Category: Vegan

Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

March 24, 2013

Thank you for all your entries into my ActiFry giveaway!  I’m so glad to hear that so many of you share my intense love of French fries.  The winner, chosen at random, is Michelle who says, “French fries and Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice cream. Have to have both sweet and salty or the craving for the other would drive me crazy! Acti-Fry come live at my house!“  Congratulations Michelle!

On another note, I apologize that there is only one photo here.  For some reason I am not able to upload photos in the way I have been doing it.

I go through phases in my cooking.  Maybe you all do too.  Sometimes, I am very book focused.  I pay special attention to books I have been neglecting or those that are new to my collection.  I challenge myself with fancy dishes, dinners that take an hour or more to pull together.  Other times, I am wanting to cook from the most current issues of the magazines I receive.  Up the minute perfectly seasonal dinners with on-trend ingredients.  Sometimes I want to shop the farmers’ markets and let the produce I find there inspire me to search out new recipes from books or blogs that I trust and love.  And other times, I just want to be surrounded by things I like and figure it all out as I go.

This last option is how I’ve been cooking lately.  I know that much of the country is still in winter but Northern California is staring down the barrel of spring without really having had winter.  A walk through an East Bay farmers’ market these days will reveal citrus, avocados, strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli, tons and tons of greens, winter squashes, radishes… the list goes on and on.  It is inspiring to say the least.  I just walked through picking up things that I like, handing over a few dollars here and there, and making up dishes as I went along.  It was not precise or especially thought out.

So, with a big kabocha squash, a large head of cauliflower, some spring onions, and a bunch of other things I already had in my refrigerator or my pantry, I made three dinners.  Three meals that were nothing ground breaking, but all three were healthy, tasty, and satisfying.  I didn’t make multiple stops at the grocery store because I had already bought things I liked and just trusted that I would have enough to make good meals.  It is important for me, when I am cooking this way, to have plenty of salad greens and other goodies for the salad bowl so that even if dinner turns out a little thin, we can enjoy a big salad.

First up, I had an eggplant left over from making Eggplant Parmesan.  Eggplants keep surprisingly well and this one still felt firm and had no bruising.  It had been a while since I last made polenta and I keep seeing notes on how best to cook it.  The current thought is that you don’t have to stir it constantly and that the longer it sits, with an occasional stir, the creamier it gets.  Once it has spent about a half hour over direct heat, you can move it to a double boiler and let it stay for an hour or more.  I’ve always given my attention to polenta at the beginning of the cooking process and then more or less left it alone, but had never tried the double boiler method.  I actually found that mine got a little dried out so I will need to tweak the amount of liquid next time I try it.

I love polenta just about any way but I do think it truly shines when paired with a tomato sauce of sorts.  For this one, I made a  basic puttanesca, minus the anchovy, and added small cubes of eggplant to it.  This is the kind of sauce that can be made in big batches and squirreled away in your refrigerator or freezer for the next time you want to just surround yourself with things you like and figure it out.  I kept this dinner pretty simple but it would be divine with the addition of cheese over top (Parmesan, ricotta salata, or feta would be my picks), or even a fried egg.  This recipe will probably make more sauce than you will use for the polenta, unless you like it very saucy, so try the leftover sauce over pasta or with eggs.

Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

The full teaspoon of red pepper flakes makes this sauce nice and spicy.  If you would like yours a little more mellow, just add less.

1 cup polenta
3-3½ cups water or vegetable broth
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, cut in small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 generous tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
Handful fresh basil leaves, sliced

Make the polenta:
Place the water or broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly.  It will look like there is too much liquid at first but it will start to thicken quickly.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and keep whisking until the mixture is quite thick, about 5 minutes.  Turn the heat down to low and just give the polenta an occasional whisk, every few minutes or so.  If you would like to try the double boiler method, after half an hour, transfer the polenta to a heatproof bowl.  Fill the saucepan (no need to wash it) back up with water, then heat the water to a simmer.  Place the bowl with the polenta over the simmer water and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel.  It can sit like this for an hour or more with an occasional stir.  If you are going to try this method, I would definitely use the 3½ cups of liquid and maybe even 4.

