Vegetarian Giro d’Italia: Pasta alla Carbonara

May 16, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia

The Giro brings us into the Lazio region, which is dominated by Roman influence. Roman cooking features cheap, simply prepared, no frills food as, historically, eating was out of necessity.  The cuisine features influences from various cultures, customs and traditions brought together through Rome’s history. But, one thing is for sure,  this region loves its pasta…from fresh egg pasta to hard pastas from the south.

One famous dish, pasta alla carbonara, has its roots in the Lazio region. The development of this recipe is a bit murky and has been linked to charcoal miners (i.e., “coal worker style”), the black pepper that is used in the dish, a restaurant in Rome named “Carbonara” and even the the rumor that black squid ink was a common ingredient. Another theory is that the dish was invented during World War II during ingredient shortages. The American GIs stationed there took the recipe home with them. Quite possibly, it was the Roman version of creating a classic American breakfast for the soldiers, bacon and eggs with pasta, of course!

Regardless of its origins, this recipe has taken on a life of its own and the ingredients vary by region and by country. However,  the basic step remains – adding the egg at the end and letting the hot pasta cook it.

This is my vegetarian version of pasta alla carbonara which uses the classic recipe as a guide. (Obviously, the original recipe did not involve using a toaster oven to cook fake bacon.) I like making this when I’m looking for a quick and hearty meal. Saute onions if you so desire as it adds a little more depth to the dish, but I usually don’t miss the taste and the effort required to chop onions and clean a saute pan.

Megabeth’s Pasta alla Carbonara

– 1 box (8 oz) of whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)
– 5 – 6 strips of vegetarian bacon
– two eggs (egg substitute equivalent to two eggs)
– two tablespoons capers
– grated parmesean cheese

Prepare pasta per package instructions until al dente. Meanwhile, pre-heat toaster oven (or oven) to 450 degrees. (Note: you can also use a saute pan to cook the bacon until crisp, if preferred.) Spray toaster tray or cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Then spray lightly the top of the “bacon”. Cook each side for about 3 minutes until desired crispiness is achieved. When cooked, cut “bacon” into small bite size pieces.

Crack two eggs in small bowl. Then whisk or beat with fork until blended.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and put in large bowl. Add beaten eggs to bowl and distribute through pasta. Add bacon pieces and capers. (Make sure pasta is still hot when adding the eggs. This is key to ensure the eggs are cooked thoroughly.) Sprinkle parmesean cheese into the pasta until it is coated with it.

Serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and enjoy.

South African Green Beans with Sour Sauce

April 21, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Side Dishes

South African Green Beans with Sour Sauce

These green beans were like nothing I’ve had before. The sauce is sour, creamy and strangely addictive. Malt vinegar lovers will love this dish.

I found this recipe buried in a Time Life African Cooking recipe book from 1970. The book has many great vegetarian recipes that I hope to feature soon. Sometimes it’s good to turn a blind eye to the internet or glossy new cookbooks and find recipes that probably haven’t seen the light of day for a while. If I hadn’t done that, I never would have found this dish which was gobbled up almost immediately.

Instead of using dry mustard, I used some English mustard I had in the refrigerator. On a vegan note: I may try recipe this next time with an egg substitute to see what happens; however, I’m not sure if I’ll need to add anything else to thicken up the sauce. If anyone tries it with egg substitute, let me know how it comes out.

South African Green Beans with Sour Sauce
Recipes: African Cooking, Foods of the World, 1970

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh green string beans, trimmed, washed and left whole
1 egg
1/4 cup malt vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry hot English mustard

In a 3-to-4 quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil over high heat. Drop the beans in by the handful. Return the water to a boil, reduce the heat to moderate and boil the beans uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are tender but still firm. Do not overcook them.

Immediately drain the beans in a colander and transfer them to a large heated serving bowl. Cover to keep them warm while you prepare the sauce.

Combine the egg, vinegar, sugar, mustard and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the top of a small double boiler* and beat vigorously with a wire whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Place the pan over simmering, not boiling, water, and continue to beat for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the sauce thickens lightly and clings to the whisk.

Taste for seasoning, pour the sauce over the beans, and serve at once.

(Note: I don’t have a double boiler but instead used my wok atop of a sauce pan filled with water. The effect was just the same.)


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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

July 04, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Culinary Tour de France, Main Dishes

The 2009 Tour de France has officially begun and so shall the vegetarian culinary tour! To start the tour, we are going to get crunchy, zesty and fried with these Spinach Parmesan Croquettes. (I wouldn’t, however, recommend eating these prior to attempting your individual time trial.)

If you have some precooked rice on hand, this recipe takes no time at all to make. And, as a bonus, you get to get your hands all goopy forming the croquettes into little cylinders. I was able to form 14 croquettes using this recipe below. We almost ate all of them in one sitting.

Spinach Parmesan Croquettes
Adapted from: The Best Vegetarian Recipes

  • 1/4 cup onions, diced
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 cup/8 oz frozen spinach, cooks and drained (or fresh, cooked and drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups rice, cooked
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and/or Asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • canola oil for frying

Add oil to a pan and set to medium high heat. Add onions in oil until light golden and translucent. Add cooked rice, spinach, spices, and lemon juice. Stir to combine.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Add cheese.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Turn heat to low and add egg making sure that it doesn’t cook too quickly. Remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Once mixture is cool enough to handle with your hands. Crack two eggs in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add bread crumbs to another bowl. Form spinach mixture into small, cylindrical rolls.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Dip into egg mixture…

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

and then into breadcrumbs.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Place uncooked croquettes on a plate until all are breaded. (I placed mine on a sheet of parchment paper.)

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet with oil and turn heat to on medium high. Add croquettes into oil and fry until all sides become golden brown.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Place on plate lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil.

A Vegetarian Tour de France: Spinach Parmesan Croquettes

Serve with a tomato sauce for dipping.


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