Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tuesday, November 24th

We did this night as a special vegetarian Thanksgiving event, and I was committed to having something a bit out of the ordinary, something that didn’t make me feel bloated at the end of the meal, something that was not all about the Tofurkey. And on all fronts, the meal did not disappoint, and I actually think that I liked it a bit better than I liked the real Thanksgiving a few days later, at least as far as the menu was concerned. Here’s what we made:

Pumpkin Soup—I really think that soup should be part of all Thanksgiving meals. It’s the cold time of the year, the Thanksgiving meal ingredients lend themselves to soup, and it just seems that if Passover has a soup in a leading role, so should Thanksgiving. So that’s the long way of saying that we made a soup, and even though it wasn’t great, I do think soup should be a mainstay. This pumpkin soup was not bad, but was far from great. It was one of those soups that restaurants serve to prepare the palate, not to be remembered, and this one I’ve forgotten already. I’m a big fan of my pumpkin soup done in a Mexican style, and I’ll share that recipe at some point soon, so this one just didn’t stack up. Again, not bad, but only merits a score of 4 bucks.

Veggie Loaf with Mushroom Sauce—for some reason, I tend to make veggie loaves with my Thanksgiving meal to help add some protein to the whole equation, and they’re invariably disappointing. This one was different. It was mostly lentils and was decently seasoned. Only problem is that it didn’t stick together very well so it was more of a veggie pile than a meatloaf. Perhaps blending some of the lentils or throwing a few eggs and flour in would have helped bind it, but the flavor was still nice, and the mushroom sauce had a wonderful taste. The consistency was also off on that—much too watery—but that’s easily adjustable by adding less water or using more arrowroot powder thus turning it into a nice, thick gravy. Anyway, put the two together and you get a score of 5.5 bucks, with potential for significantly more.

Shepherd’s Pie—life lesson to live by from this point forward is if you ever have to choose between a veggie loaf and a veggie Shepherd’s Pie for Thanksgiving, pick the pie. This particular version had a wonderful veggie medley and was topped by nearly perfect mashed potatoes (replete with butter and cream cheese). Let all that get brown and bubbly and you’ve got something really good. I’m torn between a 6.5 and a 7 so I’ll go with the latter since this group did such a nice job of cutting and cooking the vegetables. 7 bucks it is!

Cranberry Tart—this was a new one for me. I always think of cranberries as an accompaniment, not the main dish, and while I love cranberries in their many forms, I was a bit skeptical about a dessert that was all about the cranberries. But I’m a skeptic no more as this was quite good. Now if you’re looking for a really sweet dish at the end of a starch-filled meal to really put you to sleep, this is not the dish for you. This tart, was, well, tart, and quite refreshing in that regard. I had to add some honey over the top to sweeten up a bit, but it had a really nice taste and I would definitely make it again. The crust left something to be desired, and it might be because we were trying to make a vegan and gluten-free version, but that’s easy enough to correct the next time around. As is, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Overall—so not only did I not feel bloated, but I think that we all had a very nice meal. The total score was 22.5 bucks, and there’s room for improvement on top of that for the next time that the meal is cooked. Here are the recipes…

Pumpkin Soup

Adapted from

1½ pounds pumpkin (weighed before trimming)
1 leek, washed, trimmed, and sliced into rings
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 T olive oil
1 Q vegetable stock
½ t salt
1 t pepper
½ - 1 t cayenne pepper
1 T lemon juice
½ c sour cream or crème fraîche, optional

1. Cut the top off the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and strings, peel the shell, and dice the flesh.
2. Sauté the pumpkin, leek, and potatoes in olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and boil the soup for 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
3. Purée the soup and add spices and lemon juice.
4. Ladle into bowls, top with optional sour cream or crème fraîche, and serve.

