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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vegetarian Feast

Every year, many people make a resolution to "go veg", banishing meat and adopting a plant-based diet. There are many benefits to adopting this new way of eating, but also quite a few unexpected pitfalls. The biggest obstacle that many people encounter is that they are sometimes surprised at the amount of preparation and effort it requires to have access to the right types of ingredients to put a meal together on the run. This is the case with any new, healthier eating plan, but a vegetarian diet does require a bit more discipline and organization. Many times, without a plan and thorough preparations, it is easy for many vegetarians to fall into the carb-rut, making their new diet actually more unhealthy than the way they were eating before.

Vegetarian meals are sometimes heavy in carbohydrates and light on flavor. Thankfully, with a little imagination and planning, you can create delicious vegetarian meals that everyone will love. Our cooking class last night featured the following dishes - roasted spaghetti squash with moroccan spices, vegan peanut butter cookies, stuffed eggplants with roasted fennel and tomato sauce, mushroom & leek frittata, creamy gorgonzola polenta with grilled portobella mushrooms, and, my favorite, a curried lentil crostada with the most delicious chili yogurt sauce & grilled scallions.

The curried lentil dish is somewhat involved, but the result is so delicious that the additional effort will become a distant memory. This recipe was originally made by Holiday Catering as a burrito, which was served with rice. For my tastes, this dish was too heavy. I made a few changes to the presentation and added a chili yogurt sauce, which really makes the dish! At home, I like to take jicama and shave it into thin strands, combine it with some shredded carrots and then toss it with the grilled shallots and some of the yogurt sauce. I like the addition of the vegetables to boost the fiber, as well as the crunch of the vegetables alongside the soft texture of the lentils. If you don't like jicama, you can use finely shredded napa cabbage.

The tortilla in this recipe is dipped in egg and then flash-fried. If you are watching fat grams or want to make this as a vegan dish, simply omit this step and toast the tortilla in the oven until it's crisp. When making this as a vegan dish, you will also want to eliminate the sprinkling of cheese and forgo the yogurt sauce.

I hope you take the time to make this recipe. The lentils can be prepared in a large batch and then frozen in small containers so that you always have them at hand when you need a flavorful meal on the fly. Simply thaw the lentil mixture and then proceed with the recipe.

Curried Lentil Crostada

1 large sweet potato, small dice, roasted until tender and lightly browned
1 onion, small dice
4 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 cup Jack’s Salsa, mild or medium heat
2 cups green lentils
1 cup red lentils
4 – 5 cups vegetable stock
1⁄2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, curry powder, and black pepper
1 – 2 T brown sugar (or to taste)
1 T fresh lime juice

Salt to taste
2 T chopped fresh cilantro

6 -8 Large whole wheat flour tortillas
2 eggs mixed with 1⁄4 cup milk
cup shredded jack cheese (optional)

1. Sauté the onion in a small amount of oil over medium high heat until caramelized; deglaze pan with white
2. Add the green lentils and a pinch of each spice; sauté briefly until the spices become fragrant; add 4 cups of
stock and salsa and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.
3. When green lentils are almost tender, add red lentils and spinach and additional stock if needed; simmer until
4. When all lentils are tender remove from heat and drain off any extra liquid; add more spices to taste, cilantro,
brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt to taste; add the roasted sweet potatoes and cool completely

1. Dip a tortilla shell in the egg mixture and drain well; sauté in melted butter in a non-stick pan until the egg is
lightly golden and crisp; drain each shell well on paper towel to absorb excess oil, then repeat with remaining
2. Top the tortilla with some of the lentil mixture.
3. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and top with a few sprinkles of shredded cheese
6. To serve bake at 425 degrees for about 10 – 12 minutes or until golden and crispy

Grilled Scallions
2 bunches scallions, cleaned and trimmed
as needed, olive oil & seasoning mix

Char the scallions on a very hot grill. Serve with crostada & yogurt sauce

Yogurt Sauce
6 poblano peppers, roasted and cleaned
1 Tb. Minced ginger
2 tsp. cumin seeds
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup pure olive oil
3 Tb. Lime juice

½ cup plain yogurt

Place chilies, ginger, cumin and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
Take the oil and heat it in a medium saucepan over high heat and add the puree. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently until thickened. Add lime juice. Cool and then add the yogurt. Chill. Adjust seasonings.


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