Archive for the 'vegetables' Category

Armenian Red Lentil Patties

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, I didn’t know Armenia even existed until a couple years ago, and I didn’t know how great their food was until a couple days ago, when an Armenian cookbook caught my eye at the library. (And I kind of think the only reason it caught my eye was because it’s a really pretty purple with nice writing on the spine). I know if I lived in Fresno or LA I would probably be very familiar with it, but I’m in a town that is desperately low on ethnic cuisine and diversity.

Because red lentils are my very favorite lentil (do you have a favorite lentil? I recommend red!) the recipe for red lentil patties was an obvious pick. Plus the fact that it’s a traditional recipe for Lent (which I don’t observe but know is currently occurring) just made it seem like the perfect thing to make. With bulgur and red lentils making a complete protein, it’s a great choice for vegetarians, not to mention the fact that it’s DELICIOUS. Basically, you just cook up some lentils with cumin, some onions with cayenne, then combine them together with fine bulgur and get a paste. You let that cool, then shape it into patties and sprinkle with onions and cilantro, and serve it with flatbread. Not fancy, but really, really good. The leftovers are great straight from the fridge too, but I don’t recommend taking them to work because the onion-breath factor is pretty high.

(from Simply Armenian by Brbara Ghazarian)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
1/2 cup fine grain bulgur (#1)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 medium onion, diced (I used a white onion)
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp olive oil
a few tbsp chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Put the lentils and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid on until the lentils are fully cooked (15-20 minutes). Add the bulgur, salt, and cumin and stir well. The mixture should be pretty thick – if there is still some water, keep cooking until the mixture thickens.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and most of the chopped onion, reserving about 1/4 cup to sprinkle on the finished patties. Stir in the cayenne
Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent (8-10 minutes), then add to the lentil mixture.
Transfer to a bowl to cool completely, stirring occasionally.
With damp hands, shape 1/3 cup at a time into egg-shaped patties. Sprinkle with reserved raw onion and parsley or cilantro to serve.

My favorite vegetable soup

veg soup

There’s something extraordinarily comforting about eating creamy soups when the weather gets cool. As a kid, I gravitated towards Campbell’s Cream of Asparagus with so many crushed Saltines in it that it basically solidified. These days I stay away from canned soups, but they’ve been replaced with something MUCH better.

The inspiration for this soup came from The New Moosewood Cookbook. I’ve made the recipe dozens of times, but have made quite a few of my own changes, adapting to whatever happens to be fresh at the farmer’s market or languishing in my refrigerator. It’s the perfect way to use whatever vegetables may be remaining from other recipes, and can be easily adjusted to feed a whole crowd or just you. It’s perfect with a green salad and big chunk of whole grain bread, and it will keep for a few days in the refrigerator with no ill effects.

I use 2% milk because it gives the soup a little more body than skim or 1% would. I’m not sure how soy or rice milk would work here, but if you try it with either of them, let me know! I like my soup really chunky, so I’ve scaled down the amount of liquid I add, but you can certainly add more if it looks a little thick to you.

4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small head broccoli, roughly chopped
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper
2 cups water
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and broccoli and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
Stir in the basil and cook an additional minute.
Pour in the water (it should just cover the vegetables, but if it doesn’t, add a little extra). Cover the pot and simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes (until the vegetables are tender).
Remove the cover and add the milk. Stir well, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
When heated through, stir in the Napa cabbage.
Mix well, then serve.

Kimchi Fried Rice

kimchi fried rice

A few years ago I bought a jar of kimchi and was seriously underwhelmed. I could not see how millions of people could possibly be so in love with spicy fermented cabbage. Was I missing something? I couldn’t even tell if it had gone bad or not, which is never a good sign.

Then I moved here and kimchi was EVERYWHERE. Yes, you run into the occasional person who doesn’t like it, but there are pots of fermenting vegetables on every rooftop in my neighborhood, and I have not had a single meal in a restaurant where a dish of it was not presented on the side. It didn’t take long for me to become completely addicted, and although I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t tried making my own, I feel like something is missing if I don’t have some with my dinner.

My students are horrified to hear that I buy kimchi at the grocery store, but I just can’t commit to buying a vessel in which to make it, and what if it doesn’t turn out or I give myself food poisoning or I choose a bad recipe? It stresses me out just thinking about it, so for now I’ll stick with buying the oh-so-convenient packages of it from the refrigerator case near the produce section. I realize how ridiculous it is to be this intimidated by a few pounds of cabbage and some red pepper flakes, but it’s just my sad reality.

Note: If you’re vegetarian, inspect the kimchi carefully, because some varieties contain fish. Or be a braver soul than I am and make your own!

kimchi and rice

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 block tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into thin rectangles
1/2 onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I like a mix of brown and white)
2/3 cup chopped kimchi
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high. Add the tofu in a single layer (cook in batches if necessary) and cook until golden on all sides (toss the pan occasionally).
Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft.
Add the rice and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the kimchi and soy sauce, and mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes more, then serve.

Zucchini Spears with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Zucchini spears with roasted tomato sauce

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s coming sooner than you think. The end of summer.

