamole
Collards: soy mayo
Fennel: mustard vinaigrette
Green beans: mustard vinaigrette | pizza sauce | italian salsa verde
Kale: tahini sauce
Zucchini: pesto? | italian salsa verde?

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Kale Chips (C)

August 19, 2006 at 9:28 am (Cruciferous rich, F (0 stars, inedible), Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog)

This is a recipe I got from an online forum. It sounded so odd I had to try it.

Kale Chips (this makes 4 servings)

3 cups of chopped kale (2-3 inch pieces)
3 Tbsp Oil (I use grapeseed oil, you can use olive oil, too)
1 Tbsp Vinegar (I use umeboshi, you can use apple cider vinegar)
Salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. With your hands, mix kale and oil+vinegar in a bowl until all of the kale is coated.
2. Spread out on an oiled cookie sheet in a single layer. For this I need 2 cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 15 min – 20 min at 375 until crispy.
4. Salt to taste & enjoy!

My Notes

I’d been eyeing this recipe for a while but was truly terrified. Finally I worked up the courage to try it. I used 1 tsp. ume vinegar and 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, and 1 Tbs. olive oil, and what looked to me like 3 cups of kale, but was obviously a lot less than the recipe called for since it all fit easily on one cookie sheet. I only cooked them for 10 minutes, but I think it was too long because some of them tasted a bit too crispy, almost burnt. Plus they were much too salty (even though I didn’t add salt, just the 1 tsp. of ume vinegar~yikes that stuff is salty).

They weren’t quite as scary as I imagined, but I don’t think I’d make them again. Okay, maybe just once more, with less salt and cooking them less. If I’m really desparate to use up some kale.

Rating: C

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Fruited grain salad (B)

August 19, 2006 at 9:14 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Grains, Other)

A friend made this Vegetarian Times recipe and liked it.

Fruited Grain Salad

1 cup wheat berries, rinsed
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1 cup millet
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
6 scallions (white and light green
parts only), chopped
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced fresh fruit and/or berries
(such as peaches, raspberries,

IN LARGE SAUCEPAN, bring 4 cups lightly salted water to a boil. Add wheat berries. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add barley, cover and simmer 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, in dry medium skillet, toast millet over medium-high heat, shaking pan and stirring until grains darken and “pop,” about 5 minutes.

After wheat berry-barley mixture has cooked 50 minutes, add toasted millet, cover and simmer until all grains are tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff grains with fork and let cool.

In large bowl, combine grains, orange zest, scallions, parsley, mint and dried-cherries. Toss well.

In small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over grain mixture and toss Well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, top with fresh fruit and/or berries.

My friend’s notes

The millet never really got bigger from the water, as the wheat berries and barley did. But they weren’t hard, hard crunchy. Just mildly crunchy, so I guess that was OK.

The flavors with the orange zest, lemon juice, scallions and mint just really went well together. My dried bing cherries were a bit large, so I chopped them up to mix things better.

8 servings is a lot, and I have LOTS of leftovers. The 2 cups of fresh fruit I put on the side, dished the grain mixture onto the plates and then spooned the fresh fruit over top. This made it easier to store the grain mixture leftovers, I think, and I will put new fresh fruit on the leftovers when I serve that. We used peaches and blackberries last night, and I served a lot more fresh fruit with the salad than the recipe indicated. For 3 servings last night I put out about 1.5-2 cups of fruit, which is how much they suggest for like 8 servings.

I also reduced the olive oil to only 6 tbsp (from the 8 tbsp called for).

Very yummy and I will make it again.

My Notes

I only made half the recipe, and I let it cook a little longer since the millet wasn’t done after 15 minutes. It took more like 25 minutes I think. I also didn’t measure the water carefully, and might have used more than was called for.

I used significantly less olive oil (maybe only 1 Tbs?), couldn’t find sour cherries so used raisins, and was out of parsley so used more mint, and didn’t have any orange zest. I also used more lemon juice then called for. Okay, so I can’t really say I followed the recipe :). I also didn’t mix the fruit in so it would be easier to store.

I’ve been eating it for breakfast with blueberries and peaches, and sometimes with yogurt too. It’s pretty mild tasting, but the combination of grains have quite a nice texture. The millet has a dry texture that reminds me of a bulgur wheat salad, the wheat berries are kind of silky and pop in your mouth, and the barley is softer and fluffier. An interesting combo. The lemon juice and mint gave it a very light taste, and the sharper scallions made an interesting contrast to the sweet raisins and fruit.

Half the recipe made slightly more than 6 cups cooked, and the stats are not low but reasonable. 3/4 cup (with no fresh fruit) has 184 calories.

I’ve enjoyed this, but I’m not sure I’d make it again the way I did this time (i.e. not really following the recipe properly). If I make it again I’m going to try to make sure to have orange zest and cherries around.

