Category Archives: vegetables

Puree of Green Cauliflower with Frizzled Scallions

This may be the best thing I have eaten in a week of good food. I want to call it Yowza Baby, but surely there’s a better name. This is based on a new-to-me technique for making purees. The instinct to make the frizzled scallions was my moment of genius for the month or maybe the year. I know it shows some steamed whole florets, but don’t bother. They are merely a distraction.

Green Cauliflower puree with Frizzled Scallions

Clean and chop up finely one head of cauliflower

In a pan, melt 2 or more tablespoons of butter in about 1 cm/1/4″ of water. The quantity should depend on the size of your cauliflower. Mine was small.

Put the chopped cauliflower into the pan, add salt amounting to a ratio of 1 teaspoon per pound. I used about 1/2 teaspoon.

Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until it is quite soft, but not mushy. Check and add hot water if needed to keep the water at the original level.

While it is cooking, slice a scallion very finely, then heat good oil in a small frying pan and toss the scallion into the oil, and then salt generously. Cook, tasting and correcting for salt, until just well caramelized and remove from the heat instantly. This is a condiment, so it must be well seasoned, remembering that butter here is salt free. If yours is not, then you should keep that in mind.

When the cauliflower is well-cooked, put it and the cooking liquid into a blender.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Whiz it up, stopping and scraping occasionally, until it is a silky puree, light and smooth.

Spread the puree on a serving dish, then scatter the fried scallions over it, including the oil in which they cooked. Serve hot.

For the contest, because it may be the best thing I have eaten in a week of good food.  I want to call it Yowza Baby, but surely there's a better name.  This is based on a new-to-me technique for making purees.  The instinct to make the frizzled scallions was my moment of genius for the month or maybe the year.  I know it shows some steamed whole florets, but don't bother.  They are merely a distraction.</p>
<p>Green Cauliflower puree with Frizzled Scallions</p>
<p>Clean and chop up finely one head of cauliflower</p>
<p>In a pan, melt 2 or more tablespoons of butter in about 1 cm/1/4" of water.  The quantity should depend on the size of your cauliflower.  Mine was small.</p>
<p>Put the chopped cauliflower into the pan, add salt amounting to a ratio of 1 teaspoon per pound.  I used about 1/2 teaspoon.</p>
<p>Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until it is quite soft, but not mushy.  Check and add hot water if needed to keep the water at the original level.</p>
<p>While it is cooking, slice a scallion very finely, then heat good oil in a small frying pan and toss the scallion into the oil, and then salt generously.  Cook, tasting and correcting for salt, until just well caramelized and remove from the heat instantly.  This is a condiment, so it must be well seasoned, remembering that butter here is salt free.  If yours is not, then you should keep that in mind.</p>
<p>When the cauliflower is well-cooked, put it and the cooking liquid into a blender.</p>
<p>Add 2 tablespoons of butter.  Whiz it up, stopping and scraping occasionally, until it is a silky puree, light and smooth.</p>
<p>Spread the puree on a serving dish, then scatter the fried scallions over it, including the oil in which they cooked.  Serve hot.This is very, very good vegetables!  Eat it.

Brussels Sprouts: love at first bite

Crispy little cabbage critters
Crispy little cabbage critters

When you really love something, sometimes it’s best to treat it simply. I really love Brussels sprouts. This recipe I call Korean because I met it back when I had my offices on the river in Georgetown, DC. The closest place to get a carry-out lunch was a hot and cold food bar owned by Koreans, and this was for me the best thing on it.
Do not be fooled into thinking I cooked 20 cabbages. The plate is a salad plate which makes it look like my lunch is bigger than it is. They are really tiny cavoletti di Bruxelles.

Trim and clean Brussels sprouts (I get 300 gram punnets here) and cut in half.
Bring abundant salted water to a boil. Toss in the sprouts.
Bring back to a simmer and cook 3 minutes.
While they are cooking, mince a small clove of garlic, julienne a small piece of ginger, squeeze about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over them in a bowl. A pinch of salt, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil goes in and stir.
By now your sprouts should have reached 3 minutes. Remove them from the heat, drain and then shock them with cold water. Drain well and toss into the bowl on the dressing. Turn gently. Taste and correct for salt. Let them come to room temperature, then turn them again before serving.
They will be fine in the refrigerator for days, but bring them to room temp before eating.

21 tomato salute

The essence of tomato
21 Tomato Salute

This is not tomato this or tomato that, it is tomato, and it feels right now like it may be the best thing I have eaten all year. It came into my mind when I saw the pile of San Marzano tomatoes in a bowl but I didn’t want to eat pasta. Summer is ending. The tomatoes are plentiful but soon will be no more. What’s to eat right now should be tomatoes.

