Tag Archives: vegan

Grilled Potato Disks (Like fries, only better!)

12 Jul

French fries are such a temptation, especially on the way back from the beach in the summer, when your mouth is salty, and the kids are encrusted with sand, and the sun is hot and you are tasting those carefree high school memories and suddenly you are driving past All-American Burger with all those crowds of similarly sand and salt encrusted summer folks lined up for their Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Fries…well, how could you not?

Well Pedro (yes, he of the crazy-ass diet) has come up with a worthy alternative that you can do on the grill at home. These grilled potato disks are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and just seasoned enough to not need much else. They are my mom’s new favorite; sort of French fries with virtue. Because they are so simple, they go with virtually anything on the regular summer grill menu – burgers, steaks, fish, corn. Love it!

Grilled Potato Disks (Like fries, only better!)

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp Adobo powder

3 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred), peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

While the grill is heating up, in a bowl, stir adobo and olive oil together. Brush the potatoes with the oil mixture and lay on grill, reserving  extra oil. Using tongs , take potatoes off grill when they begin to brown, about five minutes (as they will be spread over the whole grill, you will need to judge hotter and colder parts and shift potatoes accordingly). Dip them in the oil mixture, shake excess off gently and lay them back on the grill for another five minutes or so, until nicely browned. Serve sprinkled with salt, with ketchup or with mayo-chipo-ketchup.

Radishes and Cucumbers – Making the Basics More Beautiful

15 Jun

Sometimes I just want my life to be prettier.

Not that I want it to be a continuous Martha Stewart tea party where everyone stands around, looking just-so, with their sun-kissed cheeks and breezy hair, crisp button-up shirts and slouchy khakis, admiring the centerpiece and the color scheme and the details, like the charming DIY slipcovers the hostess whipped up in an afternoon between tending to the prize-winning peonies, putting up a winter’s worth of pickles and preserves, reorganizing the linen closet – which now smells of the homemade lavender sachets she made yesterday – and transforming the old outhouse into a conservatory and gift-wrapping center, complete with handmade paper recycled from organic coffee filters from Oregon and antique twine from the Medóc…

Might be nice, but no, that kind of lifestyle would probably drive me to drink more than I already do and of course the drinks would have to be much fancier and therefore take longer to get to than unscrewing the top of a bottle of humble plonk from Westbury Liquors…

No, the full-on Martha thing is not my thing at the moment.

But still. Sometimes I just want things to be prettier.

Thus, this very simple treatment of radishes and cucumbers that I put together with radishes from the garden and cucumbers from who knows which hothouse somewhere far less virtuous. The sharpness of the radish is tempered by the cool of the cucumber and the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar, and a bit of good salt completes the palate panorama. It looks sweet and beautiful and presentation tells the eater that someone cares, even if the only eater is you.

Cucumber and Radish Rounds (I considered calling it carpaccio, but am just not going that route today. That shouldn’t stop you from doing it, though.)

Thinly slice equivalent amounts of radishes and cucumbers. Put a layer of cucumbers on a serving plate. Top with a layer of radishes. Drizzle with olive oil and dot with balsamic vinegar. Finish with a pinch of flaky sea salt, and serve.

Note: We eat it with our fingers over here, so forget keeping the crisp button-up shirt clean. But this is about pleasure, and pleasure is not always tidy. And tidiness is not always desirable.However, should you decide to be more formal, make separate appetizer portions for each person and hand them a fork and a napkin. Preferably cloth 😉

Quick Vegetable Soup for a Sick Day You Couldn’t Take

10 Jun

A few weeks ago I got bronchitis. I don’t get sick often, but sometimes you just pound it too hard and the body craps out.

However, it was not the right time to take off from work, which statement is probably a clear indicator of how crazed about work our American society is (And how I have become). “Yeah, I am on death’s door, but I gotta go to work.” Heavy sigh followed by a hacking, wracking cough. Wipe nose on sleeve. Carry on.

And I was one of at least two in our department who were in the same boat. Ah well. In my next iteration, I will go back to being Mediterranean or Caribbean in my approach. It is much better.

