Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Spinach, Green Onion and Mushroom Pie – With Homemade Ricotta

spinach, green onion, and mushroom pie

This past weekend, we went to the Clinton Foundation’s Decade of Difference concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It was my very first time going to the bowl, and also my first time at a concert with such huge names. Lady Gaga, Usher, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Juanes… it was incredible.

And in true Hollywood Bowl form, we decided to do a picnic dinner, which sent me into full-on food mode. In August, I made a great picnic dinner that we took to LACMA on a Friday night, and it was basically a modification of this same recipe with a few vegetable swaps and mozzarella cheese instead of ricotta.

This time, armed with my new cheese-making abilities and a better stocked fridge, I stuck closer to the recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure, and what I ended up with was a beautiful, tasty pie that traveled well – and was big enough to feed 15 or so!

We finished less than half before the concert, but I just wrapped it back up, stuck it in a bag under my seat, and it looked and tasted just as good at the afterparty.

So One Night I Was Inspired to Make Gyoza…

One night about a week ago, it was getting a bit late and I hadn’t figured out what I’d be making for dinner when I saw a photo a friend posted on Facebook of homemade potstickers.

They looked great — the edges were crimped nicely, the dough was slightly translucent, and even though they were filled with pork, they inspired me to at least find out what it would take to make them.

Searching online, a lot of recipes I found just ignored the dough and said to buy it premade, but since I wasn’t about to go out to the market, I needed to know how it was made. I finally found a site that posted a recipe, and it was inexact at best, but I tend to be inexact in the kitchen, so I decided to try it out.

I started with my filling, which I had to improvise a bit to deal with the ingredients I had on hand. I settled on broccoli, tofu (which I crumbled), garlic and soy sauce. I started it going in the pan and cooked it until the broccoli was nice and green and everything smelled good.

So I went another direction and was inspired to make gyoza. Surprisingly easy!

Gyoza put together and waiting to be cooked

Then, to make the dough, following the recipe I found I eyeballed about the same volume of flour as the filling I had, added a little salt, then mixed in hot water until the dough felt good — not too soft and not too stiff. Then I separated the dough into small pieces and started rolling them out into circles about 4-5 inches in diameter and quite thin.

When I started stuffing them, I realized they were a bit larger than the gyoza I had had before, but I couldn’t exactly go and make them any smaller at that point so I just went with it. I only had a small amount of filling left over when I was done, and I doubt I would have even had that had I not started worrying that I was going to run out and adding a bit less filling to the last few potstickers.

To get th dough to stick together, I only had to pinch the edges — no egg wash or water like you’d need with the store-bought variety. And the consistency was right since they stretched well to accommodate the filling.

To finish cooking the gyoza, you put it in a pan with a little oil until the bottoms are browned, then fill the pan about halfway with water and cover to steam them. The first batch I did I crowded a little too much and a few stuck together, but the second batch turned out better.


Gyoza almost done cooking

They did look like the real thing, they tasted fresh, and I liked my filling choice. It also didn’t take as long as I thought it might — about an hour start to finish. I read that you could also freeze them before the final cooking steps and just cook them later.

I’d love to experiment with other fillings and work on getting the size just right, but I think my little evening experiment went quite well for a first try with very little to go on as far as a recipe.

A Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parmesan

I never liked Eggplant Parmesan much as a kid. I just didn’t really like eggplant, with its black skin and mushy insides. But things have changed a lot since then. I eat eggplant regularly and have had many a delicious eggplant parmesan in many different styles. And though I’d looked up recipes for eggplant parmesan before, I’d never attempted it since it seemed like a time-consuming dish to make.

But last week a new recipe popped into my Google Reader for “Healthy Eggplant Parmigiana” and I just had to take a look. I suppose it’s healthier than the traditional breading and frying the eggplant versions, but it’s still not exactly healthy, with a good amount of cheese and olive oil. But, of course that’s what makes this dish delicious.

Essentially, it’s just chopped up eggplant and tomatoes mixed in with some parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and topped off with mozzarella cheese. And after it’s been in the oven about 40 minutes, all the flavors just come together beautifully underneath and crispy, browned crust.

