Archive for category Vegetables

Not Your Average Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1There are about a million recipes (might be a slight exaggeration, frankly) for this dish online and, in my younger years, I’m sure that I used one of them. Since then, I’ve played with it and have changed it.

I added pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, but if you prefer meatless, then it’s fine to leave it out. It will not ruin the dish. This is normally a side dish, but I’ve actually served it as a main course over rice.

It can be served sprinkled with Reggiano Parmesan. It can also be served with a couple of dollops of Mascarpone cheese. The sweetness of the cheese goes nicely with the spicy complex of the dish. Give it a try.

Ingredients

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz chopped pancetta

1/4 cup minced garlic

1 medium Vidalia onion, rough chopped

1 medium zucchini, rough chopped

1 medium yellow (summer) squash, rough chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into cubes*

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz can)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Reggiano parmesan or Mascarpone Cheese for serving

Directions

Heat up the evoo in a deep skillet and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat until the pancetta crisps, moving it around the pan so that it cooks evenly. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add the minced garlic to the oil, and cook until slightly brown and the oil is infused. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Next, add the onions, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and oregano and mix well. Cook for about another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, wine, tomatoes and eggplant. Simmer uncovered for abut 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is a bit reduced. Add the pancetta, stir, and simmer for about another minute or two. Do a spice check here. Give it a taste. The pancetta is salty, so you may not need salt. The choice is yours. Add pepper, however, for sure.

Remove from the heat and serve with either the parmesan or Mascarpone.

*I “trim” my eggplant, which means cutting off the edges. I never peel my eggplant. But the choice is yours. It works either way.

 

 

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Summer Veggie Pasta Sauce

raw-zucchiniI spent my childhood eating traditional tomato-based pasta sauce. When I finally moved out of my family home and started to enjoy cooking, I decided I wanted to explore a bigger variety of sauces for my pasta. This sauce is especially nice in the summer, using zucchini, pancetta, and peas. Combine these delicious vegetables with butter, dry white wine and parmesan cheese, and it’s a real feast.

 

Ingredients

1 lb. cooked pasta

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 oz. pancetta

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving (I like to use the grated in the sauce and the shaved for serving)

Directions

The first order of business is to bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, cook until al denté (most of the time this runs from 7-10 minutes after the rolling boil has started). Then drain and set aside. While this process is going on, you can work on your sauce.

Add the chopped pancetta to a large sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the chopped zucchini, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until it begins to soften. Add the thawed peas at the very end of this process and sauté for about 3 additional minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until it turns golden and becomes fragrant. Then add the white wine, lemon juice, butter, thyme and basil. Cook for another two minutes or until the butter is completely melted.

Return the vegetables to the pan with the sauce and sauté for an additional minute or two. Then, add the pasta and toss with the Parmesan cheese to heat through.

This is a good time to give it a taste test for saltiness (the pancetta is salted and the cheese will also add a bit of saltiness to the dish). Add salt and pepper to taste.

You are ready to enjoy!

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Garden Quiche

Garden QuicheQuiche is one of the big “dinner underdogs.” People often think of making it if they’re throwing a brunch, or having people over for breakfast. Yet, quiche is one of the most versatile dishes on the planet, and it’s also fairly easy to make.

Purists will want to make their own crust. However, I am not ashamed to admit that making pastry crust is not my favorite foodie activity. I make no bones about using the frozen crust. It works just fine. As for the milk, feel free to use whole or 2%. It truly doesn’t make a difference. I keep a jar of prepared minced garlic in my fridge. That is what I use for this dish as opposed to mincing my own.

Cheese is the most important part of any quiche. I like a sharp cheese, but you should use whatever cheese works for your palate. There are no rules!

As for serving quiche, it’s a dish that goes great with a crisp green salad, regardless of what you put in it.

 

Ingredients

5 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 frozen pie crust

1 cup shredded cheese (Asiago, Cheddar, Monterey Jack; depending upon your taste buds)

1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions

1/2 cup chopped red, yellow and orange peppers

1/2 cup chopped Baby Bella mushrooms

1.5 cups baby spinach

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp Kosher or sea salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet. While you’re waiting for  it to warm up, put the eggs and milk in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Set aside.

