Discover the pro-veggie, pro-flavor way to prepare fresh, healthy, high-quality plant-based dinners. In Simple Green Suppers, Susie Middleton demonstrates how to prepare seasonal vegetables in satisfying, filling suppers by pairing them with staple ingredients: noodles, grains, beans, greens, toast, tortillas, eggs, and broth. How you cook your veggies and how you combine them with other satisfying whole foods is the secret to delicious results. With 125 recipes for flavorful and veggie-forward dishes, tips on keeping a flexible and well-stocked pantry, and make-ahead and streamlining strategies, Simple Green Suppers is an essential resource that will make cooking delicious, easy vegetarian meals possible every night.
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Simple Green Suppers
A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals
By Susie Middleton, Randi Baird
Shambhala Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Susie Middleton
All rights reserved.
VEGGIES + NOODLES
Noodle. Just say the word and it's hard not to smile. Silly, slippery, comely, comforting — we love our noodles. And for once, a childhood favorite is actually our grown-up ally. From whole-grain pasta to gluten-free macaroni, Chinese egg noodles to Japanese buckwheat soba, the delicious noodle options — all quick-to-cook and veggie-friendly — are multiplying. We still love our Italian durum wheat pasta, for sure, but for veggie suppers, it's nice to know there are so many different directions to go in — and that we don't have to avoid pasta for fear of carb overload. The truth is, even though a dish of spaghetti with really good (and quick) homemade tomato sauce is a comforting treat (recipe on page 000 [[MS 41]]), most of the time we can enjoy our noodles in more equal proportion to other ingredients. (And yes, I like to use the word "noodles" loosely, because technically, not all pasta is noodles, though most noodles are pasta. Oh, never mind!)
My favorite destinations for noodles are stirfries, pan sautés, braises and brothy dishes, and salads, both warm and cool. These are the kinds of dishes where vegetables and aromatics, as well as sauces and vinaigrettes, can contribute great flavors that starchy noodles love to absorb. In fact, there are certain vegetables that have a natural affinity with noodles. Aromatics (like onions, peppers, and mushrooms) that release a lot of moisture when they cook tend to coat pasta with their juices. Greens, either wilted or braised, instantly create a pan "liquor" (especially flavorful when garlic, ginger, or chiles have been added in) that begs for noodles to lap it up. Other meaty vegetables, like eggplant and broccoli, are so commanding when sauteed or grilled that they practically beg for a pillow of pasta to lean on. Bold seasoning (and a little fat to carry its flavor) is important with pasta, which is why infused oils and sauces that contain both creamy and spicy elements work so well with noodles.
Tips and Strategies for Noodles
EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE.
Before stocking the pantry with a nice assortment of noodles (see lists below), let's consider equipment, storage, and cooking tips that will help guarantee the best results. First, do yourself a favor and find a convenient place for your favorite pasta pot and your colander. I know that seems obvious, but sometimes I find myself struggling (again and again) to unearth a piece of cooking equipment that I use a lot (say, my salad spinner), only to realize one day when putting the dishes away that the waffle maker is taking up a perfectly convenient spot where the salad spinner should go! You know what I mean, I'm sure.
I have a six-quart nonstick pasta pot that I love, and it lives in a cabinet near my sink, right next to a few colanders nested together. (I find that having more than one colander is also convenient. A simple mesh one might be already in use draining canned beans while a sturdier metal one is in the sink cradling hot pasta.) The nonstick pasta pot is also handy for cooking grains using the method I detail on page 000 [[MS 385]]. In either case, if you put the drained pasta or grain back into the warm pot, either for holding or for mixing with sauce, you won't have to worry about any sticking if you use a nonstick pot. Whether you go with nonstick or not, something in the six to eight-quart range is plenty big enough for the recipes in this book, so if you've only got a giant pasta pot that's cumbersome to move around, consider adding a smaller one to your batterie de cuisine.
As much as I love noodles, they can be cumbersome to store. But because we're updating our supplies, this is a good opportunity to at least try to store them efficiently. My suggestion is to find a dedicated shelf (or two). In the ideal world, these would be shallow shelves, at or just above eye level. (Up high is fine, too, for boxes of pasta, as long as the shelf is shallow and you can reach them.) To save space, tip the boxes on their sides and stack them with the relevant label facing out.
I love shallow pantry shelves because things can't disappear into the black hole that is the back of the cabinet. My kitchen is very small, rustic, and decidedly unfancy. But I do have an open, floor-to-ceiling shelving unit with shallow wooden shelves that hold all my dry pantry ingredients. I can see what I've got at a quick glance, and it's a lovely feeling, I tell you!
