Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 1: Risotto with orange cauliflower, onions, garlic, and asiago cheese

I've been procrastinating. I'm going to try to blog about 365 days of vegetarian dinners, starting today. I was supposed to start on the first of the month, but today will do just as well, I suppose.

I've been a vegetarian of one sort or another for more than thirty years now and the first question that non-vegetarians ask me has not changed in all that time; "What do you eat?" I'm going to try to answer that question here.

What I eat has changed over time. In the seventies, every vegetarian recipe took out the meat and put in lots of butter, and cream and cheese, as if we had to compensate for what we'd lost. Frances Moore Lappe told us we had to eat the right combination of proteins at every meal, so I built menus around the best amino acid matches. There were no frozen veggie burgers, only TSP (textured soy protein), tempeh and tofu.

When the frozen food industry discovered the vegetarian market, I was seduced by the variety and ease of the new products appearing every time I visited the grocery store and went through a period of building meals around the latest and greatest frozen soy protein - Gardenburger, Boca, Morningstar Farms, and Amy's burgers, various veggie hot dogs, pseudo chicken patties, fake Italian and breakfast sausage, even Quorn "roasts" and tofurky.

I worked my way through every Mollie Katzen cookbook. I've tried ethnic recipes from around the globe and I am a big fan of epicurious.com. Lately, I've joined in on the newest craze; I have a CSA share and for the last twenty four weeks I've been building meals around what is in the box I pick up every Thursday. That has been more fun than I could have imagined, and more work.

For thirty years or so, though, one thing hasn't changed, each evening I answer the question of "What's for dinner?" and the answer never includes meat. So, here goes.

Day 1
Risotto with orange cauliflower, onions, garlic, and asiago cheese

There was a lovely head of orange cauliflower in last Thursday's CSA box. Tonight it morphed into an even lovelier risotto. Here's how it happened.

  • I didn't have any stock around, so I put a potato, 3 old small carrots, part of a turnip, half an onion, a handful of green beans, some parsley, and a teaspoon of Verdurette (see below) in a pot with about 6 cups of water and set it to boiling.
  • I rinsed and cut the cauliflower into florets which I put into a roasting pan, tossed with 1 tablespoon olive oil and some salt and pepper, and put into a 400 degree oven.
  • While the stock boiled and the cauliflower roasted (I stirred it around every once and a while), I minced 3 small cloves of garlic and a leftover half of a white onion and began to sautee that in about a teaspoon of olive oil
  • When the onions were soft and starting to brown, I added half a box of arborio rice and sauteed that for a few minutes with the onions and garlic, then I began to add the hot broth (I left it on low and scooped out liquid from around the vegetables with a measuring cup) 1/2 - 1 cup at a time, stirring pretty constantly
  • In between stirrings, I grated some asiago cheese - about 3/4 cup I'd say.
  • After about 20 minutes or so, the rice was cooked and the cauliflower was starting to brown but not yet mushy. I mixed the cauliflower into the rice, then mixed in the cheese and a little salt and pepper.
  • We added a spinach salad (spinach from the CSA box, dried cranberries, walnuts and a little feta cheese, balsamic vinagrette) and that was dinner.
  • Yummy!
Verdurette is a recipe to preserve vegetables with salt, French, as you can tell from the name. You can find many versions if you search on-line. I leaned to make this at a food preservation class I took with Leda Meredith http://ledameredith.net/wordpress/ her recipe is basically 4 parts vegetables (1 part each leafy greens, root vegetables, alliums, & fresh herbs) and 1 part salt.

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