Vegging out with Stephan Pyles

Wednesday, October 11th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

By Tina Danze / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Stephan Pyles is making it meatless. His latest cookbook, Southwestern Vegetarian (Clarkson/Potter, $30) showcases bold flavors without the beef, game and seafood.

Chef Pyles' knack for daring flavor pairings translates well to the vegetarian plate. You don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate these dishes; but as with recipes in his previous cookbooks, you'll need a block of time to tackle the cutting-edge entrees such as Three-Bean Cassoulet With Roasted Garlic, or Tortilla and Three Onion Casserole With Tomato-Ginger Jam.

A few dishes fall into the quick-cook category. Wilted Mustard Greens with Apples and Pecans clocks in at less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

The book covers a lot of ground, with more than 180 recipes. The opening chapter, "From the Lone Star Pantry," features exotic jellies, jams, preserves, oils and vinegars essential to other recipes in the book. You could also use them as condiments on your Thanksgiving table, or as gifts from your kitchen at Christmas.

The last chapter covers the basic recipes you'll need to execute some of the more complex dishes, as well as techniques for smoking, grilling, roasting and canning. Sandwiched in between are 13 chapters devoted to innovative salads, soups, sides, entrees, desserts and breads. Each recipe is preceded by notes and tips from chef Pyles. To pique your appetite, 35 color photographs capture the spirit of the cuisine: food with rustic roots but a sophisticated upbringing. It looks so tastefully down-home in the photos, but make no mistake – it's gourmet fare.

Vegetarian foodies have hailed Southwestern Vegetarian's arrival. Still, the meatless movement can't claim the author as a convert. "Let me state for the record that I am a card-carrying carnivore," the chef writes in the book's introduction. He backs that up by injecting notes no other vegetarian cookbooks offer: occasional tips such as "add some chopped bacon," for "part-time" vegetarians to follow.

Caramelized Onions Stuffed With Sweet Potato-White Bean Ragout

6 large sweet onions, unpeeled
1sweet potato (12 ounces), peeled, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded, minced
½ cup white wine
½ cup canned white beans
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, diced (see note)
¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds (see note)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Romano cheese
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place onions in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 11/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let sit until the onions are cool enough to handle. Peel the onions and cut about 1 inch off the tops and enough from the bottoms that the onions will sit upright.

Using a paring knife, extract the flesh from the center of the onion, leaving the edges about 3/8-inch thick. (Save the flesh to make stock or soup later.)

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil and blanch the sweet potato for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the broiler. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil until lightly smoking. Add the diced yellow onion and saute over high heat for 3 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chile and saute for 1 minute longer. Add the wine and deglaze the pan.

Reduce the liquid for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is almost dry. Add the blanched sweet potato, beans, peppers, pumpkin seeds, marjoram, parsley and thyme, and heat through. Add the bread crumbs and cheese, stir to combine and season with salt.

Stuff the onions with this mixture, place under the broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until the top of the stuffing turns brown. The onions can be prepared one day ahead but should be warmed for 10 minutes in a 350 F oven before broiling. Makes 8 servings.

Roasting pumpkin seeds: Place seeds in a hot, dry skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the seeds are lightly browned and fragrant.

PER SERVING: Cal 217 (30% fat) Fat 8 g (2 g sat) Fiber 4 g Chol 3 mg Sodium 380 mg Carb 28 g Calcium 95 mg

Source: Adapted from Southwestern Vegetarian


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