green olive

This recipe is a slightly modified version of the one on the back of my Trader Joe’s “Southern Green Blend” pre-washed and chopped bag of greens. The greens include mustard, turnip, collards and spinach. Usually I just sauté some garlic in olive oil then cook the greens until they’re just beginning to wilt. That’s tasty (I don’t cook my greens to death. I know that’s a popular way in Southern cuisine but I like a bit of texture in mine.) But I was feeling a little bored so thought I‘d try this instead.

spicy mixed greens in tomato, olive garlic sauce

spicy mixed greens in tomato, olive garlic sauce

You’re supposed to use Roma tomatoes and those dull canned black olives as well as Kalamata and the green with pimentos. I didn’t have all that so I did my best. The greens themselves tend to be a bit peppery and bitter. Done this way, the flavors are softened a bit by the sweetness of tomato and the salty tang of olives. The lovely heat comes from the Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment

my used bag of Trader Joe's Southern Greens Blend

my used bag of Trader Joe's Southern Greens Blend

spicy mixed greens in tomato, olive, garlic sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon (or more) Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment
1 bag Southern Greens or make your own mix
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in halves
½ cup green olives with pimentos, sliced
½ small can tomato paste and about twice that much water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic in olive oil with some salt for a minute or so until it begins to cook. Add the Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment and stir. Toss in the olives, tomato paste and water. Simmer for a bit until paste begins to dissolve. Add greens and cook, covered, until the texture is to your liking. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

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The first time I ate homemade paella was at our charming friend, Cesar Rennert’s, beautiful beach house in Remsenburg, on Long Island, NY, many summers ago. He prepared it himself, which was already remarkable, as he much prefers eating out at restaurants. It was simply incredible: so many thrilling and flavorful ingredients, and the final dish, presented family style at table, was so colorful. He taught us how to make paella that very day.

seafood paella with Maine lobster

seafood paella with Maine lobster

The following year we went on vacation to Spain. Ah, Spain: what a marvelous destination. Actually we didn’t expect much before going. It was David’s idea. Then Steven and I were more fascinated by Italy than anyplace else. But wow! Spain rocks. So much history, gorgeous people, delicious food, and you’re practically swimming in olive oil wherever you go. I like that. As a souvenir, we bought a non-stick paella pan from the gourmet supermarket chain, El Corte Inglés.

We’ve been using it since, for lots of things, including some of paella’s many tasty cousins, like pilaf and polow.

Paella is great for a party because it tends to be big, beautiful and impresses a crowd. Do you make paella? What kind? In Spain, there were so many varieties that you could get entire cookbooks devoted to paella, make a new recipe every day and probably be able to cook something different for a whole year.

This lobster paella was a special treat for my niece’s recent California visit. We went to our favorite, Sun Fat, for the freshest seafood. Impulsively, Steven suggested the lobster. I wasn’t so sure, since the whole Dungeness crab slaughter in December, I didn’t think that I was ready for a repeat performance quite yet. But they’re great at Sun Fat, and did the dirty deed for me. I didn’t watch the gruesome spectacle. Instead I selected the rest of the seafood.

This was my first go cooking lobster. I sort of improvised after the Joy of Cooking let me down (they only teach you how to cook it whole), thinking of it as very large shrimp or something. The final dish was really good. This is interactive food. You need to use your hands to really get the most out of it, so perhaps this isn’t for upscale dining.

assembling the seafood paella

assembling the seafood paella

seafood paella with Maine lobster

2lb fresh lobster, split in half and cleaned
1lb cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, bodies cut into rings
1lb mahi-mahi steak, cut into 1inch cubes
1lb large sea scallops
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 cup Thai Jasmine rice, rinsed
1 lb small clams (little neck)
~4 cups (homemade) vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup Spanish green olives, sliced
1 tsp Spanish sweet paprika
1 small container saffron threads (a large pinch)
½ cup dry white wine
Arbequina olive oil
Black pepper
1 cup sweet peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
Sea salt
Wedges of lemon (optional)

Make vegetable broth by boiling water for about 10 minutes with bits of vegetables from your fridge. I used stalks of collard greens and celery, couple of slices of onion, one carrot. Set aside.

Briefly scald red pepper and peas in vegetable broth, set aside.

Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to paella pan along with half of garlic. Sizzle for a minute or so. Add lobster, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until lobster shell turns red. Crack claws. Transfer lobster to a platter. Pour excess juice into a bowl.

