Chilled cucumber soup with mint

July 4, 2010 at 8:38 am (B_, Epicurious, Peter Berley, soup, Summer recipes)

I wanted to make a soup for the first course of my dinner last night, but it was too hot to make a normal soup, so I went looking for a cold soup.  I would have liked to make the Hungarian fruit soup that my friend Sarah made for me last time I visited her in Israel, but I forgot to ask her for the recipe.  So I made the chilled cucumber soup with mint recipe from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast instead. Read the rest of this entry »


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Millet and vegetable pilaf

June 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm (C, Grains, Peter Berley, Salads)

This recipe is from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and the head note just cracks me up.  Berley calls millet a “curmudgeonly uncle” who needs a good deal of “buttering up”.  I’ve always liked the dry austerity of millet, but I’m sure Derek would agree with Berley’s description. Read the rest of this entry »

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Orange-ginger sweet potatoes

April 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm (B plus, breakfast, Derek's faves, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Starches)

Three Thanksgivings ago Derek’s cousin asked me which cookbook was my favorite.  I wasn’t sure what my favorite was, but I told her Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen was my most-used cookbook.  I think she went and bought it because the subsequent Thanksgiving she made Berley’s recipe for sweet potatoes with orange and ginger.  This year, my mom was thinking of making a dish for the seder that  my sister had made up–a casserole made from sweet potatoes layered with slices of tomatoes and onions.  But to me that just sounded weird.  Maybe the tomato-sweet potato combo is good, but I just couldn’t imagine it.  So instead I went looking for Berley’s recipe in my Mom’s copy of Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Farro and yellow soybean risotto with spinach

March 24, 2010 at 12:33 am (B plus, Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Italian, Peter Berley, Soybeans & edamame, Spring recipes, Starches)

It’s that time of year again.  As Passover approaches I try my best to do a Spring pantry cleaning, using up all the grains and beans that I purchased in the previous year but never got around to using.  I bought a large bag of dry yellow soybeans at the Asian store when I first moved to Saarbruecken, and I suspect that the two cups still in my cupboard are from that original batch.  I could have just cooked them up and eaten them with nutritional yeast and soy sauce, as I normally do, but I was in the mood for something different.  I looked around on the web, but found very few recipes, and almost nothing of interest.  The Farm Cookbook has a couple recipes for soybeans that I remember from my childhood, but the only one that I considered trying was the recipe for barbecued soybeans (kind of like baked beans).  Then I found this recipe in the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley, for a risotto with black soybeans and spring white wheat.  I subbed in my yellow soybeans for the black ones, and used farro for the wheatberries.  The recipe also calls for fresh sage, but I used what I had on hand — fresh oregano.

The recipe says to cook the soybeans and wheat berries separately from the rice.  Perhaps because my soybeans were quite old, by the time the soybeans were soft, the farro was extremely well-cooked — with the innards exploding through the husks.  I didn’t have any vegetable broth, so I used bouillon cubes.  The recipe says to use 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage, but I put in more oregano, and then after the dish was cooked, I put in about another Tbsp of fresh oregano.  (I think almost all fresh herbs taste best added at the very end.)  The recipe calls for 4 Tbsp olive oil, but I think I used 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1-2? Tbsp butter.  Berley says to stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil at the very end, but I tasted the risotto and it tasted so good I didn’t bother to add the extra olive oil.  I think I may have also reduced the salt.

Berley says to cook the risotto in a 2-3 quart saucepan, and I used my 3-quart wide casserole pan.  When it came to adding the spinach, however, it was extremely difficult to get it incorporated into the risotto.  Even just adding small handfuls at a time, it kept popping out and getting all over the place.  If I make this again, I’ll make it in either my big dutch oven or maybe in a 5-quart pan.

I really liked the combination of the arborio rice and the exploded farro kernels.  Berley calls the combination of arborio rice with whole grains and beans “new wave risotto”.  I actually think I might prefer it to the old wave.  There weren’t a lot of soybeans, and you couldn’t really taste them per se, but they added a nice textural contrast and a little…heft.  I’m usually not a big fan of spinach, but I actually really liked the spinach in this dish.  Derek always likes spinach, and as expected he thought it was good.  The first time I served it, he said it was tasty but he was a bit concerned about the quantity of risotto remaining.  Berley says it makes 4-6 servings, but I would say six very large servings.  Derek’s anxiety, however, was unfounded.  We easily polished off all six servings.  I actually wouldn’t have minded having it one more time!

Rating: B+
Derek: B+


I liked this recipe a lot, and I still had soybeans and farro left, so I decided to try another recipe from the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen:  Spelt, black soybeans, and vegetable casserole.  The casserole calls for carrots, mushrooms, celery, canned tomatoes and cabbage.  The combination didn’t sound particularly appetizing, but I liked the risotto so I figured it was worth a shot.  I cooked my (yellow) soybeans until soft, then added the farro and cooked until it was al dente.  Meanwhile I sauteed all the veggies until they started to caramelize.  (I used all the olive oil and salt called for.) Next Berley says to add the tomatoes and some of the cooking liquid from the grain/bean pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.  It seemed like a bad idea.  At this point the cabbage was nice and crisp and caramelized, but I didn’t think the cabbage would be so appetizing after simmering it for 30 minutes.  I did it anyway.  In the end, I didn’t care for the dish that much.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it exactly, but neither Derek nor I were particularly interested in eating it.  It just was blah. We had one or two servings each, then I gave away the remaining quart of casserole/stew to a hungry grad student.

Rating: C

Update December 2010:

I made this recipe again, doubling it this time.   I was out of farro so used kamut instead.  Also I forgot to chop up the spinach, and the long, stringy pieces of spinach were pretty unappetizing.  The dish was also underseasoned this time.  Without enough salt and pepper it’s not nearly as tasty.  Derek wouldn’t even eat the leftovers–I had to finish them off myself.  I’ll have to try again with farro, chopped spinach, and enough seasoning.

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Sesame noodles (peanut style)

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm (B plus, Chinese, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Peter Berley, Seitan, Starches, Tofu, Website / blog)

I make Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodles all the time. It’s one of Derek’s favorite dishes. Tonight when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “chiliquiles!” but all my tortillas were frozen, so he went with his second choice–sesame noodles. I agreed, but didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going to make our standard recipe. I had recently come across a recipe for cold sesame noodles from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes. I really like McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Potato, beet, and belgian endive salad with toasted hazelnuts

December 21, 2009 at 12:19 am (B_, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Salads, Starches, Winter recipes)

I bought some beets and potatoes at the farmer’s market and started looking around for something to do with them.  I found this recipe for a winter salad in Peter Berley’s modern vegetarian kitchen.  The potatoes and beets are each dressed separately–the potatoes in a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette and the beets with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and caraway seeds.  Then the two are mixed together and garnished with chopped, toasted hazelnuts and fresh dill.  The salad is meant to be served with endive petals.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Tofu in garlic-thyme vinaigrette

December 12, 2009 at 2:08 pm (Baked tofu, B_minus, Peter Berley, Tofu)

I really like Berley’s recipe for tofu baked in white wine, mustard, and dill.  The recipe directly opposite that one in Berley’s cookbook is a similar recipe for tofu baked in a garlic, thyme vinaigrette.  I vaguely remember trying it once before, and not finding it all that exciting, although Derek liked it quite a bit.  Since I have no record on my blog or notes in my cookbooks, I decided to try it again.

The vinaigrette calls for olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt, red pepper flakes, and “2 bay leaves, crumbled”.  I’m not sure exactly how you crumble bay leaves, but both times I tried this recipe I ended up with jagged pieces that were not pleasant to eat.  I thought maybe I should have tried to remove the pieces of bay leaf, but there were enough pieces that it would have been a pain, plus the recipe doesn’t mention removing them.

Other than the prickly bay leaves, the recipe was fine.  I wouldn’t make it again though.  The tofu seemed a bit greasy to me, and it doesn’t end up very flavorful.  Even after baking it for a long time, the center of each piece was still white and bland and kind of raw tasting.  The marinade didn’t infuse the tofu with flavor like the Greek marinade does.

Derek liked this recipe more than me, both times I made it.  He scarfed it down happily.  I didn’t ask him for a rating, but he would have probably said B or B+.

Rating: B-

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Autumn tempeh and winter vegetable stew

October 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm (B_minus, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Starches, Tempeh)

I felt a little guilty that I criticized this recipe when I deviated so much from the instructions, so I added it to my list of “to try again” recipe. But I wasn’t in a particular rush to make it again until friends of mine (who bought the cookbook on my recommendation) started raving about it. They don’t read this blog, and so their attempt and opinion were both entirely independent of my own. When they started gushing about how good the recipe was, I decided I had to try it again. Derek tried to discourage me from making it when we had company over, but I could not be dissuaded.

This time I made every effort to follow the recipe exactly. I used my heavy, cast iron, 6-quart dutch oven. I used all the butter and oil and soy sauce, and I added the kombu and scallions this time. I used just rosemary, but put in more than last time (I’m still not sure exactly what a “sprig” is.) I used butternut squash instead of Kuri since we disliked the Kuri squash so much the last time. I again forgot to make the pilaf, however.

I was cooking with my friend Alex, and we made sure to bring the mixture to a boil before putting it in the oven. Yet when we pulled it out of the oven the vegetables were still undercooked, and even raw in places. My only possible explanation is that we didn’t actually bring it to a full boil. So I put it back on the stove, added another 1/2 cup of water, and this time left it until steam was pouring out underneath the lid. I put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. At this point everything was cooked, but there was surprisingly little liquid (even after adding the final cup of water + soy sauce at the end). It certainly didn’t seem to be a stew, and it didn’t taste like it had been “simmering on the stovetop all day”, as Berley claimed. The overall flavor was much better than my previous attempt, however. I attribute this mostly to the extra fat and salt and rosemary. It tasted a little like gravy/Thanksgiving, but the ginger and soy sauce and kombu gave it a slightly Asian attitude.

