No Croutons Required - The winner and the theme for April's Challenge

The votes are in and the winner of the March edition of No Croutons Required is Helen of Food Stories who made this incredible Smoky, Sweet & Spicy Red Pepper Soup with Feta and Mint. I can't wait to try this one. Congratulations Helen! This is certainly one fine looking soup.

I will be hosting the April edition of No Croutons Required, a monthly vegetarian soup and salad challenge started by Holler of Tinned Tomatoes and myself. The first two themes have centered around soups. In anticipation of Spring, this month we would like participants to submit a soup or a salad or anything in between featuring mushrooms of any variety. Regular readers of our respective blogs will know that Holler and I can never eat enough mushrooms. Though mushrooms are probably the meatiest of vegetarian fare, we do ask that you stick to the vegetarian theme, meaning no meat, poultry or seafood. We are excited to see what everyone will come up with this month and look forward to some new mushroom dishes to grace our tables. Entries are due by April 20th. For a recap of the submission guidelines, please go here.

Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

I've enjoyed blueberry pancakes on many occasions, but the idea of blueberries with vegetables for dinner is a culinary possibility that I've recently only begun to explore. Not too long ago, I made red cabbage with mushrooms and blueberries. The sweet blueberries complimented the earthy flavor of the cabbage to perfection. Yes, this idea works for me.

Fresh blueberries in a simple flavorful balsamic vinaigrette over mixed greens proved to be the ideal accompaniment to my Friday menu of cheese and herb fritters with tomato and balsamic jam and honey lemon seed poppy cake for dessert.

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Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Scones

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Scones

The older I get, the more I prefer savory over sweet. I do enjoy baking up elaborate treats but I really don't need cheesecakes, cookies and pies around on a regular basis to tempt me, nor do I have much time left over after cooking a good meal. Scones and biscuits and muffins are my favored baking outlet. Not only are they fairly foolproof, they don't take much time to whip up and they make a good meal accompaniment as well as a nice snack or light breakfast. I've had this recipe for sun-dried tomato scones in my binder of mean-to-tries for years, but somehow never got around to making it until just recently. This one's a keeper.

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Classic Dal Makhani


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Classic Dal Makhani

Like chana masala and rajma, dal makhani is one of those signature north Indian dishes that one never tires of trying at restaurants or experimenting with in the kitchen. Warm, creamy and wonderfully fragrant and delicious, the essentials always remain the same but every cook has their own favored variations. Part of the gastronomical fun is attempting to top your last effort. For a complete vegetarian meal, serve this creamy Punjabi delicacy with a vegetable side dish and flatbread or grain dish.

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Carrot and Turnip Kinpira

Carrot and Turnip Kinpira

And now for some purity in the kitchen. Simplicity can't get much tastier — or healthier — than this. Kinpira is a Japanese style of coking in which vegetables are sautéed and then simmered with tamari sauce — it's a technique that's perfectly suited to root vegetables, and carrots and turnips are a beautiful and tasty combination for this kind of dish. Lightly seasoned with a bit of sea salt and toasted sesame seeds, sometimes there's nothing more satisfying this carrot and turnip kinpira, and it's been a standby in my kitchen for a long time now.

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Spiced Chickpea Cakes with Red Onion and Cilantro Salad

Delia's Spiced Chickpea Cakes with Red Onion and Coriander Salad

Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection is one of the finest cookbooks on my shelf. This is yet another book that could just as easily serve as a coffee table book, for it contains some of the most beautiful photographs of food I've seen. Surprising, I've had this book for a few years now but I've only just recently started to give it the attention it deserves. Delia presents over 250 recipes of varying complexity for soups and salads, eggs and cheese, starters, pasta, grains and beans, vegetables and baked treats. Although each and every dish is sure to wow your diners, she also includes a section entitled "Food for Friends" should you have the time and inclination to cook up something extra special, such as quattro formaggio pizza, wild mushroom Stroganoff, or perhaps a thick onion tart or savory Feta cheesecake.

I've had my eye on this recipe for spiced chickpea cakes with red onion and cilantro salad for quite some time and after tasting it, I can't believe it took me this long to make. I've modified the recipe slightly to suit my spicy tastes. The texture of these little cakes is much like a baked falafel, although the seasonings are quite different. Delia suggests serving the chickpea cakes with brown rice, and I went one step further and served them alongside mushrooms paprika with brown basmati rice.

