Category:  Vegetables

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Vegetarian Calamari

In Fun Foods, Vegetables On April 9, 2011 2 Comments

While growing up in Southern Italy, I became an apprentice to my “Nonna” or grandmother, aka the “maestra” or master chef of the town. Although I learned how to prepare the peninsula’s finest cuisine, my focus was on the bounty from the “orto” or garden. I never liked some of the seafood delicacies that the cooks in the Campania region are so famous for. Among these are fried calamari.

Because my Nonna knew I didn’t like those rubbery circles that pretended to be crispy, she would go to her orto, pick fresh cauliflower and turn it into golden nuggets. She would then smile at me and say, “Ecco i tuoi calamaretti vegetariani” or “Here are your vegetarian fried calamari” – made exclusively for me!

This appetizer is fun to eat with a sweet pepper spread*.

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 fresh cauliflower (about 1-½ to 1-¾ pounds), leaves discarded and florets cut into 2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, for coating cauliflower florets
2 to 3 large eggs
¾ teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

1. Rinse the cauliflower florets and put them in a 4-quart saucepot. Cover florets with cold water. Set saucepot on a stove burner and bring to a boil.

2. Add ½ teaspoon salt, and boil, uncovered, on medium heat until cauliflower florets are crunchy-tender when pierced with a fork, about 4 minutes.

3. Gently drain the cauliflower florets and set them aside in a glass or porcelain bowl to cool, uncovered, about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put flour in a shallow, 8 or 10-inch bowl and set aside.

5. In another shallow, 8 or 10-inch bowl, beat 2 eggs with ¾ teaspoon salt and black pepper; set aside.

6. When cauliflower florets are cool, coat them first with flour, shaking off excess, and then roll them with two forks in the beaten egg (heat the oil as you do this).

7. In an 8 or 10-inch skillet or a deep fryer of the same circumference, heat the oil on high setting. Test by dropping a tiny amount of beaten egg – if it sizzles and rises, the oil is ready.

8. Immediately lower heat to medium and fry the cauliflower in batches. This is a quick process (after a few seconds of frying, gently lift bottom of a floret to check if it is golden); turn once and fry other side until golden.

9. Drain fried cauliflower (Vegetarian Calamari) on a dinner plate lined with paper towels.

Serve immediately with sweet pepper spread.

Note: Vegetarian Calamari can be made early in the day and stored in a baking dish and covered with aluminum foil. Set on a counter until ready to serve.

At serving time, heat oven to 350˚F. Warm the Vegetarian Calamari, covered, about 20 to 25 minutes and serve warm.

*Suggested spreads: Peloponnese Sweet Pepper Spread®, found in gourmet supermarkets; and Zergüt Mild Ajvar® (made with sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, garlic and onions), found in Middle Eastern or International gourmet food stores. Both brands are reddish-orange in color.

Text & Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

A Side of Carrots & Green Beans

In Vegetables On February 16, 2011 2 Comments

It’s February and we should start thinking about summer – the sun, the beach and – wait a minute – the bathing suits, too? Whether we’re happy with last year’s G-string size or not, now is definitely a good time to stop eating and get moving.

Accordingly, I brainwashed myself into believing that sweets can be replaced by salads and vegetables. One of my fav’s is a carrot and green bean dish that I grew up with in Italy. All you need for this is a little salt, pepper, garlic and extra virgin olive oil to boost the natural sweetness of these two veggies.

Should I get caught in a restaurant in the next few weeks, rest assured that you’ll hear me ask my server for fish or chicken, “a side of carrots, green beans – and bring the olive oil, please”.

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 pound fresh green beans, tips discarded
3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic Cream*, for drizzling (optional)

1. Place green beans in a 2-quart saucepot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

2. Cook 2 minutes or until beans are crunchy-tender.

3. Drain and place beans in a large glass or porcelain bowl. Set aside.

4. Meanwhile, place carrots in same 2-quart saucepot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

5. Cook for 1 minute or until carrots are crunchy-tender.

6. Drain carrots and add to the beans in bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately as a side to fish, chicken or steak. Drizzle with a little balsamic cream (optional).

*Balsamic cream is a thick, glazed reduction of dark balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is from Modena, Italy. It is made from the Trebbiano grape and is aged in wooden barrels for several years. There are two varieties of balsamic vinegar: the dark and light variety. Both the cream and the vinegar can be found online at Amazon.com®.