Still, however, I was disappointed in the vegetables. The butternut squash (despite being cut in 2-inch pieces), was almost falling apart. I thought the thick, wormy onion rings were kind of disgustingly slimy. The carrots and parsnips held their shape, but they weren’t nearly as tasty as roasted carrots and parsnips. Again, they almost tasted boiled/steamed. I really prefer them caramelized and roasted. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to eat the Kombu or not. Derek tried a piece and said it didn’t taste like much–a mild seaweed flavor.

Even after all my corrections, Derek wasn’t too excited about the dish, but then he said “well I must like it more than I thought because I want seconds”. He gave it a B rating, but he wasn’t too interested in the leftovers. I’d give it a B-. It tasted okay, but I’m pretty sure I won’t make this recipe again.  I’d just rather have all those yummy winter veggies roasted, or use them to make a nice, country Thai stew.  In fact, I couldn’t eat the leftovers at all–I ended up tossing them.  Something about the dish gives me the heebie jeebies.   I might, however, try just cooking the tempeh on the stove top with ginger and garlic and rosemary and soy sauce, and then serving it with roasted veggies.

Original post: Oct 3, 2009

Fall is here, and parsnips and winter squash are finally in the stores again!  I decided to celebrate by trying this recipe from the fall section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.

In a medium dutch oven you melt together butter and oil, then add kombu, garlic, ginger, and rosemary or sage.  On top of this seasoning layer you place 1 pound of tempeh cubes.  The tempeh is then covered with a mixture of water, soy sauce, and maple syrup.  Then come the remaining layers:  onions, winter squash, parsnip, and carrots, all cut into thick slices or chunks.  The casserole is covered, and the stew is brought to a boil, then transferred to a 400 degree oven where it bakes for 25 minutes.  Once everything is cooked, the vegetables and tempeh are transferred to a serving bowl, and a mixture of arrowroot and water and soy sauce is mixed in with the juices remaining in the pan, to make a sort of gravy.  The vegetables are topped with the sauce and some scallions, and served over a bulgur and buckwheat pilaf.

I didn’t have any kombu, so I just left it out.  I cut the olive oil by half, the butter by 25%, and used less soy sauce.  I didn’t make the pilaf since I felt like the dish had plenty of starchy vegetables already.  I used rosemary for the herb, and Hokkaido (red kuri) for the winter squash. I forgot the scallions.  Otherwise I followed the recipe’s ingredients exactly.

The first mistake I made was using a 3 quart casserole pan.  I only have a 6 quart dutch oven, and that seemed too large.  But the 3 quart pan was not large enough.  Once all the veggies were layered in the lid couldn’t quite close.  I tried cooking it anyway, with the lid mostly closed, but after 25 minute the parsnips were still hard in spots, so I left it in the oven for a while longer, maybe another 15 minutes.

In the end the vegetables were definitely cooked, but they tasted more like boiled vegetables than roasted ones.  The onions were particularly slimy and unappealing.  The starchy vegetables weren’t overly soft, just bland and not very flavorful.  The Hokkaido was particularly unpleasant–overly dry and starchy tasting.  Maybe I should have added more salt, but I don’t think that alone would have been transformed the vegetables from unappetizing to delicious.   I can’t imagine that Berley intended the vegetables to come out as they did.  They were just too gross.  Could I have really screwed up the recipe somehow?

Despite the dish’s name, the final product was not anything like a stew.  There were only about 1.5 cups of sauce for almost 3 quarts of vegetables–not even close to a stew in my book.

The tempeh wasn’t bad. It had absorbed all the fat (the vegetables didn’t get any), and was sweet (from the maple syrup and veggie juices) and salty (from the soy sauce).  Plus the garlic and ginger added lots of flavor.  However, I couldn’t taste the rosemary.

Derek and I ended up eating all the tempeh out of the “stew”, and then I pureed the vegetables together to make a creamy soup.  I added some spices and the soup tasted okay, but not great.

Stew: D

Tempeh: B-

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Two fall recipes from Fresh Food Fast

June 11, 2009 at 10:24 am (Cruciferous rich, Peter Berley, unrated)

In the past month I’ve made a number of really tasty recipes from the Spring section of Peter Berley’s cookbook Fresh Food Fast.  This week I tried two from the fall section.  I know it’s June not September, but it’s been a cool Spring and there are very few locally grown vegetables at the market.  I figure if I’m buying vegetables from Southern France, Spain, or Italy I might as well buy cauliflower, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  However, after trying these two recipes I regretted the decision to stray from the spring menus, as I didn’t like the two fall recipes as much.  I’m going back to the spring menus.  Next up:  sesame noodles with tofu “steaks” and baby bok choy.

The first recipe was for a wild mushroom fricassee over farro. First, there are a few minor problems with the recipe.

  • The ingredient list calls for 3 Tbs. of olive oil, but the instructions only ever say to use 2 Tbs. of the oil (with the mushrooms).   The onion is cooked in butter, so I’m not sure where the last tablespoon of olive oil is supposed to go.  I simply left it out.
  • The header says that farro is another word for spelt. From what I can tell, farro is not spelt; it is a different variety of wheat called emmer wheat.  However, there is clearly some confusion about the name, and it’s possible that in some locations/times the name farro has been used to describe spelt as well as emmer wheat.
  • The header says that farro can be cooked on the stove top in about 25 minutes, but my farro was more than al dente after about 25 minutes simmering on the stovetop. My farro took about 40 minutes to soften.   Also, even after cooking the farro for 40 minutes I had water left. I would try 3.5 cups of water for 1.5 cups of farro.   Is it possible that my heat was just too low, and if I had raised the heat the farro would have cooked in 25 minutes and used up all the water?

The recipe came out as I imagine it was supposed to taste–roasted, slightly chewy mushrooms in an earthy, wine-y sauce, seasoned with herbs of the forest (rosemary, thyme, parsley). I only cut the fat down slightly, using just under 2 Tbs. of olive oil and almost the full 2 Tbs. of butter.  Despite all the fat, the dish didn’t taste particularly rich to me.  (Certainly not like the rich mushrooms I’ve gotten as appetizers at restaurants.)  The dish simply didn’t excite me.  I don’t think there is really anything wrong with the recipe, it just didn’t suit my palate.  Derek liked it a little better than me, but wasn’t excited enough to seek out the leftovers.

This recipe has a certain similarity to the mushroom-wine flavored stroganoff in Vegan with a Vengeance, but this one has more mushrooms and less sauce.  Although I liked the higher proportion of mushrooms, I prefer that recipe over this one.  In that recipe the intensity of the wine and herbs and mushrooms are balanced by the addition of a little mustard, soymilk, and nutritional yeast, and the addition of seitan adds textural variety.  This recipe was just too strong and uniform tasting for me to eat as a main dish.  As a few bites in an appetizer it would have been fine, but I got sick of it quickly.  One thing that I liked in this recipe (more than the VwV one) was that more of the mushroom’s texture was preserved.  Nonetheless, despite being able to recognize each of the mushrooms, I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t taste the individual mushrooms at all.  I had splurged and bought a number of expensive mushrooms like chantarelles, oysters, and shiitakes, but in the end they all tasted exactly the same to me.  I felt like I had wasted my expensive mushrooms.  I don’t think I’ll make this recipe again.  I did like the combination of the farro and mushrooms though.  Next time I make the VwV stroganoff recipe I’m going to try serving it on farro instead of pasta.  I might also try cooking the mushrooms for the stroganoff dish in the oven instead of on the stovetop.

The second recipe I made from the fall section was pasta with spicy cauliflower, chickpeas, and cherry tomatoes.  I was intrigued by the idea of cooking a pasta sauce on a baking sheet in the oven, and I had all the ingredients except the delicata squash (which I’ve never seen in Germany) so I thought I would give it a shot, substituting green beans for the squash.  I was a little nervous about leaving my baking sheet in a 500 degree oven without anything on it.   I’m not sure what the coating is on the baking sheets that came with my German oven, but if it’s some kind of non-stick stuff then maybe leaving it empty in a 500 degree oven is not the best idea.   I did it anyway.

The ingredient list is a little vague. (What is a “small” cauliflower, or a “medium” red onion or carrot?)  The instructions say that the vegetables should fit in a single layer on the baking sheet.  My baking sheet was very large, yet still my vegetables seemed to be too crowded.  I’m not sure whether I would say that they formed a single layer or not, but I felt like it was too much for a half pound of pasta.  I was surprised to find that Berley has you toss the vegetables with 3/4 white wine before putting them in the oven.  The blanched vegetables contributed a bit of water of their own (despite being drained), and in the end the cookie sheet seemed to have too many vegetables and too much liquid on it.  Nonetheless, I put the cookie sheet in the oven.  I was watching the thermometer in the oven, and the temperature quickly dropped after I had put in the vegetables, from 500 to around 300.  I thought it would come back up but even after 15 minutes it had only gotten to 350 (I had to open it once to stir the vegetables, according to Berley).  I don’t know if this temperature drop is a problem, or normal.  My oven is brand new and a good quality brand.  Whatever the reason, my vegetables ended up steaming a bit.  They still got browned on top, but when I pulled them out the colors were a bit muted, and everything was still a bit soupy.   The onion was particularly faded looking and unappealing.

I tossed the vegetables with the pasta and added the garnishes, but it just didn’t taste that good.  I couldn’t detect either the saffron or the cumin, or the acid from the white wine.  Mostly it just tasted like somewhat sodden vegetables and oil.  Despite reducing the oil from 8! Tbs. to 6 Tbs., I found the dish to be too greasy.  Derek didn’t care for it either.