An easy-to-access drawer deep enough to hold noodle boxes would work, too. Just be sure that you can see everything, or you'll never use some of it. There's a reason Julia Child had all her pots and pans on the wall, all her utensils in crocks, and all her vinegars and oils on the countertop. If you're going to cook, being able to reach for your favorite things quickly makes it more pleasurable, and encourages spontaneity.
For Asian noodles and others that come in cellophane packages, find a shoe box or a shoe-box-shaped plastic storage container that will hold all the bags. Once a bag is open, fold or roll the bag back on itself lengthwise and secure it with a rubber band, especially one of those thick rubber bands that come with your asparagus and broccoli, or use a small binder clip or clothespin to secure it. (Keep extra ones in the box.) Otherwise, you'll have tiny broken noodles all over the place. I keep Scotch tape near my pasta boxes too, so I can quickly seal up a half-used box of spaghetti before it spills all over the floor.
TIME IT AND TASTE IT.
When it's time to cook your noodles, sure, go ahead and read the suggested cooking time on the box or package. But be aware that those suggested cooking times (especially in the case of Asian noodles) are often too long and will deliver mushy pasta. When possible, I've given you cooking times in the recipes, but you will still want to check by tasting a noodle at the short end of the cooking time. Be sure you're cooking your noodles in plenty of well-salted water (1 or 2 teaspoons of salt) for the best flavor.
COOK NOODLES FIRST, AND SEPARATELY.
Most of the recipes you'll find in this chapter call for boiling the noodles separate from other ingredients, and then draining them well and seasoning them before using in the recipe. Seasoning noodles separately (with a little salt, tamari, or flavored oil) before they get added to the rest of the dish gives you have a stronger flavor base. It's a little trick chefs use to layer flavors and prevent blandness.
To season the pasta, it must, of course, be relatively dry first. Usually, a spell in the colander is enough, but sometimes, when the noodles are headed for a salad or another kind of dish where too much residual water might dilute a dressing or seasoning, I take an extra step. I transfer the noodles from the colander onto a clean, dry dish towel for a few minutes. (And, by the way, I usually don't rinse wheat pasta after cooking; it removes the starchy coating that helps sauces cling to it. Rinsing rice noodles and some other Asian noodles destined for salads can be a good idea, though, to deter clumping.) If I want to keep the noodles warm for a short while, I often put them back in the warm (empty) pasta pot, where as a bonus some extra moisture will steam off.
The hidden convenience factor is that, in most of these recipes, you don't have to time your pasta to be done the exact moment that the rest of the dish is finished. This means that, the minute you decide you're going to cook one of the recipes in this chapter, you can put a pot of water on, put a colander in the sink, and go ahead and cook your noodles.
Keep in mind that cooking noodles separately is an especially good idea when it comes to noodle soup or any other broth-heavy dish. It's tempting to cook noodles right in a soup, but often they will absorb far too much of the liquid and possibly overcook as well. It's much nicer to add a tangle of cooked noodles to your carefully flavored broth at the time of serving so that both elements retain their integrity.
There is one other subversive reason I have for suggesting you treat the noodles as a separate ingredient. It means I'm basically giving you permission to substitute one noodle for another. (Don't tell the purists, who might kill me.) Maybe it's not the best idea, but look, if you can't find fresh Chinese egg noodles, fresh Italian linguine will work. If we're making a traditional Italian pasta but you're going gluten-free, the gluten-free spaghetti on the market now is a fine substitute, and so on. You probably don't want to use thick udon noodles in place of rice vermicelli, but I trust you. You'll do the right thing.
For the Pantry
This brings us back to the whole notion of stocking up. Filling out the noodle pantry is really about as simple as it sounds. We are not going to visit Chinatown for a noodle adventure. (I mean, we could, and it would be fun, but we don't need to for our everyday veggie suppers.) However, I am going to push you out of your comfort zone a little bit.
The reason (as I mentioned in the introduction to the book) is that I think you're more likely to expand your noodle-veggie supper repertoire if you've got some of the interesting stuff on hand. You already know the miracle of finding a box of spaghetti in the pantry when there is virtually nothing else to eat. Wouldn't it be fun, on a busy Tuesday night, to discover that a cheery Israeli couscous or Thai rice noodles were also an option for supper?
In that spirit, I'm offering a list of suggestions for your noodle pantry. Most of my favorite noodles are now available in major supermarkets — hurrah! You might have to make a short list of those you couldn't find and pick them up at a natural foods market, but that should do it. And certainly, you don't have to keep every one of these noodles on hand at all times. These are my favorites, but the important thing is for you to come up with a nice mix of old friends and interesting newcomers. Then invite a few of the accessory ingredients from the following list into your pantry and fridge for completing your noodle-supper prep. Last, follow a few tips (see page 000 [[MS 24]]) for getting that noodle pantry a bit more organized.
