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A great meal in the clutch

The first time I drove a car, I had neither a license nor legs long enough to reach the accelerator. Seated in my father’s lap, I steered his black Ford from the end of our steep cobbled driveway into the garage.

I rejoiced the day I got my learner’s permit. At last I could add cruising to my resume. I pictured myself palming an automatic shift, but my mother had other plans. She insisted that I learn on her standard stick.

When my mother took me to the parking lot for my first Sunday afternoon lesson, several cars were already lurching around the perimeter. Next to the teenage faces that loomed behind every steering wheel sat a pale, wide-eyed adult.



As I slid into the driver’s seat for the first time, I wondered why passengers in the other cars were flailing around like rag dolls. I never imagined that learning to use a clutch would be similar to taming a bronco. While I bucked and stalled, my mother rolled her eyes skyward and muttered incomprehensible Hungarian. Wringing her hands, she told me that someone else would have to teach me to drive.

If searching for wholesome vegetarian recipes drives you crazy, speed to the kitchen and try these.




Bean Soup Exotica

(Serves 6)

Fragrant spices transform ordinary bean soup into an alluring adventure.

1 large onion, chopped

1 large carrot, sliced in half-moons

1 stalk celery, sliced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons cumin

11/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

3 bay leaves

Salt and pepper

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

6 cups veggie broth

1 15-ounce can garbanzos

1 15-ounce can lentils

Saute the veggies, garlic and spices until almost tender. Add the tomatoes and veggie broth, and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and lentils and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve piping hot with a dollop of fascinating conversation.

Oatmeal-Raisin Bread

(1 Loaf)

To ensure dinner “wows!” whip together this perfect soup accompaniment.

11/3 cups nonfat peach yogurt

1 egg, beaten

2 ounces butter, melted

11/3 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

A few gratings of nutmeg

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

11/2 cups quick-cooking oats

3/4 cup raisins

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg and butter. Stir the remaining ingredients together and add to the yogurt liquid. Stir until just blended. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan, and spoon in the mixture. Bake in a 350 F oven for 55 minutes or until the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan and the top springs back when touched.

Roasted Gingered Carrots

(A generous 4 servings)

My last year’s carrot crop overflowed with orange critters begging to be eaten. Here’s where some of them landed.

1 pound carrots, cut in half-inch rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup raisins

Sauce:

3/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Toss together the carrots, oil and garlic, and spread them on a lightly greased baking pan. Bake in a 375 F oven for 35 minutes or until the carrots are tender. To be fair to each piece, shake the pan twice during baking. Put the carrots in a bowl and add the raisins.

To make the sauce, first mix the cornstarch in a little bit of the orange juice and stir until absolutely smooth.

Then mix it together in a pot with the remaining orange juice, ginger and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer and stir for about 4 minutes until it thickens. Pour the sauce over the carrots and serve warm or at room temperature.

Blackberry Pie

(Serves 8)

It’s time to empty the freezer of last year’s frozen blackberries. Here’s the secret for my family’s favorite.

1 crust (You need 2 for this pie):

1 cup white flour

4 ounces butter, softened

3 tablespoons chilled water

For absolute ease, whirl the ingredients together in the food processor, one crust at a time, until the dough rolls into a ball.

Filling:

Mix together and let sit for 10 minutes:

4 cups frozen blackberries (even when they’re fresh, I freeze them a bit for easier handling.)

11/3 cups white sugar

4 teaspoons minute tapioca

Roll out one crust and press it into a 91/2-inch glass deep-dish pie pan. Fill with the berry mixture. Roll out the second crust and cover the filling. Pinch the crust edges together.

Prick the top crust all over with a fork. Bake at 400 F for 50 minutes, turning once during baking.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did get my driver’s license. But now cruising doesn’t interest me. I’m driven to create recipes.

Ronnie Paul is a cookbook reviewer, freelance writer, vegetarian chef and teacher at Wild Mountain Yoga Center. She can be reached at rpaul@ncws.com.


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