Thursday, January 28, 2010

Romano Muffins: Version I

I was trying to think of a compliment to broccoli soup that wouldn't exhaust my meager end-of-the-week supply of bread, and would be able to be cooked in a humble toaster oven* and I came up with this.  

If anyone reading this tries this recipe, I would like input on how to make it better.  I think these came out a little too airy/flaky.

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs baking powder
1/4 cup Romano cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
pinch of salt

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the egg and butter.  Stir until the dough goes crumbly.  Then add the cup of milk and cup of water.  If the dough seems to be a tad too sticky, add a dusting of flour.

Put in muffin tin and bake at 250 for forty to fifty minutes.  Serves 6.

*my apartment oven doesn't work well at all, my mother lets me borrow her oven for special occasion baking, but otherwise it's just me and the ol' Black and Decker.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Desi Dhaba, Central Square, Cambridge Massachusetts

It was a special night: Eric had just about finished his month-long job helming lights and sound at the Actor’s Shakespeare Project’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I had had something go really well at work that day.  It was Friday.  We were both ready to cast away memories of a stressful work week and eat something delicious for dinner. 

We went to Desi Dhaba, near Central Square, and we were not disappointed with what we found.  Eric got there first, and ordered a basket of plain and garlic naan.  Both breads had a wonderful chewy-crispy texture, but my favorite was the garlic naan: steaming hot bread topped with garlic and cilantro, it took the immediate edge of my hunger (I had only had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch) in a most delightful way. 

The wine I ordered, an Undurraga Chardonnay from Chili, was a comparative disappointment.  Although the write up in the wine list said it would taste like apples, pears, and citrus, with an aftertaste of vanilla, I could taste only the alcohol.  Perhaps the wine was too delicate to compete with the spiciness of the food, but if so that makes it an odd choice of wine for an Indian restaurant.  But really, who cares?  Desi Dhaba is an under $20 an entrée restaurant, so I wasn’t exactly expecting a sommelier to work with me on the best possible selection of wine.  Moral: I won’t get the Undurraga again.

The most important part of the meal, the main course, was absolutely perfect.  Eric had decided to go vegetarian with me for this dinner, and so we ordered and shared the Aloo Palak and the Navrattan Makhani.

Aloo Palak is basically a creamed-spinach-and-potatoes dish.  Desi Dhaba’s Aloo Palak boasted potatoes cooked to exactly the right consistency, and fresh-tasting spinach, and was delicately flavored with ginger and strewn with cilantro. It was exactly the right compliment for the spicy Navrattan Makhani, which was an infinitely more exalted version of all the various mixed vegetable curry recipes posted on this website.

We finished all the food while watching Bollywood movies on the wall mounted television screen in the dining room.  It was a very good meal, and we’re looking forward to going back near Valentine’s Day. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vintage Veg: Cronin for Congress Casserole (1972)

I like to visit my grandmother every week, and sometimes she likes to cook me dinner.  A traditional cook, she was initially perplexed by my decision to become a vegetarian, however she delved into her numerous cookbooks and found this old standby in The Constituents’ Cookbook:  Paul W. Cronin for Congress, 2nd Edition (1972). 

Election cookbooks are a forgotten footnote of history now, effectively murdered by Lee Atwater, who thought that campaign money would be better spent on the far more effective robocalling and negative advertising that are such a plague on elections today.  However, in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, election cookbooks were considered a cute little gimme prize for loyal constituents, and their recipes provide an absolutely fascinating look at middle class life in that era.*

The historical recipe was contributed to the cookbook by Mrs. David (Gloria) Williams of Concord, Massachusetts.  Nana and I have modified its overwhelming eggy-cheesyness through the addition of numerous ingredients, so I will give you the historical ingredients first, and then the modern variation.  It assembles and cooks up in much the same manner, either way you would like to make it.

Cheddar Casserole: The Historical Ingredients 

1/4 cup butter or margarine
6 slices bread
6 slices Havarti or Edam
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsps salt
a pinch of nut meg

Cheddar Casserole: The Nana and Marybeth LaRivee Versions

1/4 cup butter
6 slices Wonder Bread (Nana's version) or multigrain loaf (mine)
6 slices American cheese (Nana's version) or cheddar (mine)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsps pepper
pinch of cilantro
chopped tomato, or broccoli, or peas

Combine milk, spices, and eggs. Grease corningware dish. Dip the bread in egg mixture, and put one layer of the bread in the dish.  Add a layer of vegetables. Add a layer of cheese. Alternate until about half an inch away from the top of the dish.  Bake at 350 (US ovens) for about 30 minutes.