Make the sauce:
Place a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the pan, then add the onion and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the eggplant, the dried basil, and the red pepper flakes.  Give it a good stir, then allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and starting to brown in spots, about 10 minutes.  Pour in the tomatoes, add another pinch of salt, and bring the sauce up to a simmer.  Cook off some of the liquid so that the sauce is nice and thick, about another 10-15 minutes of cooking time.  Stir in the Kalamata olives and the capers and cook another 5 minutes just to bring the flavors together.  Stir in the basil right before serving and season to taste with salt and pepper.



Rethinking January

January 17, 2013

As an almost lifelong resident of Seattle, January was always my least favorite month.  I always felt a huge let down after the holidays and facing 31 days of rain and cold always put me in a bad mood.  The fact that the sun set around 4pm didn’t help and it certainly didn’t help that we couldn’t actually see the sun when it did set.  I always have had the perspective that it was so much worse in other parts of the country, places where you could actually freeze if you went outside, or you couldn’t go outside at all.  But usually those frosty places had this thing called spring that you could look forward to.  Thawing, sunshine, warmer temperatures.  Seattle often didn’t have that thing called spring.  Winter would just go on and on and it would get light later but it would still be cold and rainy.  Finally in July, or maybe August, summer would start.  So you can see why January could be particularly cruel.  With no guarantee of spring, 31 days can feel a lot longer.

Things have changed.  We live in Oakland now.  I don’t think it has rained once in January.  I wake up everyday to sunshine.  I’m not quite sure what to do with that.  I find myself worrying that something is wrong, why is the sun shining again??  It has been cool, crisp, and beautiful.  We are going to creep up into the mid-60′s this weekend and that, my friends, is practically like summer to this Seattle girl.  I haven’t been wearing my multiple pairs of boots and I’ve only worn my down jacket, the one I lived in from October to May last year, a handful of times.  It’s weird.  And wonderful.

Why all this talk about the weather?  Well, food is so connected to how you feel.  I’ve always listened to what I crave, beyond french fries and brownies, and tried to cook according to what sounds good.  Salads and light pastas are what I want in summer, green! green! green! in spring, roasted root vegetables and hearty soups sound best in winter.  What do you do when you no longer feel the need to roast everything?  When you don’t turn on your oven to bake but also to warm up your kitchen?  When soup sounds good but isn’t a full-on I-need-something-warm-in-my-belly-this-instant?

Well, you still make soup.  As a card-carrying member of the Soup Lovers Society, soup always sounds good to me.  I even like it in summer, either a cold one or a hot one served barely warm.  This lovely addition to my repertoire is the type that can be served year round.  It is hearty enough to serve as a main course with a delicious salad, and pretty enough to serve in small bowls as the start to an elegant dinner.  I love the smooth texture of perfectly blended soup but if it is going to be dinner, I need to chew.  Here we have a silky smooth spiced cauliflower base with bits of millet and bright green peas to keep it texturally interesting.  It has a wonderful creamy mouth feel without any cream.

Finally, I have become completely obsessed with these super spicy chiles that my friend Allison introduced me to.  Sicilian Pepperoncinis.  Eating dinner at her house, we sprinkled them over a delicious homemade lasagne and as we did so, she warned us, “Those are super spicy!”  Randy and I nodded our heads because we like super spicy and then WHOA! those are super spicy!  I had to have some!  So Allison, Denise, and I make a pilgrimage to Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building in the big city and ate really expensive soup (not as good as the one this post is about) and bought chiles.  Which I am grinding in a mortar and pestle and sprinkling on everything.  I think this soup tastes amazing with some spice but you can easily leave it off.

