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Archive for the ‘Vegetable’ Category

Dumpling filling is just what it sounds like: a thing you make to put in dumplings. I’ll be covering the dumplings themselves in a separate post. I make dumpling filling with two basic ingredients – textured vegetable protein and a veggie. Kale is the best veggie I’ve tried for the purpose, but other greens would work too, and for this example, I used chopped broccoli.

broccoli

I boiled it. In theory, you could roast it, but you want a nice moist result for your dumpling filling: it’s the water in the filling that cooks the wrappers, if you fry rather than boil the dumplings. Reserve the cooking liquid. Measure out the same volume of water as you plan to use of TVP (for instance, if you want a cup of TVP, measure out a cup of the vegetable’s cooking liquid.) Add Better than Bouillon and the herbs and spices of your choice.

liquid

Bring it back to a boil and then dump it in a bowl with your measured amount of TVP. Stir it up to make sure every one of the flakes is incorporated.

tvp

Let that sit for a while, and then mix up the TVP and the vegetable. You can taste it at this point and see if you put in enough herbs and spices, and add more if you didn’t.

filling

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This is the best soup ever.

Make it. You will thank me.

First, chop up an onion, a potato, a ton of garlic, and a head of cauliflower. Remove the peels/leaves/skins. (You may adjust these ratios if you like. One entire bag of frozen cauliflower works nearly as well as a head of fresh cauliflower.) You don’t have to chop the items up neatly or into small pieces, just get them dismantled reasonably thoroughly.

Add water – don’t overdo it; just add enough for the veggies to cook in. When they cook down, there will be plenty of liquid to go around. Add, also, a generous spoonful of Better than Bouillon. Bring to a boil, and stir occasionally. You don’t need to worry about overcooking this, so err on the side of leaving it simmering for too long rather than risking the larger chunks being underdone.

When it’s cooked, it goes through the blender. I recommend a hand blender/blender wand for this purpose, because you don’t need to do as many dishes that way, but as long as you can be reasonably sure your stand blender won’t crack at an inopportune moment and hit you in the face with hot soup, that will work just fine too. Blend and blend and blend until you have a delightful off-white purée. Then, in goes the cream!

Isn’t it bee-yoo-tee-ful? Keep adding and stirring in cream (heavy cream and light cream both work fine, and if you are on a diet, you could probably get away with half and half) until it is this color:

soup!

Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

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This is an example of a soup I made up on the fly. Much as with the bean corn lime soup, you begin by sautéeing celery and onion:

sauté

I used a combination of canola oil and butter. When it was fried to my satisfaction, I added water and a wide variety of green frozen veggies:

veggies

I used broccoli, peas, spinach, kale, green beans, and zucchini and cooked ’em. Then I threw in some Better than Bouillon and green spices (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, yes really, plus dillweed – and salt and white pepper, which are not green, but what can you do? I would have added chives but it did not occur to me.)

spices

Now to mess with the texture. Again, like the bean corn lime soup, this soup is thickened with a purée of its ingredients. I ladled some of the liquid and vegetables into the beaker for my hand blender and blended them.

purée

Added back to the soup, it made a delightfully thick and chunky consistency out of what was previously water with vegetables floating in it.

soup

Just to make this all even healthier, I added a handful of soy flakes (textured vegetable protein). I didn’t reconstitute them first – I let them pull their hot liquid out of the surrounding soup as I stirred them in and it continued to cook.

tvp

Then, because I thought of the name “cream of green”, I turned it into a cream soup by – predictably enough – adding cream to it.

cream

It’s not that pretty a soup, I will admit, but it tastes really good.

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One of the nice things about being an improvisational cook is that I can adapt very easily to whatever interesting produce is on sale. For example, my grocery store had a sale on greens (turnip, kale, collard, and mustard). I said to myself, “Wow! A sale on greens (turnip, kale, collard and mustard)!” and went and bought a bunch of the latter sort. I washed them and tore them to bits and put them in a pot.

Greens

There were a lot of them, but greens cook down a lot. I added a couple inches of water and some salt and turned the heat on. Then I turned my attention to what was lounging about in my fridge.

Tofu

It’s your friendly neighborhood block of firm tofu! I chopped it into neat cubes and heated a frying pan with some olive oil in it and set them about the business of sizzling.

Tofu

With spices. Of course. I used ground mustard seed (to go with my mustard greens, of course), salt and pepper, some ground celery seed, some onion powder, and some garlic powder. I wasn’t feeling very creative on this day.

Meanwhile, my greens were boiling merrily away. I planned to fry them, of course, but I like my food very cooked, so I let them soften up a little and then drained them:

Greens

They are sad and lonely and wilted. (You would be too, if you had just been boiled and dumped into a colander and photographed without your explicit written consent.) They need some tofu love.

Delicious. I stirred it around for a bit, to let the spices mix through the whole dish and to cook off some of the residual water from the ingredients. When it was about done, I sprinkled a little soy sauce on it, and served. It came out very salty (I obviously sprinkled with too heavy a hand), but otherwise delicious.

Stirfry

Modifications: Swap out the mustard greens for any other leafy green vegetable, or use a combination: try the above mentioned greens or spinach. Use a different tofu texture, or swap out the tofu for tempeh. Use a different oil. Play with the spices. Leave out the soy sauce; substitute a citrus juice or nothing at all. Skip the boiling of the greens for crispier ones. Throw in extra ingredients: noodles, rice, scrambled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, baby corn, chopped onion, mushrooms… After soup, stirfries are the easiest thing to improvise.

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Roasted Broccoli

Behold, a humble crown of broccoli.

Broccoli crown

But it is raw and boring. That will never do. Preheat the oven to 425º. Butcher your vegetable. If you must wash it (which, probably, you must) then dry it very thoroughly first. Putting wet broccoli in the oven isn’t that different from steaming it.

My weapons of choice. Your arsenal may vary. The salt is essential. One of the containers labeled white pepper is actually onion powder. (The onion powder container broke, and what was not spilled onto the floor was transferred into a saved white pepper container.) Add also an oil with a high smoke point. I used olive oil; canola would be another good choice.

Hacked up and arranged broccoli…

And after, tossed with spices and oil.

Into the oven with it for fifteen to twenty minutes, or until the tips have gotten brown and crispy.

Add some shredded parmesan or similar cheese like so, if desired. A squirt of lemon juice, a sprinkle of citrus zest, any spices you were too easy on, any fresh herbs you did not care to subject to the heat, more salt if you taste it and deem it necessary, maybe a little butter just to make the entire thing even more decadent. Enjoy.

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Mashed Potatoes

Here is how to make mashed potatoes the improvisational way:

Peel (or don’t, especially if you are using red potatoes) and hack to bits some potatoes. Put them in a pot and cover them with cold, heavily salted water. Boil them (and give them a stir occasionally so they don’t stick and burn). You can skim off some of the potato starch, as it’s released and floats on the surface, with a large spoon; this reduces the odds that the water will climb up out of the pot and require your intervention.

When the potatoes are very soft (to check, grab a piece that’s above average in size with your spoon, run it under the faucet for a few seconds to cool it off, and eat it: it should barely require the possession of teeth), dump them out into a colander in the sink to drain off the water. Dump them back in the pot and start mashing them up – you can use a potato masher if you have one, but a big fork will do in a pinch. Thin the mixture to your preferred texture by stirring in splashes of milk or cream. Add salt to taste.

Variants:

You can add Better Than Bouillon to the water in which you boil the potatoes, especially if you aren’t planning to add anything interesting to them later.

You can boil the potatoes with coarsely chopped garlic (it has to be big enough that you won’t lose it in the colander), onions, or other vegetables that will become mushy enough to mash. I don’t recommend adding herbs or spices at this stage because they’ll just go down the drain, but something like a bayleaf would work. (Remove the bayleaf before you start mashing the potatoes.)

In addition to the milk or cream you need to get the mashed potatoes soft and moist and goopy, you can add butter, oil, sour cream, soft cheese (I like Boursin, especially the Garlic and Herb kind), or, again, Better than Bouillon. Sour cream has a soft enough texture (compared to most cheeses), and tastes good enough even in large quantities (as opposed to butter or oil) that if you plan to use a lot of it, you may be able to dispense with the milk or cream. I recommend adding these items before the milk or cream in any case, because they do affect the texture.

In addition to the salt all mashed potatoes demand, you can add other herbs and spices. White pepper, tarragon, chives, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, ground celery seed, ground mustard seed, and sage are nice in mashed potatoes, although perhaps not all at the same time.

Whatever you add to your potatoes, taste them between each addition to make sure you’re on the right track.

The people who make Boursin are not paying me either. In fact, nobody involved with any kind of food is paying me, so I’m going to stop issuing disclaimers now.

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