Tag Archives: entree

Baked Cheese Grits

With the arrival of fall I have a sudden yen for comfort food, which translates to Southern cooking. This weekend I was invited to a multicultural potluck and decided it was the perfect opportunity to trot out one of my family’s favorite special occasion dish: baked cheese grits. As always when I serve this dish outside the South, the first person through the line pokes at it, takes a small spoonful to be polite, takes a bite and starts to rave. Other people take bigger spoonfuls, the first few people go back for seconds and I get to score the potluck victory of taking home an empty casserole. Being somewhat waistline and wallet conscious, I’ve worked to cut calories and scale back on the more expensive ingredients from the original recipe. Not surprisingly, the first thing I cut was the crumbled breakfast sausage my aunt always served on top, though you non-vegetarians who are looking for a splurge should definitely consider it. And while grits are delicious for breakfast (think of them as a savory oatmeal or cream of wheat), they’re great for dinner, much like polenta, often served with ham or shrimp. Personally, I like it as is with a greens salad for dinner or fruit for breakfast.

Baked Cheese Grits

  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup grits or cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 pound shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs

Lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish (I use a 9×9) and preheat the oven to 350F.

Bring the broth and garlic to a boil, then whisk in grits. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in milk and all but 1/2 cup of cheese until cheese is melted and thorough combined. Next, whisk in butter and eggs until mixture is smooth. Pour into prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Pour into prepared casserole and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until cheese on top is bubbling and brown.

Serves 6.

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Pumpkin and Eggplant Curry

I pulled out the last of last year’s pumpkin from my freezer to get a head start on the loads of hard squash I’m sure to start receiving in the next few weeks. However, I’ve still got late summer crops rolling around in my vegetable bin. I did some googling on pumpkin with eggplant and came across several different versions of eggplant and pumpkin with curry. This is my version based on the ingredients I had on hand. It’s pretty good as a sauce-y low carb entree, but would also be great over rice or with some naan.

Pumpkin and Eggplant Curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 in ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 can rinsed and drained
  • salt to taste

Salt eggplant, place in a colander and set aside for 30 minutes before rinsing and draining.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook until soft and very fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant and cook until it begins to brown and soften, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring periodically, for about 10 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked all the way through and all the flavors have melded.  Serves 4 to 6.

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Pistou

It’s the peak of the summer harvest right now, which means it’s time to make pistou. What’s pistou? It’s the Spanish version of ratatouille, and is easier for me to spell. (Aren’t you glad you asked?) Anyways, whatever you call it, it is a classic Mediterranean summer dish filled with fresh veggies that is already vegetarian, so no modifications were needed.

It does call for a bit more of oil than I usually use, and while I’ve tried to cut it back, the eggplant becomes unhappy. And while I also try and cut back on longer prep steps, peeling and salting the eggplant is pretty necessary: otherwise, it can be bitter. By itself, it makes a nice but light dinner. The traditional Spanish way of serving this dish is to poach eggs in it just before serving. When I’m short on eggs, like this week, I add some plain Greek yogurt for protein or have a side of bread and cheese. My sister who first introduced me to ratatouille serves it over orzo and topped with parmesan or goat cheese. However you do it, it’s yummy and packed full of veggies.

Pistou

  • 1 large or 2 medium eggplant, peeleed and diced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 6 medium tomatoes, diced, or 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • 4 eggs (optional)
  1. Put eggplant in a colander in the sink or over a bowl, salt generously and set aside for half an hour. When ready, throughly rinse the eggplant and shake off most of the excess water.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant and soft, about 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle with salt.
  4. Add the eggplant and cook until most of the oil is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini and bell pepper, stir until coated and evenly mixed.
  6. Add the tomatoes, juice and and all, stir into the pot and bring to a simmer.
  7. Allow to simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, and adjust salt to taste.
  8. If desired, crack one egg at a time into a mug, then gently pour into the pistou, taking care to not break the yolks.
  9. Poach until whites are set and yolks are at their desired hardness.
  10. Serve with 1 egg per bowl.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side.

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Squash Tacos

One of the fantastic things about living in a small ag town in central California is the sheer abundance of Mexican restaurants: I can walk to 5 in under 5 minutes. One of my favorites, not surprisingly, has a variety of vegetarian options that focuses around fresh, seasonal produce. Last summer I tasted some of her squash tacos and have had a lot of fun reinventing them in my own kitchen, since they taste great and are a good use of giant zucchini. While I make this with beans, my meat eating mom does this with ground turkey or beef and loves that it cuts calories and adds nutrition to her tacos.

Bean and Squash Tacos

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large squash or zucchini, grated
  • 2 cups cooked black beans, or 1 can, drained and rinsed
  • your favorite taco seasoning (I like a pinch of cumin and garlic)
  • 8 taco shells or small tortillas

Heat oil in a large skillet in medium high heat. Add seasonings and allow to heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add squash and cook until most of the liquid produced evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add beans, toss to combine, and allow to heat through for another minute or two. Makes 8 tacos.

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Pizza Pasta Salad

Lately I’ve been going through a wee bit of a pizza fixation. But eating that much pizza even with whole grain crusts can’t be all that healthy, plus cranking my oven up to 500 F at the end of a hot day is sometimes a bit much. So in order to enjoy those pizza flavors, increase the vegetable quotient, and avoid heating up my entire house, I came up with this pasta salad recipe. I should warn you that my pasta salads tend to be heavier on the salad and lighter on the pasta, so if you want a more traditional dish, double the amount of pasta. Also, for you meat eaters out there, this would be really tasty with pepperoni or prosciutto. The banana peppers give it a little bit of a kick, but if you want more heat, try peperoncinis. Not a fan of any amount of spiciness? Use 2 tbsp red wine vinegar instead.

Pizza Pasta Salad

  • 6 ounces short pasta (like penne) cooked and cooled
  • 1 large tomato diced, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 4 baby zucchini or squash, thinly sliced (you want the smallest squash you can find)
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, diced or shredded
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pickled banana peppers, drained & chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano or 1/2 tbsp dried
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to refrigerate for at least one hour before serving so flavors can meld. Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish.

Enjoy!

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Favorite Black Beans

I was looking through my recipes and realized I hadn’t shared my favorite, very basic, black bean recipe with y’all. They’re the perfect side dish for Mexican food, make great refried beans, and show up in my lunch rotation constantly, often over rice with some guacamole and a side salad. Oh yeah, and they’re fat free. They do take a while to cook, so I tend to put a pot on to simmer while I’m doing housework or making something more immediate. The chipotle is optional, but if you like a little smoke and heat in your beans, I highly recommend it.

Favorite Black Beans

  • 1 can black beans, or 2 cups cooked with liquid
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp whole or ground cumin
  • 1 dried chipotle
  • salt to taste

Combine beans, onion, garlic, cumin, and chipotle in a medium pot, and add a cup or so of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook until the onions are very tender. If beans start to look a little dry, add more water, as needed. 30 minutes is usually enough, but let them go an hour to fully develop the flavor. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serves 4.

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Mediterranean Lentils

Today, I was reading a column in the NY Times about the challenges of going vegan. While, I’m not vegan, as a vegetarian, I have to disagree with a lot of the so-called challenges mentioned in the article. There is absolutely no need to shop at vegan-only stores or buy expensive fake meat. All my food options are available at farmer’s markets and regular grocery stores, and I spend a whopping $100 a month for this. My food philosophy is the simpler, the better, and as a result, I shop mostly on the “edges” of my grocery store. The vegan parts of my diet focuses on fruits and veggies (fresh, frozen, canned and dried), nuts, rice, and beans. In case you haven’t walked down the bean aisle lately, dried beans are incredibly cheap (usually less than $2 per pound), make a ton (I can get 16 servings out of a bag) and are naturally high in fiber and protein. A serious downside of cooking with dried beans, is, well, cooking them. Most of them take an hour or more to cook, and not everybody has the time to deal with that.

That’s where my love for lentils really began, since a pot of lentils cooks up in only 20 minutes or so. Also, by serving, they are higher in protein than most other beans. With their smaller size, they don’t suffer from that bean-y texture that a lot of people dislike. Finally, they do great with flavors from a large variety of cultures. This version I think of as my Mediterranean recipe. I serve it along side Greek salads, throw it into marinara to add a protein punch to my spaghetti sauce, and it’s perfectly welcoming to all kinds of root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, celery, fennel, beets, parsnips and turnips. If you want to make it into soup, add 2 more cups of vegetable broth.

Mediterranean Lentils

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 in ginger, minced
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth

Heat vegetable oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes. Add lentils and cook for an additional minute or two, until they are shiny. Add vegetable broth, bring to a simmer, then cook covered until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. If the cooking liquid gets too low, add more vegetable broth or water. Serves 4.

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