Once your skillet is ready, add the minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until the oil becomes fragrant. Then, add the onions and peppers, as well as the rest of the spices (including the salt and pepper) and cook on medium heat until the onions become translucent. This will take about 7-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more, again stirring the mixture occasionally.

The final item you add is the spinach. Cook until wilted, stirring regularly. Be sure to taste the filling at this point and adjust spices to suit your taste. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the filling to cool a bit. While cooling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prior to adding the filling and cheese to the egg mixture, give it several more whisks. Then, add the vegetable filling and shredded cheese.

Mix thoroughly and pour it into a frozen pie crust. Place the quiche on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a knife (or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

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Twenty-Clove Cauliflower Bake

Cauliflower-Garlic BakeI call this Twenty-Clove Cauliflower Bake because you literally bake a head of cauliflower with twenty semi-crushed whole cloves of garlic. And I mean semi-crushed, just enough to break open the cloves a bit. I use the back of a ramekin ever so gently on the cloves.

I keep a container of already-peeled garlic in my fridge. You can get this at your local grocer for not a lot of scratch. And it’s so much easier than peeling 20 cloves of garlic by hand.

This is a great side dish for just about everything you can think of, whether you’re making pork, beef, chicken or fish. It even works as a side for pasta dishes. I made this last night with my pan-seared scallops, which is another recipe I plan to post later today.

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

20 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional, but I like it)

2-3 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary

1 tsp Himalayan sea salt (Kosher or regular sea salt is also fine here)

1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

Finely grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

The first thing I do is whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper and set it aside.

Break up the whole cauliflower into bite-sized florets, and gently break the garlic cloves.

Place the cauliflower and garlic in a single layer in a large baking dish. Pour the olive oil mixture over the vegetables and stir to coat. I generally drizzle a bit more olive oil on top before placing it in the oven.

Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. This allows the garlic to cook through and sweeten. It’s delicious.

If you want, sprinkle with finely grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese prior to serving.

 

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Spicy Spanish Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash with chorizoSpaghetti squash is delicious, and I’ve already posted one recipe on this site that is an Italian version. This particular recipe for spaghetti squash is a more spicy Spanish version made with Chorizo. I recently made as a side dish when serving Paella.

The recipe also incorporates Manchego cheese, a sheep-milk cheese that also happens to be the most popular and tastiest of Spanish cheeses. It is made in the La Mancha region of Spain.

Many people cut and remove the seeds prior to baking spaghetti squash. However, I prefer to bake the spaghetti squash whole, removing the seeds once the squash is cooked.

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash

6 oz of chorizo, diced

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

3/4 cup Manchego cheese, shredded

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pierce the spaghetti squash all over with a fork or a knife. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. You will know when it’s done because a fork will slide easily into the flesh. Do not be concerned if the outside of the squash becomes browned during the baking. You’re not going to use the skin.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes. If you’re going to add the red pepper flakes (and I, of course, would not skip this), this is a good place to do it. Add your chorizo and garlic and continue to sauté. Add your salt and pepper to taste.

The squash should now be cool enough to handle. Cut off the top close to the stem, then cut the squash down the middle. Scrape out the seeds and discard. Take a fork and scrape the squash away from the skin and into the skillet. It will separate easily into long, spaghetti-like strands (hence, the name). Your squash is already completely cooked, so this is all about mixing the ingredients together, not about cooking the squash.

Add the chopped cilantro and the Manchego cheese. Stir completely and remove from the heat. Again, I urge you to taste the dish and adjust the flavor as you wish. If you think it needs more Manchego, feel free to add it. (Then again, I am admittedly a cheese-o-holic.)

Garnish with a touch of shredded Manchego on top.

This is a delicious side dish, but it can also serve as a great main dish with some bread, a salad, and some good wine.

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