Thursday, March 21, 2013

Risotto-stuffed peppers

When I was growing up, we had a microwave cookbook with beautiful pictures of (to me) exotic foods like twice-baked potatoes and stuffed peppers. Over the years we made almost every vegetarian recipe in the book.

The cookbook is probably long gone, but the idea of stuffed peppers still makes me giddy. So when I found myself with a glut of peppers (even after roasting!) and some Daiya shredded cheese at the same time I couldn't help myself.

The risotto was made as most risotto is, but with speed-ups along the way because I do have a preschooler underfoot. Mounded into pepper halves (note: cut the peppers in half at the stem along their length and they will stay stable), sprinkled with cheese, and baked, they are heaven. Serve as-is (as we had them) or with polenta.

The recipes are adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, where she gives many more details and lots of general tips on making risottos of various flavors.


oil and/or butter/earth balance (a mix helps you save on butter while still imparting flavor)
1 onion, minced
1 cup rice (arborio or other white, I used japanese!)
6-7 cups vegetable stock
vegetables (I used fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, and chopped bell peppers)
herbs (I used oregano)
cheese (vegan or otherwise, optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Simmer the stock on one burner (I made a simple stock with the corn cobs and pepper bits). Melt the butter/oil in a skillet, then add onions. Cook until softened, a few minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add 2 cups stock, stir, and simmer, stirring occasionally until absorbed. Continue in 1/2 to 1 cup increments, adding and absorbing until all but 1/2 cup is absorbed, stirring frequently. Add the last 1/2 cup along with veggies, herbs, salt, pepper, and cheese if using. Cook until everything is absorbed and the risotto is pourable but still thick. Serve. For use in peppers, turn off heat and allow to dry out just a bit.

Stuffed Peppers

sweet peppers (other vegetables may also be stuffed!)
cheese (daiya mozzarella or other vegan or other cheese), shredded

Cut peppers in half lengthwise (cut through stem) and remove seeds. Mound the risotto into the pepper half without packing it in, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375oF for 25 minutes. Eat warm.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Roasted red peppers

I used to think of roasted peppers as one of those expensive delicacies one eats on special occasions and at restaurants, like an olive-and-cheese platter, or fondue. Then I started seeing them in sandwiches, and on pizza, and even on the shelves at Costco.

The ubiquity of roasted peppers doesn't make them any less flavorful, though. Unlike simple sauteed peppers, they have a complex smoked flavor and a texture that is reminiscent of mushrooms, but really nothing like them at all. Roasted red peppers are simply unique, and in this season of colorful abundance, they can grace your pantry.

This recipe requires hands-on work, but it's well worth it - no canning, just preserving at room temperature. This makes two jars, so you can eat one and save the other. Buy up a bunch of peppers while they're in season (ask for a deal at your farmer's market!), and these sweet peppers will last until next summer.
See the full recipe with explanations here. This is a very comprehensive recipe that gives you all the caveats and how-tos and troubleshooting. The post is also SO beautifully written you'll want to read it for poetic value alone.

Simplified version of the above recipe:
Wash 8 peppers and pat dry.Coat very lightly with oil.Arrange them in a tray on your broiler and turn on.Turn periodically, until most of the pepper is charred.Place in paper bag, roll closed, for 20-40 minutes.Remove skins, stems, and seeds with hands (no water) into a bowl. Let juices drip into bowl.Dredge each pepper in vinegar (apple cider, red wine, sherry, etc) and place in another bowl.Salt peppers and toss gently. Repeat.Salt pepper juice in other bowl.
Pour a little vinegar to coat bottom of 2 jars.
Pack in peppers - about 4 to each jar.Pour in pepper juices and vinegar to top of peppers.Top with olive oil to 1/4 inch of top. Seal jar and store in the fridge.

The best part? The aroma on your hands afterward!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lentil powder (paruppu podi)

Recently, I made a very simple version of a traditional south Indian dish: paruppu podi, which translates as lentil powder.

Lentils, or dal, if you don't know, are packed sources of protein for people who don't otherwise get it from animal sources. Along with rice, most of them provide nourishment and all the amino acids you require. They taste great, too!

This simple powder can be mixed with rice with a drizzling of a seed oil like sesame or flax (or ghee), or on its own with a dash of those oils and used as a dipping sauce for dosas, idlis, or crudites (Little One loves it with slices of raw bell pepper).

The version below is the kids' version - nearly no spiciness other than the black pepper. For a more adult recipe, add red chilies to your toasting. I've also omitted chana dal (chickpea lentils) because Little One is allergic, but you can use any combination of various lentils you like. Here is the traditional recipe.

Lentil Powder

3/4 cup lentils, any combination (eg urad, toor, moong, masoor, chana, dried split peas, etc)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt, or to taste
(dried red chillies or chili flakes, optional)

In a wok or pan, toast lentils without oil until fragrant. Toast each type of lentil separately and set aside. Toast black pepper. Toast chilies if using. Blend together lentils, black pepper, chilies (if using), and salt in a grinder or blender (make sure blender is completely dry) until it forms a fine powder. Taste for salt, and add more as needed, blending again to mix. Store in an airtight jar at room temperature. A few grains of rice at the bottom of the jar will keep it from clumping.

This powder will keep for months at least, but at our house, we've never had to!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Black-eyed-bean hummus

Little One is allergic to chickpeas, among other things. So he's had hummus about twice in his life. After seeing his envy as Image some pretzel chips with hummus, it was only fair I made some he could eat.

This recipe uses stuff I already have around. I used fresh sesame seeds - just powdered/pulsed them with olive oil first, then added the soaked/steamed black-eyed peas, along with two cloves chopped garlic, a splash of olive oil, lime juice (oh yeah, lemon juice also triggers allergies), and salt. Very fragrant, satisfying hummus.

Original recipe here: