Tag Archives: Vegetables

Shrimp in a Spicy Coconut Sauce

Sometimes a girl just has to have a big, steaming bowl of lovely Asian-style deliciousness for dinner.  How many times have we made our way home at day’s end after spending 10 hours working… working hard.  To add to our woes often a last-minute run to the grocery store is required if we expect to have dinner.  All of the ingredients for this dish are available at your grocery store and, get this, if you’re so beat you’re willing to take the easy way out, most of the makings called for are already cleaned, prepared and/or cut up.  Yay for grocery store food prep!  I don’t know about you but I’m slow as molasses in the kitchen and that’s on a good day.  So if I can get a little help to speed things up I’ll take it.  The recipe can easily be halved but I like to have leftovers for lunches the following day so take that into consideration.

This dish can be served over noodles, (rice, udon or cellophane are all fine), or it may be served over rice, (white, brown, jasmine or basmati), it all works.  If you’re staying away from carbs altogether add more broth and the dish becomes more soup-like.  Nice, huh?  Most of the vegetables can be found already chopped in the produce section of your grocery store, the shrimp has been cooked and is in the seafood department and the sweet potato can be thrown in the microwave to “bake”.  The sweet potato is SO good paired with the savory lemongrass!  The spinach is tossed into the pan straight from the bag and the basil leaves are torn from the stalk and added without having to cut.  Also, in the produce section, you’ll find tubes of fresh lemongrass, grated ginger paste and minced garlic in the jar.  Oh, the glory of it all!  Wait, wait!  I almost forgot to mention that in the “international” section of the store are already prepared udon noodles in cryovac and, if you prefer glass noodles, just know they don’t have to be cooked.  They soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes so they’re ready when you’ve finished the shrimp part of the recipe.  Can you believe it?  Again, if you’re trying to watch your weight, using “lite” coconut milk is perfectly fine.  I try to have boxed chicken broth always on hand and it’s perfect with the shrimp but feel free to use what you have in the pantry.  Speaking of pantry, the jarred herbs and all-ready-prepared noodles are great staples to stock up on as are a few bags of cleaned shrimp in the freezer, perfect for last-minute soups, salads and stirfrys.  I know this recipe calls for a  lengthy list of ingredients but please keep in mind, this is pretty much a “dump and stir” meal.  I’m thrilled with the ease of it and I know you will be, too.  Enjoy!

Shrimp in a Spicy Coconut Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass paste
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced
  • 1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, 1 small box or bunch
  • 2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and shells off
  • 2  13.5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite is okay
  • 2 cups seafood, vegetable or chicken broth, boxed is fine
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato, roasted, peeled, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 red chiles or jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped.  I use 2 as we like heat and spice but feel free to use just one for less spice.  But do use at least one or it won’t be spicy, now will it?
  • salt to taste
  • rice or noodles for serving
  • hot chili garlic sauce, optional, for serving
  1. Over medium-high heat add olive oil to a large, high sided pan.
  2. Add onions and stir until coated with oil and starting to release its perfume.
  3. Add lemongrass, garlic and ginger and thoroughly stir into onions.
  4. Add peppers and zucchini and continue stirring for 2 minutes.
  5. Add spinach and basil and stir until almost completely wilted.
  6. Add shrimp and toss until coated with the pan flavors.
  7. Pour in coconut milk and broth, mix well and raise heat bring to a boil.
  8. Add sweet potato, lime juice and chiles.  Stir.
  9. Taste and add salt if needed.
  10. Serve in large bowls over cooked rice or noodles.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Blue Ribbon Broccoli Salad