I’m guessing that if my cookie sheet had been less crowded. my oven had been able to get back up to temp, and I had used all the oil, then this recipe would have come out better.  But I don’t really have any confidence that I would be able to carry it off with another try.  Even if I could, the seasoning is a bit boring I think, and there’s too much oil.  I won’t be making this recipe again.  I’d prefer to make a cauliflower curry, an oven-roasted tomato sauce, or even the saffron flavored broccoli and cauliflower recipe from 101 cookbooks.

Two other complaints about the (otherwise quite excellent) cookbook.  The index is, as always, incomplete.  Here are just a few examples:  When I look up asparagus I find only one recipe mentioned, but I know for a fact that asparagus is an ingredient in at least four menus.  I couldn’t find sugar snap peas under either peas, sugar, or snap.  There’s no entry for mint, despite the fact that the tabouleh recipe calls for 2 cups of it!  I remembered there was a harissa dish but couldn’t find it under either harissa or Moroccan.  Also, I would like it if the recipes came with at least a short introduction–something about why Berley likes the recipe, or chose to put it in the book, or a story about the recipe.  Some of the recipe headers are about the recipe, but many are not.  Instead, they often provide comments about one particular ingredient, or list variations or substitutions.

Update October 2012:

I made the cauliflower dish again.  I still didn’t have delicata squash so added an extra carrot (3 instead of 2).  Half of my medium-large cauliflower weighed one pound.  I cut the olive oil down to five tablespoons this time, but otherwise followed the recipe carefully.   Heating my oven to 500 degrees with the cookie sheet (not nonstick) in it resulted in horrible smells.  I’m guessing it’s from the remnants of splattered oil on the sides of the oven burning and smoking?  Derek said it smelled toxic, so I turned the oven down a bit.  When it came time to put all the ingredients onto the cookie sheet the sheet was a bit overfull, so I left out a bit of the veggies and beans, to make sure not to overfill the pan.  The dish turned out less greasy this time and less soupy, but still didn’t taste like much to me, especially given how much oil is in it.  Again I couldn’t taste the wine, cumin, saffron, or thyme.  The cauliflower didn’t get nicely caramelized and the onion was kind of soft and sodden.  Derek said he could taste the spices.  He called the dish “pleasant.”  He said he would be happy to eat it if I make it again, but he wouldn’t ask for it again.  In other words, a low B.  I would rate it a B-.  The recipe gets a lot of dishes dirty and the terrible smells… Just not right somehow.

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Moroccan tempeh tagine with spring vegetables

June 4, 2009 at 1:59 am (B plus, Derek's faves, Grains, Middle East / N. Africa, Peter Berley, Spring recipes, Tempeh)

I finally found tempeh in Saarbrücken.  I’m so excited!  It’s a beautiful tempeh too:  big and fat and covered in a soft white layer that looks almost like paper.  I tried to take it off at first before I realized it was part of the tempeh.  Rather than use the tempeh in one of our old tempeh recipes, we decide to try a new one from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.  We chose one of the spring menus:  charmoula baked tempeh with vegetable couscous.  Apparently charmoula is a spicy Moroccan marinade.  Derek was worried, as he claims not to like Moroccan food but I thought the combination of spices looked good. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scrambled eggs with spinach and sweet onions

June 4, 2009 at 1:42 am (breakfast, B_, Dark leafy greens, Necessarily nonvegan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes)

Last night we tried another recipe from the Spring section of Fresh Food Fast.  The recipe actually called for dandelion greens, not spinach, but I’ve never seen dandelion greens in German (except perhaps by the side of the road), and the recipe says other tender greens like spinach and chard can be substituted.    I also cut down on the oil and cheese in the original recipe, and simplified the recipe a bit.  Here’s my modified version (for 2 people). Read the rest of this entry »

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Rhubarb compote

June 1, 2009 at 4:09 am (breakfast, Dessert, F, Fruit, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes)

We had a friend staying with us a while back who was raving about a very simple rhubarb dessert:  stew the rhubarb with a little sugar and water until it falls apart.  To serve, add to a small bowl and pour cold cream around it.  I liked the flavor combination of the sour rhubarb and sweet cream, but the texture was quite odd.  The rhubarb was kind of stringy and a little gelatinous.  Derek, ever couth, dubbed it “rhubarb snot.”  After that, I had trouble finishing the rest of my dish.

In Peter Berley’s cookbook Fresh Food Fast there is a recipe for rhubarb compote with maple syrup and crystallized ginger.  He says to simmer the rhubarb for 5 to 7 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, but not falling apart.  Since he says the rhubarb shouldn’t fall apart, I figured it was safe.  Derek tried to stop me, arguing that the texture was going to be just like the previous attempt, but I wanted to give it a try.  After five minutes, however, my rhubarb had again reached the “snot” stage.  What am I doing wrong?

Berley’s recipe calls for chunks of crystallized ginger.  The recipe doesn’t say so explicitly, but I thought the chunks were supposed to dissolve into the compote.  In 5 minutes, however, they had only softened.  The toothsome chunks seemed odd in the soft rhubarb stew.  Berley says to serve the compote with creme fraiche or sour cream.  I served mine with creme fraiche, and thought it was tasty, better even than the cream.  I’m not sure I could tast the maple syrup though, and unless I bit into a ginger cube I didn’t really taste the ginger.

Rating: D (Unless I figure out the snot thing)

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Hummus, pumpkin hummus, and light hummus

May 31, 2009 at 1:21 am (Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated, Website / blog)

I’m updating this old post to include a new hummus recipe that I just created.  It’s based on the recipe for Lemon Walnut Hummus in Peter Berley’s cookbook Fresh Food Fast, but I made a few substitutions/alterations, and created pumpkin hummus instead.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Buttermilk strata with mushrooms and leeks

May 24, 2009 at 10:09 am (Peter Berley, Spring recipes, unrated)

This is another recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook Fresh Food Fast.  Derek bought a loaf of white bread at the cheese store, and then left for the states before eating much of it.  I tossed it in the fridge and then decided to use the stale loaf in this strata recipe.

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil (I used 2)
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves (I only had about 2 tsp., so I added in another 1/2 tsp. of dried thyme leaves)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt (I used 1 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems removed and caps diced (I used about 15 ounces of white mushrooms, with the stems)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound day-old, country-style artisanal bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

The basic strategy is:

  1. Mix together the eggs, buttermilk, cheese, and parsley in a bowl.
  2. Brown the leeks in a large, dry oven-proof skillet, then add the oil, garlic, thyme, and salt.  Saute briefly then add the mushrooms and wine.  Bring to a simmer and stir in the bread cubes.
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the top and stir to combine everything.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese, and bake at 450 until the strata has set, about 25 minutes.

If you want the full instructions, buy the cookbook!


I used a 12 inch anodized aluminum cast iron pan with 2 side handles.  I’m actually not sure if it’s supposed to go in an oven at 450 degrees, but it looked okay when I took it out.  Berley recommends a 10-inch saute pan, but my 12-inch pan was totally full, and it’s rather deep, so I don’t see how this recipe would fit in a ten inch pan.

I cut the salt by 1/2, and thought the salt level was perfect.  If you like things more salty maybe use 1.25 tsp.  I also cut the oil to 2 Tbs., and it still seemed perfectly rich.  I didn’t measure how much parmesan I added, but it couldn’t have been more than an ounce.  The flavor of the dish was  good, and especially tasty when I got a big chunk of bread, but the more leek-y bites I didn’t care for as much.  Perhaps I put in too much of the green part.   The texture of the leftovers was good, but when it was just out of the oven I occasionally got a “soggy bread” bite.  Perhaps I should have cooked it for another 5 minutes.

This recipe works well.  The dish is beautiful to look at, holds together well, and tastes fine.  Despite all the positives, I’m not sure whether I would make this recipe again.  It took quite a bit of work, and despite tasting good, neither Derek nor I really wanted to eat any of the leftovers.  I really don’t know why, but for some reason it just did not appeal to us.  It took me about 35 minutes to get it in the oven, and another 10 minutes to clean up, plus 25 minutes to bake.  If I had help I probably could have gotten it done in 20 minutes.  Still, it didn’t quite seem like a weeknight recipe to me.  There were just too many different ingredients to buy and chop.

I must admit, however, that the recipe is a nice dish for spring.  I got new leeks and parlsey and thyme and eggs from the farmer’s market.   The leeks had a very hard core, the texture of a stiff rhubarb stalk.  I’d never come across a leek with a hard core before, and wasn’t sure if I should try to cut it up or discard it.  I ended up saving it for vegetable broth (along with the leek greens, parsley and thyme stems, and a few bruised mushrooms).  If anyone knows what to do with hard leek stems, please post a comment.

Berley suggests a spring menu of this strata and asparagus roasted with garlic and lemon. I think it sounds like a nice combination.  However, at first glance it seemed kind of silly to suggest roasting the asparagus.  Unless you have two ovens, you have to wait for 25 minutes for the strata to be done to start cooking the asparagus.  Then I thought about it more and I realized that it probably takes 5-10 minutes to prep the asparagus and garlic, and another 5-10 minutes to clean up from both dishes.  So in the end the wait isn’t really that long.  Plus, the strata has to cool down for 5-10 minutes, which is just enough time for the asparagus to cook.  Also, once the oven is on you might as well use it to roast the asparagus.  Perhaps you can even cook both dishes in the oven at the same time?  Another option would be to just steam the asparagus on the stovetop.

