Archive for the ‘Vegetarian Entree’ Category

Okay, it’s been forever.  I don’t know what happened.  I’ve been away on trips and when I’m home, I haven’t felt like sitting at my computer to blog.  But yesterday, I visited our local CSA and there are so many beautiful, interesting, and inspiring veggies that I need to write about!  Zucchini isn’t that unusual but there is a cool sunburst squash that I plan on stuffing tomorrow night.  I originially bought two long zucchinis to make zucchini bread but after reading this recipe in Cooking Light, I decided to give it a try.

These cannot be mistaken for french fries but they are still really good – and much better for you.  The zucchini is crunchy and complimented well with the zesty sauce.  I found these adorable mini red, yellow, and orange peppers and I roasted them in the oven for the romesco sauce.  After roasting the peppers, I pulsed them in a food processor with some tomato sauce and fresh herbs from the garden.  

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks with Roasted Romesco Sauce

adapted from Cooking Light, July 2008

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks

  • 3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds) 
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs 
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) 
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 3 eggs, beaten 
  • Cooking spray 

Roasted Romesco Sauce

  • 2 medium red peppers (or 5 mini ones)
  • 3/4 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh herbs – basil, parsley, chives, etc
1. Preheat broiler.2. To prepare sauce, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place bell pepper halves and tomatoes, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten bell peppers with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop, reserving any liquid. 

3. Combine bell peppers, reserved liquid, tomato sauce, garlic, and fresh herbs in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. To prepare zucchini, cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini in egg; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Flip zucchini halfway through cooking time.  Serve immediately with sauce.


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Okay so mozzarella making is both easy and not so easy.  I ordered a starter kit from the Cheese Queen  for making mozzarella and ricotta.  It’s supposed to take 30 minutes but it took me 2 hours.  It also took my kitchen by storm.  I had cheese curd everywhere in my kitchen.  I was cleaning cheese curds from the floors, counters, endless bowls and pots. But despite the setbacks, I actually made an edible ball of mozzarella cheese!  And it was delicious – so fresh, soft, and amazing. 


My problem was that the cheese did not fully curd.  It is supposed to become firm enough to cut and scoop out into a bowl.  It did curd and separate from the whey, it just didn’t firm up enough.  So I used cheesecloth to strain the whey out so I could go on making the cheese.  With this kit I bought, it’s really not difficult to make homemade mozzarella if everything goes according to plan.  They key is good milk.  A gallon of pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized and the fresher the better.  The kit provided me with citric acid and rennet needed for making the cheese.  The fun part is stretchy the mozzarella out so that it gets that wonderful stringy texture. 

With my hard-won mozzarella ball, I made caprese salad, an absolute fav meal for me.  And I made this grilled margarita pizza. Nothing beats homemade pizza on the grill.  It gets crispy and you can easily add ingredients while it cooks unlike when baking in an oven.  I don’t use a pizza stone, I just throw it on the grill.  When one side has cooked, I flip it over, add my ingredients, close the cover, and in 5 minutes, the cheese is melted and the crust is crispy.  This was probably my favorite pizza yet – I bought the freshest tomatoes I could find, the homemade mozzarella, and garden grown basil.  Simple and satisfying.


Grilled Margarita Pizza


  • 1 ball of pizza dough (white or whole wheat)
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella (smoked mozzarella is delicious on pizza), sliced
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat grill to medium heat.  Cut your ball of pizza dough in 4 sections.  Roll each section out into 4 thin circles or whichever shape you like (I usually do random shapes).
  2. Place the dough directly on to the grill rack (or you can use a pizza stone if you prefer).  Wait until some bubbles form and then flip the dough over. 
  3. Brush extra-virgin olive oil onto the dough.  Layer slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato.  Top with salt and pepper.  Close the grill cover to allow the cheese to melt for 3-5 mins. 
  4. Take grilled pizza off the rack, add fresh basil and a little more extra-virgin olive oil.  Enjoy!

