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Vegetarian Paella with Summer Vegetables and Brown Rice

Okay, paella. A delicious and hearty Spanish dish that is admittedly intimidating when you’re first reading a recipe for it. It calls for a few of those ingredients that I simply refuse to use like saffron. I’m not going to remortgage my house to buy spices, I just wont. I’ve also jumped back on the vegetarian band wagon again recently so the chorizo and chicken are out. Lastly, there’s the shrimp, clams and other shellfish that I’ve always refused to eat simply because they’re nasty. It’s been quite a while since I posted a recipe, or anything for that matter and tons has changed about me. One thing that stayed the same: My recipes are usually such far flung versions of what inspired them that it’s often hard to still call them that. So is this a real paella? No. Is it tasty and delicious using wholesome ingredients and local, in-season produce? You bet your sweet ascot it is.

Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted, I forgot the cardinal rule of food blogging: Photograph the food before you serve it to your ravenously hungry friends.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side.
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Cooking Time: 90 minutes.
Assemble the following:

  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/3 Onion, cubed
  • 1 1/2 C. Un-Soaked Brown Rice
  • 1 Large Tomato, diced
  • 1 C. Zephyr Squash, cut into match sticks
  • 1 C. Zucchini, cut into match sticks
  • 3 Spring Onion, finely chopped
  • 5 C. Vegetable Broth
  • 1 C. Spinach
  • 1 C. Artichoke Hearts
  • 2 C. Black Beans
  • 1/4 C. Red Capsicum Pepper (more or less depending on taste)
  • Lime Juice (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp. Cumin
  • 2 tsp. Sage
  • 2 tsp. Thyme
  • 2 tsp. Crushed Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Turmeric

And do this with it:

  • Bring the vegetable stock to a slow simmer in a separate pot.
  • Heat a large skillet with a lid over medium.
  • Sweat the onions until they’ve turned translucent, or about five minutes.
  • Add garlic and saute for three minutes longer.
  • Add the dry rice to the pan and toast for about seven minutes. (Normally, I would have reached for soaked brown rice, but the toasting step is important, and you can’t toast soaked rice because it’s been soaked.)
  • Deglaze the pan with lime juice, being sure to scrape up all the delicious charred bits from the bottom.
  • Ladle in a cups of the veggie broth and stir. Cover and reduce the heat to low, checking and stirring often.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 F.
  • When rice is nearly done (about forty minutes) add the beans, squash, zuchini, tomato, red pepper, spinach, and spring onion and saute for ten minutes longer.
  • Transfer the mixture to an oven-safe dish, cover with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and voila!

Apricot and Edamame Stir-Fry

Who doesn’t like a good stir fry? They’re flexible, relatively quick and absolutely packed with different flavors and textures. This stir fry is loaded with shelled edamame, bamboo shoots, and fresh ginger.

Serves 2

Assemble the Following:

  • 2 TBSP. Soybean Oil
  • 1/3 C. Onion, Minced
  • 2 Large Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger Root, Minced
  • 1 1/2 C. Bok Choy or Cabbage, Chopped
  • 1/2 C. Red Bell Pepper, Coarsely Chopped
  • 1/4 C. Fresh Cilantro
  • 1/4 C. Bamboo Shoots
  • 1 C. Edamame, Cooked and Shelled
  • 1 C. Broccoli, Blanched
  • 1 Scant TBSP. Soy Sauce
  • 1 TBSP. Apricot Preserves
  • Pinch Cumin
  • 1 TSP. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 TBSP. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2/3 to 1 C. Cooked White Rice

Do This With It:

  • Heat wok or large heavy skillet with oil, very high heat.
  • Add Onions and Cabbage, fry until tender.
  • Add Red Pepper, garlic, and most of the ginger, fry until tender.
  • Add Cilantro, and Bamboo Shoots, reduce to medium heat.
  • Slowly stir in Soy Sauce, reduce to low heat.
  • Add Edamame and Broccoli.
  • Add Apricot Preserves, stir or toss until thickened and reduced.
  • Add dried spices and remaining ginger, remove from heat.
  • With wet fingertips mold heaping tablespoons of rice into little balls for plating.

Notes:

  • I leave the peel on my ginger; you get a much bolder flavor this way.
  • I remember now when Alton Brown did a show on Stir-Fry, he emphasized the importance of having every ingredient ready to go before you even heat the oil. Well, he wasn’t kidding. The good news is I think I may have broken a world speed record for shelling Edamame.
  • You can just pile the stir-fry on a bed of rice and forgo the rice-balls, but they add a flair to the presentation don’t you think?