*My information on Lee Atwater was taken from the book Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater by John Brady (1996).  When I'm not reading about cooking, my choice of reading material tends to run to either crime or politics.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Poor Man's Raclette

My friend Nicole used to live in Luxembourg, where she discovered this dish at a popular ski resort.   Later, she moved to London.  When I went to college in the Edinburgh, I used come to London and visit her flat.  We’d usually eat real raclette, which is a variation of fondue using a special type of cheese also called raclette, and where the vegetables and meats are also cooked right in front of you on a raclette griddle.  After one visit I went back to Edinburgh, hit up a vegetable sale at Lidl, and came up with a budget version.  

Poor Man’s Raclette

½ pound raclette (expensive and hard to get in the US) or emmenthal cheese (that’s Swiss cheese to US dwellers, you can also use cheddar)
1 bag small creamer potatoes
3 peppers
2 tomatoes
1 onion
Broccoli, zucchini, or some other easy to fry vegetable

Boil the potatoes until soft.  In separate skillet, fry the onion and peppers until browned.  Add the broccoli / other easy to fry vegetable and sauté.  Add the tomato.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The ground rules I've been playing by:

These were also the rules in force when I simply posted recipes on my LJ.  I feel silly that it took me so long to codify them for this blog. 

1.  No recipe goes on this blog if I have not tried it.  Usually, I also tweek it to fit my budgetary / taste needs. 

2.  If the recipe comes from a source, I name the source.  If I've cooked something that was inspired by something I saw in a cookbook, but is not a direct recipe, I'll name the cookbook.

3.  Some dishes are grounded in basic vegetarian cooking theory, those I tend not to attribute to any specific book. My three main vegetarian foodie inspirations are:  Claire's Corner Copia Cookbook, Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure series, the New York Times's Dining In section, and various kosher cookbooks.  (A chunk of my heritage is Central European, and milk-kosher food is as close as I can get to my family's comfort food.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vegetarianism: The Questions I Am Most Frequently Asked

Disclaimer: these are the opinions of but one vegetarian.  I do not claim to represent everyone with my eating habits.

1.  Why did you become a vegetarian?

I was never a huge fan of the taste and texture of meat, but I ate it when I was younger.  My grandmother would take me to fancy places, and I remember really liking the chicken pot pies at Lamie's in Hampton, New Hampshire.  When I was fifteen, I got a summer job at a farm stand.  One of my jobs was feeding the animals.  I was essentially a city kid, and my grandmother wouldn't really let us have any pets aside from an extremely moody cat, so I was suprised by just how intellegent farm animals were.  They all had their own personalities: the chickens were mean spirited, but the sheep and pigs were just lovely.  There was a pig who would come up to me and root around at my feet, and let me pet her once in a while, I named her Agatha.  It was a working farm, so one day they took Agatha off to be slaughtered.  I had a hard time with that, and decided to become a vegetarian in mid-October of 1997. 

2.  Is it hard to be a vegetarian?

Yes.  It's not as hard now as it was when I was in high school, because now I can cook for myself, and I live near a big, liberal city where vegetarianism isn't considered some radical rebuke to traditional values, but it's not easy.  I dine out primarily at Asian and African places because those are two cultures that don't have to have meat in every single dish, but still have to fill up on cereal if I'm going to an "American" place.  (Applebees: boo!)

3.  How can you keep a boyfriend if you don't eat meat?

He can cook for himself, if he wants.  He does half the cooking in the house, anyway.  I don't really care if other people eat meat, but I won't.

4.  What do you mean, you don't care if other people eat meat? 

They're adults, they can do what they want.  I believe eating meat is morally wrong and that modern factory farms are inherently cruel and unsustainable, but in a diverse society one has to be tolerant.  I used to be much more hard line and extreme, but I realized that I put people off.  It was much easier to win people over to even a partial version of my way of thinking by simply not eating meat and then failing to keel over dead of lack of protein.

5.  You must really hate hunters.

Not at all.  Hunting is much more honest and environmentally friendly than buying shrink wrapped chunks of flesh in the supermarket.  I never could stand people who would eat meat but wig out when they were reminded that they were eating a once-living animal.  Hunters damn well know, and good for them. 

6.  Have you ever fallen off the wagon?

Yes, a couple of times in the past twelve years I've had bites of meat or a chicken sandwich or something.  The trick is to not let that convince you you can't be a vegetarian.  You just have to not eat meat one day at a time. 

7.  You're just trying to convert everyone to your pinko, food hating, family destroying ideals!

Look, I can't say I wouldn't be really happy if everyone in the world gave up eating meat, but we all know that's not going to happen.  What I'm trying to do is show people that vegetarian eating isn't a negative practice.  It's not about renunciation, it's about trying all these delicious things to eat!  Even cutting down the number of meat-oriented meals a family serves in a day would make a significant impact on cholesterol levels and food resources, and that would be a good thing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pan Fried Curried Linguine

I made this up myself, because I don't feel like spending money on real Asian noodles right now.

1 pkg fresh spinach
1 tomato
1 box linguine
1 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
curry powder and hot chili flakes to taste

Boil one box of linguine according to the directions on the packet. Drain and rinse so it won't all stick together in a big soggy ball. Take a wok or skillet, pour 1 cup olive oil, turn on medium heat. Add and saute the garlic, curry powder, and chili flakes. Put the noodles in the skillet and stir, making sure they're as completely covered with oil as they can be. Add the vegetables, cooking them down as much as you'd like.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sauteed Mushrooms on Toast, Rice, or Mashed Potatoes

Inspired by The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two. Mutilated because I have no money.

10-15 mushrooms
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 stick butter
2 cloves garlic
red pepper flakes, pepper, cilantro to taste
peas, if you'd like

Brown mushrooms in the butter and garlic. Add the apple juice, spices, and vinegar and let cook down. Add peas. (I add them this late in the game because I don't want them to taste exactly like the mushrooms.)

Mushroom Stew

adapted and dumbed down from The Vegetarian Epicure Book 2

1/2 stick butter
1 cup apple juice
1/3 cup vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1 cup potato peel broth
1 cup milk or water
1 tomato, diced
10-15 mushrooms
pepper and cilantro to taste

Brown the mushrooms in butter and garlic, be careful not to crowd them or they won't brown. Add 1 cup apple juice, 1/3 cup vinegar, 1 cup potato peel broth. Simmer. Add the milk or water if it looks like the soup is boiling down too much. Throw in the diced tomato. Add the pepper and cilantro to taste.

Serves three.

Why I Decided to Create This Website

This website evolved from a number of food-related conversations I found myself having with others during the last few months of 2009, not the least of them being a conversation I had with a coworker yesterday.

This coworker had been reading a book on the evils of factory farming. She has always been fond of animals, and had even tried her hand at raising chickens at one point. She was visibly bothered by the book, and I asked her if she had ever tried to become a vegetarian. She paused for a moment and looked up at me, and said "but I like food."

I had an exasperated moment. I like food too, and I've been a vegetarian since 1997.

I've been posting vegetarian recipes on my Live Journal blog for the past couple of years, so I figured I'd consolidate them on this blog. I would also like to post restaurant reviews and articles on topics affecting vegetarians in Massachusetts, but I probably won't get around to doing that for quite a while.

So, hello. I hope you enjoy my website. If I can convince one person that vegetarians are not all humorless, politically correct, and annoying my job will be done.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

At some point, I'll explain why I decided to do this. Right now, enjoy two years of recipes imported from my LJ account.

Lithuanian Challah Bread

I'm not Jewish, I just really like the food and there's a dearth of vegetarian Lithuanian recipies out there.

NB: It's best to start this bread the night before you want to eat it, as the dough is at its best after a night in the fridge. I was really stressed last night, but I had some nice bread to go with my post running mellow today.

Part I: yeast slurry
1 cup flour (I like wheat)
1 3/4 tsps yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water

Mix yeast and flour together in bowl, add the warm water slowly. Leave in warm dark place for twenty minutes to activate the yeast.

Part II: bread dough
4 more cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons table salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 egg (for glaze)

mix dry ingredients with the yeast slurry, it should be dry and pebbly, then add the olive oil

knead until the texture gains elasticity, put in large bowl and cover with plastic, let sit overnight (the dough will ferment and gain flavor)

In the morning: remove bread from fridge, let sit an hour, knead again, braid, pour egg white over it all, and bake at 425F on cookiesheet for 45 minutes.

Lithuanian Coffee Cake

Adapted from a recipe in Claire's Corner Copia Cookbook. This recipe went over rather well with some friends of mine. It makes either bundt cake or muffins, depending on what you'd like.

1 1/2 sticks butter
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsps vanilla
3 cups flour (I like the whole wheat kind, it gives it some body)
2 tsps baking powder
1 cup brown sugar (for topping)
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup leftover coffee
3 - 5 tbs. cinnamon

If you like, add raisins, walnuts, etc.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl until all components evenly distributed in dry mix. Melt butter, add melted butter to mix. Add eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. Stir thoroughly. Batter will be dry and pebbly. Slowly add the coffee until the batter loses its dry stickiness, stop when the batter becomes easy to stir. Put batter in heavily greased bundt pan or in prepared cupcake tins. Bake on 350 for one hour (bundt cake) or 40 minutes (muffins). Dust with brown sugar shortly after taking them out of the oven.

Missionary’s Downfall (Budget Version)

½ cup pineapple chunks

1 wineglass full of water

3 jigs Bacardi Peach Rum

4 or 5 springs (about ten to fifteen leaves) of crappy Demoulas mint

1 cup ice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

Assemble in blender, hit “ice crush” then hit “puree”. Makes about two drinks.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies a la MB

Here's the modified recipe (the original recipe called for pure chili powder, which just sounds awful -- so I added extra cinnamon, cloves, and sweet cocoa powder), adapted from Hip Kosher.

Hee. An Aztec-drink inspired variation on an American classic, taken from a yuppified Jewish cookbook promoting "California Cuisine" and adapted to suit my New England Franco-Lithuanian needs. Sometimes I do love America. Anyway -- the brownies.

chocolate (let me put in a plug here for Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa -- it adds a depth of flavor that Baker's Chocolate and Hershey's Baking Cocoa can't match)

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon (and maybe a few extra pinches if you like cinnamon, which I do)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

several pinches of powdered cloves (to taste)

6 tablespoons of butter

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup water (you don't have to use it all, but you shouldn't use more)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt the six tablespoons of butter in a different bowl. Add the butter to the dry mix. Then add the two eggs and the vanilla extract. Mix until all is mixed up well. This should take about three minutes. The cookbook says to use an electric mixer but I like to mix by hand because it's easier to tell if the mixture is too dry and sticky to bake properly. If your mixture is dry, add the water slowly until the batter becomes easier to stir. Err on the side of being slightly too watery if you have to -- you can always add extra cooking time to evaporate the water and you don't want the brownies to burn.

The Bitchy Crosstown Express (Variation on a Cosmo)

1/2 or 1 jig pommegranate vodka (it's been trendy for a while now, I was interested in the possiblities of pommegranate and cranberry)
1 cup cranberry juice
1 wedge of lime

combine ingredients in a wine glass (I have no martini glasses), drink slowly as the alcohol will sneak up on you

Cheese and Corn Chowder

This fantastic chowder is the vegetarian version of a popular Western Mass dish (Cheeseburger Chowder).

I fell in love with it when my boyfriend's mother made another version of it at Christmas, and she just sent me the recipe so I can make it myself.

1/4th cup olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 cans cream of cheddar soup
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon parsley
2 cubes veggie bouillon
1 liter milk
2 cups water
a dusting of flour to thicken
3 potatoes, sliced in thin circles
1/2 bag spinach
1 bag frozen corn

Combine the broth ingredients first: soften onions in olive oil, add the milk and water, crush the bouillon cubes and add them in along with the garlic, and then throw in the red pepper flakes and parsley. Now add the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer when adding the spinach and corn. Let cook 40 mins. Add the flour if chowder looks watery.

Burritos with Rice and Homemade Salsa

1 can pinto beans (washed)
3 fresh tomatoes
Pinch of salt. Liberal dashes of red pepper flakes, cilantro, and garlic powder.

Put beans and tomatoes into saucepot, cook until concoction is bubbling, add spices.

1 tortilla (naturally), shredded cheese, rice.

Put rice, cheese, and salsa into burrito, fold like so.