Text and Photographs ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Celebrating Chanukah – Potato & Chives Latkes

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays, Vegetables On December 4, 2010 9 Comments

Lasting eight days, Chanukah, also known as the “Festival of Lights”, is a Jewish holiday  which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (Second Temple) in Jerusalem. At Chanukah, one of the traditions occurring in Jewish homes is the lighting of a candle on a Menorah – a candelabrum – in a prayer at dinnertime. Over the years, I have been invited to my Jewish friends’ homes in order to participate in such a joyous celebration.

A popular side dish served at Chanukah dinners consists of potato pancakes called “latkes”. Latkes are crunchy on the outside and deliciously sweet inside. I finally learned how to make them with an added accent of chives. Serve these latkes as tradition has it – with applesauce and sour cream. Enjoy.

Active prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Inactive prep time: 4 minutes
Cook time: 16 minutes
Makes: 6 to 7 latkes

Ingredients:
1 pound Russet potatoes (approx. one large)
1 small white or brown onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Dash ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounces (1 cup) ready-made applesauce
8 ounces (1 cup) sour cream

1. Peel and grate potato into a large bowl with cold water. Peel and grate the onion into the same bowl; stir in ½ teaspoon of the salt. Let mixture soak 1 to 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart mixing bowl, beat together the egg, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, black pepper, flour and chives. Set aside.

3. Drain the potato-onion mixture in a colander, pressing down to remove excess water.

4. Transfer the drained potato-onion mixture to a cheesecloth or clean white kitchen towel; roll up and squeeze out excess water.

5. Stir the potato and chives into the egg mixture and blend with a fork until uniform.

6. Heat both oils in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet until oil is hot but not smoking.

7. Measure ¼-cup potato mixture into hands and form a round, flattish shape.

8. Place the flattened potato mixture in hot oil, pressing down with a spatula to form a 4-inch pancake (latke).

9. Measure and prepare 2 more flattened potato mixtures in skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, on medium-high heat, until latkes are golden brown.

10. Drain on paper towels on a platter.

11. Serve latkes hot, accompanied by applesauce and sour cream. Latkes usually accompany beef brisket or other roasted meats.

Note: If oil is not hot enough, the latkes will be oily.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Stewed Okra

In Soups and Stews, Vegetables On September 11, 2010 0 Comments

A few weeks ago, at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market I heard someone ask, “How do you make okra?” This recipe is a wonderful response to that question. While all the vegetables marry well in the stewing, the sauce is the best part and should be picked up with some good Italian bread.

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh okra, tops cut off and discarded
2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pasilla pepper, stem and seeds discarded and flesh cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded and flesh cut into thin strips
1 medium brown onion, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup vegetable broth
1 pound cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a 4-quart stockpot. Add the okra, eggplant, pasilla and bell pepper strips and stir fry on high heat, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the onion and cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes.

3. Stir in the vegetable broth and cook on medium-high heat, 1 to 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve with fresh Italian bread or steamed rice.

Note: This is a vegan recipe.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Roasted Peppers (Peperoni Arrostiti)

In Salads, Vegetables On July 12, 2010 0 Comments

ENTER OUR KITCHEN, WATCH & LEARN

Although red bell peppers are delicious when freh and added raw to salads or other foods, they’re quite succulent when roasted. This is because their naturally sweet flavors are enhanced in the roasting process. Make this traditional “peperoni arrostiti” salad and discover why Italians have such delicate palates. After savoring every ingredient in this delicacy, you’ll never go back to ready made roasted peppers!

 

Active prep time: 5 to 20 minutes
Inactive prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 to 4 large red bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and stems discarded
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil

1. Line a 12 X 18-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place peppers, rounded side up, on foil-lined sheet.

2. Place baking sheet with peppers on an oven rack positioned 6 to 8 inches away from overhead oven broiler/grill.

3. Roast peppers 8 to 14 minutes or until skin is charred.

4. Transfer baking sheet with peppers to a counter and cool, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the charred skins from roasted peppers.

5. Cut the peppers lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick strips. In a glass or porcelain serving bowl, toss the peppers together with remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serving tips: Enjoy roasted peppers with Italian breadsticks called “grissini” or on toasted bread.

Accompany with some cheese, a salad and a favorite wine.

Buon Appetito!

Text ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real
Roasted Peppers Salad Photograph Only ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real