Berley doesn’t say how many this strata recipe serves, but it’s quite large.  I think with 3 bunches of asparagus this dish would serve eight.

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Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

May 19, 2009 at 4:57 pm (A minus, Cruciferous rich, Mexican & S. American, Miso, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, soup)

I’ve tried to make tortilla soup before, and although I don’t know exactly what the chicken-based version tastes like, I know that I’ve never achieved it.  Recently, however, I tried a recipe for tortilla soup from Peter Berley’s cookbook “Fresh Food Fast.”  The key innovation is that he uses a miso broth instead of a simple vegetable broth.  I thought it would be strange–miso soup with lime in it–but it was delicious, and tasted like (what I imagine) tortilla soup is supposed to taste like.  It definitely tasted Mexican rather than Japanese.

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and smashed
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup coarsely chopped leaves plus the stems for the broth)
  • 6 corn tortillas or ??? corn tortilla chips, crumbled
  • 1 large ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 limes (1 for juicing and 1 for cutting into wedges)
  • 2 cups bite-sized broccoli florettes
  • 1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced thin on the bias
  • 1 jalepeno pepper (with its seeds), sliced into very thin rings
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup red or white miso

For precise instructions buy the cookbook!

Berley makes a simple broth with a head of garlic (cloves smashed but not peeled), and the stems from a bunch of cilantro.  I tasted the broth and I could definitely taste the garlic, but the cilantro was pretty subtle.  Then vegetables are added to the soup and cooked until crisp-tender, and then the miso and cilantro are mixed in.  Finally, tortilla strips and lime-soaked avocado are spooned into each bowl.

The vegetables cooked in the soup are broccoli, carrots, and jalepeno.  Adding broccoli and carrots to tortilla soup is not traditional, but they both went well with the other flavors.  The jalapeno I had from my mother’s garden was hot but not too hot.  Berley’s recipe says to fry strips of corn tortillas, but we can’t get corn tortillas in Germany so we used wheat tortillas.  They were tasty but pretty rich tasting.  Between the avocado and tortilla chips the soup was quite rich.  I think the soup would be very tasty even without the tortilla chips, and more of an everyday kind of meal, rather than a special-occasion soup.  The second time I made the soup I threw in a few strips of commercial corn chips.  They weren’t as good as freshly-fried corn tortillas, but they added the right corn/oil taste, and were much simpler.

The main problem I have with the recipe is that it calls for 6 cups of water and 1/2 cup of white miso.  Berley says you can substitute red miso to “bring it up a notch.”  I’m not sure how salty white miso is, but 1/2 cup of red miso in that much soup would be unbearably salty.  I added 1/4 cup of red miso to start and the soup was salty but tasty.  More would have definitely made the soup too salty, however.  The second time that we made the soup, we didn’t think 1/4 cup of miso was quite enough, so I had Derek add another 2 Tbs.  On our second try the recipe made about 6 bowls of soup.

If you don’t fry your own tortilla strips, this recipe can definitely be made in other 30 minutes.  Berley includes it in a menu with a medley made from white rice, kidney beans, green peas, and cheese.  The dish was reasonably tasty, but pretty rich and not that exciting.  It’s mildness was a reasonable foil to the intense soup, but both dishes were quite rich.  I would have paired the soup with a lighter bean dish and more vegetables.  I’m not sure I would make the bean dish again, although Derek liked it more than me.  I was impressed that the two dishes together took exactly an hour to make (and mostly clean up from).  If I made the menu again, I could probably do it in under an hour.  The second time I made this soup I paired it with a black bean salad–highly seasoned black beans over a lettuce, tomato, and pepper salad.  It was a reasonable combination but I didn’t get the recipe quite right.  I was trying to recreate the black bean salad at La Feria in Pittsburgh, but I failed.

I’ll definitely make this soup again, especially if I can get my hands on jalepenos, corn tortillas, and ripe avocados.

Rating: A-

Update December 15, 2009:

We made this soup last night, doubled, and I used 1/4 cup red miso and 1/4 cup white miso.  I thought the salt level was perfect.  We had 6 people for dinner and everyone had one smallish-bowl plus a second even smaller bowl, and I ended up with about 3 cups of soup left.  The two avocados I cut up were almost entirely eaten, however.  We used corn chips and they were perfectly fine. Along with the miso soup I served black bean and sweet potato burritos with salsa, and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Derek made margaritas and our guests brought two bottles of wine.  It was a lot of food and drink!

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Curried Red Lentil Soup

March 24, 2009 at 3:48 am (B plus, Beans, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, soup)

I have a recipe for Turkish red lentil soup that I like a lot, but today I was in the mood for something a bit different, and decided to try this curried red lentil soup recipe from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.

  • 1.5 cups split red lentils, rinsed
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery ribs with leaves, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or light sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs. mellow curry powder
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • serve with chopped fresh cilantro and plain lowfat or whole milk yogurt
  1. Combine the red lentils, water, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a 4 to 5 quart pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and make the curry powder.  Combine the vegetables, butter, curry powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a skillet.  Saute over high heat for about 2 minutes until the vegetables start to brown.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. When the lentils are cooked, add the vegetables and their juices to the pot with the lentils.  Simmer the soup for 5 to 10 minutes, until the flavors have combined.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro in each bowl, and a big dollop of plain yogurt.

Berley’s recipe called for kombu but I didn’t have any so I just left it out.  He gives a recipe for mellow curry powder in his book, which is a bit odd in that it calls for caraway seeds.  It didn’t actually smell like curry powder to me, and the soup didn’t exactly taste curried.  However, the soup did taste good with the yogurt and cilantro.  It definitely needed the yogurt though–without it the soup tasted too plain.  Derek liked the soup as well.  He said he wouldn’t rave about it, but it was very good, despite the fact that he claims to “not be a soup person.”  He liked the big slices of carrot, said the texture and flavor was really nice.  Derek did add a bit more of the curry powder to make the soup stronger tasting, however.  Berley’s recipe for mellow curry powder makes about 1/3 cup, and I made 1/4 of it, which yielded a little more than a Tablespoon.  Next time I’d just go ahead and throw the whole thing in.  Also, I’d add the salt to the curry powder to help grind up the spices, rather than adding it directly to the vegetables.

Curry powder, modified slightly:

  • 1.5 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 slightly heaped tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • slightly heaped 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • large pinch of cayenne pepper

Rating: B+

Derek: B/B+

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Spinach Mushroom Tart, Vegan

December 12, 2008 at 7:03 am (101 cookbooks, B plus, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Peter Berley, Ron Pickarski, Tofu)

When I was a kid my mom would occasionally make a vegan spinach mushroom pie.  I’m not sure how she made it, but I always enjoyed it. In my co-op days I tried making something similar,  starting with a recipe from Ron Pickarski’s cookbook, but it  turned out bland and boring. Recently, when looking for something to do with a pie crust that had been taking up precious space in my envelope-sized freezer for about 6 months, I noticed that Peter Berley also has a spinach mushroom quiche recipe in his cookbook Modern American Kitchen. The recipe was even posted on 101 cookbooks, along with a beautiful photo, a rave review, and a discussion of how loooong this recipe takes to make. I decided to try the recipe, using my traditional, non-vegan crust rather than making Berley’s oat/sesame vegan crust. Read the rest of this entry »

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Late Summer Pasta Salad with Curried Tahini Yogurt Sauce

September 11, 2008 at 7:17 am (B plus, Cruciferous rich, Pasta, Peter Berley, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Vegetable dishes) ()

I make this pasta salad (adapted from a recipe in Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen) a couple of times every summer.   It’s not the most exciting recipe in the world, but it’s reasonably tasty and full of veggies—broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, and herbs. The sauce is made from yogurt and tahini, and is creamy without being greasy or overly rich. Although it’s flavored with curry spices, it tastes more co-op than Indian.  With its bright yellow slightly goopy sauce, the dish won’t win any beauty contests.  Nonetheless, it makes a healthy one-dish dinner, and the leftovers make a great lunch to bring to work. Below is my version of Berley’s recipe, with my own game plan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Summertime Corn and Vegetable Chowder

August 8, 2008 at 5:11 am (B_, Peter Berley, soup, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

What do you do with a head of wilted lettuce languishing in the fridge, half frozen because your German mini-fridge can’t seem to maintain any temperature between equatorial and arctic?  Make a corn and vegetable chowder of course!  After my not-so-positive experience eating baked lettuce in Bertinoro, Italy, I was a bit skeptical about the whole cooked lettuce idea, but decided that I’d give it one more try.  After all, I trust Peter Berley, and this is one of the first recipes in his cookbook Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.

  • 3 ears corn, kernels scraped, cobs reserved (use 2 if they’re very large)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced new potatoes, about half a pound (I needed more, about 3/4 of a pound to get 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of peeled and diced celery root
  • 4 cups cold water or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 small head tender lettuce, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  1. In a medium-large saucepan over high heat, combine the corn cobs, potatoes, celery root and water, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes crush easily, about 30 minutes.  Let cool.
  2. In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, warm the butter.  Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Stir in the corn kernels, garlic, carrot, and tomatoes.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Discard the corn cobs from the broth, then puree the remaining vegetables with a handheld blender.  Add the puree to the other pot, and thin with water if necessary. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Stir in the lettuce and basil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes.

Yields 8 to 12 servings.

The original recipe called for celery, but I couldn’t find any at the market so I subbed in celery root.  It also called for fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, but I didn’t have any at the time.  I was also low on basil, so just threw in a few slivered leaves of Thai basil.  The quantity of corn kernels obtained from 3 ears of corn was enormous.  The soup was definitely dominated by the corn.  I would not have known there were potatoes or celery root in the soup, but the puree added a base of flavor and a thick, stewlike quality that Derek really liked.  He doesn’t normally care for soup, but he ate this one enthusiastically on at least 4 separate occasions (it made a lot of soup).

