Monday, December 31, 2012

Cabbage, black bean and pea salad

Blog's Category: My Staple Food, My Own Fast and Easy

This cabbage salad is one of the varieties of cabbage-based salads that are my number one choice for everyday dinner. It is satisfying yet healthy and light enough for end-of-the-day meal. Should I say tasty? Of course, it's delicious - without great taste it would never be posted here, I promise.
This is a pure vegetarian version of a salad. Although for my folks, meat eaters, I usually add some kind of chopped meat, sliced chicken breast or even canned chicken.

- there would be hundreds of variations of this recipe, depending on what kind of proteins, spices or dressings you would add to the cabbage as main ingredient. The key here is getting the balance in a dressing between vinegar and sugar. It's not that hard, use measures given in a recipe and then adjust to your own taste adding more salt, sugar or vinegar accordingly.

Taste Description
It's sweet-&-sour crunchy juicy workout for your teeth, it's a party of textures and flavors and a long-lasting enjoyable and satisfying after-work TV dinner :)

How to Serve
Serve with croutons or melba toasts as shown here.

Cabbage, Black Bean and Pea Salad

For 3 large salads:

about 4 cups shredded cabbage
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of green peas, drained
some chopped fresh parsley or dill
3-5 tbs olive oil
4 tbs vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste (optional)

- Combine all ingredients together (there is no need to prepare dressing separately!). Let it seat for about 5 minutes. Stir one more time and serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Brussel Sprouts with Carrots

Blog's Category: My Staple Food, My Own Fast and Easy

So far, and by far, it's my favorite way to cook brussel sprouts. I really do not understand why there is so many "brussel sprout haters" in a world. This vegetable, just by look itself, could win one of the first places among vegetables, how cute this mini-cabbage is! Its taste largely depends on accompanying ingredients and seasoning. Although I think its own natural sweetness and light pleasing bitterness should not be overweight by them.

- I have tried to deviate from the recipe below but decided not to do this anymore. Really, why? The minimalistic ingredient list here is an ideal combination for my lovely brussel sprouts.

Taste Description
Sweet-&-sour with light grassy bitterness on a background.  

How to Serve
It can be ideal side dish to your meat or fish. We like to eat it served over the rice or pasta. It is also great as topping for vegetarian crostini appetizer.

Brussel Sprouts with Carrots

3 lb brussel sprouts, cut in half
3-5 tbs olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, diced
3 tbs vinegar
salt to taste
black pepper to taste (optional)

- In a large frying pan, on a medium low heat, cook onion in olive oil for couple minutes until soft and translucent.

- Add brussell sprouts and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally on a low heat until sprouts are tender. It may take 20-30 minutes. In a middle of cooking process, add salt and pepper.

- Periodically, check brussell sprouts' lower stem area on tenderness using knife. When it tender-soft (not mushy!), add vinegar, stir lightly for another minute and take off the heat. It's done! Enjoy! Remember, leftovers will still be good on the next day (of course if any left :))
I like to use my favorite tool  to slice carrots, mandolin (on a left). Just be careful - I cut myself again recently so be careful if you use mandolin. I thought my expertise in using this tool is high - nope! Good thing - latest cut was nothing comparing with the first one and I'm still ignoring guard that comes with mandolin :)

Checking for doneness..

Brussel sprouts are tender and slightly caramelized - just perfect. Now I'm adding vinegar to counteract (just slightly!) sweetness of carrots and it's done. Taste it. Adjust vinegar if needed. If accidentally you added too much vinegar - no worries, add a bit of sugar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower

Blog's Category: My Staple Food

Yesterday, when I asked Danny what he wants - cauliflower salad or roasted cauliflower, answer was "of course roasted!". Well, no wonder, roasted cauliflower is our favorite way to eat this vegetable, plus it was grey and rainy outside so steamy cauliflower was a perfect fit as for this kind of weather. 
The recipe is very simple with a minimum of ingredients. With a baked fish leftovers I have in a fridge it will be our dinner.

- This recipe can be expended in all directions - add vegetables, add spices, herbs, another cheeses - list can go on and on. But should we? The beauty of the recipe is its simplicity and unproportionaly (to the quantity of ingredients) great outcome.

Taste Description
Great cauliflower texture and its mild taste is a perfect base for bright parmesan cheese zing. Black pepper heat adds up to overall roasted cauliflower experience. 

How to Serve
It's the best served right from the oven. Although it's great when just slightly warm too. If for some miraculous reason it's not eaten right away - it's great warmed up on a next day too.

Roasted Cauliflower

For a large baking sheet of roasted cauliflower: 

1 large cauliflower head, cut into medium pieces
3-5 tbs olive oil
2/3 cup of ground parmesan
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

- In a large bowl or pot shake up cauliflower pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly distributed.

- Flip it over to slightly oiled baking sheet and distribute in a single layer. Sprinkle ground parmesan on top and place it in the oven preheated to 400F.

- Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until cauliflower has a pleasant golden color. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

Topped with parmesan and ready to go into the oven.


