red bell pepper

vegetable paella

by Heguiberto on July 10, 2013

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty attacks again! His vegetable paella is divine. It is full of color and flavors. If pilaf and paella have the same linguistic root, then I think this vegetable paella must be either an early progenitor of both or perhaps the modern trans-national child of the pair, as it not only uses saffron threads, but also turmeric and chili powders common to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines: incredible! And then there’s the sherry… Wow.

vegetable paella

vegetable paella

Yotam recommends using Calasparra rice but to be honest I have never heard of it before, so couldn’t even begin to think of where to find it. At any given time my rice pantry will always have few different varieties, so I made do with what I had. My choice was Thai jasmine rice. I selected this kind because I’ve made successful paella before with it. He also recommends using freshly shelled fava beans which would have been great but I was not able to find them in the market. Instead I substituted them for a fresh frozen shelled bag of edamame.

This dish is vegetarian and vegan. So flavorful, your meat eating loved ones will enjoy it too.

vegetable paella

6 tbsp olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion sliced thinly
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 yellow pepper cut into strips
½ fennel bulb cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chili powder (cayenne)
¾ cup sherry
1 container of saffron threads (0.020oz)
2 cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 ½ cups vegetable stock – hot
thin half-moon-shaped lemon slices
4 tbsp julienned sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
8 halves of grilled artichokes, preserved in oil, drained
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 pint of mixed small heirloom tomatoes, halved
~ 2tbsp chopped parsley
Kosher salt

You need a paella pan or a similar large shallow pan for the dish. On high heat, add olive oil followed by the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add sweet peppers and fennel and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Peppers and fennel will soften a bit but still hold their crunch.

Mix in turmeric, bay leaves, paprika. Add rice and mix it again so rice gets some coloring. Stir in saffron and sherry, continue to cook long enough for the sherry juices to be absorbed/evaporated. Add vegetable stock, and kosher salt to taste, lower the temperature and cook for about 18 minutes. Liquid will be almost fully absorbed by the rice. To prevent the rice from breaking refrain from stirring while cooking. Turn off the heat.

Tuck in olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, then sprinkle with parsley. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle with some extra virgin oil and serve.

{ 6 comments }

Until just this week when the rain finally hit with a vengeance, I’ve been feeling that light joyful mood that I always have in spring-like weather, you know: energetic, hopeful and hungry for something new. That, of course, has inspired me to continue my adventures in the kitchen. So here we are. I made a sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade as a party dip but had leftovers. The flavor was quite intense, so I thought it would work perfectly as a filling for ravioli.

ravioli filled with sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade and mozzarella

ravioli filled with sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade and mozzarella

I know that people shy away from making their own pasta, and I used to be like that, too. Now I love it. Sure it is a bit of a job—mainly the kneading is a pain. But I prefer to think of it as a necessary work-out to get my desired marvelous result. Running the dough through the pasta machine is a snap now that I’ve gotten a replacement clamp to hold the device to my countertop. Plus that part is really quite soothing.

my hand-cranked pasta machine

my hand-cranked pasta machine

I made the dough using the same recipe and technique from my last ravioli post, which I’ll copy-and-paste here to make things easier. This time I took pics of the pasta with each run through the machine so you can see how long it gets. This does take some space in the kitchen as the sheets of dough grow ever longer. I moved a lot of stuff out of the way and covered most of my counters with clean dishtowels before I started with the machine.

The filling was just the tapenade, some mozzarella and a bit of parmesan cheese. After I boiled my ravioli for about 5 minutes; I lightly sautéed it in olive oil, garlic and fresh spinach. Mmmm!

ravioli filled with sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade and mozzarella

for the dough:

2 cups flour (I used all purpose)
3 eggs

for the filling:

2 red bell peppers, stems, seeds and ribs removed, cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 tbsp olive oil
12 kalamata olives, pits removed
Pinch dried oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 pound part-skim mozzarella
2 tbsp parmesan

for the sauté:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch whole spinach leaves, large stems discarded
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste

to prepare dough for ravioli:

