Sunday, October 28, 2007

Vegetarian Feijoada

Feijoada is Brazil's national dish and is traditionally made with black or brown beans and many different kinds of fresh and cured meats. It is usually served with rice, a shredded green, such as mustard greens, and with fried pork chops, farofa (manioc crumbs with spices), orange slices, and caipirinhas to cut all the fat and heaviness in your stomach. It is truly a well-designed meal that satisfies!

In the US, it's not easy to find farofa, nor is the many kinds of meats seen as acceptable. So instead of these ingredients, I use bread crumbs and hickory-baked tofu. This version of feijoada is very good and satisfying and is also appropriate for my vegetarian lunch group at work.

Vegetarian Feijoada

Vegetarian Feijoada

Serves 8

1 pound dried black beans
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
12 ounces baked tofu (hickory or savory flavor), cut into small cubes

Soak beans by covering beans in a bowl with the boiling water, 2 inches above the beans. Let sit for an hour or until the beans have doubled in size. Rinse and drain. Place the beans in a large pot with 4 cups water. Bring water to a boil and cook the beans for 2 hours.

In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt. Heat until the onions are starting to brown and the spices become fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook until they are soft and incorporated into the mixture. Turn off heat and set aside.

When the beans are finished cooking, they should be soft. Take a cup of beans from the pot and mash with a fork. Return the mashed beans to the pot and mix them well. The gives the dish a creamier texture. Add the cooked onion mixture, the vinegar, the tofu, and adjust salt to taste. Bring back to a bubble and simmer for another twenty minutes or until the stew has reached its desired consistency. Serve with the following:

Mustard Greens
Serves 8
1 bunch mustard greens, washed and sliced as thin as possible

Steam the greens in a bamboo steamer and saute in a skillet with some olive oil and salt. I often also add garlic and red pepper flakes here to taste.

Garlicky Rice
Serves 4, Double to serve 8
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 cloves garlic
1 cup rice
2 cups water
Pinch of salt

Melt butter in a small pot. Add garlic and cook over medium-low heat until soft. Add rice, increase the heat a little, and cook until the rice is translucent. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Bread Crumbs
Choose a few slices of a good bread. I used sourdough this time. After all, we live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Add bread. Turn off the oven and let it cool. Take out the bread and place in food processor. Process until finely ground. You can add salt and spices, such as oregano.

Sliced Oranges

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Autumn Pizza with Eggplant, Leeks, and Oyster Mushrooms

As you can see by our posted weekly menus, we make pizza quite often. I found a favorite pizza dough, which I will post here. I used to cook the pizza on a pizza stone by dividing the dough to make two smaller, round pizzas, but I found that I actually prefer how the dough tastes when cooking it as one large pizza on an oiled cookie sheet. It cuts the time in half, and the dough gets a different, crispy sheen on the bottom from the cookie sheet (non-stick).

I vary the toppings depending on what I have on hand. Here, we had leftover leeks and eggplants and 3 bunches of fresh oyster mushrooms, the fruits of Autumn. I used the homemade marinara from earlier this week, which I had frozen to keep fresh and thawed for use. Drizzling the top of the pizza with a little olive oil, Parmesan, and oregano makes all the finishing difference.

Autumn Pizza

Autumn Pizza
Serves 4

Pizza Dough (for 2 small pizzas or one large pizza)
1 package yeast (2 /14 teaspoons)
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/3 cup white flour
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (a special kind of wheat, white wheat, makes a lighter flour than red wheat and is fantastic for breads)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Autumn Toppings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small Chinese eggplant, chopped
1 leek, halved and sliced
3 bunches oyster mushrooms chopped
1 cup homemade marinara sauce
2 cups 5 cheeses mix (Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, Mozzarella, Romano)

For the dough, activate the yeast by combining the yeast with the water in a large bowl for 5 minutes. Add the flours, oil, and salt, and knead and slap down on a wooden cutting board for 10 minutes until light and elastic. Place back in the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 1 hour.

In the meantime, heat oil in a non-stick skillet and saute leeks until tender. Add eggplant and mushrooms and a sprinkling of oregano and cook until the eggplant have turned brown and the mushrooms have released their water. Turn off heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. When dough is ready, punch down and spread with fingers on a lightly oiled 9 by 13 inch cookie sheet so that the edges have more dough to hold in the sauce. Spread the marinara sauce evenly over the dough and top with sauteed vegetables. Top with cheeses, more oregano and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Baked Halibut, Brazilian style

We're finally back from Brazil (I didn't want to leave!), and now I have a cold. Nothing will stop me from cooking, though! My Nonna (grandma) cooked us wonderful lunches, and I'm trying to replicate these before I forget them! Most of the food down there is not vegetarian, but there are a few pescetarian recipes. Nonna is Catholic, and eats fish on Fridays, so this was our Friday lunch. Lunch in Brazil is a much bigger affair than dinner, and it makes sense. Eat most when your belly's fire burns and when your metabolism is at its peak! Most of our lunches started with a pasta dish and was followed by meat, a cooked vegetable, and a raw vegetable. Every meal ended with dessert consisting of fruit. I felt so good eating these satisfying midday meals that I want to continue it here in the US, but it's so hard to make yourself such a lunch when you work all day! I can try to continue the tradition at dinner, but in smaller quantities.

This dish was a creation by Nonna based on a Portuguese dish where white fish (salted cod) is baked on top of potatoes so that the potatoes can absorb the fish's liquids and salts. She used raw tomatoes and a thin, delicate white fish and layered everything in a casserole dish, topping it with cheese. She used olives to replace the salt not found in her fresh fish. My version is a little different, because I'm not fond of white fish and because I happened to make some fresh marinara today. I used Halibut instead of white fish (such as tilapia) and marinara instead of tomatoes, onions, and garlic. My husband thinks it turned out better than Nonna's, but it's really just different :-)

Baked Halibut over potatoes, olives, red peppers, and marinara

Baked Halibut with Potatoes, Red Peppers, and Marinara
Serves 3 or 4

olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh, homemade marinara (I used a recent recipe from Cooking Light and substituted canned tomatoes with 5 pounds of fresh, peeled tomatoes and chicken broth with veggie broth. I am using the rest of the marinara for other dishes)
3 small potatoes, peeled, boiled, and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 red pepper, cored and sliced
green olives
1 pound halibut fillet
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In an 8 inch square baking dish, coat the bottom with olive oil. Place a small amount of marinara to cover bottom. Top with a layer of potatoes (using all the potatoes). Then layer 3/4 of the red pepper, olives, and more marinara. Settle fish fillet in the dish and top with remaining red pepper, olives, and marinara. Top with cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cheese has browned and fish is cooked through.
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