Tag Archives: easy

Roasted Artichokes (Better than Steamed and Easier than You Think!)

16 Apr

I was always intimidated by preparing artichokes…it seemed like quite a task to get anything edible from this armadillo of a vegetable. But when a recent manager’s special at the local supermarket had eight of them for $1.99, I figured it was a sign that it was time to try.

It's okay to crowd them into the baking dishArtichokes (Cynara scolymus) are thistles, but very delicious thistles. Large globe ones come from the central stem, while babies come from the sides.

I love the way you eat them when steamed or roasted whole…you remove each leaf and hold the pointy end while dragging our teeth on the stem end to get the flesh off. It’s like a delicious secret that you have to tease out with your hands and teeth. And then you are left with the center which is creamy and nutty and entirely delicious.

Pedro gets on the chop

Pedro gets on the chop

Although like many “manager’s specials” these particular artichokes were not at their bright and tight best, they had nice smooth green leaves – if they were a bit separated from the core, well at $1.99 I wasn’t going to be fussed. This was an experiment in technique, after all, so if they weren’t artichokes at their peak, it didn’t matter so much. And the following technique brought out the best in them. Continue reading

Advertisements

Simple Caribbean Chicken Noodle Soup (throw it all into the pot at once! Serves four as a main course))

19 Aug

Yeah, yeah, your grandmother’s chicken soup. I know. It was the best. Could raise the dead, in fact.

Just five minutes of chopping, and throw it all in the pot! No browning, no saute, no mirepoix, no sofrito, no roux.

Well this chicken soup may not be your grandmother’s, or even your mother-in-law’s. It may not be complex, may not feature a rich and dense stock, may not have anything at all fancy about it. But if you want to just throw a bunch of things in a pot and end up with a soothing, yummy, cure-all of a soup in less than a half hour, I think you will like my soup a whole lot. It’s a typical Puerto Rican and, apparently Aruban, style of soup prep.

The first tender tropical culantro leaves from a container on my Long Island stoop!

Important note: in this soup, my herbs were the first recao (culantro) I was able to harvest from the seeds I brought from Puerto Rico. You do not need them to make this soup – choose whatever you most like in the green herby kingdom – but I want to share with you my satisfaction at growing, on my stoop, one of the most distinctive elements of Puerto Rican cuisine. Eryngium foetidum – also known as recao, culantro and sawtooth coriander — is something that smells delicious in the rain, that tastes similar to cilantro, but is less citric and a bit deeper.

And another view of the recao…yes, I am inordinately proud…

I grew it at my grandmother’s house in Mayagüez from seeds from my great-aunt Amida, but have struggled to get it to grow here on Long Island. Thanks to a mad-humid summer, it has flourished in a container and I am very happy not to have to buy it already cut and fading in flavor from the local Latin grocery that gets it from Costa Rica. ¡¡¡¡TRIUNFO!!!

Comfort in a pot

No-Fuss Chicken Noodle Soup (amounts of vegetables are flexible)

2 quarts water (with a stock cube) or stock (or a mix of the two)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 green pepper (preferably cubanelle or Italian cooking pepper), chopped

1 lb chicken breast (or boneless thighs), in 1’ cubes

1 Tbs herbs of your choice, chopped (especially culantro/recao/sawtooth cilantro)

Handful of soup noodles (fideos)

Salt to taste

Bin a large stockpot, bring water/stock to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, except noodles and salt. Return to boil. Lower heat to a lively simmer for at least 20 minutes. The longer you have the more tender the chicken. Add noodles five minutes before you finish simmering. Salt to taste and serve. I recommend adding hot sauce, like sriracha, to taste!

Quick Vegetable Soup for a Sick Day You Couldn’t Take

10 Jun

A few weeks ago I got bronchitis. I don’t get sick often, but sometimes you just pound it too hard and the body craps out.

However, it was not the right time to take off from work, which statement is probably a clear indicator of how crazed about work our American society is (And how I have become). “Yeah, I am on death’s door, but I gotta go to work.” Heavy sigh followed by a hacking, wracking cough. Wipe nose on sleeve. Carry on.

