Sunday, August 29, 2010

Citrus Poppyseed Dressing

1 tsp lemon zest (a little less works just fine, too)
1 tsp orange zest
Juice from one lemon, about 2 Tbs
Juice from one orange, about 1/2 cup
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
scant 1/2 tbs poppy seeds
1 tsp honey
pinch of garlic powder
salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Taste, adjust seasonings as desired. Depending on the amount of citrus juice, you can add a bit more oil or vinegar to balance the flavors. Add more honey if you want additional sweetness. In addition to adding flavor, the honey helps keep the dressing from separating. Using lime and/or grapefruit juice changes this dressing into something new and different.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms and Cream

Quick, easy, elegant.
This is for my friend Drew, an enthusiastic cook and a fan of many cuisines. Although he is usually an adventuresome soul, the idea of vegetarian cooking makes him uneasy. I understand this: no one wants to eat weird food. This is a good time to remind everyone, including myself, that the goal of Vegetarian Skinny is to discover vegetarian meals that are made up of familiar foods. You won't find much here that your grandmother didn't recognize as normal, completely edible food. I promised no tofu, and I am sticking to that!

Many Italian dishes are vegetarian, although we don't give them that label. Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Puttanesca, Pasta e Ceci, and Pasta Primavera are examples of common Italian recipes that do not include meat. My father recently gave me an old pasta cookbook he found at the Mt. Dora library book sale. It is wonderful. Here is my first installment from this gem of a cookbook. Enjoy!

Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms and Cream

8-10 oz fresh spinach, washed and cleaned
1/2 c water
1/2 lb fresh portabella or white mushrooms
juice of 1 lemons
3 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs marsala wine
1/ cup heavy cream
freshly ground plack pepper
1/2 lb bowtie pasta (or other shape if you prefer)
4Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. In a deep skillet or large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add spinach. Cover and steam for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Do not overcook. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Wipe mushrooms with damp paper towel, trim stem ends and slice thinly. Add lemon juice and mix well.
  3. Melt butter in skillet and add garlic and marsala. Coll for 3 minutes, then add mushrooms. Cook 5 more minutes, then add cream, stirring often. Bring mixture to a boil, add some salt and pepper liberally. Remove from heat.
  4. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain well and return to cooking pot. Add spinach, then mushroom and cream mixture. Put in individual plates, top with Parmesan. 
Optional:  Garnish with chopped walnuts or pine nuts.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chocolate Mint Dessert

This is really cheating. I did not make a single thing here, just combined two pretty wonderful foods in a pretty dish. If you don't have some beautiful delicate dessert bowls, use martini glasses. Drama is good.

Haagen Dass 5 Ingredient Mint Ice Cream
Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies, frozen if possible

Sprigs of fresh spearmint
You know what to do

Note: I buy 6 or 8 boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints every March, and hide them in cupboards, the freezer, containers, you name it. I like to pretend that I am hiding them from Gary which is mostly true. I remember most of the hiding places, but I do love it when I discover there is one more sleeve of these chocolate treasures. Still, I have never managed to have enough to last until they start selling them again.

If you don't have Thin Mints stashed in your pantry, try Ginger Snaps, Belgian Butter Wafers, or a couple of chunks of extra dark chocolate. Perfect for a hot summer night.

Thai Coconut Lemongrass Soup

We are back! If I had known we'd be gone so long I would have posted a "See you in September" kind of note. Somehow, I always forget just how hectic the second half of summer is for my office and I don't really see it coming. Anyway, we've been cooking a little, trying to come up with recipes that are easy and pleasing, with just enough style to feel satisfied if company drops in.

A few weeks ago we took my brother and his fiancee to one of our favorite spots in Daytona -- Zen Bistro. This is a small, family run restaurant off Beach Street. The food is great and the price is right. We wanted to recreate the coconut milk lemongrass soup (Tom Kha Gai). This came pretty close. Enjoy!

*As one reader pointed out, Fish Sauce is not vegetarian. There are vegetarian versions, though, available in Asian food markets. You can make your own substitute, too, using a combination of kelp and soy sauce (for that fishy flavor) or using a mushroom stock/soy sauce blend that will add that kick to the recipe. You can still enjoy a vegan version of this soup.

TOM KHA GAI -- Spicy lemongrass soup with coconut milk.
Many recipes call for shrimp to be added in the last minute or two of cooking. We left it out for obvious reasons.

2 13 oz cans of coconut milk
2 cups water
1 inch piece of galangal, grated (use more ginger if you cannot find this)
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
4 stalks lemongrass, bruised and coarsely chopped
6 fresh basil leaves, torn (use 8-10 kaffir lime leaves if you can find them)
1 lb shitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup lime juice
3 Tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce or substitute*
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (add more if you like)
1- 2 teaspoon red curry paste
2 Tablespoons sliced green onions
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
red chili powder to taste for medium or hot

In a large pot, bring the coconut mile and 2 cups of water to a simmer .
Add the galangal, ginger, lemongrass, and basil. Simmer about 10 minutes, then strain coconut milk into a clean pan. Discard the seasonings.
Simmer shitake mushrooms in coconut milk for about 5 minutes.
Stir in fish sauce, lime juice, and brown sugar. Add curry powder to taste.
Ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with green onions and red pepper flakes.
Some of your guests may prefer more heat...add it with the red chili powder.