Category Archives: chefs/cookbook authors

Feeling like Carmella Soprano: Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

I was first introduced to ziti while watching The Sopranos.

In Season Two Carmella brings an aluminum pan of baked ziti to her daughter Meadow’s dorm room.  I wondered, what in the world is ziti.  I had never heard of it and I recalled that the dish had been mentioned a few times in Season One.  At first I thought it was an Italian dish, which it is, but I found out the name of the dish is based on the pasta shape.  As you all know, something not uncommon in Italian Cuisine.

EPC and I always eat whole wheat pasta, so I was delighted when I went to the Italian grocery store last month and found whole wheat ziti (they had whole wheat orzo and cavatappi too!).  I knew that my fabulous Jack Bishop Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook had a recipe for Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, so I decided to pick up a few boxes of ziti and give it a try.

It is had to believe how the shape of pasta can affect the way tastes.  For example, I really dislike whole wheat penne, but quite enjoyed the ziti, and cavatappi is my favourite pasta of all time.  Perhaps it not just texture and shape that affects the taste, but also the appearance.

Regardless what it is about pasta and its shapes, EPC and I enjoy pasta in its various forms about once a week.  This particular dish is a keeper and the quick tomato basil sauce of Bishop’s is a nice departure from canned or bottled sauces.

Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, minced
250 grams of mozzarella cheese, grated
4 cups (450 g) of uncooked whole wheat ziti
1/4 cup of parmesan, freshly grated
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Set large pot of water on high heat.
  • Then start the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and pepper to taste
  • Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let stand until pasta is ready.
  • Oil a 9X13 glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°C
  • When the water is boiling cook the ziti 2 minutes less than suggested.  It will complete cooking in the oven.
  • Stir the ziti into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir to coat
  • Pour half the sauce and pasta mixture into the baking dish.
  • Top with half the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Add the remaining pasta and  top with the rest of the cheeses.
  • Bake until the cheese browns – about 20 minutes.

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Tag-team Sunday night supper: Sage Focaccia and Fire-Roasted Black Bean Soup

I usually end up making dinner on Sunday evening because EPC likes to relax in the late afternoon before he heads off to his Sunday evening yoga class.  But this week he decided to make his favourite black bean soup recipe from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian.

In response I chose to make whole wheat sage focaccia from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. I had a lot of luck with his whole wheat pizza crust and figured it couldn’t hurt to give his foacaccia bread a try. Afterall, the flecks of fresh sage in the bread would make a great accompaniment to  my husband’s soup.

As always, the soup was delicious.  This was the first time he had tried it with canned fire roasted tomatoes and it did make a difference.

I remember the first time he made this soup - before we had an immersion hand blender – what a mess.  Scooping soup by the cupful into our blender was not the easiest way to blend up the soup, and we lost a considerable amount on the floor.  It certainly made my husband an advocate of our latest kitchen appliance.  If you  like to make soups I really recommend picking up an immersion blender (we got ours at Superstore for about $30.00).  I find even if the soup does not call for pureeing, blending a small amount of the soup gives it a nice thick consistency.

In addition to that first  messy batch of soup,  we followed the recipe by adding the 2-3 jalapenos and the 3 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder it called for.  This made the soup almost inedible!  We now use only one jalapeno and 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder.

Since winter has practically arrived in Edmonton (one night last week it went down to -5°C!) I did not mind spending the majority of the afternoon indoors as I waiting for the bread to go through two long rises (1 1/2 to 2 hours each).  It was worth it.  I had never made focaccia before and I am really glad that I did.  Next time I will bake it on a sheet of parchment paper.  Well-oiled or not,  I had a difficult time prying the bread off the pan.  The edges cracked a little and I lost some of the bottom to the pan, but what it lacked in presentation it made up for in taste.

I also found the bread cooked quicker than the 20-25 minutes recommended, so make sure you take a peak in the oven after 15 minutes.

I think I will use the leftover focaccia to serve as a bun for the veggie burgers I am going to make tomorrow night.  So stay tuned!

