yellow 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 }

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 }

I always think of stuffed veggies as an elegant treat. When I was younger, they mystified me. How in the world did anyone figure out how to fill these delectable creations just right? Now that I’m officially “middle aged” and thus more experienced in the kitchen, the question no longer interests me. Instead, I’m quite comfortable improvising.

yellow bell peppers stuffed with mung bean, feta and fresh herbs

yellow bell peppers stuffed with mung bean, feta and fresh herbs

And that is what these mung bean filled peppers are all about. I had the ingredients at home already and sort of made the recipe up as I went along. I liked it so well, that I kept snacking on the filling while I was preparing the dish. Mmmm.

Typically, poblanos are my favorite pepper to stuff, as I prefer their earthy, smoky flavors over the plain sweet bell peppers. Mine were too tiny for that. So instead I chopped one up and sautéed it to bring those tastes to the dish.

bake any remaining filling in ramekins for an attractive presentation

bake any remaining filling in ramekins for an attractive presentation

my big jug of dried green mung beans

my big jug of dried green mung beans

yellow bell peppers stuffed with mung bean, feta and fresh herbs

4 to 6 medium to large yellow bell peppers
3 tbsp olive oil plus more
1 poblano pepper; stems, ribs and seeds removed; chopped fine
2 pieces green garlic, green and white parts, chopped fine
4 scallions, green and white parts, chopped fine
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped fine
1 small bunch mint, chopped fine
3 cups prepared mung beans
½ lb. French feta or similar that will melt easily
2 tbsp pignioli nuts
12 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne

I usually start with dry mung beans. This time, I had some that I’d already prepared, frozen and awaiting this delicious recipe. These lovely beans don’t require soaking. Just boil in water for about 30 to 45 minutes. That’s it. They should be completely drained before using here.

To prepare yellow bell peppers for stuffing, remove tops and interior seeds and ribs with a paring knife.
Steam for ten minutes then rinse to cool.

Pre heat oven to 350F.

In a large skillet, add olive oil then sauté green garlic, scallion, chopped poblano pepper and a pinch of salt for a few minutes until they soften. Add mung bean, cover and warm through. Add feta, mint, parsley, pignoli, olives and mix everything together. Adjust salt and add black pepper. Remember for the filling to taste right with the unsalted peppers, it should be slightly salty on its own.

Gently fill yellow bell peppers with mung bean mix and place on a baking dish. If you have extra filling (like I did) you can bake that in ramekins for an elegant presentation, or in any baking dish. Finish with some more olive oil and dust the filled peppers with cayenne.

Bake about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. We had ours with plain basmati rice.

{ 4 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 }

I was lacking cooking inspiration the other day so ended up browsing the web for ideas. I bumped into this really cool blog, weirdcombinations, and got my groove back. What caught my attention was a recipe for rice-stuffed peppers and another one for a salt codfish dish. It turned out I had all the ingredients available at home, plus, even better than them, a whole lot of freshly cooked chickpeas! 😉

black hummus and saffron rice-stuffed poblano and sweet bell peppers with salt cod topping

black hummus and saffron rice-stuffed poblano and sweet bell peppers with salt cod topping

So, back to reality. This dish is more about re-arranging things in new ways, thus making you feel you are having something surprisingly novel, yet comfortably familiar. I made this for Steven and Juanita recently. We all loved it.

black hummus and saffron rice-stuffed poblano and sweet bell peppers with salt cod topping

for the black hummus:

2 cup cooked chickpeas plus some of the juices
4 cloves garlic
kosher salt if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

To prepare the black hummus, add all the above ingredients into the food processor and process to make a smooth paste.

Make full recipe for poblano and red bell peppers stuffed with saffron rice, found here. Stuff peppers with some black hummus followed by the rice. Then bake as directed in the master recipe.

Make half-recipe for the salt cod portion of salt cod with chickpea puree on Texas toast, found here. Hold the chickpeas and the toast.

To serve, place peppers on a dish then top with salt cod. Voilá!

{ 2 comments }

Recently we got a very large piece of Norwegian salt cod at our favorite salt cod market in San Jose. It was about half of a fish, so it was extremely awkward and oddly shaped. Fortunately, L and F Fish have a jigsaw, so they cut it up for us into individual sized portions. It was freaky cool to watch.

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

The codfish was excellent, perfectly cured and, after the extra work, in an ideal size. Two of the meatier pieces turned into this beautiful recipe. I froze the rest for another feast in the near future.