Usually you’re supposed to pour the flour on a work-surface then mix in the egg. Counter space is at a premium in my tiny kitchen so I beat the eggs for a couple minutes in a small bowl, then mixed them with the flour in another. Then I dumped everything onto a floured surface and kneaded it for eight (8) minutes. (I set my kitchen timer.) The kneading is the key step and really it is sort of magical as about seven minutes on, suddenly the flour-egg dough starts to do something amazing! It turns into pasta! You can feel it in your hands literally changing. Sure, that is what you’re making so should not come as a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, whenever I make pasta, I am always stunned that it actually works!

my lump of dough after eight minutes kneading

my lump of dough after eight minutes kneading

Roll dough into a ball then cut it into six equal pieces. With your pasta machine on the widest setting, roll each piece through once. Then fold the edges of each piece together towards the middle and pass it through the machine again, still at the widest setting. Repeat with each piece so that they’ve all been rolled and folded about three times. When not working with a piece, lay it on a clean kitchen towel and be sure not to let it touch any of the other dough.

After that, reduce the width of your pasta maker by one notch and pass each piece through. They will slowly start to get longer. Repeat at next lower notch and so on until you get to the penultimate. By now, your dough should be quite thin and very long. Once you’ve finished set aside.

dough pieces after first setting on machine

dough pieces after first setting on machine

dough pieces after second setting of machine

dough pieces after second setting of machine

dough pieces after third setting on machine

dough pieces after third setting on machine

dough pieces after fourth setting of machine

dough pieces after fourth setting of machine

dough pieces after fifth setting of machine

dough pieces after fifth setting of machine

they're getting big now on the sixth setting

they're getting big now after the sixth setting

the seventh setting is getting blurry--I must have been more tired than I thought

the seventh setting is getting blurry--I must have been more tired than I thought

the dough after the eighth setting--we're ready to go

the dough after the eighth setting--we're ready to go

to prepare filling:

First make tapenade by sautéing red bell peppers and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add to food processor with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, oregano, salt and black pepper. If too thick, add a bit more olive oil. I used about one and a half cups.

Shred mozzarella. Mix cheeses with tapenade.

to assemble ravioli:

placing the filling on the pasta

placing the filling on the pasta

finished glider-shaped raviolis

finished glider-shaped raviolis

Place about a teaspoon full of filling along prepared dough strips, roughly three inches apart from one another. To seal, dab your finger in some water, rub water along edges of dough and between mounds of filling. Carefully fold dough over filling, press down to remove air pockets. Cut between mounds of filling to create individual ravioli. I folded mine into triangular shapes, thinking of our recent adventure with hang-gliders. Set aside but be sure not to let them touch one another. Makes about three dozen.

to make final dish:

Boil ravioli in salted water about 5 minutes. Meanwhile sauté garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Add spinach, salt and black pepper. Drain ravioli and toss into wilted spinach. Fold together and serve.

{ 5 comments }

Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

This is another Portuguese salt cod recipe which I adore. Legend says that it was created by a businessman from the northern city of Porto, hence the name Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. It is a complete success all over Brazil and a comfort food for me. It reminds me of the holidays from my childhood. My brothers and sisters would all come home and my mom would make special delectable meals for the 13 of us! Lots of activity in the kitchen preparing meals for a big family! This was one of the best.

Portuguese businessman’s salt cod aka bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

2lb dry salt cod
4 large Yukon gold potatoes
4 red bell peppers, cut in quarters, stems and seeds removed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 cup olive oil
4 tbsp canola oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 eggs boiled – how to boil eggs?
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped fine
3 medium sized white onions, 2 of them cut thinly in half moon shape
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Soak cod in cold water for about 24 hours changing water about 4 times. Place cod in a large saucepan, fill with fresh water; add bay leaf, peppercorns and one whole onion. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer cod with part of the cooking water to a bowl and let it cool down to room temperature. Retain remaining cooking water in pan. Drain, shred cod into bite size pieces. Remove and discard skin and any bones.

cooked, desalinated cod

cooked, desalinated cod

prepared salt cod

prepared salt cod

Return saucepan to the burner. Add whole potatoes, top with more water if needed. Bring to a boil and cook until soft by not crumbly. Mine took about 25 minutes. Scoop potatoes out of the pan, and let them cool in a colander. Once cool enough to handle, peel and cut into thick slices then set aside, keep warm.

Follow the link above to boil the eggs.

