Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

pupusas with refried black beans and curtido (spicy slaw)

My brother and I made pupusas from this Saveur recipe last summer with our CSA veggies.  Pupusas are El Salvadoran stuffed masa cakes, typically served with a vinegary slaw and tomato sauce.  The Saveur recipe was my first encounter with pupusas, and I really liked the cheesy masa cakes paired with the tangy slaw, called curtido.  I wanted to make them again this summer, but was not eating dairy at the time, so I decided to try a black bean version that is vegan.  It turns out that beans are a traditional filling for pupusas, along with cheese and meat.  Alas, I failed at stuffing the black beans into the masa cakes, but, undaunted, I just decided to spread them on top of plain masa cakes and top with the curtido.  They turned out quite tasty, though since they weren’t stuffed with anything they probably aren’t technically pupusas. They are pretty simple to make, so you should give them a try if you want to add a Latin American dish to your arsenal.

I doubled the amounts of the slaw ingredients, because we can all use more veggies in our diet, and I had a lot of vegetables that needed to be used from the CSA.

veggies for slaw

I used half of a medium head of cabbage, two carrots, one daikon radish (not in the original recipe), one onion, a scallion (another addition, mostly because I wanted some green in the slaw), and a dried guajillo chile (a substitution for the chiles de arbol.) These all got thinly sliced or shredded and tossed in a big bowl with vinegar, sugar, salt, and oregano.


You may notice I used the seeds from the chile – guajillos are a pretty mild chile, so keeping the seeds added just a touch of heat. While the slaw marinated in the fridge, I made the masa dough, which is ridiculously easy, just masa and water.

masa + water = masa cake dough

I was talking to someone at work the other day who is way more experienced in making pupusas than I. She told me that you need to use hot water (not boiling, just hot from the tap) and work the dough a bit, so that it becomes soft. Not having these directions may have been the reason I wasn’t able to stuff the beans into the pupusas. The dough wasn’t elastic enough to encase such a soft filling. Anyway, after giving up on the stuffing attempts, I just took balls of masa dough and patted them into discs.

formed masa cakes

Then I browned them on each side in a skillet. Another tip the woman at work gave me was to put a little oil on your hands when you are forming the masa cakes, so there is just a touch of oil on them for cooking.

masa cakes getting golden

Then all I had to do was slather some black beans on the cakes and top them with curtido. Yum! To be honest, I tend to be pretty skeptical of vegan food. I love dairy, and cooking without it or eggs just sounds like deprivation to me. But these were really tasty. The refried black beans were rich and salty enough to add flavor to the masa cakes, and played off the crunch, tangy flavor, and slight heat of the slaw. I think they were as good as the original cheese version. That said, I think the next time I make them I will use beans and cheese. 🙂

Vegan Pupusas with Refried Black Beans and Curtido adapted from Saveur

1⁄2 cup cider vinegar
3 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. oregano
1 guajillo chile (or other chile you like), chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium-large daikon radish (or several small radishes), peeled and shredded
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 head green cabbage, shredded
Kosher salt, to taste
1 can refried black beans
2 cups masa harina
1 3/4 cups hot water
vegetable oil

Combine vinegar, sugar, oregano, vegetables, and chile in a large bowl and add salt to taste. Refrigerate while you prepare the masa cakes.

Stir together masa harina and water until a dough forms. Knead dough a bit. If dough is dry and cracks when you handle it, add a bit more water. Put a little vegetable oil on your hands and form golfball sized balls of dough. Pat each ball into a disc shape. Cook the cakes in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned on each side, approximately 10-12 minutes. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do this in several batches. Keep finished cakes warm in a low oven until the others are ready. To serve, spread each cake with a generous layer of black beans (you can warm the beans if you like, but I didn’t bother) and top with plenty of curtido.


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I kind of took the easy way out with this first foray into “Cooking by the Book”.  These two dishes are not complicated.  But, boy howdy, are they yummy!  The Fettucine with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce is from my Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, and the WIne-Poached Pears come from New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant.

I picked the pasta recipe first (from the Italy section of Sundays at Moosewood, which has sections from all sorts of regional and ethnic cuisines), and what goes with bleu cheese? Fruit and wine, of course! So the wine poached pears were a no-brainer. Guess I wanted easy, gourmet comfort food.

Both dishes are simple, but the pears take some time, so I started with them.  I only used 4 pears, because, much as I love leftovers, half a dozen poached pears seemed excessive for one person.  I peeled the pears and put them in a pot with a sliced orange (the recipe doesn’t say whether to peel the orange, so I took the sangria approach and left the peel on), a cinnamon stick, and some whole cloves (I think I grabbed five or six).  I didn’t have any whole allspice, so I just skipped that bit of the recipe.

