Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sesame Bok Choy and Cabbage

I know it's silly to complain about the weather since we have no control over it, but I think we here in Massachusetts (all of New England?) are allowed to be a bit whiny. In all of June, I think we have had 2 sunny days. The clouds, the gray and the rain are getting old. Real old. Our summer season is so short as it is, to take this much of it away from us is just plain mean. I know it's only been officially summer since yesterday, but the forecast for the entire week ahead is rain. No end in sight. My bed sheets and towels feel clammy and gross. I feel gross. My energy is lower and I find myself wanting to eat lots of carbs - like the large quantity of pizza I ate for dinner tonight - and lay around reading.

Speaking of dinner, I had a most eclectic combination on my pizza this evening. We went to Za, which is in our neighborhood, and they do try to use local and seasonal ingredients. Tonight had two interesting chalkboard specials, and I ended up getting to sample both of them because of an error in the kitchen - they gave me a free pizza! On one was: strawberries, goat cheese, walnuts, caramelized onions and basil. On the other: asparagus, cheddar, Parmesan, rhubarb and caramelized onions. Neither had red sauce. It's not often you get to have strawberries on your pizza, so it was fun as well as tasty. I would definitely have it again, but I think my favorite was the asparagus combo.

At first I was looking at the bright side of the non-summery weather and taking advantage of still being able to turn the oven on. But, I've moved on from that, and I'm moving towards seasonal dishes. For those of you who belong to CSAs, this recipe will come in handy as you are probably getting some bok choy in your share. My friend, Jean, passed this one onto me. It's simple and few ingredients, but a very tasty, quick meal. I served it over brown rice on her suggestion, and I think this is the way to go. I'm not sure white rice would complement it as well. I also added mushrooms to Jean's recipe and thought it worked well.

Sesame Bok Choy and Cabbage

1/2 lb bok choy, sliced
1/4-1/3 head cabbage, chopped
1 c. sliced white mushrooms
2 tblsp canola oil
1 tspn sesame oil
3 cloves garlic
Bragg's liquid aminos to taste (optional)
2 tblsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish

1. In a skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, mushrooms and cabbage and saute for 5 minutes.
2. Add bok choy, saute another 5 minutes.
3. Turn off heat. Drizzle with olive oil and if you want a little saltier flavor add some Bragg's. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Black Bean Burgers

I'm not sure what's more remarkable about tonight's dinner - that I made homemade veggie burgers for the first time in over 20 years of being vegetarian or that Todd and I ate dinner at 7:30. Since the weather is cloudy (yet again- this is 3 weeks in a row of rainy weekdays) and my Tuesday night group ride was canceled, I decided to just come home and get some things done. My original back-up plan was to go to yoga, and while I can always use more stretching, I can also use a night of reading. Todd and I typically end up eating dinner around 10:00, so I'm guessing I'm going to be hungry again around bedtime. Good thing I have leftovers.

I'm not sure why I've never made veggie burgers from scratch before. I've made mock "meat"loafs which is very similar, and "meat"balls, but never veggie burgers. I think I got veggieburgered out at one point or something. There was a time when it seemed hard to get anything but a veggie burger as a vegetarian when you ate outside your home, so maybe it just wasn't something I was excited to eat. Making them from scratch is certainly far better than the frozen kind.

This recipe isn't going to totally knock your socks off, but it's definitely a good, basic foundation to use that's not that labor intensive. I plan to mess around with it and see what I can do with it. Don't expect it to be a solid hockey puck type thing like a frozen one. They are a little crumbly. We had them with roasted potatoes and the aioli sauce from a couple of posts ago, and some broccoli. It made a nice casual meal.

Black Bean Burgers
1 14 oz can black beans
1/2 bell pepper, chopped small (I used orange, but any color will work)
1/2 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1 tblsp chili powder
1 tblsp cumin
1 tspn thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko style)

1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly oil a baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. Add onion, pepper and garlic.

3. In a small bowl, mix egg, chili powder, cumin and chili sauce. Stir into mashed bean mixture.

4. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Add more bread crumbs if necessary. If you are using bread crumbs that are not seasoned, you may want to add a little salt. Form 4 patties using your hands to mash together.

5. If grilling, place patties on foil and grill for 8 minutes on each side. If cooking in the oven, place on baking sheet, and bake 10 minutes each side.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Curry

I'm 40. Forty. The big 4-0. I think this technically makes me "middle-aged". How did that happen? I know, I know: 40s is the new 30s; It's all how you feel; It's just a number. All that is true. I feel pretty darn good. I am happy. I have a good life. But, I am 40. I have never had any particular plan set for myself, like by the time I'm 40 I'll be making over $100k, have 2 kids, live in a 3 bedroom split ranch in a quiet suburb near the water. None of that. (Which is good, since none of these things are true.) I tend to figure things out as I go along and take experiences as they come. This has worked out o.k. for me so far, but I feel that in my middle-agedness it might be time for me to go about things in a more deliberate manner, because the reality is that I am running out of time to do all the things I want to do in this life! I do set little goals for myself along the way, typically in regards to my physical activities. But, I think it may be time to set some larger goals for myself in order to make sure my next decade of life is a memorable one.

At the moment, however, I am more focused on the physical aspect of things. I spent some time today studying my face in the mirror wondering if I'm aging well, and trying to think of how to get rid of the big crease that runs along the middle of my forehead and the sun spots just above it. Since botox and surgery aren't really viable options for me, I think I just have to live with the current state of things. So, now I just have to go into prevention mode and try to minimize the amount of future wrinkles, spots, etc. I got a facial on my birthday and went from there to a make-up store in the mall where I asked the nice young man to try to make me look 35. And, if he couldn't do that, I asked him to at least make me look less tired. He did have some good suggestions and introduced me to a great under eye concealer and some lip gloss.

So, now it will be time to move beyond the superficial nature of things and figure out some more meaningful goals. On the cooking front, I think my 40s will be the decade of the curry. I have already started exploring that genre and will continue to do so. This is the dish I made on my birthday eve. I cut this recipe almost in half, and it made enough for dinner and leftovers for the both of us.

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry
3/4 cup uncooked red lentils
6 cups water
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup light coconut milk
1 tblsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tblsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 inch chunk peeled and grated ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp peanut oil

1. Rinse the lentils. Put in a saucepan with 5 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Red lentils cook very fast so be careful! Drain and set aside.
2. In a dry skillet (no oil) on medium heat, toast the curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, and 1/4 tspn salt. Toast until they become fragrant, then pour into a bowl and set aside.
3. Return skillet to heat and cook peanut oil on medium high heat. Add onions and remaining 1/4 tspn salt. Sautee the onions until they just start to brown. Add garlic & ginger and sautee for another minute.
4. Add the toasted spices, carrot and sweet potato. Sautee for 5 minutes, then add 1 cup water. cover and simmer until potatoes are tender about 10-13 minutes.
5. Stir in lentils and lime juice. Then stir in coconut milk. Let cook another few minutes. Server over rice.