Friday, September 28, 2007

Swiss chard and white bean minestrone

Minestrone is a delicious Italian vegetable soup that can be fancy and complex or laid back and unpretentious, like this recipe. The soup is beefed up here by serving ladles of the hot minestrone over thick and garlicky toasted ciabatta to mop up all the goodness. Serves 4.

2 tbs butter
1 onion, chopped
1 small bunch of Swiss chard (about 350g), finely chopped
1l vegetable stock
400g canned cannellini beans, drained but not rinsed and roughly mashed
4 thick slices of ciabatta
2 garlic cloves, halved
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
finely grated parmesan cheese, to serve
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes to soften. Add the Swiss chard and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until softened. Add the stock and beans and gently bring to the boil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Toast the ciabatta until golden on both sides. Rub the bread with the cut side of the garlic, then place each one in a serving bowl. Drizzle each piece of bread with olive oil and ladle over the soup. Sprinkle the parmesan on top and serve immediately.

Next time: It's easy to turn this into a satisfying pasta meal. Simply leave out the stock and add 400g cooked pasta shapes to the pan when you add the beans, season well with sea salt and black pepper and stir in some finely grated parmesan cheese for extra flavour.

Swiss chard and white bean minestrone [via Treehugger]

Roasted carrots with barley risotto

Barley is a wonderful ingredient - it's so earthy and unprocessed and I like to throw it into all sort of things, such as lamb stews and soups. I've used it here to make a dish much like a risotto, but without all the stirring! Despite seeming an odd couple, miso and parmesan do work well together and give the barley an intensely savoury flavour that's perfect with sweet carrots.Serves 4.

2 tbs light olive oil
12 baby carrots, ends trimmed
2 tbs butter
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and cut in half
500ml [vegetable] stock
1 tbs light soy sauce
220g barley
1 tbs butter
3 heaped tbs finely grated parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Add the carrots and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning every 2 minutes, until golden. If your pan isn't big enough you may need to do this in batches. Add the butter, thyme and garlic to the pan with 125ml water and season with sea salt and black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, turning often, until the carrots are tender.

Meanwhile, to make the barley risotto, put the stock and soy sauce in a saucepan with 1 litre water and bring to the boil. Add the barley and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring often, until the barley is soft but not breaking up. Stir in the butter and parmesan. Serve the carrots on top of the barley.

Next time: The carrots could be served hot on a bed of couscous or, left to cool and tossed in a salad with beetroot, toasted pine nuts and a soft cheese.

Roasted carrots with barley risotto [via Treehugger]

Spicy red vegetable soup

The colour of this fiery red soup is matched by a pleasing chilli kick, which can be adjusted according to your palate - just add extra chillies as required. Don't be put off by the cooking time - use it as an opportunity to do a few chores. Serves 4

60ml light olive oil
1 tbs soft brown sugar
1 red pepper, chopped
1kg roma or plum tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion
1 large red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
250ml vegetable... stock
4 slices of rye bread
50g soft goats' cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) Gas 4. Put the olive oil, sugar, pepper, tomatoes, onion, chilli and garlic in a roasting tin, toss everything together and cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours, stirring often, until the vegetables are really soft and starting to turn brown.

Remove the vegetables from the oven. Put the stock in a saucepan and stir in the vegetables. Spoon the mixture, in batches, into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and cook over a low heat for a few minutes until heated through.

Toast the rye bread and, while it's still warm, spread on the cheese. Float the toast on the soup to serve.

Ross Dobson on autumnal food | The Observer [via Treehugger]

Carrot and lentil soup

You'll need to use a variety of lentils here that will soften to a mush when cooked for a short time. French green lentils, or puy, will not work. Orange or red varieties are what's needed and they also help to create the rich autumnal colour. The taste of this soup belies the simplicity of its ingredients. Carrots can be very sweet and lentils are nutty and wholesome, so they make a perfect pair. For a simple twist on this great recipe, try adding a couple of tablespoons of good-quality curry powder to the onions at the early stage of cooking. Serves 4

3 tsp butter
1 red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tsp sun-dried tomato purée
500g carrots, grated
250g red lentils, rinsed and drained
1.5l chicken stock
125ml natural yoghurt
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Heat the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over high heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the sun-dried tomato purée and stir-fry for one minute. Add the carrots, lentils and stock to the pan and bring to the boil.

Cook at a rapid simmer for 40 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Spoon the soup, in batches, into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Return the soup to a clean saucepan and cook over a low heat for a few minutes, until heated through.Serve with dollops of yoghurt and the coriander sprinkled on top.

Carrot and lentil soup [via]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baked Orzo with Zucchini

This simple dish comes together in minutes and calls for a light soup or tossed green salad and hot Italian bread with olive oil for dunking. It also makes a great buffet party dish, as it can feed a group when served with other fare. Serves 6.

2 cups dried tri-colored or plain orzo
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsps. minced garlic
1 large leek, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 cup chunky marinara sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups shredded, low-fat mozzarella
Pizza or Italian spice mix to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly oil heatproof baking dish.

2. Heat water in covered saucepan. When at a rapid boil, cook orzo until almost tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic, leeks, and zucchini slices for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

4. Drain orzo and place in baking dish. Stir in marinara sauce, salt, and pepper and spice mix. Top with half the cheese.

5. Arrange zucchini and leek slices on top of orzo, and top with remaining mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes, or until mozzarella melts. During last 5 minutes, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Baked Orzo with Zucchini

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are a show-stopping, tried-and-true dinner classic. In this version, pomegranate juice and dried figs give it a Mediterranean feel.


4 large yellow or red bell peppers
3/4 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
1/2 cup dried figs, stemmed and chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup diced yellow squash
1/2 cup nonfat feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2. Cut tops off peppers to use as lids. Scrape out seeds and ribs with knife. Combine pomegranate juice and figs in large saucepan, and cook over medium heat 7 to 10 minutes, or until figs soften and juice reduces and becomes syrupy. Remove from heat, and stir in rice, squash, feta cheese and walnuts. Fill peppers with mixture, and set in 9x13-inch baking pan. Place tops on peppers. Add 1/2 inch water to pan, and cover with foil.

3. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until peppers are tender with slightly wrinkled skins and filling is hot.

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers [Vegetarian Times Issue: September 1, 2005 p.87]

Monday, September 10, 2007

No-Cook Cannellini Salad with Pesto Dressing

In this recipe, the pesto is tossed with white beans to create an elegant salad in a flash. Serves 4.

2 19-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups shredded red cabbage
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 to 3 Tbs. prepared basil pesto
1 Tbs. chopped capers

Directions: Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Serve at room temperature.

No-Cook Cannellini Salad with Pesto Dressing [Vegetarian Times]

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Smoky Penne with Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

Most people associate goat cheese with French cuisine, but it plays a big role in Mexican cooking, too. Chipotle chiles are smoked jalapeños that can be found dried or canned in adobo sauce. Serves 4.

Ingredient List
* 12 oz. penne pasta
* 1 dried chipotle chile, soaked in hot water 10 minutes, or 1 chile from 4-oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
* 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
* 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp.)
* 1 4-oz. log goat cheese, plus more for crumbling and sprinkling, if desired
* 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
* 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
* 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, remove seeds from chipotle chile and finely chop. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add chile and garlic, and sauté 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in goat cheese and 1/3 cup water, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth sauce forms, stirring constantly. Simmer 2 minutes more, then remove from heat and add cilantro and remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil.

3. Drain pasta, and return to pot. Add tomatoes, corn and cheese sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to warm serving bowl. Toss in extra goat cheese crumbles, if desired.

Vegetarian Times Issue: September 1, 2006 p.71