Egg-avoiders, heads up!

One of the biggest challenges I face as a vegetarian cook/baker/pseudochef is trying to find ways to substitute for eggs in recipes that are otherwise vegetarian-friendly. I’ve done extensive research (read: Googling) on the matter, and it turns out that eggs serve different purposes in different types of recipes. They may bind, leaven, or change the texture. So depending on that, and depending on how much you are willing to alter the taste of your dish, you can use different substitutes.

Most store-available “egg substitutes” are not actually substitutes – they use egg whites, which if you’re avoiding eggs for reasons of principle, are also a no-no. So what can you use? Since my usage of recipes that call for eggs is usually limited to baking of sweet treats, I tend to stick to the extra baking powder and some applesauce trick. I have also heard that yogurt, sour cream, and silken tofu can be used.

Here is a link my brother sent me – perhaps in the hope that I might be inspired to bake, thereby providing him with dessert. Regardless of the intentions, the link is great, and gives a pretty extensive listing.

I’d like to hear from you. What do you use to replace eggs in your cooking?

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Four Cheese and Vegetable Lasagna

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

Okay so this is not an easy recipe, I agree. But it’s a lot of fun and I was very happy with the results. It’s actually been quite a while since I made it so you’ll have to bear with some vagueness. Also, this is NOT for people on diets. It’s creamy, rich, oozy, greasy, and everything else that a real heavy lasagna is supposed to be.

Ingredients:

1 lb Lasagne noodles
1/2 block Jarlsberg cheese
1/2 block Asiago cheese
1/2 block Mozzarella cheese
Ricotta cheese – I used half the tub.
Tomato sauce – I used Prego’s sundried tomato and basil version, but you can use whatever suits your fancy, or make your own!
Fresh basil – 1 bunch
1 bunch spinach
2-3 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 medium-sized zucchini
chili flakes to taste

Method:

1. Boil a pot of water with salt, a splash of olive oil, and a dash of oregano.
2. Once the water is at a rolling boil, cook the noodles, but only until al dente.
3. Lay them on foil so they do not stick.

4. Saute the spinach and zucchini together. Chop the tomatoes but keep them uncooked.
5. Stir the veggies into the tomato sauce, and mix it with a little water, enough to make the consistency less viscous.
6. Mix all the cheeses except the ricotta together. Mix the chili flakes into this mixture.
7. Line a 9×11 pan with the noodles.
8. Pour enough sauce on the noodles to cover them.
9. Add a layer of the cheese mixture.
10. Repeat layers of noodles, sauce, and cheese.

Bake for about 40 minutes covered with foil, and about 20 minutes uncovered,  until the cheese bubbles.

Enjoy, and try not to think about the calories!

Beans, Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry in under 30 minutes

This has been one of the fastest, easiest, and i *think* tastiest dishes I have made since I ended up in my understocked kitchen. I got the inspiration from Heidi Swanson and her “Lemony Chickpea Stirfry”. I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients she called for, but I had others, so I thought why not?
The beauty about this recipe is that it packs a good nutritional punch, it’s delicious, and lends itself to endless variations. I’ll give you my take on it, and I’d love to hear back from you with some of your own variations.

Ingredients:
One cup cooked pinto beans (if you need instructions on how to cook dry pinto beans, see here)
One red onion
One capsicum (bell pepper)
8 oz firm tofu (flavored or plain)
olive oil
salt
juice of one lemon
dried basil
oregano
chili flakes, if you like your food spicy
one tomato

Method:
Add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt to your frying pan and toss in the onions and pinto beans.
Saute until the onions are browned and the beans get a light crust.
Add lemon juice, and basil and oregano to taste
Add capsicum and tofu, and allow capsicum to cook through, but not until they lose their crunch.
Make sure the tofu browns evenly on all the sides.
Toss with chili flakes. If you want it more spicy, add the chili flakes at the beginning with the oil.
After everything is cooked, add diced tomatoes as garnish.

I plan on serving it plain, perhaps with some plain yogurt. Any other serving suggestions?

