Papucaki

Papucaki

Papucaki is a Greek word meaning “small slippers”.  This is another traditional Greek recipe that I learned many years ago from my aunt, whose husband is Greek.  Like her recipe for Greek Green Beans, which I shared a couple of weeks ago, this one is simple, focusing on 3 main ingredients.  I find that the key to success for making recipes with few ingredients is to use the best quality available to you, and if the recipe involves produce, to use items that are in-season.

To make papucaki, you only need tomatoes, onions and eggplants.  It sounds simple, but the flavor of the final dish evokes complexity.  The elements work so well together that the product is more than the sum of its parts.  So go ahead and give it a try!

eggplant

tomatoes and onions

10-img_5930

tomatoes and onions

Papucaki

Papucaki

Print Recipe
Papucaki
This is a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth dish that can stand on its own for dinner. Depending on your appetite, 2 large eggplants will be enough to satisfy a family of 4. However, sometimes I will serve this dish with a salad or rice on the side to satisfy everyone’s preferences.
Papucaki
Servings
Ingredients
  • 4 small eggplants or 2 large eggplants
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 onions sliced
  • 4– 6 tomatoes depending on their size, chopped
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Servings
Ingredients
  • 4 small eggplants or 2 large eggplants
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 onions sliced
  • 4– 6 tomatoes depending on their size, chopped
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Papucaki
Instructions
  1. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, salt and place upside down in a colander for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F.
  3. Rinse the eggplant and scoop out the flesh to create a hollow that can then be filled. Reserve the flesh that is scooped out. (Don’t forget this step, like I did. It’s messy if you do!)
  4. Liberally brush the eggplant with oil and place on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, until soft throughout. Pierced with a fork, it should offer no resistance.
  6. While the eggplant is baking, heat the remaining oil in a skillet on medium heat and fry onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook to mixture for 5 more minutes.
  7. Once the eggplants are cooked, remove them from the oven and evenly divide the filling among the eggplants. Into the now empty skillet, add the vegetable stock and scrape up any remaining and stuck bits, then spoon the liquid over the eggplants.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.


Black Bean and Green Tomato Chili (Vegan)

Black Bean and Green Tomato Chili (Vegan)

The first chili of the season is always such a treat. Using the last of our farm‘s tomatoes, it’s warming on a cool autumn evening.  It serves as a sweet reminder that it’s time to say goodbye to summer, with windows open day and night, and the warm sun, and a welcoming yet cautious hello to colder temperatures, with cozy warmth  and hearty winter soups inside.

This recipe is simple, and I have made it many times.  It started when one day I was determined to make a chili, but did not have any peppers on hand and substituted green tomatoes.  It was a big hit and Black Bean and Green Tomato chili became a fall staple for us (I still add peppers when I have them on hand).  Another reason to head out into the fields and pick a few more green tomatoes off the vines.

 

green tomatoes

Black Bean and Green Tomato Chili (Vegan)

Black Bean and Green Tomato Chili (Vegan)

5-img_5918

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Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew

Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew

In the early fall, when for a few weeks tomatoes, potatoes, and green beans overlap at our farm, I always make this recipe.  It contains nothing but those vegetables, plus an onion, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It makes a stand-alone dinner that is stew-like and hearty (thanks to all that olive oil, see recipe below). It can be served warm on a cold day and cold on a warm day. And when you make it, you will definitely want some bread on hand to sop up the last remaining juices in your bowl.

I learned this recipe from my aunt, whose husband is Greek, but my online research yielded Turkish versions of it.  And, while discussing my dinner plans with a neighbor of Lebanese descent, the neighbor said she grew up eating this meal as well, and she thought of it as Lebanese.  The recipe seems to be a tradition in countries surrounding the western Mediterranean sea.  The variations are minor, such as adding lamb or chicken, adding spices, with the basic recipe remaining the same across the region.

Interestingly, both the potato and tomato are of South and Central American descent where they have been cultivated for at least 2500 years (in the case of potatoes, 8000 years; McGee, Smith).  They did not spread to other areas of the world until after the 1500’s, when the Spanish colonized the Americas.  Once they started being cultivated in Western Europe, tomatoes took to the climate around the Mediterranean so well that they became a staple in many cuisines.

 

vegetables

green beans

Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew

Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew

Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew

Print Recipe
Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew
This recipe takes an hour from start to finish. However, active working time is about 20 minutes. The rest of the time is cooking time, and with the anticipation of a cozy meal boiling away at the stove on everyone’s mind, I find it to be a great time to sit with the kids and do homework or relax.
Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew
Servings
people
Ingredients
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 1 lb green beans ends removed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • ¾ cup olive oil that’s not a typo!
  • 1 lb potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb tomatoes diced
  • A handful fresh parsley chopped (optional)
Servings
people
Ingredients
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 1 lb green beans ends removed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • ¾ cup olive oil that’s not a typo!
  • 1 lb potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb tomatoes diced
  • A handful fresh parsley chopped (optional)
Greek Green Beans with Potatoes in Tomato Stew
Instructions
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, lightly brown the onions. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.
  2. Bring everything to a boil. Then cover and simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are done.
  3. Serve either hot or cold, with bread on the side.


Vegan Aquafaba Meringues

Vegan Aquafaba Meringues

The technical definition of aquafaba according to the official aquafaba website is “the cooking liquid of beans or other legumes like chickpeas.”  The knowledge that this liquid can perform many of the same functions as an egg is relatively new and exciting.  I first came across it in a NY Times article a couple of months ago and have finally come around to giving it a try.  It turns out that making meringues with the liquid left over from a can of chickpeas is no more difficult than making meringues the traditional way.  And, the taste and texture are almost indistinguishable from a traditionally made meringue.

If you are interested in reading more about aquafaba, here are some great websites with more information:

  • This is the ‘official’ aquafaba website and contains information on the history, science and a great general overview.
  • Hits and Misses! is a facebook group dedicated to perfecting aquafaba recipes.
  • This Washington Post article is a fun and informative read.

Once you have made these meringues, they should be stored in an airtight container and, if necessary, uncooked rice can be added to the container to absorb any moisture.  Depending on humidity, these meringues will last several days.

Aquafaba meringues can be served as one would serve egg-based meringues.  We ate them for dessert one night, with coconut-based chocolate ice cream and raspberries, but most of the meringues were eaten by the kids, plain, straight out of the tin (sticky, dirty fingers and all, quietly, while mom was not watching – or pretending not to watch).

Vegan Aquafaba Meringues

Vegan Aquafaba Meringues

Vegan Aquafaba Meringues

Print Recipe
Vegan Aquafaba Meringues
These meringues are deliciously crunchy and sweet and the recipe is based on these two recipes:  NY Times, and thekitchn
Vegan Aquafaba Meringues
Servings
Ingredients
  • Liquid from 1 15-oz can of chickpeas aquafaba
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Servings
Ingredients
  • Liquid from 1 15-oz can of chickpeas aquafaba
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Vegan Aquafaba Meringues
Instructions
  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment beat the aquafaba and cream of tartar on high until foamy. Slowly add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. This can take anywhere from a few to 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer foam to a piping bag and pipe foam onto parchment paper.
  4. Bake for 2 hours, and allow the oven to cool down with meringues inside.
  5. Once completely cooled, store meringues in an air tight container.


Israeli Salad

Israeli Salad with Chickpeas

Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes.  An Israeli salad seems so obvious, it shouldn’t require a recipe.  And yet, it was a revelation to me when I first encountered it in my mid-twenties.  I learned it about from an Israeli friend while we were attending a conference.  Each night for three nights, she made this salad to go along with dinner, each night a little different, but always wonderfully fresh and delicious.  After returning from that trip, the salad became an instant summer staple, and it has changed little over the years.  Eventually (i.e. after the kids came along) I started adding chickpeas, as a convenience, really.  It meant that now I could put a big bowl of salad on the table and call it dinner.  A mother’s dream.

Whatever else you have planned for the weekend, give this salad a try, while the ingredients are still abundant and the evenings are still warm enough to serve salad as dinner without too many explanations.  It travels great, so bring it along to a picnic or barbeque.

Israeli Salad

lemon

chickpeas

Israeli Salad

Israeli Salad

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french lentil and kale salad

French Lentil and Kale Salad

July weather has arrived and with it summer cooking.  Now summer cooking means no cooking or baking on the stove or in the oven between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.  We have a single window unit AC for the whole house and it is not powerful enough to overcome the heat generated by the stove.  So for a few days in June, and August, and for most of July we end up eating salads.  Lots and lots of salads, with the occasional grilled meal thrown in.  Most salads contain a starch or grain cooked either early in the morning or after the kids have gone to bed, and then mixed into the salads after they have cooled.

In late January and February, when the days are still short and cold, and it seems like winter will never end, and summer never return, I look forward to summer cooking.  Because summer cooking is really all about the vegetables.  It is as fresh as it gets, with vegetables picked only hours or days before they end up on our plates.  It really is a good time of year for cooking!

Kale originates in the Mediterranean region and is a cultivar of the Brassica oleracea species, which among others includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.  While growing, kale leaves do not form a tight head (think cabbage and Brussel sprouts) and kale is thought to be more closely related to wild cabbage than some of the other cultivars in the Brassica oleracea species.  Kale is thought to be the first cultivar of the wild cabbage to have originated.  Kale originated sometime in the 5th century BC, following many generations of selective breeding of for ever larger leaves on the ancestral wild cabbage.  For a fascinating read on the history of the entire cabbage family, check out the University of Saskatchewan website.

kale

kale

kale stems veins

french lentil and kale salad

french lentil and kale salad

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Chili Garlic Sesame Pasta Tofu Sugar Snap Peas

Chili, Garlic, and Sesame Pasta with Tofu and Sugar Snap Peas

Only recently was I introduced to this five ingredient sauce, but I already know this sauce and I will be together forever.  Why you ask?

  1. It is versatile.  The first time I was introduced to it, it was being served with scallion pancakes as the dipping sauce.  Here I pour it over pasta.  And of course I look forward to marinating some chicken with it one of these afternoons to throw on the grill.
  2. It is so simple to make and if you frequently cook with Asian flavors, it is likely you already have all the ingredients on hand.
  3. The flavor combination is just perfect! The garlic, chili, and sesame work wonderfully together.

What gives chili its characteristic pungency or burning sensation in the mouth is a lipohilic chemical called capsaicin.  There are two theories on why capsaicin may have evolved in chilies: 1) as a defense from mammals, and 2) as a defense against fungi.   When mammals eat the chili fruit, the seeds are ground up by molars, and after passing through the digestive tract the seeds are no longer able to germinate.  Birds do not have the necessary proteins to respond to capsaicin and generally swallow the seeds whole, which are then still able to germinate after passing through the avian digestive tract.  In this manner, birds are a mechanism through which the plant disperses its seeds.  With respect to the second theory, there is a fungus, Fusarium, which can infect chili plants, resulting in wilting of the plant, which in turn affects fruit production and reduces viability of the seeds.  This fungus is deterred by capsaicin.

Chili plants were domesticated over 5000 years ago in South America (Harold McGee).  After Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World, the plants quickly spread throughout the world, and today are common in traditional cuisines all over the world.  Chilies belong to the genus Capsicum and there are 5 species within this genus which have been domesticated, although most chilies that one can find at the supermarket are derived from only a single species, Capsicum annuum.  Through breeding, the pungency of chilies can be altered, and some have been bread to be mild enough to eat as vegetables.  All unripe chilies are green, and during the ripening process they obtain their characteristic colors from yellow to red, orange, and purple.

 

ingredients

tofu

scallions

sugar snap peas

Chili Garlic Sesame Pasta Tofu Sugar Snap Peas

Chili Garlic Sesame Pasta Tofu Sugar Snap Peas

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Black Bean Tempeh Tacos with Slaw and Cilantro Lime Dressing

Black Bean Tempeh Tacos with Slaw and Cilantro Lime Dressing

Even to regular readers (thank you!) it may not be apparent yet that I love beans and eat them frequently in Mexican-inspired dishes.  From a nutritional standpoint, there is little argument that beans are good, and from an enjoyment standpoint, they score high with everyone routinely eating my cooking.  Most weeks I cook a big pot of beans sometime during the week and then use the beans throughout the week for a variety of lunches and dinners.

Now when I think beans, cheese is usually involved, and so is sour cream for that matter. This recipe was inspired by an effort to diversify our sources of creamy, rich goodness that can appropriately be added to bean-based dishes.