Anyhoo, by the time I stumbled home and crawled up the stairs on one of the worst days, I wasn’t up for much cooking. I was, however, very much in the mood for a comforting, nourishing soup. So was my mom, who was in similar condition downstairs.

That is when knowing your way around a kitchen is a good thing. If you can chop, saute, and add flavorful liquids, in about 25 minutes you can have a soup that may not raise the dead, but will smell good, taste good (if you have any sense of smell or taste left)  and make you feel better. If you don’t have any sense of smell or taste, just load on the hot sauce and enjoy a few minutes of steamed and spicy relief.

Feel like you can’t even deal with chopping fresh vegetables? Go ahead, empty out all the useless quarter bags of frozen vegetables buried in the back of the freezer. The tomatoe-y broth and herbs will make it all taste good, even if the texture leaves a bit to be desired.

Easy Vegetable Soup

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Cup chopped carrots and celery

2 Cups other mixed vegetables (whatever bits are around the fridge anxious to be used – I used cauliflower, broccoli, summer squash. Potatoes, leeks, spinach would be nice too. You can also use frozen – why not?)

15 oz. can of tomatoes – pureed, chopped, diced, whole, whatever*

1 quart your preferred stock, plus more liquid to cover – can be stock or water*.

15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained

½ Cup of cooked rice or pasta, if you’ve got

½ Cup fresh or frozen chopped spinach, optional

1 Tbs dried herbs (your preferred combination of oregano/thyme/rosemary/parsley/marjoram)

Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

In a deep soup pot, heat the oil at medium high until loose and fragrant. Add onions, stir to coat, and lower heat to medium. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute for five minutes, until becoming tender. Add additional vegetables, stir to coat and sauté another three minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, plus enough additional liquid to cover, bring pot to boil, then lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. With about five minutes left in the simmer, add beans, and optional pasta and spinach, and seasoning. Serve with saltines or crusty bread.

*(Note: You can substitute some or all the stock, or the can of tomatoes with vegetable juice such as V-8 – low-sodium preferred)

A Camping Week Come-a-Cropper…And What We Cooked

8 Jun

Some camping trips are divine: perfect weather, happy children, equipment fully-functional, bugs bugging someone else, and The Great Outdoors is, well, great.

The Montauk Lighthouse.

Then there are the camping trips that are more, shall we say, character-building.

A tick-free hiker is a happy hiker!

We’ve just come back from a trip that was a bit of a mixed bag. We were on the beach at the East End of Long Island in Spring, which can be a hit-or-miss deal. You might have sun and breeze. Or you might have 30 mph winds, cold temperatures, and chilling rain. We mostly had the latter, but in the end, managed to pull out one spectacular beach day, the requisite s’mores, several yummy, grilled meals, and a couple of tick-free hikes. And anyone who has ever camped by a body of water will understand the sheer joy of spending a week living outdoors Without One Single Mosquito Bite. (Even if you had to freeze your miserable ass off, huddled around a smoky damp wood fire gripping desperately to a plastic tumbler of boxed Malbec to achieve it).

There were other umbrellas that might have come in handier on this trip, but funnily enough, these were the only ones I had!

I like to say that the best friendships are forged by shared suffering, so Ashley, Marianne, and I have done yet another round of forging and are already planning for next year! (Leandro may have other ideas, but I have the deciding vote as long as I am paying.)

This trip was rather light on cooking – it happens when you are hit with gale force winds, blustery rain, and a shitty, shitty, shitty propane stove which is headed straight for the Island of Misfit Toys even as we speak.

