Vegetable Paella

I’ve had my eye on Caroline’s Vegetable Paella recipe from TasteLoveandNourish.com for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go.  She has wonderful plant-based recipes with tons of flavor.  Here is a link to her completely vegan original recipe. Caroline adds artichoke hearts to her, but I think it was fine without them.

Fortunately, I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry, and was able to make a few substitutions that worked well.  I don’t know about you, but during this time of social distancing and staying home, I’m learning to be much more creative!  I roughly halved her recipe since I’m only cooking for three right now.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 Tbsp hot water
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil or bacon drippings (to add smokiness)
1 large onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used half regular button and half baby bellas)
2 big cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 very small zucchini, halved and sliced

1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups short-grain rice (I used Arborio)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes), drained
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/4 cup big green Italian olives with pimentos,halved

handful fresh parsley
drizzle extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, pour hot water over the saffron. Set aside for at least fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Move a rack to the bottom third of your oven.

Keep the onion, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, spices (see below), rice, white wine, broth and saffron/water in bowls near the stove – you’ll be adding them separately and cooking them fairly quickly.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium high heat.
Add the onion and cook for just two minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook without stirring for about two minutes. Stir and cook for two more minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the zucchini slices and continue cooking for three minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the spices: paprika, smoked hot paprika, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add to skillet, stir and cook for a minute or two.

Add the rice and stir to coat.
Add the white wine. Simmer until reduced by about half.
Add the vegetable broth and the saffron with the water. Stir gently and bring the pan to a simmer. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Scatter tomatoes over the top.
Transfer the pan to the bottom third of the oven, and bake for 15 minutes.
Scatter the peas, capers and the olives over the top.
Continue baking the paella for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Remove the bay leaves.
Garnish with fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Sweet Potato Stuffed BBQ Chicken

sweet-potato-bbq-chickenI am always a little leery about fusion recipes (mixing flavors of one style of cooking with another.) I’ve had a few of those that just didn’t mesh well. This recipe isn’t one of them!

Yes, you’re mixing some very Southern flavors with Mexican flavors, but in this case they are amazing. After one bite, I couldn’t stop smiling. This recipe is based on one from MelsKitchenCafe.com. Mel is an amazing cook and her food is always delicious.

The Lime Cilantro dressing in this recipe seems (even to me) to have a million ingredients, but it is totally worth it!

(The photo shows mostly the corn and  black bean salad, with the Lime Cilantro dressing, but you’ll have to trust me, underneath it all are sweet potatoes, chicken and BBQ sauce!)

INGREDIENTS

4-6 sweet potatoes, washed and halved
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used meat from a Costco roast chicken)
1 to 2 cups BBQ sauce (I used Ray’s original)

CORN AND BLACK BEAN SALAD

1 can (15-ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn kernels, frozen
1/2 cup rough chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

TOPPINGS:

Shredded cheese (I used mozzarella)
Tortilla chips (optional – I didn’t use)
Chopped tomatoes (optional – I didn’t use)
Cilantro Lime Dressing – recipe follows

Poke sweet potatoes with a fork several times. Then put cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 35-40 minutes at 425 degrees, or until super soft when poked with a fork. The sugars in the sweet potato will start to caramelize. Check and bake a little longer if they aren’t completely soft.

Warm up the chicken and BBQ sauce in a sauce pan until warmed through.

Mix the corn and bean salad ingredients in a bowl, and let sit for several minutes, to let the corn thaw.

Make Cilantro Lime Dressing. (recipe below)

Eat several spoonsful of the Cilantro Lime dressing until you remind yourself that you need some for supper.

To serve, scoop out sweet potato flesh, and place in a bowl. Top with BBQ chicken, corn and black bean salad. Drizzle generously with the Cilantro Lime Dressing and top with a little cheese and the other optional ingredients. (I didn’t use the chips or tomatoes and didn’t miss them at all.)

Delicious!! For a vegetarian version, skip the chicken and just use a little BBQ sauce on the sweet potato.

Cilantro Lime Dressing Ingredients

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup salsa verde (I used a mild green chili sauce that was great, too.)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 1 medium lime)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp onion powder
Pinch of dried dill weed (about 1/8 teaspoon)
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 green onion, white and green parts coarsely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a medium pitcher (One that will hold 4-5 cups) and buzz well with an immersion blender. Or you can use a blender. Will keep for several days and is soooo good!

Shakshuka with Feta Cheese 

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I love a dish that uses pantry ingredients, and Shakshuka is a great breakfast dish that does so. It serves 4-6 people, and with hot naan and hot tea, this was so good!

