Welcome to Romeo's Food Lady! This blog mainly contains recipes for delicious vegetarian food. Most of these are not MY recipes, just a compilation of great veggie food I've found from all over the place, sometimes tweaked to my taste. It's intended to be a reference you can consult again and again rather than a daily inspiration. After more than 25 years of being a vegetarian, I know what tastes good. In addition to recipes, you may occasionally have to tolerate musings and rants as well. Romeo's Food Lady is named after my friend and cat, Romeo. Romeo is not a vegetarian, but his Food Lady is. Enjoy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quick Pan-Fried Okra

As I mentioned, we're having a successful first year with okra in the garden.  It doesn't mind the drought, but pretty much everything else does.  Here's a quick, easy recipe for a weeknight side of fried okra.  It's not the battered fried okra you may be used to, but it is still yummy!  I got this recipe from an old Southern Living cookbook called The Southern Heritage of Vegetables Cookbook, copyright 1983.  Many (most?) of the recipes are heavy on dairy and meat ingredients, but the antique photos, seed advertisements, and sentiments make it worth my time nonetheless.

1 lb. okra, cleaned  (NOTE:  It is best to cook with okra that is no more than about 3 inches in length.  Larger pods usually have a woody, tough texture.)
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/2 t. salt
canola oil

Cut okra crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, discarding stems.  Set aside.

Combine cornmeal and salt, mixing well, then put the mixture into a small brown paper bag.  Add the okra, close the bag, and shake to coat the okra.  (Don't worry.  The okra's sticky juices will make this easy!)  Remove the okra from the bag and cook in 1/2 inch oil over high heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.  Serves 3-4 as a side dish.

This is good with an old-fashioned Southern veggie plate of mashed potatoes, stewed beans, sliced and salted tomatoes, and cornbread.  YUM!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blue and Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Remember the blue potatoes we grew in the garden this year?  Well, they make beautiful gnocchi, especially when presented with sweet potato gnocchi.  How does one do this?  It's pretty labor intensive and probably not a good project for a novice cook since the instructions are kind of nebulous.  To begin, you need to boil the blue potatoes and the sweet potatoes separately until soft.  Drain the potatoes (keep the 2 colors separate throughout), then mash them dry (i.e. without any liquid), but add 1/4 t. salt and 1 T. extra virgin olive oil for every 2 cups of mashed potatoes.  After that, follow the instructions for gnocchi previously posted here for the blue potatoes.  The sweet potatoes were far too moist, so I added significantly more flour, maybe at a 1:1 ratio with the potatoes.  Also, instead of rolling the sweet potato dough into tubes and cutting, I just spooned it out of the pan and into the boiling water.  The results were not as uniform in appearance, but just as tasty.  You can easily make as much or as little as you want, then serve the dumplings with tomato sauce, pesto sauce, goat cheese sauce, or pesto-goat cheese sauce.  Other ideas:  mix herbs and/or garlic into your gnocchi dough.  Have fun with it!  I was very pleased with the results.

With tomato sauce:

Before sauce:

Serve with a green side (fresh salad, roasted asparagus, sautéed green beans, wilted spinach, steamed broccoli, etc.) and you're all set!

Pizza Bites

Recently, Scott and I were playing with our reproduction Atari game console that my sister got us for Christmas a few years ago, and we started feeling peckish.  "What kind of snack can we have that is sort of 80s-ish?" I asked.  "Fruit Roll-Ups?  Pizza Bites? Gummy Bears?" he suggested.  Well, obviously I'm not going to eat Gummy Bears, but the pizza bites sounded good.  Since I didn't really have 80s-style pizza bites on hand, I had to just make something that was like pizza and sort of bite-sized.  These are kind of obvious and obviously mainstream, but we cleaned them out pretty quickly nonetheless.  They're a good idea for a vegetarian snack or appetizer for something casual.  Vegans, just omit the cheese and have at it!

Ingredients (You choose how much of everything.):
baguette bread, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
jarred tomato pasta sauce or prepared pizza sauce
strips or chunks of organic mozzarella cheese (I like Organic Valley brand, as you probably know.)
pimento-stuffed olives, cut in half
banana pepper rings

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  On each round, spoon on a bit of sauce, top with cheese, poise one olive half over the cheese, and surround the olive with a banana pepper ring (or let it just keep the olive company).  Put the rounds on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F until cheese is melted and edges are browning.  Let that cheese cool before popping them into your mouth!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Aloo Gobi with Chana Dal

These days I make my aloo gobi (recipe here) with a can of garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas, a.k.a. chana dal) tossed in.  It is a more balanced meal with the addition of a protein ingredient.  Add 1 can of rinsed, drained chickpeas near the end of the recipe and heat until they are warmed through.  This would also be a good accompaniment to the Bhindi Masala recipe in the previous post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bhindi Masala