What this really is is stewed tomatoes, but the canned version has frightened so many children over so many decades that I refuse to use the name. Freshly cooked tomatoes do not resemble those guilty tins at all. What I cooked and ate yesterday was sweet in the way only a tomato knows how to be, salty to bring out the tomatoey sweetness and had an underlying umami flavor provided by the two other vegetables. I was wowed by the first taste and not finished when the bowl was empty. I ate more, then more and finally it was all gone. My vegetable side dish had become lunch.

21 Tomato Salute

1 pound fresh, ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
a couple of sprigs each of herb leaves only (I used basil, thyme and parsley)
1 tablespoon or more butter
salt and pepper

Boil a pot of water for skinning the tomatoes. When it is boiling, toss the tomatoes in and leave them for a minute or so. Don’t let them stay too long, because they will cook too much and too much flesh will come off with the skin. You can test by pulling one up in a spoon and rubbing it with a finger. As soon as the skin starts to move a bit, it’s ready to peel. Remove the pot from the heat and put it in the sink under running cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the tomatoes with a paring knife. It should be very easy. If there appears to be a lot of core at the stem end, remove some of it with the knife tip.

In a medium pot, heat the butter and cook the onion and pepper in it until it is softened but not browned. Add the tomatoes and about a level teaspoon of salt (be conservative) or even better the same amount of the perfumed salt we made a couple of weeks ago. Put the herb leaves on top and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer about ten minutes and check to see if the tomatoes are cooked. Moderately sized tomatoes probably will be done. If not, continue to cook them until they are just done. Check for salt. Serve in small bowls with some freshly ground pepper.

The only way this can taste better is if eaten with buttered toast.

Ligurian Tomato Salad

I’m not sure if I ever published this essential mainstay of my summer life. We are preparing it in class today, so I reckoned if it isn’t here it ought to jump onto the page right now.

: Ligurian tomato salad

: Don’t add a thing, because this is summer perfect

  1. Ripe tomatoes
  2. fresh garlic (maybe one clove for every 4 tomatoes)
  3. fresh basil, cleaned and sliced very thin
  4. salt
  5. extra virgin oilive oil

  1. Wash tomatoes and cut into chunks, cutting away the cores. Peel and mince the garlic then scatter it over the tomatoes. Sprinkle a biggish pinch of salt over all, then the basil slivers. Pour the oil over this and gently toss a bit with two forks.
  2. Place a clean dish towel over the bowl and leave it at room temperature for several hours. You make this in the morning to eat later that day. Eat it as an antipasto, a salad or even a light meal with good bread and possibly some cheese.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

5 :  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Dinner for snowbound Easterners

Our good friends, the Graefs, lost power during the storm and still don’t have any, so we asked them over for an Italian meal last night.  What fun to entertain the desperate!  They are so amenable.

For the first course I served pasta ai broccoletti made with Chinese broccoli. A big difference was using whole wheat penne because it was too snowy to go buy orecchiette. They were good! Whole wheat pasta is much changed for the better.

sformato di porri

As a second course I served the chicken pate’ from Wednesday with a basil sauce and a lovelyleek sformato that is as easy to make as it is good and looks way more difficult than it is.  I wonder why it’s so long since I made that? Oh yes, the diet.

For dessert we had a parfait made of layers of fruit and whipped cream with a wine sauce that eg made from a Washington Post recipe. That stuff is great. It takes the mundane to superb.

Basil Sauce

a small bunch of basil, leaves removed
2 cloves peeled garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put everything into a tall, narrow container in the order as written. Plunge a stick blender in and turn iton, pulling it slowly up, rocking slightly side to side. Taste for salt and add some if necessary. This is also good on boiled eggs, salad and even a quicky pasta.

Don’t freeze and keep eating Italian food.

CRUNCH! make them beg for vegetables

Bite this
Vegetable Strudel

You know how when you open a package of filo pastry sheets, you never can use them all up? Well, now I can.

I’ve been experimenting with peach recipes, some of which use filo sheets. There are a lot of sheets in package, so I determined to find a clever way to use them up. Stop right now if you are a food snob and proud of it, because it’s going to get ugly in here. On the other hand, if you can trust me not to guide you wrong, hang on just a minute because this easy little thing is delicious! It looks pretty fancy, too.

vegetable strudel
This is the finished dish sittng on Marcello’s woodpile in the blazing white sun.

Have a bite. You know you want to.

Vegetable strudels

for each strudel big enough for 2
preheat oven to 180°C or 350°F

2 sheets of filo pastry
1 ounce/30g or more of melted butter
2 scallions or cipollotti cleaned and cut in two lengthwise
1 small zucchine, cut into long strips not more than 3/8″ or 1 cm wide
1 slice Kraft Singles (Sotilette)
1 ounce/30g grated fresh Pecorino cheese
a pinch of salt
a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or paprika

Lay 1 sheet of filo on the counter and splodge it about with melted butter. It does not have to cover it nor be even. Put the second one on top and splodge that one, too. If you prefer, you can use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, then it doesn’t need to be hot.