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
1 large or two small cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, with juices (can sub out 1 smaller can for Ro-tel if you like things spicy)
1 tsp kosher salt, to taste
¼ tsp black pepper, to taste
5 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)
4-6 large eggs

Chopped cilantro, for serving  (use more than shown in the photo – I was almost out!)
Hot sauce, for serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add garlic and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes; stir in cumin, paprika and cayenne, and cook 1 minute.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour in tomatoes and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Stir in crumbled feta. Using a larger spoon, create one little “crater” for each egg, and gently crack the eggs into them. Season eggs with a little more salt and pepper.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, 7 to 10 minutes. Check the whites to be sure they are cooked. (Unless you like uncooked egg whites, but ugh – not me!) IF you really like your yolks cooked, let it cook a little longer.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with hot sauce and warm naan, pita bread or whole wheat tortillas.

Mushroom and Roasted Tomato Cheesy Pasta Cast Iron Skillet Bake

Mushroom-and-roasted-pepperI love Christmas Eve, since we always celebrate with  my brothers and sister at my brother Ron’s house, and we all bring a dish to share for dinner.  In the middle of prepping my dish, I started to get hungry and decided to make something for lunch.  But what?

Since I hadn’t really planned anything, I just checked the fridge and came up with a recipe on the fly.  Had some mushrooms and grape tomatoes on their last legs, half a red onion I wanted to use up, some lovely pasta and two nice chunks of cheese, only one of which I was sure was Asiago.

The dish came out so delicious I actually sat down and wrote it down right away.  Here is the recipe, in stages.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and start by roasting the tomatoes, since that takes the longest.

1 package grape tomatoes
little olive oil
salt and pepper – just a good pinch of each

Put grape tomatoes in a small baking pan and roll them in the oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for quite a long time, (maybe 30 minutes?) until the tomatoes have collapsed a bit and there is a nice caramelized smell. No need to stir them or mess with them at all.

Veggies:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 packages sliced baby portabella mushrooms

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Add onions, peppers and seasonings and saute for a few minutes, until onion is softened. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their water. But don’t stop – keep cooking, stirring once in a while until the the water has dried up again.  Turn off the heat.

Pasta:

At the same time, bring a pot of salted water to boil and add 3/4 pound of any kind of pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the water and add the pasta to the veggies.

Check the tomatoes and if they’re softened, scrape them and any juices into the veggies.

Turn the oven to 350 degrees.

Create sauce:

Put the pasta pot back on the burner.

1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp flour
/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
good pinch red pepper flakes
good pinch garlic powder

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup some other shredded cheese – maybe it was a White Cheddar?

Melt butter in pasta pot and add flour, stirring well for a few minutes. Stir in the seasonings, then add in the chicken stock. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened a good bit, then add the shredded cheese, holding back 1/4 cup for later.

Stir until everything is nice and creamy and check the seasonings. Pour into skillet with veggies and pasta and stir gently. Top with reserved cheese and pop back into the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is browned just a bit here and there.

Let sit for a couple minutes and serve. Soooo good!

Shrimp, Tomatoes & Spinach in Tuscan Butter Sauce

This is based on Lena Abraham’s Tuscan Butter Shrimp recipe on Delish.com. We absolutely loved it and I will definitely make it again and often!  I did add more shrimp and spinach, because we really love them both.

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups baby spinach (can use a spinach/arugula mix)
1/2 cup half n half (or heavy cream)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced, or 1 1/2 Tbsp dried basil

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Season shrimp all over with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering but not smoking, add shrimp and sear until underside is golden, about 2 minutes, then flip until opaque. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add butter. When butter has melted, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are beginning to burst, then add spinach and cook until spinach starts to wilt.

Stir in half and half, Parmesan and basil and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.Return shrimp to skillet and stir to combine. Cook until shrimp is heated through, and check the seasoning. Garnish with more fresh basil if you have it.

You can serve it over some nice fresh pasta, or just have it as is, more like a stew.

Ali’s Slow-cooked Rustic Pasta Sauce

Ali brought this over the other night and Kumy and I had it over pasta with a little fresh parmesan. It was soooo good. Ali said it’s fairly time-consuming, but for this sauce it is totally worth it!

1 lb. bulk hot italian sausage (or use sweet if you don’t like things too spicy)
little water
1 red onion, diced
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
1/2 glass dry white wine
1 14 oz can whole San Marzano Tomatoes with liquid
1 can tomato paste
4″ rind of parmesan cheese, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
salt & pepper to taste  (1 tsp and 1/2 tsp?)
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1 cup chicken stock

In a good sized frying pan, cook sausage in a little water, stirring often. Once cooked through, remove from pan and add onion. Saute onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir a minute more, then add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan.

Crush the whole tomatoes with your hand to break them up and cook them down until the liquid has reduced.

Add tomato paste, salt and pepper, bay leaves, cheese rind and anchovy paste. Cook down until quite thick.