Serves 6

Veggie Loaf

Adapted from

1 c dry lentils, well rinsed
2½ c water
½ t salt
1 T olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ t pepper
1 t soy sauce, optional
¾ c rolled oats, finely ground
¾ c bread crumbs

1. Place the lentils, water, and salt in saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until water is nearly gone and lentils are very soft, with splitting skins.
2. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and carrot in oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Mix the lentils, onions, carrots, pepper, and optional soy sauce in the large bowl, then mix in the ground oats and bread crumbs.
4. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Serves 6

Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from

3 c vegetable stock
2 T arrowroot powder or flour
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 t dried thyme
1 t salt
black pepper
½ c dry white wine
3 T soy sauce
¼ c nutritional yeast
¼ c soy milk

1. Whisk together vegetable stock and arrowroot powder until dissolved, and set aside.
2. Heat oil, add onions and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Whisk in nutritional yeast until it dissolves, then whisk in soy milk for a minute. Let cool slightly before serving.
3. To make this into a gravy, continue to thicken with flour or arrowroot powder.

Makes 4 Cups

Shepherd's Pie

Adapted from

2 to 2½ c potatoes
2-4 T butter
Milk or cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2½ T olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c onion, minced
1 large tomato, chopped
6 c mixed vegetables, finely chopped. Some possibilities:
- bell peppers
- carrots
- celery
- corn
- green beans
- leeks
- mushrooms
- peas
- spinach
- zucchini
1 c vegetable stock or water
1 t soy sauce
Pepper to taste
Garnish ideas: paprika, minced parsley, sesame seeds

1. Make mashed potatoes by boiling potatoes until tender and mashing while hot along with butter and milk or cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T oil over medium heat, add garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add onion and continue sautéing until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato and cook for two more minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock and vegetables, bring to boil, cover, lower heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add soy sauce and pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Use remaining ½ t oil to grease pie plate. Arrange vegetables in it, then cover with a layer of mashed potatoes. Garnish.
4. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 6

Cranberry Tart

Adapted from

1 batch pie crust dough
7 c fresh cranberries, washed and drained
2¼ c sugar
Zest of one orange, finely grated
Dash cinnamon
Dash salt
1 c flour
5 oz butter

1. Make the pie crust dough, form into slightly flattened ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine cranberries, ¾ c sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Combine flour, remaining 1½ c sugar, and butter in food processor and process until clumpy.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Shape the pie crust dough into a pie pan. Pour cranberries into pie crust so that they form a slight mound in the center. Drop slightly squished handfuls of topping on top.
5. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.
6. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Serves 10-12

Tuesday, November 10th

I’ve been remiss about writing this entry since I’ve been far too busy with my paid work for the last couple of weeks. It’s been nearly three weeks since I enjoyed this meal, and I’ve really wanted to blog about it even though my memory certainly does not get better over time. In any case, here goes my belated review, sadly less lucid and detailed than I would have liked…

November 10th was our Guest Chef Night in this offbeat month of November. My longtime friend, Roxanne Andersen, was at the helm, and she chose to create a mini-version of her 40th birthday party, which was in turn a maxi version of a typical night at Frugal Foodies. The theme for her party and for the night here was international finger foods or sort of like vegetarian tapas, California cuisine style. While at her party we made 7 or 8 dishes, at this Frugal Foodies we only made 4, though all of them were quite involved with the one non-party dish being the biggest hit. Here’s what we made:

Sopes—this dish is relatively new to me, a new twist on the soft taco if you will, and one that I really quite like. What’s nice about them is that they are thicker than tacos but then they’re loaded up with some of the same yummy toppings as my beloved tacos on the streets of Morelia. I’m not a huge fan of cabbage but in this dish it really works in combination with the black beans, queso fresco, and avocados. I think that this was my favorite of the entrée-type dishes and I remember enjoying them the next day as well. I give it a score of 6.5 bucks.