Not the most authentically Hispanic thing ever, but it can be made in fifteen minutes after work.

Discount Blue-eyed Curry

Made this up a few weeks ago to use up some otherwise bland food and work around the fact that my boyfriend hates yogurt.

Part the First: The Sauce

Make a white sauce:
4 tsps of butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk

Boil until sauce is thick, but still liquid.

Liberal doses of: curry powder, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, cilantro, pepper.

Part the Second: The Veggies

1 can chickpeas or red beans
1 bag frozen veggies (I hate chopping vegetables after I've been at work all day)

Combine the sauce with the veggies. Eat.

Winter Pesto

adapted from the always useful Clare's Corner Copia Cookbook.

3 tbsps of Classico Basil Pesto (you're supposed to use fresh basil, but I am broke and this is the closest commerical pesto I can find)
1 package frozen spinach*
4 tbsps olive oil
1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4th cup Romano Cheese
1 cup water

Defrost spinach. Combine spinach, pesto, black pepper, water and Romano in a blender. Hit grate for about a minute, then hit liquify until spinach is completely pureed.

Boil angel hair pasta, then drain it and mix it with the olive oil, add the spinach puree to the pasta. Heat pasta and pureed spinach together. Add other spices (curry powder, chili flakes, more pepper) to taste.

*you could use fresh, but I find frozen purees better

Roasted Carrots

2-4 cups chopped carrots

1/4th cup olive oil

2 tbsps crushed garlic

rosemary and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F, cook at 400 for an hour. Best served on some sort of pasta.

Potato Peel Broth

Adapted from Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure

1 quart water
the peels of 6-7 large, well cleaned potatoes
5 stalks of celery
1 onion, quartered

rosemary, pepper, and garlic to taste

add water to potato peels, boil down for about an hour
strain broth into another saucepan and let cool
add rosemary, pepper, garlic, celery and onion to taste, boil for another hour or so

good in veggie noodle soup, and as a base for various chowders that would otherwise call for chicken broth


Adapted from Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup milk or cream
1 cup currants
1 cup dates
add cinnamon to your own taste

Combine dry ingredients in bowl, then add the egg, butter, and cream. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Fold the currants and dates into the batter.

Bake at 350 for at least 40 minutes.

I made this as cupcakes, as I'm travelling over the holidays and have had far better experiences traveling with muffins or cupcakes than I have had with cake, however, you're supposed to make this in a bundt pan.


Mix confectioner's sugar together with warm water diluted orange juice.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

1 quart of Potato Peel Broth
2-3 bunches or broccoli, or one bag of frozen broccoli
1/2 gallon milk
1 small onion
pepper and salt to taste

Saute the onion in butter or olive oil. Add the potato peel broth and bring to a rolling boil. Add broccoli, boil broccoli in potato peel broth until soft, then add the milk. Boil down for 2-3 hours, season with pepper and salt to taste.

Spinach Soup

inspired by Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure: Book Two

2-3 bags fresh spinach, cleaned and picked through
1 pint of potato peel broth
3 cups of water
1 really big potato
pepper, soy sauce, and lemon juice to taste

Boil potatoes in potato peel broth until soft, then add the spinach. Cover and steam for about ten minutes, adding the water as needed. Add pepper, soy sauce, and lemon juice as needed.

Best if served with tortilla chips and cheddar cheese.

Tortillas Espanas con Tomates y Pimientas

inspired by Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure: Book Two

Nota Bene: As defined by the book, Spanish style (as opposed to Mexican) tortillas are pretty much just a much simpler form of omlette.

The filling:
5 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bell pepper
1 to 2 tomatoes

Saute the pepper and garlic in olive oil until the pepper softens and browns. Chop up a tomato and throw that in with the pepper. Stir, and then pour into a bowl before the tomato cooks down.

The tortilla

as much olive oil as needed
2 eggs
a dash of salt
1 tbs water

Combine eggs, pepper, salt, parsley, and water in bowl. Pour into pan you fried peppers in, and cook on low until eggs are solid enough to try flipping the tortilla. (They will be solid enough if they are firm, with no puddles of eggy water in the middle.) This is hard -- my first flip today landed right on the burner -- you might want to use a spatula and fork and roll the whole thing over gently.

Put tortilla on plate. Use it to wrap peppers, tomatoes, and colby or monterey jack cheese (if desired).