The sauce on these tacos incorporates ground cashews to achieve a rich creaminess, with the lime juice and cilantro adding a crisp, fresh taste that compliments the black beans and cabbage beautifully.

Cashews are frequently used in vegan dishes to add creaminess and to thicken water-based dishes such as sauces and soups.  Among the various common nuts, cashews are particularly good at thickening liquids because of their high starch content (Harold McGee).  As an interesting aside, cashews are in the Anacardiaceae family, which also includes poison ivy, poison sumac and mangoes.  The chemical irritant, which is also present in other members of this family, is located in the cashew nut shell and has to be carefully removed to avoid contaminating the nuts.  This is the reason that cashews are always sold shelled.

ingredients for black bean tempeh taco

A Leek Supreme

Taco seasoning

Slaw

Slaw

Cilantro lime dressing

Black Bean Tempeh Tacos with Slaw and Cilantro Lime Dressing

Black Bean Tempeh Tacos with Slaw and Cilantro Lime Dressing

Black Bean Tempeh Tacos with Slaw and Cilantro Lime Dressing

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

I’m excited to share this recipe with you since I am sure you will love it as much as I do!  White quinoa usually does not make it to the top of my list of preferred grains.  I don’t care for its lack of texture, non-descript flavor, or sweetness.   But this recipe is different!  It turns the grains usual negatives into positives.  First, the lack of texture (mushiness?) allows for little cakes to be shaped and maintain said shape during the browning without the addition of eggs.  Second, the browning step creates these little cakes that are crispy on the outside and delicious and moist on the inside.   If you are still on the fence about trying this recipe, all you needed, at its simplest, is quinoa, water and a little oil for browning.   Then, the possibilities for flavor combinations are endless, and even the kids are inspired by the blank canvas that these quinoa cakes provide.  One kid suggested adding apples and cinnamon next time (according to this child, there is nothing that cannot be enhanced by the addition of apples).   Served with a little maple butter?  Sounds good to me!   I can feel a future Cooking With Kids post coming….

Adding a little bit of vinegar to sweet potatoes while sautéing helps to preserve their structure and prevents them from turning mushy.  The cell walls of plants are made of cellulose held together by pectin and hemi-cellulose.  While cellulose remains unchanged when exposed to heat and moisture, both pectin and hemi-cellulose tend to become soluble causing cells to loose their structural integrity resulting in vegetables that soften and eventually become mushy.  The acid in the vinegar helps to keep the sweet potatoes firm by preventing pectin and hemi-cellulose from dissolving.  If you do not have the recommended apple cider vinegar on hand, any acid will do: citrus juice, or any other vinegar.

vegetables

a leek supreme vegetables

quinoa cakes

red cabbage slaw

red cabbage slaw

red cabbage slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

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french lentil salad lemon vinaigrette

French Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

According to Harold McGee, a vinaigrette is a water-in-oil emulsion, which means that tiny vinegar droplets are dispersed within the oil, while the oil is the continuous phase, meaning it coats each droplet and fills the empty space between the vinegar droplets. Compare this to, for example, mayonnaise, which is an oil-in-water emulsion with oil droplets suspended in water.

A vinaigrette is usually made by first adding the salt and vinegar to a bowl and allowing the salt to dissolve. Next, the oil is added.  According to Michael Ruhlman in the book Ratio, the manner in which the oil is added determines the texture and longevity of the emulsion.  If oil is added all at once and briefly whisked with a fork, the vinegar droplets in the oil remain relatively large and only temporarily combine.  Adding the oil in a thin stream while the vinegar is being blended continuously with an immersion blender results in droplets of vinegar that may be as small as 3 thousandth of a millimeter across (Harold McGee) forming a thick and stable emulsion with a consistency similar to mayonnaise (depending on the water content).

lemon peel

lemon vinaigrette

vegetables

vegetables

vegetables

The ideal ratio for a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or other acid such as citrus (Michael Ruhlman).  3:1 is roughly the ratio I use in this lemon vinaigrette, which also has the lemon peel added for additional flavor.  I use a fork to briefly blend the lemon juice and olive oil, creating only a temporary emulsion.  Alternatively, an immersion blender could be used to whisk the lemon juice while slowly incorporating the oil.  When I make this vinaigrette with an immersion blender, I often add the herbs to the vinegar and salt mixture, creating a lovely pale green (and delicious) dressing.

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