Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pepper, Spinach and Cheese Lasagna

A delicious and easy recipe for lasagna that can be modified and adapted to suit your needs and your tastes.  I made it with roasted peppers and spinach, but you can change those up to pretty much any vegetable you like (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms etc.).

To save time and effort, I didn't bother making a proper tomato sauce, using good quality crushed tomatoes as they are. The flavors and seasoning from the cheese and the vegetables were more than enough.

To make it gluten free, just use gluten free lasagna. You could probably also make a vegan version by replacing the cheese layer with some baked beans or something similar. 


Pepper, Spinach and Cheese Lasagna

 
Ingredients (for 4-6 portions): 
 - 1 package of non-cook lasagna noodles (you may not need the whole package, but good to have one in hand)
-  1-2 bell peppers (or pre-roasted peppers)
- 1 package fresh spinach (or a small package of frozen spinach, defrosted and sieved)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 small can (400 grams) of good quality crushed tomatoes
- 1 container of cottage cheese
- 1 container of soft white cheese, low fat cream cheese, or plain Greek yogurt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar, mozzarella or other cheese of your choice + a few handfuls for topping.
- Salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder.

Preparation: 
1. Roast the peppers (you can skip this and put fresh pepper slices instead, but I think this tastes better):  Cut the peppers into several large pieces, getting rid of the ribs and seeds. Place them skin up in a baking dish, and place in a hot oven or under a broiler until the skin is charred and cracking. Take out the over and allow to cool down. Peel the skin off as best you can (don't worry if some skin is left over).

2. Prepare the spinach: heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly golden. Add the spinach, stir and allow to wilt (if fresh). Take off heat.

3. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Combine the cheese mixture: put the egg, the cottage cheese, the white cheese, and 1/2 cup of grated cheese in a bowl and stir well. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder and any other Italian-style seasonings you enjoy.

4. Put the lasagna together: take a smallish lasagna dish, and coat the bottom of it with a few tbsp of crushed tomatoes (this should be a thin coating, not a big layer, so about 1/4 of the total amount of tomatoes). Place a few lasagna leaves on the tomatoes, to cover the dish. Top with a layer of the cheese mixture, then arrange a few pieces of pepper and some of the spinach, so that most of the area of the lasagna has some vegetable on it. Top with a few more tablespoons of tomato sauce (another 1/4), and sprinkle with a bit more grated cheese.  Add another layer of lasagna leaves, and repeat the process one more time. Top with one more layer of lasagna leaves, and coat these with the rest of the tomatoes (1/2 of the can), and as much grated cheese as you like.

5. Cover the lasagna with tin foil, and place in a hot oven for about 40 minutes, or until a knife slices easily through the soft noodles. You can remove the tin foil and allow the lasagna to bake a little longer to get some nice browning on the cheese. 

6. Enjoy! Like most lasagna, if you slice it right away it will be soft and become a mess. If you allow it to cool down a bit, then it will settle and become easier to slice into nice pieces after reheating.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Savory Sweet Potato Tart Tatin

This is a savory recipe for tart tatin taken from here. It involves layers of caramelized sweet potatoes combined with goat cheese in a puff pastry shell.

Sadly, this recipe cannot easily be made gluten free unless you have access to gluten free puff pastry. In some places this is readily available. In other places it doesn't exist.

The original recipe is garnished with tahini, but I didn't find that a good flavor combination with this, so up to you. 

Note: you will need an oven-safe skillet 26 cms/10 inches in diameter.


Savory Sweet Potato Tart Tatin


Ingredients (for a 26 cm/10 inch tart): 

- 500 grams/ 1 lb puff pastry.
-  3-4 medium sweet potatoes (or 2 large), peeled and thinly sliced. [You should have about 500 grams/1 lb after peeling]. 
- 1 "log" (approximately 200 grams/7 oz) of fresh goat's cheese, thinly sliced.

For the Caramel:
- 1/2 cup sugar 
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tbsp olive oil 
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper

Preparation: 
1. In a 26 cm/10 inch oven safe skillet, prepare the caramel. Place the sugar in the skillet on a medium heat and melt the sugar to a dark caramel. Do not stir with a spoon. Instead, gently swirl the skillet around to stir. When the sugar is melted and fairly dark, add the boiling water 1 tbsp at time, swirling the skillet constantly. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Again, stir by swirling, not with a spoon, or the caramel will seize up. 