Lay the vegetables across the filo sheet near the edge near you leaving a space of 1.5″/3.75 cm at the sides. Tear the Kraft Single into 4 strips and add them. Grate the Pecorino over it all. Sprinkle the smallest pinch of salt over all that.

Start rolling this into a flattish packet moving away from you. It will be a generous 3″ /7.5 cm wide. When there is only enough filo to roll two more times, fold the edges in to seal the packet then continue to roll it closed. Brush the top with more oil or butter. Sprinkle sparingly with Cayenne pepper/ peperoncino in polvere or use paprika if you don’t dare the spicy.

Put the finished rolls into the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. It should be very golden brown and everything inside should be cooked and gooey with melted cheese. Cut in two and serve hot and crunchy.

My friend Patrizia tells me it is food snobbism to reject a product like Kraft Singles if it will do the job better than anything else. In this case, it does. It provides the creamy moisture that steams the vegetables and carries the Pecorino flavor throughout the strudel. I can think of many other vegetables that would be nice in there, and a change of cheese is very possible, too. I almost added blanched Swiss Chard or bietola, but I was happy I stuck with two vegetables instead. Anything cut so that it will cook through in 25 minutes is a possibility.

I can only tell you that this was so good I ate it instead of Sunday lunch, and Sunday lunch is a pretty important meal here in Umbria. It would be so easy to make these in large numbers as an antipasto for a dinner party or a really great side dish vegetable. Once they go together they are seamlessly easy to cook and serve and what, I ask you, is prettier than golden crunchy pastry?

Here’s one for you.

One for you

Embroidering food

Is it enough for food to be tasty and nourishing? It almost certainly is, just as if you are writing a congratulatory letter all you’d really have to say is, “Good work!” Poetry is not required, but it’s really nice, right? Life isn’t all just what’s required. When we have to, quick and dirty is the rule, but almost all of us like to turn out things of which we’re proud. Part of that in the kitchen is making it look good.

serving

This is on my mind right now because while I was one week without telephone, I made three dishes for guests that were really good but looked ugly. I didn’t photograph them, because one brown pile on a plate is pretty much like every other brown pile on a plate, right?

top

But does that mean I shouldn’t post about those foods? I haven’t decided, because it’s absolutely true that blogs do much better with photos, but ugly photos of ugly food may not count. While I ponder that issue, here is a pasta salad so simple you may already have made it, but embroidered so it looks pretty and is worthy of photographing. It’s good, too, but not as good as the stewed duck, choucroute garni or the pork and kraut in beer! It’s just prettier. On purpose.

messy top

The entire time I was assembling this dish I was trying to make it attractive. I even altered it a couple of times when one impulse wasn’t as nice as another idea. I didn’t do anything foo foo, like tossing pieces of some herb over it and therefore changing the taste. I just used what I knew was good in ways that looked better than good.

side view

I went into a highest kitchen cupboard to get a beautiful crystal bowl and then I had to wash and dry it because it had been there so long. I wanted the framing of the deeply cut and sparkling glass and to see through the sides to the layers.

Pasta Pretty

serves 4

150 g (5 oz.) dry pasta in a neat and small shape
half a moderate tomato, diced
1/4 red sweet pepper, sliced
1/4 moderate sweet onion in strips
handful of green olives, sliced
about 6 pieces marinated artichokes, sliced thinner
1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
50 g (2 oz.) cheese that you like, cut into thin squares

Lemon juice and oil to dress.
Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano to taste.

If you use the marinated artichoke hearts, then you can make the dressing with the herby oil from them. If you don’t, then use good olive oil, which is higher quality, but needs some added salt and herbs. For this much pasta I used the juice of half a lemon and oil that measured three times that volume. I then salted it to taste.

Pare, cut, section or otherwise deal with all the ingredients ahead of time. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just al dente. Don’t let it get flabby, because that’s not attractive in any way. As soon as it’s just done, drain it, put it back in the pan and throw the dressing over it. Mix it around. You’ll find it is a bit slick, so you can grate some Parmigiano or Grana over it and mix that in, too. Then put it into the bowl you plan to serve it in.

Now start adding the other ingredients in patterns over the pasta. This, believe it or not, requires some thought, because if you work it one way you get equal amounts of condiments, but if you choose another way, you might be short of something you love. The rectangle was easy peasy for that very reason, but I would not shirk the challenge for pretty if my bowl were round. After all, that’s what this post is about, right?

If it will be a long time before you eat it, then refrigerate it with plastic wrap on top but be sure to remove it an hour before eating it. Chilled is not tasty with pasta salad, secondo me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pasta dish to offer Presto Pasta Night, so I’m going to send this off with my warmest wishes to “More Than Burnt Toast” where you’ll find an autumn line up of worldly pasta on Friday, so don’t forget to go see it then.

And here is the serving I saved for you.

close up

I invite your suggestions concerning publishing ugly food, too. Come, help me out with that thorny issue.