One Year Ago:  Pizza with Leeks, Smoked Mozzarella, and Eggs, Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies
Two Years Ago:  Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, Baked Tofu with Peppers and Olives
Three Years Ago:  Oatmeal Carmelitas, Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Four Years Ago:  Milk Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4

I have puréed this soup in a blender and also with an immersion blender.  The blender will give you that silky smooth texture but the millet breaks that up, so save on mess and use an immersion blender if you have one.  You might find that you don’t want to add all the millet to the soup pot. 

½ cup millet
1 cup water
Kosher or sea salt
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
One 2-pound head of cauliflower, cut into florets
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
Crushed red pepper flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the millet with the water and a pinch of salt.   Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over moderately low heat until the millet is tender, about 20 minutes.  Set aside.

Place a large saucepan, or a Dutch oven, over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onions with a large pinch of salt.  Cook over moderate heat until softened and browning in places,  stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, tumeric, cayenne, and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to moderately low, and simmer the soup until the cauliflower is very tender, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully purée the soup in a food processor or a blender.  (Or use an immersion blender directly in the pot.)  Return the soup to the pot and add the cooked millet and the peas.  Rewarm gently over moderate heat.  Season with salt, if needed.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes (if using) and serve.

(This soup, like most, is great the next day.  It gets pretty thick with the millet absorbing the liquid but I didn’t not mind that at all.  If you want a soupier consistency, just add some water or broth when you reheat it.)



So Good, I Made It Twice

December 13, 2012

Common sense would say that the second time you make something, it is better than the first.  Right?  The second time you know your way around the recipe, or the ingredients if you are creating it yourself, and the tinkering makes it better.  You are committed to that dish, having enjoyed it enough once to make it again, and it tastes even better.

Not always so.  At least in my kitchen.  I rarely make things twice because I have a deep need for variety in my diet.  Occasionally I make something I really like and find myself craving it soon after the leftovers are gone.  So I make it again and 89% of the time (scientific figure) I like it better the first time.  Is it because I tinker too much?  The old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idea?  Who knows.  When that happens, I either don’t write about the dish, or I do with the first run haunting me as I type.

Recently I had one of those weeks where I didn’t want to cook from recipes.  I wanted to just have fresh or freshly cooked ingredients at my disposal and figure it out as I went along.  I am not really that kind of cook.  I am a recipe cook but the years of cooking experience and finding treasures at farmers’ markets have mellowed me, and cut my reliance on hard and fast recipes.  So I spent an afternoon stocking my refrigerator with things I like and decided to just figure it all out as the week progressed.  Dinner one night was bowls filled with sautéed kale, quinoa, topped with bits of roasted squash and a fried egg.  There were more bowls filled with rice noodles, baked tofu, and bok choy.  There was a Niçoise salad or two.  At the end of the week, I made a soup whose base was a bunch of leeks I had not used and a lonely potato that was sitting on my counter.  I added what I had leftover and like most soups that are born from ingredients that you like, it was terrific.  I even ate the leftovers for lunch a couple of days later.  Me.  The leftover hater.  The next week, I still had some quinoa, so I roasted more squash, sautéed more kale, and made the soup again, assuming that it wouldn’t be as good the second time.  But it was.  So I had to post about it.

Now, I’m not going to suppose that you have cooked quinoa, roasted squash, and already sautéed kale in your refrigerator.  I would imagine that you could probably make this soup without doing any up front work.  You could add the squash along with the leeks and potatoes, allowing it to get nice and soft.  You could pour in the quinoa after the broth is boiling and I assume it would cook all right.  You could add the kale near the end, cooking it enough that it gets tender but still stays nice and green.  You could do all that and it would be good soup.  But I don’t think it would be that good.

