Sunday, March 20, 2011

How to make veggies...well...yummy

Boiled veggies.  No thanks.  I hate them.  I prefer roasted, grilled, fried, with sauce or butter.  What are my favourite vegetables?  Butternut Squash, Green Lentils, Mushrooms of all kinds, Brussel Sprouts, Fennel, Cabbage, French Green Beans...those are just a few.  I have never boiled any of them! 

Vegetables usually take longer then your steak and they require a lot more prep work so here are 2 of my favourite vegetable dishes that can be eaten as an entire meal.  These recipes may not be your typical recipe, a handful of this, a dash of that, but I see cooking like this whimsical - as long as you have your basic building blocks - aka your flavour profile - the exact amounts don't really matter in this type of cooking.  Once you have made these two recipes a couple of times, you won't need a recipe, just the basic ingredients and 30 minutes!

Lentils: Lentils contain high levels of proteins  In addition to containing high levels of proteins, lentils also contain fibre, Vitamin B1 and minerals. For the vegetarian, lentils should be mixed with grains, such as rice to obtain that complete protein.

Green Lentils with Bacon (as a side dish - great with steak, chicken, fish etc.)

1 handful per person of French Green Lentils
Chicken Stock, Venison Stock, Beef Stock, veggie stock (pair the stock with your protein)
1/4 to 1/2 cup White wine (if using chicken or veggie stock) or Beer (if using Beef or Venison Stock) or Port Wine (if using Venison Stock)
Finely chopped shallots
4 slices of bacon
Caraway Seed or your favourite spice (suggestions: fennel seed, star anise, clove, cayenne etc.)
Dried Thyme or 4 leaves of fresh sage
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil or butter

Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and add oil or butter.  Add your chosen spice (Caraway Seed) and the dried thyme or sage.  Cook out the oils in the herb and spice and add shallots.  Cook shallots on medium heat until translucent.  Add the lentils and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Add the wine or your chosen booze and cover rest of the lentils with stock.  Turn up heat to high and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, stir a couple of times.  If liquid evaporates, add more stock of booze.  After 15 minutes add a tad more liquid of choice and cover with lid and cook a further 15 minutes, checking often to make sure there is some liquid in the pot, if it has gone dry, add a bit more stock.

In the meantime, cut bacon into small bits, and cook until crispy, drain off grease.

The lentils should be al dente, not mushy.  If not cooked to al dente, remove lid, add more liquid if required and cook for another 5 minutes.  Serve with bacon!

Risotto: My other favourite side dish and usually a meal unto itself is Risotto!  Risotto isn't scary and it isn't hard to make, it just takes practice, just like all cooking techniques - this technique can also be used to make the lentil recipe above.  Risotto should be creamy without having to add heavy cream!  It's the process of stirring the rice with the broth to develop the starch in the rice to produce that creamy texture, it's lower in fat then most people think!  You do have to use Arborio Rice or else you won't get the starch, please don't use anything else - you will only be disappointed.  Remember, vegetable dishes take patience.

Mushroom Risotto

2-4 kinds favourite mushrooms, cut in slices
1 handful per person of Arborio Rice
2 shallots finely diced
Dried or Fresh thyme  (if using fresh thyme - use 2-3 whole sprigs - dried is more potent than fresh)
Olive Oil
Chicken Stock
White Wine or Pale Ale Beer
Nob of Butter
1 clove of garlic - chopped
Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste


Cook the mushrooms in butter, dried thyme and some stock until soft, set aside.

Heat stock in sauce pot to a simmer and keep warm.  Heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Add shallots trying not to brown them and then add dried thyme and garlic.   Cook for about 1 minute on medium.  Add your rice and cook another minute.  Add wine or beer and cook until the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  You may have to adjust your heat to keep the pan not too hot, the liquid should just be at a simmer.  Then continue to add your heated stock a little at a time (about 1/2 to 1 cup at a time) and stir, i(t's not necessary to stir the entire time but you do have to stir quite a bit), until the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  Continue until rice reaches al dente - this will take about 30 minutes.  Add the cooked mushrooms and a bit more stock, by now the Risotto should have a creamy look to it, but not like whipped cream creamy, a starchy creamy.  Add a nob of butter and the desired amount of cheese.  Serve immediately.  

Any leftovers can be reheated but will not be as creamy but will taste just as good!

So there you have 2 recipes that could be a side dish or an entire meal that include veggies and take about 30-40 minutes.  They are both easier than you think! 

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