Although I was nervous about the cooked lettuce, I quite liked it in the soup.  It had a silky quality similar to escarole, and a very mild green flavor.  In the leftover soup, however, it got kind of stringy and unappealing, I thought.  Derek didn’t seem to mind, but next time I might add the lettuce only in the portion to be served at each meal.

Although I liked this soup a lot the first day, I found the leftovers entirely unappealing, and not just because of the stringy lettuce.  If I make it again, I’ll definitely cut the recipe down to make a smaller batch, and probably use fresh tomatoes, more basil, and less corn.

Derek commented: “This is the best vegetable soup I’ve ever had.  Well, maybe not as good as at a super fancy gourmet restaurant, but definitely the best vegetable soup that you’ve ever made.”

Rating: B

Derek: B+

Update August 2010:  I made this soup again using 3 ears of corn, fresh tomatoes (unpeeled), unpeeled potatoes, and the full amount of regular basil.  I didn’t salt the soup until the end though, and as a result I think the base of the soup was a bit bland.  The salt just didn’t seem to infuse the soup properly.  Also I couldn’t taste the celery root this time.  I needed more I think.  Other than that it tasted pretty similar to last time.  It made about 3 quarts of soup.  Derek, however, really disliked it.  He said it tasted like canned soup.  My two dinner guests both had seconds though.

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Greek Baked Tofu with Dill and Mustard

February 17, 2008 at 3:27 pm (B plus, Baked tofu, Derek's faves, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu)

I recently tried the recipe for Italian baked tofu in Vegan with a Vengeance, and wasn’t a huge fan. I still want a good recipe for a flavorful baked tofu that can be used for sandwiches, so I decided to try this Greek-style marinade from Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley. Read the rest of this entry »

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Five-Grain Croquettes

December 24, 2007 at 7:09 pm (B plus, Grains, Peter Berley)

Based on a recipe from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. These croquettes don’t have any herbs or spices, but they’re not at all bland. The sauteed vegetables remind me a bit of stuffing, but the croquettes have a fresh, simple flavor of their own.

Combine in a 3-quart saucepan over high heat:

  • 1/2 cup white rice (sushi or jasmine or arborio are all fine)
  • 2 Tbs. amaranth
  • 2 Tbs. teff
  • 2 Tbs. quinoa
  • 2 Tbs. millet
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2.5 cups water

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the grains cook, warm in a medium skillet:

  • 2 Tbs olive oil (This amount can be reduced if you want.  You just need enough oil so that the vegetables brown.)

Add and cook on medium-low for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking:

  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced fresh or dried red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender and slightly caramelized. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water if they begin to burn. Lightly oil a large baking sheet (or two if you only have small sheets).

When the grains are done, add the vegetables to the grains and mix thoroughly. Set the mixture aside until it is cool enough to handle. If you’re in a hurry move it to a larger bowl or a tray for cooling.

Form the mixture into croquettes the size of golf balls. Place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 20 minutes.

Should make about 18-24? golf-ball sized croquettes, or if you prefer make 12-16? larger croquettes and fit them all on one tray.

Makes 4 main-dish servings if you have two sides.\

My notes:

If you don’t have amaranth, teff, quinoa, or millet, just substitute a little more of the other grains that you do have. I rarely have teff, so add extra amaranth, because I think it provides an excellent flavor to the croquettes.  Even when I do have all the grains, I sometimes add more amaranth because it’s so tasty.

Berley serves these croquettes with a carrot sauce, but his recipe wasn’t great. I like them by themselves, or with a potent salsa verde.

I’ve made this recipe many time with dehyrdrated red bell peppers from Penzey’s.  I just rehydrate them in some water before adding them in with the other veggies.  I think I might even like the dehydrated peppers more than the fresh ones in this dish.  Since the dried peppers are so tasty, sundried tomatoes might be a nice addition as well.

Every time I make this recipe I love it, but no one else seems very excited about them.  Derek will eat them, but only grudgingly.  My sister Hanaleah didn’t care for them.  I don’t know why I’m such an outlier.  Is it that no one else likes the taste of amaranth?

Rating: B+ (I would actually give this recipe an A- if anyone else actually liked it)

Derek: B-/C

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Three Seed Quinoa Salad

October 1, 2007 at 8:14 am (B plus, Derek's faves, Grains, Peter Berley, Salads, Summer recipes)

This is a recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. It has a great nutty yet fresh flavor, and it’s so colorful it makes a lovely salad for a potluck or a picnic.

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 1/3 cup hulled sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup arame (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • kernels from 2 ears sweet corn (about 1 1/3 cups I think)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch red radishes (8 to 10), trimmed and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large carrot, grated

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (about 1 cup), trimmed, leaves and tender stems chopped
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (Berley calls for 2 tsp. coarse sea salt)
  • black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit.  Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Pour them into a bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. Optional:  Combine the arame with 2 cups warm water and set aside to swell for 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan bring the quinoa, 1.5 cups water, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to cool.
  4. In a pot fitted with a steamer, combine the corn kernels with the red onion. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove to a colander and chill under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.
  5. To make the marinade, in a large mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, cilantro, scallions, jalepeno, garlic, 2 tsp. salt, and black paper to taste. Whisk well.
  6. Add the toasted seeds, quinoa, steamed vegetables, red pepper, radishes, carrot, and arame to the marinade. Mix well and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marry the flavors.

According to Berley this yields 4 to 6 servings.  Maybe it’s 6 servings if you eat it as a main-dish salad, but normally I serve it as a side and it makes way more than 4 to 6 servings.  I think it makes 8 to 12 side servings.

My Notes

This is a recipe I’ve made many times, but somehow I’ve never posted to my blog.  I’ve used frozen corn before, and maybe jarred red peppers. I once made it with many fewer vegetables (as prepping all the ones here takes a long time), and the recipe wasn’t as good. It really needs them all. I’ve never used the arame before, because I didn’t have any, and I was a little afraid. I do want to try it someday though. The seeds really make this dish–don’t leave them out. The cilantro and jalepeno are also essential.  Do not let the quinoa sit covered in the pot after it’s done cooking, or it will become mushy. I don’t think you actually have to spread it on a cookie sheet, but adding it to a big bowl and tossing it to let the steam out is a good idea so it stays al dente.  I’d also like to try cooking it for only 10-12 minutes and then letting it cool in the covered pan.

This salad is just a tad oily.  I’ve tried cutting the olive oil to only 1/4 cup, but the salad still seemed a little oil, and it also seemed slightly too vinegary.  Derek liked it fine, but I thought the oil/vinegar balance was off a bit.  If I cut the oil again I’ll cut the vinegar as well.

I once was out of scallions and made this with chives instead.  It needed a little more sharpness / heat.

Rating: B+

Derek: A-

Update July 2012:  I accidentally left my corn at the farmer’s market, so I tasted this with all the ingredients except the corn.  It still tasted good but was clearly missing the sweetness of the corn, some juiciness, the textural contrast, and the cheery yellow color.  I made an extra trip back to the market just to get the corn.  That’s how essential it is.  I was also just a tad short on apple cider vinegar, so I used a bit of sherry vinegar.  Strangely, at  first the salad tasted quite a bit more acidic than it normally does, but by the next day I couldn’t tell the difference.  The salad seemed (as usual) a bit oily.

This recipe took me about 45 minutes to an hour to make, with some cleanup as I went.  Chopping all those veggies takes me quite a while!

1/8 recipe (~250g) has 323 calories, 10.5% protein, 48% fat, 41.5% carbs.

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Vegetarian Tamales

September 21, 2007 at 8:18 pm (Beans, Mexican & S. American, My brain, Peter Berley, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

I remember really loving tamales as a kid, but it’s hard to find vegetarian ones outside of Austin, so I haven’t had them much since I finished college. I made them a few times with my mom when I was younger, but it’s been such a long time I didn’t remember much. I started out with two recipes: one from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and one from the vegetarian resource group. I tried the dough recipes but didn’t really follow the filling instructions. Instead, I made up my own fillings:

  1. corn cut off the cob and seasoned with fresh minced sage and tons of garlic sauteed in a little olive oil. It was a bit bland so I added a touch of gruyere ribboned on a microplane. Delicious plain, and not bad in the tamales, although maybe not quite strong enough tasting.
  2. barbecued tofu. Delicious plain, did not belong in a tamale.
  3. black beans and sweet potatoes seasoned with nutmeg, from the black bean and sweet potato burrito recipe on my blog. I love the burrito, but I just didn’t like this combo with the masa.
  4. black refritos with feta. I used the black beans from above and added cilantro, then sprinkled on a little goat feta. I was going to add tomatillo sauce too but I forgot, so instead I dipped the tamale in the sauce. This one was by far my favorite.

I first started with Berley’s recipe, which I will post here when I get a chance. The dough seemed extremely thick and dry, and I didn’t see how I was going to possibly get the tamales thin enough, so I added quite a bit of extra broth. Then it was lumpy and sticky and a total disaster. I made the tamales anyway, and they came out bland and dry and not very good. I also think his recipe doesn’t call for nearly enough salt (weird for Berley.)

The VRG recipe worked out much better. I had to add just a touch more broth than they called for, and my tamales still came out a bit thick, but the consistency was much closer to the desired consistency. I think I upped the salt on this one as well. I thought the final tamales were quite nice, with pretty good flavor and richness, and not too oily. Derek liked them better than the first batch, however when he took some leftovers for lunch a few days later he said they were dry and greasy. I only tried them right after I made them so I can’t confirm his statement. In general, though, Derek is not a tamale fan. He doesn’t even like the ones at Frontera Grill, and we all know he has a thing for anything Rich Bayless creates. Anyway, Derek says he’d rather just eat the filling, who needs all that dough, and all that extra work? He just doesn’t get it. I’m going to keep working on my tamale making skills in the meantime, and see if I can’t change his mind. The key will be getting the dough thinner I think. Any advice on how to achieve that goal?