Here is why.  Quinoa cooked properly, not in too much liquid, retains a nice texture and crunch.  Roasted squash gets nice and caramelized making it much sweeter than just cooking it in liquid.  And kale.  Well.  I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this before here but I’m not a huge fan of kale.  I cook it and I eat it because sometimes there is a need for big dark leafy greens and I like it better than chard.  But you will not find a love letter to kale here.  And yes, I have made kale chips and no, not a single member of my family thought they were anywhere near as good as potato chips, and I may have actually just dumped them in the compost bin.  Ahem.  What I have learned about kale is that I need a bit of garlic cooked along with it and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.  It needs to be cut in small pieces and it needs to cook long and slow until it is really tender.  It also needs to be Tuscan or lacinato kale, which is much more tender than its cousins.  So precooked kale, made just the way I like it, worked really well for me in this soup.

Can I call this a chowder?  Does chowder mean that there is cream involved?  Chowder means chunky to me so I’m going to call it that.  And as for the extra squash and kale that will be left after the soup is gone?  Use them in risotto, pasta, on top of pizza, stuffed in a sweet potato, or shoved into an omelet.

One Year Ago:  Posole Verde, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two years Ago:  Brown Rice Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, Healthier Mac and Cheese
Three Years Ago:  Holly B’s Stollen, Spicy Tomato Jam, Sweet and Salty Cake (I’m making this next weekend)
Four Years Ago:  Breton Apple Pie, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Lemon Rice Rolls with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Potato and Quinoa Chowder with Winter Squash and Kale
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I used red quinoa here because I had some I like the color better than the regular stuff.  The regular stuff will work just fine here, your soup will just be a bit more monochromatic.  Delicata squash is my squash of choice because you don’t have to peel it and they tend to be smaller than butternuts.

Olive oil
3 leeks, white and pale green part only, cut in half, washed, then thinly sliced
1 large baking (russet) potato, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
Leaves from 4 lemon thyme branches (or regular thyme)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked quinoa (recipe follows)
½ delicata squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (recipes follows)
½ bunch sautéed kale (recipe follows)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large-ish soup pot over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the leeks along with a large pinch of salt.  Stir frequently until they start to soften, about 4 minutes.  Be careful with them as they can burn easily.  Add the potato and carrots and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon thyme, cook for another minute, then pour in the broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook until the potato and carrot are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the quinoa, squash, and kale to the soup pot and bring the heat up so the soup really simmers.  Allow to cook for 10 minutes so that the added ingredients warm up and the flavors of the soup really meld together.  (Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead.  It will thicken considerably, so add broth or water to it as you reheat it.)

To make quinoa:
Bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Add quinoa, then lower heat to simmer and cover the pot.  Cook for 15 minutes, then remove lid.  (This will make a bit more than you need for the soup.  You might even want to increase the amount so you have some extra hanging around.  Just use 1½ the amount of water to the amount of quinoa.)

To make roasted squash:
Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Split squash down the middle and scrape out the seeds.  Slice each half into half moons about ½-inch thick and lay them out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and turn all the slices over.  Roast for another 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To make the sautéed kale:
Wash a large bunch of kale.  Strip the leaves off the stem, you can do this just using your hands or you can slice them off with a knife.  Chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add two minced garlic cloves.  Immediately add a large pinch of red pepper flakes.  Just as the garlic is starting to turn light brown, add all the kale leaves.  It will look like a lot but, like all greens, it will cook down.  Stir frequently and add a bit of water if the kale is sticking.  Taste to make sure the kale is really soft, it can take up to half an hour for me to get it where I want it, then remove from the heat.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.



My Mom Told Me To

November 15, 2012

My mom is relatively new to my blog.    She has always enjoyed my writing.  Back in the days when we used to write letters (remember those?), I sent a lot of mail home.  Whether I was in camp, on a bike in France while in high school, in college, or studying in Paris, she and my dad got a lot of letters from me.  She always said I was a good writer.

