Posts tagged ‘vegetarian’

Step by Step: Tortellini, Tomato and Spinach Soup

My mother-in-law is a really good cook.  I’m not just saying that because I know she’s reading this, it’s true.  She’s also extremely willing to pass along recipes, which is great for my Rachael Ray filled recipe binder.  Plus, it always works in my favor to cook something from Brian’s days at home once in a while, especially since we know it’s been well tested.  One of the recipes she’s given me that I’ve made several times is a soup of tortellini, tomato and spinach.

Fortunately, to make this  soup, you don’t really have to be a good cook.  You also don’t have to have a lot of time, or a lot of ingredients.  It’s that easy.  Who could ask for more?

Tortellini, Tomato and Spinach Soup

adapted from my mother-in-law, serves about 4.

You’ll need:
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3.5 cups vegetable broth
8 oz fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add 2 cloves crushed (or poorly chopped, in my case) garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.


2. Add vegetable broth and tortellini.

Heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

3. Add spinach and tomatoes.

Simmer for 5 more minutes.

4. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

tortellini soup

Could it be any easier than that?
One of the best things about this recipe is that all the ingredients can be kept on hand to use for those times when you don’t know what to make for dinner.


September 14, 2009 at 9:28 am 2 comments

Chilled Tomato Soup with Tarragon Sour Cream

Question: What’s vegetarian, easy and fast to make, apparently better than my gazpacho, only takes 2 steps and only needs 10 basic ingredients?

Answer: Food & Wine’s Chilled Tomato Soup with Tarragon Crème Fraîche”.

tomato soup

I’m really ready for fall, and thankfully it’s starting to feel like it around here.  Nevertheless, it still seems a little early to be making soup (Brian and I have grand plans to spend the entire winter making and eating soups).  Luckily, my free September 2009 issue of Food & Wine contained the perfect solution:  Chilled Tomato Soup with Tarragon Crème Fraîche”.  The ingredient list is really simple: tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, vegetable broth, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, crème fraîche and tarragon. Chances are, you already have almost all of those ingredients.

Ultimately, I halved the recipe (which then ended up only getting us through last night because Brian and I both had two servings), omitted the salt and pepper (I like to leave out salt whenever possible, especially since my broth wasn’t low sodium) and substituted sour cream for crème fraîche, because my supermarkets don’t appear to carry it.  And what was I going to do with leftover crème fraîche?

Brian and I both loved the soup, possibly even more than the gazpacho I made a few months ago.  The flavor is really fresh and I’ll eat anything with tarragon in it.  It’s a summer soup and not particularly hearty so I would recommend serving it as a side or getting a good loaf of bread to go with it.

My soup craving is satisfied for the moment…but I’m still looking forward to making “real soup” in the near future.

September 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Barbecue Hit: Giada’s Mediterranean Salad

I spent too much of yesterday agonizing over a barbecue.  It was my church’s women’s fellowship barbecue and, being new to the area and all, I really wanted to go.  Attendees were supposed to bring their own meat to grill and something to share.  First issue: I thought it was pretty silly to go to the store to buy meat and, more than likely, a roll, for a single person.  I don’t have hamburgers (or turkey burgers, or veggie burgers, or hot dogs) in my freezer waiting for occasions like this.  Nor do I want to.  So I agonized over whether to go to the store so I would have something for the grill.  Second issue: Then I debated over what to get-should I get meat? Veggie burgers? Vegetables to grill?  When possible, I don’t like to introduce myself as “Emily the not-quite-but-almost-vegetarian”.  If the conversation gets there then fine, but it’s not the point of my existence.  So, really the whole debate was about what first impression I wanted to make.

In the end, I brought nothing but Mediterranean Salad (and I am getting to the part with the recipe).  I hoped that no one would notice that I hadn’t brought anything for the grill.  Know what?  No one did.  There were so many pasta salads and bean salads and fruit salads and Mexican dips that no one noticed that my full plate didn’t have anything from the grill or any meat.  I had a really good time spending the evening conversing about things other than my eating habits.

