New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John

It’s a Southern tradition to eat Hopping John (Black-eyed Pea Stew) on New Year’s Day for good luck all year, and this year, I’m not taking any chances!

I started with Ree Drummonds recipe. Ree adds a ham hock and says that you can also add a can of diced tomatoes, or a few cups of torn-up Kale. I skipped the ham hock, but may try the tomatoes or kale the next time I make it. If you don’t like black-eyed peas, it’s also good with black beans – it’s a great, comforting dish perfect for a cold Winter’s Day!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (or 2 Tbsp bacon drippings & 2 Tbsp olive oil) (Or just 4 Tbsp olive oil for a vegan version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 14-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegan)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
White rice

Heat butter or bacon drippings and oil in a cast iron skillet. Add, onions, bell pepper and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings. Don’t add the vinegar yet! Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook 30 minutes. Remove lid, stir and let cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vinegar and stir. Check seasonings. Serve in a bowl over hot rice.

Beautiful, Chunky Roasted Veggies

I love roasted vegetables, but sometimes forget how much veggies shrink while cooking. By cutting the chunks larger, and spreading them out, you can get wonderful flavor without overcooking them. Plus all of these truly beautiful vegetables are hardy, so you can prep this early and roast them later.

Ingredients

1 large red onion, halved and cut into eighths
1 medium yellow onion, halved and cut into quarters
2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise and into 2″ pieces
2 small summer squash, cut lengthwise and into 2″ pieces
2 green bell peppers, cut into 2″ pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 2″ pieces
1 carton baby Portabella mushrooms, sliced thickly
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
good-sized pinch each of Oregano, Basil, Red Pepper Flakes & Parsley
smaller pinch each of Rosemary and Thyme

Mix oil and spices in a small bowl. Pour a little extra olive oil on two baking sheets and sprinkle a little more garlic powder, salt and black pepper on them. Spread around with your hand, and then dump the vegetables on one pan. Pour the olive oil mixture over and toss gently until all of the veggies are coated. Spread the veggies evenly on the two trays and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes. Give them a bit of a stir half way through. The veggies should still have all their beautiful colors, but still be nicely cooked.

Palak Paneer

Beautiful Baby Spinach from Pille-Riin-Priske on Unsplash.com

I’ve always loved Palak Paneer, but had never tried to make it. We had Samir’s birthday supper last night and I made it, along with Biryani and a really delicious Mango Trifle, which I’ll add soon. Kumy made his amazing Potatoes, too.

I used a modified version of Swasthi’s recipe from IndianHealthyRecipes.com, which was excellent, if a bit confusing. Basically, you cook the spinach mixture first, and then the spice, onion tomato mixture. You add the spinach back in near the end, and Paneer goes in last, just before serving. It’s actually fairly easy.

It looks like a million ingredients, but they all go together beautifully.

Part 1:

2 Tbsp oil
4 green chilies (Long, skinny ones, seeded) or 2 small/medium Jalapenos, seeded
1 lb. organic baby spinach, washed and well-drained
20 cashews (unsalted or salted is fine)

Part 2:

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, whole
2 green cardamoms, whole
1″ cinnamon stick, whole
4 cloves, whole

1.5 cups onions, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic

1 14 oz. can crushed or petite-diced tomatoes with juices in can. (Can carefully buzz with an immersion blender in the can if you want a smoother curry.)
1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
12 oz. Paneer, cut into 1/2″ cubes

In a dutch oven, heat oil. Saute chillies, cashews and spinach until spinach is completely wilted, but still bright green. Remove from heat, transfer into a bowl and let cool. Use an immersion blender or food processor to buzz the spinach into a smooth mixture.

Melt butter in the dutch oven and add the whole spices. Let cook until the spices are starting to sizzle a bit – maybe a minute or two. Add the onions and cook until golden – about 8-10 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juice and salt. (If you used salted cashews, go easy on the salt.) Cook for several minutes until the tomatoes start to break down. If you buzzed the tomatoes, you’ll have a smoother curry. If you left the tomatoes in chunks, you’ll have a chunkier curry. Both are fine.

Add the garam masala and about 1 cup of water to the pan, and cook down until you have a nice, fairly thick gravy consistency. When in doubt – let it get a little drier. You can always add a bit of water at the end to loosen it up if you need to.

Add the spinach mixture and the dried Fenugreek leaves. Cook another 2-3 minutes to bring it back to the simmer. Taste and add a bit of salt if needed, and if it’s very thick, add a couple of spoons of water.

Add the paneer and mix gently to coat with curry.

Serve with Naan, or roti.

The best Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

Kumy’s Mom loves soup, so I was anxious to try this hearty, creamy soup that came from the New York Times, and I must say it did not disappoint!

It was rich, delicious and so satisfying – one worth repeating. I did add a bit more Sage, since I have recently fallen in love with Sage.

It comes together very quickly, so it’s perfect for a weeknight supper. Leave out the chicken and use veggie stock for a delicious vegetarian version.

INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp butter
1 cup each carrots, leeks and celery, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or 1 heaping tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp rubbed Sage
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 (16-ounce) package fresh or shelf-stable store-bought gnocchi
½ small rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups shredded meat)
Fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, melt butter over medium. Add carrots, leek, celery, garlic, and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with the flour, then cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the stock and cream, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Once the mixture boils, stir in the gnocchi, reduce heat to medium and cook until gnocchi and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the chicken in the last couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into serving bowls and top with fresh parsley if desired.

Easy Cheesy Toast

The weather is suddenly feeling cooler here and I was hungry for something warm and cheesy. My brother Tom and I used to make cheese toast when we were kids and I always loved it. Since I’d just baked a fresh loaf of bread, I thought Cheese Toast would be fun and fast. I used The Pioneer Woman’s Recipe, with slight variations. Either way – it’s warm, cheesy, crunchy and delicious and when Ali stopped by, he loved it, too!

Ingredients

2 cups grated Sharp Cheddar
2 cups grated Monterey Jack (or quesadilla cheese)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp seasoned salt (Lawry’s)

Slices of a hearty loaf (I used my easy French Bread.) Cut the slices in half if they are large.

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, Parmesan, pepper and seasoned salt.

Mound the cheese mixture on the slices of bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Switch to the broiler and broil for another few minutes, until the cheese is utterly bubbly and starting to get brown in places.

These cheese toasts freeze well. To reheat, just bake them for 5 minutes, then broil another minute of so.

Note: Ree adds 1 tsp of salt and 4 Tbsp of melted butter, but honestly I don’t think you need either. I might also try adding a few drops of hot sauce or Worcestershire Sauce.

This would also be a humdinger served with Tomato Soup!

Chicken and Veggie Greek-style Sheet Pan Wraps

Another great recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  I made a few tweaks of my own, but what I love about this recipe is that it uses all the produce that is so good right now.  My garden is bursting with tomatoes, peppers and zucchini and this is a great way to use them.

It’s also crazy quick – you could start marinating the chicken and make the Tzatziki sauce mid-afternoon and then the whole supper can come together in 20 minutes.

We always have frozen naan in the house, so I made it with naan.  But flatbread would be good, too.

This would also be great with shrimp or for a vegetarian version, try using sliced mushrooms instead of chicken. Just be sure to bake the mushrooms long enough so they’re tender, since they take a little longer to cook.

Chicken:
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp garlic powder, or 1 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin slices

Vegetables:
2 bell peppers (any color), cored and sliced thinly
1 medium zucchini, sliced into strips (no need to peel)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Tzatziki:
1 cup grated cucumber, squeezed and drained
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar is fine, too.)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Naan

Toppings:
Thinly sliced red onions
Diced cucumbers
Chopped tomatoes
Romaine lettuce, quartered and cut into thin ribbons

INSTRUCTIONS

Mix the marinade in a medium bowl and add chicken. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Make the tzatziki sauce in another small bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly grease 2 half sheet pans. Remove chicken pieces from the bowl and place on one sheet pan.

Toss bell peppers and zucchini in the marinade for a few minutes and spread in a thin layer on a second sheet pan. Discard leftover marinade.  Lightly salt and pepper veggies.

Bake for 6 minutes, and rotate pans. (Drain excess liquid from the chicken pan, if any.) Bake another 6-8 minutes until chicken is done and peppers are fork tender.

Warm the naan in the oven for a couple of minutes. I removed the chicken to a plate and reused the chicken sheet pan.

Serve the chicken and veggies on naan with the Tzatziki sauce and other toppings. It’s also fun to make these at the table.

So good!!!

Salade Nicoise

salade-nicoiseA really refreshing change from warm (albeit) comforting casseroles, try this lovely French salad, with its elements in heaps, rather than tossed together.

It’s basically an herby vinaigrette on a very hearty salad – with potatoes, tomatoes, tuna and hard-boiled eggs, meant to be served warm or at room temperature. I love it because it’s also a very forgiving recipe. As long as you’ve got some form of potato, tomato, lettuce and green beans it will be delicious!

It was perfect for a summer evening’s meal, after a good brisk walk.

INGREDIENTS

Vinaigrette

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Thai basil (could use any basil or 2 tsp dried basil)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
3/4 tsp kosher Salt and
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salad

1 can albacore tun in olive oil, removed and lightly drained
5 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 lb small young red potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 container butter lettuce (or any nice lettuce), torn into bite-sized pieces
15 or so grape tomatoes, cut in half, or 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1/2 yellow or small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound green beans, stems broken off
1/4 cup olives (I used Castelvetrano but Nicoise olives are also recommended.)
2 Tbsp capers, drained

Make vinaigrette: In a jar, place the oil, vinegar, garlic powder, herbs, mustard and fish sauce if using. Cover with a lid and shake until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Marinate onion slices in a couple spoons of the vinaigrette in a small bowl.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add 1 Tbsp of salt and add the potatoes and eggs. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork soft. Remove the potatoes, immediately cut in half and toss in a bowl with a little more vinaigrette.

Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook 3-5 minutes. Remove and rinse with cold water. Peel and quarter the hard-boiled eggs.

On each plate, lay a bed of lettuce. Heap some of the tuna in the middle. Sprinkle the onions and tomatoes around the tuna.

