Monthly Archives: May 2011

Spice of Life Vegetarian Sandwiches

How do you know that your sandwich totally rocks?  Why, of course, by sitting down at the lunch table at work, pulling out a sandwich that is technically a left over from dinner the night before, and coworkers’ jaws dropping with jealousy.  Fortunately, I work with a healthy bunch who all love a good meal.  Lunch discussions are more about current events, political ideology, local foods, and our profession in general, than anything found in People magazine or at TMZ.  Personally, this suits me well.

Back to the sandwich.  This little ditty is a breeze to make.  Simply combine the marinade ingredients and sliced veggies in a zip-lock bag and leave it on the counter.  Take a break from that amazing challenging task (tee-hee) while the marinade does its magic.  Finally, do a quick cook in the pan, assemble, and devour.  This is not the “oh my goodness, this IS spicy” kind of spicy like the grilled vegetable sandwich recipe, but rather the sweet on the front of the tongue followed by a delightful slow burn in the back of the mouth kind of spicy.

Spice of Life Vegetarian Sandwiches

makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp each: salt, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne pepper, Chinese 5 spice powder, ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon light mayonnaise
  • 8  slices  French bread
  • Mozzarella or Jack cheese slices
  • basil leaves

Directions:

  • Combine spices, vinegar and oil in a large zip-top plastic bag and mix together. Add zucchini, onion, bell pepper,seal and shake well to coat. Let stand 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
  • Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Coat with cooking spray.  Dump the contents of the bag into the pan and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Divide sauteed vegetables among 4 french bread slices.  Top each with a slice of cheese.  Broil until cheese softens, about 1 minute.  Add remaining bread slices to the baking sheet and broil for 1 more minute or until the cheese melts and the bread browns, then lightly spread with mayonnaise.  Top cheese with basil leaves and toasted bread.

Notes:

  • Feel free to be pretty flexible with the veggies in here.  Any kind of squash or some eggplant would be perfect.
  • I totally like to snack on left overs.  These veggies are best in sandwiches and just don’t work well with casual “let me nibble on a few bites of zucchini” snacking style.
  • There are just enough juices to soak into the bread, providing some extra love.
  • If you clicked over to the grilled vegetable sandwich, you’ll notice how much the palm trees in the back yard have grown over the years.  There are 3 palms, with one of the three being a trio itself.  When we bought them about 5 years ago, they all fit in the back of our SUV.  Believe it or not!
Advertisements

Mini Chile Rellenos

So, you’re out at a restaurant, perusing the menu.  How do you decide what to order?  I abide by a pretty simple rule:  order something I don’t usually cook at home.  Sometimes this is because an ingredient is just not in my pantry, such as saffron or a mixture of wild mushrooms.  Other times there are ingredients just not available in the local stores such as goat or rabbit or a unique cheese.

But the absolute king of all reasons to order out and not cook a dish at home is that the preparation will make my kitchen look like Armageddon arrived, twice.  For that last reason, chile rellenos are a total favorite to order at restaurants.  At home, I’ve made some darned good versions, but gawd, the mess makes me crazy!  Those tempting casserole versions have been given a test drive, but they just didn’t satisfy the craving for the real deal.  Here is a nice compromise – no deep frying, but all of the roasted poblano and cheese love.  These mini chile rellenos have all of the love of  roasted peppers and cheese without completely trashing the kitchen.  Bueno!

Mini Chile Rellenos

adapted from the Chile Rellenos de San Joaquin recipe on AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 5 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 ounces cotija cheese

Directions:

  1. Slice chiles in half lengthwise and remove stems and seeds.  Place chiles skin side up on a baking sheet, and broil until skins blister, about 6 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove chiles from the oven and return to the plastic bag, seal and set aside for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the skins.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in sliced onions, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the liquid and cook until onions and tomatoes achieve a sauce-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Season with cumin.
  4. To assemble the chiles rellenos: Slice cheese into 10 long rectangles (or sticks) 1/4-inch thick and approximately as long as the chiles. Roll each cheese rectangle into a chile half. Place rolled chiles into a baking dish and top with the tomato sauce. Crumble any extra cheese on top of the sauce. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbly.

Notes:

  • The cojita cheese holds together nicely, so these make great sides without falling apart in the pan.
  • The cojita can easily be replaced with jack or a mixture or whatever light cheeses you need to use up.  I figure that once you have the amazing taste of roasted poblanos, its tough to go wrong.
  • Best chile relleno ever?  The Chilaca at the totally amazing Blue Agave.  Best food combined with the worst web site ever. 

Lemon Pound Cake

Springtime.  Sun, longer days, dreams of Summer bliss.  All such happy, happy  thoughts.

See, the gods and goddesses got the lemon season totally right.  Sunny yellow?  Check.  Tart but ready for a bit of sweet sugar?  Check.  A perfect transition between seasons.

Yet, the gods and goddesses did manage to get a few things wrong.  Limes and avocados ripe in the winter to spring months, but the tomatoes for guac in August.  What in the world does that do to margarita season? Another gripe is the whole root vegetable thing in October.  Here along the Pacific coast, October is sunny and warm and inviting and begs for leisurely walks to soak in the sun’s rays.  Do root vegetables go with this vibe?  I think not.

For now, let’s get back to Springtime, and lemons, and strawberries and make a lemon pound cake and smother a thick slice with strawberries fresh from the field.  We can all get on board with that plan.

Lemon Pound Cake

recipe inspired by Cooking Light , strawberries from Chan’s strawberry stand

Ingredients:

For the cake

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 TBS dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 TBS grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 8 oz low-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

For the topping:

  • 2 baskets fresh strawberries, cleaned and sliced into thirds
  • 1 TBS sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray, and dust with the breadcrumbs.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and lemon extract, beating until well-blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add grated lemon rind and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat 30 seconds. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beating at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and powdered sugar. Drizzle glaze over top of cake.
  5. Prepare strawberries by combining strawberries and sugar in a bowl and allowing to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Slice lemon pound cake and top with strawberries.

Notes:

  1. Simply delicious!
  2. This is a perfect dessert for a meal you are hosting because the cake can be made a day before.
  3. Sneaking a thin slice of the pound cake for breakfast is totally acceptable.