Pakoras—I’m normally a huge fan of pakoras—one of my favorite Indian dishes actually—but these ones fell short for me. Lots of people really liked them—especially with the mint chutney that was included (but is not being reviewed here)—but for me they were way too small. I’m not sure how they’re made as large as they are in the restaurants, but these came out tiny, more like Indian-style tempura—mind you with nearly diced vegetables—instead of the golf ball size treats that I’m used to. Perhaps it was that we didn’t have a deep-fryer like we had at Roxanne’s party, or maybe the batter was too thin but something didn’t work quite right for me. Still, anything battered and deep fried can’t be bad, so it still gets a score of 4.5 bucks, but it could have been so much more.

Summer Rolls with Citrus Vinaigrette—this was another dish that didn’t come together quite as well on this night as it did at the party. The thing about spring rolls is that they have to really be rolled well—that is to say, tightly—in order to hold together for the first bite, and then for subsequent bites. And that’s a function of what’s in them and how carefully they’re rolled. These were not rolled perfectly so they tended to fall apart, making them hard to dip in the sauce. Furthermore, I didn’t love the innards nor the dipping sauce. I much prefer a peanut sauce to a citrus sauce. Again, not bad on the whole, just not what they could have been, so I also give them a score of 4.5 bucks.

Apple-Quince Turnovers—this was the new recipe on the scene and it was fantabulous! The dough, the filling were pretty much perfect. You’ll see in the recipe below that the dough was made with butter and cream cheese, two of my more favorite ingredients for life, and it wasn’t too sweet. Flaky, moist, creamy, buttery, really outstanding. I think that the only thing that kept this dish from getting a perfect score was that for me the dough was rolled a bit too large and so the turnovers felt a little empty or too flat or just too something for them to be perfect. But still, I can’t give them anything less than a score of 7.5 bucks.

Overall—so that means that this meal gets an overall score of 23 bucks, lots more than the masses paid to enjoy it. That’s called “Return on Investment”, something that I strive to offer each and every week at Frugal Foodies. Now for the recipes…


Adapted from the Guest Chef Night of Roxanne Andersen

6 cups masa harina
3 cans refried black beans
1 lb queso fresco or goat cheese, feta, or Monterey Jack cheese
Green cabbage, ¼ head, very finely sliced
6 avocados, very thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves plucked from stems
6 tomatoes, finely diced
6 limes

1. Follow directions on package to mix together 6 cups masa harina.
2. Roll masa into balls about 1 ¼ in diameter. Keep balls covered so they are moist.
3. Place a ball on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Pat down with your hands while rotating the dough until it is about ¼ in thick.
4. Heat a large griddle on medium heat, and lightly oil it. Cook in batches of about 6-8 on the griddle. Cook first side for about 2 minutes until the bottom has light brown speckles and then turn them over and cook the other side for another 2 minutes. Remove from the griddle and carefully pinch the edges to form a ridge. Return to the griddle and cook until firm throughout, about 2 more minutes. You now have your sopes ready to be topped with whatever you want.
5. While the sopes are being made, heat the refried beans and prepare all the vegetables.
6. Once the sopes are ready, spread the refried beans on first and then layer with the other toppings, just a little of each. Then slice open the limes and sprinkle a little lime juice on each one.

Makes 30-40


Adapted from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking

2 2/3 cups chickpea flour
4 t melted ghee or vegetable oil
2 T lemon juice
½ t cayenne pepper
1 t turmeric
2 t garam masala or 1/2 t each cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and cloves
4 t ground coriander
2-3 t salt
1 cup plus 2 T cold water, or as needed
2/3 t baking powder, optional
Vegetable or vegetables from list below:
• Underripe banana, cut into rounds 1/3 in (1 cm) thick
• Cauliflower flowerets, 1 inch by 1.2 inch
• Yam, peeled and cut into rounds 1/8 inch thick
• Bell peppers, red and yellow, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick, seeded and ribbed
• Zucchini, cut on the diagonal ¼ inch thick
• Spinach, medium-sized leaves, stemmed, washed and dried
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Combine the flour, melted ghee or oil, lemon juice, spices and salt in a bowl and mix well. Add ½ cup plus 2 T of water slowly, beating with a whisk until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Slowly add 6 T more water to beat until well mixed. Check the consistency and if necessary slowly add remaining water until the batter resembles the consistency of heavy cream and easily coats a wooden spoon. Cover batter and set aside for 10-15 minutes
2. Prep all the vegetables.
3. Beat the batter again for 2-3 minutes to further lighten. Stir in the baking powder at this point if you prefer a cake-like crust.
4. Heat 2 ½ - 3 inches of oil in a wok or deep frying pan until the temperature reaches 355 degrees. Dip 5-10 of your selected ingredients in the batter and, one at a time, carefully slip them into the hot oil. The temperature will fall but should be maintained at between 345-355 degrees. Fry until the pakoras are golden brown, turning to brown evenly. Leafy greens may take as little as 1 or 2 minutes per side, while potatoes may take up to 5 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
5. Serve immediately, or keep warm, uncovered, in a preheated 250 degree oven until all the pakoras are fried.

