Monday, 28 September 2020

Peppers Hyderabadi Style - Mirchi Ka Salan

Our next dish in our Indian dinner gave me a lot more trouble than the chicken. I've both simplified it and am sure I did not get it quite right. It was so very tasty, though, that I'm posting it anyway, and hopefully you can avoid a few of my pitfalls. 

My first mistake was to use some nice sweet yellow peppers from the garden. They were delicious, but I'm pretty sure quite different from the usual ones used in this dish. Since they were also rather large I cut them up rather than leaving them whole. Then, I returned them to the sauce sooner than I should have. The end result was that they were hardly detectable as peppers, being pale, soft, and in bits, and the dish was more like a sauce. Served with some steamed brown rice (a rare treat for me now) it was so good that it was hard to complain. But if you used smaller peppers, left them whole, and put them into the sauce at the right time, you should get better results. 

The usual pepper is not one I've seen around here, and I suspect it's a bit hot for our tastes anyway, even slit and with the seeds removed. The sauce I ended up with is on the thick side of what seems typical; it shouldn't be thicker and could be a bit thinner. Also, all the recipes I saw called for whole peanuts and sesame seeds to be toasted, then ground - I just went straight to using peanut butter and tahini instead. I've broken the ingredients down into a lot of little mis en place dishes because that's the only way to keep myself organized and once you have them all ready the actual cooking goes reasonably quickly. 

4 servings
30 minutes to prepare the mixes
40 minutes to finish the dish

Peppers Hyderabadi Style - Mirchi Ka Salan

Mix #1:
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1" piece of cinnamon

Put the whole spices into a small bowl and set aside. 

Mix #2:
3 pods green cardamom
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon ground Cayenne (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Crush the cardamom enough to remove and discard the green papery husks, then grind them with the cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and salt. Mix them in a small bowl with the Cayenne (to taste), cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Mix #3:
2 teaspoons peeled, grated fresh ginger
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon apple butter OR tamarind pulp

Peel and grate the ginger into a small bowl. Peel and grate the garlic in with it. Add the apple butter or tamarind pulp. Set aside. 

Mix #4:
3 tablespoons unsweetened dessicated coconut
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons tahini

Toast the coconut in a small skillet until golden and turn immediately into a small bowl. Mix in the peanut butter and tahini. Set aside. 

Finish the Dish:
500 grams (6 to 8) green or red frying peppers
2 large tomatoes
1 large onion
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 cups water

Wash and de-seed the peppers. You can leave the peppers whole, and just remove the seeds through a slit in the side, or you can cut them up and de-seed them. I opted to do that because I was using considerably larger peppers than those that are traditionally used, but it did mean they got a bit soft and pulpy. Don't cut them too small - they should be larger than bite-sized.

Blanch and peel the tomatoes, and cut them into dice. Peel and chop the onion.

Heat the oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Cook the peppers or pepper pieces until slightly browned and fairly softened - this is a lot of the cooking that they are going to get so they should look close to cooked to you. Still, this should not take much more than 5 minutes cooking. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add the bowl of Mix #1 to the pan, and stir for a minute or two until sizzling and fragrant, with a few of the seeds starting to pop. Then add the onions and mix in well. Let them cook for a minute or two, then add the bowl of Mix #2, and stir it in well. Next comes Mix #3, and when it too is well incorporated, add the tomato. Finally, add Mix #4, combine well, and stir in the water.

Cover the pan and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir FREQUENTLY. I found the peanut butter and tahini really, really wanted to weld themselves to the pan. At the same time though, keep it covered when not stirring so as not to lose too much moisture. At any point during the cooking, if the sauce gets too thick, add a little more water.

Once the sauce has darkened a bit and seems to be fairly thick, with oil rising to the top, return the peppers to the pan and simmer them for another 5 minutes or so, until completely cooked.. Serve at once.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Chicken 65

Time for another outbreak of me attempting to cook some Indian dishes. This one caught my eye because it looks a lot like chicken marinated in a similar way to tandoori chicken, but cooked quickly and simply in a skillet. The name is a bit obscure; the most convincing reason I've seen for the name is that it started off as an item on a numbered menu. At any rate, there are now quite a few versions of this out there. 

We thought this was really tasty. It does need some advance prep, since it is marinated, but I don't mind that -it's always nice to break up the work a bit. Normally this would contain fresh curry leaves, but I couldn't even round up any cilantro - it got sprinkled with parsley. I picked the lettuce as more of a garnish but we ate it with the chicken; it was a nice accompaniment.

