Vegetarian Experiment: Recipe Recap #2
March 14th, 2010

In keeping with my current vegetarian experiment, here are the latest recipes I’ve tried.  To see last week’s recipes, click here.  This past week’s challenge was incorporating more protein into my diet, so these recipes include more eggs and tofu than what I ate during my first week of vegetarianism.

Note: The title of each dish links to the recipe.  The Source link goes to the website’s homepage.

Asparagus, Artichoke, and Shitake Risotto
Smitten Kitchen
:  Medium.  As I mentioned in last week’s recipe recap, if you’ve never prepped an artichoke before, you may find it helpful to watch a video of the process first.  This was my second artichoke rodeo (last week’s being my first) and I found it much easier and quicker the second time around.
Labor:  Medium.  Again with the artichokes.  Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.  This recipe only called for two of them, though, and that cut down on the time required a lot.  Otherwise, it was par for the risotto course.  Lots of stirring, but I knew that going in.
Overall Results:  Decent.  I swapped Oyster mushrooms for the Shitakes and that was a mistake.  They have less flavor, less structure, and less color, and when you’re making a dish that is essentially formless, you need to make it perk up as much as possible. (Why the swap? When I went to the store the shitakes were really picked over.)  The Oyster mushrooms basically just blended into the rice and didn’t add much to the dish.  I don’t think that would have been the case with Shitakes.  I also didn’t love Deb’s artichoke cooking method.  I like the procedure outlined in last week’s Artichoke and Leek Lasagna recipe better.  Nonetheless it was a tasty dinner.  Just not a showstopper. 

Baked Gnocchi
Source: Recipe card I picked up at the grocery store
Difficulty: Easy.  Except for chopping one clove of garlic and half an onion, this is basically “dump and stir” cooking.  Anyone can do this.
Labor: Low.  This was in the oven in about 10 minutes.
Overall Results: Pretty good.  But then how could it not be with that amount of cheese stirred in?  There wasn’t much depth of flavor, but that could be easily remedied by adding some vegetables and fresh herbs.  Also by eliminating some of the cheese.

1 cup panko or other white breadcrumbs
3 Tbs butter
1½ tsp Italian seasoning*
¼ tsp salt
1 16-oz package gnocchi (vacuum packed, available on pasta aisle)
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1½ cups half and half (I used whole milk)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded provolone cheese
½ cup plus 2 Tbs shredded parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt.  Stir until all breadcrumbs are coated.  Remove half of the seasoned breadcrumbs and reserve.
  3. Add onion and garlic to pan and sauté until softened, about two minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes (with juices), half and half, and gnocchi.  Heat until simmering, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in mozzarella, provolone, and ½ cup parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Pour gnocchi into an ungreased 9×9” baking dish.  Top with remaining 2 Tbs parmesan cheese and reserved breadcrumbs.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

*I didn’t feel like buying a new jar of Italian Seasoning, the components of which I already had sitting in my spice rack.  I just used about ½ tsp each of dried basil, oregano, and sage, and added a pinch of red pepper flake.  It worked fine.

Eggs in Tomato Sauce
: Smitten Kitchen
: Easy
Labor: Low.  There are about 20 minutes of total cooking time, but most of that is inactive while the sauce simmers. 
Overall Results:  Wow!  Talk about comfort food!  This was cozy and delicious.  I almost didn’t make it because GAP had plans Wednesday night and it was a convenient excuse not to cook.  I’m very glad I didn’t take the short cut.  I think this could become part of our weeknight rotation! 

I loved it as prepared according to the recipe, but there are a few things I’ll tweak next time.  First, I’m forever substituting olive oil for butter, but in this case I think the sauce would benefit from swapping butter for the olive oil.  I think it would mellow some of the acidity in the tomato puree.  Secondly, leaving the eggs in the sauce for 5 minutes cooked the yolks all the way through.  I like a runny yolk, so next time I’ll cut the cooking time to 3 minutes or so.  Lastly, the recipe says this amount of sauce is enough for 4 eggs.  You’d have to really stretch it to get 4 servings out of it.  If you want to have enough extra sauce for dipping and sopping, this will really only serve two.   

