Monday, March 29, 2010

Mediterranean Vegetable Sauté over Spaghetti Squash

This is one of my favorite quick, easy, and light dishes especially for spring and summer; and if you cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time, it can go together in less than 15 minutes.

I learned about spaghetti squash in the Great American Carb Reduction times of 2004-2006 or so - supposedly a great substitution for pasta. It took a while to sell me on the idea and the flavor, and I’m not sure I see it as a direct substitution necessarily, though it is tasty. I think spaghetti squash is a great addition to pasta, and you can absolutely serve this dish over angel hair pasta - especially whole wheat. However, sometimes I'm still looking for something very light, and this fits the bill. As usual, it's not terribly authentic, but I think the flavors work very well together, especially for such a quick meal.

The artichoke hearts, olives, and feta cheese bring a lot of salt to the dish, but do check before serving in case you need to add more.

med spaghetti squash 

Mediterranean Vegetable Sauté over Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large yellow pepper, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tsp dill
1 tsp oregano
15 ounce can artichoke hearts packed in water, quartered
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Zest from one lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half, and place the squash cut side down on a baking dish. Bake in the oven until cooked through, or 45 minutes. Allow to cool partway, then take a fork and rake across the flesh of the squash. The flesh should come apart in strands that resemble spaghetti. Put aside in a dish.

While the squash is cooking, heat the olive oil in a non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, zucchini, onion, dill, and oregano, and cook until just crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the next four ingredients and just heat through, about one minute. Remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Portion the spaghetti squash strands into four bowls, top with vegetable mixture, then sprinkle with feta cheese.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion Tamale Pie with Cilantro Cheddar Cornbread

Though it sounds a little fancy, this is a relatively simple recipe. It comes together from vegetables purchased at the farmer's market last weekend and a love for tamale pie recipes. Cornbread is one of my absolute favorite foods, and I don't make it enough. Of course, a cast iron skillet would help with that, which for some reason I still don't own.

This got a huge thumbs-up from Mike, who loves anything and everything Mexican-TexMex-vaguely US Southwestern flavored. It's great with sour cream, avocados, olives, any of your favorite Tex Mex type garnishes. I love it with lots of hot sauce, but then, what doesn't hot sauce go with?

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion Tamale Pie with Cilantro Cheddar Cornbread

Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 medium red peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder (or other any other powdered chile)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

Additional shredded cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray an 8" x 13" casserole dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in next seven ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for additional 2-3 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and eggs, then remaining ingredients.

Move vegetables into casserole dish and pour cornmeal mixture over the top, spreading evenly. Sprinkle additional cheddar cheese on top, if desired. Bake in oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Basic Seitan

I tried store-bought seitan a long time ago, when I first went vegetarian, and thought it was awful. I used it in a stir-fry. Mike and I each took one bite and we threw the entire thing out. It wasn't until a while later when I tried seitan at the hot bar at Whole Foods that I realized it could be delicious.

The first time I made it at home, I followed the recipe for Seitan o' Greatness from the Post Punk Kitchen forums. What a difference! Not only was it much, much cheaper, but it was also tasty as well!

I've now made seitan at home a dozen times or more, and I tweak the recipe each time. This is a rough estimation of the way I make it at home, but you may need more or less liquid or dry ingredients. You can add anything you like to this - I often make an Italian-ish version, but go crazy. When you see vegetarian sausages in the refrigerated section, often they're an offshoot of seitan, so if the flavors interest you, try them on your own. Use this in any recipe calling for meat or meat substitutes. I even like to eat it on it's own - it's incredibly filling!

Also, this recipe can be time consuming. Plan ahead, and feel free to make large batches to store in the freezer - it freezes very well.

The version I have a picture of below has sundried tomatoes and fennel seed. I soaked sundried tomatoes in hot water and used that as the liquid, then added Italian seasoning, minced garlic, and fennel seeds. Soon I'd like to try butternut squash, sage, and toasted pecan!

Note: I find vital wheat gluten in the bulk section of my local health food store. Some Whole Foods Markets also carry it, both in bulk and in the flours section. You can also use soy flour instead of chickpea flour, or more vital wheat gluten, but I like the texture that chickpea flour gives the seitan. You can find it easily at an Indian grocery store.

Basic Seitan

Serves 6-8

2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp oil or nut butter
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder

Any additional seasoning that you like - cracked pepper, herbs, curry powder, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, Italian herbs, sauteed vegetables or fruits, garlic, nuts, etc. Make sure you do add some flavors, as this is a very basic recipe and rather bland on its own.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours and attach the dough hook. Add liquid, olive oil, and salt and mix until the dough comes together without sticking to the bottom of the bowl. (This may require adding additional flour or liquid - it's never worked the same twice for me.)

Once the dough comes together, let it knead for 10 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes, then knead for another 10 minutes.

While the dough is going through it's final kneading time, take a large skillet and place a metal steaming basket inside, along with 1-2 inches of water. Remove the dough, cut into four equal pieces, and shape as desired. Place onto the steaming basket, cover, and steam for 45 minutes, adding additional water as needed. Let cool while still covered, and store for later or use as needed.