2. Preheat oven to 200 c/400 f. Put the sweet potato slices in a large bowl and add the caramel, tossing them together so that the potatoes are coated. In the same oven safe skillet, arrange the potatoes like roof tiles to cover the skillet, drizzle with a few tbsp of the leftover caramel. Put the potatoes in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes. 

3. Remove the skillet from the oven and place the goat cheese slices on top of the sweet potatoes. Roll out the puff pastry to a round/square about 1 inch/2 cm larger than the skillet. Carefully cover the skillet with the pastry, tuck in the pastry sides to form a tart shell, and prick with a fork all over to make holes for steam. Return the tart to the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown and cooked through. 

4. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Take a large serving plate and place it upside down on the pastry, then carefully flip the pan and plate, and then remove the pan, so that the tart is on the plate, pastry down. Serve warm.
 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tortilla EspaƱola (Omelet with Potatoes)

The Spanish word "tortilla" translates simply into "small cake". In Mexico it is used to describe the familiar breads from corn or flour used as the basis for burritos, enchiladas and the like. In Spain, it is used to describe this omelet with potatoes, the Spanish equivalent of a fritata. It's a filling, delicious dish that can easily be used for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch or dinner.

One note: don't skimp on the oil, or you'll never get the crispy golden crust. 

The Book: The Culinary Institute of America's Breakfasts and Brunches.

Description: This book comes from one of the top cooking schools in the United States, and it offers an impressive array of breakfast and brunch choices, complete with a few menu suggestions at the beginning. The recipes range from breakfast drinks through to salads and sandwiches, and from the simplest items (such as soft boiled eggs) to more sophisticated takes on familiar foods. The book definitely leans towards the American view of breakfast, with plenty of recipes for pancakes, waffles, muffins and pastries. However, there are also some other offerings. While the book is geared towards breakfast, many of the recipes in it can easily be used for a light meal at other times of the day.

Language: English.

Genre: breakfast, pastries, light meals.

Veg Status: the majority of the book is vegetarian friendly, although definitely not vegan-friendly. There is only one section dedicated to meat, and even that one also offers a wide range of vegetarian potato recipes such as hash browns. The other sections contain very few recipes with meat, and most of those easily convertible to vegetarian.

GF Status: Not great. Most of the book is dedicated to pastries of all sorts, obviously heavy on the gluten.  You will find some fine options in the egg section as well as the salads, and an experienced GF baker armed with a good flour alternative can probably make most of the other recipes work, but I wouldn't buy this book as a gift for the celiac in my life.

Tortilla EspaƱola


Ingredients (for 4 servings): 

- 1 large onion, minced or very finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 2 large potatoes (or 3-4 smaller ones), medium dice
- 8 eggs
- 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional) 
-1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp of olive oil, divided

Preparation: 

1. In a large frying pan, heat about 2 tsp of olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. 

2. Add the potatoes and salt, stir, lower heat, and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fairly soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the chopped cilantro (if using). Add the vegetable mixture to the eggs and stir. 

4. Add the rest of the oil to the pan over high heat, and make sure the pan is very hot before adding the egg mixture. Allow the eggs to cook until set, without stirring. When the bottom of the eggs becomes golden brown, carefully flip the eggs over with a spatula and cook until they get the same color on the other side. 


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saag Tofu/Paneer

This is a relatively mild Indian dish, made with loads of lovely spinach. It can be made vegan using tofu, or non-vegan using paneer cheese (For a simple recipe for homemade paneer, see the end of my paneer tikka masala post). I made some changes to the original book recipe to simplify it.

The book: Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness 
 
Description: This book is, as the title suggests, a guide to cooking Indian food in your home kitchen, and specifically in an Western kitchen. This means that while there is some use of specialty ingredients, often the book will offer alternatives or simply supply a simplified version of a recipe that makes it easier to cook at home. It works really well if you are living in the UK, or in  a fairly large American city with access to places like Whole Foods or other retailers that will carry Indian spices and the like. It can require a bit more creativity to make it work if you live somewhere where such items are more difficult to locate.