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Indian-Style Baked Eggs Florentine


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian-Style Baked Eggs Florentine

Eggs Florentine is one of those breakfast classics that have inspired countless variations upon the simple theme of a cooked egg topped with a savoury sauce and sitting on a small bed of cooked spinach. Well, count me in for another experiment, and I can honestly say that this Easter Sunday breakfast was not just the best Eggs Florentine I've ever had but probably one of the tastiest breakfasts I've ever made. Best of all, it takes very little time to prepare, especially if you make the lightly spiced but beautifully fragrant creamed spinach that forms the Indian-style base of these eggs Florentine the night before. Even so, the spiced creamed spinach takes only 20 minutes to prepare and cook.

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Spiced Creamed Spinach (Malai Sak)


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Spiced Creamed Spinach (Malai Sak)

Spinach is one of the characteristic flavors of North Indian cuisine, and a spiced and creamy spinach dish is often found on tables as an accompaniment to all kinds of meals when in season. This lightly spiced creamed spinach is a modern adaptation of a Delhi-style "malai sak" in which flour and milk is used instead of yogurt to give the sauce a thicker and more pliable consistency, and is delicious served on its own as a vegetable side dish for North Indian meals, or spooned on rice or toast, scooped in a soft flat bread, or used as a filling in dosas. It also makes an incredible base for an Indian-style eggs Florentine.

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Savory Rice and Split Pea Pancakes with Buttery Green Beans and Tomato-Cilantro Sauce


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Savory Rice and Split Pea Pancakes with Buttery Green Beans and Tomato-Cilantro Sauce

Over the past few months, I've been able to try my hand a couple of times at making dosas, the delicately thin and soft but sturdy savory pancakes that are traditional in south Indian kitchens. Made with a lightly seasoned batter of fermented and ground basmati rice and split beans, dosas have a savory fragrance that makes them a delight to munch on by themselves, but they're also versatile enough to roll and dip into all kinds of chutneys or sauces or stuff with almost any kind of filling for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.

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No Croutons Required - Spicy Soups

No Croutons Required

The entries are in and Jac has just hosted the March roundup of No Croutons Required. The theme for this month was spicy soups. Be sure to check out all of the mouthwatering soups and don't forget to vote for your favorite.

I will be hosting the next edition of this vegetarian soup and salad event. The theme will be announced at the beginning of April.

Mushrooms Paprika (Houby Paprikas)


I recently borrowed a new cookbook called World Vegetarian Classics from the library, and after flipping through the extensive collection of over 250 authentic vegetarian dishes I immediately decided to purchase the book without having yet tried any of the recipes. They look just that good! I simply could not resist the beautiful photographs contained within and the insightful descriptions of each region's culinary traditions, complete with a focus on the potentially more obscure and unfamiliar ingredients commonly used. A host shopping around for coffee tables books should take note, especially if they are planning on serving dinner to their guests.

Each recipe presented contains readily obtainable ingredients as the author has taken care to adapt her selections for the modern kitchen. The instructions are straightforward and sure to provide novice cooks with the means to produce first class meals. More experienced chefs will be inspired to add their own special and favored touches to classic international signature dishes.


Characteristically, the first recipe I decided to make shortly after my copy of Celia Brooks Brown's book arrived was focused on mushrooms. Hungarian in origin, this easy and quick-to-prepare dose of hot and tangy paprika and sour cream mushroom bliss would be perfect served over pasta or any cooked grain. I complemented the earthy mushrooms in this dish with the nutty flavor of brown rice — yum!

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Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)

Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)

This is one version of the wonderfully crispy and spicy fried rice balls and croquettes that I used to love making all the time, but I've been out of the habit for a long time now because I despise wasting several cups of good quality olive oil for deep-frying and I absolutely refuse to use cheaper vegetable oils. But they were always such a tasty treat that I kept returning to the idea when thinking of something to accompany the Italian-style cannellini bean soup with fontina gremolata I had planned for my menu. To overcome my scruples, I came up with a healthier alternative to deep frying and baked the rice balls instead. I was delighted when they turned out just as delicious as I had remembered them, crunchy and brown on the outside and creamy and chewy in the middle.

