cheap veggie gourmet

A blog detailing ways to enjoy a gourmet vegetarian diet on the cheap. Check out recipes, food stories, tips and techniques.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Pantry Meals

I'm moving in about ten days. This has called for me to one, spend less money, since I've had to drop a significant amount of cahs on deposits and the like; and two, pare down my pantry stores so I'm not schlepping forty cans of tomatoes across town. Thankfully, these are highly compatible objectives.

One of the best meals to come out of this has been my favorite veggie chili yet:

one can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
two cans diced tomatoes
two to four cloves garlic, minced
half an onion, minced
good handful TVP (not tofu crumbles... that stuff is too expensive and just tastes wrong, somehow)
dollop of jarred salsa (since I hardly ever buy fresh peppers)
chopped jalapeno pepper (if desired)
green taco sauce (the kind with tomatillos, unless you happen to have some fresh)
handful of frozen corn
one carrot, chopped into 1/4" dice
olive oil
crushed red pepper (if desired)
cumin, to taste
fresh ground black pepper
oregano
basil
fresh parsley

Sautee the onion, garlic and spices in olive oil until fragrant and transparent. Add the remaining ingredients, except the corn and fresh parsley. Cook over medium heat until it's nice and thick. Add parsley and corn. Cook until corn is cooked through.

Damn good over rice, with a bit of shredded cheese and sour cream on top.

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Anyone else remember that ridiculous Cabbage Soup Diet from the 1990s? You'd a ton of grapefruit one day, rice another... all supplemented by as much cabbage soup as you could stomach. The diet was pretty quacky, but the soup was good. I never pursued the diet, but I make the soup every so often. I made a real clean-out-the-pantry version the other night:

  • two cans diced tomatoes
  • one can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • one lonely, neglected sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • chopped shoots from the same sweet potato*
  • a couple of cups of cabbage, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • two green onions
  • handful of alphabet pasta
  • water
  • 1/2 cup very bad merlot; turns out that the $2.99 bottles available at SaveALot really are that bad (I bought it after having my interest piqued by hearing tales from Californian friends about the virtues of Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck)
  • pepper to taste
  • dash of soy sauce
  • a few drops of liquid smoke

A sort of half-assed minestrone, but very tasty. I think as long as you have a good tasting broth and the beans and cabbage as the basis, you'll have a pretty satisfying meal.



*NOTE: Sweet potato shoots and leaves are edible, and quite tasty. White potato shoots, on the other hand, are poisonous. The vegetables are from different families: sweet potatoes related to morning glories, while white potatoes are in the nightshade family. All parts of the plant except the tubers are toxic.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Quick Tip

Everyone, even people who don't garden, should compost. When trash goes to a landfill, it sits in a sealed tank where nothing significantly decays. Archeologists excavate them because everything inside is in such good condition.

So, we all need to do what we can for waste reduction.

I'm kind of a lazy person, though, so having that bucket of vegetable scraps on my counter would be a problem. I simply cannot be counted on to take it out the back & dig it into the heap every day.

When I was down in Miami, I learned a simple trick from the folks at Nokimo house, where I stayed: keep the veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer. That way, when you fall behind on the chores, it's not quite so disastrous.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Lunch for one

Today's lunch experiment was particularly successful, so I thought I'd post about it here:

Curried Egg Sandwich

2 eggs, beaten
1 - 2 cloves garllic, minced
about a teaspoon curry powder
olive oil, or ghee if you keep it around
fresh parsley, minced
2 slices good bread

Heat the oil in a small frying pan. When hot, add the garlic and curry powder. Saute unti the garlic is soft. Add the eggs, and scramble. Meanwhile, toss the bread in the toaster. Eggs go on top of the bread, parsley goes on top of that. Give it a good grind of fresh black pepper, and you are done.

Note about the curry powder: if you are a foodie, you already know this, but I'll throw it out there anyway. Toasting spices or heating them in a little oil intensifies and develops the flavor beautifully. Accumulating tips like these and basic methods gradually allows you to become a better off-the-cuff cook, developing rather than following recipes.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Your Father Smells of Elderberries

Sorry for the lack of updates, I ran out of town for a spontaneous trip!

I had to kill some time before picking up a friend yesterday morning to retrieve my car from the side of the highway in Bradenton (long story), so I went to a local playground to take a walk.

Along the way, I saw a bunch of ripe elderberries. I'd never had any, but had wanted to experiment with them for a long time. I carefully filled my big canvas shoulder bag with all the ripe ones I could find. Two notes about raw elderberries: one, the edible plant guides aren't kidding when they say that they have a rank taste and smell; and two, the stuff makes excellent purple dye if you, say, happen to crush a few in the bottom of a cream colored cotton purse.

When I got home that evening, I set about removing the berries from the stems. I wish I'd read one site's advice to use the tines of a fork for this task before I'd completed it by hand. Because the berries are so tiny, it's pretty delicate work.

I only had about half a cup of berries by the time I was done. I'd seen a recipe for a sweet elderberry sauce somewhere, but, of course could not find it now. So, I decided to wing it.

Into the pot went the berries, along with a splash of water and some sugar. I just kept stirring and crushing a few of the berries here and there. I added a little more sugar a few time, as the berries still had a sort of bitter flavor.

Once I'd let everything cook down for a bit, however, the sauce thickened a bit and was rather sweet. The berries have... well... sort of a generic "berry" flavor, maybe something a bit like blackberry pie.

In my wanderings, I also read that the flowers can be eaten right off the plant, or dipped in batter and fried. That's definitely my next experiment.