What to bring to share was much easier for me to figure out.  I knew right away what I wanted to make.  Last year, before I was really into cooking, I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this Mediterranean Salad on Everyday Italian.  It was a big hit at last night’s get together.

mediterrean salad

The dish contains Israeli/Mediterranean couscous, which I’ve found at food co-ops and Whole Foods  It’s a small pasta, different from “normal” couscous.  The recipe says any small pasta will work, but I’ve been so happy with the couscous that I’ve never tried it.  Add in some broth,* garlic, lemon juice and zest, fresh mint, fresh basil and dried cranberries and it’s a delicious side salad (or meal, if I have my way).  Check it out.

*Switch out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and this dish is vegetarian.

August 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

Needs Work:Rach’s Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Fried Capers

Last night for dinner I tried out another Rachael Ray recipe (seems like there’s been a lot of her, sorry).  Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Fried Capers is a fine dish, but it needs some work.


The dish was, as promised, easy to make.  The taste is pretty bland overall, though the capers add a nice kick when you get one.  Next time I might add more capers and sauce (it’s creamy, but there’s not a lot to go around).  Today, while heating up the leftovers it occurred to me what would really make this meal good:  Sausage.  Guess it’s a good thing I haven’t gone vegetarian yet.

August 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Striped Eggplant, Tomato and Cheese

Welcome to the newly improved Relishments…where cooking actually happens! Today will hopefully be the first of many recipes and recipe reviews to follow.

victory gardenIn an effort to find new vegetarian recipes to try out, I picked up my husband’s (and I guess now my) copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. The book is really useful because each chapter covers a different type of vegetable (everything from asparagus to turnips) and provides a wealth of background information about it ncluding yields, storage and hints.  And of course, there are recipes, centered around the vegetables.  I don’t know how I spent 6 weeks living with Brian without opening this cookbook.  It’s definitely going to be a go-to in my kitchen.

I decided to try making “Red, White and Blue-Black Eggplant”, based on the appetizing photo and the fact that I really like all of the ingredients.  By the time I was finished cooking, I’d made several alterations.

Striped Eggplant, Tomato and Cheese (serves 4)

You’ll need:
1 medium eggplant
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
10 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 tsp dried basil

  1. Wash the eggplant.  I peeled mine per Brian’s request, but the original recipe leaves the skin on, hence the “black-blue” in the original title.  Cut the eggplant into slices about 2″ by 4″ by 1/2″ (this can be done by cutting the eggplant in half widthwise and slicing from there.  Mine were pretty randomly sized, actually)
  2. Salt the eggplant (this is exactly what it sounds like: sprinkle salt on the eggplant.  Don’t be embarassed, I had to look it up too).  Place the eggplant in a colander for about half an hour.  This removes the excess liquid from the eggplant.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°.
  4. Saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of oil for 7-10 minutes, until the onions are soft, but not brown.  Place them on a plate.
  5. Use paper towels to pat the eggplant dry.  Brown the eggplant in oil several pieces at a time using the pan from the onions.
  6. Lightly oil a 8×8 baking dish.  Put half the onions and 1 tsp dried basil on the bottom of the dish.
  7. IMG_1575

  8. Layer the eggplant, tomato and cheese slices vertically in the pan, creating visible stripes.
  9. IMG_1577

  10. When the dish is full (and hopefully you’re out of ingredients), cover the stripes with the remainder of the onions and basil.


  11. IMG_1579

  12. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  13. IMG_1583


This recipe was a little less simple to make than I expected.  Besides the fact that the original recipe left me with a tomato and a half too much, it also seemed to require more dishes than should be necessary to create what is actually a pretty simple dish. It’s also a little messy to serve:


The end result was less pretty than the picture in the book (big surprise, I know) but tasted really good.  It was a mess to serve and at first it appeared that there was a lot of liquid in the bottom of the dish.  However, by the time we’d eaten the entire dish, the amount of juice it seemed more reasonable.  The cheese and basil really helped make the dish for me and the amount of baking time left the eggplant super soft.