We've had great success with okra in the garden this year, and it's our first year trying to grow it!  I guess that is a testament as to why the Southern U.S.is so loyal to the okra pod.  Here's a great way to use fresh okra.  NOTE:  You want okra that is only 2 - 3 inches long and very fresh.  Larger pods are woody and don't absorb the spices as well.  This recipe is from Madhu Gadia's book New Indian Home Cooking, which I recommend!  Serve this with basmati rice and dal for a delicious, balanced meal.  Tasty Bite brand makes a great Madras Lentils if you don't want to make the dal from scratch (recipe here).  I also use Mexican flour tortillas as a flat bread to serve with my Indian meals at home.

1 lb. fresh okra
4 t. canola oil, separated
1/2 t. whole cumin seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large tomato, cored, cut in half, then sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. salt
1 T. coriander powder
1/2 t. cayenne powder (optional)
2 t. fennel seeds, coarsely ground (I grind whole spices using a coffee bean grinder.)
1/2 t. mango powder (otherwise known as amchur powder - order online or visit your local international grocery store)

Wash the okra.  Remove the stem ends and the tips.  Slice each okra pod in half lengthwise then set aside.

Heat 1 t. canola oil in a nonstick frying pan oveer medium-high heat.  Add cumin seeds and fry until they turn golden brown, a few seconds.  Add the onion and tomato to the pan, then layer the okra on top.  Sprinkle the turmeric, salt, coriander powder, cayenne pepper (if using), and ground fennel seeds over to the okra.  Stir gently with a spatula using a lifting and turning motion.

Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer until the okra is tender, 8 - 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium.  Add the mango powder and stir gently.  Pour the remaining 3 t. oil around the sides of the pan, allowing oil to flow to the bottom of the pan.  Fry for 5 - 7 minutes, stirring gently with a spatula using a lifting and turning motion.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mashed Blue Potatoes

This year, Scott and I grew "blue" potatoes in the garden.  Really, Scott did all the work.  Unlike "red" potatoes, blue potatoes have blue skin AND blue flesh (and in the plant world, "blue" usually means purple).  They make the most bee-YOU-tiful mashed potatoes, as you see here.  These are not artificially colored!  So head on out to your local farmer's market and see if the farmers in your area are growing blue potatoes that can liven up your table.  If not, they are something to consider for your own food garden next year.

Here's a blue potato, straight out of the garden and after a little bath.  As you can see, the skin is blue.  But the flesh is blue, too!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Watermelon Margaritas

Here's another great idea for produce from the farmer's market.  I got the recipe from The Commercial Appeal, and they cited Arlen Gargagliano's Mambo Mixers as their source.  In any case, we made this with a luscious watermelon we picked up at last Saturday's farmer's market, and it was fun and refreshing!  There are no photos of the frothy pink drinks, because we were too busy enjoying them to photograph them.

4 T. fresh lime juice plus 1 lime wedge and 2 full-moon lime slices for garnish
2 t. Kosher salt OR 2 t. granulated sugar (for the rim - you choose)
3 oz. tequila (El Mayor is a good brand that isn't expensive.)
1.5 c. watermelon, seeded and diced
1.5 t. Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
2.5 t. superfine sugar, or to taste
2 c. ice cubes

Rub the rims of 2 chilled (optional) margarita or cocktail glasses with the lime wedge.  Pour the salt or sugar (whichever you chose) on a plate and press the rim of the glasses into it, turning gently until the rims are evenly coated.  Shake off excess.

Combine the lime juice, tequila, watermelon, superfine sugar, and ice cubes in a blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour into the prepared glasses.  Garnish with lime slices, and serve.  Serves 2.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Salad

First, let me apologize for my long absence.  I started a new job this summer, and it's been exciting!  Beyond that, as everyone knows, life is busy and sometimes it's hard to balance everything.  I hope in the meantime you've been taking full advantage of the farmer's market near you while the summer produce is at its peak.  Even though I haven't been posting, I've been eating well!  For example, check out this incredible heirloom tomato salad.  Serve it with crusty bread and lettuce for a light meal for one or as a side for two to something more substantial.

3 medium to large heirloom tomatoes, preferably 3 different colors (I used red, orange, and yellow, but tomatoes also come in pink, purple, striped, and even white!)
1 thin slice of white onion, halved and separated into strips
1 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes (optional - omit if making vegan salad)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
1 T. red wine vinegar (or to taste)
2 sprigs tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized wedges.  Remove leaves from tarragon sprigs and discard stems.  Toss everything together until all coated, and enjoy!