Category Archives: Vegetarian

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I love spinach artichoke dip and I love grilled cheese sandwiches.  So this recipe instantly got me salivating and ready to go.  It’s a great quick lunch or dinner and is pretty healthy especially if you use low fat cheese and yogurt in place of the sour cream.  It’s also really, really good.  REALLY good.  The key is getting the bread golden brown and crispy while allowing the cheese time to melt so that the inside is a creamy, gooey melty mix.  Could it be any easier to put together a crowd pleasing dinner?  After making this last minute for a couple friends and getting really good feedback, I think the answer is no.  Make this (frequently!) and enjoy.

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (adapted from A Couple Cooks)

Makes 2 sandwiches (scale up according to how many you need)
Fresh spinach – enough for about 3 cups chopped
Canned artichoke hearts – about 3 (around 6 ounces)
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup shredded cheese (I used mozarella, use any blend you like)
4 pieces bread (I used a white crusty bread, I think sourdough would work great)
Kosher salt
Butter or more olive oil

1  Dice the 2 cloves garlic. Chop the artichokes. Wash and stem the
spinach, then chop it coarsely.

2  Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and
saute for 30 seconds. Then add the spinach and a pinch of kosher salt,
and saute for a few minutes until just limp. Add the artichokes and
red pepper flakes (if you want a tiny bit of spiciness) and saute for
another minute or so, until heated through. Drain off any liquid from
the pan. Stir in 2 tablespoons sour cream and another pinch of kosher salt.

4  Spread butter (or olive oil) on one side of each of the 4 bread
pieces. Heat a griddle pan to medium high heat. Place 2 pieces of
bread on the griddle, buttered side down. On each piece, spread some
shredded cheese, the spinach artichoke filling, some more cheese (1/2
cup cheese per sandwich), and the other piece of bread. When the
bottom bread is browned, flip the sandwich and cook until the bread is
toasted and the cheese is melted.  Or, if you have a panini maker,
just assemble the sandwiches, butter or oil the maker on both sides
and toast the sandwiches in the maker until golden brown and cheese
looks enticingly melty.

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Filed under Cooking for Two, Healthy, Main Meals, Sandwiches, Vegetarian

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella

I love Ottolenghi.  It was one of my favorite food experiences in London, and I had AMAZING food experiences there.  The way the chefs manipulate vegetables and make healthy dishes taste so enticing and complex is masterful.  Whenever I see an Ottolenghi recipe, I know it’s something my family and I will love, especially when we are trying to eat a little healthier.  I also love my dad’s cooking…the man knows what he’s doing.  He throws in whatever strikes his whimsy, disregards a recipe more often then not and the end result is always something interesting and delectable.  So, this was the perfect combination-an Ottolenghi recipe as cooked by my dad.  This dish impressed us with its simple fresh flavors, and its ease in coming together.  For those of you who don’t know, orzo is a type of tiny pasta reminiscent of risotto, that absorbs flavors wonderfully.  This is a great autumn dish, filled with hearty vegetables like celery, eggplant, carrots and tomatoes.  It would work well with modifications, cube and sautee any vegetable you want to add and you can experiment.  We had some leftover ground beef and toasted pine nuts, and my dad threw them in.  Try adding feta cheese in addition to the mozarella with sundried tomatoes and olives.  Pumpkins and zucchini would work wonderfully, and this would habe been great with mushrooms.  This was  devoured and will definitely be repeated, probably with different ingredients each time.

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe

Serves 4

1 large  eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, in a 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces (225 grams) orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) tomato paste (we upped this to a tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) vegetable stock (if you don’t have, use water, we ended up adding an extra 1/2-1 cup of water)
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (We used dried)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
4 ounces (115 grams) mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice (we used shredded)
1 1/2 ounces (a generous 1/2 cup or 45 grams) parmesan, grated
3 medium tomatoes, diced

*My dad added 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced to the onions and garlic while cooking.  This gave it a great spicy flavor, omit if you like your food mild

Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175 C). Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Add celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Healthy, Italian, Main Meals, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Curried Couscous

This worked amazingly well with the tagine I posted earlier, but I’ve had it so many times as a side for various protein sources, or even alone for a light lunch and it’s one of the recipes I keep coming back to.  Especially for dinner parties, I know it takes virtually no time and it is always a crowd pleaser.  Bookmark this recipe! Now go make it.

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups couscous (I use medium grain)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (I used white vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small-diced carrots (I prefer shredding the carrot)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins (Try dried cranberries instead! Yum!)
  • 1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts) (I ended up using around 1 1/2 green onions)
  • 1/4 cup small-diced red onion

Directions

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions(green onions), and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature. Any leftovers will keep well in the fridge. See how easy that was! And visually beautiful… thanks Ina for another stunning recipe.

P.S. the salad barely needs a recipe, but I’ll post one soon.  It’s a refreshingly simple side with a mediterranean influence that counterbalances nicely with heavy dishes.

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Filed under Healthy, Main Meals, Vegetarian

Spinach Feta Mushroom Quiche with Caramelized Leeks

The title is a mouthful, but so is this quiche.  I felt like making a light, cafe style dinner and I had just gotten a new quiche/tart pan so I knew immediately what direction I was headed in.  I’ve never made quiche before, and I haven’t found a really good quiche in Bahrain so I was excited to try this.  I envisioned a creamy quiche with a simple green side salad to counterbalance the richness.  Now, there are a million combinations of vegetables and meats you can add to a quiche, I wanted something vegetarian and I thought that spinach, mushrooms, feta, onions and leeks would be amazing together.  And they were!

The base of this recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen (the crust and the batter), the mixins are my own.  I highly encourage you to adapt this recipe to whatever fillings you like. Goat cheese and smoked salmon? Green onions, cheddar and bacon? There are a million different combinations that would come together equally well.

