Showing posts with label Vegan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vegan. Show all posts

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Korean Chili Sauce Heats up Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day used to make me nervous. That discomfort began in middle school when we were given sugar hearts with little sayings that we were supposed to give to one another. "Love You." "Cutie." "My Valentine." Fearful of rejection, I didn't give out many hearts. In time, as my confidence grew, candy hearts gave way to fresh flowers and picking romantic restaurants. But I was still nervous.
I embraced Valentine's Day when I learned to cook. By preparing a meal, I could create artful dishes with exciting flavors. By preparing a meal, I could show I cared.

A special meal for a special evening

Google Valentine's Day dishes and the many recipes that pop up for this evening of romance emphasize richly extravagant ingredients or over-the-top sweetness. Kobe steaks with buttery sauces. Truffle rich lobster mac n'cheese. Double-dipped chocolate strawberries. Flourless chocolate cakes dusted with candied pistachios.

All those are great. But heavy. I prefer healthy and full of flavor.

That's where the Korean spicy condiment gochujang comes in. A little bit of spice goes a long way to brighten flavors and stimulate conversation. All chefs know that a few grains of cayenne adds sparkle to any dish. Gochujang does that and more. If pepper sauce can be said to have umami, gochujang has plenty of umami.
A mix of peppers, rice and sugar, gochujang gets its unique flavor from a process of fermentation. I always enjoyed gochujang at Korean restaurants. A trip to a Korean market and I saw dozens of brands and varieties of gochujang, but a quick reading of the ingredient label turned me off. Too many chemical preservatives, additives and chemical compounds.

When I was given a bottle of Chung Jung One Gochujang Sauce, I read the ingredient list. There were no chemicals, no wheat and no animal products only the essentials of red pepper powder, rice, cane sugar, water and rice wine vinegar. A little heat and a little sweet. Perfect.

With a little experimentation, I discovered two very good uses of gochujang. I used gochujang instead of Tabasco to make a Bloody Mary, adding a level of deep, richly flavored umami to that classic cocktail. And, I used gochujang to spice up a comfort food treasure, chicken and dumplings.

Gochujang Bloody Mary

Use a good quality vodka, although its qualities will be masked by the flavors of the seasoned tomato juice. While there are many brands available, I would recommend Chung Jung One's Gochujang Sauce because the ingredients do not include chemicals or preservatives. 

Serves 2 (of course!)

Time to prepare: 5 minutes

Ingredients

4 ounces unflavored vodka, preferably Tito's, Prairie or your favorite premium vodka
8 ounces tomato juice, preferably organic and without preservatives or additives
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon gochujang, depending on preference
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 lime wedges to garnish
2 celery sprigs with leaves to garnish

Directions

Fill a large shaker with all liquid ingredients. Shake well to mix.

Fill two large glasses with ice. Pour all the mix into the glasses. Place a celery sprig into the glass and a lime wedge on the edge of each glass.

Gochujang Spicy Chicken and Dumplings

Use seasonal vegetables you enjoy. I used string beans, carrots, onions, broccoli leaves and shiitake mushrooms, but shelled English peas, cauliflower florets, celery and turnips would also be good. I would recommend Chung Jung One's gochujang but if that is not available, use another. 
Use homemade chicken stock. Store bought stock has a higher salt content.

Serves 2

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

Ingredients for the dumplings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons gochujang
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sweet butter, chilled, cut into dime sized pieces
1 cup half and half

  Ingredients

1 cup cooked chicken, cut into dime sized pieces
1/4 cup string beans, washed, ends trimmed off, cut into 1" long pieces
1/4 cup carrots, washed, peeled, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup yellow onion, washed, peeled, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup broccoli leaves julienned or broccoli florets, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions for the dumplings

In a small mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Stir well to break up the butter. Set aside.

