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Summer Cactus Salad – Truly Vegan (no processed ingredients added)

In Salads, Sides On July 2, 2020 0 Comments


In Mexico, cactus leaves (nopales) are usually combined with ingredients such as tomatoes, chiles & onions. This results in refreshing salads that act as a side dish to meat, poultry and fish.

Nopales (cactus) leaves can be purchased in Latin American supermarkets or grocery stores. Here is our exquisite take on this traditional dish –  Summer Cactus Salad.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

3 cactus (nopales) leaves (found in Latin American grocery stores or supermarkets)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 of a Serrano Chile, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped, fresh mint leaves
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime

1. Working on a cutting board, chop the cactus (nopales) leaves into 1/2-inch pieces.

2. Transfer the chopped cactus to a colander set over a bowl; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, combine the chopped red onion, red bell pepper, Serrano chile and mint in a mixing bowl.

4. Rinse the chopped cactus under cold water and drain.

5. Working in batches, transfer about 1/4 of the chopped cactus to double paper towels set on cutting board.

6. Take paper towels and pat dry (cactus will stick to the paper towels).

7. Release the dried cactus  from paper towels and add it to other ingredients in bowl. Repeat with remaining cactus.

8. Add olive oil and lime to salad ingredients and toss. Taste and adjust salt level, if needed.

9. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 hours ahead.

Text & Photograph ©2020 Nancy DeLucia Real

Zucchini Chips

In Fun Foods, Vegetables On June 1, 2020 0 Comments


These zucchini chips are fun to make and fun to snack on! Just slice them and air dry overnight. Broil them in oven and you’re done. They’ll disappear in seconds!

Prep time: 5 minutes for cutting & overnight drying
Broil time: 6 to 7 minutes per side
Makes: 30 to 40 chips

One 18 X 12-inch baking sheet (you can use a larger one for more zucchini)
parchment paper (to line baking sheet)
3 to 4 zucchini
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt, for lightly sprinkling zucchini

1. Line an 18 X 12-inch (or larger) baking sheet

2. On a cutting board, cut and discard zucchini tips.

3. Cut remaining zucchini into 1/4-inch thick slices.

4. Place the zucchini rings on parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with salt & let air dry 8 hours or overnight.

5. Line another 18 X 12-inch (or larger) baking sheet and “lightly” oil it with a basting brush.

6. Transfer the zucchini rings (salt side up) to second baking sheet.

7. Turn on the oven “broiler” – this is the overhead element that turns red for broiling or grilling in oven.

8. Transfer the baking sheet with zucchini rings to oven rack positioned 6 inches away from oven broiler element.

9. Broil zucchini rings 6 to 7 minutes per side or until they turn golden brown and crisp but not charred.

10. Transfer the zucchini chips to a platter and serve as a snack or as a side dish.

Text & Photograph ©2020 Nancy DeLucia Real



Brown Rice Confetti Salad

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Salads On May 5, 2020 1 Comment


This salad is delicious as a side or as a buffet dish for any celebration. Make it for Mother’s Day – they’ll love it!

Prep time: 15 minutes (to assemble ingredients)
Makes: 3 to 4 cups

1-1/2 cups cooked, brown rice
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled & finely shredded
2/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup chopped, fresh chives
5 to 6 fresh mint leaves, slivered
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
salt & ground black pepper, to taste
Dash cumin

1. Cook rice according to package directions.

2. If rice has excess liquid after cooking, drain and discard the liquid.

3. Transfer the rice to a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl & stir in the olive oil.

4. Let rice cool to room temperature.

5. When rice is at room temperature, stir in remaining ingredients; toss, taste & adjust seasonings.

6. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap & serve later in the day.

7. Brown Rice Confetti Salad can be made early in the morning. Any leftovers will keep, refrigerated, up to 3 days.
Text & Photograph ©2020 Nancy DeLucia Real

Marinated Eggplant

In Appetizers / Starters, Vegetables On April 29, 2020 0 Comments


I learned the art of making marinated eggplant from my dear friend, Michelina Codipietro, from Isernia in the Southern region of Molise, Italy. Michelina took away my fears, saying that it was quite easy. This eggplant indeed marinates for 48 hours (it makes itself) and labor is minimal.

A great project for our current “lockdown” and a guarantee that you’ll never buy the readymade version again.

Prep time: 25-3o minutes (peeling & cutting eggplant)
Marinating time: 48 hours
Makes: 2 pint-size mason jars (each pint = 2 cups)

3 large eggplants, peeled
2 tablespoons salt
4 quarts cold water (16 cups total)
1 quart distilled vinegar (4 cups total)
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cups organic sunflower or safflower oil (for marinating)
Scant 1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed red chili flakes
One 6 to 8-quart saucepot with cover (for marinating eggplant)

Directions for Marinating Eggplant:
1. Working crosswise, cut eggplant into 1/4-inch thick slices.

2. Mound 3 slices eggplant on top of each other; cut them into 3/8-inch thick strips.

3. Transfer strips to saucepot, sprinkle with a light layer of salt.

4. Repeat with remaining eggplants, transferring the strips to saucepot & sprinkling with salt, as you go along.

5. When all eggplant strips have been transferred to saucepot, pour the water, vinegar and juice from 1 lemon over the eggplant.

6. Cover saucespot with eggplant, set on a counter and let marinate for 48 hours (2 days).

Directions for Draining & Canning Eggplant:
1. After 48 hours (2 days), working over a sink & wearing cooks’ plastic gloves, grab a handful of eggplant strips and squeeze & drain the liquid completely.

2. Transfer drained eggplant to a 12-cup glass or porcelain bowl.

3. Repeat squeezing & draining remaining eggplant, one handful at a time; transfer to bowl.

4. When all eggplant strips have been drained and set in bowl, add about 1/2 cup safflower or sunflower oil, dried, crushed chili flakes (to taste) and mix.

5. Taste the eggplant and adjust seasonings, to taste.

6. Divide the eggplant strips between two pint-size mason jars.

7. Cover with the oil.

8. Make sure you pack down the eggplant, so as not to leave air bubbles.

9. Add more oil until it rises 1/2-inch above top of eggplant.

10. Cover and seal with lids.

Storing Marinated Eggplant:
1. Place the two mason jars of eggplant in refrigerator.

2. Every time you scoop out some eggplant and serve, make sure remaining eggplant in jar is topped with safflower or sunflower oil 1/2 inch above top of eggplant. Seal and refrigerate once more.

3. Eggplant can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 months (always covered with oil).
Text & Photograph ©2020 Nancy DeLucia Real



Conchas (Mexican Sweet Bread)

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings On April 8, 2020 0 Comments


Conchas is Spanish for “seashells”. Conchas are one of the most popular type of sweet bread  (pan dulce) found in Mexican bakeries. They are light, fluffy and not too sweet. Enjoy this recipe!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Rise or Proof time: 90 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 12 conchas

Ingredients for the Bread Dough:
1 cup warm water
1 envelope (2-1/2 teaspoons) yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup warm water (to be added gradually)
3 cups flour plus 1/2 cup extra flour for kneading dough

1. In a metal or plastic bowl, combine the warm water & yeast; swirl around bowl to combine.

2. Cover yeast mixture with aluminum foil, set on a warm surface (wood or plastic); let sit for 5 minutes.

3. After 5 minutes, in a stand mixer fitted with a bowl or a regular mixing bowl with handheld mixer, combine the yeast mixture with the vegetable oil, sugar and salt.

4. Mix on medium speed until mixture is uniform.

5. Gradually add 2/3 cup warm water to yeast mixture until well-blended.

6. Add the flour, a little at a time, until a dough forms.

7. Transfer the dough onto a lightly-floured surface; knead until dough is uniform and elastic.

8. Place kneaded dough on a lightly-floured wooden board; cover with a bowl turned upside down. DO NOT PLACE DOUGH ON COLD STONE, MARBLE OR GRANITE SURFACES, AS IT WILL NOT RISE.

9. Let dough rise 1 hour (60 minutes).

10. After 1 hour, divide the risen dough into 12 balls.

11. On two 18 X 12-inch baking sheets lined with parchment paper,  place dough balls 3 inches apart (6 dough balls per baking sheet).

12. Place baking sheets with dough balls in a cold oven and let rise for 30 minutes (this will keep the dough away from any draft).

13. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.

Ingredients for the Vanilla & Chocolate Toppings:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 powdered sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4- inch thick squares
6 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1. In a stand mixer fitted with a bowl or a regular 4 to 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, granulated sugar & baking powder.

2. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut into the butter squares until they are the size of peas.

3. Add the vanilla & mix with pastry cutter.

4. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms.

5. Divide the dough in two; place one-half of dough in a separate bowl.

For the vanilla topping:

1. Gather dough in hands & divide it into 6 equal pieces.

2. Shape the pieces into balls; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.

For the chocolate topping: place the other half of dough into a mixing bowl.

1. Add cocoa powder and mix it into the dough until it is uniform.

2. Gather dough in hands & divide it into 6 equal pieces.

3. Shape the pieces into balls; set aside.

Rolling out the Vanilla & Chocolate Dough Toppings:
1. Lightly flatten each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap.

2. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough ball to a 5-inch circle & set aside.

3. Repeat rolling out dough with remaining dough balls; set aside.

Assembling Toppings on the Conchas & Baking:
1. Place the 12 rolled-out vanilla and chocolate topping dough over the conchas in baking sheets.

2. Using a paring knife, cut grooves into the dough to resemble a shell.

3. Bake the conches for 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is light golden brown.
Text & Photograph ©2020 Nancy DeLucia Real