Tag Archives: vegetables

Wine Sautéed Baby Artichokes

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Fresh artichokes are probably one of my favorite vegetables and baby artichokes are even better than the larger version of this funny looking vegetable. Tender and mild with a slightly nutty flavor, you can eat them whole without having to worry the prickly choke in their center. And fresh artichokes are nothing like the canned or pickled ones most people are more familiar with.

There are so many ways you can use fresh baby artichokes but my favorite way is a simple preparation with a few herbs, some lemon juice and a bit of white wine. This recipe is a classic that I adapted from Gourmet Magazine and it really doesn’t get much simpler than this. For the best flavor, choose fresh, firm and brightly colored artichokes. You can use whatever dried herbs you have on hand. The most important thing, however, is to go light on the herbs since you want to be able to enjoy the taste of the artichokes.

WINE SAUTEED BABY ARTICHOKES

8 baby artichokes

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup dry white wine

1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

  • Bend the outer leaves of the artichokes back until they snap off close to the base and remove several more layers of leaves in the same manner until the white inner leaves are reached. Trim the tips and quarter the artichokes.
  • In a small bowl toss the artichokes with the flour and salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet set over moderate heat until it is hot but not smoking
  • Add the garlic and cook until it has softened.
  • Add the artichokes and sauté them over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
  • Stir in the oregano, basil and the lemon juice and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add the wine and the red pepper flake and simmer the mixture, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the artichokes are very tender.
  • Uncover and boil over high heat for 1 minute or until it is thickened slightly.

Serves 4

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Gazpacho

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Chilled soups scream summertime and gazpacho is the ultimate summer soup.  During my trip to Spain I sampled a variety of Spanish gazpacho and not all of them were the same. One was served in a chunky form but the rest came to the table in the form of a smooth puree.  Others were more peppery and one had the distinct addition of sherry.  All excited my palate and I came home wanting to make my own but the weather just never seemed warm enough for a cold soup to entice me.  Until recently that is.

This soup is very fast to put together.  If you are feeling ambitious you can make your own tomato juice but I like to use low-sodium V-8 but any tomato juice you may prefer will work.  This soup is really a salad you sip so feel free to add whichever vegetables you like or have on hand. Sometimes I add corn for added flavor and color.  Because I was pureeing the soup I omitted it this time.

I served these with a double corn muffin that I adapted from a cornbread recipe. For  my purposes I omitted the thyme and cooked the bread up in large muffin tins.  I’m thinking that I could easily make mini muffins and serve them alongside the soup as the first course of a summer dinner.

GAZPACHO

4 cups tomato juice of your choice

1/2 cup dry sherry

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup Italian parsley, minced

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Dash cayenne pepper, or more to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large stock pot.
  • If you prefer a smooth soup, use a stick blender to puree until smooth.  You can also leave the soup in a chunky form or puree only a portion of the soup.
  • Chill until very cold.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Serves 6

Grilled Tomatoes

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Sometimes you need to take your veggies to a whole new level and this is the way to do it.  Tomatoes are coming into season here in Albania and there is nothing better than fresh ripe tomatoes.  I can eat them as is but sometimes it is nice to dress them up a bit to make them a more complete side dish.  These tomatoes can be prepared in a matter of minutes and make a nice accompaniment to grilled steak or chicken.  If you don’t have a grill you can cook the tomatoes under a broiler in your oven.

GRILLED TOMATOES

4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar (optional)

  • Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Place the tomatoes on the grill and cook for 1-2 minutes per side.  Cook until they are hot.
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.
  • Serve immediately.

Braised Red Cabbage

And of course I served it from a Polish pottery bowl

And of course I served it from a Polish pottery bowl

I’ve been wanting to make my own braised red cabbage since we visited Prague, Czech Republic last fall.  On our first evening in the city we ate at a restaurant where I ordered the local speciality of roasted duck.  Much to my delight it was served with a side of braised red cabbage.  I had forgotten that I actually liked red cabbage and from my first bite of the sweet and savory vegetable I was reminded of childhood meals cooked by my Polish Nana.  I was immediately inspired to make this recipe at home.  However, my family is not a fan of cabbage so I put off making the dish but when I spotted the pile of bright purple cabbages at the local market this past weekend, I was inspired me to try my hand at this traditional Eastern European dish.