Directions

Heat a 6 quart sauce pan on a medium flame. Add olive oil and all the chicken and vegetables. Stir well and sauté 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.
Make dumplings using two soup spoons and place gently into the simmering stock. After all the dumplings are in the sauce pan, cover and continue cooking 30 minutes.

If the stock boils over, lower the temperature.

Serve hot.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blasting Heat Sears in Flavor

A few years ago I convinced a chef to teach me how he made crispy skin on a filet of fish. Chef Taylor Boudreaux said it was easy. I couldn't believe that. For years I had tried to cook a filet of fish with the skin on and the result wasn't good. Either the skin was chewy or burnt to a crisp.
When I ate Boudreaux's salmon filet with mushrooms, the charred skin was crisp as a slice of perfectly cooked bacon. A perfect contrast to the moist, sweet flesh.

He reveals the secret in the video. A carbon steel pan. That's it. The pan takes an incredible amount of heat. Up to 700F. The skin sizzles and in seconds is perfectly seared. A quick flip to char the flesh and then into a 350F oven to cook the filet on the inside.
After I bought a pan and seasoned it and used it successfully on a fish filet, I discovered the pan's other advantage. Easy clean up. Very much like a cut-down wok, the pan needs only a quick cleaning with a soapy sponge to remove the left-over oil, heated again on the stove top to burn off the water and that's it. No strenuously scrubbing to clean the pan the way I had done for years with the stainless steel pans I relied upon. Just a quick clean up and I was done.

A cast iron pan also works well at high heat, but from my experience the carbon steel pan does a better job. Both pans are relatively inexpensive. A carbon steel pan will cost half the price of a comparably sized, quality stainless steel pan. When you shop for a carbon steel pan, buy one that is made with a thicker gauge steel. I have been using de Buyer pans. Chef Boudreaux recommends Matfer Bourgeat. The advantage of the thicker gauge pans is they retain heat longer than the pans made with a thinner steel.

Cast iron pans are easy to find. Carbon steel pans, not so much. In the Los Angeles area, the only source for the pans is Surfas Culinary District. In New York, I have seen them upstairs at Zabar's.
Using the pan exclusively, I discovered the beautiful work it does on steaks. Treated very much in the same way as the fish filets, each side of the dry seasoned steak is charred and then placed into a 350F oven to cook the interior of the steak. While the steak is resting for five minutes under aluminum foil, quickly sear your favorite vegetables in the pan to pick up the pan dripping flavor and serve as a side dish.
After that, I moved on to tofu, shrimp, octopus and chicken breasts. And then onto vegetables. Broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, carrots, asparagus, green beans, English peas and corn kernels. Every firm fleshed vegetable I tried worked perfectly when I applied high heat using the carbon steel pan.

For Zester Daily I wrote about creating a charred garbanzo bean salad using charred vegetables and freshly chopped Italian parsley.
The mix of seared vegetables, lightly caramelized by the high heat, and the freshness of the parsley is really delicious. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Blast the Heat for For A Charred Vegan Salad

Chef Tips For Crispy Skin Pan Seared Salmon Filets

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Roasted Winter Vegetables Brighten Up Any Meal

At holidays,  delicious hams, turkeys and roast meats take center stage at the table. A bone in ham, crusted on the outside with brown sugar and spices, turns sweet on the inside after a generous amount of oven roasting. Turkeys, basted and browned, arrive at the table warm, moist, sliced and ready to eat. As much as I love those entrees, what brings a meal to perfection are the side dishes.
Infinitely variable, side dishes range from steamed rice, which goes with just about anything, to spicy kimchi flavored vegetables. For Sunday dinner I like to keep the sides simple.

Today I made two dishes that I really enjoyed. Roasted Brussels sprouts, sliced thin and tossed with yellow onions, dressed with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper come out of the oven tender in the center and crisp on the edges. The same technique worked well with green cabbage, sliced like slaw, thin and long, tossed with onions and dressed the same as the Brussels sprouts.

Served separately, they were joined on the plate with a roast chicken with crispy skin and soft, sweet meat. If umami exists in a single dish, the chicken with its two sides was umami on a plate.

Easy to prepare and delicious, the sides are perfect for an Easter lunch, Christmas dinner or any meal in between.

Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Use any size sprouts available in a farmers market. I was lucky enough to find large ones that were easy to slice. Besides trimming off the end of the stem, also peel away and discard any of the outer leaves that have yellowed.

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Total time: 70 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed
1 medium yellow onion, root end and outer skin removed, washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

Line a large roasting pan with a Silpat sheet or parchment paper.

Using a sharp chefs knife, slice the Brussels sprouts and onion lengthwise as thin as possible.

Place the shredded Brussels sprouts and onion slices in a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt  and black pepper. Toss well.
Spread out on the lined roasting pan. As much as possible, do not let the Brussels sprouts overlap. They are more likely to crisp if they do not cover one another.

Place in the oven. After 30 minutes, use metal tongs to turn over the Brussels sprouts and return to the oven.

When they are crisp along the edges but not dried out, remove from the oven and place in a bowl.

Serve hot.

Roasted Green Cabbage Slaw

At the farmers market, select a cabbage that is firm and about 6-8" in diameter.
Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Total time: 70 minutes

Ingredients

1 green cabbage head washed, yellowed outer leaves removed
1 medium yellow onion, washed, root end and outer skin removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

Line a large roasting pan with a Silpat sheet or parchment paper.
Using a sharp chefs knife, cut the cabbage head in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, make a triangular cut at the bottom of the cabbage to remove the thick stem at the bottom. Save to use in soup or discard.

Place each half of the cabbage flat side down on a cutting board. Using the chefs knife, make very thin slices, cutting from the top to the bottom until you have shredded both halves of the cabbage.
Slice the onion in the same manner.

Place the shredded cabbage and sliced onion into a large mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt  and black pepper. Toss well.

Spread out on the lined roasting pan. As much as possible, do not let the cabbage slices overlap. The cabbage and onions are more likely to crisp if they do not cover one another.

Place in the oven. After 30 minutes, use metal tongs to toss the cabbage and onions. Return to the oven.
When the cabbage slices and onions are crisp along the edges but not dried out, remove from the oven and place in a bowl.

Serve hot.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Don't Do This At Home! Keep Your Eye On the Barbie When the Corn's On the Grill

Cardinal sin of cooking. Put a pan on the stove or a steak on the barbie and then go answer a couple of emails. Minutes pass. The emails are sent. A link sent from The Wrap leads to a few more minutes following the latest entertainment news and gossip. More minutes pass as checks are written to pay bills due in three days.
Then....what's that scent in the air? Sweet smoke with a hint of bitterness. Oh, yeah, that's the bacon in the frying pan or the ears of corn on the grill, now burnt to a blackened crisp. Perfect for the trash and compost bin but definitely no good for the table.

First rule of cooking: use a timer.
Second rule of cooking: keep it with you.

Third rule of cooking: when it goes off, check what you are cooking.

Yesterday I was making grilled corn for one of my favorite summer salads: chopped italian parsley with grilled corn. Simple, easy-to-make and delicious, the salad is such a summer treat. The perfect kind of dish to serve with grilled meats, fish and poultry.

The ears of corn were husked, washed and dried, then dredged through seasoned olive oil and placed on the grill. Nothing could be easier. All I had to do was turn the ears every couple of minutes, take them off the grill, let them cool and remove the kernels, toss them with freshly cut parsley and season the salad with more olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.
Easy, except I burnt the nine ears of corn.

That meant a dash back to the Sunday farmers market to pick up nine more ears from Underwood Family Farms and do it all again.

And so it goes. Use a timer. Carry it with you. Listen when it goes off. And all will be good.

Parsley and Grilled Corn Salad

Yield 4 servings
Ingredients

2 ears corn, husks and silks removed, washed, dried
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, stems discarded, leaves finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-heat the grill to medium-hot or set the oven to 350F.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil on a large plate or baking tray, season with sea salt and black pepper and dredge each ear of corn to coat.

