Protein, Iron and Zinc– oh my!

Recently,  my husband gave  me the idea of starting a cooking blog, and I thought, why not? I am omnivorous by nature, but I cook mainly a vegetarian diet at home.  My posts will reflect this.  However, know that I love meat and intend to continue eating it, though not everyday.

It is my hope that I can dispel the thought that vegetarian cooking is boring.   Considering that the vast majority of the world’s cuisines in their indigenous forms are mainly vegetarian, I wonder why one might ever fear bland vegetarian cuisine.  Think about it… Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, Japanese, Mexican, Korean, Italian, African– many of these cultures eat a great deal of vegetarian (or at least pescetarian) meals, and they certainly don’t want for flavor!

With that being said, and before we dive into any actual recipes, I want to quell the fears of my omnivorous friends who think that a vegetarian diet is dangerous.  Fear not!  Here’s some good food for your brain:

thanks to  betterhealth.gov for the following information

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Poached Tilapia

Poached fish is a simple technique for can cooking lean fish like tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper or halibut, as well as fatty fish like salmon or trout.  Poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat — though you may want to serve poached fish with a sauce made from the leftover water.

~POACHED TILAPIA~

Ingredients:

  • Filet of fish
  • Large skillet
  • About 4 cups of water, fish stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 Lime (1/2 sliced and the other 1/2 left for juice)
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 White Onion (sliced into “coins”)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of either Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Preparation:

  1. Start by making a series of shallow, diagonal cuts on the skin side of the fish fillets. These cuts prevent the fillet from curling during the poaching process.
  2. Heat the liquid on med-low until it reaches the point of almost simmering– the liquid should be hot but NOT boiling.
  3. Add the fish to the hot liquid, skin side down.  The fish should be covered completely by the liquid.
  4. To this, add the sliced onion, minced garlic and lime slices.
  5. Cook for about five minutes or until the fish is just done without being overcooked. (It should just have reached the point of becoming opaque and is no longer translucent.)
  6. Carefully remove the fish and the onions– set aside. Cover the fish to keep it warm while you do the next step of preparing the sauce.
  7. Remove the lime slices and discard.
  8. Cook the liquid over high heat until it has reduced by half.
  9. To the reduced liquid, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter and whisk into the liquid.
  10. Next, add the same amount of all-purpose flour to the mixture (equal amounts flour to butter)
  11. Whisk until flour is cooked and mixture has thickened (it should smell more like toasted bread rather than “doughy” when the flour has reached the point that it is cooked).
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Place the fish on a plate and garnish with the onions that you set aside.
  14. Top fish with the sauce, garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice and an extra pinch of salt (sea salt if you have it; if not, then Kosher salt will do.)

*Instead of making a white sauce to top the Tilapia, you could instead top with a Roasted Salsa Verde (or a Basic Salsa Verde) which you can make ahead of time.  You can serve the fish with rice, pasta or on top of a bed of fresh spinach.

fish

Egg-topped Pasta

     This might, at first glance, seem a bit odd, but it’s really delicious!  You can basically start with ANY olive oil-based sauce, add pasta and vegetables and top with an over-easy egg for a simple and hearty meal.  Here’s what I made just the other night:

Ingredients:

  • Whole-wheat angle hair pasta (cooked al dente)– I used about 8oz
  • 1 Cup of fresh arugula
  • 1 Cup of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • a few leaves (to taste) of fresh sweet basil (sliced thinly)
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (to taste)
  • Eggs (one for each bowl of pasta served)

Preparation:

  1. In salted, boiling water, cook pasta until it is al dente
  2. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside.
  3. In a not-stick skillet, heat olive oil over med-low heat and add sliced garlic (be sure to watch the garlic closely so that it doesn’t burn) and heat until you can start to smell the cooked garlic (it shouldn’t take long)
  4. To the hot garlic-oil add the fresh spinach and arugula
  5. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and a bit of freshly cracked pepper
  6. Using tongs, turn the fresh greens in the oil so that they start to wilt just slightly.
  7. To this, add the tomatoes and the strained pasta and fold all ingredients together, coating the pasta with the olive oil and (as best you can) evenly distributing the greens and tomatoes among the pasta.
  8. Place pasta in bowls and set aside.
  9. In the same non-stick skillet, add just a touch of olive oil (or you can use butter) to the pan and heat to a medium-high heat (not too high as olive oil has a low smoke point and can burn easily!)
  10. Cook your eggs “over-easy” and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Once cooked, place the hot eggs on top of your pasta (one for each bowl of pasta served)
  12. Top with grated parmigiano reggiano  and fresh basil
  13. Serve immediately as you want the yolk to remain runny when you cut into it so that it runs down over the pasta, adding flavor and substance to the sauce– as it sits atop the hot pasta, it will continue cooking, so you really want to be quick about serving!

*To this recipe, some people like to add crispy bacon– delicious addition!egg-topped pasta

Katie’s Matzo Balls

This recipe is taken from Passover Seders Made Simple by Zell Shulman.  Thanks for sharing, Katie!

Ingredients:Matzo Meal3browneggs

  • 3 Large Eggs (separated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup Matzo Meal

Preparation:

1. In medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, salt, pepper and cinnamon.

2. Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them gently into the egg yolk mixture.