Eggplant is one of those vegetables that I’m satisfied for a while after just one meal, but I’d certainly make it again.  This is a handy recipe to make for a group, just double the ingredients and use a 9×12 or larger pan.

August 25, 2009 at 10:04 am

Reminder…and Good News

First, a reminder.  The 6th season of Bravo’s Top Chef has begun! I realize I’m a little late in mentioning it, but I just got to watch the premiere today.  Las Vegas looks like it’s gonna be a good season.  I’m not going to do recaps or reviews this season, but I highly recommend these blogs if you want commentary:

Creative Loafing: “Hearts and Balls: ‘Top Chef’ Las Vegas Episode One”

Serious Eats: “‘Top Chef,’ Season 6: The Premiere

Endless Simmer: Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode 1

Secondly, good news and a promise.

I am painfully aware that this blog has been lately lacking the one thing it’s really supposed to be about.  Cooking.  I know I’ve had a million excuses (end of school, getting married, getting settled, moving…) for why that has been the case.  Lame.  This is supposed to be a blog primarily about my learning to cook healthy and meat free.

Starting this week (aka tomorrow) I am going to start trying out new recipes.  A lot of my cooking lately has been things I know are safe because I’ve already shared them on the blog.  This week’s menu includes several recipes I’ve never tried before.  I will share the results here.  Hopefully that’ll make both reading and writing more interesting.  Plus dinner around here’s getting dull.

My promise to you:

At least 2 new vegetarian recipes a week.  More if I can manage it.

You can hold me to that.

August 22, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Gazpacho is Love

When I was in high school, every time my Spanish class was having a fiesta, I volunteered to make gazpacho.  Looking back, I’m not really sure why that was the case, except that I thought it was “real food” (as in, required more effort than buying chips and salsa) and my Spanish teacher always seemed to get excited when I offered to bring it.  Perhaps I was a bit of a suck up.

Now, what seems like lifetimes (but is more like 8 years) later, I love gazpacho (that’s cold tomato soup, for the uninitated) because it’s fresh, its simple, its refreshing (summer has finally come to the Berkshires!) and it’s vegetarian!  What more could I ask for, really?

If you were to google gazpacho, you end up with a million results and recipes.  But I like to stick with what I know and have been doing for years, as follows:


(serves about 6)

6 tomatoes
1.5 cups tomato juice (aka a 12 oz. can of tomato juice or V8…perfect if you don’t use tomato juice for anything else)
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Tabasco to taste

1. Remove the skin from the tomatoes by putting them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then moving them to cold water.

2.  Chop the tomatoes.

3.  Mix all the ingredients.

4. Chill the soup until ready to eat.  Serve with tortilla chips.

It’s that simple!  4 steps and you’ve got dinner…or, in our case, 3 nights of dinner!

Variation (recommended by my Man):  Puree chopped tomatoes in the food processor before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Plus there’s a world of vegetables that could be added.

In other news, I’m feeling better about all my complaints in Updates and Confessions.  I’ve at least partially met all my goals.  Writing the post made me much more aware of what I was putting into my body, and I’m doing better as a result.  It’s still really difficult to eat what I want to eat and meet the budget I’m trying to, but we haven’t even been married a month yet, so there’s time to work that out.  There’s several blogs I follow that feature inexpensive dinners, but frequently they contain ingredients I don’t, or shouldn’t, eat anymore.  Oh well, one step at a time.  My Man and I also joined our local gym, and I actually made my way there this morning.  It’s good to get back into the workout routine again after abandoning it following graduation.

July 21, 2009 at 11:46 am 2 comments

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