For some this is a melancholy time filled with mourning the loss of late sunsets and hot days, but for me the coming of fall has always been one of my favorite times of the year: cooler weather, college football, cross country season… what’s not to like? The only thing I really don’t like about this time of year is a single word: Autumn. I don’t know why people need to use that word when they talk about fall. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but to me autumn is just one of those overused, “I’m trying to be poetic” cliches. (It feels good to get that off my chest, and I sincerely hope I didn’t offend too many people).

I know summer doesn’t technically end for about two more months, but when it does, this is a recipe you’ll want to make. It’s a perfect way to simultaneously savor the best of summer and welcome the cooler days of fall. Plus, I know a lot of people who have their own gardens always end up with far more zucchini than they know what to do with around this time of year, so this will come in quite handy.

The zucchini here looks a little different from the variety I was used to in California, but aside from the color, it’s basically the same.


I cut mine into spears, sprinkle it with salt, and let it sit for about half an hour to take out some of the moisture. This step may not be essential, but I think it improves the texture of the final product.


There is something about roasted tomatoes that is divinely comforting to me. I don’t know if it’s the mellowing of the acidity to a rich, sweet flavor, or the way they become sublimely soft and tender, but roasted tomatoes make me incredibly happy. Add a little garlic and olive oil, and you have a sauce so good, it’s hard not to eat it by the spoonful.

If you manage to have some self control, though, the sauce is the perfect accompaniment to these garlicky roasted zucchini spears. Unlike a plate full of pasta, this won’t leave you feeling stuck in a carb-induced food coma.


2 large zucchinis
4 cloves garlic, divided
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
8 medium tomatoes (or about 12 roma)
a few pinches of salt
a few pinches of sugar

Cut the zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half into 8 wedges.
Sprinkle with a little salt and let stand for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 F.
Chop 2 cloves of garlic very finely, and combine with 2 tbsp olive oil.
Core the tomatoes and cut them in half.
Put the tomato halves on a jelly roll pan lined with foil, and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, stirring the pan about halfway through. They should be very dark brown in places, but not charred. (If they are starting to get black on the bottom, take them out).
Blot the zucchini pieces with a clean tea towel and toss with the garlic and oil mixture. Bake on a sheet pan for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice.
Set the finished tomatoes and zucchinis aside. Sprinkle the zucchini with a pinch of salt, if desired.
Chop the remaining 2 cloves of garlic.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the chopped garlic.
Add the tomatoes and their juice. Using a wooden spoon or metal spatula, break the tomatoes into small pieces (this will get easier as they cook).
Add a few pinches of salt and a pinch of sugar, taste, and adjust seasonings.
Simmer until thickened, 10-15 minutes.
Serve the sauce either next to or drizzled over the zucchini spears.

Spicy-Sweet Potatoes


I like unexpected food combinations. I remember the day I discovered how good Fritos were when dipped in Chocolate pudding. I went through a phase where I dipped baby carrots in mustard. I love hot sauce on waffles. You get the idea.

In Thailand I came to really appreciate how a little dose of sweetness can bring out all the flavors in a dish. Sugar goes into just about everything they cook, and if it’s not already in there, you can definitely add some becuase sugar is one several condiments that is always available. The food tends to be really spicy, so I fell in love with the spicy-sweet combo.

These potatoes are a seriously addictive side dish (or snack! or lunch!), and they were inspired by Molly Jean’s recipe. However, I had to make a few major tweaks based on what I have in my kitchen. I just made a single serving, so if you’re cooking for multiple people, you’ll need to double or quadruple the recipe.
The sweet potatoes here have red skins and yellow flesh. I’m not sure if they’re available in the US, so use whatever sweet potatoes you like!

1 sweet potato
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp salted butter
1 tsp red pepper powder (it’s a Korean thing…use a little cayenne and some red pepper flakes if you can get them)

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Cut the potato into small cubes and soak in cool water for about 20 minutes. (This removes some of the starch, making for nice roasted potatoes)
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a small bowl in the microwave, or in a small saucepan.
Drain the potatoes and toss with the butter-sugar mixture until evenly coated.
Spread on the foil and sprinkle with the red pepepr powder.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

Winter Vegetable Gratin

This is a perfect side dish for fall or winter.  Sweet potato, purple potato, and carrot, all baked together with shallots, green onions, and a topping of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Next time I think I might throw some parsnips into the mix too!

(adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 small shallots, quartered
4 small purple potatoes, thinly sliced
1 yam, thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2″ slices
4 green onions, cut into 1″ lengths
salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375.
Heat the oil in a large flame and oven-proof pan.  Add the shallots potatoes, yam, and carrots and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, until they start to brown a bit.
Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in green onions.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and about half the cheese.
Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
When the vegetables are nicely caramelized, remove from the oven and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.

Roasted Broccoli

  Roasting must be the best thing that ever happened to vegetables.  It transforms even frequently despised vegetables into tender morsels replete with flavor far beyond what they ever had when they were raw.

  I didn’t know broccoli could be so good (and I even enjoy raw broccoli).  I just tossed it with some grapeseed oil (olive oil would be great too), salt, and pepper, and sprinkled it with lemon juice as soon as it came out of the oven.  And, as you can see in the picture, it makes a nice accompaniment to macaroni and cheese.
(adapted from Eating Well)

4 cups broccoli florets
2 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Toss broccoli with oil, salt and pepper.
Place on a large baking sheet (not air-insulated) and roast until the broccoli is tender and blackened on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately


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