Orzo Salad with Pole Beans and Sautéed Veggies

Summer is the perfect time for a cold pasta salad. Served with burgers off the grill, or by itself this take on pasta salad is just as refreshing as it is filling. It keeps well, so make a little extra and enjoy over the next few days. Planning a barbecue or a picnic? Make this a day ahead and refrigerate overnight to really let the flavors marry up and combine.

Serves Four as a side-dish, or Two as a main.

Assemble The Following:

  • 1/4 C Orzo, uncooked
  • 1/4 C. Finely Minced Onion
  • 1/2 C. Scallions or Spring Onion, Coarse Chop
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Roma Tomatoes, Cubed
  • 1/4 C. Black Olives, Rough Chop
  • Handful of Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 C. Italian Pole Beans, Blanched and Shelled
  • 3/4 C. Vegetable Stock
  • Italian Seasoning, Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan and Asiago  Cheese Blend

Do This With It:

  • Bring Vegetable Stock to boil.
  • Sautee onion and 1/4 C. Scallion in olive oil until tender.
  • Add Garlic, and Italian seasoning.
  • Before garlic browns, add 1 C. Hot vegetable stock, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, and slowly cook until all the stock has been absorbed by the mushrooms, remove from heat.
  • Cook Orzo in remaining vegetable stock until al-dente.
  • Drain Pasta and rinse, toss with a little olive oil and allow to cool.
  • Combine cooled vegetables, pole beans, olives, remaining 1/4 C. scallion, and cilantro. Toss gently.
  • Refrigerate 1-2 hours to allow all the flavors to really get to know each other.
  • Serve with sprinkling of cheese and topped with more scallion greens.

Notes and Abstract:

  • I misjudged the pole beans big time. 1 Cup is what I was shooting for before I shelled them. Needless to say, four large handfuls of the beans before cooking and shelling yielded only about 1/4  Cup.

Potato and Olive Scones

Tonight witnessed a major victory for me in my kitchen. I’ve tried to bake maybe ten times before in my life, (not including your box cake or cupcake mix)  and saying that all ten times resulted in utter disaster would be putting it mildly. Flour everywhere, eggs on the ceiling, burnt “bread” …awful stuff really. Well,  I’ll be starting culinary school here in about twenty days, and one of the classes I’m going to have to take is baking. I don’t want to have to learn how to bake at school, so this last week I’ve had a renewed interest in my oven. After a miserable defeat on Sunday with Irish (no yeast) bread, and determined to finally figure out how to bake something anything,  I armed myself with the proper accoutrements of baking today at the market. Well sort of. I don’t keep milk in the house, so I ended up with some dehydrated milk flakes which on initial inspection smelled and tasted just as gross as real milk, so I figured it would work. I got some yeast, and some eggs and more flour and came home ready to make some baking magic. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t work! I don’t know if it’s a fluke or what, but I’m enjoying one of these delicious olive and potato scones, warm from the oven as I write this.

Little chunks of potato, salty bits of olive and woody fresh rosemary permeate every bite into one of these savory little gems. It only took about an hour including baking time and If it’s easy enough for me to pull off, then anyone can do it!

Adapted from Bay Books Ultimate Kitchen Companion.

Assemble the following:

  • 8 OZ potatoes, peeled and cubed (Recipe did not specify, I used red potatoes)
  • 1/2 C. Milk
  • 2 Cups Self-Rising Flour (See Note.)
  • 2 OZ butter, chopped and cold
  • 4 TBSP Black olives
  • 4 TBSP Chopped Fresh Rosemary
  • 1/2 C. Water
  • 1-2 TSP Olive Oil, for glazing.

(NOTE: I had only All Purpose Flour, but self rising can be made by sifting 1 Cup AP Flour, 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Voila: Self Rising Flour. )

Do this with it:

  • Preheat oven to 415°F (210°C)
  • Boil potatoes until tender, mash with milk. Season with salt and pepper. Potatoes should be a little soupy.
  • Sift flour into large mixing bowl. Slowly rub in the butter with your fingertips until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour has a crumbly texture.
  • Add in the olives and rosemary, stir with balloon whisk until just combined.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour and add the potatoes and most of the water.
  • Mix with a spatula until a soft dough is formed, turn out onto floured surface and knead briefly. It’s important not to work the dough too much, or the scones will turn out hard and doughy.
  • Press out to a thickness of 3/4 Inch and cut into ten equal sections with a dough scraper. (See note 2)
  • Roll the sections around in your hand a bit to round them off, and place on well greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Press the dough sections back down to 3/4 inch and brush tops with a little olive oil.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes at 415°F or until browned.
  • Let cool five to ten minutes before serving with butter.

(NOTE 2: The recipe called for a two inch plain round cutter to be used to form the scones. I had none, so I improvised. According to the recipe, with a 3/4 inch thickness and a two inch round cutter, you can get 15 scones, I ended up with fifteen, albeit not perfectly round.)

