Archive for vegetarian recipes

A Salad that Everyone Likes!


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After the overindulgence of the Holiday Season, replete with roasts, gravies, mashed potatoes, not to mention sweets and booze,  I’ve been craving salad.  Although deep winter is not the best time for fresh, local produce, I’ve managed to find  a combo of  easy to source ingredients that provide a light, flavorful, fulfilling dish, and best of all, it’s a crowd pleaser.


I served this to my extended family as an accompaniment to a post-Christmas dinner in late December.  The crowd comprised kids ranging from age 10-17, most of whom are not generally known for vegetable consumption.  A vast majority went back for seconds on the salad, and in recent weeks, this has become a regular on my table.



Here’s what you need :

1 package of your favorite baby greens

1/4 of a red onion, chopped

a handful or 2 of grape tomatoes

a ripe avocado or 2, cut into bite sized chunks

1 or 2 limes

1/4-1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil

Toss vegetables into salad bowl in the order listed and squeeze lime over, making sure to give a generous spritz to the avocado chunks.  (If the lime is not juicy, use a second).  Sprinkle salad with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then drizzle with oil.  Toss thoroughly and serve.

Persian Rice AKA Baghali Polo


Baghali Polo is a Persian rice dish that features lima beans and dill layered with fried onions and Basmati.  It is crowned by the prized “tah deeg” or “bottom of the pot”, which is the crispy layer of potato or rice that forms as the dish cooks.  Our friend Farzad is a master of polo, and he taught me the procedure.

Here’s his family recipe, which makes about 8-10servings.

2 cups Basmati Rice

1 tablespoon salt plus more for seasoning

2-3 tablespoons canola oil

2 -3 potatoes, sliced thinly

2 onions, chopped

1 20 oz bag frozen lima beans, thawed

1 bunch dill, chopped


1.  Rinse rice thoroughly, and place in large pan with 10 cups water.  Add salt to water, heat to boil, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  When rice becomes fragrant, check a grain:  squash it in your finger.  If it breaks into 4 pieces it is ready.  Alternative test, taste it; it should be al dente with just a tiny bite in the center of the grain.  When rice is done, drain it thoroughly in colander.

2.  While rice cooks, chop onions and brown in oil in skillet over medium high heat.


3.  Slice potatoes.   Generously coat the bottom of a large, heavy pot with oil and place the potatoes in a single layer in the oil covering the entire bottom surface.  Season with salt and pepper.

bagalipotatoes4,  Assemble the dish:  heap a layer of rice, then lima beans, then onions, then dill, then rice, forming a mound in the pot, and repeat until all ingredients are used.

bagaliprep5.  Wrap the pot lid in a kitchen towel, cover, and cook on low heat for 45 minutes.  The towel absorbs the moisture, which prevents the rice from getting mushy.

bagalipot6.  When the dish is done, spoon out the rice mixture and scrape the crispy potatoes out onto the top of the dish.   This is great with pretty much anything; we had it with a yogurt marinated, grilled salmon last week, but it’s equally divine with lamb, chicken, or beef.  My daughter had the leftovers for breakfast two days running!

There are endless variations of polo–I’ve tried it with raisins and almonds instead of the lima beans and dill, and i’ve also had it with dried pomegranates.    It definitely takes a few extra steps and dirties a few extra pots, but the uniqueness and variety make it worth the trouble if time permits.


Mexican Caesar Salad


I know, the title sounds redundant, seeing as Caesar Salad was supposedly invented in Mexico.  But it has evolved culinarily toward a more Italian palate.  I decided to play around with the traditional Caesar last week when I was serving up a Mexican dinner.  Given that it was a weeknight and time was of the essence, I took a short cut on the dressing which worked well.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Rinse, spin, and tear a head of Romaine.

2. Make dressing: mix 1 part adobo sauce from canned chipotles with 3 parts Cardini’s Caesar.



3.  Instead of croutons, crumble up a handful of tortilla chips.  Add some shaved Parmasan, cotija, jack or cheddar cheese.  Squeeze a lime over the whole thing, add dressing, toss, and serve.


White Bean Salad, Side in a Pinch


This time of year is hectic; the back to school, ramping up of activities, intensifying work schedules and no more lazy days of summer.  Getting dinner on the table amid the mayem can be a challenge.  I thought I was in good shape last night.  I had marinated chicken in garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs the previous evening so it was nicely flavored and ready for the grill.  I had also cooked up a double batch of broccoli rabe the night before, so I had a vegetable set to reheat.  But as I reviewed my menu, it looked a little thin.

Starch was needed to round out the meal, but after a summer of indulgence, I’m trying to cut back on the simple carbs.  I tore through the pantry searching for inspiration–pasta, bread, rice and potatoes are all on the naughty list for me in the near term.  Then it hit me:  beans!

This super simple, quick and easy, very healthy, low-fat dish was a hit and the perfect accompaniment to our chicken dinner–and really, would be good with just about anything.  Here’s the recipe:


2 cans Great Northern Beans (or any white bean), drained.

1/2 onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped basil (or any fresh herb)

1 tablespoon olive oil

juice of 2 lemons

salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste.

Toss all ingredients in bowl, stir and serve, or refrigerate until needed.


I’ll be enjoying the leftovers for lunch today!

Tomato Pie


Tomato Pie is a great way to use the last of summer’s tomato harvest.  After over-purchasing a supply of tomatoes last week at the farmers’ market, I had to come up with a creative use.  Three of the four members of the family loved it, and for us, that’s a pretty good score.  Here’s what I did:


1.  Thaw and pre-bake a prepared pie shell. (You can certainly make your own if you are so inclined, but I used a frozen one and it worked beautifully.)


2.  Thinly slice 2 large tomatoes, 1/2 medium onion, 1 large clove garlic, and a handful of basil.

3.  Layer the tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil with slices of goat cheese.

4.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and bake at 350 for about 30 mins, until top is beginning to brown and cheese is thoroughly melted.




We had it with a green salad and a bottle of chilled rose–it was a perfect summer supper as we bid a fond farewell to this delicious season.



Opa! Fried Haloumi Cheese



As dinner started shaping up last weekend, it took on a decidedly Greek flavor.  I had marinated chicken in lemon, garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper.


We had some pita left over from a hummus appetizer taken to a school picnic.   Romaine lettuce formed the basis for a Greek salad.  And my foodie daughter suggested the crowning glory:  Fried Haloumi Cheese.

Constitutionally incapable of refusing a food request that so perfectly complements a meal, I trundled off to buy Haloumi.  Upon arriving at the cheese section of our local (high end) grocer,  I received a severe sticker shock:  an 8 oz package of Haloumi sold for $11.99.  That is not a typo.  But, in for a penny, in for a pound, or, in this case, $23.98, so I forked it over.

We followed the package directions for frying the Haloumi.

1. Cut cheese into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.

2.  Place slices in hot, lightly oiled skillet.  (The recipe suggested no oil, but after watching the cheese sit for several minutes in the pan with no brown crispiness appearing, I drizzled in some olive oil.   The haloumi began to sizzle and all was well.)haloumifrying

3.  Flip slices, and brown on other side.  Total cooking time, approx 4 minutes.

4.  Squeeze with lemon wedge and serve immediately.

(In addition to the lemon juice, the package suggested a sprinkling of capers over the top as well.  We followed their advice and ended up agreeing with only the lemon.  The cheese already has a briny saltiness which is what capers bring to the party–so we found them overkill.)

The result was truly delicious, but I couldn’t justify the cost on a regular basis.  I tried it with queso blanco, the cheese used in Mexican dishes and it was pretty good.  Also tried it with feta.  The taste and texture were lovely, but the feta didn’t hold together.  I ended up scraping (delicious) browned bits out of the skillet and practically pouring the rest onto the serving plate.  Upon researching, I learned that fried feta does better when dusted with flour.

Giada’s Pesto

Giada DiLaurentis, we salute you!


 Her Avocado Arugula Pesto recipe got my super finicky son–”Mr. I’ll have a Plain Hamburger, please” to eat a puree of green things.  For that reason alone it deserves an award in my book.

The recipe had been sent to me by my dear friend  Farah Kapoor, fantastic cook and epic hostess.  She had served it to 3 generations of her family, all with various dietary preferences and quirks, and they all loved it.  So I thought I’d give it a try.  Not one to tempt fate, I didn’t even bother offering it to Mr. Burger, for whom vegetarian, green, and flavorful are nearly curse words (can we say teen rebellion?  Remember, his mom is an avid foodie).  When he saw his sister’s plate heaped with fettuccine slathered in green goodness, he asked for some.  After recovering from severe shock, I scooped a generous mound into a bowl for him and away he went.  (Full disclosure, I did not reveal that it contained a variety ingredients that he would normally avoid, just said it was fettuccine with pesto.)


Giada’s Pesto, pre-puree.

I followed the recipe  pretty much verbatim–but I skipped toasting the almonds, just tossed them in as is.  So, thank  you, Farah, and thank you Giada, for this wonderful new addition to our family’s meal rotation.

Have you discovered any fabulous recipes of late?

We all really liked it, although my husband, a traditional pesto devotee, said he’d like more basil and less arugula.   Good news!  In this recipe, there is a lot of potential for variation.  Next time I’ll honor his request.  Farah tells me she is going to try adding fresh spring peas.  And now that the Headhouse Farmers’ Market is open, with a bountiful selection of locally grown green things, I’ll experiment with all kinds of things.  Stay tuned!





How to Make Ricotta Gnudi

Gnudi with marinara sauce and arugula salad, Buon appetito!

Gnudi with marinara sauce and arugula salad, Buon appetito!


I was inspired to make these Ricotta Gnudi, from last month’s Bon Appetit.  Normally, I’m not a great homemade pasta girl.  The availability of staggeringly good fresh pasta for purchase is a sufficient deterrent for me to avoid this labor intensive task, so I prefer to support local artisans.  I also am not a fan of Gnocchi.  It often sounds good, but ends up a leaden, doughy lump which I enjoy for 2 bites and regret for all subsequent ones.

But Gnudi is different.  This post from sol kitchen Gnocchi vs Gnudi gives an excellent description comparing  the two pasta types.  I also learned that Gnudi may be a play on “nudi”, Italian for “nude” because it is like  naked ravioli.  Finally, I think gnudi is something that is best made at home as opposed to purchased.  This recipe was actually quite simple.


Gnudi in the bowl

I was initially turned off, thinking that shaping the dumplings would be labor intensive, but it really wasn’t.  All in, I spent about 15 minutes prepping.

Looks aren't everything

Looks aren’t everything

Full confession, my gnudi were rather irregular in shape; the directions said to shape them into little footballs.  Mine looked more like oversized amoebae.   But they were delicious anyway, and the shape was largely irrelevant.

To serve, I heated some leftover marinara from a previous meal (though you could certainly open a jar if it’s the good stuff).  The result:  a light, fluffy, ethereal puff which I will absolutely make again.  This would be lovely with a browned butter sauce or  pesto.  And I’d be inclined to experiment with spinach, parsley, and other chopped leafy greens to add to the dumplings.



Gnudi boiling in the pot

The only drawback:  while photographing the final product, I dropped my phone into the bowl and drowned it in sauce.  Dio Mio!

Soupe Parmentiere ala Bistrot La Minette

We are huge fans of the authentically French Bistrot La Minette and the cuisine of Chef Peter Woolsey.  We dined at the restaurant last week, and were impressed to receive, with the bill, a slip of paper containing  Chef Woolsey’s recipe for Soupe Parmentiere along with a gentle reminder to share with those in need.

This was a really adroit way of urging patrons to help others, particularly at this time of year.

Soupe Parmentiere is a traditional leek and potato soup, and may contain any number of winter root vegetables. It is named after French Army Pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentiere, who was taken prisoner by the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War in the mid 1700s and offered nothing but potatoes to eat.  Although potatoes were considered nothing more than animal feed at the time, M. Parm decided that survival was preferable to starvation, so he developed a soup using the potatoes, and the rest, as they say, is history.  More on this interesting story here, thank you

Although we have the luxury of a wider variety of dishes available to us than the imprisoned M. Parmentiere did, we love potatoes, and this soup does them justice.   Here’s Chef Woolsey’s version:

Soupe Parmentiere

1/2 stick butter

2 large onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 medium leeks, sliced

5 turnips, peeled and roughly chopped

8-10 potatoes, peeled if desired and roughly diced

1 celery root, peeled and roughly chopped

5-6 medium parsnips, sliced

3 sprigs fresh thyme

6-8 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper

1-2 cups light cream (optional)

1.  Melt butter in large soup pot and saute garlic and onions.  Do not brown.

2.  When onions are translucent add leeks and saute until softened.

3.  Add remaining vegetables and thyme, and cover with vegetable stock.

4.  Simmer until all vegetables are softened and cooked through, approx 45 minutes.

5.  Season with salt and pepper. Puree and add cream if desired.

Bon Appetit!

How to Make Pizza

Homemade pizza; it’s easier than you think!

As usual, when the husband travels, kids put in orders for creative meals.  Dad was in San Diego all last week, and pizza was requested.  Given how rarely teens willingly spend time with parents, I was more than willing to bash together some dough and procure a variety of toppings for a homemade pizza night.

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 full-sized pies.  In our case, we made 4 half-sized pies to allow greater topping variety.

2 pkgs pizza yeast (regular yeast can be substituted)
2 cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
5 cups flour
2 Tbps olive oil
2 Tbsp corn meal for coating pans (optional)

Pour dough into large mixing bowl.  Add water, sugar and salt.  Let yeast begin to bubble and stir.  Using dough hook attachment, add flour gradually until dough holds together.  Cover with kitchen towel for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours.   Punch the dough down (my daughter looved this part!) and you’re ready to go.

Heat oven to 500.

Grab a hunk of dough, and begin stretching it out.  My kids had a ball here:

I baked our pies on pizza stones coated with a dusting of corn meal, but you can also use oiled baking sheets.

Stretch dough to a thin roundish shape (or oval, square, amoebic, trapezoidal….up to you.)  Top as desired.  We enjoyed the following combos:

pesto with fresh mozzarella
marinara, grated mozzarella and pepperoni

marinara and mozzarella; marinara, olives, feta,  onions, and mozzarella.

When topped as desired, bake in lowest rack of oven for about 10 minutes.  Watch it carefully–it’s done when edges are brown and crisp, cheese is completely melted and when you scrape the underside of the pie with a spatula it feels solid, not sticky and doughy.

 Ok, so it’s a bit more work than dialing for delivery, but it really is a lot better.  Claire, who normally eschews pizza, enjoyed the leftovers during a phillyfoodlovers working lunch the following day. 

Assuming you have power, homemade pizza may be a good way to get through Hurricane Sandy.