When I first starting writing this blog, I think my mom might have been perplexed.  Most people I knew were perplexed, including my own husband.  This was way back in 2008 and the idea that someone might want to write about the food they were cooking, take pictures of it, and put it out there to the general public seemed a bit strange in my circle.  One by one, friends and loved ones starting reading, commenting, requesting recipes.  But not my mom.  I know she loves me, loves my writing, loves my food – but I also know she does not love technology.  It took her getting an iPad to finally realize how easy it is to get online and read my blog and lots of other things.  Now she has joined the chorus of, “is this going to be on your blog?” when she eats something in my house that she likes.

My parents came to visit us in the beginning of October.  I was so excited to see them, to show them our new home, our neighborhood, the beauty of where we now live.  I was also anxious to show my mom a good time and feed her well because she had a big operation looming when they returned home.  My mom is young and vigorous and healthy but she has the bad luck to also have terrible joints.  She has been having pain in her hip and the time had come to have it replaced.  A hip replacement, as I’m sure you know, is a big deal with a long recovery.  She has been unable to bear weight – i.e.- stand – for the past month.  That means many things not the least of which is no cooking.  When she first told me about the operation, I immediately thought that I would cook for them.  That would be how I could help in a difficult situation.  Bring them food each week so that they could still enjoy dinners.  And then I remembered that I was moving and that would be impossible.

I’m the first born and the only daughter and I felt so guilty that I would not be able to help them in my way during a rough time.  So, before we moved, I made a huge amount of soup and a ton of freezer burritos, and stocked their freezer as best I could.  I also wanted to make them a special meal while they were here in Oakland.  I made a Thai green curry with the best of the end of summer and beginning of fall produce (recipe coming), and I made this delicious salad.  I didn’t take pictures because we were too busy eating and drinking wine and watching the sun go down.  At the end of the meal, my mom said, “You should really post that salad recipe because I think your readers would really like it”.  Oldest children do as they are told.

So, I made the same menu the next week.  The salad originally called for asparagus and I made it that way when my parents were here, but asparagus is so spring and it is so not spring, so I decided to swap out green for green and go with brussels sprouts.  I like brussels sprouts, Randy tolerates them, but I will admit they weren’t quite right in this salad.  They are terrific roasted and the marinade made them taste extra awesome but truthfully, they just didn’t go well in this salad.  So I’m giving you the recipe as originally written, with the asparagus.  If you don’t want to pay $7/pound for asparagus coming from Chile, I think zucchini or green beans would make a good alternative green vegetable.

One Year Ago:  Bulghur Salad Stuffed Peppers, Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney, Perfect Pumpkin Bread
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Mushrooms and Shallots with Fresh Herbs, Romaine Leaves with Caesar Dressing
Three Years Ago:  Creamy Artichoke Dip, Holly B’s Gingersnaps, Gianduja Mousse
Four Years Ago:  Spinach and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, Bulghur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas

Roasted Sesame-Giner Asparagus and Portobello Salad with Napa-Spinach Slaw
Adapted from The Fresh and Green Table
Serves 4

This recipe instructs you to grill both the mushrooms and asparagus which I think is a brilliant idea.  Our grill is propane-less at the moment, so I just used the oven to roast the vegetables.  In addition to that, I made a lot of little changes to the recipe.

¼ cup peanut or canola oil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
4 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed
¾ pound thin asparagus, trimmed
Kosher or sea salt
2 cups sliced Napa cabbage
2 cups baby spinach
¼ cup sliced scallions, white and pale green parts only
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  In a glass liquid measure, combine the peanut or canola oil, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger.  Whisk until well combined and transfer 3 tablespoons of the mixture to a separate bowl.  Put the portobello caps, stem-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and pour the remaining marinade into the four caps.  Let sit for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.