Abstract and Notes:

  • Next time I’ll reduce the amount of milk I put into the potatoes they turned out a little too soupy and I therefore had to add a little more flour to the dough after every thing was combined.
  • I don’t have a rolling pin (yet) but wet fingertips and a gentle touch work almost as good as a rolling pin.
  • I also don’t have a flour sifter, but I do have wire mesh colanders, which work just as well.

The Indispensable Frittata

Frittata is one of those dishes that has a bevy of uses. Paired with toast and home fries it makes a hearty breakfast. Later in the day, cube up some of the leftovers to top a salad. Arrange cubed frittata on a serving tray with some tooth picks, and you’ve got great finger food for a social gathering. Just like an omelet, anything you have lying around in the fridge finds a use here, it’s great for leftovers. Didn’t eat all that kielbasa last night? Straining to find a use for that third of a red pepper you have in the veggie crisper? It’s all fair game here, throw it in the pan!

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Portobello Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 C. Zucchini Medallions, halved and about 1/8 inches thick
  • 1/4 C. Tomato, finely minced
  • 3-5 Marinated Artichoke Hearts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 Eggs, beaten and divided
  • 1/2 C. Cheddar Cheese Shreds
  • 1/4 C. Curly Parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 TBSP. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 TBSP. Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Preheat broiler.
  • Sauté veggies over medium heat in olive oil until tender.
  • Add butter to pan and melt.
  • Add four of the eggs, and half the cheese. Cook for five to seven minutes, until eggs are semi-done.
  • Add remaining cheese and eggs. Cover, reduce heat to very low. Cook another five to seven minutes.
  • When only a small amount of egg liquid remains, remove from heat, top with cheese and parsley.
  • Put under broiler for ten minutes or so, until slightly brown and crisp.
  • Slice like a pizza and serve!

Chickpea and Potato Stuffed Pasta

So you’re down to the nitty gritty on groceries in the house. It’s five million degrees outside, making the normally reprehensible task of going to the market carry the added risk of spontaneous combustion. It’s time to get creative. I wanted to stuff pasta with something, but I only had lasagna noodles. As for the stuffing, I could only produce potatoes and garbanzo beans and some leafy greens.  Meager beginnings, at best. The end result however was delicious, with seasonings and flavors that evoke Indian Cuisine. When I’m better prepared, I’ll try this out with puff pastry.

Assemble the Following:

  • 1 Large Potato, diced
  • 2 C. Cooked Garbanzo beans
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C. Red Onion, diced
  • 1/4 C. Red Pepper
  • 1/2 C. Cilantro
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • Dried Ginger, to taste
  • Dried Cumin, to taste
  • Dried Parsley Flakes, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Lasagna Noodles, fully cooked

Do this with it:

  • Sauté the potatoes, pepper, garlic and onion in olive oil until tender. Drain and reserve the oil.
  • Combine spices garbanzo beans, cilantro and sautéed potatoes, garlic and onion in a mixing bowl and mash until smooth and well combined.
  • Lay noodles flat on the work surface and spoon 1 TBSP of the stuffing onto the ends of the noodles.
  • Roll noodle ends over stuffing, add more stuffing and continue to roll making a spiral.
  • Heat the reserved oil and fry the noodle spirals, turning regularly until crisp on the outside.
  • Plate with fresh vegetables, or slice into sections to serve as an appetizer.

This would also make a really nice ravioli or shell pasta stuffing. Additionally I found that if you add all purpose flour to the stuffing mix, you can fry it into little balls or patties.

Summer Vegetable Stock

Making stock used to be a regular part of my routine. However, I’ll admit that I’ve been using the store bought stuff for the last six months or so. Hello sodium city!!!! With all this time on my hands lately and a renewed interest in my own kitchen, I recalled how easy it is to just make your own. This recipe yields as much as your stock pot will hold. In this case it’s roughly a gallon and a quarter (I tend to spill some of it while packaging it for the freezer). I have a six quart stock pot, and use a pasta strainer so that I can easily remove the vegetabilia. Adjust amount of veggies for a different sized pot. Made with veggies that are available at the local market, this stuff is useful in the preparation of risotto, soup, pasta, fish, or anything that calls for a cooking liquid. Hell, I’ll occasionally heat some up and drink it from a coffee mug all by itself. Freezing in individual portions allows for quick and effortless use.