This is much easier then the final product reflects, and as at timesaver you can use puff pastry as a base instead of making your own tart dough. (If you do use puff pastry, you’ll have to prebake it before adding the batter until golden).  I do encourage you to try out homemade dough it’s much easier than you’ll expect, and this recipe is a great starting point because it doesn’t require any prebaking or pie weights.

Quiche Lorraine
Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien

So, curiously enough, one of the few places I could reliably find something I wanted to eat during my 9-plus months of no appetite this year was a chain restaurant (Quelle horreur! Except it is not.), Le Pain Quotidien. I loved their barely sweet granola bars, their hefty miche and countless simple lunches like this. (I believe they had a cookbook at some point, but it is either AWOL or out of print or maybe I’m just making this up?) Nevertheless, I found this recipe online and was chomping at the bit to make it, stat. No seriously, like the minute I got home from the hospital.

What sets this apart from other versions of this quiche is the piles of caramelized leeks and the richer-than-rich sour and heavy cream custard, two things I implore you not to miss out on. I hadn’t made this tart crust before, but was very impressed by how easy it came together and how crisp it remained as a shell without requiring a par-baking. I will definitely use it again.

1 3/4 cups diced leeks, white and light green only (from about 2 large leeks, although I think you can get away with one super-big leek)
3/4 cup diced onion
2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil (I needed a tad more)
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
4 eggs, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch pepper
My toppings: (substitute whatever you want!)
2 cups fresh spinach
1 1/2 cup fresh button mushrooms sliced
3/4 crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1. Heat a large sauté pan over low heat. Sauté the leeks and onions in the olive oil 30 to 40 minutes until caramelized, occasionally stirring. Remove from heat and cool.  While you’re sauteeing the leeks and onions, in a seperate pan with a drizzle of olive oil, sautee the mushrooms and spinach till the spinach is dark green and wilted and the mushrooms are cooked.  This will take around 5 minutes. Season with some salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg (a fork works great for this) and mix it until a dough forms. (Dough can also be made in a food processor, or in theory, and as the original recipe suggests, in a stand mixer.)  My dough was really crumbly and wouldn’t come together, so I needed to add around two tablespoons of cold milk (or ice water).

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or deep tart/quiche pan.  I still found the dough very crumbly and hard to roll out, so I rolled it out as much as I could then just placed it in the tart pan and pressed it in and up the sides.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

4. While the quiche shell chills, mix the heavy cream and sour cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining three eggs. Add the crumbled feta.  Add a pinch each nutmeg, salt and pepper and combine to form a batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).

5. Remove the quiche shell from the refrigerator and spread the leek and onion mixture evenly over the base. Spread the mushroom and spinach mixture (drain this and remove extra moisture first) and then the cheese over the leeks and onions. Pour in the batter and place the quiche in the oven.

6. Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes (a deeper pan, such as the one I used, will require extra baking time around 35-40 minutes but check after 30). Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The side salad I made is so simple it doesn’t need a recipe but here you go:

Handful of raw spinach
Handful of raw jarjeer (rocca)
Parmesan cheese, flaked with vegetable peeler
Handful of dates, mine were the stickier type but any work

Dressing:
1/4 cup balsalmic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Instructions:
Combine the spinach and jarjeer, and flake the parmesan cheese on top. Add a few dates for garnish and anything else you want. I went super simple because I just wanted some form of raw vegetables to go with the quiche. Combine all dressing ingredients by whisking continuously while pouring the olive oil, and taste. Add extra dijon mustard if needed. Dressing will be thick with a tangy bite. Spoon dressing over salad, cut yourself a big slice of quiche and enjoy!

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Filed under Main Meals, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I love eggplant parmesan.  I love anything breaded served with tomato sauce.  Most eggplant parmesan’s tend to be fried which transforms eggplan from a healthy, great
non-meat substitute to a sponge that soaks up all the oil it’s fried in.  This recipe caught my eye because not only does baking the eggplant result in less work, it also results in way less calories.  I bake almost everything that is more traditionally fried, like french fries, sambosas, etc, and I honestly can say that when sprinkled with a little oil they come out with the same golden crispy deliciousness.  I also liked this as a vegetarian dish, we try to cook meat free once a week just to take a break.  I went with a Cook’s Illustrated recipe because they have a reputation for delivering consistently delicious results.  The recipe was a hit, and a must repeat, but quantities were a little off.  Making it the original way led to a big surplus of breadcrumbs and a shortage on sauce.  Below, you’ll find my adaptation on the recipe:
Baked Eggplant Parmesan, loosely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and as seen on Smells like Home
 For the Eggplant:
2-3 medium eggplants (about 1-1.5 kgs) cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (about 30 grams)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Italian seasoning (optional, my own add in)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Tomato Sauce:

3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes or pureed or crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and ground pepper

For Baking:
200 grams whole or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 30 grams)
10 fresh basil leaves, for garnish

To make the eggplant:

In a large bowl, toss half of the eggplant slices and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; transfer salted eggplant to colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and salt. You are basically draining the salted eggplant in the sink.  Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-thirds of the oven, place rimmed baking sheets on both racks, and heat oven to 220 degrees C.
In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper and a dash of italian seasoning if using in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.

 
Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.

To make the sauce:
While eggplant bakes, process 2 cans diced tomatoes in food processor or blender until almost smooth (if using pureed or crushed tomatoes, skip this step). If you don’t want too much texture, also puree the 3rd can, otherwise you’ll be adding this diced to the sauce.
Heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste.

To assemble:
Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella.
Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.  I made some spaghetti pasta, and served with the tomato sauce and eggplant.  A little time consuming, but an absolutely delicious recipe.

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Filed under Healthy, Italian, Vegetarian