4 servings
20 minutes to prepare marinade
2 hours to overnight to marinate
15 minutes to cook

Chicken 65

Make the Marinade:
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red chile
3 tablespoon potato starch
3 to 4 clove of garlic
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
the juice of 1 lime OR 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup thick yogurt

Toast the fennel, cumin, peppercorns, and coriander lightly. Let them cool then grind well with the salt. Put them in a container that will hold the chicken and has a cover, and mix in the remaining spices and potato starch. Peel and grate the garlic and ginger into the container. Add the lime or lemon juice and yogurt and mix well.

Marinate & Cook the Chicken:
500 grams skinless, boneless chicken
1/2 medium red onion
lettuce leaves
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro OR parsley
lemon OR lime wedges

Cut the chicken into large bite-sized pieces. Mix them into the marinade, and marinate in the fridge, covered, for 2 hours to overnight.

It's a good idea to have the onion peeled and sliced and the lettuce washed and dried before you start cooking; especially if, like me, you prefer to sprinkle your onion pieces with salt and let them soften and become milder flavoured with about 15 minutes of resting. (Rinse them and dry them before using.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, place the pieces of chicken into the pan individually, with the marinade clinging to them. Cook until brown and crispy on both sides, and cooked through to the middle.

While they cook, arrange the lettuce on a serving platter, chop the herb, and slice the lemon wedges. When the chicken is cooked, arrange it on the platter, sprinkle it with the cilantro or parsley and the onion slices, and pass it with the lemon or lime wedges.

Last year at this time I made "Stuffing" Dressed Cauliflower.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Acelgas con Patatas - Swiss Chard with Potatoes

Another day; another Spanish recipe for Swiss chard. Maybe it should actually be called Spanish chard? But the Spanish name for it - acelgas - comes from the Moorish. Maybe it should be Moorish chard...?

Like a lot of Spanish dishes this couldn't be simpler. Even so, you can divide it into 2 parts and make it in stages. Using leftover boiled potatoes would be a good plan too. Of course, in Spain the oil would be olive oil, but I'm not sure how noticeable it is through the robust flavour of Swiss chard; I used something milder and was perfectly happy with it.

This makes a fair bit, and we did not manage to eat it all at dinner. The rest of it got made into a sort of egg "tortilla" for breakfast the next day, which is to say it got re-heated in a skillet and then had eggs poured all over it. Also very good!

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Acelgas con Patatas - Swiss Chard with Potatoes

Advance Preparation:
500 grams (1 pound) medium potatoes
1 bunch Swiss chard

Wash and trim the potatoes. They should be of a size to slice nicely into rounds for frying. Put them in a pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes, then drain and cool. It can be just enough to allow you to handle them, or they can cool completely and be kept until needed.

While the potatoes cook, wash and trim the Swiss chard. Cut the stems into bite-sized pieces and chop the leaves coarsely. Put them in a strainer in the sink, and when the potatoes are drained, drain them over the Swiss chard until it is wilted completely. Drain well and put away with the potatoes (if being kept for later). 

Fry Up the Vegetables:
1 large onion
3 tablespoons olive OR mild vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet (smoked) Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed savory OR thyme

Peel and sliver or chop the onion.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook them for between 5 and 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until they have browned a fair bit. While they cook, peel and chop the garlic finely.

Add the onions to the potatoes and cook for another few minutes, until they begin to soften and brown. Add the garlic and spices and mix in well. In just a minute or so, but once they are well in, mix in the Swiss chard; stems and leaves.

Continue cooking, stirring regularly, until everything is well amalgamated, hot through, and done to your liking. Transfer to a dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made "Stuffing" Dressed Cauliflower.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

An extremely classic soup, but things become classics for a reason. This is a lovely way to have cauliflower. And we seem to be well into soup weather these days, I have to say.

As an excellent variation, omit the cheese and add 1 to 2 teaspoons very good quality sweet Hungarian paprika with the rest of the seasonings. Use sour cream instead of the 10% cream.

We had this for lunch with my favourite Oatmeal Farls. Don't forget, if you want to make them too, that they need to be started the night before. 

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 small carrot
1 stalk of celery
3 or 4 shallots
2 tablespoons finely minced chives
4 cups (1/2 medium head) finely broken up cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme OR savory
3 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
2 tablespoons arrowroot or potato starch
1 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup grated old Cheddar cheese (optional)
a few sprigs of parsley or more chopped chives to garnish

Peel and grate or finely dice the carrot. Wash, trim, and finely chop the celery. Peel and finely chop the shallots. Wash, trim, and mince the chives. Break up the cauliflower into small florets; slice any stems.

Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, shallots, and chives, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until well softened and reduced a little. Add all the seasonings. Stir in the cauliflower until all the butter has been absorbed by the cauliflower florets and other vegetables.

Add the chicken stock and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes until the cauliflower is quite soft. Mash it a little with a potato masher.

Meanwhile, have the cream ready with the starch stirred well into it (lump free). Mix it in and allow the soup to almost but not quite simmer for a few more minutes until it has thickened. Stir occasionally.

Serve the soup with a couple tablespoons of grated cheese sprinkled over each bowl, and a little finely minced parsley or chives for colour. 

Last year at this time I made Blackberry Walnut Salad with Herbs.

Friday, 18 September 2020

Beet Salad with Red Onions & Parsley

Beet salad with no fruit or nuts or cheese; is that even possible, never mind legal? Apparently!  Without those things this is a light accompaniment to other things rather than the star of the show. However, it does that well, being light, refreshing and simple to do. 

Our beets seem to have survived the early summer difficulties in the garden and there are now quite a few looking very good. I'll be looking for more things to do with them.

4 to 6 servings

1 hour to cook the beets
20 minutes to make the salad

Beet Salad with Red Onions & Parsley

Cook the Beets:
450 grams (1 pound) beets

Wash the beets and put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring to a boil, and boil gently, covered, for 40 minutes to an hour, until tender. Drain and let cool. This can be done a day ahead.

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1/2 large lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil OR olive oil

Put everything in a small bowl or jam jar and whisk or shake until well blended.

Make the Salad:
1 medium large red onion
2/3 cup finely chopped parsley
2/3 cup finely chopped celery leaves

Peel and chop the onion, fairly finely. Salt it and leave it in a strainer to drain as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Peel and dice the cooked, cooled beets. Put them in a salad bowl. Wash, dry and chop the parsley and celery leaves. Add them. Rinse the onions and drain them well, and add them to the salad.

Toss the salad with the dressing.

Last year at this time I made Vegetable-Laden Grilled Cheese

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Chick Peas with Ham & Spinach

We planted some spinach at the end of July or early in August for use in the fall, and got spotty germination because it was still so hot and dry. However, there was a reasonable amount. Now it's bolting so I did my best to snatch some for use before it is too late. This recipe managed to use up quite a lot. We re-seeded after the first attempt, and with the cool weather and rain we've been having we now have lots more spinach germinating. Hopefully, this can be covered and overwintered for early spring greens.

In the mean time, this was really delicious, in addition to being quick and easy. I did have to cook the chick peas and the ham in advance, but they both went into the Instant Pot (not together) and didn't need much attention.

This is really a full meal by itself; you won't need much more than some bread and butter to keep it company.

4 servings
1 hour prep time, not including cooking the chick peas (or ham)

Chick Peas with Ham & Spinach

3 cups cooked chick peas (from 1 cup raw)
8 cups cleaned spinach leaves
1 large onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 cup diced cooked ham
2 tablespoons olive oil OR mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1-2 teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup ham stock and/or chick pea cooking water

I cooked the chick peas by putting them in a pot with plenty of water to cover, then bringing them to a boil. Then I covered them and turned off the heat, and left them to soak for several hours. Then they were drained, and put into the Instant Pot with fresh water to cover and a teaspoon of salt, and cooked for 9 minutes, then left to release naturally. They could similarly be put back in the original pot with fresh water and salt, and simmered until tender; probably somewhere between 1 and 2 hours. If you wish to use tinned chick peas, this is about 1 1/2 standard 540 ml (19 ounce) tins. Drain them well for use.

Wash and pick over the spinach, discarding any tough stems and damaged leaves. Wash very well, then drain and chop coarsely. Wash and drain well again.

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the ham into dice.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for several minutes, until softened and wilted but not browned. Add the ham and well-drained chick peas, and cook for several minutes, continuing to stir regularly, until the mixture is fairly dry and sizzling. Add the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, and garlic. Mix in well and cook for just a minute longer, then add the ham stock or cooking water. Add the spinach.

Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, mixing in the spinach until it all well wilted. Simmer until the spinach is done to your liking. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Vegetables Sabzi.  

