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Vegetable centric cooking

Category: Recipes

Arugula salad w/ pomegranate dressing

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Strong flavors, avocado and feta make this salad far from dainty — it is a nice dinner with lentil or black bean soup.  Pomegranate molasses is concentrated stuff, with a strong, sour taste made from simmering pomegranate juice with a little sugar and lemon. You can get it at Middle Eastern grocers, and it goes wonderfully with smoked paprika. Do not confuse with Pom Wonderful, which is thinner and sweeter and comes in a cooler bottle.  And definitely go for good feta made from sheep or goat’s milk.  I happen to like Bulgarian feta, which is quite tangy.  Greek and French are also very good — Greek is sharp and a little drier, while French is very creamy.  Any of bunch is tastier than domestic cow’s milk feta.

Serves 2

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Toast w/ Sicilian tuna

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Google Sicilian tuna salad and you get a ton of variations — with anchovy dressing, poached in olive oil or chilled for hours.  At the least, none have mayo and all have lots of fresh herbs, some crunchy veggies and something cured like olives and capers. Maybe somewhere in Palermo there is a wizened proprietor of a paninoteca who knows the secret of true Sicilian tuna.   For now, this recipe is quick and tasty, and has lots of other uses — bruschetta topping, chunky dip for vegetables or salad-as-a-meal with a whole grain like farro.  Avocado or white beans are excellent additions for a heartier dish.

Serves 2

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Chopped salad

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I am rarely a salad-as-a-meal guy.  Salad with lunch or dinner, all the time. But even a hearty salad never seems enough without at least a light side, like soup or bread and hummus.  That said, this salad is a meal, the proof being the leftovers we could not finish.

Of course, this recipe has a ton of variations.  Always use ingredients with a variety of colors, textures and degrees of richness, and and cut every ingredient to roughly uniform size.  The result will yield some very interesting forkfuls that just might fill you up.

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side

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Thai steamed halibut w/ sweet potato

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This is largely based on a recipe by Thai food guru Andy Richter, founder of Pok Pok. I just added vegetables to give the dish body in place of the traditional jasmine rice.  We have had amazing meals at the original Pok Pok in Portland as well as the new place near us in Red Hook.  He is a true student of classic Thai cooking, especially street food — no pad Thai.  I bought a bamboo steamer just to make this dish. So much fun — I loved cooking the sweet potatoes on one level and fish on another, and it left an amazing broth.  We had the miso slaw w/ daikon on side.

Serves 2

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Tahini-miso slaw w/ daikon

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We got this addictive dressing recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Really, miso and tahini are a great combination.  Think something like the thick orange stuff you get on three pieces of iceberg lettuce in Japanese restaurants, only so much better.  She uses sugar snap peas.  I say the salad is all about the dressing, and anything green and crunchy has the right idea — a crisp and refreshing salad that balances a spicy main course.

Serves 4

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Bulgar, black bean and squash chili w/ charred bok choy

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When I think of chili, I think of two things — pro sports on tv and a dish with heat, not just spice. Well Super Bowl Sunday took care of the former. My goal in the latter was a deep and smoky vegetarian dish that did not induce tears or bring to mind the hot pepper scene from Dumb and Dumber. It came out pretty good — plenty deep and smoky thanks to smoked paprika, caramelized poblanos and a topping of charred greens. Bring on that cold weather!

Serves 4

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Not quite vegan pizza

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This pizza works with just about any vegetable that is wearing out its welcome in your fridge or windowsill.  The idea is to make a thick sauce from caramelized vegetables and onions with tomato paste, and to use no cheese save parmesan or pecorino. We happened to have a few green peppers, some cherry tomatoes and a bit of kale. Caramelized peppers are mushy and sweet, not too different from fire roasted peppers (but less work, I say).  They melt in the mouth, and are a nice sweet balance to the acidity of tomatoes.

Makes a 12 inch pizza with a very thin crust — good for 1-2 people. 

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Arugula salad w/ spaghetti squash

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Roasting a squash must be the vegetarian equivalent of bringing home a hunt. Two people make only a dent in a five pound squash.  If it’s butternut or kabocha, I like to blend leftovers for soup.  If it’s spaghetti squash, I like to mix leftover squash strands into a weekend “squamlette.”  Or make this salad.

Serves 2

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Beet carpaccio w/ pickled red onion

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We love the zucchini and carrot carpaccio at DOC wine bar in Williamsburg (although it is off the winter menu), and make carpaccio from nearly any vegetable that will slice cleanly on a mandoline.   Asparagus, fennel, radishes, most root vegetables and even raw winter squash all work great.  Quick pickled red onion has much less burn than a raw onion — wonderful on most salads.   Although many quick pickling recipes call for sugar, it’s not necessary.

Serves 2

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Spaghetti squash “risotto” w/ ricotta

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Happy 2013.   My brother Dan was in town from Boston with his wife and two boys, and some friends in Prospect Heights hosted an awesome dinner New Year’s Eve.  We had vegetarian chili, a cakey skillet cornbread known as Johnnycake, fingerling potatoes in a bunch of colors and treats from Sahadi’s. Oh, and Darcy’s amazing almond-cardamom tart from Bon Appetit.  Well, the main course was a roast whole pig that everybody: (i) loved; and (ii) was nice enough to leave in another room.

Anyways, today was craving a simple and quick lunch, so made this with leftover spaghetti squash.  It’s a knockoff of a side dish we had at an Italian restaurant.

Serves 4

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