It is too hot to do a lot of cooking in many parts of the US these days. Salads are a good alternative. However, if you get tired of just salads, here are two easy vegan dishes to enjoy that require little cooking time. If you are not vegan or vegetarian, you can add some cubed meat as you are sautéing the veggies.
Thinking up new, healthy, creative dinners sometimes poses a challenge. Last night I stood in the pantry door, looked around, went to the refrigerator to see what I already had available. Although the vegetable combination is not unusual for me, I decided to use farro instead of pasta or rice. Farro, a staple in ancient Rome, has been called “the mother of all wheat”. I buy pearled, organic farro. It is chewy, a good source of fiber, and high in protein. I do not follow the directions on the bag. Here is how I cook farro for two servings:
1 cup farro
3 cups water
1 Tsp. Better Than Bouillon
Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with the oil, pour in the farro. Turn heat on high, constantly stirring, saute the farro in the oil for a couple of minutes, then pour in the water. Add the bouillon and stir thoroughly. Turn the heat down but keep the farro boiling. Do not cover. Stir at regular intervals. Do not let it go dry. It should take about 1/2 hour for the farro to become tender. Test and if needed, add more water. Cook until the water is absorbed and farro is tender.
Last night’s vegetable sauce:
Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil. Add five cloves garlic, coarsely chopped and one medium sized beet, cut into medium sized pieces. Saute until tender. Add five to six sliced Brussels sprouts. When Brussels sprouts are partially cooked, add one large poblano pepper, coarsely chopped, seeds removed. Saute until pepper is tender but still bright green. Last night I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice, to jazz up the sauce. Sometimes I use basil or other Italian spices. I vary the vegetables, sometimes using sliced carrots, broccoli, kale. Be creative. Use vegetables you like. If you want something non vegetarian, add chopped chicken or cod loins.
Above is a photo of the cooked vegetables ready to serve.
The vegetables served over the farro. If you are not vegan, you can grate asiago or parmesan cheese over the top.
After several days away from home, I made a quick, tasty, vegetarian dinner this evening.
Since I am leaving for California early Wednesday morning and did not want to buy more food, I used what I could find in the refrigerator: Brussel sprouts, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, broccoli, onion. I found a container of pepitas in the pantry and added some of those as well.
1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped
6 Brussel sprouts, sliced
Several broccoli florets
Basil essential oil or dried basil
Pour enough olive oil in skillet to cover bottom and heat on medium low. Add onions and saute until carmelized. Add Brussels sprouts. When sprouts are about half done, add remaining ingredients and six drops of basil essential oil. Saute until tender but still bright colored. Toss in a handful of pepitas. Serve over pasta or rice.
I served this with pasta and grated asiago cheese on top. Although I frequently use parmesan for grating, I actually prefer asiago. Without the cheese, this is vegan.
Winter squash, butternut and acorn, are two vegetables I like and think are under used. Because I became tired of peeling butternut, I decided to invent something for acorn squash. Much to my surprise, it is now one of Martina’s favorite foods. She has even sent photos to her mother in Italy to see if the squash is sold there so her family can try it. The following recipe is for two. Obviously, just buy more squash and fill if you want to make it for more people. This is a perfect recipe for vegetarians because no meat or fish is used.
1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey for each half
Pepitas or any chopped nut of your choice
Saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Stir in approximately one handful of seeds or nuts. Rub olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish or pan and cover the flesh of the squash with a thin layer of olive oil. Place squash in the pan, fill deseeded center with the onion mixture. Place honey on top of this mixture. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash halves.
For a totally vegetarian meal, serve with salad.
If you want to add more protein to the meal, add black or garbanzo beans to the salad. Sometimes we also add chopped hard boiled eggs and feta cheese.
I heard this poem by Max Coots recited on Sunday and saved it to share today.
Let us give thanks:
For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we’ve had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, plain as potatoes and as good for you;
For funny friends, who are a silly as Brussel spouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;
For old friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;
And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life hereafter.
For all these we give thanks.
Vegetables are my favorite food. Interspersed with the poems and essays I publish, I try to post unique recipes. My recipes come from years of interaction and relationships with people from all over the world, husbands, exchange students who enhance my extended family, travels to Asia and Latin America, my international friends near where I live. Recently, after a dinner party, I had left over vegetables that needed cooking so one evening home from work, I created this recipe. It is vegan by accident not intention. One could add fish, chicken, turkey leftovers (see recent post for turkey curry), shrimp…you get the idea. The options are endless. I used the vegetables I needed to use up, but take a look in your refrigerator and try what you have on hand. Experiment.
1 medium sized beet, peeled and cut into half coins
1 poblano pepper seeded and chopped
1/2 purple onion, chopped
Several pieces of Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped, leaves cut into large, bite sized pieces
Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped–amount to your own taste
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon cumin–or extra to taste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Saute the beets, chopped Swiss chard stems, garlic, and onions in olive oil until beets are cooked through. Add spices and poblano pepper. When the pepper is nearly done, add the Swiss chard leaves and cook only until wilted.
Serve over rice. I used equal amounts of black, red, and Jasmine rice.
How to cook rice:
1/3 cup black rice
1/3 cup red rice
1/3 cup brown or Jasmine rice–your preference
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon concentrated broth/bouillon–I use Better Than Bouillon brand which is available Vegetarian as well as Chicken, etc.
Pour enough olive oil into a saucepan to cover the bottom. Add the rice and chopped garlic. Saute at high heat until rice starts to stick, stirring constantly. Add two cups water and the bouillon. Stir rapidly until bouillon dissolves. Turn down heat to low, cover the top of the saucepan with four paper towels or a tea towel folded to make several layers. Put sauce pan lid on the top and cook for approximately one hour. Red, brown, and black rice take twice as long to cook as white rice. Do not peek while rice is cooking. Lifting the lid to check causes the rice to be mushy.