Priyanka’s Kitchen, Installment 1 – Chhole

So obviously there are things I don’t know how to cook. And other people do. Also, I’m not cooking ALL the time. So I’m always on the lookout for new recipes from my friends and acquaintances. My friend Priyanka appears to have a few up her sleeve, so I asked if she’d be willing to share. And luckily for you, my loyal reader, she’s been kind enough to share her recipe for Chhole, an Indian curry made from chickpeas.
It’s actually quite the staple in North Indian kitchens, but I’ve never ventured so far as to make it. So let’s hear it for Chef Priyanka!

as written by Priyanka

ingredients:
-garlic (a few cloves)
-one large onion (I prefer red)
-chillies to taste
-one large tomato or three small ones
-white chickpeas/garbanzo beans (you can either use the canned ones in the states or
the kind you need to soak overnight)
… if you need to soak overnight, soak in warm water with a tiny bit of salt
-lemon juice, coriander leaves (also called cilantro), channa masala (if you have it), garam masala,
chili powder, salt

method:
chop all vegetable ingredients (fine chop garlic).
heat a tiny bit of oil in a medium size pot.
saute garlic first until light brown.
add chopped onion and saute til browned.
add chole, and keep lid on for faster cooking.
stir often and add some water and salt.
add chopped chillies.
add garam masala, chili powder and channa masala to taste.
keep stirring and let simmer.
taste one chick pea to test if it has cooked.
after the chole has cooked for some time, add tomatoes and add lemon juice to taste.
as a finishing touch, add coriander as garnish
serve with chapati, naan or puri!  🙂

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Tofu and Capsicum (Bell Pepper) Sabzi

I know you guys are probably thinking I’m a tofu nut and I should probably just back off the soy products. The fact is, though, I do really like tofu, and more importantly, it’s good for you. So why not? Being vegetarian (and not even eating eggs) ensures that we get pretty much zero protein in our diets if we don’t make an effort to proactively include it.

The other day we had a little potluck dinner party – in the hostel, mind you – and my contribution appeared to be a great success, so I thought I’d share. I went with the same principle of marinating my tofu in yogurt, but changed up the ingredients of the marinade. McCormick makes a Lemon Herb spice blend which I thought would make a good combination with the tofu, and it turned out to work really well.

Ingredients:

1 24 oz. block of firm tofu
12 oz. yogurt
McCormick’s Lemon Herb Spice Blend
2 large capsicum (bell peppers)
1 red onion (2 if they’re really small)
Sabzi Masala (I use everest brand, anything is fine though)
1 green chili pepper
salt to taste
olive oil

Method

1. The day before you want to make this recipe, make small cubes of the tofu. Prepare your marinade by whipping together the yogurt, 2 teaspoons of the spice blend, half a teaspoon of chili powder, and a teaspoon of salt. Cover the tofu with the yogurt mixture and refrigerate overnight.

2. Chop the onions into small pieces. Saute them until they’re evenly browned in the olive oil, along with 1 tsp of sabzi masala (or to taste) and salt to taste.

3. Add the tofu and saute until it is browned on all sides.

4. Chop the capsicum into small (1/2 inch) pieces and add to the mixture.

5. Saute the entire mixture together until everything is cooked through.

Serve with rice or chapati and raita.

As always, share your variations with me!

Pasta alla telefono

The story behind this recipe is quite interesting actually. My friend B had come to visit me and promised to cook me a nice dinner so we went to the store and bought groceries. I had no idea what he was making, but it sure did look and smell good. I watched B run around the kitchen, flitting around and whisking things together, and I waited with bated breath to see what was going to turn up. He declared his creation Pasta alla telefono but I was never able to find that recipe or that name anywhere else. The thing is, it was so good that it didn’t really matter, and after a few tries, I think I got it to taste the way his did. This recipe is one of those where the quality of the ingredients really matters. The taste you get when you put together fresh basil, torn straight from the plant, with vine-ripened tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and the piece de resistance, bufala mozzarella, fresh balls of creamy mozzarella cheese made of water buffalo milk – these are what make this recipe taste out of this world.

Ingredients

One package penne pasta
8-10 vine-ripened cluster tomatoes, blanched and deseeded
2-3 tablespoons of chili flakes (depends on how spicy you like your pasta) 
1 teaspoon oregano
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
lemon zest
a splash of olive oil
veggies for the sauce, like mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, spinach – whatever you like
1 cup of torn or coarsely chopped basil leaves

Method

1. Set the pasta to cook with some olive oil and salt.

2. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. You can blanch and seed the tomatoes first if you don’t like skin or seeds in your sauce. Toss the tomatoes into a pot and let them simmer for a bit with some salt and whatever spices you like. 