Then a cup or so of apple juice and about 4 cups of red wine went in.  I brought the contents to a boil and then let them simmer.  According to the recipe the cooking time varies depending on size and variety of pear, but “will probably not take more than half an hour.”  I didn’t time them, but I think it was more like an hour before my pears were “tender and rosy”.

I let the pears cool, while I made the pasta for my entree.  The recipe suggests serving the pears with lightly sweetened whipped cream, but since the pasta dish called for cream, bleu cheese, and cream cheese, I figured I could, and should, skip the cream for dessert.  Honestly, the pears didn’t need any additions, but I will get to the final verdict later.

The Fettucine with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce is ridiculously easy.  It’s definitely going in my weeknight repetoire, since it barely takes longer to make the whole dish than it does to prepare the pasta.  While the pasta water came to a boil, I cut the bleu cheese and cream cheese into chunks.

I had picked a “gorgonzola dolce” at the store, and it worked fine, but I think a more typical, saltier, more pungent gorgonzola would have been even better.  I also used reduced fat cream cheese, since that’s what I had in the fridge.  Once the pasta was in the boiling water, I melted the butter in a saucepan and added the cream with the heat on low to prevent boiling.

Then the cheeses were added, and I stirred the pot regularly to incorporate the melting cheese.

Don’t forget to also stir the cooking pasta once in a while, so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot or stick together too much. While the sauce and pasta were cooking, I also chopped and toasted some walnuts to go with the dish, which is one of the variations mentioned in the cookbook.  Finally the sauce was all melted and smooth, and I added a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper.

Once the pasta was perfectly al dente (which I never seem to manage, so hooray!), I drained it and put it back in the pot with the gorgonzola sauce.

A quick stir, and the pasta was ready to go.  I put some on a plate and topped it with a sprinkling of the toasted nuts.  The recipe calls for adding parmesan at this point, but I forgot.  Oops.  No great loss, though.

I rounded out the meal with a salad of mixed greens, sauteed asparagus, and lemon vinaigrette, which kept me from feeling too guilty about that creamy, cheesy pasta.  The pasta was luscious, and the crunchy walnuts added just the right amount of contrast.  The dish packed a lot of flavor for something so quick and simple.  And the poached pear was a refreshing end to the meal.  Why don’t I make poached pears all the time?  It was sweet, but not too sweet, with the wine and spice flavors adding to, but not hiding the yummy pear taste.  It didn’t need any whipped cream to be delicious.

I call both dishes very successful!  Maybe next time I do a Cooking By the Book post I will tackle something a little more ambitious, but if you make either of these dishes, I don’t think you’ll mind their simplicity one bit.

Fettucine with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce (from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant), serves 4

1 pound fettucine

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup heavy cream or mikl

4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, cut into pieces

4 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil.  Add the fettucine, stir, and cover the pot until the water returns to a boil.  In a saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, melt the butter.  Mix in the cream or milk and heat carefully, never allowing it to boil.  Add the gorgonzola and cream cheese, stirring frequently, until they are melted and the sauce is fairly smooth.  Add freshly ground pepper.  When the pasta is al dente, drain it and mix it into the sauce.  Toss well to coat the pasta and serve immediately topped with chopped walnuts and parmesan.

Wine-Poached Pears (from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant), serves 6

6 pears, peeled with stems intact

5 to 6 cups poaching liquid: red wine and fruit juice (pear, apple, apricot, or other) in any proportion

1 orange sliced

1 cinnamon stick

a few whole cloves

several whole allspice

heavy cream, whipped with a little vanilla and maple syrup

Put the pears into a stainless steel pot large enough for an uncrowded single layer.  Add enough poaching liquid to cover the pears so they float and bob around.  Add the sliced orange and the spices.  Simmer on medium heat.  Roll the pears over once or twice so that they poach evenly.  Poaching time will vary depending on the variety, size, and ripeness, but will probably not take more than half an hour.  When the pears are tender and rosy-tinted, carefully remove them from the pot.  Arrange them upright in a bowl.  Add poaching liquid to about 1 inch deep and refrigerate.  Whip the cream with a little vanilla extract and syrup until stiff.  Serve each pear on top of a generous scoop of whipped cream and spoon on a little poaching liquid.

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Tortilla soup

I often tell folks that I am not a soup person, but that’s not really true.  Fact is, I like my food hearty, so while I often enjoy soup as part of a meal, soup for dinner doesn’t really do it for me.  I love soup with grilled cheese (side question: did anyone else grow up in a family that paired grilled cheese with chicken noodle soup, instead of tomato?) or as part of a multi-course dinner, but even though it can be filling, I generally don’t find it satisfying in and of itself.   It’s a shame really, since soup is easy to make, infinitely adaptable, warming (which I certainly need with yet another winter storm having hit this week), freezable, etc.  This tortilla soup is either the exception that proves the rule, or my gateway food to true soup appreciation.  I have loved tortilla soup since I waited tables to help make ends meet while teaching preschool.  I worked at a Houlihan’s restaurant, and if I didn’t have time to grab dinner between teaching and serving, I’d tide myself over with a bit of the tortilla soup that was on the restaurant’s menu, and somehow I never got sick of it.  This weekend with corn tortillas and veggies that needed to be used, an excess of black beans in the pantry, and no end to this brutal Boston winter in sight, I decided to give the south-of-the-border-style soup a try.