Monday, 14 September 2020

Ham & Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Roulades en Casserole

I've been seeing so many lovely pictures on Pinterest of casseroles made with decoratively rolled zucchini slices. So pretty! Ooo! And ahh! Naturally, I succumbed. Here's my report.

This is a fancy dish for company and not something you will want to whip up for an every day supper; there is no question about that. I read a lot of recipes for this kind of elaborately presented zucchini casserole, and very few of them attempted to even hint at the challenges that making this presents. Indeed, I saw the word "easy" a lot.

It isn't actually that it's terribly hard, or beyond the scope of beginning cooks; it's that there are definite things that you need to know that tend to go unsaid. First of all, forget making this if you haven't got a mandoline or other similar slicing machine. You really cannot slice the zucchini evenly and thinly enough without one.

Okay, fine; you are able to slice the zucchini. Next up, nobody mentions that in order to acquire the necessary number of nice, evenly sized pieces of zucchini, you will need to discard a lot of sides and ends. I suggest saving these pieces and frying them up for a Zucchini Vinaigrette to be eaten tomorrow; but you will need to start with close to 33% more zucchini than will actually go into the casserole.

Nobody mentions that as you roll up the zucchini with the fillings and put them in the casserole, they will speedily unroll themselves into a mess while you roll up the next piece. You will need to hold them in place... while rolling up the next piece. Three hands would be, well, handy. Good luck with that. I do have a solution, which is to have them all set up and ready to roll at once, but it requires a certain amount of counter space. In fact, I did them in two batches and jammed the first half into place with an empty cheese packet while I worked on the second round of rounds.

And finally, I have to conclude that while this was very pleasant and we enjoyed it, I'm not sure it's sufficiently amazing to justify the time and labour involved - mind you, Mom absolutely raved about how good it was. Possibly it helps not to know just how much work. Good quality ham and cheese will be important for its success. It would work very well as a party piece though, as all that work happens at the front end; after that it's just baking it and serving it. I imagine it could be assembled somewhat in advance and baked as needed.

And finally, be cautious with that mandoline. I managed to use it safely, and wash it safely, and put it away sa - no; there went 1/8th of my thumbnail and certain amount of skin. Oops! Be careful out there!

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Ham & Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Roulades en Casserole

Prepare the Zucchini & Make the Sauce:
1 kg (4 medium-large; 2 pounds) zucchini
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons barley OR other flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rubbed savory OR thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups whole milk OR light cream
2 large eggs

Use a mandolin or meat slicer to slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin slices. Sprinkle salt on one side of each of them and let them drain for half an hour in a strainer, then pour boiling water over them, being sure they are all equally drenched, and drain very well. Pat them dry with paper towel. You should have somewhere around 28 to 32 slices.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: put the butter, flour, mustard, and seasoning into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir well, until you have a thick paste that wants to form a single mass. Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, to form a smooth sauce. When it has thickened, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. When it is cool enough not to cook the eggs as they are added, whisk them together then whisk them into the sauce.

Finish the Roulades & Bake:
300 grams (10 ounces) firm but melty cheese slices
250 grams (1/2 pound) sliced deli ham OR turkey
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup minced herbs
      - a selection from parsley, thyme, savory, basil, etc.

Use a shallow 1 1/2 quart/litre baking pan. Oil it well. Cut the cheese and ham slices into strips of about the same width as the zucchini slices.

Lay out the salted, blanched, and dried zucchini slices and sprinkle them with fresh herbs, which have been washed, trimmed, dried and minced. You could throw a little garlic in there if it seems appropriate. Top each slice of zucchini with a slice of ham or turkey and a slice of cheese, each of which should run about 2/3 to 3/4 the length of the zucchini slice; center them.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Roll up the prepared slices - I found it best to keep the cheese about 1" from the narrowest end of the zucchini slice, which was then folded over the cheese, and rolled from there. Place them in the prepared baking pan. You will need to crowd them together, and hold them in place as you add more in order to keep the earlier ones from unrolling. Once they are all in, there should be a sufficient number of rolls to fill the pan and hold each other up.

Ladle the sauce evenly over the prepared rolls. Bake the casserole for  
1 hour at 350°F. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Coconut Macaroon Peach Crisp

Let's go back to a summery feeling for a moment! Yes, this requires the oven to go on, and yes, the peach season doesn't have much time left to run. (Freeze some, though, and you can make this throughout the year.)