Add reserved sausage meat and one cup chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 2 hours. You can add more chicken stock if it’s getting too thick.

It has this ridiculously rich, complex flavor that is just amazing!!

Grilled Flank Steak with Charred Eggplant and Mint

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Eggplant by Deviyahya on Unsplash

This is another great recipe from the Slow Food Fast column in the Wall Street Journal,  from chefs Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hersheimer.

We made this with the last of the eggplant from the garden tonight and it was easy and good. It’s also a great way to use mint before the first freeze.  Makes enough for 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. flank steak
6 tbsp Olive Oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small globe or Japanese eggplants, halved. (If you use regular size eggplants, cut them into 1″ slices, lengthwise.)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed or 1/2- 1 tsp garlic powder (use more if you love garlic!)
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Pat steak dry and use a sharp knife to lightly cut a crosshatch pattern on both sides. Drizzle with Tbsp olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

In a big bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the eggplants and stir until everything is well coated. Remove the eggplants to a plate and to the remaining sauce in the bowl, add garlic, red pepper flakes and mint leaves. Stir gently to blend.

Grill steak on high heat until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side, then remove from heat, cover and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While steak is resting, lay eggplants cut side down and grill 4-5 minutes. Then flip and grill 4-5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add back into the bowl with mint sauce. Toss gently to coat.

Slice steaks thinly across the grain, and serve with eggplants and mint sauce. So delish and so fast!

Note: this recipe would also be wonderful with lamb, or for a vegan version, with cauliflower steaks!

Eggplant, Tomato and Onion Pie

eggplant-and-tomato-pie

Made this for supper last night and it was so good! Based very loosely on a recipe I found online – it is super satisfying and requires no meat.  I used a really good Tillamook Cheddar cheese, but any good sharp cheddar would do.  It uses slices of tomatoes in place of crust, and is wonderful warmed up the next day.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled and diced into 3/4″ pieces
4 big Roma tomatoes, sliced (other tomatoes would be fine, too)
1 onion, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic,crushed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried basil
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to the boil and add eggplant. On medium-high heat, cook eggplant, stirring frequently,until eggplant is very soft and water is mostly evaporated. (Took about 8 minutes for me.)

Heat olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Add onions and cook until soft, 5-6 minutes. Make a well in the middle of the pan, add a little more olive oil and add garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.

Add onions and garlic to eggplant mixture and allow to cool slightly. Add salt, pepper, basil, breadcrumbs and egg to eggplant mixture and stir well.

Lightly oil the bottom of a pie pan, and layer 1/2 of the sliced tomatoes on the bottom. Season tomatoes with a little pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour the eggplant mixture over the tomatoes and smooth the top. Layer the rest of the tomatoes on top, season lightly again with salt and pepper and sprinkle cheddar cheese over.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then turn on the broiler and heat another 4 minutes so cheese is well melted and just starting to brown in spots.

Remove from oven, allow to rest a few minutes and serve. So delish!

Ground Turkey Fried Rice

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cup grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1-2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cups cooked brown rice chilled in the fridge (or 1 packet frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s, thawed)
1 tsp sesame oil

Garnishes

cilantro, rough chopped
green onions, sliced into little rings
sesame seeds
Sriracha
fresh limes, quartered
Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise (optional)

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggs and scramble fairly quickly, chopping them as they cook. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add in turkey, onion, carrot, garlic, ginger, and black pepper and saute for a few minutes, stirring to break up the meat.

Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin, and chili garlic sauce. Continue cooking until meat is no longer pink.

Stir in peas, scrambled eggs and brown rice and cook until heated through.

Drizzle with sesame oil and serve with garnishes. (Kewpie is our addition – Samir puts Kewpie on everything and I have to admit it was pretty delicious – but not strictly necessary.)

Note: I used an Indian Chili Garlic sauce which is hot, garlicky and a little sweet. If you can’t get Chilli Garlic sauce, substitute a blend of 1 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha, with 1/2 tsp brown sugar and 2 cloves of garlic, crushed. If you have fish sauce, add a 1/4 tsp of fish sauce, too.

Lemon Poblano Shrimp

Picked up some beautiful Poblano chile peppers from a farmer’s market while on vacation, which had great flavor and color. Poblanos are a mild, sweeter Mexican pepper and you could substitute red bell peppers if you can’t find them. But if you can get Poblanos – try them. They really add amazing flavor

Ingredients

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 fresh Poblano chile peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
1 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Juice of 2 large lemons
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 12 Tbsp butter

Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium size pot. Add peppers and saute 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and shrimp and saute for 7-8 minutes until the shrimp is pink.

Add butter, lemon juice and Cilantro and saute another minute until warmed through. Check seasonings.

Serve over hot rice. Super quick and so good – Kumy loved this dish!