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Cashew Rice with Diced Potatoes


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Cashew Rice with Diced Potatoes

Although one might not think to serve rice and potatoes together due to their starch content, this recipe for cashew rice with potatoes from Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine may cause you to reconsider that assumption. Ms. Devi says the starch content of the two food is about the same, so combining them really only yields the same amount of starch as a portion of rice. And this dish uses a fresh garam masala made with coconut and dry toasted spices that elevates both ingredients. Top it off with some fried cashews and I'm in side dish heaven.

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My Mom's Classic Butter Tarts

Mom's Classic Butter Tarts

As of today, Lisa's Kitchen is officially one year old! Thank you to all of my regular readers for your encouraging comments and insightful ideas. I've met some special people over the course of the past year due to my blogging efforts, and for that I'll remain forever grateful. I started this site on my Mom's birthday but, sadly, my Mom is no longer here to brighten the days of all those who were fortunate enough to appreciate and enjoy her food, kindness and unconditional love for her family. I'm thankful she at least got a brief glimpse of my efforts here as my mother was one of my earliest culinary influences.

I can't think of a better way to remember my Mom and celebrate one year of cooking from Lisa's Kitchen than by sharing my Mom's best ever butter tart recipe. My Mom was a master of pastry. Her pies and tarts always turned out perfectly. Though she was a good cook and excellent baker, her butter tarts are most fondly remembered by all who tasted them as some of the best they ever had. The filling is gooey but not runny, making it a perfect indulgence to enjoy without a fork. Store-bought varieties of this classic Canadian treat simply pale in comparison.

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Blueberry-Stuffed French Toast with Blueberry-Orange Sauce

Blueberry-Stuffed French Toast with Blueberry-Orange Sauce

Could anything be better than French toast covered with a blueberry sauce? How about French toast stuffed with blueberries and covered with a blueberry sauce? As soon as I saw Chef Tom's blueberry-stuffed French toast with blueberry-orange sauce, I knew I was going to try this.

This is a thoroughly decadent and incredibly delicious breakfast that will cheer anyone up on a cold March weekend morning when spring refuses to come along. I haven't made any real changes to Chef Tom's original recipe except to substitute maple syrup for the sugar. There's no combination of flavors quite like blueberries and maple syrup, and the critical instruction for making this French Toast is to avoid eating the blueberry-maple syrup bread filling before stuffing the bread. With a little luck, you might have a spoonful or two left over after stuffing to put into your mouth!

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Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata

Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata

I owe a debt of gratitude for this soup to Chef Jules, owner of a now sadly defunct food blog called Gourmet A Go-Go. Not only a kind person, Chef Jules is a wonderful chef and shared this wonderfully elegant and creamy cannellini bean soup with a Fontina cheese, lemon and thyme gremolata. I tinkered with some of the ingredients from his original recipe — substituting fresh spinach for carrot, and a handful of dried red chilies instead of half a fresh one to give it a little extra kick. I wouldn't be at all embarrassed to serve this rich, attractive and delicious soup to anyone on any occasion. I dished this up with some arancini for a thoroughly satisfying meal. A purist would strain the puréed soup through a fine sieve, as Chef Jules had suggested, to give it a perfect creaminess, but I suppose I'm not really a purist, and I would hate to have lost those little green flecks of spinach besides.

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Tomato Brown Rice and Corn

Tomato Brown Rice and Corn

Like the way Europeans looked until recently upon the flours used to make brown breads, brown rice is usually regarded as poor-man's food in Asia because it has not been milled. That's a shame because the bran layer that is removed in the milling and polishing process to make white rice is actually the richest part of the grain, containing much of its fiber, essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, and vitamins B1 and B3.

Fortunately brown rice is just as easy to cook with as white varieties, although it must be soaked before cooking and takes longer to absorb water during cooking. It also has a pleasant and slight nutty taste on its own, and is as adaptable to most of the different seasonings and vegetables that we like to use with rice.

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Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Quinoa

I've never met a mushroom I didn't like. Wild, dried or regular button mushrooms are always a welcome addition to my kitchen. I don't tend to last a week without serving a dish focused on these meaty delights. The possibilities are as endless as the creativity of the cook.

For this week's fix, I was tempted to make my stuffed mushrooms with goat cheese again, but I also had a craving for marinated portobellos. I finally decided to combine the idea of stuffed mushrooms and marinated portobellos and came up with this recipe for stuffed marinated portobello mushrooms with quinoa. The additional bonus here is yet another idea for one of the world's most perfect grains.