Language:  English
 
Genre: Indian food 
 
Veg Status: The book is by no means exclusively vegetarian, and it has large sections dedicated to meat and fish. However, because Indian food is very vegetarian friendly, this book has lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Moreover, most of the meat recipes can be easily converted to vegetarian or vegan by substituting tofu, paneer, or cooked chickpeas for the meat. 
 
GF Status: Indian food is very GF friendly. While there are some breads and pastries that would be difficult to convert to GF, some Indian classics are GF by virtue of using chickpea flour or lentil flour instead of when flour. And of course the vast majority of the recipes for curries and the like are naturally gluten free. In other words, you will be able to find enough GF recipes for your heart's content in this book. 

Saag Tofu/Paneer
 

 

Ingredients (for 2 large portions or four small ones): 
 
- 1 package (about 300 grams) firm tofu or paneer, sliced into cubes
- about 500 grams/ 1 lb fresh spinach or frozen spinach 
- 1.5-2 tablespoon ghee, butter or oil
- 3 whole dried chilis
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 7 green cardamom pods
- 7 whole cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon fennel
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated ginger
-1/2 teaspoon salt 

Preparation: 
 
1. Heat 1/2 tbsp of oil to a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add as many cubes of paneer/tofu as will fit comfortable and brown them on all sides. Drain the tofu/paneer on paper towels and continue until all of the tofu/paneer is browned, adding more oil as needed. (I needed only one batch). Set aside. 

2. Boil about 2 inches/5 cm of water in a large pot. Add the spinach (frozen or fresh), cover and cook stirring for a few minutes until the fresh spinach is wilted or the frozen spinach is thawed. Drain, and either puree in a blender with some of the cooking water, or simply chop finely. 

3. Heat the ghee, butter or oil with the red chiles, cumin, cardamom, cloves and fennel seeds in a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cumin turns a golden-brown color, 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, 45 seconds. Add the spinach and the salt. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 5 minutes. 

4. Place the paneer/tofu squares on top of the spinach. Cover and cook gently 5 more mintes. Halfway through the cooking, use a spatula to gently turn the paneer in the spinach. Taste for salt. 

5. Serve with rice and/or Indian bread.

 


Friday, May 23, 2014

Announcing: The "Herbs and Herbivores" Cookbook Project

Those of you who have been following this blog will not have failed to noticed that it has been, well, mostly dead for the past 18 months or so.  Between a toddler, an international move, a new job, and the other stuff that make up life, for a while there I wasn't cooking very much at all. If I made something more exciting than scrambled eggs for dinner, it felt like a special occasion. Venturing beyond the four or five regular dishes that I know how to make by heart took a great deal of effort.

But I opened this blog because once upon a time, I actually found cooking exciting. I wanted to try new things, explore new flavors, and expand my culinary knowledge. So in that spirit, and in order to challenge myself to rediscover the joys of cooking and baking, I have decided to embark on...

The "Herbs and Herbivores" Cookbook Project


A lot of people these days are getting rid of cookbooks, because "you can find any recipe you want online." In many ways, this is true. I love the vast array of cooking sites and blogs, and I do often use online recipes. But the problem with online recipes is that they are mostly good if you know what you want to cook. If you're looking for a recipe for beer battered onion rings, or a 3-bean casserole, or gluten free ravioli, then Google is your best friend. But it can't replicate the magic of a good cookbook. A good cookbook doesn't just tell you how to make something. It seduces you into trying new things. Even if you never cook a single recipe from a book, reading through it will open up your culinary imagination and encourage you to consider new foods and new flavor combinations. And that's something that an internet search doesn't do nearly as well.

As you have no doubt gathered by now, I'm a fan of cookbooks. In fact, one of the first things people notice about my kitchen is that I have books. Lots of them. As of this morning, there were 119. (Yeah, I know. Time to buy one more book to round up the number. Or another 81, as my husband suggested). I have vegetarian cookbooks, gluten free cookbooks and general cookbooks. I have books dedicated to Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Israeli and Persian cuisines. I have a perhaps disproportionate number of books dedicated to baking (of those an even more disproportionate number dedicated to chocolate). I have books dedicated to specific products, such as squash or tomatoes, and books with as broad a mandate as you can imagine. The one thing most of my books have in common is that they are gorgeous. I like my cookbooks to be glossy, shiny, and full of pictures. I know there are some fabulous books out there with no pictures whatsoever, and I own a small number of them, but like I said - a cookbook should seduce the reader into trying new things, and beautiful book just does that better.

