“Ratatouille” Gratin

All of us love ratatouille, one of our favorite summer side dishes, especially for my grandson. So when I saw a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin it occurred to me that if I added some eggplant to it, it would be a ratatouille in a casserole with a nice crunchy top. Sounded delicious and indeed, it turned out succulent and indeed the top was very crunchy. The most important thing is to cut the vegetables all about the same so they cook at the same rate. It does take time since getting the water out of the squash and tomatoes, and the bitter out of the eggplant takes about a half hour of sitting but that time can be used to make really delicious caramelized onions. But it’s very easy to make. While I used yellow and zucchini squash, one or the other will work.

First thing is to cut up the vegetables:

1 pound zucchini squash, smallish, about 2

1 pound yellow summer squash, smallish again about 2

1 medium eggplant, peeled (about 6″ long)

6 medium size, ripe tomatoes

Wash and slice the squash, eggplant and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place the vegetables on baking trays covered with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Wash off the salt (except from the tomatoes) and dry thoroughly between paper towels to get the squash and eggplant as dry as possible.

While the vegetables are sitting, cut:

3 large or 4 medium size onion

Peel and then cut them in half and slice each half into thin slices. Should have about 4 cups of onions. Heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the sliced onions and cook for a minute over medium high heat before reducing to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The heat may need to be reduced if they begin sticking. I wasn’t patient enough and mine didn’t get as brown as they should have but still tasted delicious.

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Begin by layering the squash.

Now layer the eggplant on top of the squash. Next, mix together:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (pull the leaves off the tough stems)

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)

Sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant and then turn the eggplant over so that the mixture also gets to the squash. Now layer the onions on top of the eggplant and then the tomatoes on the onions.

Sprinkle the remaining mixture (garlic oil) over the top of the tomatoes and again, turn over the tomatoes so the oil can mix with the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes look a little brown. Remove from the oven and spread on top:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plain

1 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (again, pull the small leaves off the tough stems)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper)

Return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more or until the topping has browned.

Sprinkle with:

1/4 cup roughly chopped basil

Feel free to half the recipe. The 9×13″ size will easily serve 8-10.

Crusted Tilapia

I’m always looking for new recipes for fish. This one is very tasty and very easy to make. It reminded me of fried fish but is baked in the oven. That’s because of the high fat content in the mayonnaise. Feel free to use any fish, adjusting the proportions to fit the size of your fish portions. I used tilapia but the original recipe used halibut so it works for pretty much any fish. Simple and quick to make. Serves 4.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix:

3/4 cup mayonnaise*

1/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

2 tablespoons dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and basil (or 1 teaspoon of each fresh, chopped)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk to combine. In a non-stick baking dish** (again size depends on type of fish you use, mine was a 9×12), arrange:

1 pound of fish filets (with the tilapia, that’s four large pieces)

Spread the mixture equally over each piece of fish, covering the top completely. Bake in preheated oven 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish (the tilapia is quite thin and only took 20 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

*If you’re allergic to eggs like me, there are now several brands of vegan mayonnaise available which are delicious and work well in this recipe.

**There’s enough fat in the mayonnaise so greasing the pan isn’t necessary.

Stuffed Artichokes

Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables that I don’t eat every often. This time of year, the fresh artichokes are really delicious and wonderfully large, very stuffable. And the stuffing part isn’t set in stone – I usually use a chicken stew but I made one of my curried vegetable pies yesterday and thought, when I saw a beautiful big artichoke in the store this morning, that the leftovers would be great stuffing for that artichoke! So this one is vegan but any type of stew, preferably a creamed stew, will work as filling.

Serves 4. Prepare 2 large artichokes:

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the stem and cut off the very bottom, like cutting off the bottom of a carrot or onion. The stem of the artichoke is quite edible, tastes just like the heart. Then cut the stem off at the base of the artichoke so that it will sit flat in the pot. Some people cut off the top half of the artichoke but I don’t bother, a few spines on the ends don’t bother me but feel free. Place the artichokes and stems in a steamer over water and cook until the leave are falling away from the center. Remove from the steamer and let cool (trust me you don’t want to do the next step when the artichokes are boiling hot!).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When the artichokes are cooled, fold back the leaves and remove the tiny center leaves to reveal the choke. Using a spoon, remove the choke trying not to break the outer leaves from the middle (but it’s okay if this happens, just lean the sections of the artichoke on the outside of the baking dish or against each other). It’s best to use a greased baking dish that is about the size of the artichoke, so for the 2 artichokes, 2 dishes are needed.