Have the mushroom caps at one end of the sheet, place the asparagus at the other end.  Season the asparagus with a pinch of salt and roll the asparagus around in any of the marinade that has dripped off the mushrooms.  (Tilt the mushroom caps and pour some of the residual marinade over the asparagus.)  Make sure to rub the bottom of the mushroom caps in the marinade as well.  Remove the asparagus to a plate.  (They will not take as long to roast as the mushrooms.)

Place the mushrooms in the oven and set a timer for 8 minutes.  Pull them out, flip them over, and place the asparagus on the other end of the sheet.  Roast for another 8 minutes.  The asparagus should be bright green, crips tender, and browning in places and the mushrooms should also be soft and browning in places.  Put them back in the oven for a few minutes if they do not seems done.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cabbage, spinach, half the scallions, half the cilantro, and half the sesame seeds.  Add the lime juice and sugar to the reserved marinade.  Whisk until well combined.  Pour in the marinade and toss well to coat.

Slice the mushrooms into ½-inch thick strips and slice the asparagus diagonally into 1-inch pieces.  Gently toss the mushrooms and asparagus into the rest of the salad.  Garnish with the remaining scallions, cilantro, and sesame seeds.

 



Feels Like the First Time

August 19, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the first time I cook something is always the best.  Not bake, cook.  When I bake something more than once, it is almost always better the second or third time than it was the first.  Baking can be tricky and I usually am able to fix any little glitches in a recipe or my technique after I have already made a dessert or a bread.

There have been so many times that I have repeated a recipe merely for the sake of this blog.  I cook first and foremost so that I can eat and feed family and friends.  Photographing and blogging about food is secondary.  But often I am midway through a meal and I think to myself, “I really should write about this” or someone at the dinner table asks me, “Are you going to write about this?”  So then I repeat the recipe the next week and I can say, almost without exception, that it was better the first time.

This was a lovely Italian stew the first time I made it.  I was thinking about how good it tasted and my parents and brother were ooohing and aaahing and asking when it would be on the blog, so I stood up and snapped a photo with my phone.  And then I realized that that photo would not do and I was going to have to make it again.

So I made it again.  And I didn’t pay as careful attention to the recipe, I forgot the saffron, and I used dried beans because I didn’t have any more fresh shelling beans stashed away in my freezer and the stew that was so mind blowingly tasty – the kind of thing where you sit back and ask yourself how vegetables can taste so good and maybe there is something to that vegan thing after all – was just a good dinner.

Make it.  Follow the recipe.  Use fresh shelling beans if you can, this is their season and they can pretty easily be found at farmers’ markets.  If you don’t have access to fresh, soak some dried beans overnight and cook them separately from the stew, then add them once they are cooked.  As much as I love their convenience, this is not the place for canned beans.

One Year Ago:  Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Corn Pudding
Two Years Ago:  Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon,
Three Years Ago:  Tortellini Skewers, Bocconcini (Marinated Mozzarella)

Country-Style Vegetable Stew (Cianfotta)
Adapted from Verdura, Vegetables Italian Style
Serves 4

Whenever I use saffron, I always allow it to “bloom” in liquid before adding it to the dish.  It helps bring out the delicate flavor of the saffron.  I served the stew, both times, with a brown rice tossed with ricotta and lots of herbs.  It was nice but not necessary.

1 small pinch of saffron
Olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
1 small eggplant, trimmed and cut into medium dice
1 large yellow pepper, seeded, membranes removed, cut into medium dice
4 medium peppers, a mix of colors if possible, cut into medium dice
4 ripe tomatoes, seeded, cut into chunks
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked beans
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Pour a few tablespoons of hot water into a bowl.  Add the saffron and set aside.

Place a wide shallow pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and celery and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until starting to soften, then add the garlic, saffron, and the thyme.  Cook for another 2 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables.  Add another pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, stir well, and cover.  Turn the heat down to low.  Stir the mixture occasionally and if it seems too dry, add a few tablespoons of water.  Repeat if necessary.  Add the beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Stir in the herbs just before serving and season to taste with salt and pepper.



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