Look out, Bobby Flay…here comes Leandro and His License to Grill

But, cook one must and following  are two of the recipes that came up during this trip. I hope to post a couple more in the next few days, but I am still doing laundry and catching up with the wreckage that is post-camping! And really, I am deciding whether to ‘fess up on how we cheated on the camping thing, discuss Leandro’s stomach issues; and am hoping to sort out a nifty vodka cocktail we adjusted our attitudes with…we shall see…

(for other camp-friendly recipes, see Spaghetti a la Carbonara, Spider Dogs (the coolest hot dogs EVER), Spanish tortilla with zucchini, Quesadillas, Scrambled Eggs, Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino – Pasta with Garlic, Oil and Hot Pepper, Grilled Tomato Pasta Sauce, Cannelini and Tomato Salad, Black Bean and Sweet Corn Salad, and Five Minute Black Beans).

Goat Cheese and Crackers – with Cucumber or Green Grapes!

Spread your favorite crackers with goat cheese (which keeps very nicely in a cooler). Top with cucumber slices or halved green grapes and served. Apple slices would also be lovely.

Skewered Vegetables

Fire up the grill. While the coals are heating up, soak ten wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut up a mix of vegetables – figure about 4 cup, but this is a very flexible recipe

(Notes: Peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, are especially recommended. Eggplant is not, as it takes so long to cook through that everything else will be burnt if you put them together on a skewer. Grape tomatoes should also be skewered separately, as they cook faster than anything!

Also, try to cut the vegetables so that they cook evenly: denser vegetables should be smaller; more porous vegetables should be thicker.)

Skewer the vegetables, leaving a bit of space between them so they cook evenly.

In a separate bowl, whisk  – or use a fork! –  2-3 Tbs olive oil; 1-2 cloves garlic, minced fine; a pinch of salt; the juice of half a lemon; 1/2 tsp sugar; and 1 tsp oregano (or your favorite herb).

Brush the skewered vegetables with the oil mixture, using a brush, paper towel or your fingertips, or use a shallow plate to dip them lengthwise.

Place on grill and turn every two minutes or so, depending on your grill. When the vegetables exchange their crisp look for something more translucent and maybe even a bit charred, serve!

Kale Chips – Crunchy, Tasty, Healthy, and EASY

28 May

My friend Carolyn has been telling me about how good kale chips are. I kind of found it hard to believe. Kale? Really?

Kale, if you don’t know, is one of those virtuous leafy greens that often confuse you in the supermarket: Is it chard? Is it kale? Is it collards? What do I do with it? And is it going to smell up my kitchen if I try it?

Really, kale is simplicity itself to use. It’s the bumpy looking one with curly edges and a stem that is not very thick (chard’s stems are more noticeable and quite often red or yellow – as in rainbow chard). Rinse well, cut out the stem and cook it much the way you would spinach, just cook it a bit longer, as it is denser and tougher. I don’t use it raw. It is a cool weather crop, meaning that if you have a patch of dirt, you can grow it even in winter, which is a big plus if you are big into seasonal eating.

Now Carolyn loves good food, so I knew she couldn’t be making it up, however odd kale chips sounded to me. And the more I thought about it, the more I considered the Asian seaweed strips I like so much. Wouldn’t it be similar?

So I got myself a bunch of kale – about 8 oz, give or take — from Sang Lee out in the North Fork and gave it a try.

Had to wrestle this from the table in order to get a shot of the shrapnel!

The results were a revelation! The kale chips were crunchy and had a slight, but pleasant bitterness, tempered by the salt. My parents and John the Painter who happened to be doing some painting with my dad downstairs gave it a try – Leandro was not having it – and we made short work of the whole tray. In fact, my pictures are pretty thin on the actual kale because in my eagerness to try them, I forgot to take any photos until we had almost cleaned them out!

I will be planting kale in the late summer and I will be making this all winter long for my late-night movie snack! Thank you Carolyn!

What was left when I remembered to take a picture!

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale (about 8 oz. – can be increased)

1 Tbs oil (I prefer extra virgin olive oil, but you can play around with flavors)

2 pinches salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay kale pieces on parchment paper, leaving space between all of them – no touching! Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until leaves are crisp. Serve.

Pasta With Roasted Vegetables (Potluck Portion!)

21 May

We always do an end-of-semester party with our students in our language immersion program; after all, when you spend 20 hours a week for 15 weeks with the same class, you get to know each other pretty well, so it’s nice to have an informal day with them.