I have always hated broccoli.  The smell of it cooking made me gag.  My older sister, Cynthia, felt exactly the same and to this day we both run at the mere sight of broccoli on the stove.  As little girls we sometimes fought like cats and dogs but, regarding broccoli, we were always in agreement.  It did not go unnoticed by the two of us that Puerto Ricans didn’t embrace vegetables; red beans and rice, sliced tomatoes and avocados were the only vegetables to grace our grandparents’ dining room table.  Our summers on the island were stress free and complete indulgence.  It was during one of our summer sojourns our neighbors, Don Juan and Dona Angelita Orta, issued an invitation to dine with them that evening.  It was understood the summons was for Cynthia; I was not included.  I believe we were around the ages of eight and six and, regrettably, I was sassy, impulsive, unconcerned with hygiene and may have had a slight tendency to lie.  It goes without saying, Cynthia was the golden grandchild and I was the disgraced, six year old ne’er-do-well.  And Cynthia took full advantage.  She made certain I overheard her discussing which of our matching dresses she should wear.  Seething with impotent anger and pea green with jealousy I retreated to our bedroom.  I’d rather loll on my bed, stare at the ceiling and let the mosquitos bite me than endure her smug and simpering side eyes.  Late in the afternoon she was bathed, her hair brushed until it shone like mahogany and she  was dressed in one of her many party dresses.  I remained on my bed…most certainly smelling like a child who had spent the morning playing outside in the heat of the day and most definitely with the attitude of a defiant, petulant schoolgirl.  The time came for her to leave and while she ran a hairbrush one last time through her hair and told me goodbye, I replied with a hateful hiss, “I hope they serve you broccoli! Lots of it.”  She blanched at my comment knowing if they did, she would be obliged to eat it.  And eat it with a smile on her face.  Good manners are everything.  I didn’t look at her nor did I say goodbye as she left the house escorted by one of my aunts.  My nasty outburst had been heard by my family but seeing how dejected I looked and how low I felt, they said not a word and left me alone.  I stayed on that bed sulking, allowing the occasional mosquito to whine past my ear before finishing it off with a fast slap of my hand, for once not feeling satisfaction after the kill.  The phone rang in the other room and, after a moment or two, quick footsteps were heard.  “Alicia, levantate!” “Alicia, get up!” “The invitation was for both of you!”  My heart soared…then quickly filled with fear and apprehension.  “Titi, do you think they’ll serve us broccoli?”, I asked as I was hastily bathed.   I didn’t want to go next door where I knew, in my heart of hearts, we would be served a gleaming platter of emerald-green nasty.  Off I went dressed to match Cynthia, little white socks and Mary Janes on, not ready to face my comeuppance or eat humble pie in the shape of, gag me, the dreaded cruciferous known as broccoli.  The Orta’s housekeeper, Tata, whom I adored, answered the door.  I was welcomed with unconditional love from all.  And broccoli was not served.  I learned my lesson, though.  Hence forth I have tried to wish others well and, yes, over the years there have been many, many lapses in my thoughts and behavior but I will keep on trying!

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I only eat broccoli raw but I love it and this is one of my favorite ways to have it.  This salad is both sweet and savory; the carrots and dried cherries lend sweetness, the bacon and scallions are savory and while the toasted almonds provide a flavor link.  It needs no time to marinate, however, is equally delicious served the following day.  Cranberries may be substituted for the dried cherries although I feel the cherries bring much more flavor to the dish.  I cook my bacon in the oven.  The oven baked method is time-saving and clean up is a snap.  I rough chop almonds, cut about into thirds, then roast them in the oven.  I find I scorch too many nuts pan roasting them.    This salad may be served as a side dish or entrée but, regardless how it’s served, it will make a broccoli lover out of all!

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Blue Ribbon Broccoli Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, I use reduced fat
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 bunches of broccoli, there are typically 2-3 heads per bunch
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 5 scallions
  • 3 carrots
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  1. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, celery seed and salt and whisk until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in refrigerator to chill.
  2. Cut broccoli into bite size florets and put in a large bowl.
  3. Cook bacon, drain well and chop or crumble.  Add to broccoli.
  4. Finely slice the scallions using all of the white and pale green.  Discard any tough, dark green ends. Add the scallions to the broccoli bowl.
  5. Using the large holes of a grater, grate the carrots into the bowl of broccoli.
  6. Rough chop the almonds, toast them, either in the oven or stove top, and add to broccoli.
  7. Rough chop the cherries then add to broccoli.
  8. Drizzle the mayonnaise dressing over the salad and toss well to completely combine.  Make certain all ingredients are covered with dressing.
  9. Serve each plate with a fresh grind of black pepper.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Greek Stuffed Onions, from ancient times

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With James going back to school in a day or two my mind started to focus on my to-do list. Next? Vacation! And back to Greece!  I can already feel that delicious, dry heat on my face. It’s blistering hot in the sun but under a sea grape or pine tree it’s quite pleasant…especially if there’s a cold pitcher of house white wine and a few pieces of freshly grilled octopus sitting in front of me! Last year I happen to be chatting with a woman in the shop she owned and learned she gave cooking lessons in her home. I took several classes from her and had a marvelous time. The lessons were not demanding and quite enjoyable.

And everyone makes their own olive oil. Sigh.
And everyone makes their own olive oil. Sigh.

I was able to take away quite a bit of information from technique to previously unknown ingredients due to the fact that she tailored the classes to me. I don’t need anyone to show me how to make a spanakopita; I can make that in my sleep. This was right up my culinary alley. I love my teacher! She’s young and pretty and buzzes about the island on a moped. She’s incredibly knowledgeable regarding Greek cooking but, most importantly, she believes passionately in the traditional, time-honored, Greek methods. That and she’s totally laid back! I asked Jimmy to stick around the morning of my first class just in case things didn’t work out. My teacher, Eleni, took us for a quick tour of her property.

Zucchini blossoms just waiting to be stuffed or made into fritters and served with a light dusting of freshly grated Mizithra cheese.
Zucchini blossoms just waiting to be stuffed or made into fritters and served with a light dusting of freshly grated Mizithra cheese.

Her daughter is grown and gone, London I think, so it’s just her husband and her. Well! The more I saw the more pea-green I turned with envy! They have, of course, the ubiquitous groves of olive trees and that’s enough to throw me into a spiral of jealousy. But to add to my covetousness, or joy take your pick, they have peach trees, pomegranate trees, cherry trees, fig trees, orange trees and grape vines. She also has a gorgeous herb garden filled with banks of dill, mint, basil and parsley surrounding a delightful koi pond her husband built for her. It’s just paradise! Towards the rear of the property is the hot-house where Eleni had figs drying…shelf after shelf of beautiful, wrinkled figs. And did I mention she had a voluptuous pot of fig and grape marmalade bubbling and whispering softly in a corner of the outside grill?

Yes, the pot was calling to me, "Just stay! Just stay!"
Yes, the pot was calling to me, “Just stay! Just stay!”

I want that life! When we met the day before she asked my what I wanted to prepare. What was it I wanted to learn? From that she put together a menu for my class. Jimmy was to come back at noon or 12:30 to join us for lunch and we would be finished by 2:30 or 3:00. She started pouring wine at 11:00am. I was one happy girl! Jimmy took off and we started prepping. For the Sougounia she said that big red onions are better. I peeled them and she instructed me to trim the stem end and the root end but not to cut the root end off completely. Carefully, so as not to cut ones self, the onion was sliced from stem to root BUT ONLY TO THE MIDDLE OF THE ONION. The whole onions are then boiled in salted water 15-20 minutes until tender. Now while the onions are simmering the stuffing will be mixed in a separate bowl. Gently break up in the bowl 1/2 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork. To that add 1/2 cup medium grain rice, 1/2 cup ouzo (lovely flavor with the pork), 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1//2 teaspoon black pepper,1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Combine enough that all ingredients are mixed but not too much or you’ll toughen the meat.

Sougounia in the pot...not exactly an attractive dish but crazy good!
Sougounia in the pot…not exactly an attractive dish but crazy good!

When the onions are cool enough to handle peel off the layers one by one. Don’t let them cool completely or they’ll be difficult to handle and won’t roll up. The tough outer layers may be set aside to tuck into any empty spaces prior to baking. Cover the bottom of your baking dish liberally with olive oil. Take one layer of onion in the palm of your hand and you’ll see it rolls right up into shape, like the shape of a boat or a diamond! Fill the onion with a good tablespoon of the meat filling, close the opening as best you can and place into a baking dish. It’s fine to gently stack them.  When you get to the onion’s small inner layers they can be saved for another dish or chopped and mixed into the meat. Continue until all the meat has been used. Chop a tomato and scatter over the stuffed onions. Tuck any outer skins into any spaces or corners so they all fit snugly in the baking dish. In a small bowl dissolve one chicken bouillon cube in 1/4 cup of hot water. To that add 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, mix well and gently pour over stuffed onions.

Sweet, rich figs drying.
Sweet, rich figs drying.

Cover the baking dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 350° for approximately 45 minutes. This dish may also be prepared in a braising pot stove top. The preparation is exactly the same except you would cook the sougounia at a low simmer.  The flavors are wild!  You’ll pick up the deep richness of the ouzo and pork then the smoky earthiness of the cumin and paprika.  It’s like no other dish and you’ll never have to worry about someone else turning up at a party with it.  It stands alone!

You can reach up and cut off a bunch of grapes anytime!
You can reach up and cut off a bunch of grapes anytime!