3. Brown the garlic along with onions, if you want to add them, in a separate skillet. If you like garlic pieces in your sauce, cook them in a little oil and dump the whole thing in. If you don’t like getting chunks of garlic in your food, cook it in about a tablespoon or a little more of oil, and drain the pieces out after they’ve cooked. 

4. Add the oil from the garlic and whatever other veggies you want to use into the tomatoes. Let it all simmer together for a while, until everything has cooked thoroughly and the flavor has percolated through.

5. Add the lemon zest, basil and the sugar and stir, and let it simmer for another 2 minutes.

6. Toss the pasta in with everything and keep it on the heat for about 2 minutes longer.

7. Slice the mozzarella and stir it into the pasta just until it gets stringy. If you stir longer, you’ll end up with a creamy sauce rather than stringy cheese (I personally like my mozzarella to make threads in my food – it’s fun!). 

8. Serve with garlic bread, and enjoy!

Another way to do this is to just use store-bought sauce. But make sure that you simmer the sauce with the crushed red peppers, and that you stir in the cheese at the end. That’s what makes this recipe killer. Thanks for this recipe, B, even though you never wanted to share it. If it’s any consolation, I was never able to make it quite like you. But I still think this is pretty amazing. Enjoy, folks! And as always, share any ideas you might have.

 

Tofu-Tomato Stew, Indian Style

I’m one of those people who is tempted by food names and can’t really handle food that doesn’t sound like it’s going to taste good. So this post is definitely an exception for me, mostly because I can’t think of a better name for this. Ragout, perhaps. Most people don’t really know what that means though so i’ll stick with stew for now. If any of you readers can think of a better name, you should let me know.

Today has been kind of a long day. I have a case of the mondays, had a long weekend (see here for details), went to the gym, and tried to study. Also, I have exams coming up, which means less cooking, and I also had ingredients hanging out in my fridge with no apparent purpose. I figured if i didn’t use them today, there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t get to use them at all. I had a few almost-overripe tomatoes, a cucumber, and a block of tofu. I scrounged and found an onion which is about to grow a new onion, and I thought to myself, this has the makings for an interesting meal. In typical fashion, I went through the probable nutritional facts in my head and was satisfied with the protein proportion and went ahead with my strange idea.

Tofu in India has a funny taste to it, to which I prefer the tastelessness of American tofu. Imported tofu is actually available here, but I can’t justify paying that amount for it just because I think the alternative kind of smells a little weird. I found out though, as I was explaining to my friend Lalita today, that if you come up with a good marinade for the tofu, it absorbs tastes beautifully, turning into a sort of palette for whatever picture you want to paint for the day. I took a page from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks for this particular marinade and I really liked the results. I might experiment with some different types later, and I’ll be sure to keep you folks in the loop.

Ingredients

Extra-firm tofu, washed, drained and cubed

For the marinade

4 tablespoons of thick yogurt
3/4 teaspoon Sabzi masala or garam masala
salt to taste
a teaspoon of olive oil 

Whisk these ingredients together, and toss the tofu in with them. Set it aside, covered, while you make the rest of the stew. If you can, set the tofu to marinate the previous night – it will give you better flavor.

For the stew

4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1 large white onion (or 2 small purple onions)
salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste 
1 teaspoon sabzi masala
2 chili peppers, chopped, or 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
a splash of olive oil

Method

1. Chop the onions finely and brown them with the ginger-garlic paste in the olive oil. Add the salt and masala to this mixture and let it all brown together, but it shouldn’t burn. Make sure that the paste doesn’t have that sharp, raw smell anymore. 

2. Add the tomatoes and let them cook in their own juice, but not until they’re too mushy. You don’t want to end up with tomato sauce instead. 

3. While the tomatoes and onions are cooking, brown the tofu in a skillet. You don’t need to add any more olive oil since your marinade already has enough.

4. When the tofu is evenly browned, add it to the tomato mixture and let it all cook together. Add the peppers or pepper, whichever you’ve chosen to use, at the end, stir for two more minutes, and remove from heat.

I served this stew with white rice, but I’m sure you could try brown rice, brown bread, naan, focaccia, chapati, anything really. 

High in protein, vitamin A and lycopenes, and easy to make, I think this is going to be repeated some time, with a few variations. If you guys come up with any interesting variations, let me know. Enjoy!

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