Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Company-Worthy Vegetarian Feast!

Raspberry Mojitos
Savory Corn Cakes with Chipotle Cream
Black Beans in Mango Sauce
Wilted Spinach Salad

Busy, busy, busy and not much time to write! So I apologize for not posting as often as I should.

Our friends Karla and Frankie came to dinner last night. Karla is a vegetarian and has mentioned how many pasta dishes she makes, so I wanted to prepare something different. I have never made a non-pasta vegetarian meal for guests, and this proved to be difficult until I remembered a Mollie Katzen cookbook on my shelf. I actually have two of her cookbooks, Vegetable Heaven and Sunlight Café , both containing great recipes. Sunlight Café concentrates on breakfast and brunch, though, so I went with the other book for menu ideas. And I am happy that I did.

For starters (non-Mollie recipes), we had Raspberry Mojitos and Guacamole with baked tortilla chips. The mojitos were excellent (and, look! good-for-you fruit!!!) and the guacamole is my favorite in the whole world.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Raspberry Mojitos

I have used both fresh and frozen (unsweetened) raspberries in this recipe and like both versions

Makes 6 servings (about 12 drinks)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

7 medium limes

4 tablespoons sugar

30 large mint leaves

6 ounces raspberries

3 ounces grenadine

24 ounces white rum

49 ounces seltzer water -- or club soda, about 1-1/2 one-liter bottles

Cut each lime into 8 wedges. In a large pitcher, muddle the lime wedges, sugar, and mint leaves

until the limes and mint leaves are mashed up and have released their juices. Add the raspberries and grenadine and muddle a bit more. Pour in the rum and mix.

Pour about 1/3 cup of the rum mixture into an 8-ounce highball glass, spoon in a little of the mashed fruit mixture, add ice, stir, top off with club soda. Serve with short straws.

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Per serving: 370 Calories (kcal); trace Total Fat; (2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 15mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Fat; 1 Other


* Exported from MasterCook *


Makes 6 servings

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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2 medium avocados -- peeled and diced

2 large cloves garlic -- minced

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeno -- seeded, minced

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 medium tomatoes -- chopped

Coarsely mash avocado in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

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Per serving: 125 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat (2g saturated); (68% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 11mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other


NOTES : Can be made 1 day ahead of time. Spoon into a small container and press plastic wrap directly on the surface (and part of the surface exposed to air will brown, but this can be removed with a spoon prior to serving); cover, and refrigerate.

Now for the main course. I would normally opt for an Indian-theme meal because that cuisine is so well adapted to meatless cooking, but our guests have been eating a lot of Indian food recently so I went with a southwestern theme. Savory corn cakes (corn kernels bound together with egg, buttermilk, flour, and cornmeal, flavored with red bell pepper and scallion, topped with a sour cream-based chipotle cream) were delicious and it actually surprised me how filling they were. And don’t skip the Chipotle Cream (I used a combo of Daisy light sour cream and 2% Greek style yogurt for this).

Accompanying these corn cakes were a very flavorful mixture of black beans and mango (spiced with onion, jalapeno, and cumin seed) which was served over rice and also a wilted spinach salad containing onion, avocado, and (surprisingly, to me) apple which was dressed with lemon.


Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: About a dozen 4-inch corn cakes

You can whip up these little gems in just 20 minutes, any time of day or night. They can be a light supper in and of themselves, or a first course or side dish for a more complex meal.
* Frozen, defrosted corn works perfectly well in these pancakes.

2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup finely minced red bell pepper
2 cups corn
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached white flour (I needed to add an additional ¼ cup of flour and pinch of baking powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Oil or butter for the pan

Cilantro leaves
Chipotle Cream (recipe follows)

  1. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the bell pepper and corn, and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the scallions, and set aside.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center.
  3. Beat together the eggs and buttermilk until frothy. Pour this and the corn mixture from Step 1 into the well in the center of the dry ingredients, and stir briefly until everything is combined. (Don't overmix.)
  4. Lightly grease a hot skillet or griddle with butter or oil, and fry the corn cakes for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden. Serve hot, topped with a few cilantro leaves and a drizzle of room-temperature Chipotle Cream, if desired.


Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 cup

Chipotle chiles are smoked, dried jalapeños. They most commonly come in cans, packed in a vinegar preparation called adobo sauce. A little bit of canned chipotles-in-adobo goes a very long way, both in terms of its heat and its powerful smoky essence. In this sauce, sour cream and/or yogurt create a soothing, luxurious vehicle for the chipotle flavor.

* Serve this wherever it seems appropriate--on any egg dish, with beans, rice, cornmeal preparations, or drizzled onto soups.

1 cup sour cream or yogurt (or a combination)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon canned chipotle chiles, finely minced

  1. Place the sour cream and/or yogurt in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
  2. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon minced chipotles, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, so the flavor can develop. Taste to see if it needs more chipotle flavor, and add more, if desired.
  3. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.


I only used one mango (a raccoon helped himself to the second one as I was ripening them on my patio table!) but that seemed like plenty. This was great served over steamed rice.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café"
Preparation time: About 45 minutes (30 minutes of light work)
Yield: About 6 servings, depending on what else is served.

All you need are a couple of perfectly ripe mangoes, and you're up and running with this quick, exotic dish. To make it into a complete meal, just add some plain steamed broccoli and rice.

Wonderful though they are to eat, mangoes can be difficult to cut up without their turning to mush. The good news here is that in this dish, it doesn't matter, because the mangoes get mashed anyway. So just cut them open and scrape out the flesh, and mince as best you can.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 3-inch jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups cooked black beans (3 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained)
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 large ripe mangoes, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Minced fresh cilantro (optional)
Squeezable wedges of lime

  1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add about 1 3/4 cups of the onion, and the garlic, chile, ginger, cumin seeds, and salt. Sauté over medium -high heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the black beans and about half the lime juice. Sauté for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until everything has mingled nicely, and the beans are heated through. Mash the beans slightly with the back of the spoon, and transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir the remaining lime juice and about 2/3 of the chopped mangoes directly into the hot beans, mashing the mangoes a little as you stir. Grind in some black pepper, then cover and let stand for about 15 minutes to let the sauce develop.
  4. Serve warm, at room temperature--or even cold--topped with the remaining red onion and mango, and some minced cilantro, if desired. For a finishing touch, tuck a juicy wedge of lime on the side of each serving.


Adapted from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven"
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Fresh spinach becomes meltingly tender when wilted by brief contact with hot ingredients. The best spinach leaves to use for this salad are the smallest, freshest you can find.

This tastes best immediately after it has been assembled, when the onion is still warm, the spinach and avocado are at room temperature, and the apple slices are very cold.

1 medium-sized tart green apple
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small avocado, perfectly ripe
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced onion (in rings 1/2 inch wide)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 pound cleaned, stemmed spinach—in a large bowl
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cut the apple into thin slices onto a plate, and drizzle with about 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice. Cover the plate tightly, and refrigerate.
  2. Pour the remaining lemon juice onto a second plate. Peel and slice the avocado, then place the slices in the lemon juice, then turn them over until they are well coated. Set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. When it is very hot, add the onion rings, and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes on each side. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
  4. Add the grilled onion rings and cumin to the spinach, and toss until thoroughly mixed. The spinach will wilt upon contact with the hot oil and onion slices. To speed this process along—and to be sure you include every last drop of the flavorful oil—you can add some of the spinach directly to the pan and swish it around a little, then return it to the bowl. Sprinkle in the salt as you toss.

Gently mix in the avocado, including all the lemon juice, and the apple. Grind in a generous amount of black pepper, and serve right away.

All in all, this was a very good meal only made better by the wonderful company and the great weather for dining outside.