Rating: B

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Huevos Rancheros Tostadas (B)

August 19, 2006 at 8:50 am (Beans, breakfast, B_minus (2.5 stars), Mexican & S. American, My brain, Necessarily nonvegan, Quick weeknight recipe)

I don’t eat eggs very often, but I wanted to try this idea for breakfast tostadas from the AMA Family Health cookbook. It called for cheese as well as eggs but I figured cheese and eggs in one meal is overkill (literally?), so I decided to make my tostada cheeseless. And the recipe didn’t call for beans. What? Tostadas without beans? Sacrilege. So I ended up making up my own version of huevos rancheros tostadas.

1 corn tortilla
1/2 cup refried beans (I used homemade refried pintos)
1 egg
1 Tbs. picante sauce
1 large lettuce leaf

I spread my cold refries on my frozen corn tortilla and placed them in the toaster. Meanwhile I heated my little stainless skillet on high, sprayed it with canola spray, and cracked a (pastured, local, organic) egg into the pan. By the time I flipped it and the second side cooked the toaster oven was beeping. I removed the tortilla from the toaster, added the picante sauce, placed the fried egg on top, and topped it with the lettuce leaf.

It was a fast, filling, and tasty breakfast. 1/2 cup of beans is a lot for one little old corn tortilla, so if you’re not as hungry as I was after my jog, you could just use 1/4 or 1/3 cup. I’m guessing that with canned refried beans this might be a little less tasty, as they are often quite bland. In this case adding some actual ranchero sauce would probably help.

The AMA recipe suggested whisking eggs and egg whites with a little skim milk, a jalepeno diced, some salt and pepper. I like the idea of the jalepeno. I’ll have to try that next time. It also suggests topping them with fruit salsa and cilantro, or adding some chopped nectarine to jarred salsa, which seems like an interesting idea for next time.

Rating: B

Update March 2008:  I made a similar tostada ranchero for a snack today, but this time I used leftover homemade chili instead of refried beans.  I put one corn tortilla in the toaster oven, fried up one egg, then placed the egg on the tortilla and topped with 1/3 cup of tofuless chili and sprinkled on a bit of feta.  It hit the spot.  Derek didn’t care for it though.  He said the egg didn’t do anything for him, it needed salsa, and was too messy, then he complained that toasting the corn tortilla gave it a stale taste.  He prefers soft tortillas, so I guess I should have known that toastadas wouldn’t have been his thing.  Next time, he suggested, just give him a plain bowl of chili.

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Lemon – Mustard Green Beans

August 18, 2006 at 5:42 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Peter Berley, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes)

These green beans are a beautiful emerald green and the dressing is piquant, rich, and wonderful. Based on a recipe from the cookbook Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley.

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add 1 Tbs of salt. Place in a bowl:

* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (not in rounds!?)

Cover with 2 cups of the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. This will help mellow the onions. Drop into the remaining boiling water, and cook, for 4 to 6 minutes, until crisp-tender, or a tiny bit undercooked (remember they will keep cooking once they come out for a few minutes):

* 1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed

Drain the onions and toss them with

* 1/2 tsp salt (too much?)
* pinch freshly milled black pepper
* 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

Make the vinaigrette. Whisk together in a large serving bowl until oil is emulsified and creamy:

* 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
* 1/8 tsp cayenne
* 1 small garlic clove, crushed
* 1 Tbs Dijon-style mustard
* 1 tsp honey
* 2 Tbs freshly sequeezed lemon juice
* 3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil (2 plenty?)

Drain the onions once again, squeezing them dry. Add the onions and the green beans to the vinaigrette and toss well. Let marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving, but can wait up to ? minutes.

My Notes

Personally, I love this dish. Whenever I make it I just want to eat the whole bowl of beans. Others have seemed less enthusiastic though. Derek says it’s just too standard, not creative enough. In any case, I love it, and I also love the vinaigrette on other veggies, particularly beets. Again, others have said they feel like the mustard overwhelms the beet flavor, but I think the combination of sweet silky beets with the piquant, rich dressing is wondeful.

If you want you can add other complementary vegetables, like cauliflower. Just make sure to cut them in small enough pieces to absorb the marinade. After a night in the fridge the green beans lose their brilliant green and take on the sallow army green of canned green beans. They don’t taste bad exactly, but they certainly don’t look good, so serve these immediately.

Today I made a dressing with:
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. mustard
3/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. cayenne
4 Tbs. lemon juice

I forgot the garlic, and the ratio of lemon juice to olive oil was much different than above, but I really enjoyed it. The balance tasted great to me. It made enough for probably 3 big bowls of green beans. Also, I steamed my beans and they cooked perfectly.