Sage Focaccia Bread

1 1/3 cups of warm water
2 teaspoon of active dry yeast (I used bread machine yeast and it worked fine)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 scant cups of whole wheat bread flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage leaves and about 20-25 whole sage leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

  • Combine water, yeast, and oil in a large bowl.
  • Add the flour, salt and sage and stir to mix with a wooden spoon.  Stir until the dough comes together (it will  come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball)
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes)
  • Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  In a warm place let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I found 1 1/2 hours was sufficient).
  • Oil the bottom a cookie sheet with at least 1 inch deep sides ( I recommend parchment paper instead of oil).  The pan should be about 15 by 10 inches.  Flatten the dough into the pan, spray the top of the dough lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough rise a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough has almost doubled in size (I waited almost 2 hours).
  • Preheat the oven to 425°C.  Before placing the dough in the oven use your finger to dimple the dough at 2 inch intervals.  Place a fresh sage leaf in each dimple, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt.
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes until golden  brown and remove from the pan to cool.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature

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Toni Fiore’s Black Bean Soup recipe can be found here.  EPC only adds 1 -2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder and 1 jalapeno.  The soup is too spicy otherwise.

Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew with Peanut Sauce

If you have been reading my posts for a while you know that EPC has a lot of favourite meals and generally loves the recipes I post here.  In fact, the meal often has to pass the “husband taste test” before it is deemed blog-worthy.

I have been making Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew for a couple of years and it has certainly become top on EPC’s list.  It is high up on my list too, because it is easy to make and is delicious and satisfying served over brown rice

I am feeling far too relaxed today to do much writing today, so I will keep it short and leave you with this wonderful recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.

Happy cooking and have a good week.

Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew with Peanut Sauce

2 cans of  red kidney beans, rinsed well and drained
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 medium onion,  finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green pepper, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 398 ml can of tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 generous tablespoons peanut butter
1/3-2/3 teaspoon of salt to taste

  • Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and green pepper and saute until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the cumin and stir to coat the onion mixture
  • Add the tomato sauce, cayenne, lemon juice and 1/2 cup water
  • Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Remove about 1/2 cup of liquid from the pot and reserve. Add the peanut butter to the reserved liquid and stir to mix. Return to the pot.
  • Add the kidney beans and cook until heated through – about 10 minutes.

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Another winner by Jack Bishop: Tempeh, Spinach and Onion Quesadillas topped with Avocado Chipotle Salsa

I managed to squeeze one last recipe out of Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen before I had to return it to the library.

Once again, the recipe turned out to be delicious. I think my husband might be starting to like Jack Bishop as much as he likes Peter Berley and Lorna Sass (maybe not as much as Lorna Sass – I think she is his favourite cookbook author of all time).

The successes I have had with Jack Bishop‘s recipes have led me to conclude that I will be ordering a copy of this cookbook and his Italian vegetarian cookbook in the not too distant future.  I always (except in very rare occasions) order new cookbooks online. It is considerably cheaper and you are not limited by the often meager bookstore selection.

For any of you that wish to take an in-depth look at Bishop’s interpretation of Italian vegetarian cuisine, a limited preview of this cookbook is available at Google Books.

Guess what!  When I was looking up the link for the book preview I noticed that A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen is featured there as well.

How exciting is that!

Google Books and the local library are two great resources for test-driving cookbooks.  After all, cookbooks are quite expensive and do take up a bit of room, so it is important that they fit the bill and provide interesting and inspiring dishes for you to cook (and eat).

Well, I won’t be cooking too much over the next 10 days.  We are taking some deserved summer holidays.

Until then…

Tempeh, Spinach and Onion Quesadillas with Avocado Chipotle Salsa

1 medium ripe avocado, cubed
1 tablespoon of cilantro, chopped
1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce minced, with 1 teaspoon of juice (these are available canned in the Mexican aisle at the grocery store)
2 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
Salt

1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 8 oz package of tempeh, lightly steamed or sautéed until heated through ( I use Green Cuisine smoked tempeh)
2 cups of spinach, packed
4 flour tortillas
Monterey Jack cheese, grated (enough to please)

First, the salsa:

  • In a small bowl combine avocado, cilantro, chipotle chiles and sauce, lime juice and salt.
  • Stir to combine.

Next, the quesadillas:

  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
  • Add the onions and cook until lightly browned (this will take about 15 minutes)
  • Add the cumin and stir.
  • In the last few minutes of cooking add the tempeh cubes and stir to coat with onions
  • Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
  • Lay 1 tortilla in a large skillet and top with cheese, add a thin layer of the tempeh spinach mixture and top with more cheese.
  • Top with a tortilla and cook on medium heat until brown.  Flip, and repeat on the second side.
  • Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Slice each quesadilla into quarters and top with salsa.

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