Category Archives: Vegetarian Dishes

Lima Bean Bruschetta

Luscious Lima Action

This recipe was born of a 100% “oh, crap” moment – I was cooking dinner for myself when I found out that a few good friends were on the way over to share a drink.  My Brazilian/Italian roots are firmly planted in perennial hospitality – if people come over and you’re eating, you absolutely share what you’ve got, small though it may be.  There’s a Brazilian song that says that the more people that come over, the more water you add to your beans to thin them out.  All are welcome.

Lima Bean Bruschetta © Spice or Die

My dinner for one was barely enough to share with 4 hungry ladies, so I found myself rummaging through the freezer and pantry for items to whip into something special.  In a moment of divine inspiration, I threw leftover lima beans, parsley, and lemon into the food processor and blitzed away.  The result, similar to what Cesar Cardini must have felt when he turned lowly anchovies, garlic, eggs and oil into caesar dressing, was majesty.

This recipe is similar to a popular crostini topping that I used to eat all the time in Orvieto – there it was made from fava beans (or broad beans) and drizzled with fruity, golden olive oil.  The lima beans are great because they’re easy to pull out of the freezer in a pinch, and cheaper than fava beans.  That being said, if you see fresh fava beans at the market, grab them and try them as a replacement for the limas – they are so lovely.  I like this bruschetta plain, but for a bit of decadence, you can crumble a bit of ricotta salata over the top for some added salty goodness.  Lowly limas never had it so good.

This recipe is hard to make smooth without a food processor, but you can certainly do it with a mortar and pestle (or a mocajete).  Just make sure to chop your herbs first, and then stage the ingredients in the same order as listed for the food processor in the instructions below.

Lima Bean Bruschetta

10 oz. of frozen lima beans
1 c. of water

1 tbs. of lemon juice, freshly-squeezed
2 tbs. of red wine vinegar
1/3 c. of olive oil
2 – 4 cl. of garlic
4 leaves of basil
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed and stems discarded (save stems for stock)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper

Put the lima beans and water in a pot and cook until tender, about 6-7 minutes.  Drain and rinse with water to cool.

To your food processor, add your garlic, basil, parsley, salt and red pepper.  Pulse until chopped finely.  Add the vinegar, lemon and olive oil.  Pulse until smooth.  Remove to a tupperware and chill.  Serve spread on grilled bread or crackers and drizzled with good olive oil.

Olive Tapenade

Like a Dirty Martini. Extra Dirty. Without the Martini…

Back when I fancied myself a writer and a thinker (ha!), I wanted to write a book on similarities and trends in people’s palettes.  I found that the folks that hated olives also hated coconut, avocados and other lovely things that I couldn’t imagine not eating.  It was like a package deal or something.  While my theories have yet to be tested on a larger scale, I definitely do believe that your palette can be trained to taste and eventually love foods that you may not like right now.

Olive Tapendae © Spice or Die

For me, one of the foods that I’ve come around to over the years are green olives.  I’ve always adored black olives – I was the little kid who put the canned ones on my fingers like a fool, only to eat them off – but absolutely abhorred green olives.  In a moment of revelatory tastetastiness (sure, that’s a word), I had olive tapenade at a local tapas restaurant as an amuse bouche.  The chef served it with plantain chips – a fun spin on chips and salsa.  Needless to say, I was hooked from that moment on. Continue reading Olive Tapenade

Boursin (for Fakers)

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

What’s the deal with the price gouging at the grocery store?  Makes a girl get all huffy and work on a recipe for homemade majesty to save some bucks.

You’ve probably seen/had boursin before, a creamy fresh cheese spiked with herbs and a healthy shot of pepper.  The cheese, created in Normandy, is a delicious treat on crackers and bread, and a perennial party pleaser.  Problem is the stuff runs about $5-6 for a mere 5 oz.  I could warrant spending that much on a fancier cheese, but on something in the aisle next to the Rondele?  Forget it.

My childhood church put out a cookbook back when I was a kiddie, and one of the recipes in there was a Homemade Boursin.  A combination of dried herbs, cream cheese and butter, it was close enough to the original stuff that I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money on the real stuff.