A few comments on making the tamales:

  • you’re supposed to put a layer of corn husks on top of the steamer basket before you put the tamales in, and over the top layer of tamales once they’re all in. I think the top layer is key so that the water doesn’t drip off the lid and get the tamales all went.
  • With one of those folding steaming baskets, I found that the water lasted only about 45 minutes before I had to refill it. I tried to pour in additional boiling water without getting the tamales all wet, which was tricky but doable. But I had no idea how much to put it since I couldn’t see the bottom through the tamales. Next time I’ll measure how much water is needed before adding the tamales.
  • When rolling the tamales, it seemed to work best with two people: one to fill them and a second to roll them up and tie them. If you try to fill them and tie them you get dough and filling all over the corn husks.
  • I kept forgetting to leave extra room at the top and bottom of the masa, and not put the filling all the way across the length of the dough. This is necessary so that the top and bottom close up and your filling doesn’t fall out.

I really want to try making a sweet tamales sometime. I’ve seen recipes for apple tamales. Any other ideas?

Oh, another question for you blog-readers-o-mine. When I was to get masa harina they had lots of brands. My mom told me (via her Guatemalan friend) to get Maseca brand. But they had two kinds of masa harina by Maseca: one was specifically for tamales, and the other one said it was for tamales, corn tortillas, and other things. Both said “instant” on them. Both had recipes for tamales on the back, and the one specifically called “masa for tamales” called for adding lard to the tamales. The all-purpose masa recipe for tamales didn’t have any added fat. The ingredients were identical though: corn, lime. Can anyone explain the difference to me?

Also, I tried and failed to find corn husks in Montreal. I looked at the Mexican grocery near Jean Talon (which had masa harina but no corn husks), and at the south american grocery on St. Laurent just north of Pins. They had banana leaves but not corn husks. Suggestions?

Update Sept 23, 2007: I made the corn dish again. I used 4 ears of corn on the cob, which yielded 1.5 pounds of corn kernels after steaming. I used 2 Tbs. of garlic, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 2 Tbs. sage, 1/2 ounce parmesan, and a sprinkle of truffle salt and black pepper. It definitely needed more garlic (maybe 1/3 cup?), and probably a bit more olive oil and/or parmesan as well.

For future reference, here is the tamale recipe from post punk kitchen.

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Cold Cucumber and Avocado Soup

July 17, 2007 at 8:57 pm (B_, C, My brain, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

The food challenge ingredient on myfooddiary this week was cucumbers. I’ve eaten cucumbers before, so I had to try a new preparation. I’ve seen lots of recipes for cold cucumber soup, but have never tried making it. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a cold cucumber soup before. I looked for recipes on Epicurious, and found lots, but the reviews are all over the map. No recipe seemed to get consistently good reviews. Frustrated at trying to pick a recipe, I tossed them all aside and just jumped in and improvised.

I put into the food processor:
* 1 of those long skinny english cucumbers, seeded and 1/2 peeled
* 1/3 cup plain lowfat yogurt
* 1/2 avocado
* 1 whole bunch chives
* 3 pinches salt
* fresh ground black pepper

It was tasty! I liked the flavor quite a bit. Even before th avocado I liked how it tasted, but it was too thin. I couldn’t taste the yogurt at all. The texture of the final soup, however, was kind of lumpy. I not sure if the lumps were cucumber, the cucumber peel, or the chives. Also, next time I’ll use a stronger herb than chives (that’s the only fresh herb I in the fridge). I think the soup would blend up better if it was thicker~even with 1/2 an avocado it was quite thin, but I wouldn’t want to add more avocado as then it would taste more like watery guacamole. What else could be added? Maybe a boiled potato?
This made just over 2 cups.

Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 156
Total Fat 8.4g
Saturated Fat 1.9g
Cholesterol 2mg
Sodium 312mg
Carbohydrate 20.5g
Dietary Fiber 6.5g
Sugars 9.6g
Protein 5.7g
Vitamin A 16%
Vitamin C 45%
Calcium 13%
Iron 7%

Update July 2010:

I recently tried Peter Berley’s recipe for chilled avocado soup with lime and jalepeno, from Fresh Food Fast. Berley says that the recipe results in a “creamy, mousseline” texture. That’s pretty accurate, but I found it quite unappealing. It kind of tasted like watered down, perfectly smooth guacamole. The ingredients were basically guacamole ingredients: avocado, garlic, lime, salt, and jalepeno. The Berley has you fry some tortilla strips until they’re crunchy and golden-brown. I served the soup (with tortilla strips) to Derek and two guests at dinner, and everyone ate a small bowl and had had enough. One guest said “it’s not inedible–I’d eat it eventually if it were in my fridge.” The other guest said that the crunchy chips were essential. Berley says the recipe serves 4 but we had a lot of soup left. I think with 3 avocados it should serve at least 6 people. I don’t want to toss the rest of the soup, so I think I’m going to try mixing with with beans to make a dip.

Rating: C
Derek: C

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Chocolate Chip Brownies, vegan

April 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm (A minus, Brownies and bars, Dessert, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

My mom came to visit and we made these vegan brownies together. I asked her to write up the blog entry for me:

They came out great with a crispy outside and chewy inside. The recipe originated from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, but we made some adjustments before even starting.. We halved the recipe since we were making a new recipe and didn’t want to have too much of something we didn’t like. We left out the walnuts because we didn’t have any at 10pm and didn’t want to go to the store. And we used white flour instead of half whole wheat pastry flour again because we didn’t have any available. Here is the recipe.

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soymilk
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup Sucanat
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup semi/sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 inch square pan.
  2. Put the oil, maple syrup , soy milk and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, sucanat , baking powder and salt.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture with a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Put the batter in the pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes.
  7. Do not overbake.
  8. Cool before cutting.

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Quinoa and Butternut Squash Risotto

January 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm (A minus, B plus, Grains, Peter Berley, Starches)

I normally get nervous when I see risottos which call for grains other than rice.  I avoid barley risotto like the plague. But this recipe in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley has quinoa and arborio rice, so I figured it was safe to risk it.

  • 4 cups water or broth made from squash and leek trimmings
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped leek (white part only) (I used the light green part as well, from 1 leek)
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1/2 inch pieces) (from a 3/4 – 1 pound squash?)
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 Tbs. mirin  (maybe more?  or white wine?)
  • 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  2. In a heavy 3-quart pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. oil, add the leek, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.  Add the rice and quinoa and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the grains are fragrant.
  3. Add the mirin and sage and cook until dry.  Ladle in the water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed before adding each subsequent 1/2 cup of water.  Continue stirring until the grains are tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with parsley and the pumpkin seeds.

Yields 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings.

My Notes:

I’ve made this recipe twice now and I really liked it both times.  It’s almost perfect, except it needs way more sage.  I added more sage with the mirin (about a Tbs.?), and then add the end rather than garnishing with parsley I sprinkled on lots more chopped fresh sage (maybe about 3 Tbs?).  This dish doesn’t quite taste like a traditional risotto.  The quinoa adds a slightly herbaceous note, which melds well with the other flavors.  Plus it’s vegan, and healthier than traditional risotto.  I think it makes more than 2 main-dish servings. Rating: B+

Note October 2008: Last night I tried the butternut squash and sage risotto recipe in Jack Bishop’s cookbook.  It was tasty but neither the squash nor the sage flavors were very strong, even after I added substantially more sage.  I actually prefer the version above with quinoa and leek.  They create a deeper flavor profile that I prefer to the standard risotto recipe.  Bishop suggests garnishing the risotto with fried sage leaves.  I tried to fry some up, but again they didn’t come out right.  They were crispy but lost almost all the sage flavor.  What am I doing wrong?

Note October 12, 2009:  Last night Derek made a combination of this recipe and the butternut squash risotto recipe from the Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook.  He started with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. butter, then added ~4 cups  1/2-inch diced squash (about 1 pound 6 ounces I think) and let it cook for about 7 minutes over medium heat, until it looked like it was starting to soften.  Then he added about 3/4 cup each of arborio rice and quinoa.  When fragrant he added a 1/3-1/2 cup of white wine and ~2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves.  He added about 6 cups of salted vegetable stock slowly, stirring frequently.  At the end he beat in 1 Tbs. of butter, about 2 ounces of parmigiano-reggiano, and another 1-2 Tbs. of fresh, chopped sage leaves, and seasoned to taste.  It was delicious.  I think I liked it with the extra quinoa, and without the leeks, even more than the original version.   Certainly all the animal fat made it taste very good.  I think the absence of leeks gave it a purer squash flavor.  Rating: A-.  Derek rating: A-/B+.  He says it’s very tasty but not quite interesting enough to be A-.  I think the the quinoa flavor makes it interesting enough to make it an A-.

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Candied Sweet Potatoes

January 9, 2007 at 7:14 pm (B_, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

This recipe is from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley. It’s supposed to be a traditional Thanksgiving recipe, except for the addition of ginger. For a more up-to-date post see this one.

  • 2 pounds garnet yams or other sweet potatoes
  • 3 (2-inch) strips orange zest, white spongy pith removed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. pure olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. peeled and finely chopped gingerroot
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and halve the yams crosswise. cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges. Place the yams in a baking dish that will hold them in a snug single layer. Tuck the orange zest and cinnamon sticks among the yams.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, maple syrup, oil, lemon juice, ginger, and salt. (Note, if you’re using butter, omit it in this step, but dot the assembled casserole with small pieces of it before it goes into the oven.) Pour the mixture over the yams.
  4. Bake for 1 1/4 hours, basting every15 minutes, until the yams are tender and glazed and the pan juices are syrupy.
  5. Remove the orange zest and cinnamon sticks before servings.