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Very exciting news here from the Spotted Apron kitchen – I bought my first mandoline.  In celebration of the one month anniversary of the blog perhaps?  As you can tell, it’s definitely not an expensive Williams-Sonoma mandoline but it’s still pretty awesome.  If I like it and get a lot of use out of it, then I’ll spring for an expensive one.  I have lived with the fear (which I’ve realized is very realistic) of cutting off a finger tip with the mandoline.  And sure enough I cut my thumb, not badly but enough to freak me out.  You have to be so careful with the mandoline but it can slice veggies razor thin so it’s worth the risk factor. 


Onions were my first vegetable on the mandoline for this cauliflower pasta.  I have sliced many veggies, including Yukon Gold potatoes in order to make the most delicious homemade potato chips (recipe soon to come).  But the onions in this recipe were wonderful because they added flavor and cooked quickly, allowing the cauliflower to really be the stand out ingredient.  I found this beautiful cauliflower at a vegetable stand nearby and just had to use it in a recipe.  I had never seen purple and golden cauliflower so I bought it and attempted to find a recipe that highlighted the cauliflower. 


This recipe comes from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables.  The cauliflower remains crunchy because it’s not steamed or boiled, instead it’s lightly sautéed.  My only complaint is that I should have added more extra virgin olive oil.  The taste of the cauliflower, walnuts, and ricotta salata all complimented one another wonderfully but there was not much of a “sauce” for the pasta.  I think you just have to go for it and coat the whole wheat pasta with extra virgin olive oil and then mix it with the cauliflower mixture.  I tend to not add a lot of oil to my recipes but the whole wheat pasta really absorbs any moisture so it can easily dry out.   This dish was even more delicious the next day for lunch. 


Oh yeah, quick tip on cutting up cauliflower…you want to end up with small little trees, not lots of crumbs.  Start at the base of the cauliflower and cut where there are natural breaks so you end up with lots of small looking trees and it keeps the natural shape of cauliflower.  Or else you might end up with breadcrumbs and lots of waste if you just randomly chop away. 


Mulit-Colored Cauliflower with Whole Wheat Pasta

Adapted from Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Vegetables

  • 2 heads cauliflower
(you can use white cauliflower)
  • 1 medium onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
White wine vinegar

  • 1/2 lemon

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

  • 4 ounces ricotta salata or feta cheese

1.  Put a large pot of water on to boil. Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets. Peel the onion and slice it very thin. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Put the pasta on to cook.

2.  Saute the cauliflower in olive oil in a large saute pan. When the cauliflower begins to soften, season with salt and pepper and add the sliced onion and red pepper flakes.

3.   Saute over medium to high heat until the vegetables are brown and tender. The cauliflower should still be slightly crunchy and should not taste steamed. Add the garlic and remove from the heat, tossing and stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn; if it starts to brown, add a splash of water. Add a few drops each of vinegar and lemon juice and the toasted walnuts. Taste and correct the seasoning.

4.     When the pasta is done, drain and add to the cauliflower, adding enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the pasta thoroughly, toss together and serve, with the cheese crumbled over the dish.


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So it’s been a few days.  I’ve been traveling with my husband to celebrate his sister’s graduation from college.  It was a fun and joyous time but no laptop, wireless, or pots and pans.  But I’m back now and I have some great recipes to share. 

In the past week, I posted the recipes for Vietnamese summer rolls, pea & ricotta dumplings, and strawberry rhubarb crumble.  These recipes were all part of an Asian themed meal (except the strawberry rhubarb which really isn’t Asian at all) we created for a good friend.  But there is one recipe lacking and no meal is complete without a salad.  And this one is really irresistible.  

 It’s very simple – just watercress and avocado.  The dressing for it is amazing – balanced with a little sweetness.   I’ll use it on many other salads to come.  My watercress was too stemmy, I could have definitely cut off more of the stem, but it was still good.  Avocado is one of my favorite foods and this salad really made it’s taste and flavor stand out. 