Arrange the potatoes and green beans in mounds at the edge of the lettuce.
Arrange hard boiled eggs and olives in mounds on the lettuce bed.

Drizzle everything with the remaining vinaigrette and sprinkle with capers if using.

Can also be served without tuna as a vegetarian option.

Borracho (Drunken) Beans

I’d never heard of Borracho (Drunken) Beans until just a few days ago. This recipe is from Kiki810 on Allrecipes – with a few minor changes.

Kiki uses two cans of tomatoes and 1/4 cup of pickled jalapenos. Being as there a quarantine and all, I didn’t have that but thought a can of diced tomatoes and one of Rotel might do. I also added a little cumin and bacon for a more smokiness. The beer cooks out for the most part, but leaves a nice complex flavor.

You honestly don’t need to soak the beans overnight, and there is some consensus that the beans taste better if you don’t.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed
2 quarts chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle dark beer (can also use  light beer)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz.)can Rotel tomatoes with jalapeno peppers (regular or mild)
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro (I used stems also, roughly chopped.)
1 strip of bacon, chopped or 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

Wash beans and put in a large pot, covered 1″ deep with boiling water. Simmer 2 hours, stirring from time to time to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot and add water as needed.

Add all other ingredients, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 1 1/2 hours. Liquid should reduce quite a bit – so it’s not soupy, but more stew-y.

Mash a few beans to thicken the sauce. Makes a great side dish, topped with a little cheese, more cilantro and sour cream. It’s also great as a taco with with cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes and salad greens.

Leave out the bacon drippings for a great vegan version.

Scruffy Eggplant Lasagna (Thank you, Jamie Oliver!)

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Beautiful eggplant image from Amber Engle, Unsplash

Can I just say that I’ve totally fallen for Jamie Oliver, his son Buddy and their “Keep Cooking and Carry On” videos made at home?

In particular, this recipe is genius.  I love lasagna but it can feel very laborious: start with a layer of this, then a layer of that, then repeat and try to keep them neat.

His “scruffy” version is so much easier! Here is a link to the original recipe:

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/scruffy-aubergine-lasagne/.

I  am including the link, because he has lots of great substitution ideas. (Don’t have this? Try that!)  But since many Americans aren’t used to cooking by weight, I’m also sharing the recipe as I made it, using ingredients from my pantry.  It makes quite a large batch and you may want to halve it for a smaller group. (Or make the whole batch and know that tomorrow’s lunch will be spectacular, too.)

Ingredients:

1 cup water
2 large eggplants, stem removed  and quartered, then cut into 1″ pieces
3 yellow onions, cut into quarters and then cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp rubbed dry sage
1 tsp dry red pepper flakes (use less if you’re leery of the heat)
zest of one lemon
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can water
10 lasagna strips, cooked, cooled and cut into 4-5″
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cups grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ground almonds (Optional – Jamie uses, but I didn’t have and didn’t miss it.)

Cook lasagna for about 8 minutes to al dente, in boiling, well-salted water. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large, ovenproof skillet bring 1 cup water to the boil.  Add eggplants and onions, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until both are starting to soften.  Uncover and continue cooking until most of the moisture has cooked away.  (It won’t run into the middle when you try to make a well, but will still have some moisture.)

Make a hole/well in the middle of the pan, and add the olive oil.  Let it heat for a few moments, and then add the garlic powder, dry sage, and red pepper flakes.  Stir the spices in the oil and let them cook for half a minute or so, stirring constantly.  Add the lemon zest and stir for another few moments, until the lemon zest takes on a golden color.

Quickly add the two cans of tomatoes and can of water. Stir to combine and simmer on medium/low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce some, but there will still be quite a bit. That’s okay.

Remove from the heat and dd the cooked lasagna pieces, poking them under so they’re completely covered with the sauce.  Save a few for the top of the lasagna, but make sure they’re coated with sauce, too.   Top with cheeses, and sprinkle on the ground almonds if you are using.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Devour.

Kale, Apple, Cabbage, Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

This is based on a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and Natalie Perry, but features substitutions based on what I had in my pantry. It’s a really substantial and flavorful salad that was very satisfying as a main dish. Lots of bright flavors and colors!

Salad ingredients:
6 oz. baby kale
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces grated cabbage and carrots – about 3 cups? Can also use brussel sprouts
2 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup candied pecans (see note #1)
4 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes (see note #2)
handful craisins

Dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp whole grain mustard
4 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add kale, lemon juice and first Tbsp of Olive Oil. Gently massage the kale for a minute until it has softened a bit and started to turn a little darker green.

Add the shredded veggies, chopped apples and candied pecans.

Make the dressing in a mason jar, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds until well combined. Add to the bowl, and mix gently until everything is coated.

Drop goat cheese, sweet potato (or butternut squash) and craisins on top and serve.

Note #1: To make candied pecans, in a small frying pan add pecans, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has dried up. Be careful – it burns easily!

Note #2: peel and dice butternut squash into 1″ squares, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Or, do the same for sweet potatoes. Roast at 425 until browned and soft about 15-20 minutes. Poke with a fork to make sure they’re done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.