Dice the tender parts of the stems and add to the filling. For 2 jumbo artichokes, use about 4 cups of stew. SEE: Creamy Chicken Stew with Asparagus (leaving out the asparagus of course), Curried Vegetable Pie, Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie, etc. Top with seasoned bread crumbs – 1/4 cup gluten-free bread crumbs tossed with olive oil (or melted vegan butter or avocado oil) and herbs. Or if like me you have leftover curried vegetable pie, use the remaining crust as the topping (or cut out rounds of pie crust).

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour if the stew is cold, less if it’s already hot. And if topped with a raw pie crust, bake for about 40 minutes.

Turkey Imperial

I enjoy turkey just as much as chicken and it’s always a nice change from the chicken grind. But it can be very dry if overcooked. Here’s a recipe that comes out moist and delicious! Lots of flavor and very easy to make if you can find turkey breast fillets. If not, use chicken breasts, remove the tenderloin and pound out the breasts to about 1/2 thickness. Serves 4.

4 turkey breast fillets or 4 chicken breasts pounded to 1/2 inch*

Preheat oven to 425 degree and spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray. The fillets or breasts should fit comfortably in the dish without touching. Salt and pepper the meat and set aside. In a small bowl mix:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/3 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes a great one)

4 tablespoons olive or avocado oil (or vegan margarine or butter melted)

1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme)

2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley)

1/2 teaspoon Herbamare (or sea salt)

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix to combine making sure all the bread crumbs are moistened. Spread evenly over the fillets or breasts. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the fillets are 160 degrees and the crumbs are well browned. Serve with a sauce:

1 cup chicken or turkey stock

1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice (NOT soy)

whites of 3 scallions diced

2 teaspoons spicy mustard

Whisk mustard into the stock mixture and heat in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot add a slurry made with:

2 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour

1/3 cup non-dairy milk

Whisk the slurry into the stock mixture and continue whisking until it thickens, about 2 minutes.

Be sure to put the sauce UNDER the fillets so that the crumb mixture stays crunchy. Garnish with the greens from the scallions.

*If the turkey fillets are too thin (want about 1/2 inch thickness), stack several, I think I actually had to stack 3 in one case. If the turkey is too thin, it will get dried out before the topping browns.

Tater Tots

I know, I know, another fried recipe! I try not to fry too many things because it’s not the healthiest way of cooking but some things, like potatoes, just love being fried. And they taste soooooooo good! I found a recipe for “Grown Up Tater Tots” in my aquafaba cookbook* and thought I’d give them a try. Of course, I had to make it my own, for some reason all my life, I’ve never been able to follow a recipe exactly, always changing something about it to make it my own and this one is no exception. The recipe, depending on the size of the potato you use and the size of your “tots” will make 10-12 pieces.

You’ll need:

1 large baking potato

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

2-3 tablespoons potato STARCH

1/4 cup aquafaba

1/2 to 2/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4-1/3 cup non-dairy parmesan shreds (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

Olive Oil, about 2 cups to fill a skillet 1/2″

First, naturally, peel and dice the potato. Boil until soft (be sure to always start boiling potatoes in cold water so that they cook evenly and only put in enough water to cover them with about 1/4″ to spare). Add a little salt to the water as well. This should take only about 10-15 minutes; be sure to reduce the heat once they come to a boil to medium. Drain and be sure there’s no water left in them.

Mash the potato (I used my immersion blender) but a ricer or masher will work as long as there are no lumps in the potato. It needs to be very smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used my herbamare instead of salt), the vegan margarine, cheese, and the potato starch. Stir to combine. The final mixture should hold together in a ball but it might be a little gummy. If it’s too gummy or soft, add another tablespoon of potato starch.

Place the aquafaba in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs, seasoned with some salt, pepper, garlic powder and the paprika in another bowl.

With wet hands, using about 1-2 tablespoons of the potato mixture, roll into logs, repeat until all the mixture is rolled. Then roll each log in the aquafaba being sure to moisten all sides. Roll in the seasoned bread crumbs. I suggest you do each one in both processes before doing another log. Wet your hands frequently (I actually wet them between each log, washing off the breadcrumbs).

Heat the olive oil to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, the oil will shimmer when it is close to the right temperature. If you heated it on high, be sure to reduce it to medium high before adding the tater tots. Cook each tot for approximately 3-5 minutes per side or until golden brown. If the tots are getting too dark too quickly, your oil is too hot and will cause the tots to burst.

