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.

Warm Cabbage with Apples and Bacon

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image by Isara Somboon at Unsplash.

Love this recipe that came from a local grocery store around St. Patrick’s Day!

So much so that I’ve made this beautiful, colorful dish twice in the last three weeks.  It’s delicious but also such great comfort food – which is something we all need right now.  I serve it with a cheddary sausage and they’re really good together.

The lovely thing is that cabbage is so hardy – you can use half the cabbage now, and then make this again in a few weeks.

Ingredients:

6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (if using turkey bacon, add 2 Tbsp Olive Oil)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chopped green cabbage (1″ pieces are fine) about 1/2 medium cabbage
1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dark beer (or the equivalent in cider, plus a Tbsp of cider vinegar)
1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
2 tsp brown sugar or honey
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp butter (optional)

In a large cast-iron skillet, cook bacon sprinkled with black pepper until crispy. Remove from pan, but leave drippings. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes, then add cabbage and apples. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix beer, cider, brown sugar, caraway seeds and salt. Add to cabbage mixture and cook 5 minutes more until everything is soft the liquid has reduced a bit. Drop bits of the butter on and give a final stir.

Serve as is on a baked potato, or with a lovely cheddar-ry sausage! (If you start pan-frying the sausage at the same time, the sausage should be done when the cabbage is.)

For a vegan version, leave out the bacon, and add a bit of chipotle pepper for that smoky flavor and a bit more salt to make up for the saltiness of bacon.

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.

Cream of Spinach Soup

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Spinach by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Recipe from Elise Bauer, with a few tweaks. This soup is super easy, really delicious and so satisfying on a cold winter’s night.  Comes together in about 40 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter
2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 1/2 pound)
3 cups chicken broth
4-5 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
pinch of ground allspice

In a medium-sized saucepan, saute onion in butter for 5-6 minutes, until translucent.  Add potatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper and cook 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft  Add spinach and cook 2-3 more minutes. Buzz all in a food processor or blender until quite smooth.  (Don’t need to completely obliterate the spinach.)

Put back in pan, and whisk in half and half, then sour cream and allspice.  Bring heat back up to just a simmer.

Serve with home-made croutons: cut bread in 1″ cubes and toss in olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper on a small sheet pan.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes or more, until bread is golden and crisp.  I used a small baguette, but really any hearty bread will do.

Fast and good!

Ina’s Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

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Beautiful Blue Cheese by PDPhotos on Pixabay.

I made this for Christmas Morning brunch and it was delicious. Maybe my favorite blue cheese dressing ever.

For the dressing:

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

4 tender inside celery stalks, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
5 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts sliced

1 large head iceberg lettuce, wilted outer leaves removed and sliced into 1″ layers
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Fleur de sel

Buzz the dressing ingredients with a buzzwand (sorry, immersion blender) in a medium pitcher until creamy and smooth.

Mix the celery, radishes and scallions in a small bowl.

For each serving, lay a slice of iceberg lettuce on a salad plate. Top with the celery mixture and pour dressing over. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and a bit of fleur de sel.

Serve immediately. The radishes and scallions add a lovely spicy bite to the creamy, fresh salad.  You might want to halve the slices if your family are not big salad eaters.

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!

Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Beautiful Brussels Sprouts by Keenan Loo on Unsplash.

This recipe from Mark Bittman is a really delicious way to prepare Brussels Sprouts.  It’s perfect for big events like Thanksgiving, because you can get it totally prepped the day before and then roast it the day of. It’s also vegan and gluten-free!

Mark made it slightly differently – he browned the brussels sprouts in a cast iron skillet first, but I wanted to make a larger batch, so I just roasted them in the oven.   The key is to let them get so dark they appear to be burning.  But that just brings out the sweetness that makes them so delicious.

2 lbs brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1/3 cup olive oil
5 big cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional – I forgot it and the dish was still delish!)

Mix oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a ziploc bag. Add brussel sprouts and shake well to coat the sprouts.

At this point, you can refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake or go ahead and roast them on a rimmed baking sheet at 450 for 30 minutes.  You may want to go in halfway through and shake them up a bit.  Check seasoning and serve. They will literally disappear.

Potato Poblano Bundles

There is something about a potato that’s been baked in a buttery, spicy sauce that is incredibly warming and satisfying.  This dish is easy and cooked in little foil bundles that are super fun to open at the table.

The recipe is from The Pioneer Woman magazine with slight variations.

2 lbs. thin skinned potatoes cut into 1″ chunks
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large poblano peppers, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 stick of butter (or 1/2 cup Olive Oil for a vegan version)
1/2 cup half and half (or veggie broth for vegan version)
2 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix butter, half ‘n half and all seasonings. Mix well, and add the potatoes, onions and peppers.

Take aluminum foil and cut off 8 18″ pieces. Place 1/8 of the mix in the middle of each foil square and fold up the edges to create a pouch.

At this point, you can grill them for 25 minutes (you’ll have to turn them so make sure they are tightly sealed.) If you prefer you can also bake them at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Check one for doneness – the potatoes should be super soft.

Serve right in the foil packets.

 

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!