Cauliflower Like You've Never Had it Before
January 31, 2006
Cauliflower is a delicious immature flower that is often under-used in many people's culinary arsenal. Often served raw on vegetable platters, this delicate plant is never given center stage of any good meal I've ever had. Cauliflower is part of the cabbage family and is a native plant to Italy dating from the 16th century. The plant's creamy color is produced by tying the leaves of the plant around the head or crowns and preventing the plant from sunlight that would normally produce a more yellow color in the plant.
I decided to buy a crown of cauliflower recently and searched high and low for a way to prepare it that didn't involve pork or milk. Thanks to Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, I have made a wonderfully simple and elegant meal from this noble plant.
You will need: one 16 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes; 1/2 small white onion finely diced; 3 cloves of crushed garlic; 2 bay leaves; 1 crown of cauliflower washed and cut into small 1 inch florettes; 1 chile piquin pepper; handful of chopped flat leafed Italian parsley; 4 cups of cooked penne pasta.
Step One: Cook your penne pasta according to the directions on the packet; drain; rinse in cold water and drizzle with olive oil; set aside. (Cook this while you cook the other ingredients below so pasta is not too cold)
Step Two: While your pasta cooks, saute the onions and garlic in 3 tblsp of olive oil over medium heat. Optional: when translucent, cool off with 1/4 c of white wine.
Step Three: Add cauliflower, bay leaves, and crush red chile over the mixture and season with salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Step Four: Meanwhile, take tomatoes and crush them in a bowl with your hands, removing the cores of the tomatoes. Pour this mixture into the pan, stir, cover, and cook over medium heat for another 15 minutes.
Step Five: Stir in the penne pasta and parsley. Garnish with romano or freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve piping hot.
Posole for Vegetarians
January 28, 2006
Following up on my blog from January 18 (long overdue, I apologize), I wanted to post a few more recipes that use the basic red chile I described in that blog. This chile forms the base for a good posole, and if you have left over chile from making it, you can simply freeze it, and thaw it out for use in this stew.
Posole is another native dish of the southwest and Mexico. Posole is a variety of corn that is called hominy in English. You can buy it dried, frozen, or cooked and canned. I prefer to buy the cooked canned variety from Juanita brand foods. You can buy it form your grocer and find it in the Mexican food aisle. Posole is very light in flavor and if you are vegetarian, vegan, or have a gluten allergy, this dish is perfect for you. I have modified the ingredients to accomodate the non-meat eater, but you can always add pork or beef ribs to this dish for a tasty treat.
You will need:
- 1 cup of the red chile (see blog from 1/18/06);
- 1 28 oz can of hominy;
- 1 c of vegetable stock;
- 2 c of water;
- onion; garlic; cabbage; raddish for garnish.
Step One: In a stock pot, saute about 1/4 c of diced white onion with 3 cloves of crushed garlic in 2 tbsp of vegetable oil until translucent. Cook this on medium heat.
Step Two: Add the chile and cook for another 7 minutes. Add the hominy, vegetable stock, and water. Simmer this for about 15 minutes. Salt this to taste.
Step Three: For spices, experiment with oregano, corriander, cilantro, cumin, and if you want texture, add diced potatoes. Serve the soup in bowls and top with shredded green cabbage, thinkly sliced onions and raddishes, and serve with a wedge of lime. It's simple and perfect for winter's chill.
Eat this with corn rather than flour tortillas.
Red Chile for Enchiladas
January 18, 2006
This photo array represents a 1-2-3 of making red chile Mexico style. This red chile is different from the process used by many people in New Mexico who make red chile from ground red chile as opposed to using the dried pods off the ristra like this recipe. See blogs from December 15th and 24th on the assembly of enchiladas, fillings, and presentation. For the person who commented on what to do with green chile (see comment on Dec. 24th), I promise to post a green chile sauce, different from green chile stew, to help you make those types of enchiladas. The post on the 15th of December does show a green chile enchilada. Yummy.
However you choose to make your chile, you should try to test different spices, but experiment with garlic, onion, cilantro, cumin, salt, and corriander. You can also add tomatillos for texture (tomatillos are small green tomato-like fruits that are related to the gooseberry, not tomatoes). Be sure to remember that quality red chile pods are the key ingredient to any chile. Much of the country's chiles come from New Mexico and California. Choose pods that you dry yourself (on a ristra) or in a bag from the grocery store. Be sure that they aren't crunchy and discolored (that means they are old). The dry chile should be a little waxy and have a nice deep red-orange color.
Step One: Remove stems from the chiles and place in a stock pot. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes.
Step Two: Place chiles in a blender with a bit of water. Blend until smooth.
Step Three: Strain the mixture and place back in the pan. You should cook this in some vegetable oil or lard. Cook on medium, stirring to avoid burning.
You should spice this up the way you like it. Don't massacre this chile with tomatoes, tomato sauce, or anything else. Don't try to enter this chile into a chile contest - you will be sorely disappointed because this is a chile sauce that is to be used for enchiladas or Indian tacos (fry bread with meat, beans, lettuce, and cheese). This method for cooking chiles is native to the southwest, and Mexico, and forms the base for many native foods of the region including menudo, posole, tamales, and various marinated meats and stews.