Makes 50 – 70 pieces

Summer Rolls with Citrus Vinaigrette

Adapted from The Millennium Cookbook

Roll Ingredients
24 rice paper sheets (extra good for mistakes)
2 red onions, cut crosswise into thin slices
2 carrots, shredded
2 fennel bulbs, cut crosswise into thin slices
8 cups shredded red cabbage (1 small head)
6 T rice vinegar
2 T umeboshi vinegar or tamari soy sauce
4 T minced fresh cilantro
6 T finely shredded mint leaves
6 T finely shredded Thai basil or sweet basil leaves
2 mangos, cut into ¼ inch slices
6 T unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Citrus Vinaigrette Ingredients
1 cup water
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 T sugar
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup champagne or rice vinegar
3 T tamari soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 T minced fresh mint
2 T minced red bell pepper (optional)
1 t grated fresh ginger
Salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the onion, carrot, fennel, and cabbage with the rice and umeboshi (or soy sauce) vinegars. Let sit for 15 minutes, or until the cabbage softens. Stir in the cilantro, mint, and basil.
2. The Citrus Vinaigrette is served as a dipping sauce. Whisk together water, fresh lemon juice and sugar until well blended. Add orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, minced fresh mint, minced red pepper, ginger, salt and pepper. Whisk until well mixed.
3. Fill a shallow bowl or pie pan with warm water and taking one wrapper at a time, immerse in the water just until pliable. Remove quickly and lay on a work surface. Place 2 T of the cabbage filling in the center. Top with a few slices of mango and chopped peanuts. Fold and roll up like a burrito. Repeat.

Makes 24 rolls

Apple-Quince Turnovers

Adapted from Everyday Greens

Dough Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups fine cornmeal
6 T sugar
1 t salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 lb natural cream cheese

Filling Ingredients
2 T unsalted butter
1 cup plus ¾ cup sugar
1 t fresh lemon juice
4 large granny smith apples peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes, about 3 cups
2 cups unfiltered apple juice
1 cup water
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
4 large quince
5 T tapioca starch
2 egg yolks
4 T milk
1 T ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set the oven rack to the middle position.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and cut in the butter until the pieces are pea-size. Add the cream cheese and work until just combined, being careful not to overmix. There will still be white streaks of cream cheese striating the dough. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes
3. Melt the butter in a pan, add 4 T sugar, the salt and lemon juice, cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and bubbling, 2-3 minutes. Add the apples and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and set aside to cool.
4. Combine the apple juice, water, cinnamon stick, and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the quince, and simmer until tender, 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool.
5. Drain the quince, add the apples, and toss the fruit with the tapioca starch and the remaining sugar.
6. Whisk together the egg yolks and milk as a pastry egg wash. Mix the cinnamon and 1 cup sugar as a sprinkle for the top
7. Lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface. Roll the dough into 8 inch rounds about ¼ inch thick. Place 1/3 cup of the fruit in the center of the round and brush the edge with the egg wash. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon. Seal and crimp the edges with the back of a fork. Brush the turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.
8. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Makes 16 turnovers