And I was one of at least two in our department who were in the same boat. Ah well. In my next iteration, I will go back to being Mediterranean or Caribbean in my approach. It is much better.

Anyhoo, by the time I stumbled home and crawled up the stairs on one of the worst days, I wasn’t up for much cooking. I was, however, very much in the mood for a comforting, nourishing soup. So was my mom, who was in similar condition downstairs.

That is when knowing your way around a kitchen is a good thing. If you can chop, saute, and add flavorful liquids, in about 25 minutes you can have a soup that may not raise the dead, but will smell good, taste good (if you have any sense of smell or taste left)  and make you feel better. If you don’t have any sense of smell or taste, just load on the hot sauce and enjoy a few minutes of steamed and spicy relief.

Feel like you can’t even deal with chopping fresh vegetables? Go ahead, empty out all the useless quarter bags of frozen vegetables buried in the back of the freezer. The tomatoe-y broth and herbs will make it all taste good, even if the texture leaves a bit to be desired.

Easy Vegetable Soup

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Cup chopped carrots and celery

2 Cups other mixed vegetables (whatever bits are around the fridge anxious to be used – I used cauliflower, broccoli, summer squash. Potatoes, leeks, spinach would be nice too. You can also use frozen – why not?)

15 oz. can of tomatoes – pureed, chopped, diced, whole, whatever*

1 quart your preferred stock, plus more liquid to cover – can be stock or water*.

15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained

½ Cup of cooked rice or pasta, if you’ve got

½ Cup fresh or frozen chopped spinach, optional

1 Tbs dried herbs (your preferred combination of oregano/thyme/rosemary/parsley/marjoram)

Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

In a deep soup pot, heat the oil at medium high until loose and fragrant. Add onions, stir to coat, and lower heat to medium. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute for five minutes, until becoming tender. Add additional vegetables, stir to coat and sauté another three minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, plus enough additional liquid to cover, bring pot to boil, then lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. With about five minutes left in the simmer, add beans, and optional pasta and spinach, and seasoning. Serve with saltines or crusty bread.

*(Note: You can substitute some or all the stock, or the can of tomatoes with vegetable juice such as V-8 – low-sodium preferred)

myPod: Edamame (soybeans in pods)

8 May

A beloved bean

Boiling up a bag of edamame is even easier than making ice pops, so you could say this is something of a lame thing to post about, but I’ve really been meaning to share my appreciation for this useful food item for a while now. And today, Mother’s Day, when it happened to save this mom a lot of trouble over dinner, seemed like the right time.

At under $3 per bag of frozen (even organic!) edamames make for a reasonably priced appetizer or T.V. snack for two to four people. Soybeans are full of fiber and anti-oxidants and contain no animal fats (but do contain those all-important omega-3 oils). They are tasty and quick to get on the table, and shelled, can replace lima beans (which I hate) and peas (which I quite like) in many recipes.

But what I really love about them is how companionable they are. They remind me of an leisurely, chatty evening shelling pigeon peas around a hurricane lamp in the mountains of Dominican Republic when I was doing a little humanitarian work. They remind me of dining at an Asian restaurant in San Juan with my dear, departed friend, Frances Borden, in the early days of our friendship.  They are how my son and I might start a meal…popping beans right out of the pod and into our mouths (and laughing when the beans shoot across the room instead), or how we might sit around watching the news with my parents, the pile of full pods getting lower and the pile of empty pods getting higher. Farmer Steve got Leandro to try the fresh garden peas we were picking at our C.S.A. last year, because they look like edamame pods.

So get a bag and keep it in the fridge for the next time you don’t know what to do for dinner and need to buy some time, or you want something more virtuous than chips to accompany your favorite show or a movie night.

Boil up a quart or so of water and add 1 lb. frozen edamame in the pods. When the water returns to the boil, cook for three minutes, drain and serve.

Leftover beans can be added to salads (including rice and pasta salads), stir-fries and soups.

%d bloggers like this: