Because the best things in life are simple

Tag: vegetarian

Quick Tomato Sauce

Quick Tomato Sauce

This simple recipe comes from the classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook, the Artusi. Although it’s a bit more complicated and time-consuming than opening up a jar of sauce, it’s still pretty simple and quick to make. And it’s definitely worth the effort as it creates a very plain, simple tomato sauce that you can use in a variety of dishes.

Quick Tomato Sauce (From the Artusi)

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr
: Easy

It doesn't get any more authentic than this. From a classic nineteenth-century Italian cookbook. It's easy to make and worth the effort.

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Ingredients
  • Tomatoes (About 1 1/2 pounds, preferably Roma or plum tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper (Just a dash, to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Blanch the tomatoes: that means drop them in boiling water for about a minute. This makes it easier to peel them.
  • Step 2 Peel, de-seed and chop them.
  • Step 3 Drop the tomatoes into a pot with just enough water to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  • Step 4 Simmer the tomatoes until done (About 20 minutes. No more than 30 minutes). Stir occasionally. And add salt and pepper.
  • Step 5 Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite restaurants: La Zucca Magica, in Nice. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed a few years ago, but I have very fond memories. It was an Italian vegetarian restaurant that had gotten much acclaim from guide books and the New York Times.

We didn’t have this dish at the restaurant but I made it when we got home using a recipe that was posted on the New York Times site that has since disappeared. Still, you can watch the YouTube video of NYTimes writer Mark Bittman making the dish.  And I was able to save the written recipe (see below).

There are multiple flavors and textures that work well together in this tasty delicacy. The fresh healthy green of the soft swiss chard leaves; the savory taste of saffron; the bite of the lemon zest; and the sweetness of the Parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheese all make your taste buds dance.

I served this as the third course in a three course meal I created from recipes I got in Southern France. Although none of the courses contained meat, the three courses were very filling. The first course was a cantaloupe gazpacho with crispy prosciutto. The second course was a tomato stuffed with pasta salad. 

Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella

October 15, 2018
: 6
: 1 hr
: Medium

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Ingredients
  • Vegetable broth (6 cups)
  • Arborio rice (1 cup)
  • Saffron (1 large pinch)
  • Lemon (1 small, zested)
  • Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup grated
  • I recommend using the best, Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Swiss chard leaves (6 large)
  • Mozzarella (1/2 pound cut into small cubes)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to drizzle over the leaves)
Directions
  • Step 1 Make risotto by heating up 1 tbsp of butter and adding the rice. Stir and then add one up of the vegetable broth. Keep heat on low to medium. When the liquid is absorbed add another cup and stir until all three cups are used. Rice should be barely tender.
  • Step 2 Dissolve saffron in juice of one lemon. Add to rice, along with butter, Parmesan, zest of one lemon and pepper to taste. Allow rice to cool a bit. Rice can be made in advance at this point (up to 1 day), but do not refrigerate it.
  • Step 3 Poach chard leaves in about 2 cups remaining broth for about 45 seconds. Take out, drain on a dishcloth, and cut out the hardest part of central stem. Reserve cooking broth.
  • Step 4 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With wet hands, form 6 balls of rice 2 to 3 inches across. Dig a hole in each ball and insert mozzarella. Wrap each ball in a chard leaf.
  • Step 5 Put balls in a close-fitting oven pan, with enough reserved broth to come about a half-inch up the sides of the balls. Bake 20 minutes.
  • Step 6 Serve balls topped with a little more broth, more lemon zest, Parmesan and olive oil.
Carol’s Cheesy Fig Delights

Carol’s Cheesy Fig Delights

(Above: The best bread in the Boston area is made at Bricco Panetteria, hidden down a short alleyway in Boston’s North End.)

The key to this simple recipe is to buy the best french bread available.

Although what passes as freshly baked baguettes at most chain supermarkets will work, try seeking out something better, perhaps at a locally-owned bakery in your neighborhood. I wrote an article for the Boston Globe on this bakery, which is truly special: the baker follows old-world and slow-cooking techniques to create the perfect loaf: crunchy on the outside and airy on the inside.

My friend Carol brought these to a potluck music party. They couldn’t be any easier to make, especially if you set it up so that guests make their own. Here’s the recipe:

Carol's Cheesy Fig Delights

October 12, 2018
: 5 min
: Easy

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Ingredients
  • French bread, cut up into small rounds
  • Fig jam
  • Goat Cheese
Directions
  • Step 1 Put jam and goat cheese in separate small bowls.
  • Step 2 Put bread on a platter
  • Step 3 Let guests make their own “delights” by spreading fig jam on bread and goat cheese on top.
Shrimp Saute, “Fresh From Maine”

Shrimp Saute, “Fresh From Maine”

(This can be served as an appetizer or as the main dish.) (more…)

Meal Plan: Christmas Eve Dinner

Meal Plan: Christmas Eve Dinner


(Chef Gina Palmacci from Legal Oysteria demonstrates how to make Antipasti Platter.)