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Red onion
  • 4 Ribs Celery
  • 4 Large Carrots
  • 4 Medium Portobello Caps, sliced
  • 1 CL Garlic
  • 1/2 TSP. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP. Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 TSP. Dried Sage
  • 1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Salt

Do this with it:

  • Very coarsely chop vegetables into large, inch sized chunks.
  • Heat Olive Oil in heavy skillet, sauté garlic and onion until caramelized.
  • Fill large stock pot with water and add all vegetables, seasonings and a pinch of salt.
  • Bring to rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour, covered.
  • Strain vegetables from liquid, and allow to cool.
  • Discard the veggies, unless you like celery.
  • Fill quart-sized freezer bags with the stock, refrigerate overnight, and freeze.

Experiment: Pastry Filling

I still have yet to make this into a pastry, but it is delicious as a spread on a sandwich. This spread/filling was inspired by my desire to make something similar to Samosa. I don’t yet know what I will do with it, but it certainly does refrigerate well!

Asemble the following:

  • 16 Oz black beans, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 C white rice, cooked
  • 1 medium red potato, finely cubed
  • 1 c French’s fried onion
  • 1 cl garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet.
  • Sauté garlic and potato until golden brown, drain and allow to cool.
  • In medium mixing bowl combine rice, beans, fried onion, potato and garlic. Mash until evenly combined.

Kitchen Essentials: Super Rooster Salsa

Salsa is good for so many things. It’s so versatile, that it’s become an essential in my kitchen. It finds its way into so many of my creations. The idea behind the Kitchen Essentials series is that you regularly have these things on hand. Unfortunately this salsa is so good, it barely lasts two days in my home, and I live alone. It packs some serious heat so it’s not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach. Of course you can always modify or eliminate some of the ingredients to take out some of the fire, but what would be the fun in that?

Assemble the following:

  • 3 C. Fresh tomatoes of your favorite variety, diced into small cubes
  • 1 C. Red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 C. White onion finely minced
  • 1 Large clove of garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 medium sized Jalapeno pepper, cleaned of seeds, very finely minced
  • 2 Medium Anaheim pepper, cleaned of seeds, very finely minced
  • 1 Small Serrano Pepper, cleaned of seeds, very finely minced
  • 1/2 Small Habanero Pepper, very finely minced
  • 2 Medium yellow bell pepper, cleaned of seeds diced into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 C. Cilantro, stems removed coarsely chopped
  • 2 TSP. granulated sugar
  • 2 TBSP. lime juice
  • 2 TBSP. Mango or Pineapple Juice
  • Lime zest
  • 1/2 TSP. Ground Coriander
  • 1 TSP. Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Do this with it:

Use non-reactive (glass or plastic) mixing bowls and utensils only.

  • Spread diced tomatoes in single layer and sprinkle lightly and evenly with sugar.
  • Combine red and white onion, cilantro, garlic and lime juice in small mixing bowl. Blend thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate twenty minutes.
  • Combine peppers with Mango or Pineapple juice in another small mixing bowl. Blend thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate twenty minutes.
  • In large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, black pepper and coriander. Blend thoroughly before incorporating onion and pepper mixtures.
  • Blend everything thoroughly and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving as a dip for chips.

Notes and Abstract:

  • Be careful with the capsicum peppers, they’re awfully dangerous!
  • Only use non-reactive glass or plastic mixing bowls and utensils for this. Nearly every ingredient in this recipe reacts with metal, and no one likes partially oxidized salsa.
  • The heat of the salsa can be moderated by adding the pepper mixture in small increments until desired level of heat is reached. If you have left over peppers sauté them in some olive oil until reduced, and make your own super-spicy Recaito! Recaito can be added in small amounts to countless dishes to give it a real kick.
  • This salsa is great as a dip for chips, a topping for burgers or a salad, blended with rice, or as a spicy addition to a pasta sauce. Like any of the other Kitchen Essentials, it has countless uses.

Kitchen Essentials: Mushroom Stock

Assemble The Following:

  • 1 Large Red Onion Cut into sixths, bulb intact
  • 5 Large Carrots quartered, skin intact
  • 5 Large Celery Ribs, Halved
  • 5 Stalks Bok Choy
  • 1/4 Lb. each of Cilantro and Parsley
  • 2 Lbs. White Mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size, cleaned
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 4 Qt. Water

Do This With It:

  • Sautee veggies in 5 Qt. stock pot, until onions are tender, and greens are wilted. About Ten Minutes.
  • Cover with water and bring to rapid boil for an ten to fifteen minutes. Reduce Heat.
  • Simmer for an hour.
  • Strain vegetables from stock pot.
  • Add Mushrooms (in increments if using a small stock pot).
  • Simmer on low heat until mushrooms are reduced by half, roughly one hour.
  • Strain stock through a fine cloth to remove smallest particles.

As with all stock recipes, any vegetables you have on hand will work just fine. This Makes about four quarts, or sixteen cups. Freeze in one to two cup portions in vacuum packages.