Remove them from the oil when browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes, onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve as a side dish or use as a topping for a casserole.

TIP: To make them more flavorful, add some finely diced green onion or chives; bacon bits; or a small piece of non-dairy cheese in the middle of the log – or even all three! If you’re a fan of parsley, some dried parsley would also work well in these tots.

*Rebecca Coleman, Aquafabulous; 100+ Egg-free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba (Toronto, Canada: Robert Rose, 2017)

Scallops with Seasoned Breadcrumbs

I think scallops are my very favorite seafood, well maybe lobster runs a close second. They are definitely much easier to find in Minnesota than Maine lobsters! My very favorite way to cook scallops is to broil them wrapped in bacon and then serve with a side of maple syrup (are my New England roots showing?). I wanted to try something different and it turned out very flavorful, delicious, and oh so quick and easy to make. If you can handle a knife and a fork, you can make this!

I used sea scallops and cut them in half to make disks but I think this breading would work as a topping for any fish. If using bay scallops obviously don’t cut them and bake them for 10-15 minutes instead of the 18-20 minutes.

Heat oven to 425 degree. Spray the bottom of a glass baking dish large enough to hold 20-24 scallop disks. Arrange in the bottom of the dish:

10-12 large sea scallops, cut in half to make 20-24 disks

In a 2 cup bowl mix together:

3/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs

2 teaspoons diced parsley

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon herbamare

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds (if preferred use sesame, sunflower, etc.)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Spread the breading mixture evenly over the scallops. Into a cold skillet add:

6 ounces bacon, chopped (optional)

Brown and then drain on a paper towel before sprinkling the bacon bits on top of the breading. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

I served it with a tossed salad that included tomatoes and avocado.

Turkey Tetrazzini (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free)

After Thanksgiving, my mother would always make turkey tetrazzini.  She added, of course, cream as well as either white wine or sherry.  Since I can’t use those things, here’s my version without all that fat or any alcohol.  Feel free to use whatever pasta you have on hand.  I used a tortiglioni made from buckwheat flour that a friend recommended but I usually use spaghetti which is the more traditional pasta used in this dish.  

You’ll need:

  • 8 ounces of gluten-free pasta cooked al dente
  • 2 cups of mushroom soup (see recipe under Soups and Salads or follow directions below — you will need additional ingredients to make this mushroom sauce)
  • 8 ounces of sliced or diced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 1 1/2 cups diced turkey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon died thyme
  • 3-4 quart baking dish
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons avocado (or other) oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons shredded non-dairy cheese
  • cooking spray for the baking dish

If you don’t have some mushroom soup already to go, use this simple alternative:

In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil.  Add diced mushrooms, celery and mushrooms.  Cover and simmer over medium low heat about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Add 3 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour (or brown rice flour) and stir to incorporate.  Cook for a minute to begin cooking the flour.  Add 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you don’t have any vegetable stock) and 1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice (except soy which will not thicken).  Add the herbs and combine.

Combine the vegetables, pasta, sauce, and turkey in the skillet.  Pour into the baking dish.  Combine the bread crumbs and oil.  Spread the shredded cheese and then the bread crumbs over the top of the casserole and bake for approximately 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Patties (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free, soy-free, vegan)

If you love quinoa and sweet potatoes as much as I do, this recipe is a must for your side dish repertoire.  It easy to make and delicious to eat, flavorful from the herbs and garlic as well as the sweet potato, crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.  Garnish with your favorite aioli or eat them plain.  Be sure to add lots of scallions to garnish as well since sweet potatoes love them.  I used a curry aioli which I made by adding 2 teaspoons of curry powder to 1/2 cup of hot olive oil.  Let it cool before you begin blending the aioli. Make sure you don’t heat the oil after you add the curry powder or it will burn very quickly.  Makes 6 servings (2 patties each).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  You’ll need:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, whatever color you like
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1 15 ounce can drained chickpeas
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 scallions sliced for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mixture such as Mrs. Dash
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax, preferably golden
  • 2 tablespoon arrowroot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups breads crumbs, with seasonings added — remember if you need more, you can add more but you can’t take it away or use it again once you’ve covered your patties.