3. Gently fold in the matzo meal 1/4 cup at a time; it should be absorbed but still hold air and not become think like paste. You may not need the entire 3/4 cup; it all depends on the size of the yolks. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

4. Partially fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Remove the matzo ball mixture from the refrigerator. Moisten your hands with cold water, then take 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the mixture into your wet hands. Form it into a ball and drop it in to the boiling water. When all the matzo balls are in the pot, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.

5. Remove the matzo balls with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. When cool, add them to your soup. Simmer in the soup for 15 minutes before serving.

*Note: Matzo ball mixture can be made 1 or 2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

matzohballs

I doubled the recipe without any problems. The key to light fluffy matzo balls is the egg whites! Its taken me a few years and a TON of egg whites to be able to get them right! I had never made meringues before so I had very little experience with how temperamental egg whites can be!

Hope you enjoy!

~Katie

The Soup~~~~~~~~~~

You can use them in pretty much any soup you would like. Typically its a chicken soup. Last year I used them in a simple vegetable broth that was really tasty. Below is the recipe from the same recipe book!

  • 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 1 rib celery
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 parsnips, sliced
  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 16 black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cups water

1. place all ingredients in a large stockpot, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 2 hours or until potatoes are soft when pierced with a the tip of a knife.

2. Strain the stock through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Press liquid from the vegetables and discard. Refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

From what I have read they are basically a substitute for noodles or dumplings since you can not use typical flour/leavening during passover! They are funny little things!

~Katie

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Brine, baby, Brine!

What IS Brining?

In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat or poultry is soaked in brine before cooking.[1] Equal parts sugar and salt is added to cold water in a container, where the meat is soaked usually six to twelve hours. The amount of time needed to brine depends on the size of the meat. More time is needed for a large turkey compared to a broiler fryer chicken. Similarly with a large roast versus a thin cut of meat.

Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.[1] The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes.[1] This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis.[1] The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins.[1] The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.

Thanks to  Wikipedia   for the above info!

*You can brine any proteins (or even vegetables) that you’d like, but I recommend it most with poultry.  A good brine will yield the moist, succulent kind of meat that every cook is looking for.  Here is a simple brine recipe that you can use for any meat:

Basic Brine Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon warm (not hot) water
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Preparation:

        Combine all ingredients in a large pot or bowl and whisk together until the salt and sugar is dissolved.  Submerge meat in the liquid and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Once the brining process is complete, take the meat out of the liquid, strain off liquid and dry well with a towel.

*Some brines contain herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus.  You are welcome to find any recipe or try anything you like to infuse flavors into your food through brining.  This Basic Brine recipe is just a jumping-off point– the possibilities are endless.  Believe me though, once you brine, you’ll never go back!

🙂

 

The Technique of Braising

     “Braising“(from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising of meat is often referred to as “pot roasting”, though some authors make a distinction between the two methods based on whether additional liquid is added

~~~~~~~

     I couldn’t have written it better myself, so please visit THIS BLOG to learn the technique of  braising.  Thanks to  The Reluctant Gourmet   for such a detailed explanation of how and what to braise– great post!

Roasted Salsa Verde

This salsa is great with chips, as a topping for grilled fish, as a base for chicken enchiladas– it’s a MUST-HAVE, GO-TO Tex-Mex sauce that can be used in a variety of ways!  This particular recipe is a rather involved process starting from scratch and roasting all the vegetables.  For a simpler version, try the Basic Salsa Verde.  If you DO decide to the time to make this roasted version, you’ll come to appreciate complexity and layering of flavors!

Ingredients:salsa-ingredients1

  • One pound of fresh tomatillos
  • 8-10 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Juice of 4 limes (or about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1-2 Tablespoons ground cumin*

*I suggest toasting whole cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes (making sure to keep the seeds moving around so as not to burn one side) and then grinding the seeds with a mortar and pestle– this will give you more of smokey flavor than just using pre-gound cumin. But, if you’d rather not take the time, regular ground cumin will work just fine.

tomatillosalsa9Preparation:

  1. Start by peeling and rinsing the tomatillos– they will be sticky, so be sure that all the mud/dirt is rinsed off of them.
  2. Peel garlic cloves (trying to keep them intact if possible)
  3. Peel the onion and quarter it.
  4. Wash the jalapeño pepper– don’t feel the need to take the stem off or the seeds out; just leave it whole.
  5. Place all of the prepared vegetables in a roasting pan, drizzle with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Roast vegetables at about 425°F for approximately 30 minutes (or until the vegetables are starting to brown and are softened to the point that they could easily be punctured by a fork).
  7. Once the vegetables are done roasting, take the stem off of the jalapeño pepper (it should be so soft that it can easily just be slipped right off), and put all ingredients into a blender.
  8. To the vegetables, add cilantro, lime juice and cumin.
  9. Blend until smooth.

*Make sure to taste the salsa and add more salt if needed.  Also, if you would like to tone down the spice of the salsa, you can add plain yogurt or sour cream to the mix and blend it in– this will make the salsa creamy as well!

salsa-verde-3-602x399