Archive for category Vegetables

Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1Before we begin, let’s establish that we’re not talking about the Disney movie here. There are a million variations on this particular theme. Make mine a million and one. This French concoction can be a side dish, or it can be a main dish (with rice pilaf), or it can be an appetizer. Pick your poison. Everything that is used in this recipe is roughly chopped…not too big, and not too small. Leave the skin on everything except the red (or Bermuda) onion. I use cilantro here, but you can also use parsley if you’d like. My problem is that I’m not a great lover of parsley, with the exception of specific recipes. I think cilantro (often referred to as Mexican parsley) is a much more interesting taste.

Another basic staple in my house is Balsamic Drizzle or, as some call it, Balsamic Cream. I like to drizzle some on mine but this is entirely optional.

This is a project for sure. Everything cooks in stages initially, and it comes out best if cooked slowly. Cooking it for less time will leave you bigger and more distinct pieces of vegetables. Cooking it for up to 1.5 hours will result in a more blended silky stew. The beauty of this is that it can be served warm or room temperature. And leftovers? Nothing like it. Roll it up in a piece of lavash bread or throw it in a pita pocket, melt some Italian Fontina on it, and have yourself a great lunch. It can also be frozen.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 large red (or Bermuda) onion, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

6 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 medium-large eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes

3 zucchini, sliced and cut in half

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in strips

10 springs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Balsamic Drizzle (for serving)

1/4 cup dry white wine (for deglazing the pan)

Directions

Prior to beginning this process, a word about deglazing the Dutch oven. During the cooking process a brown glaze will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep a 1/4 cup of dry white wine on hand for deglazing purposes. You do not want this brown glaze to burn and ruin the flavor of the dish. Add wine a little at a time as necessary and scrape off the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazing liquid to the bowl with the cooked vegetables.

The first thing you have to do is cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Eggplant traditionally retains a lot of water. Cut the eggplant first and place the pieces in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the vegetables. Prior to this becoming a blended dish, the vegetables will be cooked in stages. Therefore, you want to keep the raw vegetables in separate bowls.

Place 2 tsp of olive oil in a large Dutch oven (at least 5-1/2 quart) and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt, and sauté until they are just beginning to turn brown. This will take about 10 minutes. Then, add the peppers and mushrooms and cook for about another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and put this into a large, clean bowl.

Add another 2 tsp of oil to the Dutch oven and toss in the zucchini. Add another pinch of salt. Cook the zucchini until it begins to brown. This should again be about 5-7 minutes. Remove the zucchini and add it to the other vegetables.

Rinse the eggplant under cold water, and squeeze the pieces to remove as much moisture as possible. Add 2 more teaspoons of olive oil to the pan along with the eggplant. Cook until the eggplant becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove the eggplant and add it to the other vegetables.

Finally, add some more olive oil to the pan and sauté the garlic until it becomes slightly brown and fragrant. Then, add the tomatoes, thyme, cilantro, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Allow the tomato juice to bubble, and deglaze the pan as it does.

Add all of the cooked vegetables back into the Dutch oven. Stir to mix, and reduce the heat to low. Taste and adjust salt level, and add black pepper to taste. You can cook this for another 30 minutes or up to an hour and a half. Shorter cooking time will result in larger more distinct pieces of vegetables. Longer cooking times will result in a very nice melded stew. The choice is up to you.

Before taking the Ratatouille off the stove, remove the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Serve in bowls, adding a dash of olive oil to the top. You can also offer a drizzle of Balsamic cream as well as some finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

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Herb-Roasted Baby Potatoes and Onions

baby-potatoesThis is one of those great side dishes that go with poultry, beef, pork or lamb. Doesn’t matter what you’re serving. I always make this at Thanksgiving, instead of opting to just throw the potatoes and onions in with the bird.

I love using a variety of baby potatoes, making this with Yukon gold, red, and purple potatoes. In some supermarkets (like mine), you can actually buy a variety bag of baby potatoes with all of these spuds included. Of course, you can also make this dish with the more traditional big potatoes. You just have to make sure to cut them into smaller pieces.

You can use either red onions or Vidalia for this recipe. Don’t chop them small. You want the onions to be more or less the same size as the potatoes.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs baby potato variety, cut in half

1 large Vidalia or Bermuda onion, cut in larger pieces

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tbsp coarse-ground black pepper

3 tbsp minced garlic

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tbsp fresh thyme, removed from stems

Directions

Cut the baby potatoes in half (in quarters of some are a bit bigger), and cut the onion into pieces that are about the same size as the potatoes. Put everything into a big bowl and stir, making sure the potatoes and onions are well coated.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes and onions on a roasting pan in a single sheet. Roast for at least an hour, turning once or twice to ensure that the potatoes are roasted evenly. I often put the broiler on at the end for a few minutes to make the potatoes and onions extra crispy. Just be sure to keep your eye on the roasting pan if you do this.

Remove from the oven and adjust seasonings if necessary.