Stewed Green Beans Greek Style

Isn’t it strange how as a child, the same things we hate, abhor, detest, we end up loving, downright craving, as adults?  My siblings and I have laughed to no end at the spare, flavorless dinners our mother used to serve.  Once a week my mother would go  to go to the grocery store for a “big buy”.  If we were in the car, she wouldn’t allow us to go in, saying, “You children stay here.  Today’s a “big buy”.  I’ll be back in TEN minutes.”  TEN MINUTES?  A BIG BUY?  That ought to give you a little insight as to my mother’s feelings regarding food and cooking.  She’d try to go to the store by herself and get that annoying food thing out of the way, never, ever suspect when she arrived home and her first middle child would greet her at the front door in the style of Eddie Haskell.  “Hello, Mother.  May I help you with the groceries?”, I would ask in my sweetest but most nonchalant tone.  “Gracias, Cielo!”, she would answer, “You’re a BIG help”.  My mother ALWAYS had words of encouragement for us.  While she was inside the kitchen unloading bags, I would go through the ones left in the car as  quickly and thoroughly as a swat team.  My mother bought only frozen vegetables, hard, square boxes of misery and disgust.  Efficiently, I set all the boxes aside.  Carrots, string beans, spinach, broccoli,  the runner-up for nastiest, succotash.  First place, numero uno for all time nauseating and most hateful childhood vegetable goes to……waxbeans!  Yes.  My mother served us frozen wax beans.  They were yellow and looked as though they had been hand dipped in tallow.  And NOT in an artisanal way.  When all the groceries were inside I would casually call out to who ever was around, “I’m going outside.”  No one ever cared and no one ever paid attention, thank you very much.  I’d grab all the boxes, all of them, and trot around to the back of the house.  Stacked neatly on the dock, we lived on the water, I would take a frozen square, and with a strong and practiced arm, I would skip that box across the canal with all the strength in my 11 year-old body.  Those boxes just skimmed across the top of the water, bouncing four, five, sometimes SIX times.  I know it was hideously wasteful but I really enjoyed it.  Mama always came home from the store in the late afternoon, so I was on the water skipping boxes when the sun was going down, palm trees swaying.  Often the fish would jump.  It was quite lovely.  I knew I had scored when Mama would rip the freezer apart, all the while talking to herself, “Oh, pooh! I know I bought vegetables!  Caramba!  Where could they be?”.  But sometimes, we weren’t that lucky and a box or two would slip past me.  My older sister, Cynthia, and I had only a few ways around these toxic nuggets.  And let me add, my mother didn’t even heap the vegetables on our plates.  She only put maybe three or four beans on each of our plates.  Child, that was more than enough.  My mother never used salt or pepper and there was NEVER butter or any kind of sauce on the vegetables.  They were just boiled.  Making sure my father didn’t catch us, we would swallow the little, yellow, nasties whole with our milk.  Until the day he DID catch us.  I don’t know how Cynthia got her’s down, but I remember thinking, “I don’t care if I’m still here at breakfast,  I’m.  not.  eating.  them.  I’m not.”  Everyone was long gone from the dining room, Cynthia doing homework, Tommy and Pamela were splashing away in the bathtub readying for bedtime.  And there I’d be.  No elbows or forearms were ever tolerated on the table and sitting up straight was mandatory.  The night would just drag on, my parents walked by every once in a while, always saying the same thing, “and don’t even THINK about getting up until you finish all of that!”  And I just sat there, thinking the same thought, “I’m not eating this.  I’m not.”  I overheard my mother reading to Tommy and Pamela a bedtime story or two and I felt big waves of hopelessness and despair wash over me because now I truly COULDN’T eat them.  They were stone cold.  And hard.  And I didn’t have any more milk.  Right about then my father put down the paper and barked at me, “Get up.  Put your plate in the kitchen, brush your teeth and you’re to go straight to bed.”  Okay…I can do that.   And the beauty of this whole memory is, the following morning you would never have known this had happened!   There was absolutely no mention of the dinner fiasco of  the night before.  My parents would be happy and loving, embodying the philosophy, “It’s a new day!”  Today IS a new day, but not new enough to eat wax beans.  Or broccoli.  Or cauliflower.  But just about every other vegetable is great.  I love this dish, stewed green beans, because it’s so darned easy and it gives one the full feeling of eating something heavier, like meat or fish.  The sautéed onion gives the beans and tomatoes the sweetness needed and the olive oil mixed with the broken down tomatoes results in a silky, savory sauce.  Fassolatha is served with a healthy sprinkling of crumbled feta on top and crusty bread to dip in the sauce.  I think it’s sublime!

Stewed Green Beans Greek Style

  • Servings: 6-8 as a side or 4-5 as a main course
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bag string beans, washed and trimmed (that means snap off and discard the ends)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of dried oregano, preferably Greek
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta cheese to taste
  1. In a large pot, add olive oil and heat on medium high.  When oil is hot, but not smoking, add onions and stir well.
  2. When onions are fairly translucent, add oregano, stir, then add green beans.
  3. Pour both cans of tomatoes into pot and carefully break apart tomatoes with the side of your spoon.
  4. Add salt and pepper, stir, cover and drop heat to low.
  5. Allow to stew for at least one hour.  If this serves as your main course, serve in individual bowls with crumbled feta cheese on top.  Hot, crunchy bread is always welcome!

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com