Vegetable Terrine

I love the simplicity and rustic nature of this dish.  A layered tower of tender vegetables slide into a colorful mound on the plate.  Tear off a chunk of crusty bread and soak up the juices.  This is the perfect simple meal for early spring when you want an easy dish to prepare with a few pantry basics.  I often make this recipe on a day of cleaning out the gardens.  It's a nice afternoon break to make the dish.  It then bakes for almost two hours while I head back out.   Upon my return - dirty, tired and cold - a warm dinner welcomes me, and so good it smells.

When I say the dish has a rustic simplicity, this is actually quite the opposite of what anything 'terrine' typically conjures. A terrine, part of classical French cooking, refers to an oblong baking dish with deep sides in which ground or finely chopped and seasoned meats, or sometimes vegetables, are layered.  It's  either baked in a bain-marie (water bath) or molded by refrigerating.  When the loaf is unmolded and sliced, the pretty layering is revealed.  Often an intricate sauce is part of the recipe.  I have great admiration for French cuisine, the Art of French Baking on my counter as I write.  One its authors is Cloutide Dusoulier.  She writes a wonderful French food blog, Chocolate and Zucchini. and has several charming and authentic French recipes for terrines, including one with zucchini, carrots, herbs, eggs and goat cheese.  Soon I will make her recipe.  For now,  I'm absorbed by the rose garden my husband and I are adding to our yard and myriad other projects.  My cooking this Spring is efficient and healthful, to the point and meant to please all of us.  

This SimplyCooking® recipe breaks the rules for terrines.   The process is far simpler, the ingredients basic; it's a broader interpretation that turns 'terrine' into a simple everyday recipe.

vegetable terrine

1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 cloves peeled garlic
2 medium potatoes, Yukon Gold can be unpeeled
1 medium onion, peeled
1 zucchini
1/2 bell pepper
3 carrots, peeled
spinach leaves, about 1 cup
Salt, Celtic Sea Salt preferable
1 tsp. dried oregano (or thyme, or rosemary)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 generous tsp. honey
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Parmesan or goat cheese, grated (optional)

Measure out the oil and place peeled garlic cloves in the cup.  Set aside while you prepare the dish.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Slice the vegetables (except spinach) very thinly, as thin as you can.  Brush he sides and bottom of a loaf pan with some of the garlic oil, reserving the remainder for later.  Layer half of the vegetables in the pan, starting with the potatoes and ending with the spinach.  Arrange them neatly, pressing down as you go.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Repeat the layering.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and 1 tsp. dried oregano.  Empty the canned tomatoes into a bowl and stir in a generous spoonful of honey.  Drizzle the liquid over the vegetables and arrange the tomatoes over the top.  The pan will be mounded.  Cover tightly with heavy duty foil.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the foil and sprinkle  with breadcrumbs and the reserved garlic infused oil.  Bake an additional 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before serving.  Slice and top with a little grated Parmesan or goat cheese.

Note:  The leftovers are even better, I think.  Let the baking dish cool, cover with wrap and refrigerate, storing the leftovers in the original baking dish.  

Everyday Chopped Salad

Chopped Salad is a broad term.  Order one off a menu it may have grilled meat or salmon, beets, tomato, cheese, avocado, fruit, and vegetables.   Really anything.  Some have lettuce, some do not.   The only commonality between Chopped Salads is that all ingredients are chopped into uniform bite-sized pieces.  

In the past few days I've had several nice renditions of Chopped Salads at various restaurants in Chicago but none quite like my own simple version that lately I've been making nearly everyday.  For this reason I call it Everyday Chopped Salad.  The ingredients - cucumber, zucchini, green beans, celery, lettuce and corn - are raw and green with the exception of the corn which adds a peck of color and sweetness.  I always have these ingredients on hand in some form;  half a cucumber that needs to be used, a few leftover green beans or small bunch of lettuce.  The proportions don't matter, which is why this is not a recipe so much as a really good use for some ingredients in the SimplyCooking® Pantry.    I find the combination refreshing and hydrating, something I crave in the dry winter months.

There are many options for dressings, but I recommend keeping it light and simple.  The SimplyCooking® Asian Dressing introduces ginger.    A balsamic vinaigrette or drizzle of a high quality balsamic vinegar is splendid too.  Close to my house is the wonderful world of Vom Fass, a purveyor of fruit vinegars, exquisite oils, wines and liqueurs sold from the cask online and in retail locations in Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Latvia, Hungary,  United Kingdom and in a handful of US locations, including St. Louis.  The  Aceto Balsamico di Modena "Maletti" adds a rich splash of flavor that's become my absolute favorite drizzle for Everyday Chopped Salad.

everyday chopped salad

romaine lettuce
cucumber, skinned and seeded
zucchini, skinned
raw green beans
frozen corn, thawed

Clean and chop all green ingredients into uniform bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl.  Add thawed corn.  Toss.  Drizzle with a high quality balsamic vinegar, or toss with a light dressing.

