Tuesday, November 22, 2011

African Vegetable Stew

I wish I could say that I invented this amazing concoction, but I did not. My friend Christine found it in the Peas and Thank You cookbook. Christine cooks for a vegan client and is always on the lookout for tasty veggie recipes.

You might be thinking, "What could possibly be so great about a bowl of cooked vegetables?" But this stew is so much more than that. Hearty, thick, spicy and soul-satisfying, it is a meal in a bowl. And here's more great news: this dish is totally hands-off once you get it started, because it cooks in the crock pot. This is my new favorite recipe!

African Vegetable Stew
Serves 4 easily

1 15-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into about 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon curry powder (or more to taste)
3/4 teaspoon garam masala (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
big squeeze of ginger (I buy it in the tube)
2 cloves garlic, minced
little squirt of agave nectar
dash of cinnamon
1 14-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can of light coconut milk
2 cups of vegetable stock (chicken stock is fine, too, if you're not making this for a vegetarian)
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed off very well

Optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a dollop of yogurt or some chopped peanuts


1. Spray the inside of a small or medium-size crock pot with non-stick spray.

2. Place all of the ingredients, except the garnishes, in the crock pot. Stir and cover. Turn to HIGH for 1 hour to get things started. Then turn to LOW. The stew is done when the sweet potatoes are cooked through. This took 2 additional hours in my crock pot; it could take 4 or more hours in yours, so keep checking.

3. Serve stew topped with any of the optional garnishes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bruschetta Cod

When I went to the store yesterday, my plan was to pick up some salmon for dinner. John, my fishmonger, told me that scallops were the best pick in the case. If I'd been dining solo, scallops would have been perfect, but because the rest of my family doesn't like them, I asked John for another suggestion. He steered me toward the cod, saying it was really great. He was right, as usual.

Once home, I had to decide to how to prepare the cod. I was in an Italian-food mood, so I decided marinara sauce had to play a part in this preparation, and I happened to have an opened jar in the fridge. My family will eat almost anything with breadcrumbs on it, so those came out too. And so began the creation of "Bruschetta Cod," named after the appetizer featuring garlic-rubbed bread that's toasted and topped with tomatoes, basil and olive oil. I grabbed a few more things from the pantry and got to work. Within minutes, the cod was in the oven and I was on to steaming the vegetables. Twenty minutes later, we were sitting down to dinner.

Tip: Impress friends and family: The correct pronunciation of the word bruschetta is "bruce-ketta." Most people say "brew-shetta" which is incorrect.

Bruschetta Cod
Serves 3

1 pound fresh cod, cut into three equal-size pieces
salt and pepper
1/3 cup marinara sauce
a few diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 T. olive oil, with a crushed garlic clove and some chopped parsley or basil mixed in
1 T. Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.

2. Rinse cod and pat dry with paper towels. Remove bones if necessary. Place three pieces of cod on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the top with salt and pepper.

3. Spread a nice layer of marinara sauce on top of each piece of fish. Place the sun-dried tomatoes on top of the marinara sauce.

4. In a small bowl, combine the panko with the garlic olive oil (or use Wegman's Basting Oil - it's already got garlic and herbs in it) and the Parmesan cheese. Season the bread crumbs with a little salt and pepper. Divide the bread crumbs evenly over each piece of fish.

5. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until fish is cooked throughout. Serve with a lemon wedge or extra marinara sauce and steamed vegetables of your choice.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chick Pea and Pasta Soup

When the leaves start to fall (or a freak October ice storm hits), I love a steaming bowl of soup. Hearty homemade soup is the ultimate comfort food, IMO. If you're stressed (say you have a new dog in the house), or cold, or just need a little warm comfort, make yourself a big pot of homemade soup.

My favorite soups contain lots of vegetables, often some beans, a little protein, a little starch (pasta or rice), often a Parmesan rind, and a good-quality broth. I know I should make my own stock and freeze it in quart containers. I've done that. Then we lost power. Twice in two months. So I keep some boxes of my favorite brands around.

The great thing about my favorite soups is that they taste even better the next day, and they freeze well, too. So the effort you put into the pot will reward you for days to come (unless of course you lose electricity for days because of an ice storm, hurricane, tropical storm or other weather event).

Chick Pea and Pasta Soup
Makes about 10 cups

1/4 pound prosciutto -- diced (you can buy it already diced at Wegmans!)
1/2 cup red onion -- diced
2 medium carrots -- cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 stalks celery -- diced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary -- chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 14.5 oz. cans petite-diced tomato
2 15 oz. cans chick peas(garbanzos) -- rinsed and drained
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan cheese rind
handful linguine -- broken into 1 1/2 inch pieces
dash Penzey's Northwoods seasoning

Saute prosciutto, onion, carrots, celery and rosemary in olive oil in soup pot until beginning to soften, about 10 min.

Add tomatoes and their juice, chick peas, broth, tomato paste, bay leaf and rind. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 30 min. or until vegetables are tender. Add pasta during last 8 minutes of cooking time. Season with a dash of Northwoods seasoning. Serve with additional grated Parmesan if desired.