Using tongs, place the seasoned ears of corn on the grill or on a parchment lined baking tray in the oven.

Turn every 3-5 minutes so the kernels brown but don't burn.  Remove once the some of the kernels have browned. Set aside to cool.

Using a sharp chefs knife, cut the kernels off the cobs and collect in a large mixing bowl.

Add the finely chopped Italian parsley, toss well and dress with the remaining olive oil.

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat. Gently reduce to 1 tablespoon. Allow to cool and add to the corn and parsley mixture. Toss well.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Variations

Add 2 tablespoons raw or grilled onions.

Add 1 avocado, diced.

Add 6 quartered cherry tomatoes.

Add dusting of cayenne.

Add 2 cups cooked chicken breast or grilled shrimp.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tomato Pintxos for Labor Day or Any Day

On a trip to Northern Spain in the spring, I discovered pintxos.
In Spanish bars, the appetizers served with beverages are tapas (about which everyone knows), pintxos and bocadilas. There's an easy way to distinguish one from the other. No bread on the plate, it's tapas. One slice of grilled bread, pintxos. Two pieces of bread (or a roll), bocadillas.
Bar food can be as simple as a bowl of beer nuts, but in Spain having a bite to eat in a bar means something very different.
On the trip, we ate elaborately designed pintxos with shrimps riding bareback on saddles of caramelized onions and smoked salmon that topped freshly grilled slices of sourdough bread.
Others featured anchovies with hardboiled eggs, whole roasted piquillo (small red peppers) stuffed with tuna fish, prosciutto wrapped around wild arugula leaves, delicately thin omelets rolled around finely chopped seasoned tomatoes and flat strips of roasted red bell peppers topped with slabs of brie and an anchovy fillet.
The invention and flavors of pintxos are unlimited. Think of wonderfully supportive flavors and textures to place on top the solid foundation of a thin slice of grilled bread and you have a beautiful and tasty appetizer to go with an ice cold beer, glass of crisp white wine or a refreshing summer cocktail like fresh fruit Sangria.
Tomato Pintxos with Fresh Tomatoes, Thin Sliced Olives and Dried Oregano

One of the best pintxos I enjoyed on the trip was the simplest. Don't get me wrong, I loved the elaborately constructed shrimp pintxos at Atari Gastronteka (Calle Mayor 18, 20001 Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, 34 943 44 07 92) in San Sebastián, but in Oviedo, near the Cathedral in the old town, in a working man's bar away from the tourist crush, A'Tarantella (Calle Jesus n 1, Oviedo, Spain, 985 73 81 65) restaurant served a simple pintxos that was one of my favorites.
Thin slices of tomatoes were laid on top of a piece of grilled bread, seasoned only with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced, pitted olives were scattered on top and dusted with dried oregano.

Easy to prepare. Simple flavors. Delicious.

For the bread, a dense white or whole wheat loaf is best. The tomatoes should be fresh and ripe but firm.

The individual ingredients can be prepared an hour ahead but the pintxos should be assembled just before serving to prevent the bread from becoming soggy from all those delicious tomato juices.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large, ripe but firm farmers market fresh tomatoes
12 large, pitted green olives, thin sliced, 1/8"
8 slices thin sliced French bread
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Slice the bread 1/4" thick. Grill on a hot barbecue, cast iron frying pan with grill ridges or roast in a 450 F oven for a few seconds to put grill-marks on each side. Remove. Set aside.
Set up an assembly line with the ingredients ready to go as soon as the bread is grilled.

Using a sharp chefs knife, slice the tomatoes as thin as possible. The tops and bottoms of the tomatoes should not be used. They can be finely chopped and used as a topping for another pintxos or to create a salsa.