Peanut Braised Tofu with Noodles
: Williams-Sonoma
Difficulty: Easy
Labor: Low
Overall Results: Very good.  This dish came together very easily and was quite tasty.  I was a little nervous about the sauce because I used natural peanut butter (which sometimes separates when used in recipes) and reduced fat coconut milk.  However, neither affected the quality of the dish at all.  If you used rice noodles I recommend breaking them in half before cooking so that they don’t clump together as much when served.  This was comforting and delicious.  IEP even loved it.  After his first bite he immediately started signing “more!”  The only drawback to this recipe is that it doesn’t reheat well.  It was significantly better the first time around.

Asparagus Frittata
Source: My own head
Difficulty:  Depends.  If you have a nonstick ovenproof skillet it’s super easy.  If your ovenproof skillet isn’t nonstick it can take a little finessing.
Labor: Low
Overall Results:  This is a great recipe to have in your back pocket.  You can add any vegetables, meat, or cheese and come up with countless versions.  I used asparagus and gruyere because that’s what I had sitting around.  You can use mushrooms, broccoli, sausage, cheddar, goat cheese, etc.  The possibilities really are endless.  Frittatas are most commonly served for breakfast, but I love them as a simple lunch or supper along with a tossed green salad and a hunk of crusty bread.  They also reheat nicely as leftovers.

2 eggs
6 egg whites
½ lb pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½-inch segments
½ cup grated cheese
2 Tbs milk or cream
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a shallow sauté pan filled halfway with simmering water, blanch the asparagus for about 3 minutes.  Drain the asparagus in a colander and wipe the pan dry.  Warm 1 Tbs of the olive oil in the pan over medium high heat, and return asparagus to the pan.  Sauté until slightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.
  2. Slide oven rack to highest level and preheat broiler on high.
  3. In a medium sized bowl combine the eggs and egg whites and beat with a whisk.  Stir in the grated cheese, prepared asparagus, milk/cream, and one pinch each of salt and pepper.
  4. In a 10” to 12” ovenproof skillet (preferably nonstick)* warm the butter and remaining 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.  Swirl the pan to ensure that there is an even coating of oil/butter all over the pan.  Pour in the egg mixture and cook, undisturbed, until the eggs are set around the edges and mostly set in the middle – 5 to 6 minutes.  You will have a runny pool of egg mixture on top in the center.  Slide the skillet into your oven centered underneath the broiler.  Leaving the oven door cracked, broil the top of the frittata until it is fully set and slightly browned on top, 2 to 4 minutes.  Watch carefully during this time as your frittata can quickly go from perfectly browned to completely burned quickly.
  5. Remove skillet from oven and using a rubber spatula carefully loosen the frittata from the pan.  If you’re using a nonstick skillet this should be very simple.  If your skillet isn’t nonstick, be patient while working your spatula around the edges in circles, sliding the spatula a little bit farther with each turn.  When the frittata is completely loosened, slide it onto a cutting board and slice into 4 to 6 wedges.

*A note on skillets.  Nonstick is obviously best.  If you don’t have an ovenproof nonstick skillet (I don’t), anodized aluminum (such as Calphalon One brand) will also work just fine.  If you only have a stainless pan (such as All-Clad) I would recommend using some extra butter in your skillet and working very slowly with your spatula.  And be prepared for some stickage. 

Dark Chocolate Mousse Ice Cream
: Orangette
: Medium
Labor: Medium
Overall Results: Sooooo delicious.  I found this recipe last fall and have been making it ever since.  I like to add an extra ½ to one cup of milk or cream, though.  I think it makes the final product a bit softer.  Other than that, I pretty much stick to the recipe.  This stuff never lasts long in our house.  Enjoy!

*Note – This is a great recipe to make concurrently with the frittata, as it calls for 6 egg whites, and this one calls for 6 egg yolks.

2 Responses to “Vegetarian Experiment: Recipe Recap #2”

  1. Eva @ EvaEvolving Says:

    Gale, thanks so much for sharing these – along with your helpful tips. I’m most excited to try Smitten Kitchen’s eggs in tomato sauce. And we just picked up some asparagus today, so I think a frittata is in our future.

  2. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Hooray for you!! It sounds like you’re trying out some great new things!