Category Archives: Vegetarian

Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkin

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What an amazing time of year in the North American food calendar. The summer harvest has wound down but the fall harvest is still in full swing. The food is as good as it gets. This dish is supremely seasonal and perfect to tote along for a Friendsgiving potluck dinner. The herbs and lentils give it a savory and meaty flavor that can satisfy even your most enthusiastic carnivores.

Want it with meat? No problem. Just brown and add italian sausage and half the amount of fennel seed.

Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkin

Serves 4-8 Prep Time 60 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pumpkins (Late in the season it’s easier to find the smaller ones for pie. If you make this in October you have the pick of the litter and can make it with some really big jack o lantern style pumpkins.)
  • 1 cup of brown or wild rice
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 cup of corn kernels
  • One leek or large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups of chicken stock/broth
  • ground sage
  • fennel seeds
  • dried thyme
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • olive oil

Method

Preheat to 375f / 190c

Slice off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the guts. Set the seeds aside for roasting later.

Salt and pepper, then put the top back on the pumpkin, and place in the heated oven with a 30 minute timer set.

Get working on the rice, follow instructions based on which grain you use. Brown rice is just fine but the wild rice gives it a more distinct flavor and look.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, saute your sliced leek with olive oil, salt and pepper. Keep the heat on medium / medium low if using a leek. They’re more sensitive to the high heat than a regular onion. Once it’s melted down a bit add chopped garlic, the chicken stock and the lentils. Salt and pepper again, add a layer of sage, thyme and fennel seeds and cover. Simmer the lentils 20-30 minutes to soften.

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Check on the pumpkins. You want the flesh to be soft inside but not quite separating from the skin yet. Poke with a fork, if it yields it’s done. Take out of the oven and set aside.

Once the rice is finished and the lentils are cooked, combine the two and mix in the grated parmesan. You really can’t add too much cheese. I put down a cup as a guide but the point is to add the cheese until the mixture is saturated. Taste throughout, the herbs and fennel seed should give the stuffing the flavor of sausage. If it’s bland add more cheese or salt. Not savory enough? Add more herbs. Feeling fancy? Toss in a thick pat of butter. It’s the holidays! Live a little!

Stuff the pumpkins with the mixture and cover the top with a layer of parmesan. Place back in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

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Serve with a large spoon for scooping or slice the pumpkin into wedges for plating.

This will keep warm for a long time. You can prep it at home, wrap it in foil and a towel and bring it to your party.

Email me pictures at mancookgood@gmail.com or mention me on instagram @mancookgood.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

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Chard and Chickpeas in Lemon Garlic Sauce

Chard and Chickpeas in Lemon Garlic Sauce

Inspiration struck at dinner the other night, my wife and I were celebrating her return from a trip to the east coast and opted for some pasta. She allows us a carb waiver from time to time and this particular night we really went after it, having bread and house made pasta at an excellent restaurant in Culver City, CA called Bucato. Their ever changing menu featured a dish that was essentially just chard and garbanzo beans with a lemon butter sauce. It’s simplicity was striking and richness of flavor impressive enough for me to tackle the concept at home, albeit with substantially less butter and salt I’m sure. Do not be intimidated by the use of the word “sauce”. It is merely a mix of liquids naturally present in the cook and heated until it reduces a bit. Nothing major here! This is a great way to take advantage of the flood of in season greens that is soon to be upon us. Try it! Substitute chard for spinach or kale if more handy. Add a splash of white wine to the sauce if you’d like, don’t forget to splash some in your glass too!

Chard and Chickpeas in a Lemon Garlic Sauce

This plus some broth is all it takes

This plus some broth is all it takes

4 Servings, 20-30 minutes

  • 8-10 full leafs of chard, rinsed and chopped down.
  • 1 large shallot (diced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (1/2 of one of those standard sized boxes)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans (rinsed)
  • 6-8 halved cherry or grape tomatoes (or one medium sized tomato chopped)
  • 1 handful of chopped walnuts

Rinse and dry your greens, chop them into chunks and put in a bowl. Set aside. Juice the two lemons and remove the seeds.

Take a large skillet, put it on medium and toast your walnuts. A few minutes on the heat, give them a stir and a shake, a few more minutes. Set aside and wipe out the pan with a wad of paper towels. (Careful, hot!)

Dice up your shallots, garlic and chop the tomato. Pour olive oil into the skillet and let heat up a few minutes on medium high. If you really want to get this to a restaurant type flavor profile use butter and olive oil. Butter is amazing. It’s also kind of bad for us. Olive oil only tonight. Add the shallots to the heat and let them bloom. Smells good… that’ll get your neighbors attention. Salt and pepper it.

make the neighbors jealous!

make the neighbors jealous!

