Monthly Archives: March 2015

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (Really!)

Children hate the idea of “Meatless Monday.”pie

Truth be told, I’m not so crazy about it either. Butcher’s son, you know.

On the other hand, my wonderful life partner puts up with most of my foibles, so I figure the least I can do is humor her in her craving for “meatless Monday.”

I try all kinds of ways to deal with the concept—I’ve done risottos, pasta dishes, bean burritos, vegetable pot pie—and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the Moosewood empire, where meatless is a way of life.

So when my beloved handed me a recipe for vegetarian shepherd’s pie (which, I think, is an oxymoron—I mean, have you ever heard of a shepherd rounding up his—or her—lentils at the end of the day?

I mean, “Git along, little legume?”

Somehow it just doesn’t ring right.

On the other hand, I’ve made a bunch of shepherd’s pies over the last few weeks, and I think I’ve got the flavor profile down pretty well, and I have, after all, been making my shepherd’s pies from ground turkey (“Git along, little turkey?”), so why not vegetarian. I have been fairly successful making dishes using lentils of a variety of colors, and the recipe appeared to me to be reasonably open to experimentation, so Lentil Shepherd’s Pie it is.

Guess what?

It turned out to be really good. As most of you vegetarians will attest, lentils can be (a) healthful; (b) tasty; (c) brown; and (d) flexible. And pretty easy to work with, too, taking on the flavor of whatever seasonings one might be tempted to use.

I highly recommend this recipe, and I will actually make it again, amending it as I go to see what other interesting taste profiles I can come up with.

Here, then, is my version of Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. Adapted from a recently posted recipe from Eating Well, I’ve changed it up some to suit my and my family’s taste buds, and while getting the children to eat it was somewhat of a challenge (getting my children to eat anything beyond mac-n-cheese is somewhat of a challenge), any families whose kids are open to this sort of thing will, I think, actually like this recipe a bunch.

Here it is:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes

½ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons margarine or butter spread (I use Smart Balance)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

¼ teaspoon fine-ground white pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oil spray

1 large onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

½ cup baby peas

1 teaspoon fresh (or ½ teaspoon dried) thyme

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup red table wine

1 ½ cups cooked brown lentils

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water, at least 1 inch over the lentils; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and set aside.

Cut the potatoes into 1- to 2-inch cubes and place in a pot of boiling, salted water, turn the heat down to medium and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add the buttermilk and butter spread, mash with a potato masher and whip until smooth. Set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling, spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with olive oil spray. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil, add the onion and carrots, and sauté until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to combine. Add the broth and cook, stirring, until the sauce begins to thicken, about three minutes. Add the Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, and wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Drain the lentils and add, along with the peas, and stir to combine completely.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Spoon the lentil filling into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Top with the mashed potatoes, spread evenly, and draw lines into the potatoes with a fork to create ridges. Spray the top with olive oil spray and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn on the broiler and brown the top lightly, rotating once to brown evenly, 6-8 minutes.

Serve immediately.

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Around the World in Eight Courses: Egypt, on the Way to the Suez Canal and India

We’ve come round the bend and into the Mediterranean Sea.shakshouka  We’re stopping in Alexandria, Egypt, on our way  through the canal to India.  We’ve been traveling by steamer all night, and are in need of a hearty late breakfast/early lunch meal that includes both lots of veggies and some protein, but not a heavy protein.  The answer is shakshouka.

The word comes either from the Berber word chakchouka, which means vegetable stew, or from the Hebrew leshakshek, which means shake.  Its origin is somewhat disputed; some think it is originally an Israeli dish, others insist its origin is Tunisia, and some of those think that it originated with Tunisian Jews.  Whatever the origin, it is highly popular throughout Mediterranean Africa, especially in Egypt. The upshot throughout the region is that it is sort of a shaken mixture.  That defines it quite well.

In any case, it is a mixture of fragrant spices, and  is served with an egg poached in the vegetable stew and cut-up pitas, to soak up the juices and the egg yolk.

And it is really tasty.  Here’s the recipe:

Shakshouka

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 Anaheim chiles (or 4 or 5, if you like it spicy) stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, top trimmed off and roasted*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with juice, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving

Preparation:

*Roasted garlic: preheat the oven to 350.  Slice off the top of the garlic head, drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over the exposed cloves; leave the head otherwise intact.  Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes; remove from oven, cool until warm but safe to touch.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic (squeeze the garlic from the skins), cumin, paprika, and fennel, and stir to mix well and heat throughout, about 2 more minutes.

Crush the tomatoes in a bowl by hand and add with the liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water; reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

Thanks to Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen for the foundation of this recipe, with which I started, but then altered just a bit after trying several varieties.

Locally Grown French Mushroom Soup

Continuing our trip around the world with friends, soupwe next stop in Marseille, on the southeast coast of France, to where we have traveled from Spain by train.  There we encounter a small restaurant that has created a velvety-smooth mushroom soup that is dressed with a “salad” of ingredients also found in the soup.  It is not your mother’s mushroom soup, or anything like that concentrated product from the soup giant.  This soup has a sophisticated and complex flavor that is at the same time subtle and earthy, touched as it is by fresh raw mushrooms that bathe shortly in finished soup as you partake.  Try this one yourself.  It is simple and elegant.

The soup is a true French creation: it’s made with champignons de Paris, or what we know as plain white or button mushrooms, and it’s inspired by a soup from the Paris bistro, Les Papilles (whose name means taste buds). At the little restaurant, the soup comes to the table in a big tureen, and you’re encouraged to dip the ladle into it as often as you like.

At Les Papilles, shallow soup plates are brought to the table sans soup but with a small mushroom “salad”: thin slices of raw mushrooms seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped chives, and parsley and topped with a tiny bit of crème fraîche. When the hot soup is poured over the salad, the mushrooms cook just slightly.  You’ll get to enjoy that nice contrast between the cooked soup and the raw vegetable.

The name champignons de Paris is more honorific than correct these days. While the mushrooms did get their start near Paris — Louis XIV had them in the gardens at Versailles — they were found growing in the catacombs beneath Paris when construction for the metro began, today the mushrooms are ubiquitous in America, but they are grown all over Chester county right next to us here in Lancaster, and they are likely fresher here than almost anywhere else.  I believe we could just as easily call this Fresh and Local Mushroom Soup, as all the ingredients–right down to the butter and yogurt–can (and ought to be) locally sourced.

French Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

For the soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ large onions, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1½ pounds white mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and sliced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 parsley sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
6 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons French cognac

For the “salad
6 large white mushrooms, wiped clean and trimmed
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Plain Greek yogurt, for serving

To make the soup: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Toss in the onions and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the mushrooms and the remaining tablespoon of butter, raise the heat to medium, and cook, continuing to stir, for another 3 minutes or so, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Increase the heat to high and cook until almost all of the liquid evaporates. Pour in the wine and let it boil until it, too, almost evaporates.

Toss the herbs into the pot, add the broth or water (and the bouillon cubes, if you’re using them), and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot almost completely, and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Pull out the rosemary sprig (it will have lost its leaves).  Add the cognac.

Working in small batches in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until it is very smooth; or use an immersion blender. If you’re using a processor or an immersion blender, you probably won’t get a super-smooth soup. If you’d like, you can push the pureed soup through a strainer, but it’s really not necessary. Taste for salt and white pepper. Pour the soup back into the pot and heat it gently — it shouldn’t boil, but it should be very hot.

To make the salad and serve: Divide the mushrooms, scallions, parsley, and chives among six soup plates; season lightly with salt and white pepper. Ladle the soup into the bowls, and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche, if desired.

Serving
Arrange the salad in shallow bowls.  Bring the dressed bowls to the table and ladle the soup from a tureen or soup pot into the bowls.  Finish the soup with a spoonful of crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle a bit of freshly chopped parsley over the top.

Storing
The soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

Some of the text for this entry and the recipe, which I have altered just a bit, come from a fine cookbook titled Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

Around the World in Eight Courses (Continued)

TAPAS!

Here are more wonderful recipes from ourtapas Around the World in Eight Courses dinner party ten nights ago.  These are three more of the tapas presentations on the platter.  Mini roasted peppers stuffed with herbs and goat cheese, a terrific  parsley and anchovy (that’s right! anchovy) dip that was served with slices of bell pepper, toasted pita chips, and an onion and potato torte that was cut into bite-sized pieces.  The surprise of the platter was the parsley dip, with the anchovies poached in a broth of milk and olive oil. Not salty, not offensive in any way, but rather very tasty and begging to be sampled twice.

Here, then are the recipes:

Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

8 ounces goat cheese

3 scallions, green parts only, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped

Red pepper flakes

Zest and juice of two lemons

12 mini red and yellow bell peppers

Preparation:

Prepare the filling an hour or two ahead.  Place goat cheese, scallions, mint, and red-pepper flakes in a bowl. Zest and juice lemons into the bowl, straining seeds. Mix until well combined.  Refrigerate until ready to fill the peppers.

Roast the peppers in a 350-degree oven, turning every five minutes, until they are blackened all over (alternately, roast them over a gas-stove flame, using tongs to keep them above the flames); then place them on a parchment-lined tray and cover with a dish towel until they are completely cool.  Peel the skins gently, trying not to damage the roasted peppers.

Spoon the filling into a plastic bag, squeeze the filling into a bottom corner of the bag, remove as much air from the bag as possible,  and twist the top of the bag.  This forms a small piping bag.  Cut a small piece of the bottom corner of the plastic bag, and fill each pepper with about 2 tablespoons of the goat cheese mixture. Place on a serving plate, and sprinkle with red-pepper flakes; garnish with spring onions if desired. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, about 1 hour.

Parsley-Anchovy Dip

Ingredients:

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup whole milk

1 head garlic, peeled and smashed

16 anchovies

2 bunches parsley heads

ground pepper

2-3 tsp. Lemon juice

Preparation:

In a small saucepan, bring olive oil, milk, garlic, and anchovy fillets to a simmer over medium; cook until garlic is tender, 8 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add parsley. Pulse until smooth; season with pepper and lemon juice.

Onion and Potato Torte

Ingredients:

7 tbsp EVOO

1 medium onion, ½-inch rounds

3 Yukon golds, ¼-inch rounds

8 eggs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic

Chicory or endive

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325.

Saute onions till golden, place in bowl. Repeat with potatos. Whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper. Add to onions and potatoes.

Heat pan with extra-virgin olive oil, add mixture and cook until edges begin to brown. Place in oven and bake, covered, until set, about 10 minutes. Remove top and broil until lightly browned.

Brush bread with EVOO and garlic, toast until golden.. Toss lettuce with vinegar, salt and pepper. Scatter over bread, cover with torte, cool. Serve at room temp.

 

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