Related Recipe Links:
SimplyCooking® asian dressing
SimplyCooking® honey balsamic vinagrette

Tuscan Beans with Spinach

Here's a super simple little dish featuring white beans, onions and thyme -- a nice idea for a simple Sunday supper.

tuscan beans with spinach

2 Tbsp. grape seek oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 15-oz. cans white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable broth
5 oz. fresh spinach

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil.  Add the diced onion and sauté 2 minutes.  Add the dried thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté 2 minutes more.  Add the drained beans broth and stir well.  Cover the pan.  Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the fresh spinach.  Replace the lid and allow the spinach to wilt.  Stir and season to taste.  Serve over a bed of fresh raw spinach or cooked pasta.

Vegetarian Gravy

Vegetarian Gravy 
It's this exact week, each year, that one word comes to mind:  gravy.  When deciding on a Thanksgiving menu, how the gravy's to be made and seasoned invariably comes up.  Until recent years we never had this dilemma.  Jane, my grandmother, made the most delicious gravy and no one since her, that anyone in the family knows, can match.  It was perfectly seasoned, with a deep, rich flavor and enviable, velvety consistency -   not pasty, nor too thin and not in the least greasy.  Sheer perfection.  And she made it every Thanksgiving into old-age.

Since Jane's gravy, we've tried many gravy renditions; some quite involved and not one worth the effort.   I bought a bulb for degreasing and have since thrown it away.  It was impossible to clean and took a lot of space in a utensils drawer I don't like to be crowded.

Then a few years ago, during a non-gravy time of year - perhaps spring - I happened upon a recipe for a gravy made from roasted vegetables.  Always a fan of roasting vegetables, this method was my style and produced a wonderful gravy.  I made it several times, but by Thanksgiving had forgotten about it and moved on to yet another elaborate gravy production.  Recently my husband reminded me of that simple vegetarian gravy and we couldn't believe we had let it pass us by.  After several attempts and with him taste-testing, I've recreated the simple gravy we remember.  What I like about this method for vegetarian gravy is that by roasting the vegetables there's remaining browned bits and a pan to deglaze.  While not a lot of liquid, just this bit gives the gravy its depth of flavor and richness.  And of course, the recipe uses the very basic ingredients found in the SimplyCooking® Pantry.

I will roast a turkey this year, as I always do, removing stuffing and carving at the last minute.  But I won't be messing with the last minute gravy production.   I'll accent the turkey with this simple and delicious vegetarian gravy, happily made several days in advance.

vegetarian gravy

2 onions, peeled
5 stalks celery
5 carrots, peeled
1 apple
several sprigs of parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup red wine or sherry

Preheat oven to 400 °F.  Halve the onion and cut each half in quarters.  Cut the celery, carrots and apple into 1/2 -inch pieces.  Place it all in a shallow roasting pan.  Place the parsley over the top.  Crush the herbs between your palms and sprinkle over the top.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil.  Roast for 45 minutes.

As the vegetables roast, warm the vegetable broth in a saucepan.  Remove the roasted vegetables and place in a blender.  Add 1 cup warm broth and pulse a few times to combine but not completely puree the vegetables.  Remove the contents of the blender to a bowl.  Place a strainer over the blender jar and return the vegetables back into the blender through the strainer.  Let the liquid drip into the blender for several minutes, mashing with a spatula to remove all the liquid.  Meanwhile, deglaze the roasting pan.  Place the empty roasting pan over two burners,  medium / low heat.  Add the wine or sherry.  (Brandy or bourbon may be substituted.)  Use a metal spatula to scrape all bits from the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat.   Remove the strainer from the top of the blender.  Scrape the remnants of the pan into the blender.  Add the remaining 1 cup of warm vegetable broth.  Puree until smooth.  Season with additional salt and pepper.  Use immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to two days and re-warm just prior to serving.  Yield:  2 1/2 cups

Roasting Vegetables

Increasing productivity in the kitchen is the result of this worthwhile process:  pitching expired condiments and leftovers, clearing out seldom used cookbooks, paring down the stack of torn / printed out  recipes and -----  using the sad remnants of the produce drawer.   But how to turn each frog into a prince?  We tend to think of what can be made with each remnant; but my favorite solution is to roast the whole lot of them.  The flavors of most vegetables mingle quite nicely,  and from mushrooms to cauliflower, broccoli and peppers, there's really not a bad combination.

Roasting vegetables is quite simple to do.   It's a matter of chopping what you have into several different bite-sized shapes, tossing them with a very little oil and vinegar, seasoning with salt, coarse pepper and herbs and roasting them at a high heat.   Roasted vegetables can be served over quinoa or brown rice, rolled into a soft tortilla or tossed into pasta and topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

"Sometimes the greatest gain in productive energy will come from cleaning the cobwebs, dealing with old business, and clearing the decks,"  says David Allen.  The clearing of the vegetable drawer allows us to focus our energy toward the foods on hand and create enjoyable, flavorful meals in an orderly and efficient kitchen.

roasting vegetables

(an example of vegetables that could be used)

1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 peppers; red, green or yellow, cut into 1" pieces
2 small zucchini, sliced thick and quartered
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. grape seed oil
1/2  tsp. dried oregano, rosemary or thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F. Combine the vinegar and oil in a large bowl.  Add the herbs; crush between the palms of your hands.  Add the prepared vegetables and toss to coat.  Place in one layer on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Half-way through roasting use a tongs and toss again.