Once they are starting to soften, add the garlic and tomatoes. Pour in a splash of the chicken stock and let it reach a boil. After a few minutes of this add the rinsed garbanzos and stir. Add more broth in batches, a little at a time. Give the beans 5 minutes on medium high heat and add the green chard. Pour in half the lemon juice, stir and cover. Taste as you go, have a spoon nearby dedicated to the purpose.

We're about halfway there

We’re about halfway there

The chard will reduce pretty quickly. After 5 minutes covered, stir it up, add more broth and keep the cover off.  At this point it’s almost come together. Add the rest of the lemon juice and pour in any remaining broth. Turn the heat up to high and let the water content steam off. The liquid will become a sauce right before your eyes. Add salt and pepper to taste, you want the liquid to be rich in the flavors of the lemon, garlic and chard.

Take off the heat. Serve over pasta, rice or chicken. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts over the mixture. We ate ours spooned over quinoa with sliced chicken breast on the side. A delicious and simple splash of seasonal gourmet… at home… in under a half an hour.

***Chickpeas? Garbanzo beans?? What’s the difference? (There is none!)***

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Minty Mango Salsa

mango salsa

Homemade salsa is one of those things that may seem intimidating but is really quite simple. I made this salsa to accompany a Spicy Shrimp Pretzel Roll sandwich but you can use it for almost anything. The base principles behind it can be adapted in countless ways and is a great example of one of my core philosophies of home cooking. Mango is in season right now so it’s cheap and extra delicious. The sweetness adds a nice contrast to spice and heat.

Minty Mango Salsa

4-6 servings. Takes 10-20 minutes

  • 1 Mango
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 2 limes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Start by breaking down your ripe mango. Here’s a great video tutorial if you don’t get a lot of practice. They can be kind of tricky, especially if you don’t get your first cut right.

Chop up your cucumber into similar sized chunks as your mango. Ribbon the green onions, about half of the bunch. Do the same with the mint leaves. 

minty fresh

Use as much jalapeno as you desire. The fresh ones can vary in heat and everyone has a different tolerance. The more seeds you put in the more spice there will be.

Combine everything in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of both limes over the mix and add a dash of oil. Two big pinches of sea salt and a few cranks on a pepper mill. 

mango salsa pre mix

Stir it up. If you want to get fancy you can toss it in a blender and pulse it a few times.

Before you serve, have a taste or two. You’re trying to balance the water content of the cucumber with lime and salt, so if it’s a little bland or watery add a little of each until you can taste mango, acid and salt equally.

Refrigerate until service.

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Minestrone Soup in Under an Hour

Minestrone Soup

Oh Minestrone… How I love thee. It, like so many food memories, takes me back to childhood, to memories that are so old and faded that they’re best described by colors. A whiff of a maturing minestrone soup on the stovetop will transport me to a time when chairs were something I had to climb to sit on. It’s bright and savory, steeped in herbs and hearty with cannellini beans and pasta.

I spent a few days last week working with a fellow food lover. We spent hours talking about this spot and that, our favorite dishes and preparations. We swapped tips and techniques and sat down to two exceptional working lunches. At one point minestrone came up (he uses swiss chard, brilliant) and it got it stuck in my craw, the craving sat in the top of my stomach from the moment it was breached. By hour 40 I had broken. It had to be done.

Ingredients for Minestrone Minestrone Soup

Serves 6-8
45-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 small yellow summer squash
  • 1 small zucchini squash
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 6 cups of chicken/ vegetable broth
  • 2-4 cups of uncooked baby spinach
  • A handful of fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup of a small pasta shells
  • A hard italian cheese… Parmesan, Romano… (or, if you’re feeling classy, Pecorino)
  • 1 Baguette

Dried herbs

  • Marjoram (oregano works too)
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper

Preparation

Get everything out and organized. Set up a slop bowl for peels and ends, it keeps you from running back and forth to the trash.

Splash some olive in a pot on medium, break down your onions, carrots and celery into small bits. Salt & pepper, 2 layers of thyme, 1 layer of marjoram(or oregano) and a dash or two of basil and sage.  Stir the mix and put the burner on medium high.

Get to work on those green beans. I’ve never really figured out a perfect method with beans. I just snap off the stalk end with my fingers and work my way through the pile. Snap, next. Snap, next… Then I try to bundle them all like matchsticks and cut them into 1 inch pieces.

Slice the garlic, toss it in.

Quarter your zucchini and summer squash and chop it down. Into the pot it goes. More salt and pepper. Stir.
Add the tomato. Rinse the beans good if they’re out of a can and put them in. Salt, pepper, another coating of herbs. Bay leaves. Stir.

Note the order I did that in. Onions first, almost always. Everything else goes in order of vegetable firmness. Garlic usually in the middle, you don’t want it to burn and get bitter.

Mama Mia!

Mama Mia!