When you don’t have proper travel packs for food – improvise! Saved rubber band show their worth here.

Usually, we do a massive celebration with all our classes together, but this semester it just wasn’t coming together, so each lecturer did an individual class party.

And sometimes you DO have the right gear: Pampered Chef Measuring Cup with LID

So I passed around a sign-up sheet so we’d know who was bringing what, including paper goods and soft drinks and the like. And my students, who claim to love food and hail from most corners of the earth (Caribbean, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, SouthEast Asia, and Russia, wrote cookies, snack, cookies, snack…like, what!?! I was NOT going to have a Dunkin’ Munchkin affair.

Mixed up and ready to go…

So I panicked and made a dish myself (which we lecturers don’t often do, since our students are usually so generous with the home-cooked dishes). Pasta seemed the right solution and I was able to carry the sauce separate from the pasta and reheat it in the office microwave…Although we have no vegetarians, roasted vegetables seemed the right way to go.

I needn’t have worried. My wonderful class brought chicken adobo (Philipines), roast chicken (Korea), empanadas (Colombia), warmed greens salad (Haiti), and pasta (U.S. style!). Plus a gigantic and delicious lemon cream cake! So it was a lovely spread and a nice way to close the semester before their big test

The International Buffet

The Thank You Cake

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

Two pounds short, curly pasta – shells, farfalle, penne, or cavatappi


4-5 Cups mixed chopped vegetables (zucchini/red pepper/yellow squash/cauliflower/broccoli/asparagus)

4 cloves garlic, minced

Small onion, peeled and minced

1-2 Tbs olive oil


2 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz button mushrooms (white or baby bella), woody parts of stems removed before chopping

Hot red pepper flakes – a pinch or two, optional

Two 28 oz. cans diced or pureed tomatoes

Salt to taste

1 Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other grating cheese


Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread vegetables, onion, and garlic on a rimmed baking dish, drizzle with oil and roast for 1 hour.

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

In the meantime, heat oil for sauce in a large pot until liquid and fragrant. Add onions sauté for a minute, then add garlic. Saute for an additional minute, then add mushrooms. Cook at medium heat until mushrooms release their liquid (about five minutes), stirring occasionally. Add pepper flakes, if desired, and add canned tomatoes. Cook at a slow simmer until vegetables are finished roasting. Add vegetables and stir to combine. Add pasta and cheese, mix well and serve.

Party Snacks: Stove-Top Toasted Garbanzos

22 Apr

(Happy Earth Day, everyone! I am not trying to ignore it, nor am I not cooking at all at home, but I have had so many professional and personal events in the past week that I admit to not doing much new or innovative in the kitchen. I organized and moderated two events on campus; was the keynote speaker for an annual gala of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Metro NY chapter – what a terrific group of people!; — plus my teaching responsibilities; my son — we just went to a performance of Peter and the Wolf today in NYC and had to negotiate around the rain and the E line being nonoperational- ick!; the dictionary; which should be available this week as an e-book on Amazon and at the Apple store, more on that later;…in short, I have been up to my neck in it! However, I’ve always got something in my back pocket to tell you about, and here it is. Simple and basic, but delicious. And more excitement later in the week as I catch my breath!)

This is a nifty stove-top snack that is relatively — actually quite, very, absolutely – healthy. Except for the part where it gets addictive and people starting pulling the bowl towards themselves and not sharing (Yes, that was me). It can actually get kind of ugly…you might want individual little ramekins as a preventative measure.

Thanks to Beth for the inspiration and Ailish for the fearless cumin seasoning! I think you will like the Indian inflections in this one, but you could go completely Mediterranean as well.

For an oven-roasted version click here.

Stove-Top Toasted Garbanzo Snack

1 pint presoaked chick-peas*, patted dry (or a 28 oz. can of chick peas, rinsed, drained and patted dry)

generous gratings of salt and pepper (Mediterranean seasoned sea salt blend is really good here)

2 or more heaping Tbs cumin and garam masala (or other spice powder blend that you like)

Heat a heavy skillet on medium high until quite hot. Add chick peas and seasonings and toast until starting to scorch, , at least ten minutes, stirring or tossing very frequently. When toasted all around, adjust seasoning, pour into a bowl and serve as a party snack or accompaniment to cocktails (as you might serve peanuts) for two to four people.