Assemble each tomato pintxos in the following order: grilled bread, drizzled with olive oil, tomato slices, pitted olive slices, a seasoning of dried oregano, sea salt, black pepper and (optional) a final drizzle of olive oil.

Serve immediately with ice cold beverages.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vegan Happiness

A few years ago my wife read the funny and subversive vegan anthem, Skinny Bitch. Overnight she became a pescaterian. Gone were the chicken wings and steak bones she used to gnaw on with great pleasure. Gone too were the sausages, bacon and ribs that were part of her diet. Overnight I lost my culinary-companion.

Since I'm a stay-home-writer (except when I'm traveling), I cook most of our meals. That means cooking twice. One meal for me (brown sugar ribs, grilled sausage, braised beef, Moroccan preserved lemon chicken) and another for Michelle (tofu with sautéed spinach and shiitake mushrooms, spring vegetable soup, grilled vegetable chopped salad).

Her change in diet caused me to change the way I cooked. Not having animal products to thicken sauces and add layers of flavor hobbled my cooking. Then I discovered three beautifully easy-to-prepare flavor enhancers that are inexpensive and totally vegan. Also, they do not use any oil.

Reduced Balsamic Syrup

When balsamic vinegar is heated over a low flame, water evaporates, leaving behind a dark, flavorful liquid. Amazingly, the vinegar's lip-smacking tartness is transformed into sweetness that retains a touch of acid. The thickened, reduced vinegar tastes very much like expensive, aged balsamic vinegar that sells for as much as $40.00 a pint. 
Use the least expensive balsamic vinegar available. The restaurant supply company, Smart & Final, sells a gallon of Italian balsamic vinegar for $20.00. That one gallon yields a quart of reduced balsamic which in turn will last months.

To make the reduction, use the ratio of 4:1. Four parts of vinegar will yield one part of the reduced liquid. 1 cup of vinegar will produce 1/4 cup of syrup, which will make enough salad dressing for four meals.

The key to the reduction is low heat. Overheating creates a harsh flavor. Allow only a few, occasional small bubbles to appear on the surface of the liquid. As the balsamic reduces, lower the flame.

I reduce a gallon at a time to create 4 eight ounce squeeze bottles. That amount lasts us months. To reduce that much liquid using a low flame can take six to eight hours.

You can make a smaller amount in a few minutes. Just keep in mind the ratio of 4:1 and a low flame.

Onion Jam

All vegetables give off their water when exposed to heat. Cooked over a low flame, thin sliced onions give off a milky liquid that adds to their sweet caramelization. Traditionally onions are sautéed in olive oil to prepare them for soups and stews. To avoid using olive oil simply use a low flame and stir continuously to prevent the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

The onion jam can be refrigerated in airtight containers for a week or frozen for a month. Used as a base to make pasta sauces, soups or braises, the onions add a depth of flavor and sweetness.

In the Basque region of Spain, where pintxos, open faced sandwiches, are popular, room temperature onion jam is spread on grilled bread as the base for imaginative toppings that include charred red and green peppers, fresh wild arugula and quick fried thin strands of green cabbage.

Serves 8
Ingredients

2 pounds yellow onions, washed, ends and skin removed
Sea salt and ground pepper

Directions

Thinly slice the onions the long way, from stem to root. Heat a large pot over a low flame. Add the onions. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Because the onions render slowly, it is helpful to have other things to do in the kitchen. As the onions cook, they give off their liquid. Stir the onions around in the liquid to coat.
In time, the onions will turn golden brown. The longer you cook them, the darker they will get. I like them light brown although some people enjoy the jam when the onions take on a rich, dark brown color. Taste and decide which you like.

Remove from the heat. Let cool and use or refrigerate.

Tomato Essence

Delicious any time of their season, ripe tomatoes are one of nature's wonders. Eaten fresh from the garden, few vegetables can compare with the rich flavor of a summer ripened tomato. For a cook wanting to avoid using oils and for anyone who wants to steer clear of commercially processed food, tomatoes are a great blessing.

With very little effort, roasted tomatoes give up a delicious liquid that can be used as the basis for a salad dressing, soups, pasta sauce and braised dishes.
The technique is the essence of simplicity: turn on the oven, put in the tomatoes, come back in an hour, they're ready to use. To create tomato essence, use a wire mesh strainer or, better yet, a food mill which will separate the solids from the liquids.

It's that easy.
Serves 8

Ingredients

4 pounds ripe, farmers market tomatoes, washed, stems removed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Place the whole tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with nonstick parchment or a Silpat sheet (available in most supermarkets and specialty stores like Sur Le Table or William Sonoma).

Bake one hour or until the tomatoes begin to sag.  Remove and let cool.
There are two liquids available at this point. A clear, light liquid, perfect to make a salad dressing and a thicker liquid with pulp that is a delicious basis for soups, pasta sauces and braised dishes.

To create the first lighter liquid, place the tomatoes in the strainer or food mill over a non-reactive bowl and gently press down. That will release the clear or lighter liquid. Remove, cover and refrigerate.

Place the bowl back under the strainer or food mill and vigorously press the tomatoes until all the liquid and pulp have passed through leaving only the skin and seeds behind.

Remove, cover and refrigerate.

Tomato Essence Salad Dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup first pressing tomato essence
1 tablespoon reduced balsamic syrup
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Substitute the tomato essence for olive oil and mix well with reduced balsamic syrup. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Planning a Dinner Party and Serving Winter Squash

A lot of work goes into hosting a dinner party. No one likes wasted effort, so it behooves the cook in the house to find out what the guests like to eat and what foods to avoid. 

With pescetarians, vegetarians, vegans, shellfish averse and gluten-free friends all potentially coming to the same meal, putting together a menu can be a bit of a puzzle. Besides staying clear of food allergies and aversions, as with any menu, the dishes need to have a flow and there needs to be pairings and contrasts. All soft food would be unpleasant. Serving only crispy food presents the same problem. But a mix of flavors and textures enlivens the palate as the conversation twists and turns through different conversational topics.
Warming up a meal with winter squash
Writing about food when rain is hitting the windows and the wind pushes through the trees makes me hungry for hot, savory and filling comfort food. A salad anytime would be nice but what drives away the chill is a good bowl of soup, a nice braise or roasted vegetables.

Not being a squash-person, the great abundance of winter squash in the farmers markets hasn't much mattered to me. When we host a dinner party, included in the invitation are two questions: "What do you love to eat?" and "What do you prefer not to eat?"
Which is a long way of getting around to winter squash.

At a recent dinner party, one of our guests indicated a love of squash so I was encouraged to experiment with a vegetable rarely visited in our kitchen. In today's farmers market there were beautiful looking displays of acorn and butternut squash.
Versatile squash
Squash can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, roasted, stewed, pureed, braised and grilled. Because the seeds and pulp inside are not edible (although the seeds can be separated from the pulp, washed clean, tossed with olive oil and soy sauce and roasted for a snack), squash needs to be cut open. After that, the squash can be peeled or not, sliced, diced or left half or in quarters. 

Squash soup is certainly a good use of the vegetable, but I was more interested in retaining the texture of the flesh. Aiming for softness with a bit of char, I settled on a double method of cooking. Seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, the slices were first grilled and then finished in the oven to soften the flesh.

After cooking, the slices could be presented on a serving dish or, as I ultimately decided, peeled and large-diced, which made them an ideal side dish to accompany the rest of the meal, which consisted of brown sugar pork ribs, baked chicken breasts topped with parsley, roasted vegetable salad, Caesar salad, grilled romaine lettuce with Parmesan cheese shavings, Brazilian style grilled slices of picanha (beef top sirloin), roasted salmon with kimchi and brown sugar, chicken wing and leek tagine with preserved lemons.

For an easy-to-make side dish or tossed with pasta, roasted winter squash is a great way to go. In 30 minutes you can make pasta, the squash and a tossed salad for a healthy, delicious meal.