Rating: B+

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Peel-delicious Applesauce

August 17, 2006 at 11:53 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), breakfast, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing)

My CSA farmer emailed me today and asked me if I could use some “discard” apples~ones with big bruises, bites taken out of them, holes, etc. I said sure!

When I went to my pickup today there was a *HUGE* box of apples waiting for me. I had no idea it was going to be so many. So I went through pulled out the worst looking apples, cut out the cores and bad spots, roughly diced them, and boiled them in a bit of water. There were two different types of apples, a yellow and a red one, one of which broke down quickly and the other stayed more chunky. I used a potato masher to break the chunky pieces down a bit more. The sauce is beautiful colored and textured and it tastes great! And since I left the peels in it’s a whole food with all the great fiber and antioxidants and everything. Why can’t I find commercial applesauce with the peels?

The applesauce didn’t need any sugar in my opinion, so I just added some cinnamon and put it in the fridge–almost two quarts of apple sauce and I still have the other 3/4 of the apples left! Of course, they’re in pretty good shape so I’m guessing I can leave them out for a few days? But what should I do with them??

Rating: B+

Update Nov 2012:

This week I made a ginger cranberry applesauce that is bright and hot:

  • 725 g apple chunks (with peels but no cores) 
  • 100g raw cranberries
  • 17g peeled, minced ginger
  • 2? Tbs. of water

Instructions:  Add all the ingredients to a 1.5- to 2-quart pot, bring the water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Cook, covered, until the applesauce has the consistency you like.

I used a mix of a baking apple that dissolved into sauce and an eating apple that stayed a bit chunkier.  The applesauce was intensely ginger-y and a very cheery red.  If you want something a little mellower, you could probably use half as many cranberries and half as much ginger.

This made 725g of  applesauce (about 1 pound 10 oz), about 3 cups worth.


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Stuffed zucchini with black beans, corn, and chipotle chiles

August 17, 2006 at 7:47 am (Beans, B_(3 stars, like), Cook's Illustrated, Summer recipes)

Unlike many vegetarian dishes which are basically “mush,” stuffed veggies are a cohesive main dish, with real structure. (They are, however, more time-consuming to make.) Stuffed zucchini often comes out soggy and tasteless. Cook’s Illustrated suggests pre-roasting the zuchinni cut-side down for a flavorful sear before filling them with hearty vegetables and seasonings and baking them briefly. The recipe is based on the original Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I made a few changes to streamline the preparation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Raw Zucchini Salad with Lemon and Basil

August 17, 2006 at 6:25 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Italian, Jack Bishop, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Summer recipes)

Slicing zucchini paper thin yields a salad with a wonderful, silky mouthfeel; the lemon and olive oil and basil all come together to create one unifying flavor. This simple but lovely recipe is from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop.


4 medium zucchini (about 1.5 pounds)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
10 large fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips

Add instructions here!

My Notes

After trying two of Bishop’s tomato salads that looked simple but tasty, and not being too excited about either, I was nervous about this one, since it’s even more simple! But I’ve never eaten raw zucchini so had to try it. I used a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into long thin strips. Bishop says to refrigerate the sliced zucchini until well chilled, but mine was already cold so I didn’t bother.

I’m not sure of the exact proportions I used, but I only used 1 zucchini and I vaguely recall that I needed more lemon juice than called for: 3/4 Tablespoon. I think I actually used 1.5 Tablespoons, and maybe the zest too? In any case, the salad was wonderful. It was totally different than I expected. I’ll definitely be making this salad for friends!

Rating: B+
Derek: B-

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Two Tomato Salads (B-)

August 17, 2006 at 6:17 am (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Italian, Jack Bishop, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads)

It’s the peak of tomato season here in sunny Pennsylvania, and so of course I pulled out my Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook by Jack Bishop. It seems that every other recipe in that cookbook requires fresh tomatoes, so most of the year many of the recipes are out of reach. Not so in August!

There are two tomato salads that caught my eye. The first was tomato salad with black olives, capers, basil, and oregano. I didn’t have fresh oregano so used a bit of dried and extra basil. I also probably used less olive oil than called for. The end result tasted fine, but didn’t excite me. I thought that the briny olives and capers overwhelmed the tomatoes. The flavors really didn’t come together.

The second salad was tomatoes, red onion, basil, and vinegar (half red wine, half balsamic). Again, I wasn’t excited. This time the flavors weren’t too strong exactly, just not really any better than eating plain tomatoes.

Now, I’m thinking that to some extent the result will depend on the tomatoes you use. I was using “heirloom pinks”, which are sweet but not very acidic. Perhaps with a more acidic tomato these salads would work better?

If anyone has any advice please let me know. I’d really like to make a heavenly tomato salad before the season is up!

Rating: B-

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