*To soak garbanzos from dry to get a pint, rinse and pick over about 10 oz of dry. Place in a bowl with a tsp salt and abundant water (to cover by several inches). In the morning, change the water. In the afternoon, drain the chick peas and rinse. Place in a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil (scraping the foam off the top) and then simmer at a gentle bubble for an hour or until desired texture is reached. You will never get the same softness as canned, but is that what you really want?

Grilled or Roasted Tomato Pasta Dressing (so light! so bright!)

12 Feb

The temperatures here in New York have started to drop some, but so far 2012 is The Winter That Hasn’t Been (I like the present perfect tense here rather than the past tense “wasn’t”, because there is still time for some apocalyptic winter weather to strike).

That means that many of us have been firing up the grill as if it were summer. If you are one of those people, here is a fresh, uplifting recipe that will brighten up the day and feel easy on the digestion.

I made it the other day from tomatoes grilled the night before at our friends’ house during an impromptu and convivial burger night (more on the amazing sauteed onion and mushroom topping soon!).

A glimpse of the salad the same night - with grilled asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes! Heaven.

The tomatoes (Campari’s which I bought out of season because I couldn’t resist the clearance price) had none of the rich acidity and fullness of a summer tomato, but grilling and roasting add some depth of flavor and the garlic and vinegar give a very pleasant tang. So, should you succumb to a good price or simply the need for a tomato that didn’t come out of a tin during the winter months, this recipe will enhance a lackluster product. To my surprise, Leandro really dug this pasta and ate the extra serving I had intended for my own lunch the following day.  I should have been totally pleased and delighted and flattered, but this imperfect Mommy was kind of annoyed. And frightened. If he eats like this at four, how much is he going to eat as a teenager?

Grilled or Roasted Tomato Pasta Dressing

(Special tools: about six BBQ skewers. If using wood, soak the skewers in water for about 20 minutes)

1 lb medium length pasta such as penne or rotini

1 pint small tomatoes: grape, cherry or Campari, preferred

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

(optional: 1 tsp chopped fresh basil or parsley)

Salt, to taste

Heat grill and skewer tomatoes, leaving ample space between tomatoes. Grill tomatoes for about five minutes, or until beginning to wrinkle and just beginning to brown (or preheat oven to 350° and scatter tomatoes on a baking sheet or foil and cooking for 15 minutes or until beginning to wrinkle and brown)*. Smaller tomatoes will cook faster. Do not char. Chop tomatoes roughly. Do not discard liquid or seeds.

In the meantime, prepare pasta according to package directions. Keep the pasta warm after draining.

While the pasta is boiling and the tomatoes are grilling, whisk olive oil and vinegar together until blended in a large bowl. Add garlic, tomatoes with juices, and still-warm pasta. Add optional herbs, salt to taste and serve with your favorite grated cheese.

*You can grill or roast the tomatoes while firing up the grill or oven for something else, place cooked tomatoes in a tightly sealed container in the fridge, and make the recipe the following day.

Breadfruit – Panapén – High Seas History (and a rant)

13 Jan

Fried Pana – Nirvana!!!!!

We are just back from almost three weeks in Puerto Rico with my parents at the home of my late grandmother, during which I ate loads of classic Puerto Rican Christmas food — perníl, pasteles, morcilla, arroz con gandules — O.M.G. I am fat and happy to have my food fixes fixed!

However, I did not do a lot of cooking! I thought my dad and I would take the opportunity to mash it up in the kitchen for the duration, but….my dad, who has a history of embarking on new eating plans that — for better or worse — consume the rest of us, chose THE HOLIDAYS IN PUERTO RICO TO START THE CRAZIEST DIET OF THEM ALL!?! Did he have to purge now!?! Are you kidding me!?!

