Antipasta Primavera

Antipasta Primavera

Jeff’s the real cook in our family (and I’m the baker) – I can follow a recipe, and throw together a few tried-and-tested things, but when it comes to creativity and artistry in meals, he’s your guy.

The following recipe literally came to him in a dream – he woke up and tried it the next day, and it was a hit!  It’s summery and clean and bright, and has no fat, dairy, soy, carbs… you name it.  Super-healthy, and super-tasty.

He calls it Antipasta Primavera.

For the squash (start this first):

1 spaghetti squash, sliced in half lengthwise, seeded.

# preheat the oven to 350 and cook the squash face down on a baking
sheet for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and with a fork, scrape the
cooked fibers out so that they look like spaghetti.

For the pesto:

handful of parsley (3-5 stems)
handful of mint (3-5 stems)
handful of basil (3-5 stems)
1/2 tsp red pepper or less/more to taste
salt
zest of one lime
juice of half a lime
3 tbl pine nuts
tsp of ginger paste or lemongrass paste
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp ground coriander

# Throw everything in a food processor and pulse until it’s finely
chopped but still relatively dry.  set aside.

For the veg:

1/2 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, chopped coarse
1 red bell pepper, chopped coarse
(If you hate peppers, as I do, substitute other green veg, like green beans,
snap peas, or anything else with a good crunch…)
1 anaheim chile, seeded and chopped coarse
1/2 a block of marinated tempeh (or for soy free use 1 japanese
eggplant, also marinated in a bit of red wine, olive oil, and
oregano), chopped into square inch cubes or so.
1/4 cp pine nuts.

# heat a large pan on medium high, add 2-3 tbl of olive oil (don’t be
afraid of olive oil, it’s good for you).  Add the vegetables all at
once and stirfry in oil and either the other half of the lime’s juice
or a splash of white wine until al dente, 8-10min.

Reduce heat to low, toss in pesto, and fold until evenly covered.
Add spaghetti squash and fold in.  Serve.

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(Posted without picture, because the picture won’t be nearly as interesting as the food)

There’s no such thing as a vegetarian shepherd, so no-one will be grading me as to my creation’s authenticity 🙂  Shepherd’s Pie is one of those things that I would miss as a vegetarian, except that the ground-lamb version that I’m used to never seems to pack the same punch and variety a veg version does.  One of the things that I really love about the shepherd’s pie idea is that it isn’t traditionally made with a cream sauce, so the vegetables and spices you use really stand out.  

Today’s choice of vegetables was a mishmash of what was left in the fridge: celery, rutabaga, parsnip, onion, and a leftover shallot.  The rest was filled in with seitan and covered with cheddar and parmesan mashed potatoes.  And yeah, I hear you say that covering wheat protein in mashed potatoes seems kinda silly, but the reason I love seitan is that it takes the flavors of herbs and spices and fats so much more readily and more like beef/lamb than any of the soy variants out there.  That and the texture’s just perfect for a dish like this.  So, on with the show:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped seitan
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 parsnip, trimmed (take the pith in the center out with a paring knife)
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 rutebega, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbl butter
  • A bit of olive oil 
  • half a dozen yukon gold or similarly smooth potatoes
  • 1/4 cup good hard cheese

Spices (these are the real ticket)

  • 1 tsp charnushka seeds (little black seeds with a pungent savory flavor, great for “beefing” up the seitan)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbl oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • Chopped fresh sage, a bit (I’m big on herbs, but you might not be, use as much or as little as you like)
  • Chopped fresh rosemary (Once again, same tune)

Now, fry the charnushka, garam masala, thyme, sage, and white pepper in butter.  I didn’t say this was low fat, just vegetarian.  Butter is only one letter away from better. Fry it on medium until very fragrant, and then add the seitan.  Toss the seitan in the spices and butter and fry it, stirring often so the seitan doesn’t stick to the pan.  Once the seitan is good and brown and a lot of the water has evaporated away, salt to taste and set it aside.

Add a bit more olive oil to the pan and throw in the vegetables.  Toss in a few tablespoons of white wine for good measure once everything’s sizzling, and saute the vegetables with oregano and half the rosemary. When the parsnips are a bit soft, cut the heat and fold the seitan back in.  You have your filling.

Everyone makes mashed potatoes a little differently.  I threw these through Tracey’s new food processor (okay, she did, because it intimidates me with its Spartan Dearth of Buttons), with that quarter cup of good hard cheese and the rest of the rosemary. Once the potatoes are more or less incorporated and “mashed,” (in quotes because I’m still frightened of what the food processor did to them), spread the filling along the bottom of a 9″x13″ glass dish and then coat liberally with mashed potatoes.  Once that’s done, poke holes in the mashed potato topping and put in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the mashed potatoes are browned on top.  

With garam masala, charnushka, and other herbs you won’t find in an Irish kitchen, this is nothing like traditional, but then again, we’re using wheat protein in place of lamb.  So I’m not worrying too much. (oh, and I didn’t use the recipe for seitan that I linked to, but I’m using this post as a bookmark because it looks fabulous, and I will be trying it next time).

pizza-and-beer

There’s something about homemade pizza, craft beer, and good television.  They’re one of the small wonders of the world.  A perfect trio.

Last night, we got home from Tracey doing a ton of baking and myself doing a ton of PhD work, and we were utterly exhausted.  “What’s for dinner,” she says.  “I dunno, I’m tempted to make them bring us pizza.  I don’t have any energy to make anything,” I say.  Luckily, and I dont’t know which one of us realized it first, we had about a third of a recipe of that wonderful buttermilk bread dough I raved about in an earlier post sitting in the fridge from five days ago, just waiting for the opportunity to be made into spontaneous pizza.

So I cranked up the oven to 500, as high as this poor American electric oven would go.  Tracey chopped onions and grated cheese.  I got the heavy marble rolling pin out, and rolled the dough out super thin (which by the way is a lot easier if the dough is refrigerated, as it doesn’t try to bounce back at you).   I threw cornmeal on the cookie sheet (we don’t make pizza very often, so we don’t have a stone; this will have to be corrected). If you don’t use cornmeal, by the way, your crust will stick like glue to whatever you’re baking it on.  I parbaked the crust just a bit, with some olive oil on top, and I have to say I don’t think I parbaked it quite enough.  Our pizza wasn’t quite as crisp crusted as either of us would have liked in the end, and this is the step that usually makes that happen.

Note, by the way, that if you parbake crusts, you either need pie weights or you need to poke holes in the top with a fork.  The pie weights work better, in my opinion, because poking holes tends to give liquid toppings, like pizza sauce, a way to pool toward the bottom and make your crust tough. Last night, though, was the quick method, and we poked holes.

Once parbaked, we threw on sauce, three cheeses (mexican quesa fresca, parmesan, and chevre), sundried tomato paste, tomato sauce, capers, and onions.  Back in the 500 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes, and lo and behold it was pizza.

pizza

Last night’s beer of choice (I drink beer, Tracey can’t stand the stuff) was a Hook and Ladder Backdraft Brown, which compliments the roasted taste of a crisp neopolitan style crust really well.  And the show of choice (because good pizza and beer is nothing without the right moving pictures) was Firefly.  There are other good pizza and beer movies:  Big Trouble and Little China; The Fifth Element; Better off Dead; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… you get the picture.

All in all, a very satisfying night and meal.  Like I said, I’d cook the pizza crust a bit more first — maybe 8 minutes by itself before throwing everything on there, but I’m just a crisp-crust kind of guy.