Grilled-Roasted Winter Squash

You can buy a large squash or, as I prefer, two smaller squash. They're easier to handle and are sometimes sweeter.

Serves 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds winter squash, washed and pat dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Using a sharp chefs knife on a wooden cutting board, cut off the ends of the squash and then cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds, washing the seeds and reserving them for a later use, if desired.
Preheat the grill and oven to 350 F. Slice the the squash into 1/2" thick, lengthwise slices. Pour the olive oil onto a medium sized baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Coat the squash slices with the seasoned olive oil.

To get char marks on the squash slices, place them on a hot grill for 30-40 seconds on each side. Use metal tongs to turn them and put them pack on the baking tray.

Put the squash into the oven 10 minutes on each side and bake until al dente. Don't make them too soft. Remove and, using a pairing knife, remove the peel.

Serve warm.

Variations

In addition to sea salt and black pepper, season the olive oil with finely chopped fresh garlic (2 cloves, peeled).

In addition to the other seasonings, add finely chopped fresh rosemary (1 tablespoon) to the squash slices.

For heat, add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne to the seasoned olive oil.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Garlic Sautéed Yellow Squash and Carrots

In summers past, I grew yellow squash with great success. The plants spread to every inch of the garden, threatening to overwhelm tomato plants, the herb garden and a small patch of arugula.
After the vines firmly established themselves, the long, fat squash seemed to appear overnight. What to do with all those squash?

A neighbor saved the day. She loved squash blossoms. She would nip the problem in the bud, so to speak, by picking blossoms before the squash could appear.

Ultimately our best solution was avoidance. We stopped planting squash. Problem solved.

But I missed squash's pleasant crunch and clean flavor. Last week we were gifted with a basket of zucchini and yellow squash from our next-door neighbor's front yard garden. Picked while they were young, before they became watery, the zucchini and squash were unblemished, firm and the picture of health.

There were a great number of ways to prepare such perfect specimens. They could be steamed, grilled or even eaten raw in thin slices or grated. Because I had a beautiful bone in ribeye steak, I decided to sauté them with garlic to use as a side dish.

Sautéing would caramelize and bring out their hidden sweetness. Combined with carrot rounds, the color and texture contrast would add to the pleasures of the dish.

Steak never had such a pleasant companion.

Garlic Sautéed Squash and Carrot Rounds


Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients


4 medium sized yellow squash, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
4 medium sized carrots, washed, peeled, ends trimmed, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
1 small yellow onion, skins and root end removed, washed, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins and root ends removed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions


Heat a large frying or chef's plan with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  Add onions and garlic. Sauté until lightly browned. Add yellow squash and carrots. Sauté until lightly browned. Finish with sweet butter.

Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Variations


Dust with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne for heat.

With the carrots and squash, add 1/2 cut washed, trimmed green beans, cut into 1/2" long pieces.

With the onions and garlic, add 1 tablespoon washed, trimmed shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped.

Once all the vegetables are cooked, add 2 cups cooked pasta, toss, dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve as a side or main dish.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Asparagus Stalks Memorial Day Picnics

Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.
When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

Raw Asparagus Salad
Look for small to medium sized stalks that are firm and without blemish or shrivel-marks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions


Slice in half the long way the larger stalks just before serving. Just before serving, toss the asparagus with the seasoned olive oil.

Variations

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flaky goat cheese over the asparagus.

Finely chop 1 garlic clove and lightly sauté until brown, sprinkle over the asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus

Use any size asparagus you like. 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the grill on a medium flame.

Toss the asparagus in the seasoned olive oil and place on the grill. 

Tongs will help turn the asparagus on the grill. Be careful to brown but not burn the tender stalks. Serve warm.

Variations

Grill with carrots (sliced or whole baby carrots) and serve as a vegetable course or as a side dish.