It's a great side dish to any protein entree. Also it's a perfect light late supper and can be surely enjoyed on its own :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

Blog's Category: DK Challenges

December's DK challenge was Shepard's Pie. Although I never made it before, Shepherd's pie wasn't that challenging to me because components of a pie are something that I do on a regular basis - mashed potato, cooked vegetables and some sort of ground meat stew. Piece of cake! It is just a matter of putting all together and giving it a nice heat in an oven.

It's a true comfort food to enjoy curling in a chair and watching favorite movie while it's rainy/snowy and grey outside. Is that the reason why this dish belongs to Northern earths of Canada, Russia, Scandinavian countries?
Also this is a perfect recipe for your leftovers! Have a chili that has become boring next day? Go ahead and use it up as a bottom layer of your Shepherd's pie. Throw "couple" green peas and corn from a fridge, mashed potato goes on a top and you all set up for a great homey dinner! Well, some cheese sprinkled over doesn't hurt too :) But if you don't have any leftovers, here is a recipe from scratch. Note, there are some substitutions there for vegetarians like myself.

Shepherd's Pie

For 8-10 servings:

8 potatoes, peeled
2 cups sour cream (or milk)
.5 - 1 stick of butter
2 eggs
2-3 lb of ground meat of your choice (I used pork)
1 can of lima beans (optional, as a substitution for a meat for vegetarians)
1 large onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green pepper, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 tbs coriander seeds (optional, or ground coriander)
1 tbs cumin seed (optional, or cumin powder)
3 cups of frozen green peas
3 cups of frozen corn
3 tbs tomato paste
3-5 tbs chopped fresh parsley
2-3 dry chili pepper (optional)
1 cup of grated cheese (optional, I didn't use it)
olive oil

- Cook potato in salted water until completely done. Drain a water and mash well until smooth. Add butter and sour cream, mash well again and set aside to cool down. When potato is cooled to the warm temperature, add eggs and mix very well.

- Roast coriander and cumin seeds on a dry frying pan, on a medium heat, tossing often, on a medium heat, until seeds are very fragrant. Transfer them on a dry plate to cool down faster.

- Smash garlic on a cutting board with your knife and using pestle and mortar, make a garlic paste, adding coriander and cumin seeds to it. Add some salt to it to facilitate the grinding process. Set aside.

- In a large frying pan, put some olive oil and cook onion on a medium low heat until soft. Add carrots and dried chili pepper and continue to cook stirring until carrots are tender soft. Add green pepper. Continue to cook until pepper is cooked. Add some salt. Add garlic/spice paste and ground meat (or beans if you are making it vegetarian), cook until meat is cooked. Add tomato paste and couple cups of water and continue to cook stirring - you have to have nice vegetable/ground stew in a rich tomato sauce. Avoid sauce to be too watery. Adjust salt. When done set a stew aside.

- Place frozen peas and corn in a microwavable dish and microwave for 30 sec to 1 min to thaw it a little bit. Mix peas, corn, fresh chopped parsley and a bit of salt. Set aside.

- Let's construct the pie! In a roasting dish (I prefer glass one) layer meat stew in a bottom of a pan, then make a layer of peas and corn. Then spread potato on a top. If your potato puree is too tough to spread, mix in some water or milk to get softer consistency. Sprinkle some cheese on a top if you like so and pop in a preheated to 375F oven for about 1 hour.

- Remove from an oven when nice golden crust is there and edges are pretty and crusty too. Enjoy!

Some conclusions and discoveries along-the-way

- In a bottom layer you can lay basically anything "saucy" you would eat with a mashed potato - such as chopped chicken marsala leftovers; or chopped eggplant (or chicken) parmesan; or chopped meatballs in a tomato or bechamel sauce!

- Shepard's pie may be easily adjusted to any world cuisine with a strategic choice of spices and sauces. For example, it can have oriental "face" if for a bottom layer you put orange chicken pieces, then layer of bock choy, chopped and then potato puree layer, topped with sesame seeds! Or make it Mexican by using taco style seasoning for ground beef, then put layer of fajita (fried onion and pepper), then layer of black beans. Again, top everything with potato. You've got the idea, right?

- I've found the process of making Shepherd's Pie from scratch rather lengthy unless it's not for purpose of using up leftovers. For repurposing your yesterday's dinner though, Shepherd's Pie is a brilliant finding!

In a small pan - my vegetarian version. For carnivores - large pan on a right :)

Whole dried chili peppers do not give a lot of hit away. It will be just slightly spicy. If you want to give it a stronger kick, chop chili pepper up (with seeds - it will be even hotter).

Garlic/spices paste goes into vegetables.

I used lean pork pieces to grind. You can totally use store-bought ground meat to your liking - ground beef, ground pork, chicken or lamb work as well.

Vegetarian and meaty, working in parallel.

Frozen peas and corn are thawed in microwave a little bit, then mixed with parsley and pinch of salt.

Assembly line. In a background you see melted ghee I added to potato in place of butter (as in a recipe above)

To make pretty "scallops" before putting pie in an oven, I used spoon.

Yummy crusty ridges of my vegetarian Shepherd's Pie...

Random brown spikes of meat version of Shepherd's Pie.