Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Vegetarian Winter Borscht with Wild Mushroom Broth

The most delicious borscht I had ever eaten, until maybe now, was from a recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook. The only problem with it is that it uses beef broth.  I have been craving beets recently, and especially I have been craving that borscht.  So I wanted to see if I could adapt the Silver Palate recipe into a vegetarian version. One of the things I really liked about the original recipe was the extra dimension of flavor from the beef broth.  Another thing I liked was the texture, with small chunks of beef as well as chopped vegetables.  Since mushrooms have a sort of equivalent texture and flavor to beef, I often find that I can use them as a substitute for beef when adapting recipes to vegetarian versions.  So I decided to try this here.  I made a wild mushroom broth full of flavor from dried wild mushrooms as well as various vegetables and vegetable trimmings.  Using vegetable trimmings is very kind to our planet, as it reduces garbage as well as the need for other food items that would provide flavor. I later added chopped fresh mushrooms to provide some of the meatiness that I like in the Silver Palate recipe.  I think this is really delicious, maybe even as good or better as the original Silver Palate version--and definitely better for the planet. It is hearty, nutritious, and can be a simple meal by itself, perhaps with some whole grain bread on the side. And this is definitely great comfort food for a cold winter's day--or night.

Wild Mushroom Broth:

approximately 1 cup dried wild mushrooms (such as half porcini, half shiitake)
1 vidalia onion, cut in half, include peels
2 carrots
3 stalks celery, including leaves
dark green part and stem of leek
beet peels and ends from beets used for borscht (see below)
any additional vegetable trimmings
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
approximately 14 cups water

The Borscht:

approximately 2 pounds beets (about 6 medium), peeled and grated or chopped finely (a Vitamix will work well for this task).  Use peels and ends in broth above.

2 carrots, diced small
1 head cabbage, chopped
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
26 oz. carton chopped tomatoes
approximately 10 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped

a little extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh dill, chopped
sour cream to garnish

Pour about 2 cups boiling water over dried mushrooms and let soak for ½ hour to an hour.

Meanwhile, place beets in a pan with enough water to cover.  Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until tender.  Turn off heat and set aside.

After dried mushrooms have soaked, combine them with their soaking liquid in a large pot with vegetables (no need to chop carrots and celery) and trimmings, bay leaves and salt.  Pour at least 12 cups water in pot, or a little more.  Make sure all solids are covered with water.  Cover, bring to boil, then simmer for about 2 hours.

After mushroom broth is finished cooking, strain all solids out.

Saute chopped onion in a little olive oil in a stock pot until translucent. Add other chopped vegetables, mushroom broth, and cooked beets in their cooking liquid to the pot and simmer for about an hour, or until all vegetables are cooked and tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add chopped dill and serve with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl.  Garnish with additional chopped dill if desired.  Makes approximately 12 servings.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Kinds of Quiche

Quiche is a mainstay of my cooking repertoire, and has been for many years.  I usually try to make two at a time, one for dinner the evening I cook it and the other for the freezer.  Also, I use frozen pie crust.  My favorite is Wholly Wholesome (brand) Organic Traditional pie crust, which I find at specialty grocery stores.  It tastes like homemade (in my opinion), and makes quiche a very easy meal to make. My mother always made quiche without a recipe, so that is how I have always done it.  It was always a guessing game as to how much cheese to use, how many eggs, how much cream.  Sometimes I would have leftover egg/cream mixture, while other times there would not be enough.  I finally got around to measuring everything and figuring out the exact right amount of ingredients to use. I am sharing a couple of recipes with you today, but you can substitute whatever vegetables you like for what I have selected for these recipes.  You can also try using different cheeses, though I tend to prefer gruyere and cheddar for my quiches.

Broccoli, Tomato and Pepper Quiche

1 pie crust
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
¼ cup diced red pepper
7 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 eggs
heavy cream (less than 2 cups)
 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/8 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Line pie plate with pie crust.  Do not bake crust first, as sides will shrink and cause liquid to spill out later, when you add cream etc.

Whisk 4 eggs in glass measuring cup.  Add enough cream to make 2 cups liquid.  Add salt, pepper and herbs.

Sprinkle cheese somewhat evenly in bottom of crust, then sprinkle vegetables on top of cheese, then pour in liquid.  Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Test for doneness by sticking tip of knife gently into middle of quiche to make sure it has set. If it is still liquid, let it bake for a few more minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Mushroom Quiche

1 pie crust
1 3/4 cups gruyere cheese, grated
1 ¼ cups sliced mushrooms
4 eggs
heavy cream (less than 2 cups)
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp marjoram
¼ tsp paprika

1 TBS freeze dried shallots
freshly ground pepper to taste

Line pie plate with pie crust.  Do not bake crust first, as sides will shrink and cause liquid to spill out later, when you add cream etc.

Whisk 4 eggs in glass measuring cup.  Add enough cream to make 2 cups liquid.  Add salt, pepper, shallots and herbs.

Sprinkle cheese somewhat evenly in bottom of crust, then sprinkle mushrooms on top of cheese.  Pour liquid over all.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Test for doneness by sticking tip of knife gently into middle of quiche to make sure it has set. If it is still liquid, let it bake for a few more minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

White Bean Soup with Wheatberries, Potatoes and Spinach

This soup takes a little time spread over the day to make.  It is easy to make, but you should make it on a day when you are home much of the time.  It is delicious, hearty and a wonderful vegetarian meal to eat on a very cold day.  Pairs well with red wine and good bread, and tastes even better the next day!

When cooking the beans, I used a half onion and dried chipotle pepper to flavor the beans.  I find that the dried chipotle pepper gives the same kind of flavor to beans that a ham hock provides, which is what I used to use before trying to eliminate meat. If you want to make this but don’t have all day, you could use canned beans instead of dried, and cook the soup for a shorter amount of time. 

2 1/2 cups dried white beans, such as Great Northern or Cannelini
1/2 cup wheatberries
Dried chipotle pepper
Half onion
Extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise then sliced
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 potatoes, such as white, red or yukon gold, diced into 1/4"-1/2" pieces 
Handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
Handful fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
10 cups vegetable broth (I use water and appropriate amount of vegetable broth concentrate)
3 cups baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan
Flavored olive oil, such as rosemary infused, for drizzling (optional)

Soak beans overnight in plenty of water (water should be about 3 inches above beans). After soaking, drain water and cook beans in fresh water, about 3 inches above line of beans, with half onion and dried chipotle pepper: bring water to boil, then simmer for about 2 hours or until just soft. Add about a teaspoon of salt after beans have begun to soften but before they are done. (If you add salt at beginning of cooking, beans will not soften). When beans are soft, drain beans and remove onion half and dried pepper. 

Soak wheatberries for 3 or 4 hours before adding to soup.

Meanwhile, sauté leeks in olive oil for several minutes, then add diced carrots, celery, and chopped herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in chopped garlic and cook for another minute or two. Do not allow garlic to burn. Turn off stove. 

When beans and vegetables are cooked, it is time to combine them in soup pot with potatoes, 10 cups broth, or water and vegetable broth concentrate, and soaked wheatberries. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and remove cover.  Simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach for last half hour of cooking. When it’s ready, the soup will have thickened from the wheatberries and beans cooking in the broth. To serve, grate Parmesan cheese and drizzle flavored olive oil over servings in bowl. Serves 10-12 as main course.