Give this a few minutes. Absentminded? OCD? Set a timer for 4 minutes and twenty three seconds.

Pour in your 6 cups of broth and stir. Turn heat to high and cover.

Do you have any old Parmesan rinds kicking around? Got a great tip this week, save your rinds in the freezer. Pull them out for jobs like this. I happen to have one in the fridge. Toss that in the soup.

Bring to a boil. This is where I clean up my mess. A clean kitchen is a happy cook! Working quickly I had enough time to clean up all the dishes I had just used and wipe down the counters.

Once the soup is boiling give it another stir and turn the heat down to medium high. At this point you can do it a few different ways. If it’s the weekend and you feel like torturing your friends and family, turn down the heat and take your time. Let the smell whip the guests into a frenzy. (A trick I learned from my mother) They’ll be knocking each other over by the time you’re ready to serve. If you’re in a hurry like me, keep whipping that soup into a boil. Ze flavors must marinate! Ze broth must reduce! Work soup work! 

A boiling soup is a reducing and thickening broth. You need some of that to concentrate the flavors but you don’t want it too thick. I like my soups with a lot of broth so I keep the cover on for most of the cook, pulling the lid off at the end for a mad dash 5 minute reduction. It’s a balance. You can always thicken more with uncovered heat. Thinning the broth is a little more complex and I try to avoid it.

Boil some water for your pasta and get that going. Follow the instructions on the box for timing. Drain the water and set your pasta aside.

Why do this? Extra steps and extra dishes? Not usually our style here in the mancookgood kitchen.

I do it because I don’t want to leave the pasta in the soup for leftovers. Same goes with rice. It continues to absorb the liquid and by day two or three my beautiful broth is a solid block of bloated pasta. It’s like a parasite sent to drink up all that goodness. Like Uncle Jack, it never stops drinking.Not today Mr. Cavatelli. Not today.

By this point your soup should be beginning it’s descent into flavorland. Drinking a glass of wine? Red? I was. Splash some in at any point.

Slice your bread and get it ready. (Toasted? I did) I like to put it in the toaster oven pre buttered. It makes for a soft interior and crispy edges. Who doesn’t like crispy edges? Bring them to me.

Add the spinach. Yes, all of it. It reduces, trust me. Stir it in as it shrinks.

Taste the soup. It should almost be there. Check the carrots, make sure they’re soft. Turn up the heat and take off the lid. Please put your tray tables up and in an upright position, the pilot has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. 5 more minutes of an uncovered boil, taste it again. Hot!

Here’s the most important part.

Spoon the soup and some cooked pasta into a bowl and grate your cheese over it. This is nearly non negotiable. Lactose intolerant? How bad? Grate the cheese and take a pill or something.

Sprinkle some chili flakes and a spot of pesto if you have it hanging around. Serve with the bread and a smile. Make the soup. Win the day.

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Swiss Chard with Lentils and Toasted Almonds

I remember the day my wife (then girlfriend) told me she wanted to stop eating meat.

I was devastated.

She was never much of a meat eater but always ate what I cooked. In those days my food was pretty standard fare. Meat. Vegetable. Starch. The occasional meatless dish usually featured pasta, and even then hopefully a sausage link or meatball or two on the side.

So I mourned. Not only for the ease of ordering and restaurant selection but for the style of cooking I had begun to develop. What would I cook? Did I now have to make two versions of everything? What about the meeeeattttt?

Now years later I (again) have my wife to thank for another transformation. These days I cook meatless more than not. I’m not talking about tofu flavored sprouts or factory made “chik’n”. I hate that stuff. I’m talking about hearty, delicious entrees that fill you up and don’t leave you lacking.

When cooking vegetarian the key is to work protein in as much as possible. This dish, with lentils, swiss chard, almonds and feta is loaded with protein and vitamins. The use of oregano, sage and fennel seeds give the lentils a very meaty flavor. Don’t feel up to a vegetarian dish tonight? Brown some sausage and add it to the mixture at the end.

Super foods unite!

Super foods unite!

  • 1 Head of Swiss Chard
  • 1 cup of dry lentils
  • 4 cups (one large box) of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • A half of a lemon’s worth of juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a handful or two of almonds
  • feta cheese
  • Powdered sage
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Oregano (or Marjoram)
  • Bay leaf
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Start by chopping up your veggies. Dice them up pretty small, especially the carrots. Heat up some olive oil on medium high and get those onions in the pot. Salt, pepper, a layer of sage, oregano and  two dashes of fennel seeds. Add the celery and carrots.  Shake out another layer of sage and oregano. Toss in the chopped garlic. Stir.

Smells good!

Once that has all started to work together pour your vegetable broth over the whole thing, dump in your lentils and cover. Add a bay leaf and turn the heat to medium.

Now for the swiss chard. This is a pretty robust leaf. If you bought it from a farmers market or in a bunch like me it’s quite the handful. I filled up the clean sink with cold water and broke the chard down by hand into more manageable pieces. Remove the really big stalks with scissors or a knife and work your way through it all, stopping occasionally to stir your lentils. You want them on a light boil and the cover on so you don’t reduce the liquid too much.

Run your swiss chard through a lettuce spinner. If you don’t have a lettuce spinner you’re in for some work. You should buy one anyway. Next time. Shake the leaves out by hand, press them with dish towels and accept that they’re going to have some moisture on them. No big deal.

At this point I would take the cover off of your lentils and let the liquid reduce down to about half of its original volume. Add the chard in batches, filling the pot, covering it, stirring it, covering it, repeat. You may think it can’t handle more but don’t worry it will reduce considerably. Add some more herbs. Salt and pepper again. Once you get the chard in stir occasionally while letting it cook.

Load it up!

Load it up!

Chop up some almonds and toss them in a small skillet on medium low heat. Let the almonds toast up with an occasional stir.

Taste the lentils. Too firm? More time. Liquid reduced too fast? Add some water. Watery? More heat, less cover, more spices. The lentils and chard are done when there is enough liquid left to be a sauce but not quite a broth. Add the lemon juice, give it a good stir and turn off the heat. Give it 5-10 minutes to cool down a bit and let the flavors calm down and mix together.

Scoop on its own or over a grain. Add the almonds and some feta cheese at the end.

Eat!

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Bright and Light Tabbouleh

One of the benefits of  growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts was daily exposure to food from all over the world. My Dad and I would often be tasked with running to the various ethnic markets in the neighborhood to pick up their specialties for us at home. There was (still is) a Lebanese bakery across the street from my grade school that pumped out Middle Eastern delicacies all day and half the night.  The smell of lamb and cinnamon would permeate the classrooms and more often than not I would end up standing at their counter on my tip toes looking for a bite to spend my pocket change on.

Tabbouleh has stayed with me from those days. It’s often served as a side dish or salad. These days, with a beautiful and vegetarian wife at home my quest for delicious and well rounded meatless entrees has led me to a more robust version of the classic.

This is everything you need to make my entree ready version of tabbouleh.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley (I chose italian flat leaf this time)
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 bunch of scallions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 persian cucumbers (or one medium size cucumber)
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper

 

 

 

Start the quinoa on the stove. One cup grain, two cups liquid. Class it up with chicken or vegetable stock or just put in a pat of butter and a big pinch of salt. Turn it up high until it’s boiling, then simmer on low with the cover on until the liquid absorbs in and the grain is starting to separate a little.

 

Meanwhile at the cutting board, break down the parsley and mint. I rip the leaves off of the stems by hand, tossing the stems in a waste bowl and the leaves in a large mixing bowl. If you have a choice use a non metallic bowl because of all the lemon juice going in later.

 

Chop those herbs up nice and fine. There are a lot of ways to do this efficiently, I like to roll it all up tight and start there. After the initial chop it gets a little less structured. Have fun with it and keep your finger tips out of the way. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a swirl of olive oil and mix it up.

Use a grater to zest one of the lemons into the herbs. A cheese grater works fine, just use the smaller holes. Rub down until the outer yellow is peeled and rub the excess off of the grater and into the bowl. I like to juice the lemons into a separate dish so I can scoop out the seeds easier.  Squeeze out both the lemons and mix it all in with the herbs. Rinse the beans and toss them in.

Mix the rinsed beans in with the lemon, parsley and mint.

Mix the rinsed beans in with the lemon, parsley and mint.

Break down the rest of the veggies, chopped to your preference.

A couple tips

  • Scoop the seeds and pulp out of the tomatoes to keep the amount of extra liquid down.
  • Rinse the diced onion in a colander under cold water or soak it in a bowl of water. It will take some of the edge off of the raw onion.
  • Toss a pinch of salt and pepper on each ingredient as you go. You want to layer the flavors and treat each ingredient like and individual component.
  • Rinse the beans well. You don’t want any of the liquid from the can in your dish. It’s starchy and smooth and tastes like metal.

Add the beans (salt and pepper) and the quinoa to the mixture and mix well. You can eat this for lunch or dinner, as a side or as a main. I don’t worry too much about the quinoa going into the mix warm, it adds a nice dimension to the first meals.

 

You’ll get 6-8 portions out of this recipe. Yum!

 

Good for a meal or just a side, this tabbouleh will keep for a week in the fridge.

Good for a meal or just a side, this tabbouleh will keep for a week in the fridge.

Jazz it up?

  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Substitute quinoa for cooked farro or soaked bulgur wheat
  • Make your own hummus!
  • Chop a jalapeno up and toss it in
  • Serve it in a wrap with hummus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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