All posts tagged: vegetarian

ven pongal

South Indian Ven Pongal. It’s Not Just for Breakfast.

I always feel a little sheepish about discussing Indian foods. Obviously, I am not Indian nor do I I have a long, rich history with this cuisine. Until a 2009 trip to Delhi and Rajasthan, my understanding came from the cookbooks of Madhur Jaffrey and local Indian restaurants. What I lack in background, though, I make up for with my passion for the country and its diverse, vegetarian-friendly cooking. Whenever I try an intriguing, new dish there, one that I may not find back in the States, I track down the recipe so that I can make it on my own. The latest of these at-home recreations is South Indian ven pongal. During a recent trip to Chennai Air India had offered a scoop of ven pongal as part of my in-flight, vegetarian meal. The hotel where I stayed also served it as part of its breakfast buffet. After trying and liking it on the plane, I made a beeline for it at the buffet table. For the next eight mornings I skipped the glazed, …

giant cast iron pan holding sauteed mushrooms

The Sautéed Mushrooms of Poland and Germany

Food is always on my mind but never more so than when I’m traveling. What local specialties can I try? What cool ingredients can I track down? What can I eat that won’t kill me or make me insanely ill? (It took only one meal in Delhi, after which I had an emergency doctor’s visit, IV drip and 3 days bedridden, to add that question to my list.) Since I’m a pescetarian, I also wonder whether I can order dishes without meat. On a recent trip to the meat-loving lands of Poland and Saxony Germany I found that last criteria surprisingly easy to meet. Along with bratwurst, kielbasa, pork knuckle and hunter’s stew, restaurants, bars and food stalls served sautéed mushrooms. Since at least the Middle Ages mushrooms have played a part in Poland’s cuisine. In the past people went out into the surrounding forests and gathered as many edible mushrooms as they could find. Once at home they brushed them off and started cooking. Mushrooms made their way into soups, sauces, dumplings and stuffed …

Pad Thai in Thailand

Pad Thai was my gateway into Thai cuisine. In my early 20s and unsure of what to order at a new, neighborhood, Southeast Asian restaurant, I opted for a simple noodle dish that promised complex flavors, interesting textures and a touch of the exotic. With hints of piquant tamarind, crunchy peanuts and salty fish sauce pad Thai delivered on its word. After that first satisfying encounter it became my go-to meal when dining or ordering out. After 15 years of sampling this specialty on American soil, I wanted it to be the first thing that I ate in Thailand. I’d tried countless Western interpretations of this stir fry. It was time to experience the real deal. This proved surprisingly easy for you can find noodle carts, shops and restaurants serving phàt Thai on almost every street in Bangkok. The same holds true in Northern Thailand. Popular with locals as well as food-obsessed tourists, this dish has a lot going for it. For starters, it’s inexpensive. Depending on where you buy it in Thailand, you can …

Honeyed Fruit and Whole Wheat Couscous

Over the years I’ve prattled on about my fascination with couscous, my unwise decision to drag a couscousiere across North Africa and my ongoing dabbling with these granules of semolina. Light yet hearty, savory yet sweet and toothsome whether hot, room temperature or chilled, couscous’s almost incongruous nature is what keeps me hooked. I’d like to see spaghetti pair as smoothly with such disparate ingredients as cinnamon, cumin, cilantro, dill, cucumbers, dried cherries, balsamic vinegar or almond milk. Yeah, it’s a versatile food. Before the holidays I started tinkering with an old favorite, Sweet & Nutty Couscous, transforming it into the following dish. To some, the name “Honeyed Fruit and Whole Wheat Couscous” might sound redundant. After all, couscous comes from durum wheat so all couscous could be considered wheat couscous. However, this recipe works best when you use the mildly nutty whole wheat, pearl couscous. If you have a couscousiere collecting dust on your kitchen shelf, by all means wipe it off and put it to work. Otherwise, instant or quick cooking whole wheat …

The Always Delightful Dal Tadka

Thanks to a Sunday evening spent eating platefuls of homemade Indian curries and watching Ritash Batra’s charming The Lunchbox, I’m shifting gears this week to share one of my favorite meals, dal tadka. In India dal is both an ingredient—legumes such as split peas, beans or lentils—and a savory dish. Regarding the dish, at least 60 types of dal exist. What differentiates each are the combination of legumes and spices, the cooking times and the final consistency. Some dals are soupy while others are thick and stew-like. In the case of dal tadka I’ve made and eaten both types. Although turmeric injects its rich color into dal tadka, legumes likewise imbue it with a golden hue. Wondering which legume to use? In northern India I was instructed to buy yellow lentils. However, the staff at New York’s Kalustyan’s swear by chana dal or split black chickpeas. Following their advice, I use chana but, when I don’t have that on hand, I substitute the smaller toor dal or split pigeon pea. With the latter you get …

