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vegetable gratins

Gratins are comfort foods in every French home. Unfortunately, in the United States, gratins have been relegated to gloppy boxed mixes with cardboard textures and blah flavors. A vegetable gratin can be a wonderful dinner, prepared with a little love and a little care. A gratin is a cooked vegetable tossed with a flavorful sauce, topped with breadcrumbs, and browned in the oven. Here are some tips for a successful gratin:

Lose the water: After cooking vegetables, drain them well. Any excess water will dilute the sauce and make the vegetables soggy. Most gratins use potatoes (and always choose starchy, or baking potatoes for gratins, as they will absorb the sauce), but you shouldn't stop there. Think spinach (squeeze excess water from spinach after cooking; if using frozen spinach, there's no need to cook it, just thaw and squeeze), broccoli (cut into florets and steam briefly; frozen broccoli does not need to be cooked, just thawed and drained), Swiss chard (cut leaves into 1/2-inch strips), winter squash (cut into peeled, 2-inch pieces), zucchini (cut into thin slices), mushroom and onion (use fresh, sliced mushrooms), and cauliflower.

Spice it up: All sauces can be jazzed up with herbs. For each cup of sauce, add two teaspoons of dried or 1 Tablespoon of fresh, chopped herbs. Since gratin sauces are generally mild, think about using tarragon, basil, oregano, thyme, and/or marjoram for some extra flavor.

Be choosy with your (soy)cheese: If you decide to use soy cheese in your gratin, look for the Parmesan flavor. Be sure to melt a small amount in a small dish before using it in the gratin. Different brands of soy cheese melt differently. You'll want to be sure you have the right product.

Weight is in your favor: Use as heavy a baking dish as you have for a gratin. This helps with even heating.

Don't box it in: When broiling to brown the top, keep the oven door open a crack to allow excess steam to escape. This will give you a crispy top.

Okay, so now you're ready to make your gratin. To make a cup of cream sauce, puree 3/4 cup of silken tofu with 1/4 cup soymilk. Cook, stirring, over medium heat. Add a small amount of cayenne and nutmeg and cook until mixture is hot. Have your cooked veggies (about 11/2 cups) drained; this is a great place to use leftover veggies. Heavily grease a baking dish. Toss the veggies and the sauce together in the dish and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and broil for one minute or until golden. If you like, you can toss the veggies and sauce together in the baking dish and refrigerate it, uncooked, until you're ready to prepare it. You can wait up to three days to cook it.

vegan quick meal

So, you want to eat well, you want have a nice dinner, but you don't have the time to cook. Here are some under-five-minute, minimal cutting/mixing, no-experience-needed dinner ideas. You will have to dedicate some time to grocery shopping, however. Even a magician needs supplies!

potato power:

Wash a medium baking potato and dry it. Poke some holes in it with a fork and either microwave it on high for 4 minutes (turning it once) or however long your microwave requires, or bake it at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or however long it takes to be fork tender. Or, you can always stop and buy a cooked, plain baked potato at a quick service place.

select your topping:

* canned or jarred salsa and canned black beans

* canned salsa and canned veggie chili

* margarine, canned mushrooms, veggie bacon bits, and vegan sour cream

* vegan sour cream and canned garbanzos, sprinkled with garlic powder and nutritional yeast

* vegan sour cream and a small amount of tomato sauce
COPYRIGHT 2001 Vegetarian Resource Group
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Berkoff, Nancy
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Next Article:KYOTO: The Capital of Zen Vegetarian Cuisine.

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