It's another one of the diabetics best dessert friends - a fruit crisp. Low sugar and a topping with lots of fat and protein from nuts and butter make it possible. You should make this one even if you can eat more sugar, because it was really delicious. I'll be using that macaroon topping on other fruits too - plums are coming along and they'd be great with this. Cherries next year? You bet. I'd use rhubarb, but it does need more sugar. Really, what fruit wouldn't a coconut macaroon topping go on?

6 servings
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time
allow time to cool

Coconut Macaroon Peach Crisp

Prepare the Fruit:
6 cups (8 to 12) peaches, peeled and stoned
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch OR tapioca starch
2 tablespoons sugar OR other sweetener

Blanch the peaches by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then transfer them to a sink or large bowl filled with very cold water. Peel and pit them, leaving them in halves or quarters. Put them in a 1 1/2 to 2 litre shallow baking (lasagne) pan. If rectangular, that would be an 8" x 11" pan. Toss the peaches with the arrowroot or tapioca, and the sugar.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Prepare the Macaroon Topping:
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/3 cups coarse unsweetened dessicated coconut
2/3 cup finely ground almonds (flour)
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut (palm) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter

Mix the rolled oats, coconut, ground almonds, coconut sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the almond extract over them. Grate the butter over them and rub it in until the mixture is moist and crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the prepared peaches. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 375°F, until the peaches are bubbling and the topping is golden-brown. Let cool to just warm or room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Zaalouk - A Moroccan Eggplant Dish

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Peperoni con la Mollica - Italian Crumbed Peppers

My only regret with this dish was that I did not have good, fresh (stale) bread crumbs; only some powdery ones that had been in the cupboard for a while. We still enjoyed it, but next time I will make the crumbs just for this dish. There isn't a lot here so quality matters. I mean, it always does, but simple things make it so very clear.

This classic southern Italian treatment for peppers will go with just about any kind of meat, poultry, or fish. Sausages, for sure. We had it with some grilled chicken and zucchini, but I think a good crisp green salad would also be a great choice as another vegetable. If you don't want meat, some stewed or baked beans would also work really well.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Peperoni con la Mollica - Italian Crumbed Peppers

500 grams (1 pound) mixed red, orange, yellow or green peppers
1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
4 or 5 anchovies OR pitted olives
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
3 tablespoons olive OR mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup fine stale bread crumbs

Wash, core, and cut the peppers into large bite-sized pieces. Peel and sliver the onion.

Peel and mince the garlic with the anchovies or olives, and put them in a small bowl with the parsley, washed and minced, and mint, washed and minced.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over fairly high heat. Add the peppers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 to 8 minutes, until softened and reduced in volume. Add the onions and cook for another 5 yo 8 minutes until they too have softened and reduced. Both can be a bit blistered and browned in spots.

Add the bowl of garlic, etc, and mix in well. After a minute, mix in the vinegar. Once it is well absorbed, sprinkle the bread crumbs over the peppers and mix them in until they are all evenly distributed, moistened by the oil, and browning slightly. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Celery & Smoked Blue Cheese Salad.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Cauliflower Finnish Style

It's another brassica and stale bread dish, but this one is from Finland and it's quite different from the Broccoli Italian Style. That one still feels quite summery, but this one is starting to look like an autumn dish.

We use a lot of heavy, dark rye in this house, now that white bread is a rare treat. Let's face it, most of what gets sold as rye bread is actually white bread with a rye flavour. What we use  - and what you want here - is the kind of rye bread that is dense and solid and made of rye with maybe a few seeds or grain kernels but no wheat flour.

4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Cauliflower Finnish Style

Prepare the Cauliflower & Breadcrumbs:
4 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups dark rye bread crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Put a pot of water on to boil to pre-cook the cauliflower. Wash, trim, and break the cauliflower into fairly small florets. Boil them for 4 minutes, then drain well.

Meanwhile, slice or break the bread into fine dice or coarse crumbs. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is melted, add the crumbs and stir them in well. Toast, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, until dry, crisp and lightly browned in spots. Remove from the heat at once.

Finish the Dish & Bake:
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large egg
1/3 cup chicken OR vegetable stock
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Grind the caraway and coriander seeds with the salt, and put them in a small mixing bowl with the pepper and mustard. Whisk in the egg, then the stock. Grate the cheese.

Oil a shallow 2 quart or litre baking pan. Spread half the breadcrumbs over the bottom, then arrange the drained cauliflower evenly over them. Sprinkle with the remaining crumbs and the grated cheese. Pour the egg and stock mixture evenly over the cauliflower and crumbs, then bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned and the crumbs are dry again.