The menu this Christmas Eve for 11 people at our house was as follows:

Appetizers included the prosciutto wrapped bread sticks and parmesan stuffed peppadew peppers demonstrated here by the head chef at Legal Oysteria in Charlestown. And of course dessert included espresso with your choice of poisons: dark rum, sambuca, or grappa.
Guacamole

Guacamole

Fresh guacamole is much better than store-bought and it’s pretty easy to make. You also don’t have to worry about all those preservatives. It’s always good to know exactly what you’re eating.

However, some homemade guacamole can be bland. The garlic, salt, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes in this recipe will ensure this guac will stand out.

Guacamole

January 11, 2014
: Easy

If you make this ahead of time, cover the surface with plastic wrap (so that it touches the guacamole) and put it in the refrigerator. This will keep it from turning brown.

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Ingredients
  • Avocados, 2 ripe.
  • Onion, about 1/4 cup chopped fine or minced.
  • Garlic, 1 clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Lemon juice, about 2 teaspoons or to taste
  • Ground Cumin, 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Red Pepper Flakes, about 1/4 tsp.
Directions
  • Step 1 Halve and pit the avocados and scoop the flesh into a bowl.
  • Step 2 Mash the avocados coarse with a fork and stir in the onion, the garlic paste, the lemon juice, the cumin, and the red pepper flakes.
Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

(Above: This gnocchi dish can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.)

In most anything in life, you have to work with what you have. And in cooking, the seasons dictate what ingredients are best or available. On a recent trip to Calareso’s Farm Stand in Reading, Mass. I was intrigued by one pound packages of pumpkin gnocchi.

Now I’ve cooked gnocchi before, usually in a tomato sauce, but the savory pumpkin flavor needed something else. So I brainstormed. Pumpkin pie is good with whipped cream so I opted to go with a cream sauce and a little hint of nutmeg.

But this wasn’t going to be dessert. I had to keep it (dinner) real. Cheese would help keep the dish on the savory side and I decided the nutty taste of fontina, combined with some freshly grated imported parmesan cheese would do the trick.

I then imagined all of this gooey, sweet, savoriness melting in my mouth, but it was missing something: a healthy clean foil to the heavy richness. I decided it needed some greens. I had some broccoli rabe on hand and decided to give it a go.

The result was a sweet, savory, gooey piece of heaven, offset by the bitterness of a good healthy green vegetable. The icing on this savory cake? Thinly sliced almonds.

Note: This will serve four as a main course. Gnocchi is very filling. You don’t need much for each serving.

Pumpkin Gnocchi in an Almond Cream Sauce

October 4, 2012
: 4

This doesn't take long to make, perfect for a weeknight supper. However, it will impress guests too.

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Ingredients
  • Pumpkin gnocchi (1 pound)
  • Fontina Cheese (4 ounces, chopped up)
  • Imported parmesan cheese (1/3 cup or to taste)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Scallions (About five or six, chopped)
  • Broccoli Rabe (1 small bunch, cleaned of leaves and stems. Keep only about an inch or two of stem after the floret. Cut florets in half length-wise.)
  • Almonds (About 1/8 cup, sliced thin)
  • Nutmeg (A small dash, just a few specks. Be careful.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Steam broccoli rabe until done, but not soggy. Don’t overcook. It should have some bite. (I used a large pasta pot with a colander insert and steaming basket. It’s one of my favorite and most used cooking tools. )
  • Step 2 Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water for about three minutes (just until they float). Don’t overcook.
  • Step 3 In a saute pan cook the scallions until translucent and then add the cream, heating it up, but don’t let it boil. Add a small dash of nutmeg: we’re talking a few specks here. Nutmeg is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Taste it. You just want a hint of nutmeg flavor. You can always add more if you like, but once you put it in, you can’t take it out. Be careful!
  • Step 4 Add cream sauce, fontina cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and broccoli rabe to the cooked gnocchi and stir until cheese melts and everything is well blended.
  • Step 5 Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a side salad.
Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Here’s another recipe from our Southern France meal plan, courtesy of La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course there and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Instead of spreading the mixture on a cookie sheet (shown above), put it in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake it.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard and use a vegetable broth bullion cube instead of chicken broth bullion cube if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.

They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Pasta Salad

Tomatoes Stuffed With Pasta Salad

Here’s another recipe from La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice. We had another version of this stuffed tomato when we ate there last month that was equally as delicious and had curry in it. I couldn’t find that recipe online and don’t think I’d do a good job of recreating it either.