Meanwhile add canola oil to a pan that is wide enough to lay quartered peppers skin down in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, cover, bring temperature to high. Then lower it and cook/poach peppers until soft and skins are wrinkled, about 15-20 minutes. Do not burn them. Remove from heat, let cool, peel and discard skins. Set aside. Reserve the oil for other cooking purposes.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel, add ¾ cup olive oil, sliced onion, some salt and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. Onions should be soft but not browned. Towards the last minute add crushed garlic followed by the prepared cod. Put in parsley, bell and black peppers. Carefully fold in potatoes and heat through.

Transfer to a warm serving bowl, garnish with slices of egg and Kalamata olives. Drizzle remaining olive oil over everything.

{ 9 comments }

sweet and sour tofu

by Stevie on February 17, 2012

This recipe comes from an enjoyable blog that we’ve recently begun following, almost veg. Sweet and sour sauce is a classic that’s often popular with kids, as it is so yummy and not particularly spicy. I found it especially appealing because there’s no pineapple. Almost-veg writes “I like pineapples but not in savory foods.” Well, I like them too, but they don’t care for me. I’ve a terrible allergy and get hives all over my body in a matter of hours after eating even a tiny mouth-watering morsel of this glorious tropical fruit. Not a pretty picture. Or appetizing, so to move on…

sweet and sour tofu

sweet and sour tofu

I changed around the recipe a little by adding more veggies and using hoisin sauce instead of plum. I had the first and not the second, but no time to shop. I used poblano with the sweet bell peppers since we really enjoy its smoky flavor.

One final note before I give the instructions: I was amazed by the tofu! I had always wondered how Chinese restaurants get that thin crispy coating over soft tofu. And now I know. I will definitely make that again.

sweet and sour tofu

1 package tofu (I used regular)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 poblano pepper; stem, seeds and ribs removed; cut into bite-sized chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt to taste
6 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup cashews (optional)

for the sauce:

2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp oyster sauce (veggie)
½ tsp sugar
4 tbsp water
½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes. Toss with cornstarch then mix with rice wine. Add 4 tbsp canola oil to a large non-stick skillet and fry tofu for a few minutes on each side to brown. Set aside.

Mix sweet and sour sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Add remaining canola oil to skillet with onion and garlic. Add a bit of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the onions become translucent. Add remaining veggies and continue to sauté. After they’ve softened a bit, add tofu, cashews if using, and sauce. Fold together gently and allow to warm through for a few minutes. Adjust salt if needed.

Serve with rice.

{ 3 comments }

Moqueca is a delicious fish stew traditional to the beautiful and sunny state of Bahia in Brazil. Seafood there is of excellent quality. In Bahia this dish is named moqueca but outside we call it moqueca baiana. I think I’ve actually been biased toward moqueca capixaba, a lighter version popular in the neighboring state of Espírito Santo, just to the south. Perhaps the reason is simply because I have a couple of dear friends who live in ES. In Bahia, one only eats moqueca Baiana; and in Espírito Santo, moqueca capixaba. Truly, both are delicious.

moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

Traditional moqueca baiana is made without paprika or shrimp paste. I decided to use these two alien ingredients for enhanced flavors and more color vibrancy. But this doesn’t make this a lesser a moqueca in any way. At times, Bahian foods remind me of South East Asian dishes or even things made in Louisiana. See here and here.

I purchased the dendê oil (palm oil) from the outrageously expensive Rainbow Foods Supermarket in San Francisco. It was Colombian, not Brazilian, but has an identical flavor. Actually, I had to go to several shops before I could locate it, so thank heavens for Rainbow. It was their last jar of the stuff.

I’ve had moqueca baiana many times but never actually made it at home, so this was a very exiting experience for me. I hope that you enjoy it as well.

some key ingredients for moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

some key ingredients for moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

my organic palm oil

my organic palm oil

moqueca baiana AKA Bahian fish stew

2½ lbs skinless thick pieces of wild caught ling cod, cut in ~6 inch steaks
½ lb medium sized wild caught shrimp; shelled, deveined and chopped
1 lb ripe heirloom tomatoes, skin removed, cut into chunks
½ bunch cilantro
4 scallions, green and white parts chopped
¼ cup coconut milk
2 tbsp dendê oil (palm oil)
¾ tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp shrimp paste (belakan)
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin rings
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin rings
1 white onion, diced small
2 limes
5 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 red chili pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced thinly

Rinse fish in cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Place in a dish. Squeeze juice of 1 lime over it. Add equivalent of 3 cloves of garlic, followed by salt and a sprinkle of black pepper. Let it marinate for about ½ hour, in the fridge if too hot. In blustery San Francisco, I just let it chill on my kitchen counter.

