Veggin’ Cookbook Chronicles: Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella, and Basil Rolls

July 11, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes

Here we go – it’s The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook. Wait, hold on there…what makes you, the cookbook author, the one to self-proclaim that?

If it’s going to be the “best ever” then:

  • I want full color photos of not only the finished dish, but in-between steps, too.
  • I also want full color photos of vegetables and ingredients so I know exactly what a enoki mushroom, a kaffir leaf and spelt look like.
  • I want easy instructions that result in beautiful looking dishes that taste great.
  • I want not only cooking tips but tips and advice  on how to purchase ingredients and nutritional information.
  • I want a variety of recipes from various nations using a variety of cooking techniques.
  • I want to know the health benefits of each recipe.
  • I want an index that has both reference to recipe titles and ingredients (both name and type).
  • And, finally, I like when a cookbook lays flat on the counter…

Oh, wait, I think I just described The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook so perhaps the title is correct. My edition is from 1999 and is edited by Nicola Graimes. (She was an editor for Vegetarian Living magazine.)

My one criticism of this “Best Ever” cookbook is minor. It is that the description of the dishes, while informative, are not very personal. As in, “I tasted this dish in a small Parisian cafe and knew I had to have it.” Instead the descriptions read, “This recipe is featured in Parisian cafes…” Sure that’s a picky detail so the cookbook can keep the “Best Ever” title…

The recipe I chose for my cookbook challenge is Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Rolls. These packets of warm eggplant were filled with an ooey gooey cheese that melted in your mouth. Fresh tomatoes and basil picked from your garden send this recipe beyond just a “normal dinner”. They are easy to make but do require you to heat up the kitchen with the broiler (on a hot summer night you might not want to do that). But, I can see these being made easily on the grill. (I also strayed from the original instructions at putting the aluminium foil directly on the baking rack, I instead used a baking sheet to hold the aluminum foil and eggplant. I know my abilities to create a mess out of nothing…so it’s better safe than sorry.) And, although the recipe says that the balsamic is option. Don’t kid yourself – it brings this recipe from a 9 to a 10.

Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Rolls
The Best-Ever Vegetarian Cookbook

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (optional)
  • 6 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
  • 2 plum tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the eggplant lengthways into 10 thin slices and discard the two outermost slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse, then pat dry with paper towel.

Preheat the broiler and line the rack with foil. (Note: I put the foil on a baking sheet.) Place the eggplant slices on the grill rack and brush liberally with oil. Broil for 8 – 10 minutes until tender and golden, turning once.

Remove the eggplant slices from the broiler, then place a slice of mozzarella and tomato and a basil leaf in the center of each eggplant slice, and season to taste.

Fold the eggplant over the filling and…

broil seam-side down until heated through and the mozzarella begins to melt. Serve drizzled with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar, if using.

(Health benefits: Eggplant are low in calories but frying will dramatically increase their calorific value. Salting the eggplant first not only draws out any bitter juices, it also makes the flesh denser, so that less fat is absorbed during cooking. Eggplant contains bioflavonoids, which help to prevent strokes and hemorrhages.

Veggin’ Cookbook Chronicles: Chilled Pasta Salad with Fresh Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Olives & Feta Cheese

June 17, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Cookbook Chronicle Challenge, Salads, Side Dishes

I start of my Veggin’ Cookbook Chronicles Challenge swinging for the wall with The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook by Diana Shaw. My edition is from 1997. This 612 page tome covers everything you need to know about vegetarian cooking but were afraid to ask. The subtitle says it all “Your Guide to the Best Goods on Earth: What to eat, where to get it, how to prepare it.” That pretty much covers it.

This cookbook focuses on creating a balanced and nourishing vegetarian diet, features menu plans as well as great advice.  There are also guides to herbs, spices, rice, grains, soy, flours, kitchenware and more.

The presentation is a little ho-hum as its presented in one color – green.  It does have some hand drawn illustrations to punctuate ingredients but none of the illustrations reflect finished products or cooking techniques.

But, who needs glossy pictures when the recipes are very in depth and also very easy to follow. (In fact, the author takes two pages on how to make the humble pancake, and she’s passionate about how to make it right.) Each recipe has a description or introduction and specifics on nutrition. You also see total time but also “time to prepare” and “total cooking time”. Which I find informative – am I going to spend five minutes in preparation and 18 hours cooking, or 18 hours preparation with 5 minutes of cooking? I also find the “do ahead” options and how to store the finish product hints helpful, too.

Finally, the index is presented both by recipe and ingredient which helps when you’re not quite sure what to make…but you know what you have.

This cookbook is chock full of hints, stories and suggestions. I probably need to curl up on the couch and read through it from cover to cover sometime. In the meantime, I’ll go ahead and present you with this recipe.