It’s okay that he became a vegan overnight, it’s okay that additionally, sugar and things like bread, rice and pasta are not allowed, but in this version of vegan there is a whole ‘nother complication: you can’t mix food grown under the earth in the same meal as food grown on top of the earth. So you want to saute garlic with your leafy greens? No. You want onions in your chayote salad? No. It’s a big old pain, and while this diet has had great effects for our cousin and other people we know and I hope it resolves whatever my dad hopes it resolves, I just wish he could have put it off until we had had a lot more fun in the kitchen. And I did guilt the churrasco recipe  out of him finally!

Rant over.

Let’s talk about my single most favorite starchy produce item in the whole wide world: breadfruit, or panapén or pana (as we call it in Puerto Rico).

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a very tall, lusciously-leafed relative of the mulberry. It originates in Southeast Asia and it prolifically produces canteloupe-size green-peeled starchy fruit that is denser and sweeter than potato. It can be boiled, roasted, fried…anything.

Credits to Wikipedia for this image!!!!

Remember The Mutiny on the Bounty? Well Captain Bligh was trying to bring breadfruit to the Caribbean from Tahiti (as a way to feed the increasing numbers of slaves) when he was set adrift by his mutinous crew. He eventually succeeded — but legend has it the slaves refused to eat it.

Anyway, breadfruit was not supposed to be in season during this holiday, but my admirers (yes I have some) — the LeBron brothers of the Plaza del Mercado of Mayagüez — managed to obtained some for me and in their desire to please, peeled and sliced it for me before I had a chance to photograph it (thus the borrowed image).

Anyway, the recipe is simple:

Salt an abundant amount of water in a large pot, bring to a boil (either with or without the peeled, sliced breadfruit already in), reduce heat and boil gently for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain and serve with olive oil and salt (and salt cod in vinaigrette, if you’ve got, but that’s a recipe for another day).

I mash mine up on my plate with abundant oil, but the pictures didn’t come out very well so a I could not include them.

The following day, I took the leftover boiled pana and sliced it into flat squares that I fried in a small amount of vegetable oil. The insides were so creamy…just thinking about it makes my mouth water…And that you can indeed see in the picture.

Chayote Salad (Ensalada de Chayote)

2 Jan

After some of the excesses of the holidays (and believe me when I say excesses), I decided that a cool, crisp, low-cal, high-fiber, generally good-for-you salad would be just the tonic. However, me being me, I wanted to go a different direction from just a serviceable green salad.

Enter the chayote (Sechium edule — you may know it as christophene if you are French, or alligator pear if you are not). It is a fruit that is used as a vegetable, can be eaten raw or cooked and has many, many uses.

My chayote salad is one of the simpler ways to love it (and at just 11 calories per half cup for chayot, pre-dressing, you will very much love it). The whole thing is reputed to be edible, skin and all, but I do not care for the skin, so I peel it. I do love the seeds (my family has no idea they are edible because I eat them surreptitiously before they ever get to the table!); try them and see what you think!

Look for firm fruit – they may be minty green or white – both are great!

Ensalada de Chayote (Chayote Salad)

Serves four as a side salad

4 Cups water (enough to cover chayotes in a pot)

¼ tsp salt

2 chayotes (firm), rinsed and sliced in half or quarters lengthwise

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp cilantro leaves, chopped fine (optional)

¼ red onion, sliced thin

1 tsp roasted red pepper, diced

1-2 tsp capers

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Boil water and add salt. Add chayotes, return to the boil and cook for 15-20, until they slide off easily when pierced with a knife.  Allow chayotes to cool.

In the meantime, whisk olive oil and vinegar in a bowl until blended. Whisk in cilantro leaves. Stir in red pepper and set aside.

 Peel cooled chayote with a paring knife (it will come off in sheets if you use the knife to pull the peel off). Chop into rustic chunks. You may eat the seeds right then (which is what I do! Don’t tell) or chop them up and add to salad.

In a bowl, mix all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Makes a great side salad for four.


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