Watercress & Avocado Salad

Adapted from Gourmet May 2008

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (use large holes of a box grater)

  • 1/4 cup finely grated peeled Gala apple (use small holes of box grater)

  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 6 cups watercress (thin stems and leaves only; from 1 large bunch)

  • 1 firm-ripe avocado

1.  Stir together vinegar, onion, apple, soy sauce, and sugar until sugar has dissolved, then stir in oil.  Dressing can be made 2 days ahead, chilled, and covered (stir or shake well before using). 

2.  Just before serving, toss watercress with enough dressing to coat. Quarter, pit, and peel avocado, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Gently toss with watercress.  Enjoy!


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I’m a real mutt, my ethnic roots stretch from China to Italy to Portugal to Germany.  But I grew up with great Italian cooking and one of my favorite comfort foods is a good tomato sauce, preferably with eggplant parmigiana.  My instincts are to make every dish with an Italian flair and plenty of garlic but occasionally I can restrain myself.  My husband and I made these dumplings one night to serve to our dinner guest.  They really are easy and fun to make but definitely time consuming.  We folded and sealed for a good hour to make 73 dumplings. 


My problem was that the pea and ricotta filling made me feel like I was making ravioli or tortellini rather than dumplings.  I kept trying to convince my husband how a lemon cream sauce would go perfectly with these and he kept telling me to embrace my Asian roots.  I’m glad I listened (it’s not often).  We tried three different ways of cooking them – boiling, steaming, and frying.  Boiling was definitely the worst. They quickly got waterlogged and soggy.  Steaming was definitely the best and frying was a good alternative to get them crispy and dark.  We served them with an easy dipping sauce – soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.


For instructions on how to fold your dumplings, you can look on the wonton wrapper package.  My package didn’t have any instructions so I found this great YouTube clip with a quick folding demonstration.  Or you can invent your own way of folding!

 Pea & Ricotta Dumplngs

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  •       2 cups (about 10 ounces) cups peas (freshly shelled or frozen)

  •      2/3 cup ricotta cheese

  •       2 tablespoons olive oil

  •       scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

  •       1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

  •       zest of one large lemon
  •       1 package of wonton wrappers, or round wrappers

special equipment: bamboo steamer is ideal, I used a metal steamer sprayed with vegetable oil

1.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water (as you would pasta water) and add the peas. Cook until bright green in color and puffy, about a minute if the peas were frozen, less if you started with fresh ones.
 Drain the peas and run under cold water for one minute to stop the cooking.

2.  With a food processor (or hand blender) blend the peas, ricotta cheese, olive oil, and salt into a puree. I like a bit of texture, so I don’t go too far. Return the mixture to a big bowl and stir in the shallots, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste. Add more salt if needed.

2.  Fill the dumplings using an assembly line technique – a dozen at a time.  You can follow the instructions on the wonton wrapper, if there are any,  or check out these YouTube clip on how to easily fold and seal.  Place twelve wrappers out on the counter, drop a very scant teaspoon of filling onto each wrapper (avoid the desire to overfill), rub the perimeter of each wrapper with a wet finger seal, fold in half, and then fold in the two sides and seal.  Set aside on a plate. Do the next dozen and repeat until all the filling is used up.

3.  Set up your steamer, rub each dumpling with a bit of olive oil or spray your steamer with PAM, arrange the dumplings in a single layer (being careful not to overlap), and steam for about three minutes – until the dumplings are tender and translucent. Sprinkle with a touch of salt or serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.



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As summer is approaching, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will actually become warm and sunny at some point in the near future.  I might have post traumatic stress disorder after months of twenty-degree weather, heavy down coats, and digging my car out of my parking space every morning.  But eventually my PTSD will subside as flowers sprout, trees regain leaves, and all the good vegetables are ready at the farmers market. 


As I was climbing into my car yesterday, I saw that the mint was sprouting again.  We have this wild mint that grows in our parking lot (don’t worry – I wash it first).  So I had to do something with this newly arrived parking lot mint!  That’s when I found this recipe for summer rolls.  They are light and crunchy.  So light that I could probably eat 30 and not be full, but you can always serve them with a heavier, spicy peanut sauce. 