I found this recipe from the restaurant on the New York Times site. I used four very large tomatoes but still had too much stuffing left over, which wasn’t a bad thing. It was great to eat all by itself outside the tomato too.

This was a great second course in a three course dinner I recently served that included a first course of cantaloupe gazpacho with crispy prosciutto and a third course of chard stuffed with risotto and mozzarella.

Mangia! Or should I say Bon Appetit!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Pasta Salad

August 8, 2012
: 45 min
: Easy

By:

Ingredients
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more for baking dish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons small black olives (nicoise), pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-packed (rinsed with warm water)
  • 12 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 or 3 marjoram or oregano leaves, or a pinch of dried
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
Directions
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove top third of each tomato.
  • Step 2 Scoop out some flesh and chop it, along with the top third. Salt inside of tomatoes and turn them upside down while you proceed.
  • Step 3 Cook yellow pepper in a tablespoon of oil with half the garlic, until soft. Break spaghetti into little bits and cook in salted boiling water just until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water.
  • Step 4 Mix together the chopped tomato, cooked pepper, spaghetti and all other ingredients except mozzarella.
  • Step 5 Stuff tomatoes, first with cheese, then with tomato mixture.
  • Step 6 Put in an oiled baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes, or until hot. Serve hot or warm.
Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)

 


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:

 

First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.

 

Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta

 

Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.

 

If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce

 

And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)

 

Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto

Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto

(Above: My recreation of a sweet and savory soup I was served in Nice.)

Our trip to southern France last week was inspiring, causing me to want to recreate several memorable meals we had in Nice.

This recipe was inspired by lunch at Le Comptoir where I was served a cold, gazpacho soup made from cantaloupe.

Cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto is often served as an appetizer but I’ve often thought it a bit clumsy to eat. You either have to pick it up with your fingers or use a fork and knife to cut through the slippery meat.

This recipe blends the two complementary flavors together and delivers the sweet, savory blend easily to your mouth via a soup spoon.

Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto

July 28, 2012
: 30 min
: Easy

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Ingredients
  • Cantaloupe (1 very large melon, or 2 small ones, peeled and cubed)
  • Water (1/2 cup)
  • Shallots (1 tablespoon, minced)
  • Lemon juice (2 tablespoons)
  • Sherry cooking wine/vinegar (1 teaspoon)
  • Salt (preferably Kosher, 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Prosciutto (1/4 pound, thinly sliced)
  • Olive oil (2 teaspoons)
  • Fresh mint (4 teaspoons, chopped)
  • Black pepper (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil (one for each bowl of soup).
Directions
  • Step 1 Place first six ingredients in a blender and process until smooth (don’t overdo it). You’ll need to do this in batches. Place in freezer to chill while prosciutto cooks.
  • Step 2 Heal olive oil in a frying pan and cook prosciutto strips until crispy (about 5 minutes). Turn over as necessary. Drain on paper towels.
  • Step 3 Ladle soup into bowls. Place sun-dried tomato in center. Place four strips of prosciutto coming out of the tomato like the rays of the sun. Sprinkle a little mint and pepper over the top of the soup. Serve cold.
What Do You Do With Watermelon Radishes?

What Do You Do With Watermelon Radishes?

This is as simple (and colorful) as it gets.

My friend Kristi recently gave me some watermelon radishes she got from a local farm as part of her CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery. I never heard of them and asked how to prepare them.

“Eat them raw,” she suggested. “They’re very good with hummus.”

So I washed and peeled them, and then sliced them into disks. They go well with hummus and make a colorful, healthy appetizer.

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

(Above: The passing of the stuffed artichokes at the RootsLiving table on Easter Sunday.)

In the Three Stooges episode, “Sock-A-Bye-Baby,” Moe, Larry, and Curly feed a baby they find Limburger cheese, spaghetti and artichokes.

Curly calls an artichoke a smarty-choke, a party-smoke, an okey-doke, a feathered apple, and a barbed-wire pickle.

(Photo courtesy of “Insomnia Cured Here” on Flickr)

For some reason I think of this when cooking and eating them.

I recommend getting baby artichokes. They’re more tender than the bigger variety. And I always use the italian herb, nepitella. It grows wild on the RootsLiving estate, but is difficult to get outside of Italy. Instead, you could use a combination of dried basil and dried mint — or fresh for that matter, chopped up fine.

Nepitella growing wild along a fence
(Nepitella spreads quickly and will grow just about anywhere including along this fence.)

I never measure anything when making the stuffing either. Below are suggested measurements to stuff 12 artichokes. Just be sure to make enough to fill them all generously and be sure to follow the proportions below and you can’t go wrong.