Over the past couple of years, my books have been largely abandoned. But in an effort to rekindle my cooking, I'm going to start this simple, low-key project. Over the next few months, I am going to go over every cookbook I have, and I am going to cook at least one NEW (and vegetarian, of course) recipe from each book. That is, I'm going to make at least one recipe I have never made before. I will then post the recipe on this blog, with a short review of the book from whence it came.

And I will start in just a minute, with a simple and delicious Cinnamon, Sour Cream and Hazelnut Cake.

Cinnamon, Sour Cream and Hazelnut Cake

The first participant in the cookbook project is a lovely cake that would go great with tea or coffee in the afternoon.

The sour cream gives it a lovely moistness, and the cinnamon and brown sugar make it sweet and yummy.

I made it here with Cup4Cup gluten free flour and it came out great. If you have a GF flour mixture that you trust, give it a try. 

The book: "The Sweet Collection" (HaOsef Hamatok), by Israeli food empire "Al Hashulchan".
Language: Hebrew
Genre: sweet pastries and desserts
Veg Status: All of the recipes in the book are vegetarian. A few are vegan, but they are definitely in the minority.
GF Status: Like most baking books, it is not GF friendly, although there are some recipes for fancy, rich, mousse-type cakes that are naturally gluten free. Other recipes will require substitution with a good gluten free flour.

Cinnamon, Sour Cream and Hazelnut Cake


Ingredients: 

- 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour (or a gluten free equivalent that you trust)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup (200 grams) white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 125 grams/about 4 oz butter, softened
- 200 ml/6.5 oz sour cream (I didn't have enough, so I used a combination of sour cream and a low-fat cream cheese)

For the filling
- 60 grams/1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 100 grams/1 cup hazelnuts, lightly roasted and finely chopped (I used a combination of hazelnuts and almonds)
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preparation: 

1. Preheat oven to  200 C/390 F. Lightly grease a loaf tin or a small bundt cake tin.
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder.
3. In a mixer, mix sugar, eggs and butter until smooth. Slow the mixer down and add the sour cream and flour gradually: 3 tbsp of flour, allow to mix, 1 tbsp of sour cream, allow to mix, and so on, until they are all mixed in and there is a  smooth batter.
4. Combine all of the filling ingredients together.
5. Put half of the batter in the baking tin. Top evenly with the filling. Top with the remainder of the batter.
6. Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.





Sunday, February 9, 2014

Corn and Cheese Muffins

These savory muffins are full of delicious corn and cheesy goodness. They are easy to make and delicious for both adults and kids. They freeze quite well, so you can make a bunch and defrost when you want them.

They have so little flour that it's easy to make a gluten free version by using any neutral GF flour. 

Corn and Cheese Muffins




Ingredients (for 18-20 muffins):

- 800 grams (about 1.5 lbs) frozen sweet corn kernels or canned corn (not cream corn).
- 250 grams/8 oz cottage cheese (in most places this is a standard small container, but you may want to check your measurements).
- 200 ml/about 8 oz sour cream (again, a standard small container will usually be fine).
- 200 grams/7 oz grated cheese (you can use any mild semi-hard cheese such as a mild cheddar or mozzarella).
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup regular flour (you can use any gluten free flour of your choice).
-  1 tbsp canola oil
- salt

Preparation: 
1. Prepare a muffin tin (preferably a large one with 20 spaces, but you can also make this in batches) by spraying it with oil or otherwise greasing it. Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F.

2. Place the corn (frozen or canned) in a sieve and rinse to defrost/wash. Drain and put in a large bowl.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well to create a batter.

4. Spoon the batter generously into the muffin tin (the batter will not rise very much, so you want to fill the 'cups' of the tin to capacity).

5. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden-brown and firm. Allow to cool a bit before removing from tin.

The muffins can be stored in the fridge or frozen.

Enjoy!