Yields 4 servings.
My Notes:

I tried slicing off orange zest but got tons of pith, so I ended up just using my zester to zest the whole orange right into the pan. The cinnamon sticks added almost no flavor I thought. If you want cinnamon flavor I think it would be more effective to add ground cinnamon. I didn’t want to waste my fresh orange so I ate it and used organic frozen concentrate instead. I used the butter not the oil.

I think if I make this again I might try leaving the peels ons the sweet potatoes. I bet in the glaze they’d get nice and soft.

I didn’t have a baster, so I flipped them after 30 minutes and mixed the glaze around. After 45 minutes though the glaze was starting to solidify and after 50 minutes it was starting to burn. I removed it from the oven. The sweet potatoes were cooked but not quite meltingly soft. I think if you don’t have a baster (or maybe even if you do), it would be better to cover the sweet potatoes for the first half an hour or 45 minutes.

When I first tasted these right out of the oven I liked the seasoning but thought it was way too sparse. The potatoes are cut quite thickly, and there’s not enough “candy” for all that potato. Plus, even though it’s a lighter recipe than many recipes, it’s still not low calorie (about 300 calories for 1/4 of the dish). It works as a side or a dessert but not a main course. I put it in the fridge and have been eating a few pieces a day as a late afternoon treat, and they’re growing on me. Maybe it’s just that these later pieces have been sitting around in the tupperware absorbing the sauce longer, or maybe they just got more of the sauce than their fare share, but they taste more candied. They’re still pretty high calorie for a “vegetable dish”, and I’d still like more of that yummy sauce, but they’re pretty good anyhow. I like the ginger/orange flavor.

When all the sweet potatoes were gone I added the leftover orange zest, cinnamon sticks, and ginger goo to my chai tea. Yowza! That was some yummy chai. Then I left the cinnamon sticks in the tea overnight, and when I got in in the morning it tasted just exactly like Good Earth tea.

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Greens with Garlic, Mushrooms, and Pepitas

December 11, 2006 at 4:08 am (B_, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe)

This recipe is from the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley. This is his “all-purpose” greens recipe. He recommends drizzling on homemade herbal or chili vinegar.

  • 1 large bunch kale, collard, or mustard greens (about 2 pounds), trimmed, stems sliced into bite sized pieces
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinl sliced
  • 4 to 6 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  1. In a large pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tsp. salt.
  2. Drop the greens into the boiling water and cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender and bright green. Drain in a colander.
  3. In a heavy, wide saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, or until pale gold. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the mushrooms and soy sauce and saute, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mushrooms soften.
  4. Chop the cooked greens and add them to the pan. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender.
  5. Season to taste with salt. Serve sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and pass the lemon wedges on the side.

Serves 4.

My Notes

I think this idea is a pretty solid basic greens recipe. I really like the greens with mushrooms and pumpkin seeds, although they’re good even if you don’t have either of those ingredients. The amounts, however, seem way off to me. Maybe my scale is broken, but one bunch of greens doesn’t come anywhere near 2 pounds for me. Last time I made this I put in one bunch of curly kale and one bunch of lacinato kale and I thought there was way too much greens for the amount of seasoning. Also, chopping the boiled greens is kind of a pain–I wonder if they can be chopped before boiling or if that’s bad? Anyone know?

Update Sept 2007: Today I bought a huge bunch of some sort of green that looked like a cross between dinosaur kale and collards. The farmer didn’t know what it was called in English but said the Italian name is Spiaggia(sp?). Anyone know what this green is? After I removed all the big stems the greens weighed about a pound. I sliced them thinly, then par-boiled them in a big pot of salted water (maybe 2 quarts water and 1.5 tsp. salt). I boiled them for only 2-3 minutes, then drained them. When I tasted them they were tasty, sweet with a good greens flavor. However, they were still quite chewy, and not quite salty enough. In my 12-inch skillet I heated 2 Tbs. olive oil and 3.5 Tbs. minced garlic, along with 1/2 tsp. red chile flakes. I added the greens and 2 tsp. soy sauce and let them cook for about 8 minutes, but they still were quite chewy, not yet tender. I gave up on getting them tender without them turning army green, and offed the heat and added 1 Tbs. lemon juice. They were pretty well seasoned, spicy but not too spicy, and just enough acid. They felt a bit greasy though, so next time I’d try just 1.5 Tbs. olive oil, and maybe cut back the garlic to just 2 Tbs.

Tip: if your greens are bitter try adding just a touch of mayo too them, and/or some fresh lime juice.

Rating: B

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Apple Mustard Tempeh

December 3, 2006 at 12:17 am (B_, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Tempeh)

This recipe makes a great sandwich filling. Just spread your bread with tahini or mustard, and top with sauerkraut and lettuce. It’s based on a recipe in Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.

  • 1 pound tempeh (2 packages)
  • 1 1/3 cups apple juice or apple cider
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (originally 1/3 cup)
  • 3 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. whole grain prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all the ingredients except the tempeh in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  3. Slice each block of tempeh in half crosswise, then slice each piece in half through its width to make thin pieces for sandwiches.
  4. Place the tempeh in a single layer in the baking pan. Tilt the pan to coat each piece with marinade. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the marinade has been almost completely absorbed.
  5. To serve, spread whole wheat bread with tahini or mustard. Top with one slice of tempeh, sauerkraut, and lettuce.

Yields: 8 sandwiches.

My Notes:

I decreased the oil slightly (from 1/3 cup). Next time I think I’ll use only 3 Tbs, as the recipe is pretty high fat, even with the bread. I also eliminated a step in which the tempeh was steamed, and mixed the marinade directly in the baking dish to avoid dirtying a bowl. I might increase the caraway a bit as well, as I love caraway.

When eating the leftovers I couldn’t taste much mustard or sweet? Does it need more mustard and cider?

Rating: B

Update December 1, 2009:

Now that apple cider is finally available in the farmer’s market, I made this recipe again.  I can’t recall how much olive oil I used, but the final dish ended up very tasty.  It did take substantially longer than 40 minutes for the marinade to cook down.  Derek was not happy about me making this recipe.  I tried to convince him that he liked it but for some reason he got it in head that he didn’t.  I knew he liked it, and I was vindicated after he tasted it.  We ate the tempeh plain for lunch and both of us enjoyed it a lot.  It’s a tiny bit too strong for me to eat plain, but I like the flavors a lot.  It’s even better on a sandwich with sauerkraut.

I also tried making it once in a skillet on the stovetop, and it came out better than it ever had before.  Everyone loved it.

Update March 2010:

I made a double batch with two 14-ounce packs of tempeh, cut widthwise into thirds.  I had too much tempeh for my big 17×9? pyrex dish, so I had to layer some of the tempeh slices on top of each other.  I cut the soy sauce to 1.5 Tbs., and I might have cut the oil too.  After 40 minutes the dish was still full of liquid–it didn’t seem like the sauce had reduced at all.  Only the tempeh in the top layer had browned at all.  I should have put it back in the oven to cook some more, but the tempeh was soft and I was impatient.   It didn’t taste sweet enough or mustardy enough (maybe because I cut the soy sauce?).  Derek ate it once but then wouldn’t eat it again.

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Barbecued Tempeh

November 19, 2006 at 6:42 am (B plus, Derek's faves, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Tempeh)

This recipe makes an excellent sandwich filling, that is savory and just a bit spicy. However, don’t expect a traditional barbecue sauce. It’s based on a recipe in the Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley.

Makes 8 servings (each serving is a 1/4 block of tempeh). As a main dish, 2 servings might be more appropriate.


  • 1 pound tempeh (2 8-ounce packages)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves, dried


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour all the ingredients except the tempeh in an 8×11 baking pan, and mix well.
  3. Slice each block in half crosswise. Then very carefully slice through the width of each rectangle to make the pieces thinner. The resulting pieces should be about 4in x 5in x .25in (check this!). If you’re not going to use these for sandwiches, you can cut them into smaller finger sized pieces.
  4. Place the tempeh pieces into the baking pan, and tilt the pan to coat the tops of all the pieces. Ideally the tempeh will form a single layer and will be covered by the marinade.
  5. Put the pan in the oven, uncovered, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated, and just left a sticky but slightly wet goo. You may want to flip the tempeh halfway through if the top is getting dry.

My Notes

We often don’t have the thyme leaves, and it doesn’t taste any different. I think to taste the thyme we might need to double the amount. This recipe calls for 1/2 the oil and soy sauce, and 3/4 of the maple syrup of the original recipe, but I think it’s plenty rich, salty, and sweet. I might even experiment with reducing the oil a bit more. I also eliminated the bowl used to mix the sauce–why dirty another bowl when you can mix it just fine in the baking pan? I love it on Ezekiel bread with a bit of soy mayonnaise and topped with sauerkraut. Add a side of vegetables or fruit and it makes a filling and delicious lunch.

Update Feb 2007: I used 3 blocks (1.5 pounds) of tempeh rather than two, but kept the oil, soy sauce, and maple syrup amounts the same. I multiplied all the other ingredients by 1.5. The tempeh didn’t really fit in the 8×11 baking pan–if I make 3 blocks again I will use a 9×13 pan instead. The tempeh turned out pretty well. Both Derek and I thought it was plenty sweet and plenty rich, but I (but not Derek!) thought it could possibly be a tad saltier. It really didn’t take that long to cook. I flipped it after 15 or 20 minutes, and after another 15 minutes it was pretty much done. With the modifications, each 1/4 block has about 167 calories.

Rating: B+

Derek: A-

Serving Size: 1/4 block

Amount Per Serving
Calories 197
Total Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 1.7g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 369mg
Carbohydrate 17.9g
Dietary Fiber 7.4g
Sugars 6.9g
Protein 12.2g
Vitamin A 7% Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 9% Iron 16%

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Red Lentil Pate (B-)

October 2, 2006 at 5:19 am (Beans, B_minus, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe)

This recipe for red lentil pate is from the cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley.

1 cup large or small red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 a lemon

1. In a 3-quart saucepan (I used a 2 qt pan) over medium heat, combine the lentils and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Skim and discard any foam and add the bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain.

2. While the lentils simmer, in a small saute pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and pine nuts and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion softens and the pine nuts begin to color. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, coriander, caraway seeds, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Continue to saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice to deglaze the pan.

3. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the cooked lentils and onion mixture and puree until smooth.

4. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at once or chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.

My Notes

I admit, I didn’t follow the recipe completely. I only used 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. pine nuts. The dip was so thin I added maybe 1/2 cup chickpeas to thicken it up.

I tasted it after it was done and the lentils had a nice subtle sweet flavor, but otherwise I thought it was very bland. So I added a bit more caraway a bit more tomato paste, the zest from the whole lemon, and the juice from the other half of the lemon. It ended up very lemon-y tasting. I still wasn’t that fond of it, personally, but others seemed to like it quite a bit.

Rating: B-

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Lemon – Mustard Green Beans (B+)

August 18, 2006 at 5:42 am (B plus, 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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Black Bean Zucchini Quesadillas

July 6, 2006 at 6:45 am (A, Alma's faves, Beans, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes) ()

Based on a recipe from the cookbook Fresh Food Fast, by Peter Berley. This recipe is definitely one of my favorite quesadilla recipes. The zucchini adds a moist, sweet, delicate flavor, and the added moisture means that less cheese is needed to achieve the silky mouthfeel expected of a typical quesadilla.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Cruciferous caraway cumin soup

May 30, 2006 at 7:54 pm (B plus, Cruciferous rich, My brain, Other, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, soup, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

This is the first recipe I ever made with rutabagas, and I really love it. The recipe is adapted from one in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley. His recipe calls for making a spice oil with the cumin and coriander and drizzling it on top. I’m sure that would be nice but I was too lazy so just added the spices to the soup. The slow sauteeing of the onions and toasted flour bring out the natural sweetness in the rutabaga, and the combination with caraway is a winner. I love caraway but never know what to put it on–problem solved!

  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1.5 or 2 cups?)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (or use 1 olive oil, and 1 of butter, or just 1 of olive oil)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground caraway seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 1 Tbs. flour
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground cumin
  • 4 cups water (use 3 cups for a thicker puree, if you have a tall narrow pot)

1. In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion and rutabaga in the butter, olive oil and salt. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook gently for 20 minutes. The onions should brown and start to caramelize.
2. Stir in the caraway, garlic, cayenne, coriander, cumin, and flour. Raise the heat and saute for 5 more minutes.
3. Add enough water to cover the vegetables by 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the rutabaga crushes easily against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon.
4. Use a stick blender to puree.

Yields about 5 cups–3 large or 5 small servings

My Notes

The first time I made this I followed Berley’s recipe exactly, except for the spice oil part (his recipe is no longer posted here–you’ll have to look it up in his cookbook.) I liked it a lot, but thought the recipe could use some tweaking.

I made this a second time, using only 1 Tbs. olive oil. I also had about 2-3 cups of zucchini insides leftover from my stuffed zucchini the other night, that I added and let cook down completely. The soup tasted pretty much the same from what I could tell, but was healthier. I want to keep working on this recipe to get a recipe with the same great flavor, but more nutritious and more filling. Eventually I’m positive it’s going to be a winner.

Okay, in a third attempt I used two leftover pattypan squashes. I was a bit short on rutabaga so I threw in the end of my celery root. I also still just used 1 Tbs. oil, but added more of the spices. The squashes were not noticeable, but the vegetal herbaceousness of the celery root interfered a bit with the sweet cabbage-y taste of the rutabaga. I wouldn’t add celery root again. The soup was still tasty though.

On my fourth try I used one rutabaga that was just over a pound, 1 Tbs. flour, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 4 cups of water. It was just a bit spicy and really satisfying. It made 5 cups. I had it in a bowl that I had just had yogurt with cinnamon in, and I really liked the combo. Next time I might try adding cinnamon and a swirl of yogurt. Derek didn’t like it, although both his parents did. The nutritional stats still weren’t great–it’s pretty low calorie but 46% fat and only 6% protein.

Rating: B+

Stats Per Cup
Calories 106
Total Fat 5.8g
Saturated Fat 0.7g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 256mg
Carbohydrate 13.3g
Dietary Fiber 2.4g
Sugars 6.9g
Protein 1.8g
Vitamin A 1% Vitamin C 32%
Calcium 6% Iron 4%

Cauliflower Version

Jan 2007: Today I tried a Cauliflower soup with caraway from Sara Moulton’s cookbook “Cooks at Home”. Well, I kind of tried it. I didn’t have chicken stock (or even veg. stock), or rye bread, or chives. I didn’t feel like using 2 Tbs. olive oil and 4 Tbs. butter for 4 servings, and I forgot to add the fresh lemon and plum tomatoes that are supposed to go in at the end as a garnish. What I did do:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower (I used about 1 2/3 pounds)
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled (I left mine unpeeled)
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 3 cups water (I would have used veg. broth if I had any)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • lots of pepper
  • 3/4? tsp. salt (def. more than 1/2 tsp.)
  • a big shake of aleppo pepper
  • 2 Tbs. half and half

I broke off about 1.5 cups of florets, then sliced the remaining cauliflower.

I sauteed the onion slowly with the olive oil, caraway seeds, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a covered pan. When the onion softened and started to brown I added the sliced cauliflower and potato (sliced thinly). I sauteed a minute then added the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. I then used my stick blender to puree the cauliflower. At this point I tasted it and realized it tasted a lot like the rutabaga soup above. The texture was different–more grainy, and it wasn’t very rich tasting since I’d used so little oil, but the basic caraway / cruciferous taste was the dominant one. I had half and half around for some Cook’s Illustrated recipes so added 2 Tbs to see how that worked. I think I liked it better without the half and half, which sort of mellowed the Cauliflower flavor too much. It did make it more filling though, but next time I think I’ll just use more olive oil to start, or make a spice oil to drizzle over the top.

Sara Moulton said to pre-steam the handful of cauliflower florets she had you hold aside, but I was too lazy so I just threw them in the hot pureed soup and hoped they’d cook. They were still a bit crunchy, but in a good way. Probably not the most elegant version, but easy, and has the benefit of getting both the enzymes that are only present in raw crucifers and the ones that are only present in cooked ones!

In any case, it still tasted a lot like the rutabaga soup, but kind of bland, so I added the cumin, coriander, and some aleppo, then I liked it much better.

Rating: B

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Carrot ginger dressing

May 20, 2006 at 8:27 am (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Japanese, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing)

This recipe is from the Angelica Kitchen cookbook. It’s quite similar to the carrot ginger dressing that you get in many Japanese restaurants.

1 Tbs. minced onion
2 tsp. minced ginger
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1 cup grated carrots (This was two medium carrots for me)
2 tsp. soy sauce (or if you don’t have soy sauce you can use 1/4 tsp. kosher salt)
2 Tbs. apple juice or cider (I used 1.5 Tbs. water and 1/2 Tbs. Cascadian farms apple juice concentrate, which is way better than most frozen concentrates)
4 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
6 Tbs. olive oil (I used 4)
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend! (I just put in a tall beaker and used my stick blender for less mess).

I thought this tasted pretty close to the Japanese dressing, maybe a little more watery (although that’s my own fault for reducing the oil). But I would do it again since even with less oil it stil had a nice consistency, not *too* watery.

It was supposed to make 2 cups, but for me it made more like 1.25 cups I think, maybe since I cut down on the oil? Even so, each Tbs. has only 31 calories by my calculation. If you use the original amount of oil it will have 10 more calories per Tablespoon.

This dressing was marvelous on sliced cooled beets. It was also very tasty on steamed broccoli. I didn’t like it on grain croquettes, however, since the flavor overpowered the flavor of the croquettes.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

I decided to try another variation of this recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe cookbook. The major difference between this recipe and the one above is it has fewer carrots, uses sugar instead of apple cider, rice vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar, has more sesame oil, way more sodium, and adds water to bulk it up.

  • 1 Tbs. minced shallot or red onion
  • 2.25 tsp. grated fresh ginger (I grated a little extra so just threw it in)
  • 1.5 carrots, peeled and shredded (I left mine unpeeled, and grated it on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 3 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce (not sure if mine was low sodium)
  • 3/4 tsp. sugar
  • 4.5 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 9 Tbs. water
  • 6 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2.25 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 tsp. salt (I used 3/8 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (I gave a few whirs of my pepper grinder)

Shake all of the ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake vigorously to recombine before using. Makes about 1.5 cups, and has about 40 calories per Tbs. serving.

My Notes:

I made a big salad for two and added 3 Tbs. of the dressing. I wasn’t very happy with it. I found it a bit greasy, and very bland. I could barely taste the ginger or carrots, and it was nearly vinegar-y enough for me. I don’t really understand this, since the recipe above is quite similar and I like it much more? Also, this made a huge amount of dressing. I think I might only make 1/3 of the recipe in the future.

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