BABY BOK CHOY AND RICE NOODLES
IN FRAGRANT COCONUT SAUCE
SERVES 3 OR 4
6 ounces thin rice noodles
¿ cup canned full-fat
coconut milk (preferably
organic), well stirred
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed
lime juice, plus 4 lime wedges
2 tablespoons packed
2 teaspoons Asian
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
vegetable or peanut oil
6 ounces cremini mushrooms,
cut into thick slices
(about 2½ to 3 cups)
8 to 10 ounces baby bok
choy leaves and stalks, sliced
crosswise into ½-inch-thick
ribbons (about 4 to 5 cups)
2 teaspoons chopped
2 teaspoons chopped
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed,
or fresh peas, blanched or
microwaved for 30 seconds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh
cilantro or a combination of
chopped fresh mint, cilantro,
and/or Thai basil, plus a few
sprigs for garnish
2 to 3 tablespoons toasted
unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
This brightly flavored Thai-inspired noodle dish is a lovely destination for one of my favorite veggies: baby bok choy. I harvest the last of my spring baby bok choy just as the shell-pea harvest is beginning, and both vegetables pair naturally with coconut. An easy sauce and quick-cooking rice noodles help this come together quickly. I usually use a combination of cilantro and mint in this dish, but it's also a great place to try out Thai basil (which has a slightly cinnamon-ish aroma) if you can get your hands on some. Serve this with your choice of garnishes: toasted coconut flakes, fresh bean sprouts, or herb sprigs. Be sure to add a squeeze of lime.
1 In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, add the rice noodles, and let sit until well softened, about 10 minutes. Drain.
2 In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the coconut milk, 1 cup of water, and the tamari, lime juice, brown sugar, and chili-garlic sauce and set aside.
3 In a large (12-inch) nonstick stir-fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned and shrunken, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil, the bok choy, and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the bok choy is wilted and a bit shrunken, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the peas and the coconut milk mixture, and stir well. Cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chopped herbs.
4 Distribute the rice noodles among three or four bowls. Ladle the veggies and sauce over each and garnish with the toasted coconut or bean sprouts (if using) and the herb sprigs and lime wedges.
STIR-FRIED GREENS, MUSHROOMS, AND UDON NOODLES
WITH SPICY PONZU SAUCE
6 ounces dried udon noodles
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine)
2 teaspoons packed
dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Asian
3 tablespoons grapeseed or
2 cups sliced or quartered mixed
mushrooms (any kind)
Vi cup sliced shallots
2 cups thinly sliced green
cabbage (any kind)
2 cups thinly sliced kale,
bok choy, collards,
or mustard greens
2 to 3 teaspoons chopped
2 to 3 teaspoons chopped
You might be familiar with udon noodles from noodle shops, where they're often served in savory broths. But their thick, meaty texture also makes them great candidates for stir-fries that have lots of veggies and bold sauces. Here, I was inspired by the soy-citrus flavors of Japanese ponzu sauce to create an assertive combination of ginger, garlic, tamari, lemon, and plenty of chili-garlic paste. The sauce thickens and coats the noodles, mushrooms, and greens in a most delightful way. I like to use both cabbage and another green in this recipe, so I've given you some options for this. Kale, bok choy, collards, or even spicy mustard greens would work well. Choose your favorite mushrooms, too. Dried udon noodles are in many grocery stores, but you could also use whole wheat or durum wheat linguine in this recipe.
1 Bring a small (5- or 6-quart) stockpot of salted water to a boil. Add the udon noodles and cook until just tender, about 6 minutes. (They will be tender in a little less time than most package directions indicate. You want them to be al dente.) Drain, rinse briefly, and let sit in the colander to dry a bit. Transfer to a bowl and toss with a big pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil.
2 In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari, lemon juice, mirin, brown sugar, chili-garlic paste, 1 tablespoon of water, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Set aside.
3 In a large (12-inch) nonstick stir-fry pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots, and ½ teaspoon of salt and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until the veggies are shrunken and browned, 3 to 7 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of grapeseed oil, the cabbage, the kale, and V4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage begins to brown and the greens are very wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring well, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the noodles and the tamari mixture. Cook, stirring, just until the noodles are heated through and well incorporated and the sauce is clingy, about 1 minute. Transfer onto a serving platter or into shallow bowls and serve.
Excerpted from Simple Green Suppers by Susie Middleton, Randi Baird. Copyright © 2017 Susie Middleton. Excerpted by permission of Shambhala Publications, Inc..
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