Rinse shrimp in cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Place in a small bowl. Squeeze juice of second lime, add salt, black pepper, equivalent of one garlic clove, cover and let it marinate next to the cod fish.

Using a large and wide cooking pan, add dendê oil and onion. Bring temperature to high and cook for a few minutes just to sweat the onion, add remaining garlic, peppers, belakan, paprika, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir everything together. Cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on high heat. Stir to avoid burning. Add tomatoes and cook until they collapse. Remove 1/3 of partially stewed vegetables to a bowl. Add fish steaks with juices to pan. Top with reserved stewed veggies. Cover and continue cooking vigorously on high heat for another 10 minutes. Carefully flip the fish half way through.

Uncover and scatter spring onion and ½ of the cilantro over fish followed by the shrimp with juices. Cook for another minute. Carefully mix in coconut milk and remaining cilantro. Adjust flavors with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve with white jasmine rice and extra wedges of lime.

{ 8 comments }

black pepper fettuccine in chardonnay cashew nut sauce with asparagus, red bell pepper annd spinach

black pepper fettuccine in chardonnay cashew nut sauce with asparagus, red bell pepper and spinach

I spotted this recipe in the latest edition of Vegetarian Times magazine. The recipe is part of a funny article inviting loving couples to come spend their time and money at the Stanford Inn by the Sea for Valentine’s Day. The Inn’s renowned vegetarian restaurant, Raven’s, is run by Chefs Sally Owens and Merlyn Alvarado. I’ve checked both the hotel and restaurant (on-line) and they look sublime! These two local “celebrity” chefs have paired together to create vegetarian recipes with aphrodisiac properties just for the holiday. Everything uses locally and organically grown vegetables from Mendocino.

Among the several recipes, I was particularly excited by the creamy fettuccine with raw cashew nut sauce. It is completely vegan: no dairy at all! However, the name of the recipe in Vegetarian Times (“Black pepper fettuccine with chardonnay sauce and grilled asparagus”) omits the cashews, which is a major component here. I wonder why? We all know that black pepper for the most part comes from India and it’s been part of our culinary experience for so long that we don’t even think of it as a foreign ingredient. So why mention it and leave out the somewhat more exotic cashew? In Indian cooking cashew nuts have been used to thicken soups forever, or at least since the cashew plant made its journey from South America to India a few hundred years ago… And why praise the grilled asparagus over the more commonplace red bell pepper and humble baby spinach? Hmmm. Certainly it isn’t because the name becomes crazy long, as they’ve plenty of room for that in VT. So to prevent hard feelings among the lovely ingredients, I have renamed this dish accordingly. ;) lol

VT has adapted the recipe from the original and I have done the same, readapting it to my tastes. The proportion of each ingredient didn’t seem right to me so I modified them a bit. I have made dishes from VT in the past and have found that sometimes things are a bit off. I wonder if they have a test-kitchen? VT here’s a suggestion from me: test before you publish, like we do.

fettuccine in black pepper chardonnay cashew nut sauce with asparagus, red bell pepper and spinach

2 cups raw cashew nuts
2 cups chardonnay
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Juice of a large lemon (~ 3 tbsp)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb fettuccine cooked per package instructions
2 cups baby spinach
1 bunch asparagus bottom tips peeled
½ red bell pepper cut into fine strips
Kosher salt

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Add enough water to cashews to barely cover them in a small bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes. Remove and let rest a bit. Transfer cashew nuts and water to food processor and whiz until nuts have turned into a smooth paste. Do not skip the microwaving part otherwise the paste will not become smooth and glossy.

Place the wine in a saucepan and bring to near boil, turn temperature to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cashew nut paste, lemon juice, black pepper, kosher salt and whisk to combine, taste and adjust flavors. It should be creamy, tangy and a bit peppery. Add more warm water if too thick.

Place asparagus and red bell pepper on two different baking trays, sprinkle with a tiny amount of salt and black pepper and tiny drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and keep warm.

Meanwhile cook pasta following cooking instructions from package, put spinach leaves in toward the last 30 seconds. Drain.