Using salt cod requires removing most of the salt before cooking. I used a different process for preparing the meatier parts of this cod fish compared to how I make bacalhoada. Instead of boiling the fish after prolonged soaking, I just scalded it to remove the skin and bones. This way, the fish retains more of its soft original texture and has a concentrated codfish flavor that is not overly fishy.

I was sort of inspired by Sean Timberlake’s description of a salted fish and johnnycakes dish he enjoyed on vacation recently in St. Marteen.

plate your own salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

plate-your-own salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

2 thick Norwegian salt cod fish steaks, soaked for 24hours, water changed at least three times
½ red bell pepper, cut in large squares
½ yellow bell pepper, cut in large squares
½ green bell pepper, cut in large squares
1 white onion, cubed
1 tbsp capers
¼ tsp sweet paprika
½ cup green Spanish or Greek olives pitted
½ cup kalamata olives pitted
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp fish stock (see below)
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups crushed tomato
15 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
6 thick slices of white bread (I didn’t have true “Texas toast” so improvised with a sweet loaf from one of my favorite bakeries here, Acme Bread Company, which I cut into thick slices)

To prepare fish:

Bring two cups of water to a boil. Drain soaking codfish. Lay pieces in a large bowl with skin side up. Pour hot water over the skin and it will curl. Let cool a bit then carefully remove skin and bones. Place cleaned fish in another bowl lined with paper towels.

Make a fish stock by cooking bones and skin for about 10 minutes in boiling water. Chop the fish skin fine and return to stock. Remove any bits of fish flesh from bones. Discard bones but keep those tasty bits for the stock. This made more fish stock than we needed. Steven made a delicious Thai jasmine rice using some of the fish stock another day. Freeze remaining stock for another day.

Place a ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet. Bring the heat to high and give the pan a swirl to coat the bottom. Add about the equivalent of 5 cloves of minced garlic to the skillet and cook for about a minute or until aromatic. Gently slip codfish chunks in and cook for about 3-4 minutes, delicately turning them half way. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Return pan to burner. Add remaining olive oil followed by the chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Add about half the remaining garlic, the bell peppers, 2 tbsp fish stock, crushed tomatoes, paprika, green olives, bay leaves, and black pepper. Cook on high until the vegetables from a thick sauce. Delicately fold fish into sauce. Remove from heat but keep warm.

To prepare chickpea purée:

Add remaining garlic and a splash of olive oil into a pan. Let garlic cook for a minute then add chickpeas, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté for a couple of minutes to warm it through. Transfer chickpeas to food processor along with Kalamata olives and pulse until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water if too thick. Return to pan and keep warm.

To assemble dish:

Place bread slices on a metal tray. Drizzle with olive oil then toast them on one side only. Rub fresh garlic on toasted side.

You can plate these before serving or serve each of the three elements: the cod, the chickpea purée and the toast, separately on a large platter. Either way, simply place a piece of toast on a large dish, toasted side up. Smear with some chickpea purée then spoon some codfish with sauce on top. Garnish with parsley. This is great with a crisp Rhône or Rhône style white wine like Domaine de la Becassonne or Domaine Pierre Gonon.

{ 3 comments }

I made this soup after accidentally over cooking my beans in the pressure cooker. Those things are fast! I only let it whistle for fifteen minutes but that was too long. By the time that I opened it, the beans had become a little too soft for rice and beans, my original plan. Next time, ten minutes.

The soup was easy to make. It has a delicate flavor. Hegui thought it tasted Italian. That’s cool.

vegetarian sweet bell pepper pinto bean soup

vegetarian sweet bell pepper pinto bean soup

1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
2 jalapeño, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 onions, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
14 oz. canned tomatoes

Rinse and pick over dried pinto beans. Soak overnight in a large bowl of water. Rinse. Pour beans into pressure cooker. Add water to cover beans about an inch deep. Seal cooker and place on high heat. Cook ten to fifteen minutes after cooker starts to whistle. Remove from heat and return to bowl.

In a large pot, toss in all vegetables except canned tomatoes, spices, salt and olive oil. Bring to medium high heat and sweat vegetables for about five minutes. Add beans with liquid. Add tomatoes. Simmer about twenty minutes.

Serve.