I’ve clearly gained confidence as a cook, because I didn’t even consult any existing recipes before tackling the soup.  And it turned out really well!  My version is vegetarian (well, except that I used chicken stock, since I had an open carton in the fridge) and packed with veggies and black beans, which helps make it satisfying for soup skeptics, like me.

Before I launch into the process, I have a question for you all.  When it comes to food blogs, do you prefer step by step photos, one or two pics with a recipe, or some combination?  I am working on getting better photos when I cook, so don’t answer based on my pitiful attempts, please.  I may invest in a better camera or try out different lighting, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time working on photos if they aren’t pleasant or helpful.  Aren’t you guys lucky to be reading in the infant stages of my blog??

Okay, here goes:

For the base of the soup, I used the traditional mirepoix combination of onion, carrots, and celery and also chopped up a red pepper that was a losing its crunch in the fridge. Green pepper would be a great addition to this mix, and you could leave out the carrot and/or celery if you wanted to stick to peppers and onions, but I think there’s a reason that those aromatics are classic soup additions, as this soup turned out really flavorful without tasting like carrot or celery.

I heated about a tablespoon of oil in a big pot and threw in all the chopped veggies and a bit of kosher salt. You could hold off on the salt, but I find that adding a little early on in the cooking process really helps with flavor. Just don’t go overboard, since the stock, canned tomatoes, and beans that get added later tend to be high in sodium. I cooked the veggies over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions were getting soft and translucent.

Next, the garlic and spices went in. I cheat and use crushed garlic from a jar – bulbs of garlic seem to always dry out or sprout on me, and the jarred stuff just saves some time. For spices, I used a mix of cumin, crushed red pepper, cayenne, and epazote (a spice I picked up at Penzey’s that is really tasty in bean dishes.

I let the garlic and spices cook with the veggies for a couple of minutes, then added a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), some frozen corn, and a small can of diced green chiles. The last step was adding some stock (use veggie, of course, if you want the soup to be vegetarian, but I used chicken stock) and a big can of whole tomatoes, along with the juice. I broke up the tomatoes with my hands before adding them to the pot, but you could use diced tomatoes instead, if you wanted.

As the soup simmered (it was basically done at this point, but simmering reduced the liquid a bit and helped the flavors come together), I made some crispy tortilla strips from stale leftover corn tortillas.  This was ridiculously easy.  I cut the stack of tortillas in half and then into strips in the other direction.  Then it was just a matter of laying them out on a foil-lined baking sheet, spraying them with canola oil spray, sprinkling them with kosher salt, and baking at 400 degrees until they were crispy and golden brown.

I didn’t even spray both sides of the strips with oil, so they were way lower fat than regular tortilla chips and still tasty enough that I have been snacking on the extras all week. I didn’t time them in the oven, so I can’t give you a cook time – oops.  I’d guess it took around 10 minutes, maybe.

Finally, I ladled some soup into a bowl, topped with a handful of tortilla strips and some grated cheddar cheese.  It was at once comforting enough for winter but tasted sort of summery, and this soup is substantial enough that I didn’t even want bread or a salad or a sandwich to fill out the meal.

This recipe makes a lot of soup.  I ended up with over 2 quarts after eating a big bowl for dinner.  So, you should be able to get 6-8 servings per batch.

Tortilla Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil                                                            2 cups corn (frozen, canned, or fresh)

1 large onion, diced                                                    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 ribs celery, chopped                                                1 4oz. can diced green chiles

3 medium carrots, diced                                           2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced                               1 28oz. can whole tomatoes

pinch salt                                                                      shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

1 tsp crushed garlic or 2-3 cloves, minced           For Corn Tortilla Strips:

1 tsp cumin                                                                  6-12 corn tortillas

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper                                            non-stick cooking spray

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper                                     kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees for tortilla strips.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add chopped onions, carrots, celery, peppers, and a pinch of salt and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.   Stir in garlic and spices and cook until fragrant.  Add corn, black beans, chiles, and stock.  Break up tomatoes with hands or kitchen shears and add to pot along with their liquid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let soup simmer at least 10 minutes.

For tortilla strips, stack tortillas and cut in half, then in strips.  Arrange strips in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Bake until crisp and golden.

Serve soup topped with shredded cheese and tortilla strips.


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