Category Archives: Vegetarian

Israeli Couscous

Israeli_Couscous

The greatest thing about food is all the “togetherness” that it brings. Families & friends bond at the dinner table. They laugh, argue (not just over who gets the last piece of garlic bread!) and learn new things about each other with every meal. New family members are celebrated with fancy dinner-dances, and who can forget the comfort you get from devouring your grandmother’s signature dish. Mothers’ show their love through a well thought-out meal after a long day, and little kids have the chance to experience new ingredients & flavors, all while secretly expanding their palates.

Do you see what I mean? SO much happens when food is involved.

One other thing that I love about food, is being able to share & swap recipes with my loved ones. Not only does the recipe you’re given instruct you on how to recreate a dish, but it also allows you to reminisce.

That being said, this particular recipe was adapted from one of my favorite dishes by Mum Khaneja. She introduced the hubso & I to Israeli couscous this past summer (during our trip home for her birthday weekend) and we automatically hit it off! Because of the instant attraction, I so eagerly wanted to share this recipe with my mum… and finally got the chance bring her some couscous when we  recently visited HK. She hasn’t gotten round to cooking it though, because – funny enough – I forgot to give her the recipe. Hah.

Anyway, this one’s for you, Mum!

Israeli Couscous w/ Veggies

1 pkt Roland’s whole wheat Israeli couscous – I use this one in particular
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, julienned
3 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup carrots, shoestringed
1/2 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4-8 oz sugar snap peas, washed & trimmed – I love them, so tend to go overboard here!
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Prepare the couscous as directed on the packet. After this is done set the pot aside, covered, and grab a wok/ non-stick sauté pan. Heat the oil and sauté the garlic over medium-high heat for about 1 minute, but not until it’s browned. Add the onions and cook until slightly browned & translucent. Then add your carrots, sugar snap peas & mushrooms, and cook thoroughly for about 3-4 minutes (you’ll want the sugar snaps to become a bright vibrant green!) Season with salt/ pepper as you see fit. Next, combine the couscous with your sautéed veggies and make sure you leave any remaining liquid in the mix (this is where all the flavor is). Sauté for another minute or two, until all components are well incorporated, and turn off the heat. Fold in the spinach so that is just begins to wilt.

Serve & enjoy hot. You can have this as a side dish at a BBQ (think lamb chops, sausages, etc.) or throw in your choice of meat to create an entree-size meal.

This recipe makes about 4 (side) servings.

Veggie Chili

A bowl of chili is another one of those foods that I had never tried before moving to the US. I guess even if they did have chili in Hong Kong I still wouldn’t have tried it, seeing as I used to be a vegetarian until the age of 16.

Because of my veggie roots (totally didn’t realize that would be a pun… until I typed it, ha.) I prefer to make my chili sans viande. I substitute the ground beef with Smart Ground, and honestly don’t even realize the difference! The soy protein has all the substance ground meat brings to the table, even a hint of that delicious smoky flavor.

Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili

1/2 packet smart ground
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
1/3 jalapeño, minced
1 tbsp cayenne (optional)
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp  paprika
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper (to taste)
2 tbsp mexican blend cheese (optional)
sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, occasionally stir & allow the onions to cook until they have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño and garlic, cook for another 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the smart ground and crumble while incorporating it into the mixture. Let it brown for 3 minutes. While stirring you will notice that the smart ground is drying out, so add the water and continue to stir. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, black beans, and season with a little more salt & pepper. Add the cumin, paprika and cayenne; stir to fully incorporate the seasoning throughout.

Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low – at this point, I like to fold in 1 tbsp of cheese to thicken. Gently simmer, covered, until the vegetables are soft and the flavors have fully developed, about 15 minutes.

Make sure you taste the chili and season with more salt & pepper if you think it needs it. Serve and garnish with cheese, sour cream and thin slices of jalapeño. Obviously the jalapeño is optional (depending on your spice tolerance) but if you’re looking for a great photo-op, it really makes the colors pop.

Cauliflower Cakes

I read a lot of food blogs, and one of my favorites is The Mixed Pickle by Tara & Lee. I met Tara back in 2011 when the husbo (my then fiancé) and I were doing our engagement photos in New York City. Tara is extremely talented, and she truly has an eye for composing beautiful photography.

Needless to say, the photos are one of the reasons why I enjoy reading The Mixed Pickle. Put that together with the fact that Tara & Lee are both huge foodies, and you’ve got some awesome-sauce stuff. Their recipes are so simple that anyone could follow them; whether you are a novice home cook or have been doing magic in the kitchen for years, you won’t be disappointed.

Tara is also a vegetarian, which means that all the recipes are meatless but they utilize some of the yummiest ingredients (paneer, brussel sprouts, etc.) so all you “I-don’t-eat-veggies” people have absolutely no excuse to be put off.

Here is my adaptation of their Broccoli and Cauliflower Fritters… the key word being ‘adaptation’.  If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have a really bad habit of not following a recipe. That said, I didn’t have any broccoli, so I just used cauliflower and added some left over spinach into the mix.

Cauliflower Cakes

Cauliflower Cakes

1 small head of cauliflower
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup spinach
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp paprika
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
salt & pepper (to taste)
sour cream (for serving)
sprig of cilantro (for serving)

Fill a 2-quart pot about half way with water and bring to a boil. Thoroughly wash the cauliflower, cut into florets; place into the pot, and blanch until just tender. Remove, rinse with cold water and leave to cool.

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and watch them sweat (read: cook until translucent – about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss in the spinach, until the leaves just begin to wilt – this will prevent the spinach from over cooking, which in turn creates that nasty ‘metallic’ taste.

The recipe calls for placing the cauliflower in the food processor along with the cooked onions, spinach & garlic, but I was too lazy to break out any fancy appliances, so I just roughly diced the cauliflower and tossed it in with the cooked ingredients.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the egg, flour, paprika, and salt & pepper; mix thoroughly. Fold in the shredded cheese until all the ingredients are completely incorporated into a thick-ish batter.

Heat a 10″ sauté pan over medium heat and coat the pan with cooking spray. Spoon in about a 1/4-cup of the batter; you can do 3 – 4 at a time in pan of this size. Cook until golden brown and the batter holds its shape, took me about 7-8 minutes. Flip and cook for another 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Finish with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika & cilantro.