I was looking for a fast, easy and tasty option for a cookout I was having. Most importantly, it had to store overnight so I didn’t have to rush to prepare it. This pasta salad worked out really well and it made plenty to feed a crowd.

Chilled Pasta Salad with Fresh Tomatoes, Chickpeas, Olives & Feta Cheese
from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, Diane Shaw, 1997

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 minced fresh basil
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (Note: the cookbook goes into nice detail on how to peel and seed the tomato, I did not peel the tomatoes in this preparation, but I did seed them.)
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup chopped oil-cured black Greek or nicoise-style olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 teaspoons capers
6 cups cooked short pasta, such as penne rigate, farfalle, or radiator (Note: I used a rather cute mini farfalle pasta)

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and swish it through the oil until it starts to color, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard it. Add the basil and stir well to flavor the oil. Remove the skillet from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, feta cheese, and capers.

Add the pasta and the basil oil, and toss well. Chill for at least 3 hours. Toss again before serving.

Total time: About 3 hours, 30 minutes, including time to chill, but not including time to cook the chickpeas (Note: I used canned chickpeas which saved some time…)
Time to prepare: About 25 minutes
Cooking Time: Included in time to prepare
Do Ahead: You can make this up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use
Refrigeration/Freezing: Refrigerate up to 2 days. Do not freeze.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

January 17, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes

Roasting grape tomatoes brings out their brightness and creates a vibrant flavor that pops in your mouth. It does take more than an hour to roast them in a low tempurature oven, so, if you’re hungry you’re going to have to wait a bit.

If you’re too hungry to wait, you could have your in-house taste tester, if they arrive home before you do, take care of the prep work and pop the tomatoes in the oven before you get home. Now that I think about it, this meal is actually so easy to make, that the in-house taste testers out there could probably even be able to handle this one completely on their own.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil
by Megabeth

1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt (sea salt or kosher)
1 8.8 ounce box Israeli/Pearl couscous
10 – 15 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.

Bake in over for about 1 1/2 hours or until the tomatoes are dried around the edges but still moist.

About 15 minutes before serving, cook the couscous according to package directions. (For added flavor, use vegetable broth instead of water when cooking the couscous.)

Add tomatoes, basil, garlic and black pepper to cooked couscous in the pot, stir to combine.

Serve warm.

34 Simple (Vegetarian) Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

October 05, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Article, Main Dishes


In 2007, the New York Times wrote an article called Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. I’ve held on to the article (yes, from the actual newspaper) and just came across it again in a massive desk clean-up. So, rather than hiding it back into a deep dark drawer, I figured I’d list some of the ideas here.

In the original, the majority of the dishes included meat (mostly fish), but there were many on there that are vegetarian or vegan. I’ve also included several that were easy to substitute with a faux meat. Many of these dishes can be prepared if you are good about keeping the basics in your pantry. (For a refresher check out my list of what every vegetarian should have in their kitchen.)

So, without further ado, here are 34 simple vegetarian meals ready in 10 minutes or less.

1. Make six-minute eggs: Simmer gently, run under cold water until cool, then peel. Serve over steamed asparagus.
2. Toss a cup of chopped mixed herbs with a few tablespoons of olive oil in a hot pan. Serve over angel-hair pasta, diluting the sauce if necessary with pasta cooking water.
3. Make pesto: put a couple of cups of basil leaves, a garlic clove, salt, pepper and olive oil as necessary in a blender (walnuts and Parmesan are optional). Serve over pasta (dilute with oil or water as necessary).

IMG_89184. Gazpacho: Combine one pound tomatoes cut into chunks, a cucumber peeled and cut into chunks, two or three slices stale bread torn into pieces, a quarter-cup olive oil, two tablespoons sherry vinegar and a clove of garlic in a blender with one cup water and couple of ice cubes. Process until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, then serve or refrigerate, garnished with a little more olive oil.
5. Soak couscous in boiling water to cover until tender; top with tomatoes, parsley, olive oil and black pepper.
6. Chinese tomato and eggs: Cook minced garlic in peanut oil until blond; add chopped tomatoes then, a minute later, beaten eggs, along with salt and pepper. Scramble with a little soy sauce.
7. Cut eggplant into half-inch slices. Broil with lots of olive oil, turning once, until tender and browned. Top with crumbled goat or feta cheese and broil another 20 seconds.

IMG_35388. While pasta cooks, combine a couple cups chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon or more minced garlic, olive oil and 20 to 30 basil leaves. Toss with pasta, salt, pepper and Parmesan.


