Monday, August 16, 2010
I prepare vegetarian dishes all the time. During the week I usually throw together a grain, some fresh vegetables, and feta and toss it all with vinaigrette. Or if I want something hot, I often make pasta, baked polenta or a tofu stir fry. It’s cheap, makes good leftovers (I’m not a fan of reheated meat), and healthy. However, whenever I'm actually confronted with making dinner for a real vegetarian, I panic.
Meat-friendly crowd pleasers are easy – short ribs, pork tenderloin, lasagna, steak, etc. The meat forms the centerpiece and the salad and other accompaniments simply keep it company. With a vegetarian meal, however, I struggle to find the ‘centerpiece’ or rather, a dish worthy of presenting to somebody other than myself!
Last week I had to tackle this problem head on as it was Zuzana’s name day (a Czech Republic thing). Given the company, I knew I could just get away with serving dessert for the main course (a Czech Republic thing), but I was determined to find my Zuzana Day centerpiece. Luckily, corn and tomato pie from Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue.
Tomatoe Corn Pie adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1) Make or buy a pie crust with a top and bottom. I made mine (using a bottle of wine as a rolling pin) but I don’t think it’s particularly worth the time unless you are really good at pie crusts –which I’m not.
2) Prepare your pie filling: Slice approximately 2 lbs of beefsteak tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and remove as many seeds as possible. Remove corn kernels from 2 ears of steamed corn. Shred two cups of good cheddar cheese (spend the money). Chop up a generous handful of basil (or substitute pesto) and some chives.
3) Whisk together 1/3 cup crème fraiche and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
4) Line the bottom of the pie with a layer of cheese (prevents sogginess) and then add a layer of tomatoes, corn, and herb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat.
5) Drizzle top of pie with crème fraiche mixture and seal up with top pie crust.
6) Brush top of pie with 2 tablespoons melted butter and poke 4 steam holes in the crust.
7) Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Let stand for 10 minutes when you remove or it will be watery.
Place it in the middle of your table as a centerpiece and toast to Zuzana.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Chucho thinks I should name my kid Tortilla. I have my doubts about that despite my deep appreciation for tortillas. Tortillas can really make or break a meal, and in NYC, it’s unfortunately often the latter. I recently read an article about Tortilleria Nixtamal and I have high hopes that it will up the standards for tortillas in NYC. In the mean time, tortilla soup satisfies my craving without requiring top notch tortillas. It’s based on a Wolfgang Puck recipe (Qué verguenza!) but it really does the trick.
1. Steam two ears of the freshest most flavor packed corn you can find. Remove the kernels and save the cobs.
2. In a food processor, blend a few jalapenos, one small onion, 4-6 garlic cloves and the corn.
3. Cut up a couple of tortillas and sauté in vegetable oil in a big soup pot until brown and crispy. Add the veggie mixture and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add two large chopped and seeded tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 2-3 teaspoons of cumin. Cook for 10 minutes.
5. Add 6-8 cups of good stock and the corn cobs and simmer until soup reduces a bit and flavors mix. Add salt to taste.
7. For garnish, service with chopped cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, baked tortilla strips, pulled chicken, avocado, etc.
Eat it. Enjoy it. But don’t name your kid after it.