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Quinoa

Quinoa Stuffed Portobello MushroomsQuinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Recipe by
Published on March 13, 2008

Marinated Portobello mushrooms stuffed with seasoned quinoa and baked with a cheese topping

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Ingredients:
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 8 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion or 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 fresh green chili, seeded and minced
  • 2/3 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • Fontina cheese cut into thin strips (or Gruyère or mozzarella)
Instructions:
  • Rinse the quinoa under cold running water and soak in 2 cups of water overnight.

  • Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, rosemary, a bit of salt and pepper, and half of the garlic. Coat each portobello mushroom with the marinade and leave to sit for at least 30 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, soak the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl of hot water for 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid and cut into tiny pieces. Set aside.

  • In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining garlic, shallots and green chili to the pan. Stir and fry for a few minutes. Add the quinoa along with its soaking liquid, corn, and a bit of salt and pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Let the quinoa sit for five minutes, add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the pan, and fluff with a fork.

  • Stuff each mushroom with some of the quinoa and place on a baking sheet. Top each stuffed mushroom with strips of cheese. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the mushrooms under the broiler for another few minutes to brown the cheese.

Makes 4 to 8 servings
Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Quinoa

Curried Indian Vegetable Soup


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Curried Indian Vegetable Soup

This Indian-style vegetable soup has long been one of my very favorite soups to serve to friends. Accordingly, this is my submission to the second edition of No Croutons Required, a new monthly vegetarian food event co-hosted by Jac and myself. Holler is the host for March and the theme this month is spicy vegetarian soups.

This burst of flavor in a bowl goes well with a variety of ethnic dishes. Take care not to overcook the peas, as they literally pop in your mouth if added at the end of the cooking time. This time around I served the soup with savory rice and urad dal pancakes.

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Greek Feta & Olive Frittata

Greek Feta & Olive Frittata

Frittatas are thick, sturdy Italian omelette pies that can be loaded with any vegetable, herb or cheese according to season or taste, and they're so versatile and easy to make that it's no wonder I've been really getting into them lately for Sunday breakfasts. Filling, nourishing and delicious, I've usually got leftovers for a ridiculously easy reheated breakfast on Monday morning too.

I came up with this meatless Greek-style frittata this past weekend in honor of Peter M, who as a decent and proper Greek will be giving up meat and dairy for a few days or so as part of the Greek Orthodox Lent. I'm not Greek myself, but this frittata was so tasty that it won't be on my account if Peter backslides!

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Red Cabbage with Mushrooms and Blueberries

Red Cabbage with Mushrooms and Blueberries

Combining red cabbage, mushrooms, onions and blueberries in a warm colorful and nourishing salad, this is a classic northern dish using ingredients grown and found in northern climes from Canada to Scandinavia. The sweetness of the blueberries complements the earthy flavor of the cabbage and mushrooms in a way that must be tasted to be appreciated.

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Cornmeal-Crusted Kidney Bean and Black Bean Chili

Cornmeal-Crusted Chili

When I first became a vegetarian, I didn't eat the most balanced and varied meals like I do now. I relied on rice, pasta, cheese, bread and vegetables for the most part. I've since learned the art of vegetarian meal combinations. The first lesson is to always eat a healthy breakfast consisting of eggs and toast or a grain such as oatmeal or spelt along with some fresh fruit. For other meals throughout the day, as a rule of thumb eat plenty of vegetables and take care to balance a legume with a grain component to ensure you get your complete proteins.

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Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf (Gobi Pulau)


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf

The only drawback to making this dish is the effort it takes to resist eating the curried cauliflower before it mingles with the rice. Honestly, you could stop after the first step, but for a satisfying grain and vegetable component to your meal, keep going and serve with a legume dish, such as tender chickpeas in golden karhi sauce. I have found this is a very good choice to serve to dinner guests.

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Mung Bean and Coconut Milk Soup

Mung Bean and Coconut Milk Soup

Collecting recipes is an insatiable habit of mine. Not only do I own a few shelves worth of cookbooks, some of them quite thick, I frequently borrow them from the library and have an ongoing list of books I intend to purchase. I also have two fat binders worth of recipe clippings and photocopies. As I also happen to visit several food sites each day, my inbox has been turned into a cookbook of sorts because I email myself recipes and don't get around to printing them as soon as I should. It doesn't help that my printer is not always willing to cooperate.