Return pan to burner. Add a bit more of olive oil to it then the fish. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, cook for a minute or so on each side. The inside will be a bit raw but that’s okay. Transfer to a warm platter. Pour any excesses juices into bowl with lobster juice. Prepare the scallops the same.

Return pan to burner, add a bit of olive oil to pan then squid. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and cook just for a minute, remove from pan as the squid begins to curl. Transfer juices to lobster juice bowl.

Return paella pan to burner, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add saffron and paprika and stir to tint the oil. Add rice, seafood juice and broth to make up to approximately 3½ cups of liquid. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce temp to medium and let it cook until juices are about three fourths absorbed.

Meanwhile heat up one tablespoon olive oil in a small pan, add remaining garlic, salt, black pepper and sauté until aromatic. Add clams. Shake pan so clamshells get covered with olive oil. Add wine, cover and cook on high heat until most clams have opened. Immediately remove from heat. Let rest for few minutes, covered, so the remaining clams will open. If there are any that don’t, discard them. Pour remaining wine/clam juice over rice. Remove and discard the clamshell without any meat in it. Keep meat-filled clamshells warm.

Stir pepper and peas into wet rice. Arrange lobster halves, mahi-mahi cubes, scallops, clams in half shells, squid bodies and tentacles over it. Cover and let it finish cooking for another 5 minutes. Scatter olives over, drizzle with a bit more of olive oil and serve with wedges of lemon.

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I was desperate to create something lively and flavorful for dinner the other night without a huge amount of prep or excessive amounts of grocery shopping. Inexplicably, our fridge was filled with beautiful poblano and red bell peppers, so I thought, “Why not stuff these?”

poblano and red bell peppers stuffed with saffron rice

poblano and red bell peppers stuffed with saffron rice

Visually, stuffed peppers are always a delight. Don’t you agree? Marcella Hazan has a really tasty recipe for peppers stuffed with eggplant and anchovies. Yum! I even like them when the stuffing gets all over the place, like when I made chile rellenos. Messy can be very good.

The problem with a lot of these recipes is that they require you to remove the outer skin of the pepper. That is a lot of work! And it is the step in which I’ll inevitably accidentally destroy the peppers, thus stuffing them becomes difficult to impossible. Well, thank goodness for the 1997 Joy of Cooking. That book came to the rescue again. In their stuffed pepper dish, they call for steaming the peppers with no peeling at all. This is so much easier, and equally delicious!

I used poblanos as well as reds. The recipe in the book calls only for the reds. Also I used pepitas instead of pine nuts, added more herbs than they recommended as well as capers and green olives to give the dish a little kick.

These stuffed peppers had an extremely delicate flavor that was marvelous. We preferred the poblanos over the reds as they had a more complex taste. We ate ours with arugula salad and an extremely aromatic pinot noir from Eric Kent. What a memorable meal!

poblano and red bell peppers stuffed with saffron rice

2 fresh poblano peppers
2 fresh medium red bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and cut in thin slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pinch saffron threads
1½ cups basmati rice, well rinsed
2½ cups vegetable stock
2 cups shredded provolone cheese
¼ cup pepitas, lightly toasted in a dry pan
¼ cup each chopped basil, parsley and cilantro
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
¼ cup green olives and capers

Carefully cut peppers in half to create little boat-shapes while preserving stems as much as possible. Remove inner seeds and ribs. Steam for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool under running water. Set aside.

steaming poblano and red bell peppers:  I took off the lid for this picture

steaming poblano and red bell peppers: I took off the lid part-way through steaming for this picture

Sauté onion, garlic and saffron in olive oil on medium heat until onions start to brown (about five minutes). Add rice and stir to mix with oil. Add vegetable stock. Bring to boil then lower temperature to simmer, covered, until rice gets cooked and all the water gets absorbed (about 10 to 15 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Pour cooled rice in a large bowl. Add cheese, fresh herbs, pepitas, salt, black pepper and olives and capers. Gently stir.

Carefully fill peppers with rice mixture. Place them in an oven-proof baking dish, fitting them tightly together. After all peppers are stuffed, carefully pour ¼ cup water around them into the base of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for thirty minutes to warm through.

Serve with salad.

stuffed peppers crowded together ready for the oven

stuffed peppers crowded together ready for the oven

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