I had to make a few modifications to the recipe — I didn’t have enough tomatoes to puree or any canned tomatoes, so I just mixed some tomato paste with water until the flavor seemed right. I also didn’t use panko breadcrumbs — I just used some toasted breadcrumbs I’d made recently with some leftover Irish soda bread.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Anyway, this recipe is definitely worth a try — it’s hearty, easy to prepare and has lots of vegetables. I served it with a very simple green salad with a dijon balsamic vinaigrette.

Check out the recipe at the Diner’s Journal blog.

Asparagus and Cauliflower Gougère with a Beet and Grapefruit Salad

Gougere with Asparagus and cauliflower

The gougère right out of the oven

Friday night I decided to try something new. I didn’t really know what at first, but as I was flipping through my Vegetarian cookbook, I came across a recipe for a mushroom and cauliflower gougère. I didn’t have any mushrooms, but I did have some asparagus, so I decided to try my own version of the recipe.

The recipe came together quite quickly. I made the dough, which includes a generous amount of butter and cheese, and spread it around the sides of a cake pan. Then I quickly cooked up some onions, cauliflower and asparagus with some pureed tomatoes, thyme and rosemary, and put the mixture in the center of the dough. It went in the over for about 40 minutes, and it puffed up like crazy. The dough doubled in size, but by the time it reached the table just a few minutes later it had lost some of its airiness.

Gougere with Asparagus and Cauliflower

The gougère on the table, slightly deflated

The gougère was quite decadent. The dough was creamy yet fluffy, and the vegetable filling balanced out the richness of the dough. I also thought it looked quite beautiful — and the asparagus made for a nice colorful addition. I thought it turned out even prettier than the photo in my cookbook since it was more colorful. I was also surprised that this was relatively easy to make. Including the beet, grapefruit and goat cheese salad I made, everything took about an hour and a half.

Beet, grapefruit and goat cheese salad

Beet and Grapefruit Salad - taken on my iPhone

Since I started getting my LOVE Delivery veggie boxes, I’ve been getting a lot of beets, and I find that I absolutely love cooking with them. I was a little intimidated when I first was faced with cooking beets since I’d never cooked one before, but just simply roasting them and then peeling them is about all you need to do.

This salad was particularly tasty and it looked very pretty, though the warm beets did start running a bit in the dressing when I moved the plates.

Recipe: Beet, Grapefruit and Goat Cheese Salad


  • 1-2 beets
  • 1 small grapefruit
  • 1 small shallot
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • goat cheese


You’ll need about half a beet and half a small grapefruit per person.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and wrap in foil. Put the beets in the oven for 40 minutes. They are done when you can easily pierce them through the foil with a knife. (You can roast beets in advance and keep them in the fridge.)

Unwrap the foil and allow the beets to cool until you’re able to peel off the skin with a paring knife. Cut the beets in half and then create quarter-inch thick slices.

Peel your grapefruit and cut it in half. Slice those halves into quarter-inch thick slices, removing any seeds.

For the vinaigrette, finely chop the shallot and place it in a small bowl. Pour in red wine vinegar until the shallots are just about covered, and let them sit for at least 10 minutes. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Alternate the beet and grapefruit slices in a line on your salad plates. Spoon a small amount of the vinaigrette over the salad and top with some crumbled goat cheese.

Polenta Torta and More from The New Vegetarian Epicure

Polenta torta with roasted tomato sauce

Polenta torta with roasted tomato sauce

I don’t have many cookbooks, but the few I have are reliably wonderful. One of my favorites that I really should cook from more is The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. First, I love how the book is arranged — seasonally by meals. That means that I can find something that uses what’s fresh, and I can also plan out a whole menu without flipping between too many pages of the book. The recipes are also sophisticated and delicious, and though they’re often a bit more complex than ones in my other cookbooks, they’re definitely worth it — especially when we have company over.

Friday night our friends Annie and Devin were coming over, so I started searching through my cookbooks for inspiration. I knew I wanted to make focaccia bread again because I’d told them about making it and how delicious it was, so I figured I’d do something at least somewhat Italian. I thought about pasta or risotto, but then, searching through The New Vegetarian Epicure, I stumbled across “A Simple Autumn Dinner Party,” which involved focaccia (perfect!), Torta di Polenta with Three Cheeses, Roasted Tomato Sauce, and Parfaits of Fruit and Mascarpone. It also included a lima bean soup that sounded tasty, but it’s still pretty warm here in LA, so I decided to steal from a different menu in the book and make a roasted beet and asparagus salad.

There was a lot of preparation involved in this meal, from peeling and dicing about 18 tomatoes, chopping 4 onions and roasting and peeling 16 beets, to making sure everything was timed properly to be ready for dinner time. The good thing about this dinner, though, was that it was really easy to get everything out when it was hot and ready — and I didn’t have to spend much time in the kitchen while the company was over — because the salad and tomato sauce could be done ahead of time, the polenta torta got to stay in the fridge until I was ready to heat it up, and the dessert could be done after the meal.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t rushing around the kitchen before they arrived, but it was nice not to have much to tend to other than serving the dishes when we had company. Somehow I mastered my time management and everything worked out really well.

I started with the beet salad and got the red and golden beets roasting right away because they were going to need to marinate in the dressing for a few hours. While they were roasting, I scalded and peeled the tomatoes for the sauce, chopped up the onions and got the asparagus ready. The asparagus and tomato sauce went in the oven at the same time — the sauce was going to take two and a half hours, so it needed to get going, no matter what the temperature was going to be.

I made the dough for the bread and set it aside to rise, then started the vinaigrette for the beet salad, which included olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a shallot, roasted garlic and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Then I peeled all the beets — a ridiculously messy job that makes me worry that my hands will remained stained red for the evening (though they won’t) — and chopped them up. I let the salad ingredients marinate in separate bowls, and I checked on the sauce and gave it a stir.

I had to let the bread rise a little longer than called for — maybe 30 or 40 minutes more — because the oven wasn’t going to be free of the the sauce for a while, but bread can be pretty forgiving when it’s rising, and it didn’t seem to have any negative effect at all. I kneaded it a second time, rolled it out to let it proof, then started working on the polenta.

I chopped and lightly sauteed a leek, half a red onion and some garlic, and brought 4 cups of vegetable stock to a simmer. I whisked in one cup of yellow corn meal — just the regular kind you get in a box at the store — and had to stir it continuously for 10-15 minutes, which got quite tiring. I’d never made polenta before, and it was a bit surprising. I didn’t realize you needed to little corn meal for so much liquid, and I didn’t realize how thick it would get so quickly.

After the 15 minutes of stirring, I added the onion and leek, and also added some goat cheese, gouda and parmesan, then poured the mixture into a cake pan and put it into the fridge to set up.

Once the roasted tomato sauce was done, I took it out of the oven and put the focaccia in — I put rosemary and sea salt on the top again — and then I was just about done.

The bread came out of the oven just a few minutes after Annie and Devin arrived, and when we were ready to sit down, I put the salads together — I couldn’t put them together earlier because the beets would have turned everything red. I put the polenta torta onto a baking sheet and into the oven for 15 minutes along with the tomato sauce in a covered bowl so everything could heat up.

The focaccia was a little lighter in color than last time, but tasted just as delicious. We finished off even more of it, and I think it was a bit lighter on the inside because of the extra rising time. All that olive oil and salt, and the fluffy warm bread… it’s just incredible.

The salad was delicious and full of flavor, and pretty with its red-yell0w-green combo. The golden beets were hard to find and pretty pricey — there were only three bunches of baby golden beets at the fancy new Pavilions, which were about the size of radishes — but they did add a really nice touch.

The polenta looked and tasted great with the tomato sauce and an extra sprinkling of parmesan and basil. It was light and fluffy and had a delicate cheesy flavor. It was very easy to serve cut up into wedges.

Annie helped me mix up the mascarpone with some cream, sugar and lemon zest while I hulled the sweet strawberries and added a bit of sugar and lemon juice. It was a tasty way to end the meal and wonderfully simple to make.

We also had a bottle of Gabbiano Chianti Classico, which we enjoyed. I went to the new Pavilions at Santa Monica and Robertson, and their sommelier suggested it. She also suggested an Ecco Pinot Grigio that we didn’t drink. That’s quite a fancy grocery store — and all the employees were really helpful.

This was definitely one of my better dinners so far. I’m excited to try other polenta variations — it’s so simple to make and very delicious!

Fantastic Foccacia, a Roasted Beet Salad and Sicilian Pasta

Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt just out of the oven

Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt just out of the oven

This week’s bread experiment was my very best yet. I made focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt, and we ate it hot out of the oven with olive oil. The bread was simple to make, and the secret was dousing it in a good deal of olive oil — and adding generous amounts of sea salt and rosemary to the top before baking.

I found this recipe in my Burgers book again. It’s definitely a winner in the bread category.

