Back to food for a change. Two improvised vegetarian recipes I threw in together when I got tired of the usual pasta-rice-buckwheat circle. I’m actually thoroughly enjoying this ‘throwing’ procedure, which allows you to get curious results and varied flavours. It is all very easy and creative, so join in!
A year ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo
Two years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza
Three years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies
Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower (improvised) will make a fiber & protein-rich vegetarian dish.
- cauliflower, broken in florets, if frozen no need to defrost
- yellow lentils, rinsed
- olive oil
- chopped herbs such as dill or parsley
- toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, optional
Start with heating a deep pan, then throwing in bulgur and adding a splash of olive oil so that the bulgur is ‘moistened’. Don’t let it burn! Then add the cauliflower (frozen is fine), and the yellow lentils. Cover them with water. The moment the water starts simmering, season with salt and add some turmeric. You can either throw in the chopped herbs now or add them later. I usually cover the pan with a lid and add more water if it boils off. Don’t overcook the lot, cause both cauliflower and yellow lentils are quick-cooking buddies! Check the bulgur and if it’s cooked, than the dish is ready. Serve with some toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, a splash of soya sauce and some white cheese, to taste.
Remarks: You can adapt this recipe to your own taste buds and hunger. You can adjust the amount of each ingredient according to your preferences. The yellow lentils I was using for this recipe cook very fast and if slightly overcooked become quite mashy. You might want to add them later! Also make sure to add enough salt, this dish might get a bit bland without the extra soy sauce. Next time I would add some chopped onion as well.
Result: Yellow and quite unusual! The turmeric adds just a tiny bit of spiciness (try curry instead), the bulgur remains crunchy while the cauliflower and lentils are soft.
By the way, if you’re not sure what bulgur is (I learnt about it for the first time in Strasbourg and since then it has entered our family cooking) and what benefits it might have, here’s what you read on Wikipedia: ‘Compared to unenriched white rice, bulgur has more fiber and protein, a lower glycemic index, and higher levels of most vitamins and minerals’. Sounds pretty impressive!
When I think of aubergines I most often immediately think of garlic. This is such a traditional combination for our family that it just comes naturally. Mom used to fry aubergines with crushed garlic and this fragrant duet is solidly engraved in my mind. As these superbly coloured eggplants or aubergines are in season now, I’m carpe-diem-ing them a lot in my cooking 🙂
Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives (improvised) will make salty and zesty rolls with melt-in-your-mouth cheese inside. The preparation requires some time.
- aubergines, preferably long
- soft white cheese such as Adygea, Feta or farmer’s cheese, sliced
- olives, sliced
- some hard cheese
- garlic, minced or crushed, to taste
- olive oil
- dried oregano (or any other herb)
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C. Grease a large baking sheet. Wash, clean and slice the aubergines – you will need long slices for the rolls but the short bits are ok too – these will also go in. In a small bowl combine some olive oil, dried oregano, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, plus minced or crushed garlic (if you’re not sure about the amounts for this mixture, make it small for starters, you can always make more!). Rub this mixture (or brush it over) into the aubergine slices – I left one side clean and so placed the aubergines clean side down onto the baking sheet. Bake the aubergines until they get quite soft but not burning! Just peep in from time to time. Meanwhile you can slice your cheese and olives. When the veggies are ready, take them out of the oven and cool slightly. Places cheese and then olive slices on each aubergine slice, season (if your cheese is not very salty already) and roll from the short side (the bits too small to roll can just be made into ‘towers’ of cheese and olives). Don’t worry if they naughtily unroll – just tuck the ends under the rolls and push the rolls close together. This will also facilitate the next step: grating some hard cheese over, sprinkling with oregano and sesame seeds. You now need to reheat them and make the cheese melt, that’s all – so you can place the sheet back into the oven onto the highest rack. Be careful not to burn them!
Remarks: I’ve repeated this recipe without rubbing in / brushing with the oil + herb mixture, just splashing some oil over the sliced aubergines and then baking them. The result was less interesting from the first super-garlicky variant. Also the second time the quality of the cheese was better and I also grated it on top but I was quite careless to let the rolls overcook and the smallest of them became hard.
Result: Garlicky! And cheesy. The aubergine flesh is very soft while the skin is crunchy (sounds pretty carnivorous, doesn’t it?). Perfect as appetizers – I can imagine piercing them with a toothpick to make them into snacks.
Adding these to my lunch / dinner recipe collection.