9. Egg in a hole, glorified: Tear a hole in a piece of bread and fry in butter. Crack an egg into the hole. Deglaze pan with a little sherry vinegar mixed with water, and more butter; pour over egg.
10. Quesadilla: Use a combination of cheeses, like Fontina mixed with grated pecorino. Put on half of a large flour tortilla with pickled jalapenos, chopped onion, shallot or scallion, chopped tomatoes and grated radish. Fold tortilla over and brown on both sides in butter or oil, until cheese is melted.
11. Fast chile rellenos: Drained canned whole green chilies. Make a slit in each and insert a piece of cheese. Dredge in flour and fry in skillet slit side up, until cheese melts.
12. Saute 10 whole peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. Meanwhile, grate pecorino, grind lots of black pepper, chop parsley and cook pasta. Toss all together, along with crushed dried chili flakes and salt.
13. Cold soba with dipping sauce: Cook soba noodles, then rinse in cold water until cool. Serve with a sauce of soy sauce and minced ginger diluted with mirin and/or dry sake.

IMG_099514. Fried rice: Soften vegetables with oil in a skillet. Add cold take-out rice, chopped onion, garlic, ginger, peas and two beaten eggs. Toss until hot and cooked through. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil.
15. Taco salad: Toss together greens, chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced avocado, a small can of black beans and kernels from a couple of ears of corn. Toss with crumbled tortilla chips and grated cheese. Dress with olive oil, lime and chopped cilantro leaves.


16. Migas, with egg: Saute chopped stale bread with olive oil, mushrooms, onions and spinach. Stir in a couple of eggs.
17. Saute shredded (or sliced) zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta.


18. Not takeout: Stir-fry onions with cut-up broccoli. Add cubed tofu along with a tablespoon each minced garlic and ginger. When almost done, add half cup of water, two tablespoons soy sauce and plenty of black pepper. Heat through and serve over fresh Chinese noodles.


19. The Waldorf: Toast a handful of walnuts in a skillet. Chop an apple or pear; toss with greens, walnuts and a dressing made with olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallot. Top if you like, with crumbled goat or blue cheese.
20. Put a stick of butter and a handful of pine nuts in a skillet. Cook over medium heat until both are brown. Toss with cooked pasted, grated Parmesan and black pepper.
21. Put a tablespoon of cream and a slice of tomato in each of several small ramekins. Top with an egg, then salt, pepper, ad grated Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees until the eggs set. Serve with toast.
22. Make a fast tomato sauce of olive oil, chopped tomatoes and garlic. Poach eggs in the sauce, then top with Parmesan.


23. Peel and thinly slice raw beets; cook in butter or oil with garlic; do not overcook. Finish with parsley, lemon juice and coarse salt; serve over toast.
24. Rich vegetable soup: Cook asparagus tips and peeled stalks or most any other green vegetable in [vegetable] stock with a little tarragon until tender; reserve a few tips and puree the rest with a little butter (cream or yogurt, too, if you like) adding enough stock to thin the puree. Garnish with the reserved tips. Serve hot or cold.
25. Brush portobello caps with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil until tender. Briefly sweat chopped onions, then scramble eggs with them. Put eggs in mushrooms.
26. Near instant mezze: Combine hummus on plate with yogurt laced with chopped cucumbers and a bit of garlic, plus tomato, feta, white beans with olive oil and pita bread.
27. Sear corn kernels in olive oil with minced jalapenos and chopped onions; toss with cilantro, black beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped bell pepper and lime.


28. Pit and chop a cup or more of mixed olives. Combine with olive oil, a little minced garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped basil or parsley. Serve over pasta.
29. Grated carrots topped with six-minute eggs (run under cold water until cool before peeling), olive oil and lemon juice.
30. Cut off the top of four big tomatoes; scoop out the interior and mix them with toasted stale baguette or pita, olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs (basil, tarragon, and/or parsley). Stuff into tomatoes and serve with salad.
31. Pasta frittata: Turn cooked pasta and a little garlic into an oiled or buttered skillet. Brown, pressing to create a cake. Flip, then top with three or four beaten eggs and loads of Parmesan. Brown other side and serve.
32. Ketchup-braised tofu: Dredge large tofu cubes in flour. [Megabeth note: press and drain tofu to get excess liquid out before using.] Brown in oil; remove from skillet and wipe skillet clean. Add a little more oil, then a tablespoon minced garlic; 30 seconds later, add one and a half cups ketchup and the tofu. Cook until sauce bubbles and tofu is hot.
33. Veggie burger: Drain and pour a 14-ounce can of beans into a food processor with an onion, half a cup of rolled oats, a tablespoon chili powder or other spice mix, an egg, salt and pepper. Process until mushy, then shape into burgers, adding a little liquid or oats as necessary. Cook in oil about three minutes a side and serve.
34. So-called Fettuccine Alfredo: Heat several tablespoons of butter and about half a cup of cream in a large skillet just until the cream starts to simmer. Add slightly undercooked fresh pasta to the skillets, along with plentuy of grated Parmesan. Cook over low heat, tossing, until pasta is tender and hot.

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