Mix the ground flax with 3 tablespoons of hot water and let sit until cool.  In a food processor, add the chickpeas, garlic and onion.  Blend until well mashed.  In a bowl, put the quinoa, sweet potato puree, chickpea mixture, flour and seasonings.  In a small bowl, mix the arrowroot with the other 3 tablespoons of water (cold this time).  Combine the arrowroot and the ground flax mixtures and add to the quinoa mixture.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Spread the bread crumbs in a small baking dish (I used a small cookie sheet with sides). Scoop out the quinoa mixture by 1/4 cups (it doesn’t have to be exact).  Put the scooped mixture on the bread crumbs and cover with more bread crumbs as you flatten it.  Place on another sheet while you finish the remaining patties, make sure you wipe off excess bread crumbs.

Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and when the patties are browned, put them on this cookie sheet in a single layer. In a large skillet, put 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat (more may be needed as the patties fry).  Add the patties to the skillet without crowding and brown on each side.   When all are fried, bake them for 15-20 minutes to heat through and cook inside.  Garnish with aioli and scallions.

Stuffed Mushrooms (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, sugar-free)

One of my favorite appetizers is stuffed mushrooms, as long as the main stuffing ingredient isn’t bread crumbs.  That happens a lot, especially in restaurant servings.  These are stuffed with crab but you could substitute any ground meat or no meat at all, simply add more chopped mushroom and perhaps some onion to the mixture.  The recipe makes between 12 and 15 mushrooms depending on the size and how much stuffing you like.

You’ll need:

  • 12-15 medium to large button or baby bella mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 cup crab meat, claw works fine, don’t need lump in this case
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried herbs, depending on personal taste (I use Mrs. Dash mixture but any herbs preferred will work)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded non-dairy cheese of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Clean the mushrooms by wiping off the outside and removing the stems.  If they are really dirty, feel free to remove the skins.  I prefer to remove them and take away the filmy outside once cooked.

Place on a small cookie sheet that’s been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Cut off the inside portion of the mushroom stems and dice.  Put avocado oil and diced mushrooms in a saute pan and cook for several minutes.  This is where you could also add some onion or garlic to taste.  Once diced mushrooms (and onions and garlic if added) are soft, remove from heat and stir in crab meat, herbs, and breadcrumbs.

Place 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons of the stuffing mixture into each mushroom cap depending on its size.  When all the caps are filled, sprinkle some cheese on each.  Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are cooked.  You can tell when they are cooked because they’ll shrink and expose more stuffing.

Serve hot.

Spaghetti and Meatballs (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free)

A throwback to my earlier life cooking for my best friend and my son, and sometimes for her parents as well, this recipe holds lots of memories.  The marinara sauce is a remake of my Aunt Jean’s sauce while the meatballs are an off-shoot of my meatloaf recipe.  If you prefer, a jarred sauce works just as well if you have one your family especially likes, and it sure is a lot quicker and easier than making a sauce from scratch.

Marinara Sauce:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 64 ounces of pureed tomatoes
  • 16 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or stock if you can’t use wine)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley (about 2 tablespoons of each)
  • monk fruit powder, stevia, or agave nectar if needed for additional sweetness

In a large skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper for a few minutes and then add the diced garlic and the grated carrot.  Saute until softened, about 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add the red wine and cook off the alcohol.  Add the pureed and diced tomatoes and cook over a low heat, covered, for approximately 1 hour.  Uncover and cook an additional 15 minutes.  Add the fresh herbs along with salt and pepper to taste and the tomato paste.  If needed, depending on your taste, add additional sweetener.  Simmer over low heat until ready to add the meatballs.

Meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, pulsed in a food processor until small dice
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs (I used an herb mixture such as Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry parsley
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free ketchup (such as Organicsville Agave Ketchup) OR 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 slices of gluten-free bread crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees; grease an 8×10 baking pan with olive oil.  Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until combined but try not to overmix so that the meat mixture stays tender.  I use a soup spoon to measure out the meatballs so that they are all about the same size.  Mine were approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and the recipe made 24 meatballs.  Bake in the prepared pan for about 45 minutes, in the middle of the oven so that the bottoms of the meatballs don’t burn.  Add the meatballs to the sauce.

Prepare your favorite pasta.  I use the red lentil and quinoa linguine which takes just about 8 minutes to cook and my husband thinks tastes good even though he doesn’t realize its gluten-free and contains protein.  After you drain your pasta, put it back in the cooking pot, add sauce and mix thoroughly.  Serve with the meatballs and feel free to sprinkle some grated mozzarella (non-dairy of course) over the top.