Pueblo Indians in New Mexico are credited with the versatility of red chile and you can taste traditional dishes using it at the Pueblo Indian Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM (12th and Menaul). The Center has a restaurant where you can purchase food and order tamales for take-out. These dishes are native to New Mexico and the Pueblo people whose farming techniques made the southwest bloom with varieties of squash, corn, chile, and beans.
January 12, 2006
This version of potato and leek soup employs the process of puree to give it a thick consistency that is easy to reheat.
You will need: 2 leeks, peeled and chopped up; 2 medium sized russet potatoes peeled and diced, 3 stalks of chopped celery; handful of chopped flat leafed Italian parsley; 3 minced garlic cloves; 1 c of water; 1/2 c wine; 1 1/2 c of vegetable stock; 1/4 c cream; 1/4 c grated parmesan; salt and pepper to taste; wedge of lemon.
Step One: In a stock pot, combine celery, potatoes, leeks, garlic, and 3 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat until veggies are translucent.
Step Two: Add wine and cook off for 4 minutes. Add water and stock. Boil this on medium high heat for 7 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
Step Three: In a blender or food processor, add parsley, cream, salt, pepper, and another 2 tblsp of olive oil. Ladle in the hot mixture (from the pot) into the blender. Blend until smotth (Blend this mixture a few cups at a time so you won't have spills from the blender). Return mixture to pot to reheat. Serve in bowls with a lemon wedge and grated parmesan. Eat with salad and warm bread.
Saffron and Rock Shrimp Risotto
January 08, 2006
Risotto is an Italian rice that cooks up very creamy and can be served as a main course. This recipe was taken from a mini cooking lesson I had at a chef's Christmas party. The chef in the kitchen was from Milano, Italy, and told me that rice is a more common dish in Milano than pasta. His cooking technique proved true when I tried making the dish at home.
Risotto comes in various lengths and varieties, the most common of which is "carnaroli" a short grain. I bought two brands, both of which worked fine. My suggestion is that you buy an Italian imported brand or make sure the rice is for risotto specifically. You should also eat this dish as soon as it is prepared in order to insure that the temperature remains hot and that the rice doesn't dry out. The consistency should be creamy and cooked through without being mushy.
You will need:
- 2 c of risotto (this yields about 5 cups of rice so if you are alone, do 1 c);
- a stock pot full of water (about 6 cups) and 1 c of white wine, a quartered potato, 1 rough chopped zuccini, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tsp of sea salt;
- 3/4 c of grated parmesan (fresh, not in a Kraft brand can);
- 3 tblsp of minced onion; 1 clove minced garlic; olive oil;
- 1 c of frozen sweet peas;
- 1 c of rock shrimp (or any other fish you like);
- 1/2 tsp of saffron threads; sea salt; white pepper.
Step one: In a large stock pot, place water, wine, and veggies listed above in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat after this begins boiling and leave at medium high.
Step Two: In a large sautee pan, place minced onion and garlic with 2 dashes of olive oil. Heat this over high heat stirring constantly. Once cooked (translucent), cool off with a dash of white wine.
Step Three: Add your risotto and toss around stirring constantly for about 2 minutes.
Step Four: Maintain high heat and ladle in enough water from the stock pot to cover the rice about 1/2 inch in liquid. Stir constantly in order to ensure all the rice is being exposed to liquid and heat evenly. As this liquid is absorbed, keep laddeling in the liquid to maintain the same level of liquid over rice. You will repeat this process for about 15 minutes stirring all along (ratio is for 2 c of rice, 31/2 c of water).
Step Five: Add saffron, seafood, and peas. Maintain liquid level and cook for another five minutes. Total cooking time for risotto should be no more than 20 minutes. Rice should be creamy, literally much more starchy than a normal rice.
Step Six: Pour rice into a bowl, stir in grated parmesan (again, this should be fresh not from a can), salt to taste, and 1/4 c of olive oil. This step is done off of the heat in order to prevent overcooking.
Serve and enjoy alone or with a veggie side with a nice glass of white wine.
Swiss Chard with Pasta
January 06, 2006
I usually cook this version of Swiss Chard in the summer time because it is a light and healthy dish that doesn't require too much heat from the stove. If you liked the "Chard the Swiss For Pink Rice" blog, I suggest this pasta recipe for winter (simply eat without pasta for summer time, and don't cook tomatoes, simple add them at last as large slices rather than diced).
You will need: 1 can of drained garbanzo beans; 2/3 c white wine; 3 mined garlic cloves; 1/4 of a white onion, sliced into thin strands; 1 large carrot finely diced; 2 ripe vine or roma tomatoes; lemon; handful of Italian parsley chopped; 1 bunch of rainbow chard chopped; salt & pepper; linguini or fettucini noodles, cooked and drained.
Step One: in a large skillet, cook 2 tblsp of olive oil, garbanzo beans, garlic, carrot, and onion. Cook unti carrots are soft (over medium heat). Add wine and cook for 5 minutes. Crush a chile piquin if you like into this.
Step Two: Add diced tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes.
Step Three: Add chard and squeeze 1/2 lemon over this. Cook with a lid or foil on top until wilted.
Step Four: Serve over pasta with lots of parsley for garnish, and salt & pepper to taste. Add grated parmesan for extra flavor.