Vegetables Can Be Tasty – You Should Try Some

Last week, I did an ethnic vegetarian freak out. What ethnicity? A bunch. I received a lovely cookbook for Christmas entitled Ethnic Cuisine by Lorraine Turner. The cool thing about this book is that it’s not just the “weird” ethnicities. She has some traditional British and French food in there, too.

For my veg-friendly meal, I went with a Mediterranean, no wait Asian theme. OK, there wasn’t a theme, it was just vegetarian. (I’ll be honest, don’t be scared, it was actually vegan… and gluten-free. I swear, you’ll love it.) And, most of this stuff is make ahead and throw on the table when you feel like eating.

Tunisian Garlic and Chickpea Soup

Serves 4

  • 8 T olive oil, divided
  • 12 garlic cloves, very finely chopped (I just minced them)
  • 3 C chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
  • 2½ qts water
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 carrots, very finely chopped
  • 2 onions, very finely chopped
  • 6 celery stalks, very finely chopped (All right already, you like things very finely chopped. We get it.)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 T chopped fresh cilantro

Heat half the oil in a larger pan over low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the drained chickpeas, water, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2½ hours, or until tender.

OK, let me pause right here. If you have ever soaked chickpeas overnight, you know that they balloon out. When I read a recipe that says take 3 C and soak, I take 3 C and soak it. I don’t say, hmmm… these will get bigger I should take one-third of 3 C (or 1 C for the math geniuses in the room) and soak so that I have 3 C the next morning. If you follow the recipe as written, you will have an INSANE amount of soup that doesn’t have much in the way of garlic flavor. I’m just saying. Now, back to our regularly scheduled recipe.

Meanwhile (you know, during the 2+ hours of simmering), heat the remaining oil in a separate pan. Take your time. You have a few hours to kill. Add the carrots, onions, and celery. Then cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Stir veggies into the chickpeas. Transfer half the soup to a food processor and process until smooth. Return puree to pan, add half the lemon juice and stir. Add more lemon juice if you’d like, salt and pepper. Blah blah. Garnish with cilantro.

Results

We all (including Paul-I-Don’t-Like-Stuff-Spicy) added hot sauce to our bowls. Otherwise, it was just kinda eh.

Soup in a bowl

About as exciting as it gets.

Imam Bayildi

Also known as the imam fainted—some say because of the tastiness, some say because of the cost, some say because of the amount of oil (for ancient times, it’s a bit much). At any rate, a holy man ate this stuff and passed out. Serves 4.

  • 2 eggplants
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced (make sure you get small to medium sized onions… not those mega huge ones from Costco)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes (I half drained the can, and added extra tomatoes once I realized I had crazy onions on my hands)
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Halve the eggplants lengthwise, then slash the flesh 4-5 times and sprinkle generously with salt. Put in a colander and let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towel.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplants, cut side down and cook for 5 minutes. (I did this in batches.) Remove and drain well on paper towels. Transfer to a casserole dish. To the same skillet, add onions, garlic and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, and ground coriander. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in cilantro.

Spoon this mixture on top of the eggplant halves, then cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Results

If you’ve ever had ratatouille, this is pretty similar except a bit deconstructed. As Paul said, “Mighty tasty, but I don’t see anyone losing consciousness over it.” Maybe I used too many onions?

Eggplant and veggies

Can you see the imam swooning?

Moorish Zucchini Salad

Serves 4-6

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, halved
  • 1 lb small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • generous ⅓ C pine nuts (I take issue with this, just say at least 1/3 C pine nuts, more to taste. But a generous measured amount… puhlease. And, while we’re at it, have you noticed how freaking expensive pine nuts have gotten? Whatever squirrel is stashing pine nuts and driving up the price needs to knock it off so I can make pesto this summer.)
  • ⅓ C raisins
  • 3 T chopped mint leaves
  • 2 T lemon juice, or to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and let cook until golden to flavor the oil, then remove and discard. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring until just tender. Immediately remove and transfer to a large serving bowl. (I would also recommend removing with a slotted spoon and patting a bit with some paper towel. There’s a lot of oil going on here.)

Add the pine nuts, raisins, mint, lemon juice, and s&p and stir. I will admit this is where I misread the recipe. I added these ingredients to the cooking pan. So, the pine nuts got a bit toasty, but I kind of liked it. If I did it again, I wouldn’t cook the mint—that’s just an idiot doing idiot things.

Set aside and let cool completely. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 3½ hours. Remove 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Results

The picture from the book has thicker wedges of zucchini. And, she used green and yellow zucchini, but I think it still came out OK.

Zucchini in a bowl

Yum, food porn.

Madras Potatoes

Serves 4-6

  • 2 lb waxy new potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 3 T peanut oil
  • 2 t black mustard seeds (oops, I bought the brown kind)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, very finely chopped (there she goes again with her finely chopped business)
  • 1 fresh red chili, finely chopped (keep the seeds if you want the spice… I didn’t have red, so I used a serano)
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • ½ t ground coriander
  • salt
  • fresh cilantro and lemon wedges to serve

Put the potatoes in a large pan of salted boiling water over high heat. (Be careful not to scald yourself.) Return to a boil, and boil for 5-8 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain, set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until the crackle and jump (about a minute). Mix in the onion and cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Then add the garlic, ginger and chili. Cook until the onion is golden.

Add the cumin and coriander and stir until well blended. Add the potatoes and cook stirring until they are hot and coated with the spices. Add salt, if you’d like.

Remove and sprinkle on the cilantro. Serve with the lemon.

Results

They taste pretty good hot or at room temperature. They were fantastic the next day as leftovers.

Potatoes in a bowl

Lemon and potatoes, who knew? Oh wait, millions of Indians.

Winter Rice Pudding with Dried Fruits

Serves 6-8

  • 1 C glutinous rice
  • 1 T peanuts
  • 1 T pine nuts
  • 1 T lotus seeds (I couldn’t find them, and had no time to go to Chinatown searching so I used slivered almonds. I’m lame. Sorry.)
  • 8 oz mixed dried fruit (I used raisins, prunes, and dates)
  • 8 C water
  • ½ C sugar

Soak the rice in a bowl of cold water for at least 2 hours, then drain well. Meanwhile, soak the peanuts, pine nuts, and lotus seeds in a separate bowl of cold water for at least an hour, then drain well. Soak the dried fruits as necessary, then drain well. I found it necessary to soak the fruit in brandy. Because I like my re-hydrated fruit drunk. Chop the larger fruit into small bits.

Bring the water to a boil in a pan, add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add the drained rice, drained nuts/seeds, and fruit. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Simmer, covered for an hour. Stirring frequently. It should be a thick soupy yummy mess.

Results

Look! A thick soupy yummy mess. Success! This is a traditional Chinese dish, so I feel like I may be on the road to recovery from the debacle that was Chinese New Year.

Rice, nuts, and fruits in a bowl

It looks gooey which means it's good.

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