The Scoop on Mushroom Barley Soup

Another week of blustery weather can mean only one thing — more soup simmering on my stovetop. This time it’s my take on an old family recipe for Scotch broth. One of Scotland’s most famous offerings, Scotch broth begins by boiling together chunks of mutton or beef and barley. Eventually, diced root vegetables and parsley are added to the pot. A sprinkling of fresh parsley then finishes it off. Unlike classic Scotch broth, my version replaces the meat with mushrooms, making it less stew-like. In essence, this is a hearty mushroom barley soup. With its vegetable stock base and abundance of barley, root vegetables and mushrooms this soup could be considered a vegetarian-friendly dish. For a bona fide vegan meal, substitute olive oil for the butter. MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP To get the requisite 2 cups cooked barley, you will need to bring 2 cups water, 1/2 cup pearl barley and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the barley to simmer for 40 minutes. …

In This Chowder It’s All about Corn

Wondering what to serve vegan friends this holiday season when everyone else at the table loathes tofu and seitan? Contemplating what to make for unexpected dinner guests? Craving a warm, hearty, one-pot meal? Overwhelmed by all those bags of frozen corn tumbling out of your freezer every time that you open the door? Have I got recipe for you! As its name suggests, Chocked-Full-of-Corn-Chowder brims with plump, yellow kernels of corn as well as chunks of potato and a smidgen of onion, celery and dried parsley. With pureed corn as its thickener and vegetable stock for its base, this wholesome soup will please everyone at your dinner table. Plus, as you might expect, it’s quick and easy to make. CHOCKED-FULL-OF-CORN CHOWDER Serves 6 1/2 tablespoon olive oil 1 small yellow onion, diced 1 stalk celery, diced 1 teaspoon sea salt 3 cups vegetable stock 1 Russet potato, diced 2 (15-ounce) cans whole kernel corn 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 1/3 teaspoon ground white pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley Baguette, optional, for serving …

A Generous Dose of Minestrone Soup

I, along with pretty much everyone whom I know, have been plodding through this season with a runny nose and sore throat. While friends reach for Neti pots, echinacea or Benadryl to beat the sniffles, I turn to the cold remedies of my childhood — fitful naps, bad B-movies, good books and warming soups. As a kid, I invariably received a course of Jewish penicillin as well as doses of minestrone and stracciatella. Sound unusual? Keep in mind that I grew up in an Italian-American community where my parents’ favorite restaurant, Egidio’s, doled out tasty, Italian soups. Minestrone remains one of my preferred cold cures. Chocked full of wholesome vegetables and soothing broth, it goes down easy and warms me to the core. The minestrone that I make is based upon what chef-owner and cookbook author Laura Pensiero serves at her Rhinebeck, NY restaurant, Gigi Trattoria. Light, wholesome and flavorful, her vegetarian-friendly, Northern Italian soup features diced potatoes, beans, carrots, celery and fresh herbs. Mine does, too. VEGETARIAN MINESTRONE While I prefer using homemade vegetable …

Return to the Pumpkin Patch

I can’t let autumn pass by without mentioning that amazing, globular fall fruit known as the pumpkin. Ranging in size from two to a whopping 800 pounds, this hefty fellow was once relegated to seasonal pies and decor. Today, though, I keep this low-fat, low-calorie, firm-fleshed gourd in my kitchen long past Thanksgiving. Although I lack the green thumb and good soil to grow pumpkins, thanks to friends who have both, I’ve learned a thing or two about harvesting a great pumpkin. A trailing plant, this winter squash needs space to grow. It likewise requires temperate weather and regular watering. Mature at 16 weeks, a pumpkin can be picked and stored whole in a cool, dry, dark place for several months. When cut, it must be refrigerated and used within a few days. How to use a freshly cut pumpkin? I love turning it into a silky puree. After removing the seeds, I put the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle a half cup of water over them. I …

Food Fit for Pharoahs

As a child, I dreamt of becoming an international correspondent, dodging bullets to get the story that would change the world for the better. Instead of global strife I’ve ended up with a safer beat, covering culinary trends. Every now and then, though, my childhood fantasy collides with my adult reality and a place that I’ve visited or topic on which I’ve reported shoots to the top of the day’s headlines. Such is the case with Egypt. Last fall I spent several weeks in this ancient North African land. During my stay I talked to locals about politics, education, and, of course, food. Strangely enough, I had known the least about the cuisine. Although I had researched it before leaving, I had found little on that topic for Egyptian cuisine often gets lumped under the heading of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cooking. While both in the Middle East and along the Mediterranean, Egypt nonetheless possesses its own distinct flavors and history. Take, for instance, ful medammes. This traditional dish of fava beans dates back to …