I don’t really know where the original recipe’s gone, but I’ve been making this version for years – a spicier alternative with both white and black pepper and a shot of chopped garlic.  I also make it with half the fat by using Neufchatel and SmartBalance spread in lieu of butter and cream cheese (you can certainly go full fat if you’d like, though).  The whole mess is whipped up in the food processor in mere seconds, and I then get to watch as it’s systematically devoured at parties.  The best kind of recipe of all :)

To my vegan friends, I’ve made this with Tofutti and vegan margarine before and it is absolutely as good as the vegetarian version.  Definitely give it a try – your dairy consuming buddies won’t know the difference.

Boursin (for Fakers)

8 oz. of neufchatel (or other cream cheese), softened
4 tbs. of Smart Balance spread (or butter), softened
1 1/2 tbs. of dried herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon – I just use Herbes de Provence and call it a day)
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tbs. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 cl. of garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients well (or blend in a food processor).  Serve with crusty bread, toasts or crackers.

Sesame Mandarin Salad

Open Sesame!

This salad is inspired by the delicious concoction that my buddy Maureen used to whip up for all of us working at my old job back in the day.  Perfectly tangy, crunchy, and sweet – it was probably the most requested item at our potlucks and parties.  Remind me to beg her for her recipe sometime.

Right around the time I left for NYC, my aunt gave me a copy of the Junior League of Yakima Cookbook, and lo and behold, they had a version of Maureen’s salad.  Their version had a few unusual additions, to include parsley, candied almonds and tabasco.  They also used a lettuce blend as opposed to the traditional iceberg.

Fast forward a bit, and out of sheer necessity and chronic cravings for interesting salad options, I came up with the following “hacked” version of the two recipes.  I ditched the candied almonds, added some splenda, and used a mix of extra crisp lettuces – frisee became the ace in the hole, adding both crunch and texture.  Topping off the whole shebang is a lovely toss of black and white sesame seeds.  The bright mix manages to make me grin just at the sight of it.  A nourishing enough meal on its own, this salad is also a great accompaniment to slices of Crispy Ginger Chicken.

Sesame Mandarin Salad

6 c. of mixed greens (iceberg, romaine, frisee, green leaf, red leaf)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 c. of celery, diced
1 15oz. can of mandarin orange segments, drained
1/3 c. of sliced almonds

1/4 c. of vegetable oil
4 tbs. of rice wine vinegar
2 packets of splenda (or 4 tsp. of sugar)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
1 tsp of white sesame seeds
1 tsp of black sesame seeds

In a large salad bowl, toss the greens, scallions, celery, almonds and oranges.  Set aside.  Mix together in a small bowl the olive oil, rice wine vinegar, splenda, salt and white pepper.  Pour the dressing on the sides of the salad bowl (a Thomas Keller trick to perfectly saturate each green with an even amount of dressing) and toss.  Top the salad with the sesame seeds.  Serve to deserving lovelies.

Thai Chopped Salad with Crisp Noodles and Herbs

Chopper Style

There’s a time and a place for Applebee’s, and that’s when your dead.  Kidding, but seriously, the salads at all these chain restaurants (I’m talking to you too, Chilis and TGIFridays) are a waste of money.  I’m sure that the dressings are prepackaged with all kinds of preservatives, and heaven knows when the produce last left the garden.  It’s a waste of cash as well.  The only thing that they’re doing right is illustrating the point that salads don’t have to be boring.

This particular recipe reminds me of all of my favorite things about a salad – exceedingly crisp, ultra light, and super refreshing.  Matchsticks of carrot, daikon and red bell pepper give an addictive crunch, and the crisp noodles help to soak up the yummy peanut lime dressing.  Cilantro and mint add spice and sweetness, and the dressing gets a kick from a bit of chili and garlic.  It’s all around goodness. Continue reading Thai Chopped Salad with Crisp Noodles and Herbs

String Bean & Heirloom Tomato Salad

Summer, Summer, Summer Time! Oooooooh, Summertime!

Ok, maybe not summer yet, but I do like it when I can get produce to do my bidding at any given season and remind me of the joys of a fruitful harvest from the garden.  This salad, based on one that I fell in love with at the restaurant The Smith, is a bright assortment of crisp and tart, sweet and salty flavors.  It’ll make you want to sit in a hammock and sway on a warm summer night.