Much to my surprise, my one Polish cookbook did not include a recipe for any form of red cabbage.  Really? Growing up I was taught that cabbage was a staple of all Polish (and Eastern European) cooking.  I did find a recipe on the William Sonoma website which sounded like the dish I remembered from childhood.  The following recipe is adapted from the original one I found and the resulting dish tastes just like the one I ate in Prague and the one I remember from my childhood.  Although hands on time is minimal, the cabbage needs to cook for over an hour before it reaches the correct tenderness so be sure to plan accordingly!  To complete the Eastern European theme, I served the cabbage alongside some grilled Albanian-style kielbasa (which was surprisingly authentic in both taste and texture) and some potato and cheese pierogi.  My Polish ancestors would be so proud!

BRAISED RED CABBAGE

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons honey

1 red apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 1/4 cups dry red wine

3/4 cup water

1 red cabbage, cored and sliced into shreds

Zest of 1 orange

 

  • In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the honey and cook for 1 minute more. 
  • Add the apple slices and vinegar, raise the heat to medium-high and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the wine and water. Season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid begins to reduce, about 10 minutes. 
  • Add the cabbage and, using tongs, toss well to coat with the liquid in the pan. Cover the pan and cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until it begins to wilt, 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until the cabbage is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 25 to 30 minutes more. 
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the pan from the heat and finely grate the zest from the orange over the cabbage (reserve the fruit for another use). Stir well to evenly distribute the zest, then transfer the cabbage to a warmed bowl and serve immediately.

SERVES:  4 to 6.

Corn & Vegetable Chowder

With the cold weather upon us, nothing tastes better than a hot bowl of soup. When paired with some crusty bread it makes the perfect lunch or light dinner.  This soup started as a corn chowder but I’ve added a variety of vegetables to give it more interest and body.  It is surprisingly easy to make and comes together quickly making it an ideal weeknight dinner.  You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.  Just make sure that you don’t overcook any starchy vegetables.

CORN AND VEGETABLE CHOWDER

4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 bay leaves
1 cup baby red potatoes, skins on diced
1 1/2 cups corn, fresh if available, canned or frozen if not
1 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry

1) In a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until browned, stirring occasionally.

With bacon as a base, how can you go wrong?

2)  Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onion, celery, carrots, bell pepper, and bay leaves.  Cook 8-10
minutes or until vegetables have softened.

Lots of veggies.  You can add just about any that you have on hand

3)  Add the potatoes and corn then stir in the cream and milk.  Season with salt and pepper

There’s a full serving of vegetables in every bowlful

4)  Bring to almost a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Cook for 30 minutes or until the
potatoes are tender.

5)  Adjust seasoning and swirl in the sherry.

Enjoy!

Pancetta Braised Brussels Sprouts

Growing up I never liked Brussels sprouts.  They were always overcooked gray-green lumps sitting on my plate and taunting me to eat them.  Others might sing their praises but try as I might I just couldn’t see the attraction.  Somehow I managed to avoid them for most of my adult life and I was just fine with that.  Then all of a sudden they seemed to become a trendy vegetable and they were everywhere;  all of my cooking magazines profiled the bright green piles of mini-cabbage like vegetables (in Albanian they are called little cabbages) as if they were the greatest thing around.  As I paid more attention to the recipes I was intrigued.However, I could never seem to find a recipe that completely enthralled me so I developed my own.  What I came up with was good.  Crisp to the bite with subtle flavors of lemon, thyme and bacon (yes, everything is better with bacon) dinner guests rave about them.  Even non – Brussels sprouts eaters (a.k.a. Glenn) eat them.  As an added bonus, this dish is easy and can be made ahead of time.  I’ve served them both hot and at room temperature and have even been known to eat the leftovers cold right from the refrigerator.  And did I mention that they are easy to make?

PANCETTA BRAISED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
 
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 small onion, diced in 1/4 inch cubes
2 medium carrots, diced in 1/4 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
Zest from one lemon
1/4 Teaspoon red chili pepper flakes- or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1)  Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add the pancetta and stir
     frequently continuing to cook until the meat begins to brown on all sides 5-7 minutes.
Pancetta, onions, and carrots cooking
2)  Add the onion and carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
3)  Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to
      cook for 15 to 20 minutes stirring frequently to prevent the sprouts from sticking.  Add additional
      olive oil in one teaspoon increments if necessary to prevent scorching.
4)  Cook until the Brussels sprouts are to your preferred level of doneness. They will turn a bright green
     as they continue to cook and will brown slightly on their cut sides.  I prefer mine crisp to the bite and
     a total of 20 to 25 minutes of cooking usually does the trick.
5)  Remove from the heat.  Add the thyme, lemon zest and chili pepper flakes and season with salt and
     pepper.  Enjoy!
Ready to eat

 

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