Last year at this time I made Pastel de Choclo con Acelga - Corn & Swiss Chard Pie

Friday, 4 September 2020

Acelgas Guisadas - Spanish Stewed Chard

Swiss chard is a popular vegetable in Spanish cooking. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider what a convenient and long-standing (in the garden) green it is. It also has reasonable heat tolerance, and would certainly do better in a hot climate than, say, spinach.

Which is not to say that I haven't been finding our Swiss chard a little tough and bitter this year, what with persistent heat and sporadic rain. This dish calls for cooking the chard a bit longer than I usually do, and I have to admit that under the circumstances that was undoubtedly a good thing. I served it with quinoa, grilled chicken and a sprinkle of cheese and we thought it was impressively good, considering the hacking and sawing required to pick the stuff this year.

The mushrooms were nice, but maybe a little overwhelmed by the other ingredients. It's up to you to add them, or not, as you like.

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

Acelga Guisada - Spanish Stewed Chard

450 grams (4 medium; 1 pound) red tomatoes
1 large bunch white-stemmed Swiss chard
1 medium onion
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms (optional
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet (smoked) Spanish paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Put a pot of water on to boil and blanch the tomatoes. Peel them, chop them, and set them aside in a bowl.

Wash and trim the Swiss chard. Cut the stems from the leaves, and chop them into pieces about the same size that you would chop an onion. Put them in their own bowl, then peel and chop the onion and add it to them. Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms in slightly larger pieces, and add them to the bowl.

Peel and mince the garlic, which now goes in a new, small bowl along with the cumin seed, ground with the salt, and the rest of the spices.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, chard stems, and mushrooms and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and cooked down, and perhaps browning very slightly (If it wants to brown more than slightly you have the heat too high.) While this cooks, chop the Swiss chard leaves fairly finely.

Add the little bowl of seasonings to the pan and mix in well. Let cook for a minute or two, then stir again and stir in the tomatoes. Let them cook for another 5 minutes, adding a little water if it looks like the pan is getting too dry. Your ultimate goal is a mixture that is moist and juicy but not swimming in liquid, so only add a little at a time.

Add the shredded Swiss chard leaves and mix them in until they are wilted and amalgamated. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Once they are well in, add the vinegar.

Serve hot as-is, or with a little grated cheese sprinkled over the top.

Last year at this time I made Cream of Zucchini & Mushroom Soup.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Broccoli Italian Style

What is there to say about this? It's a classic and very simple Italian treatment for broccoli, and the Italians know their broccoli.

I say 20 minutes prep time, but it divides into 2 sessions of about 10 minutes each; first you prepare all the ingredients and then 10 minutes before dinner is to be served, start cooking (I say 12 minutes in the recipe, to give the water a couple of minutes to come to a boil). This is a dish that requires last minute attention, but if you are organized in advance, it goes very quickly and easily. We had ours with some broiled fish which cooked in about the same time but required no attention while it was in the oven so that was a good choice.

Next time I'd like to use some better quality, coarser bread crumbs than what I had; they are prominent part of the dish after all. Still, we really enjoyed this a lot and I suspect I'll be making it more often.

Odd as it sounds, I wonder if replacing the anchovies with a little miso rubbed into the crumbs would make a good vegetarian version?

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Broccoli Italian Style

2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
4 to 5 anchovies
1/3 cup dry but coarse bread crumbs

Peel, trim, and mince the garlic. Put it in a small bowl with the chile flakes. Mince the anchovies and add them. Add the bread crumbs. Mix and set aside.

Continue & Finish:
4 to 5 cups broccoli florets
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash, trim, and cut the broccoli into florets. Peel the onion and cut it in half, then into slivers.

Exactly 12 minutes before serving time, put some water in a pot to cook the broccoli and bring it to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook the it for 5 to 6 minutes - essentially cooked, as it won't really cook any more in the skillet.

Put the olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat when the broccoli has 2 or 3 minutes left to cook. Add the onions and cook, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. When the broccoli is cooked, drain it very well, and add it to the pan, Mix in well, cooking for a couple minutes until the broccoli and onions are well combined and any lingering liquid from the broccoli is gone.

Add the little bowl of crumbs, etc, and mix in well. Continue cooking and stirring until the broccoli is well-coated in the crumbs, the garlic is fragrant, and the crumbs are browning slightly. Transfer everything to a serving dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Poblano Chiles with Corn & Onions (Rajas y Elote).