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or an additional 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Steamed or Sautéed Asparagus with Caramelized Garlic, Shallots and Almond Slivers
Use any size asparagus you like. I prefer large or medium sized stalks, cut in half the long way so I can caramelize inside the asparagus.

The dish is as delicious whether you steam or sauté the asparagus. The choice is yours.

Blanched, raw slivered almonds are widely available in supermarkets. From my experience, Trader Joe's has good quality, affordable almonds.

To deceive the eye, the shallot and garlic clove should be sliced to resemble the almond slivers. The surprising sweet-savory/soft-crunch contrast adds to the fun of the dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1/4 cup blanched, raw almond slivers
1 large shallot, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 large garlic clove, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the asparagus, cooking in batches if necessary. Don't crowd them in the pan so they cook evenly. Use tongs to turn them frequently to brown and avoid burning.

Remove the cooked stalks to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pan, cook the shallot, garlic and almonds until lightly browned. Add a touch of olive oil if needed. Season with black pepper.

Either add the cooked asparagus back into the pan with the almond mixture and toss well or plate the asparagus and top the stalks with the almond mixture.

Serve warm.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Vegetarian Feast

Tomorrow my wife Michelle comes home after being on the road for three weeks. Working out of town, she hasn't had very many sit-down meals. When she gets home I figured she would appreciate a home cooked meal.

Since she prefers vegetarian dishes, I wanted her to have something simple like soup, a salad (maybe a carrot, spinach, or arugula salad), and a dish of poached fruit. A flavorful, healthy meal would get her back on track after so many days eating on the go.

Vegetarian Tomato Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

6 celery stalks, including the leaves, washed, finely chopped
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled (save the peels), finely chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
1 bunch beet greens and stems, washed, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, washed, peeled, stem and top removed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 large farmers' market fresh tomato, washed, stem removed, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
10 cups water

Method

The best vegetables are available at farmers' markets. The beet greens and stalks add a rich sweetness but if you aren't going to buy beets, ask any of the farmers if they'll give you the stalks that people don't want. More often than not, they'll give you a big bunch for free.

Put the chopped tomato on a cutting board or in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Let the tomato marinate while you make the vegetable stock.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot. Add all the celery leaves and half the stalks. Saute until lightly browned, then add the carrot peelings and half the carrots, all the parsley stems, half the beet greens and stems, half the onion, and half the chopped garlic. Stir frequently until lightly browned. Add 8 cups of water. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables. Reserve the liquid.

In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the remaining vegetables and lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add the marinated tomato, the remaining 2 cups of water, and the vegetable stock.

Simmer 30 minutes, taste, adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper, and serve.

Variations

Add 1 teaspoon cumin when you're making the stock.

Use cilantro instead of parsley.

Use kale instead of the beet greens.

Top with toasted croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.

Just before serving, add 1/4 cup cooked brown rice for each bowl.

Honey Poached Apples and Pears with Vanilla, Raisins, Cinnamon, and Black Peppercorns

Yield: serves 4-6
Time: 20 minutes

The peppercorns add a bit of heat. Personally, I enjoy eating the candied peppercorns, but they're too spicy for most people.

Ingredients

3 ripe pears, Bartlet or Anjou, washed, peeled, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
3 ripe apples, Fuji or Granny Smith, washed, peeled, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
20 black peppercorns
2 sticks cinnamon
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic raisins
2 cups water

Method

Put the water, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, raisins, and peppercorns into a medium-sized saucepan and simmer.

Cook the apples and pears separately. Add the pears to the poaching liquid and simmer 5 minutes. Carefully remove the pears and place into a jar or bowl. Add the apples and poach for 5 minutes. Remove and place into a separate jar or bowl.

Reduce the poaching liquid until only 1 cup remains. Divide the thickened sauce between the apples and pears.

The apples and pears will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Serve either at room temperature or reheated. The fruit is delicious by itself but also good as a topping for pound cake, yogurt, cottage cheese, or ice cream.

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