Tag Archives: vegetarian cooking

Peace and Hominy: Vegetarian Posole and Cheese Beignets

What would you have if everyone ate beignets and posole? Peace and Hominy! Peace and Hominy in the world!

Before you start groaning, keep in mind that my son made this joke up after I put a bowl of vegetarian posole in front of him.

But when I think about it, he was right. When I cook or bake I am usually looking to create peace and hominy…I mean harmony. Peace and harmony between my kids. Peace and harmony between ingredients. Peace and harmony between the pots and pans I use (and will have to wash). Peace and harmony between the clock and getting dinner to the table (a battle, my wife will testify, that I always lose).

I often walk a tightrope between what I think will be fun to cook and what my kids want or will eat. But I am not a fool. I hedge my bets and usually look before I leap. I want to see how far I have to fall and if I will need a safety net—even if it sometimes means having to reach into the freezer.

Which leads me to beignets. Beignets, typically, are fried dough sprinkled with confectionary sugar, but not these. I like getting my hands in flour, but I am not looking for ways to push sugar on my family; they know where to find it without my help. Ever since I saw the recipe for savory cheese beignets that I found in Vegetarian Times Fast and Easy: Great Food You Can Make In Minutes, I had been looking for the right moment to make them. When I looked at the clock and at my two—don’t mess with me dad, we’re hungry and you better feed us soon—kids, I knew the moment had arrived. I also looked at my wife, who amazingly had a similar look, but hers said what are we going to do about it (at least that’s what I thought her look said). “Posole,” I whispered. She didn’t need to speak, her raised eyebrows did all the talking. “And, why, love of my life, pray tell, why will they want to eat posole?” “Cheese beignets,” I replied to her eyebrows, as I showed her the photo of beignets. “Oh,” her eyebrows said as my answer pulled them back down to earth. “Cheese beignets,” my kids responded after they saw the photo. “Yum.”

I’ve made the cheese beignets twice. The first time using cheddar, the second, feta. The recipe calls for ½ inch of oil to fry the beignets; I’m not a fan of frying so I cut back on the amount of oil that I used. They tasted great, and the next day we all enjoyed warming them in the toaster-oven and snacking on leftovers.

The posole tastes better when you rev up the heat. I didn’t add chipotles the second time I made it and there was a noticeable difference. Still, it was warm and satisfying—a feeling that shouldn’t be underestimated—and my kids ate it.

Set the timer, and grab a can opener and a spoon.

Posole (from Lorna Sass’ Short-Cut Vegetarian: Great Taste in No Time)

1 (14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies or 1 (14.5-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with chipotles, coarsely chopped

1 (15-ounce) can white hominy (posole), drained and rinsed

1¾ cups cooked black, pinto, or red kidney beans or 1 (15-ounce) can beans, drained (rinsed, if nonorganic)

1 cup fresh or frozen corn (no need to defrost)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne (optional)

Salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until the flavors are mingled and the ingredients are good and hot. About five minutes.

Peace and hominy. The world could certainly use it on these dark and cold December days.

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Strata

When author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously stated that there were no second acts in American lives, he wasn’t referring to bread. Leftover bread sitting on the cutting board in our household often rises like a phoenix from the ashes. When my wife suggested that the crusty yeasted cornbread would be perfect for strata, a layered bread pudding, I thought it was a great idea. It freed us from the drudgery of thinking about “who would eat what” for dinner and it made room on the cutting board for the rosemary bread dough that was rising on the kitchen counter. Sometimes the solution to cooking for your kids is to throw tomato sauce at the problem. I thought that the sauce and cheese in the strata would conceal any alien or objectionable ingredients. I was also prepared if my son (can I have a smoothie, because I don’t want to eat what you put on my plate) and daughter (why can’t we just have pasta) joined forces and mounted an attack. If all else failed, I could counter-attack with a calzone left over from the dinner I made the night before—my ace-in-the-hole.

I adapted a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone as a springboard to jump off. I knew neither of my children would touch a mushroom, so I substituted some chard and threw in an ear of corn for good measure. Being an indecisive kinda guy and having plenty of cheese in the fridge, I chose to put Gorgonzola on one half and goat cheese on the other.

Strata

5 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 ear of corn

1 bunch of chard

4 eggs

2 cups of milk

10 slices of bread (I didn’t remove the crusts)

½ cup grated mozzarella

¾ cup crumbled goat cheese or Gorgonzola

Lightly butter or oil a 9 x 12 baking dish.

Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet and add minced garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to see if it needs to be seasoned with a little salt or pepper. Transfer to a dish. Heat the remaining olive oil before cooking chard and corn (or whatever you choose to add).

Beat the eggs and milk with ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.

Spread tomato sauce in the baking dish. Cover with a layer of bread, followed by the vegetables and cheese. Add a second layer of bread and cover it with tomato sauce, followed by the vegetables, cheese, and additional sauce. Add a third layer of bread and cover with remaining sauce and cheese. Pour the custard over all. It can be baked right away or you can cover, refrigerate, and bake several hours later.

Pre-heat oven to 375° and bake until brown and puffed, about an hour. Let cool for five minutes before serving.

Strata

With its endless variations, strata is a dish that shouldn’t become stale. It might even become a staple in your household. My son, who keeps his distance from eggs, didn’t let his remark that it was too “eggy,” deter him from getting seconds. I thought it was “eggy” in a good, French toast kind of way. I heard my daughter telling my wife that it tasted like polenta. I am continually impressed by her ability to pick out some hidden or subtle ingredient or spice. I realized the next day that since I used polenta in the bread, of course it tasted like polenta.

For the third act, I ate the remaining strata for lunch.