This mung bean soup with coconut milk is from Almost Turkish, and was only recently rescued from my inbox. I've made a few minor changes but essentially followed the original recipe. I can honestly say, this is one of the tastiest mung bean soups I have ever eaten. The finely chopped ingredients and addition of a grated carrot make for a delightful creamy, yet chunky bowl of warming soup.

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Mollie Katzen's Winter Frittata

Mollie Katzen's Winter Frittata

The breakfast cook who enjoys feeding people with an unending variety of delicious and wholesome meals to start the day can hardly do better than to have a copy of Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café on her cookbook shelf. Filled with over 350 recipes for everything from eggs, cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, vegetables, fruit and grains in an incredible assortment of methods, dishes and cuisines, I doubt that I will ever get tired of looking through her book for amazing and original breakfast ideas. Apart from the fact that most of the recipes are simple and fast enough for almost any cook to use, the best part of Mollie's breakfast ideas are that almost every one of them is easily adaptable for whatever variations anyone might like to make to suit their own tastes.

Mollie Katzen's Winter Frittata

This "Autumn or Winter Frittata" is filled with the earthy goodness of late-season vegetables, and is easily my favorite Mollie Katzen egg breakfast… or at least until I try the next one! If you can, do as she suggests and use red chard and red onions in addition to red potatoes to give the frittata an inviting ruddy hue. Unfortunately for me, I didn't have any red onions and the red chard at the market had a sickly appearance that made me move on to the traditional green or Swiss chard, but the frittata was just as delicious without the added color.

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Indian-Spiced Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Corn and Dill


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian-Spiced Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Corn and Dill

Despite the number of cookbooks and recipes that I have on hand, I don't go too long without cooking something from my treasured copy of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I've featured several recipes from this book here already at Lisa's Kitchen, and you can be sure that this won't be the last time. Containing over 650 straightforward meatless recipes of varying complexity for soups and salads, legumes, grains, vegetables, eggs and cheese, and sauces and dips from around the world, this book will satisfy any cook looking for ideas to keep their kitchen interesting. If followed exactly, Ms. Jaffrey's recipes will work out perfectly every time, but more experienced and experimental cooks will enjoy the range of possibilities.

My latest choice was this recipe for a soup with earthy black-eyed peas, sweet corn and fresh dill seasoned with Indian spices. It's very easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. All that is needed to complete the meal is a flatbread or rice dish. I served it with cashew rice with diced potatoes.

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Black Olive and Feta Cheese Dinner Muffins

Black Olive and Feta Cheese Dinner Muffins

These savory dinner muffins are easy to prepare but not so easy to resist. If you appreciate the perfect pairing of Feta cheese and olives as much as I do, then this is one recipe you are sure to enjoy. They would be an ideal accompaniment to a Mediterranean soup and salad. The smell of these muffins reminded my friend Basil of being in a foreign city surrounded by unfamiliar yet tantalizing aromas.

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Potato-Tempeh Hash Browns with Salsa

Potato-Tempeh Hash Browns with Salsa

I love ordering hash browns whenever I go out to a diner for breakfast, but I can't help wondering why none of the restaurants I ever go to play around with any other vegetables or seasonings except onions and salt when fried potatoes are such an open canvas for adding all kinds of different flavors and spices. But because they're so easy to make, hash browns are one of the perfect breakfast foods to experiment with at home.

These potato and tempeh hash browns are packed with enough carbohydrates and proteins to make them a high-energy start to a cold winter morning, and if you prepare the other ingredients while the potatoes are boiling they shouldn't take more than half an hour to make. Best of all, the medley of flavors is so indescribably good, you can be sure these hash browns won't last long on anyone's plate.

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No Croutons Required - February 2008 Winner

No Croutons Required

We received so many delicious soups for the first edition of No Croutons Required that it was nearly impossible to crown a winner. Honestly, each and every soup is a winner, so congratulations to all of the participants for coming up with such terrific soups. The voting is now complete and the soup that received the most votes was Johanna's Wanton Dumplings in Ginger Broth.


Congratulations Johanna! You are invited to display this badge on your blog.

No Croutons Required Winner February 2008

The next addition of No Croutons Required will be hosted by Holler of Tinned Tomatoes. The theme for March is Spicy Vegetarian Soups. The spicier the better is my motto and I'm excited to see what everyone will come up with. For a recap of the rules, go here.