To go along with the focaccia, I created a dinner using a number of vegetables I got in my first-ever delivery from L.O.V.E. Delivery — an organic food delivery service that I signed up for. I got my first box on Wednesday, and I’ll be getting one every other week.

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese

I made a salad with the beets — oven roasted at 400 degrees in foil for an hour, then cooled, sliced, and marinated in mustard, vinegar and olive oil — lettuce, walnuts and goat cheese. I’d never cooked beets before, but roasting is simple enough, and they turned out perfectly. The combination of flavors with the mustard, walnuts and goat cheese worked really well. I did try to toss the salad, though, instead of serving it individually, and the whole thing turned magenta.

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta topped with parmesan and toated pine nuts

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta topped with Parmesan and toasted pine nuts

For the main course, I made a Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower pasta from the Oxbow School that I found on the 101 Cookbooks blog. I got to use some more of the veggies that were delivered this week (broccoli, cauliflower, onion), as well as saffron, garlic, red pepper, rosemary, pine nuts, golden raisins and parsley. It was pretty simple to make and was unlike any pasta I’d ever made before, with its nutty and slightly sweet taste and rustic feel.

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea Salt - just drizzled with olive oil

Recipe: Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • rosemary


Combine flour, salt, yeast, water and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix until well blended and knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rise in a greased bowl for an hour.

Knead the dough for a few minutes longer, roll it out into a rectangle/oval about 1/2 inch thick, and leave to rise on a greased baking sheet for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Use your fingers to make indentations in the dough about 1/4 inch deep and drizzle about half the remaining olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and rosemary on top, then bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

When out of the oven, drizzle or brush the remaining olive oil over the top of the bread. Leave to cool for a few minutes, and serve warm.

Four of us ate half the loaf with dinner.

Thanks, Kacie and Rachael, for coming over, helping me cook and taking photos!

Black Bean Veggie Burgers on Homemade Buns

Black bean veggie burger on a homemade bun with corn on the side

Black bean veggie burger on a homemade bun with corn on the side

Last week I decided to try a new veggie burger recipe. I love the feta cheese burgers that I’ve been making for a few months, but I wanted to try something a bit healthier, with more veggies and fewer breadcrumbs. I did some recipe searching in my Burgers book and online, and I ended up finding a nice simple recipe on that incorporated a lot of ingredients I already had. I’ve posted my variation on it below.

I also decided to try making buns from a recipe I found in my burgers cookbook. I mixed together a pretty stiff flour with lots of yeast, and the buns got enormous. But when it was time to start baking, I again found that my pilot light was out, and I had to relight it and start preheating all over again. I guess I didn’t let the oven preheat long enough because I thought it was just a little cold (we only have a very approximate temperature knob, so I bought an oven thermometer). In any case, I turned up the oven a tad, put in the buns, and 30 minutes later, when it was time to take them out, I found out that the oven had gotten too hot.

Slightly cripsy buns cooling on the stove

Slightly crispy buns cooling on the stove

Nothing burned, and the buns did look pretty, with their shiny milk and egg wash, and their sesame seeds, but they were way too hard. We ate them, but I’d definitely need to be much more careful with the over if I make these again.

The veggie burgers, however, were delicious. The first time I made them, I served them with guacamole and cheddar cheese, the second time, I served them with hummus, ketchup, mustard and cheddar cheese — both were very tasty. The recipe:


  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (I liked it a little lighter than this on the cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce (or more if you want it spicy)
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (the recipe only said .5, but I needed much more to make these firm)
  • Handful of fresh cilantro if you have it (also not in the original recipe)


In the food processor, finely chop the garlic, onion and bell pepper. Mash up the black beans in a bowl with a fork, but don’t mash too much — you want this to be a bit chunky so the burgers have a good texture. Combine all these veggies in a bowl. Mix the spices with the egg, then combine with the vegetable mixture, then add bread crumbs until the mixture firms up and you can form patties. If you have time, place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up more, and make 4-6 patties.

I didn’t have much luck cooking them on foil on the grill, like the recipe suggested, but they were perfect cooked in a pan with a bit of vegetable oil, for about 8 minutes on each side, or until firm on the outside. They reheated really well in the oven at 350-400 degrees.

cooking the veggie burgers in a pan

cooking the veggie burgers in a pan -- they turn nice and brown when done