Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pimento Cheese - Yes, I live in the south now.

It is dangerous to go to the bookstore the weekend I get paid, and even more dangerous to start entertaining thoughts of cookbook buying! This past weekend I picked up The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners. I have expressed that I feel like I know nothing about southern cooking, and thought this would make a nice start.

I should clarify - this is NOT a vegetarian cookbook. But it does have some good vegetarian adaptations of southern dishes, plus some recipes that everyone seems to know but are hard to find.

For my first attempt, I decided to brave making pimento cheese. Pimento cheese is one of those things I have seen in every store but have never braved trying - it always looked like velveeta with the red things in olives that I don't like. When I read the recipe, it didn't sound so bad, so this is what I made for dinner tonight.

I'm writing this down from memory so it probably won't be exactly like it is in the book.

Pimento Cheese
2 oz. softened cream cheese
3 tbsp. mayonnaise (preferably Dukes or homemade)
1 roasted red pepper or an equal amount of pimentos, chopped fine
3 cups (8 oz) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine. Chill for up to a week.

I spread it just on regular wheat bread, but it probably belongs on a sturdier white. It was really thick, probably too thick, but what do I know? Perhaps if I had let it set for a while first, it would not have tasted like a glorified cheese sandwich. Or perhaps this is the point? Impossible to know without ever trying it on my own. At least it wasn't slimy, since most of the grocery store pimento cheese always looks slimy.

Verdict - I'm not sure either of us liked it well enough to make again, but I wouldn't turn my nose up if it appeared at a picnic or tea. I will try other recipes from this book. Some of them are just too good to pass up!

Categories: Cheese, Sandwich, South

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Backyard Barbecue Chili

This recipe is another old favorite from the Vegan Planet cookbook. I can't give enough emphasis to how much I value this cookbook - nothing has ever been anything but great that I have tried from it. Perhaps since I give it such accolades I could go ahead and copy a recipe from it in this blog.

Backyard Barbecue Chili

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup water
1/2 cup bottled spicy barbecue sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp light brown sugar or natural sweetener
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles
3 cups cooked or two 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and juice, water, barbecue sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in the burger crumbles and beans and cook for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Add a little water if the mixture becomes too dry. Serve hot.

Serves 4

Jenny's notes: The flavor of this chili depends highly on the type and freshness of chili powder you are using, as well as the barbecue sauce. Try to find a local barbecue sauce, it has made all the difference in the flavor of this dish.

Categories: Beans, Chili, Soup, Spicy, Tomato, Vegan

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Greek Orzo Salad

With the first signs of spring, my husband and I were both craving more salads. I went on an internet quest and found this recipe for Greek Orzo Salad. The result was a fresh-tasting and flavorful dish. I served it for a light dinner with fresh hummus and pitas.

Greek Orzo Salad

1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
2 (6 ounce) cans marinated artichoke hearts
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 (2 ounce) can black olives, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Drain artichoke hearts, reserving liquid.
In large bowl combine pasta, artichoke hearts, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives, parsley, lemon juice, oregano and lemon pepper. Toss and chill for 1 hour in refrigerator.
Just before serving, drizzle reserved artichoke marinade over salad.

Jenny's notes: You really do need to chill this before eating for the best flavor. I followed one reviewer's suggestion and left out the artichoke marinade, instead tossing the salad with red wine vinegar and a little bit of olive oil.

Categories: Artichoke, Cucumber, Feta, Olive, Pasta, Salad, Tomato

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Janice's Vegetarian Baked Ziti

This recipe is from The Soprano's Family Cookbook, based on the HBO series. I would like to say I don't normally buy into gimmicks such as cookbooks based on TV series, but I'm guilty. A lot of the recipes in this book are not vegetarian friendly but some of the tomato based recipes are actually very good. I have made Uova in Purgatorio (Eggs in Purgatory) which is a favorite in my household, Ricotta Pineapple Pie, Eggplant Parmigiana (voted too greasy), but this recipe is the one I find I make over and over again. I apologize for not using a new-to-me recipe; I'm trying to play catch up in this blog! There are several good looking recipes I'd like to try from this book yet - pasta primavera, potato and egg sandwiches, orange and fennel salad, and the Sfinciuni (Sicilian Onion Pizza).

For now, please try and enjoy:

Janice's Vegetarian Baked Ziti

For the sauce
One 10-ounce package white mushrooms, trimmed
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Two 28-ounce cans tomato puree
4 basil leaves torn into bits
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1 pound ziti
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup ricotta
8 oz mozzarella, cut into small dice

Place the mushrooms in a colander and rinse them quickly under cold running water (Do not soak mushrooms, they will absorb too much water). Drain the mushrooms and pat dry. Slice the mushrooms 1/4 inch thick.

To make the sauce, cook the onion in the oil in a large skillet until tender and golden. Stir in the mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the peas.

Meanwhile, bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the ziti and salt to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, tender yet firm to the bite.

Drain the ziti and place it in a bowl. Toss it with about 3 cups of the sauce and 3/4 cup of the grated cheese [they mean parmesan here].

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon half the ziti into a shallow 3 1/2 quart baking dish. Spread the ricotta on top. Pour on 1 more cup of the sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Top with the remaining ziti, sauce, and grated cheese. Cover the dish with foil. (The ziti can be refrigerated for several hours, or overnight, at this point. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking).

Bake the ziti for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 to 30 minutes longer, or until the center is hot and the sauce is bubbling around the edge. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Jenny's notes -
This makes a TON. If you are not using it to entertain, seriously consider cutting the recipe in half. Or plan to freeze the remainder. But DO use it to entertain. I have several times, and people always seem to like it.

I just bake this in a 9x13 pan and it fits perfectly.

I don't like the taste of rewarmed onion, so last time, I left it out and still thought the flavor was good.

Often, rather than making the sauce completely from scratch, I'll buy two jars of high-quality tomato-basil or mushroom pasta sauce (sometimes one of each, usually Paul Newman), and still add in the mushrooms and peas. This saves a nice chunk of time.

Categories: Casserole, Cheese, Pasta, Tomato