Category Archives: vegetarian

Recipe: Feta with Honey-Apricot-Mustard-Thyme Glaze.

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Good Evening:

The original inspiration came from the New York Times, but no one in my family can resist experimenting with recipes. For us, cookbooks are less textbooks and more like collections of timidly proffered suggestions to ignore at our pleasure. The original recipe called for honey only as a glaze, but that didn’t seem quite flavorful to me.

Feta with Honey-Apricot-Mustard-Thyme Glaze.

Feta with Honey-Apricot-Mustard-Thyme Glaze.

Feta with Honey-Apricot-Mustard-Thyme Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 8 oz. slab of feta cheese, patted as dry as possible with paper towels
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon apricot preserves
  • 1 Teaspoon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a small oven-safe baking dish with aluminum foil, place the feta on the foil, and bake for 8-10 minutes until the cheese turns springy. Remove from oven.
  3. Preheat the broiler.
  4. Stir the honey, apricot preservers, mustard and thyme together in a microwave-safe dish and microwave it on high for 45 seconds.
  5. Gently spread the mixture on top of the cheese until you have an even layer.
  6. Stick the baking dish with the coated feta under the broiler for one minute, then remove and inspect.
  7. If the glaze has not started to bubble, stick the cheese back under the broiler for one more minute ONLY. That should suffice.
  8. Remove from broiler, let cool for a few minutes, and carefully use a spatula to transfer the cheese to a serving dish. Everything is hot, so watch your fingers!
  9. Serve the cheese with crostini and watch your friends annihilate the appetizer.

You may use a small wheel of Brie as a substitute, however!, you must use a whole wheel, not a cut wedge. The Brie must be covered entirely in that famous white rind or it will melt into nothingness.

Enjoy!

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Three Basil-Mint Pestos, One Vegan, Two Vegetarian.

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Good Evening:

In my previous post, I described how I dealt with an overabundance of mint. But before I had the overabundance of mint, I had an overabundance of mint–plus an overabundance of basil.

Presenting how I got rid of that in a manner most pleasing to the stomach: Pesto.

Pesto does not require basil and only basil, plus pine nuts and only pine nuts. It does not even require Parmesan cheese. Whilst the famous Pesto Genovese includes all three, multiple variations exist. For example, the Provencal “pistou” is a Genovese with no cheese or nuts. You should feel free to invent your own.

Basil-Mint Cheese-less Pesto

I began with these ingredients:

  1. 2 cups of Basil leaves
  2. 1 cup of Mint leaves
  3. 3 cloves of Garlic
  4. 1/4 cup of shelled Pistachios (yes, Pistachios)
  5. 1/4 cup of slivered Almonds (a more traditional substitute)
  6. 3/4 cup of Olive Oil

Put the first five ingredients into a food processor, and pulse until everything is finely chopped. You will need to pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Now leave the process on and slowly add the olive oil until all is incorporated and thoroughly blended.

Remove one-third of the Pesto, put in an airtight jar, and refrigerate. That is your first pesto recipe.

Basil-Mint Asiago Pesto

New ingredient:

  1. 3/4 cup freshly grated Asiago (you don’t even need the “right” cheese!)

Add the cheese to the pesto remaining in the bowl and pulse until thoroughly blended and incorporated.

Remove one-third of the Pesto, put in an airtight jar, and refrigerate. That is your second pesto recipe.

Basil-Mint and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

New ingredient:

  1. Six ounces of jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, with the oil. Seriously.

Add the tomatoes to the remaining pesto in the bowl and pulse until the sun-dried tomatoes are thoroughly chopped, blended and incorporated.

Remove the remaining pesto, put in an airtight jar, and refrigerate.

Now all you have to do consists of combing the online websites for cool new recipes calling for any kind of pesto! Sorry, I can’t help you with that, but it is a fun activity.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Lemon-Mint Chimmichurri.

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Good Evening:

The thing is, the vendors at farmers markets must sell you much bigger bunches of fresh herbs than you actually need. They don’t have a choice; either that, or their produce spoils on the farm.

So yes, I knew what I got myself into when I purchased an innocent “little” bundle of mint leaves at the Civic Center Farmers Market. Even after using too much for the recipe in question, I still had vast quantities leftover and needed something different from making 50 gallons each of iced tea and lemonade (the traditional solution in New England).

Therefore I committed blasphemy. Chimmichurri is a magnificent Argentinian condiment made with fresh parsley, sometimes with either fresh cilantro or oregano added, plus garlic, olive oil, and white vinegar. I still had over a half cup of mint leaves leftover, and desperate to use all of a very fine quality batch, I developed this recipe instead.

Lemon-Mint Chimmichurri

Ingredients

  1. Two cups of parsley leaves (save the stems for soup stock)
  2. 3/4 cup of mint leaves
  3. 1 garlic clove
  4. Finely chopped zest of one small Lemon
  5. 3/4 cup of olive oil (you can splurge with the high-quality stuff)
  6. Salt and Pepper to taste
  7. Juice of one small Lemon

Process

Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to chop, frequently pausing to scrape down the sides, until everything is finely chopped and blended. Add one-half of the lemon juice and pulse again a few times. If sufficient, save the other half for another use. If not enough, add the other half and pulse again a few times until everything is blended.

What foods go well with this?

Hundreds of them. It’s astounding how well this worked out. Chicken, pork chops, grilled vegetables, a dip for fresh vegetables, a dip for grilled shrimp, a marinade, a salad dressing, a sauce for egg noodles, a sauce for diced summer squash and halved cherry tomatoes (uncooked)–Lemon-Mint Chimmichurri works on almost every entree. Someone else must have discovered this before I did, because it’s just too dang good not to already exist.

It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Let it reach room temperature before using.

Vonn Scott Bair

Carrot, Mint and Creme Fraiche Dip.

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Good Evening:

Another experiment, but this one turned out surprisingly well for a first attempt. Should work as a spread on crackers or crostini, but today I served with crudités.

Carrot, Mint and Creme Fraiche Dip

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Carrots cut into half-inch dice
  • 1 cup of Vegetable Broth, with more in reserve
  • 16 oz Creme Fraiche
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, washed
  • Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Technique

  1. Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Add carrots and stir.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and let the carrots poach for 20-30 minutes until tender. Check frequently; if broth evaporates, immediately add more.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool. If any broth remains, drain and save for another use.
  5. Place carrots, mint, creme fraiche, salt and pepper into a food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  6. Scrape into a bowl. Stir in the pistachios if using.

Pretty darn easy. This should serve a crowd, so cut all ingredients in half for family. You have other options. For example, add a tablespoon or two of tahini before pureeing. Or use dill instead of mint and no pistachios. Lemon juice to taste, perhaps. Or use Zatar for seasoning. It’s a pretty adaptable and versatile dip.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Once I figure food photography, I’ll try to include some shots.

Recipe: Triple-R Onions.

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Good Evening:

Like my cheddar and creme fraiche recipe, this dish also works in a variety of contexts: side dish to the main course; topping for burgers, turkey or chicken breasts, steaks or sandwiches; pureed, it becomes a sauce.

Triple-R Onions: Red Onions in Red Wine and Rosemary

Ingredients & Equipment

  • 1 extremely sharp French Chef’s knife
  • 2 Red Onions, combined weight about one pound
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 0.5 – 1 cup of Red Wine, depending upon need
  • 1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped Rosemary, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper

The Process

  1. Peel and halve the onions along their axes.
  2. Slice very thinly with the knife to produce onion strings, ideally one-sixteenth inch thick although one-eighth will suffice for this recipe.
  3. Gently separate the strings from each other
  4. Gently heat the olive oil over low heat in a stainless steel sauce pan (not cast iron). When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, and stir gently and frequently for 10-15 minutes until they became very limp, have sweated out all of their water, and that water has evaporated. Two important points here. First, you want to get rid of the onions’ water, almost dry them out. Second, do not burn the onions; you have to keep stirring slowly and gently.
  5. Once the water has evaporated, add one-half cup of the red wine to the onions and stir. If the onions absorb the red wine too easily, add the other half.
  6. When the red wine has absorbed into the onions, stir in the rosemary. Cook for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and serve.

I have no idea what kind of dish this is, but it works very well in a variety of contexts.

Vonn Scott Bair

 

Recipe: Cheddar-Creme Fraiche Something-Or-Other.

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Good Evening:

I need your help on this one. But not with the recipe itself, inspired by something similar in the New York Times.

Cheddar-Creme Fraiche Something-Or-Other

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Creme Fraiche
  • 3-4 ounces finely grated Cheddar cheese, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon stoneground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • Pepper to taste (salt is unnecessary)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried or finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice.

Process

  1. Mix the creme fraiche, mustard, horseradish, garlic and pepper in the top of a double boiler and gently heat until it turns piping hot.
  2. A bit at a time, stir in the Cheddar, until all is incorporated and throughly melted.
  3. Remove from heat at once and stir in the herbs.

Can’t get much simpler, can it? So what’s my problem?

Oddly enough, I have no idea what I created.

When it’s hot, the Something-Or-Other pours beautifully over a baked potato or egg noodles. Or you can stir it into a bowl of mashed potatoes and be amazed at the results. When lukewarm or at room temperature, it becomes a great dip for grilled vegetables, chicken wings, beef satays, skewered mushroom (cooked or not), and who knows what else. When cold, the Something-Or-Other becomes a sandwich spread for sandwiches made with leftover turkey and/or cooked mushrooms, hamburgers, or cold chicken breasts. Or you can scoop it with carrots, celery, pita chips or the like.

Sauce? Dip? Condiment? Sandwich spread? I have no idea.

Tastes pretty good, though.

Pan-Seared and Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Nutmeg & Ginger.

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Good Evening:

I, too, remember the dark days of Brussel Sprouts. They came frozen in 6 inch x 6 inch x 2 inch white-packaged bricks, boiling them to death was the only known cooking method, and frankly, they tasted faintly of urine. However, in the early 1980s, I worked at the restaurant that might have served as the starting point for their slooooooow comeback to respectability. The Commissary, part of a Philadelphia empire of restaurants owned by Steve Poses, would split them in two vertically, blanche them for 1 minute, immediately shock them in cold water to stop cooking, and then drain them thoroughly. When called for, the second cook would sauce them in butter, top with crumbled bacon and salt and pepper, then serve as a side dish.

The recent trend in Brussel Sprouts seems to consist of oven roasting them whole without blanching. It’s OK, but sometimes the stems are not quite done. This past weekend I had about 12 ounces of sprouts–largely because what the heck, why not?–and thought I night try something slightly different. I knew that freshly grated nutmeg is the secret ingredient to great creamed spinach (weird if you think about it, but it does work); I knew that many Chinese recipes include both cabbage and ginger. So let’s have fun.

Pan-Seared and Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Nutmeg & Ginger

  • 12 ounces Brussel Sprouts, washed, drained on paper towels, stem ends trimmed, split in half vertically.
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 0.5 – 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (and it has to be freshly grated)
  • 0.5 – 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put Brussel Sprout halves in a bowl.
  3. Toss with oil then with salt and pepper. I like to go light on the salt and heavy-ish on the pepper.
  4. Heat saute pan to medium-high. I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
  5. Working in batches, place Brussel Sprouts cut side down on the skillet.
  6. Leave untouched for 3 minutes. Check for a nice light to medium brown sear on the cut sides. If you have the sear, transfer cut side up to an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. If too light in color, let sear for 1-2 minutes only, then transfer to sheet.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven. Ten minutes if you like crunchy, fifteen if you prefer a softer texture.
  9. Transfer to a heat-proof serving bowl.
  10. Sprinkle the nutmeg and ginger on the sprouts and stir gently until thoroughly coated with the spice blend. I like strong flavors and went with a teaspoon of each. You might want to start with a half teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger if you prefer mild spice flavors.

Serves four as a side dish.

Some notes: Leaves will fall off. That’s fine; you’ll have something to munch on as you work. More importantly, I cannot stress strongly enough the use of freshly grated nutmeg. The complexity of the aroma and flavors make a big difference.

Vonn Scott Bair