Transfer pasta with spinach to a bowl. Toss with half of the sauce, scatter asparagus spears and red pepper slices over and serve.

{ 7 comments }

This dish was my first attempt at Ottolenghi’s “Tamara’s Ratatouille” from his marvelous book, Plenty. He promises that by following all the steps, the veggies will retain their shape and when done the dish will not become excessively mushy or wet, like the typical ratatouille everyone’s used to. I like wet, but Steven struggles with the squishiness of the common one, so I was particularly drawn to the recipe and accompanying picture in the book, which clearly demonstrated all that he claimed.

Fall-inspired kabocha and parsnip ratatouille

Fall-inspired kabocha and parsnip ratatouille

Well, men are fickle creatures indeed! Or perhaps my veggies were too water-logged? Whatever the reason, my ratatouille, or perhaps I should say caponata, was beyond moist. It was positively swimming.

Aside from photographing less well than I had hoped and despite the appearance of false advertizing, the dish itself was fantastic. I like that it calls for the use of some Fall vegetables. I had a beautiful kabocha pumpkin ready to be eaten, which was perfect.

Next time, in search of the crispy ratatouille holy-grail, I’m going to use less water and actually cut the veggies into the actual size Ottolenghi recommends (1¼ inch, I think mine were ¾ inch) and bake them slightly differently. The recipe calls for tomatoes but I forgot them.

Fall-inspired kabocha and parsnip ratatouille

½ medium kabocha squash, cubed in ¾ inch size
2 white onions, cut ¾ inch size
8 garlic cloves
1 Anaheim chile pepper, seed and ribs removed minced
2 red bell peppers, cubed ¾ inch size
1 medium sized parsnip, peeled and cubed ¾ inch size
1½ cup green beans
1 medium Italian zucchini, cut into ¾ inch dice
1 medium yellow zucchini, cut into ¾ inch dice
1 medium yellow potato, peeled, cut into ¾ inch cubes
¾ large Italian eggplant, peeled and cubed ¾ inch size
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1½ cup warm water
8 tbsp canola oil

Place 3 tbsp of oil in a large sauce pan. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes until they become translucent, add garlic, Anaheim and bell peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Next add parsnip and squash and keep on sautéing for additional 5 minutes.

Transfer vegetables to a bowl. Return pan to stovetop. Add remaining oil followed by green beans, eggplant and zucchini. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring intermittently.

Return first batch of veggies back to pan. Add potato, sugar, salt and pepper. Next, dissolve tomato paste in water and pour it over vegetables. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Place pan in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. (Here’s where my ratatouille got mushy.) I let mine stay piled up all together, but Ottolenghi recommends removing them from the pan to a baking dish in a single layer then covering them with the pan juices. That would probably have worked. Alas. The outcome was delicious, wet, or I’d imagine, dry.

{ 2 comments }

chilled summer couscous

by Stevie on December 9, 2011

I didn’t make this recipe in the summertime, which was a mistake. It comes from David Rocco’s Made in Italy cookbook. I was completely attracted to the dish because of its delightful combination of many colorful veggies and the fact that it isn’t cooked. You just mix everything together and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours. So this is “raw cooking” so far as I can tell. That’s unusual for weirdcombinations.

chilled summer couscous

chilled summer couscous

That said, the amount of couscous was a bit daunting for two people. I’d cut it in half or even in quarters next time. Plus, since it was chilled, it wasn’t quite right for our cooler weather. But this would be perfect to throw together the night before a summertime wine country excursion, so I’m going to file it away for then.

chilled summer couscous

2 cups couscous
½ cup olive oil
24oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
Juice of one lemon
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
About a dozen cherry tomatoes, in halves
12 kalamata olives in halves
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix everything together except half of the basil. Wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Stir at least once. When it is time to serve, add remaining basil. You can have this family style or mold and plate it for a more elegant presentation.

{ 9 comments }

vegetarian bi-bim-bap

December 2, 2011

I’ve wanted to make bi-bim-bap at home forever but have always been put off by the amount of work involved. All that chopping, individually cooking everything then assembling the dish seemed monstrously time-consuming and a bit annoying. The bi-bim-baps I’ve had at Korean restaurants are all served in one of those really hot stone pots […]

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seafood paella with Maine lobster

June 28, 2011

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 […]

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