I love them for lunch but they also make a good appetizer.  Usually they have shrimp or tofu, but I just did pure veggies and some soba noodles.  The rice paper might seem frightening (someone at work asked me if I was going to take off the wrapping before eating it, ah, those food amateurs).  My husband found the rice paper at an Asian supermarket and it was labeled “spring roll wrappers.”  You soak them one by one in hot water and then use them to wrap up the roll like you would a burrito.  It’s not hard at all and the rice paper is more durable than you would think, I had very few tears.  Give them a try!  They will definitely be a few favorite in my kitchen.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Adapted  from The Kitchn with tips how best to roll and not overstuff here.

 For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons creamy organic or natural peanut butter

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Asian Chili-garlic sauce, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of hot water

For the rolls:

  • 2 oz cellophane noodles or soba noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • red pepper flakes

  • 1/3 of a seedless cucumber

  • 1/2 of a medium carrot, peeled

  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper

  • ½ bag of broccoli slaw
  • 2-3 chives, chopped

  • 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
juice from 1/2 lime

  • juice of ½ lime
  • 16-24 fresh mint leaves

  • rice paper wrappers
    1. Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
    2. Cook the cellophane or soba noodles according to the package directions. The directions on my package were in Japanese, you might have better luck.  But we heated a medium sauce pan full of water until boiling, added the noodles, and carefully watched them. After about 2-3 minutes they were fully cooked.
    3. Drain the noodles, put them in a bowl, and toss with the sesame oil and a dash of red pepper flakes.
    4. Julienne by hand by use a mandoline to slice the cucumber, carrot, and red pepper. I added some broccoli slaw from the bag which reduced the amount of chopping. 
    5. Whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and the chives, and toss to coat.
    6. Fill a round cake pan halfway with hot water. For each wrapper, immerse it in the hot water bath until it softens, which takes about 30 seconds.
    7. Lay it on your work surface and fill it first with about 1-2 tablespoons of noodles. Then, add a few tablespoons of the veggie mixture. Add a 2-3 mint leaves, depending on how large they are.
    8. To roll up your roll, first fold the edge of the wrapper farthest from you over the filling, then fold in the edges towards the center and continue rolling the filled wrapper towards you until it’s closed and snug. If you want to be especially decorative, place the mint leaves closer to the front edge of the wrapper, so that they are rolled into the last layer and show through the top of the finished roll.  Serve with the peanut sauce or with the same sauce the vegetables were tossed with.  Enjoy!


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                  I bought a box of quinoa a few weeks ago and it’s been sitting in my pantry.  I’ve never cooked or eaten quinoa and I still haven’t learned how to pronounce it.  But I found this recipe from the Mayo Clinic, built up some courage, and adapted it for the ingredients that I had in my kitchen.  It wasn’t a difficult dish to make but I haven’t made up my mind about how I feel about quinoa.  It has some subtle nutty flavors with a slightly crunchy texture but it’s still a little weird and different.  Let’s just say that it doesn’t thrill me.  I would suggest adding whatever veggies to the risotto that you would enjoy – I did roasted red pepper and arugula.  I’m sure any kind of mushroom would also be delicious.

                  Quinoa Risotto with Roasted Red Peppers & Arugula

                  Adapted from the Mayo Clinic

                  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

                  • 1/2 onion, chopped

                  • 1 garlic clove, minced

                  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed

                  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth

                  • 2 cups chopped, stemmed arugula
                  • ½ cup of roasted red peppers, chopped
                  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

                  • Sea Salt & Freshly Ground pepper to taste

                  1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and quinoa and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the garlic brown.

                  2.  Add the stock ½ cup at a time until absorbed by the quinoa and then continue to add the stock ½ cup at a time until all the stock has been added.  Cook at medium heat until the quinoa is almost tender to the bite but slightly hard in the center, and once all the stock has been added, about 12 minutes. The mixture will be brothy. Stir in the arugula and roasted red peppers and simmer until the quinoa grains have turned from white to translucent, about 2 minutes longer.

                  3.  Stir in the cheese and season with the salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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