{ 2 comments }

finished bacalhoada

finished bacalhoada

Growing up in the hinterlands of Brazil did not help me much with my knowledge of seafood. There used to be a salesman that showed up in the village perhaps two or three times a month driving his dilapidated truck on those dusty roads announcing very loudly over speakerphone that sardines had swum all the way somewhere in the Atlantic to our neighborhood five or six hours inland by car. At the sound of his voice, most villagers would run down the streets to greet the man enthusiastically. Surprisingly his fish was impeccable in quality. I also loved the smell his car exhaled. To me, back then a landlubber who’d never seen the seashore, I experienced a touch of the ocean in that truck: a mix of brine, unusual seaweed, rotting matter, and life. Amazing! I first saw the ocean when I was twelve years old. And though I don’t swim or like boats, I’ve been a sea-lover since.

My mother would buy lots of sardines and over the course of two days cook them in many different ways. It was a real pain to clean those sardines (talk about child labor!) but it was always well worth it. Plus my cat and the chickens in the backyard had really a good time feasting on the fish guts. Don’t be grossed out: this is what sustainable agriculture is all about. Nothing goes to waste. I really loved the ritual. I can’t wait to share some of my mother’s sardine recipes sometime soon!

boiling salt cod

boiling salt cod

Today I’m writing about another seafood item that almost swam to my tiny village of Olegário Maciel once or twice a year: dried salt cod fish, also known as bacalhau or baccalá. In Brazil, as in most Catholic countries, people abstain from eating meat during Lent; or at least that’s how things used to be. Instead good Catholics will feast on fish of all kinds. Fresh water fish was plentiful and delicious at home. But Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese, which means that part of our culture is inherited from them. That in turn leads to salt cod; a Portuguese staple, particularly for those long sea voyages across the Atlantic when Brazil was first being developed.

There is some cache in eating European, I think. It sort of makes you feel part of the Old World? Here in America merchants are always trying to make you believe that European goods are better: French wine and cheese, almost all Italian products, etc. I believe the propaganda! Therefore, if you’re Brazilian, having a bacalhoada once or twice a year is a must!

fresh bell peppers and onions

fresh bell peppers and onions

Where I’m from, everyone tried to save some of their meager income in order to make their favorite salt cod dishs. These recipes invariably use another European export: olives and olive oil. When do I ever have enough of olives and olive oil?

But cod fish has an interesting and sad history. A few years ago I read this fascinating book written by Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. He basically credits the discovery of the New World to salt cod because it allowed the sailors to survive the long journey. Of course whenever there’s money to be made, bad things happen. Kurlansky details the shocking greed, ignorance and overwhelming demand that ultimately, over the past 700 hundred years, led cod fish stocks to be decimated due to over fishing.

Many previously colonized countries in the Americas have their own recipes for salt cod inherited from the food cultures of the early settlers. Here is one of the many Brazilian/Portuguese ones that I grew up eating:

olives and tomatoes

olives and tomatoes


Bacalhoada: Salt Cod with Chick Peas and Assorted Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 ½ to 2 lb dry salted cod fish, de-salted (see below)
1 ½ cup dried chick peas that have been soaked in the last water change of the cod
1 cup of pitted mixed olives (I used Spanish, Kalamatas, French, Portuguese and Peruvian)
4 large red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
2 bay leaves
1 shallot
2 medium onions, cut into thin slices
6-8 ripe Roma tomatoes
½ cup good olive oil (Spanish arbequina is best for this dish)
Fresh black pepper and salt to taste
3 carrots cut into chunks, blanched for few minutes
Approximately 16 cloves of fresh garlic. Leave half of them as whole cloves, the rest roughly chopped
½ cup reserved juice from cooked cod fish

How to:

To remove salt from salted cod, immerse in a large pot of water for about 24 hours, changing the water about four times during that period.

Boil cod fish for about 10-15 minutes in fresh water along with shallot and 1 bay leaf. Remove and transfer to a bowl. Let cool. Reserve ½ cup of cooked juices. Add chick peas to remaining water and cook till soft/al dente for about 25-30 min.

When fish is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones, trying not to break the fish pieces too much. The fish will break apart further during cooking, so it is best to keep them as large as possible now.

prepared cod ready for cooking

prepared cod ready for cooking

Heat a large pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add onions and peppers, freshly ground black pepper and a bit of kosher salt. Sauté on high temperature till onion becomes translucent and peppers turn soft, approximately 15min. During the last five minutes of cooking add garlic, tomato halves, carrot and lastly the cod fish. Gently stir. Transfer cod mixture to a baking pan. Place olives and whole garlic cloves around and under fish. Pour reserved cooked juices and remaining olive oil over everything. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 500F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.

For the last 8-10 minutes, remove foil and let cod brown a bit on top. Don’t let it burn. Remove from oven. Drizzle a bit of finishing olive oil on tow and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. I served the cod dish with plain white rice and shaved sautéed Brussels Sprouts.

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