Cooking for my veg-heads
I am not a vegetarian and have no plans to become one. But I often make vegetarian meals just because I like the preparations. Even more often, I prepare meals in which the meat acts as a condiment. Thanks to local farmers such as Matt and Debbie Daniels of Bear Creek Farm and Stan Schutte of Triple S Farm, the meat I use is sustainably and humanely produced.
Lately, however, I’ve been cooking vegetarian food exclusively. That’s because I’ve been in Brooklyn for several weeks, helping to take care of my new grandson, Robbie. Part of that help has been preparing meals. And Anne and Ben, Robbie’s parents, are both vegetarian – as is Robbie, for that matter.
It’s been interesting and sometimes challenging (if I could only put a little ham hock in that split pea soup!) I miss having my freezer-full of vegetables and vegetable preparations such as eggplant caponata (relish), tomatillo molé, and roasted tomatoes and garlic that I put up during the summer. The compensation is the fantastic grocery store that’s on the corner – actually in the same building as my kids’ apartment. It’s small, but the selection of produce, grains, legumes, cheeses etc. is huge.
Here are two things I’ve recently made. The peanut soup was new to me, but good enough that it’ll be part of my standard repertoire. The leek and goat cheese galette is an old favorite; when I made it a few days ago, Anne said, “I think this is the best thing you’ve ever made!”
Contact Julianne Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leek and goat cheese galette
This leek and cheese galette – a.k.a. rustic pie – is especially good for brunch, although I also make it for supper. It’s wonderful for entertaining, because the filling can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated, as can the pastry. You can even roll out the pastry ahead and refrigerate or freeze it. The pastry should be taken from the freezer or fridge and let stand until it is pliable enough to fold over the cheese mixture, but still cool. Then it just takes a few minutes to assemble the galette, and it can be baked and served to guests warm from the oven.
- 2 c. thinly sliced leeks, white part only
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1 c. fresh goat cheese
- 1/2 c. heavy cream, sour cream, or whole milk yoghurt
- 3 T. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 egg, beaten
- kosher or sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg to taste
- pastry for a 1 crust pie or tart*
- beaten egg for brushing the edges of the pastry
Separate the leek slices into rings and wash thoroughly under running water, then drain.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the leeks. Stir to coat, cover the pan, and sweat the leeks until soft and tender. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Stir in the goat cheese, 2 T. of the chopped herbs, the beaten egg and the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
On a floured surface, roll the pastry into a circle roughly 14 inches in diameter. It does not have to be perfectly round. Place the circle of dough onto a baking sheet or pizza pan. Using a perforated pan is ideal for browning the galette.
Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a two-inch border all around. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling, leaving a large circle of filling uncovered. Brush the exposed edges of the pastry with the beaten egg, if desired. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until both pastry and filling are browned. Sprinkle the cheese filling with the remaining herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.
To make individual galettes, divide the pastry into 4 equal parts. Roll each piece into roughly a six-inch circle. Place on a baking sheet (preferably perforated) Spread ¼ of the leek and goat cheese mixture over the center of the pastry, leaving a 1 to 1 1/2-inch border. Continue as above, baking the galettes for 35-40 minutes or until the pastry and filling are browned. Serves 4-6.
*For a recipe and tips on making pie pastry, see the Real%u2008Cuisine 1/22/08 article, “Food’s four-letter word.”
Senegalese peanut soup
This recipe is adapted from one in Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soups. It’s a cookbook I’ve used extensively, and not just when cooking for my veg-heads. Whenever I open it for a specific recipe, my eyes are inevitably caught by many more. All I’ve made have been unique and delicious.
Madison is a renowned, award-winning cookbook author and food writer, and is very active in Slow Food. She was the original chef at Greens restaurant in San Francisco, the first truly “fine dining” vegetarian restaurant in America. These days, Madison is not exclusively vegetarian, although, like me, she eats meat that is sustainably and humanely raised. A few years ago, I was fortunate to attend a small Slow Food writer’s workshop in Wisconsin that she led. She exudes an aura of peace, warmth and serenity that’s also evident in her wonderful books, any of which I highly recommend.
Madison says of this soup:
“Although I’m a devoted make-it-from-scratch kind of cook, it’s great to have a few soups in your repertoire that go together as easily as this one does and makes as impressive a last-minute supper. A gorgeous thick reddish soup, it is truly a meal in a bowl. I sometimes thin it with water or tomato juice and add cooked rice to the bowl, and leftovers have made a succulent topping for seared tofu. I’ve made a number of peanut soups in my life, but this one is my favorite.”
I adapted Madison’s recipe, which she adapted from James Peterson’s Splendid Soups. The primary change I made was to use a full cup of peanut butter, which I did because the peanut butter I used was ground in-house at the local grocery. It’s not chunky, in the sense that commercial peanut butter is smooth peanut butter with pieces of peanut added; rather it was “smooth,” although more coarsely ground than any I’ve ever seen. I was afraid that 2/3 c. might not be enough and was satisfied with the result. You may want to adjust the amount accordingly.
- 2 T. vegetable oil, preferably roasted peanut
- 1 large onion, NOT SUPERSWEET, cut into half-inch dice, about 1 1/2 c.
- 1 large garlic clove, minced, about 1 tsp.
- 1/4 c. chopped cilantro stems
- 2 T. curry powder
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2/3 – 1 c. smooth peanut butter, preferably natural/organic and unsweetened
- 1 can (13.5 – 14 oz.) coconut milk
- Torn cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges
Heat the oil in a soup pot, then add the onion, garlic and cilantro stems. Give a stir, then cook over high heat for a few minutes to warm the onion. Lower the heat to medium low and cook until the onion has softened somewhat, 10-12 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cayenne.
Add 3 cups water and the tomatoes, including all their juices. Stir well and bring to a boil. Drop in the peanut butter and reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely cooked and the peanut butter has dissolved, about 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk. Season the soup with salt. It will probably not take much.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkling of cilantro leaves in each bowl, and a wedge of lime on the side. Makes about 7 cups, serving 4 – 8.