The salad calls for heirloom cherry tomatoes, but these little gems can be hard to come by out of season.  As such, get the freshest ripest tomatoes you can find, regardless of size or color.  In the middle of the summer, stores and markets offer what they sometimes call “ugly” tomatoes – these are actually heirlooms that are truly the tastiest tomatoes you can buy.  Bumpy and abnormally shaped on the outside, they are bursting with juicy sweetness, reminding you of the joys of homegrown produce.  My favorites are an heirloom variety that I used to grow back in the day called “Black Krim’s” – they were a sickly dark green on the outside and a gorgeous purple on the inside.  I only gave them to people I liked, even when I had bumper crops of tomatoes hanging from the burdened vines. Continue reading String Bean & Heirloom Tomato Salad

Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Called goi cuon in Vietnamese, these fresh rolls offer a light and refreshing alternative to their oil-laden spring roll cousins.  Although these are traditionally made with steamed shrimp and slivers of roasted pork, I like mine vegan with lots of crunchy veggies and no meat or seafood.  I even spike them with a few shitake mushrooms sauteed in a bit of oil and then cooled – this addition makes the rolls even more filling as a main dish.  Complete the non-meat meal with a tasty dip in some peanut sauce (find a version with no fish sauce) or hoisin sauce.  Welcome to the ultimate in coolness.

You’ll note that there are no amounts in this recipe – fill the rolls to your liking with the veggies of your choosing and dunk away.  It’s your show and you get to cast the characters.  That means you’re cut, bean sprouts! Continue reading Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Fresh Guacamole (and Bean Tostadas)

Let’s Get Smashed

Apparently, NYC feels a need to charge a premium for fresh guacamole goodness.  They buy a mocajete (stone mortar) and a pestle, have some dude wheel a cart of fresh ingredients to your table, and for the tableside prep, charge you a hefty $12 – 15 depending on how fancy the restaurant.  You can make this guacamole for around $5 at home.  All that’s left is to buy some top shelf añejo and make some fresh lime margaritas to seal the deal.

I add a couple of extra ingredients for both taste and presentation – the shallots and tomato add lovely color.  And I use a shallot because it’s small and I can use it all with no leftovers, but you can certainly use a red onion if you have one on hand.  For this recipe, you are the controller of spice – the version below is mild/medium in heat, but you can amp up the spice quotient by using the jalapeno seeds and dicing it as finely as possible.  The cayenne doesn’t add much heat so much as offer a fuller pepper flavor.  This recipe works doubled and tripled, so if you are having a large group over, make plenty. Continue reading Fresh Guacamole (and Bean Tostadas)

Vegan Potstickers

It’s SO Easy Being Green

My family hails from Brazil, a country that prizes meat consumption in all its glory.  And yet, my sister has been a vegetarian (and a vegan when her multiple sclerosis doesn’t give her grief about it) since she was in fourth grade.  Always loving to cook for friends and family (regardless of dietary restrictions), I quickly altered my repertoire to include non-meat alternatives for all of my tried and true recipes.  As time went by, I came across more and more good friends looking for some sweet, non-meat dining (Drew and Briana, especially).  I never felt put out making “two dinners” – it just meant more time in the kitchen.

Two little tips to keep in mind – the green food coloring, aside from aesthetic purposes, is an awesome way to quickly separate between the veggie and meat dumplings on a platter.  No meat eaten by mistake.  I use green food coloring for the dye action, but if you are using frozen spinach at any time, you can save the water from it to dye your dumpling skins.  The other tip is that although I list a slew of veggies for these guys, do experiment and use whatever you’d like.  Try spinach instead of the cress, water chestnuts instead of the bamboo shoots – be creative and use what’s fresh and available.Vegetarian, vegan or no, give these dumplings a whirl.  If you make them at the same time as the chicken or pork versions, not only will you have a veritable dim sum spread in front of you, you’ll be winning the favor of your non-meat eating friends.  And friends are a good thing, I hear 😉 Continue reading Vegan Potstickers