 

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Martin & Bill’s Eggplant Caponata

EggplantI don’t know about you, but when I buy this stuff in a jar, it looks like cat food. That’s not the plan here. You should be able to identify the various ingredients in this great appetizer. This dish mixes the best tastes of summer with crushed red pepper and basil, among other things as you will see.

This dish is great on rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thinly sliced crusty bread.

The recipe calls for one large eggplant. If you use the Italian eggplant, they are generally a bit smaller so you’ll probably need two. The recipe also calls for pickled peppers. If you’re using pepperoncini or hot/sweet vinegar peppers, you should use about 3 or 4. If you’re using banana peppers, they are larger so you’ll probably need just two.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

1 medium or large red onion

6 garlic cloves

3-4 pickled peppers (Pepperoncini, hot or sweet vinegar peppers)

1 medium red pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

3 tbsp capers

6-8 fresh basil leaves, trimmed and cut in strips

1 tbsp crushed red pepper (more if you choose)

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thin-sliced crusty bread (for serving)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the pickled peppers and set aside for later.

Leaving the skin on, cut the eggplant into cubes. Roughly chop the onion, red pepper, and garlic. Put the ingredients into a bowl and add the crushed red pepper flakes and 3 tbsp of the olive oil, Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a baking sheet and scatter the lemon slices over the top. Place in the oven and cook for at least 25 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Then, transfer them to a food process and chop roughly. Don’t do this on an automatic setting. Do this more or less manually so that you don’t pureé the vegetables.

Transfer this back into a bowl, and add the capers, basil, pickled peppers and remaining 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. However, overnight results in a much better flavor.

Serve with rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or crusty bread. A nice red wine goes well with this.

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Mattar Paneer

matter paneer2Moving onto Indian food here. Loosely translated, this is peas and cheese. It’s delicious and makes a great accompaniment to any curry dish. If you’re a vegetarian, this is great with Basmati rice.

If you’re a masochist, you can go to Whole Foods Market (or Whole Paycheck Market, as I like to call it) and spend crazy amounts of money to buy eight skimpy ounces of Paneer cheese. Or you can make it yourself for, literally, a fraction of the cost. It’s not brain surgery. It’s pretty simple. So, I suggest you check out this link and make it yourself!

The recipe also calls for Garam Masala, which is a combination of a bunch of different spices. Of course, you can always make it yourself but, frankly, you can also buy it all made. That’s what I do. I’m a purist…to a point.

Ingredients

20 oz of Paneer cheese, cubed

2 cups frozen peas

6 tbsp oil

1/2 tbsp mustard seed

1 tsp cumin seed

2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 tsp ginger paste

2 tbsp minced garlic

3 large tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp sugar

sea salt (to taste)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coriander

1/4 cup tomato sauce

4 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro

1 tbsp cornstarch

3 tbsp water

Directions

The first thing you want to do is fry the cheese. Add 3 tbsp of oil to a skillet and fry the cheese in a single layer until browned on all sides. Remove and put on a paper towel-lined dish. Set aside. Then, mix the cornstarch and water and set aside.

In a separate pan, heat 3 tbsp oil. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Cook until they turn color and begin to “pop.”

Now, add the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook until the onions soften (but do not brown). Then, add tomatoes, salt, and sugar and cook until tomatoes soften. Once the tomatoes have softened, add the garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin and paprika. Stir to mix.

Add the tomato sauce and stir, then add the peas. Cook the mixture until the peas are just tender. Do not worry if it appears that the dish is “soupy” or “watery.” That is what the cornstarch mixture is for.

Add the paneer and cook over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes until the paneer absorbs the flavor. Add the cornstarch mixture to thicken.

Move to a serving dish and garnish with the chopped cilantro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Herbs and Asiago Cheese

Roasted Cauliflower with Chives and AsiagoI love Mark Twain. Some of the best quotes on the planet came from him. Of cauliflower, he once said, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” A lot of people make faces when I mention cauliflower, but it’s delicious if you think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be boiled to death and covered in butter. This is a delicious recipe.

You need an oven-proof casserole dish for this recipe, and you roast the cauliflower at 450 degrees (without a cover). This is important because you want the cauliflower to brown. You also need to keep an eye on it and stir it every once in a while so that all of the cauliflower browns evenly.

I confess that I recently tried this on my kids as a side dish to mac and cheese. They just kind of looked at me cross-eyed like I was some kind of nut. But the adults loved it. I’ll keep at it because they certainly have no idea what they are missing.

Ingredients

1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets (about 5 cups)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 tbsp minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh chopped chives

3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning

2 tbsp fresh chopped thyme

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cauliflower florets in casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Add lemon juice, minced garlic, thyme, salt and lemon pepper. Give it a stir, and place it in the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that all the cauliflower browns evenly.

Remove from the oven and add the shredded Asiago cheese and chopped chives, toss to mix, and it’s ready to go!

 

 

 

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