Three artichokes

How to Eat an Artichoke

And if you’re like that Three Stooges’ baby and don’t know how to eat one of these babies, fret not. Here’s what you do:

  • Tear off an outer leaf. Hold the harder end between your thumb and forefinger and scrape the leaf with your front teeth. You’ll get a little bit of stuffing and a little bit of tender artichoke leaf coating too: a miraculous combination.
  • If the leaves are tough you can discard them after doing this on your plate. However, these baby artichokes are usually so tender you can eat them, whole leaf and all.

Stuffed Artichokes

April 7, 2010
: 12
: 40 min
: Medium

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Ingredients
  • Baby artichokes (12)
  • Lemon wedge (1)
  • Bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Nepitella (or dried basil and mint) (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil (enough to drizzle over each artichoke)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut off the stem of each artichoke with an even slice, so each artichoke can stand up on its own.
  • Step 2 Peel off the top 2-4 layers of the artichokes until you get to the tender leaves. (Throw away the tough leaves.)
  • Step 3 Cut off the top of each artichoke, about 1/4 of the way down. For the small artichokes, that’s probably about 1/2 an inch or so.
  • Step 4 Using your fingers, open up each artichoke like a flower so there’s room to spoon in the stuffing between the leaves. Take the lemon wedge and rub each artichoke with it. This prevents the artichoke from turning brown and also adds a little flavor.
  • Step 5 In a small bowl make the stuffing by combining the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and nepitella (or dried basil and mint), salt and pepper.
  • Step 6 Hold each artichoke over the stuffing bowl while you stuff it. Using a teaspoon, spoon in as much stuffing as you can between the leaves of each artichoke and set aside.
  • Step 7 In a small pot that can hold all of the artichokes standing up, pour in about 3/4 to 1-inch of water. Place the stuffed artichokes standing up in the pot. Drizzle a little olive oil over each artichoke.
  • Step 8 Cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes over low heat. Be sure to continuously check the pot to make sure all of the water has not evaporated. Add a little water as needed while it cooks. (These are usually served hot, but taste great cold too — even leftovers right out of the fridge.)
Kathy’s Fried Olives

Kathy’s Fried Olives

(Photo and recipe by Kathy Micheli)

Someone’s aunt took her recipe for fried olives to the grave.

So that someone told my sister-in-law about this wonderful Italian delicacy and asked if anyone in our family had a recipe. They didn’t, so Kathy thought about it for awhile and came up with this.

She served them to us last weekend as an appetizer and they’re delicious: crusty, but not greasy, on the outside; tangy, sweet and hot on the inside. I can’t be sure what that good-cooking aunt would think of them, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if you don’t love them.

Kathy's Fried Olives

November 10, 2009

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Ingredients
  • Large Sicilian green olives, pitted. (If you buy unpitted olives, you can whack them with the flat end of a big knife and pick the pit out.)
  • Boursin cheese
  • Flour, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs (about 1/2 cup), mixed with grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup).
  • Olive oil for deep frying
Directions
  • Step 1 Fill each olive with cheese (if the olives break apart when pitting, the cheese will hold them together.)
  • Step 2 Dredge the olives in flour
  • Step 3 Dip olives in beaten egg
  • Step 4 Roll olives in breadcrumbs
  • Step 5 Deep fry in olive oil
Our Signature Dish: Root Soup

Our Signature Dish: Root Soup

I’ve always loved vichyssoise soup (served warm) and decided one day to build on that. The result is this soup.

This is the signature dish of RootsLiving. It encompasses everything that RootsLiving is about: it’s simple, uses fresh ingredients of the season,  healthy (so healthy it should ward off the flu) and delicious.

BONUS: And if you leave out the cream and butter, it’s low-calorie. (If you substitute water for the chicken stock, it’s just as good and zero points for you weight watchers out there.)

Root Soup

November 4, 2009
: 20 min
: 45 min
: 1 hr 5 min
: Medium

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Ingredients
  • 6 leeks (chop off the roots and leaves
  • use just the white and light green part, discard the rest.)
  • 5 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups diced sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups diced carrots
  • 8-10 cups chicken stock
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Dash of nutmeg (Nutmeg is strong so use no more than 1/8 teaspoon.)
  • Butter (1-2 tablespoons, or less)
  • Heavy cream (About 1/4 cup)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put everything in a pot (except for the nutmeg, butter and heavy cream) and bring to a boil.
  • Step 2 Lower heat and simmer, covered loosely for about 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  • Step 3 Wait until ingredients cool and then puree in a blender in batches (if ingredients are still warm or hot, be careful not to burn yourself).
  • Step 4 Heat up soup, add nutmeg, butter and the heavy cream (don’t let it boil.)
  • Step 5 Serve with a crusty bread (french, ciabatta, italian etc.)