Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Potato Hash

I think I finally have a theme for a cookbook: 1-Skillet Dinners.  At least once a week I make something that falls into this category:  Stuffed Quesadillas, Fried Rice, FrittataSautéed Chickpeas, Scrambled Eggs.    Here is another one to add to the list:  Potato Hash.  Like the others on this list, it's a vehicle to use up miscellaneous veggies in the fridge, maybe left-over meat, and quick to put together.  To make a cookbook, I would just have to do ten versions of each of these...  The Meat-lovers, The Vegetarian, The Superfood version (i.e.salmon, kale and quinoa), then the seasonal versions, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.  Then maybe fill it out with a gluten-free vegan challenge...

Of course, it seems silly to actually follow a set recipe for this type of a meal, as one of the things that makes these quick to make is not having a "real" recipe, where you would measure and have to have specific ingredients.  Would love some feedback on this... Do you like to make it up with some basic guidelines, or a "real" recipe?

Potato hash has always been one of my favorites, but it didn't often make into the rotation, since you traditionally start with cooked potatoes (whole boiled potatoes), which I rarely happen to have in my refrigerator at 6pm when I want to make dinner.   But then I stumbled across a shortcut in the Serious Eat Blog that really works:  par-cook cubes of potatoes in the microwave.  You just cube the potatoes, put them on a dinner plate, cook for a few minutes, then into the skillet.  You can use any kind of potatoes. Russets are usually, recommended, but have been happy with red, gold, and even sweet potatoes.  I even mix potatoes if I have a bunch of small ones.

So, like the other dishes in this series, I am just giving some guidelines, not a "real" recipe.  Feel free to improvise and adjust to your taste, and what you happen to have around!

As to quantity, look at the amounts of each component to decide how much you want to eat.  Double if cooking for two, adjusting plus or minus for how much they eat compared to you. I don't ever make this for more than two, since my skillet isn't big enough (I like to use a non-stick skillet, and the biggest one I have is 11 inches").  It does look like a big pile when you start, but it shrinks some when it cooks.   I like this best with broccoli or greens like swiss chard or kale, but use what you like.  I do always use some onion (or a shallot, or green onions), and most always red bell pepper.  Meat is optional.

And last, I like to top this with something. Usually it's a fried egg (done in the same skillet, it just takes a couple of minutes after the hash is done), but sometimes shredded cheese, and/or a half an avocado.  Chopped herbs will make it seem fancy.  And ketchup is a traditional topping, although honestly I don't even have any in the house.

So, here is a start, improvise to your taste!

Potato Hash

One serving, double for two

Any kind of oil, or bacon grease (about a tablespoon)
Enough potatoes (about 1 medium-large russet or equivalent amount of any kind of potatoes)
   If you have boiled potatoes, skip the microwave step…
¼ of a an onion, diced
Red pepper flakes

¼ of a bell pepper (any color, but I like red best)
A good handful or two of a green vegetable or 2:  Broccoli (small florets), or any kind of greens (kale, swiss chard, spinach), or diced zucchini.  Leftover roasted or steamed veggies are OK.
Other options: mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes

Optional:  Bacon, ham, or leftover chicken, any kind of leftover grilled or roasted meat.

Toppings:  Egg, and/or shredded cheese, avocado, chopped herbs, sour cream, ketchup

Dice potatoes, place in a single layer on a plate, then microwave for 2-3 minutes per serving.  They don’t need to be cooked through, but good and hot and have lost the raw crunch. Taste a cube to check.  Careful – the plate can get hot.

If using bacon, slice the bacon into half-inch pieces, then put into a 10 – 11” nonstick or cast iron skillet. Add a little water (a couple of tablespoons or so, this will keep it from spattering), and turn on medium-high heat.  Cook until the bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon and leave the grease.  If not using bacon, heat a tablespoon or so of your favorite oil (enough to nicely coat the bottom of the pan) over medium-high heat.

Add the potatoes to the hot skillet, sprinkle with a good shake salt, and a big grind of pepper.   Shake, then let brown.  If you are using mushrooms, add them now.  Once one side of the potato cubes are brown (this takes a five minutes or so), toss, then add the red pepper flakes, onions, bell peppers, and any longer cooking greens (like raw broccoli or zucchini).  Just leave them on top to start cooking as the potatoes continue to brown.  Toss again, now cooking/browning everything in earnest.  Add study greens like kale at this point.  When it’s almost done add any meat, sun dried tomatoes, or leftover veggies (just want to heat through, not really cook), and tender greens, like baby spinach.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.   Remove to serving plate(s) or a dinner bowl(s).   If using an egg to top, add a bit more oil (or butter) to the pan, and quickly fry the egg.

Add the egg to the top, along with other optional toppings – bacon, cheese, avocado, herbs, etc.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stuffed Quesadilla

One of the current fads is #cook90...  basically it's a program to cook 90 meals in a month (breakfast, lunch, dinner), combined with a relentless stream of pictures posted on social media tagged #cook90.  Most people choose to do it in a month with 31 days, so there are a few passes.  I kind of snicker at this, because I guess that I typically "cook" over 80 meals a month.  The idea is mostly centered on not eating out, and the rules are pretty loose on what constitutes cooking (assembling a group of things counts, like yogurt, fruit and granola).

So while I snicker, there is a real challenge in finding a good combination of interesting, tasty, good-for-you food on the table day after day, and minimizing how  much time you spend in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. Because even if you enjoy cooking, there are days you just don't have the time or enthusiasm to do it.  For those days, you need to have a few go-to's that are quick and tasty. Leftovers can fit that bill, but that gets old.  And a lot of times, I have bits of things, not enough to make a full meal. And sometimes you need to be able to put something together from pantry staples. Quesadillas fit either of these scenarios.

And when you stuff quesos with more than just cheese it makes a hearty healthy-ish meal.

I typically start with some kind of extra protein -- most often, black beans (from a can - drained and rinsed) but sometimes leftover meat, then add some vegetable (pretty much any leftover cooked vegetable, roasted anything is especially good), or maybe raw green onions or red bell peppers (thinly sliced). Sun dried tomatoes add a nice pop.  I usually use sharp cheddar cheese, but sometimes use a mix of small bits of cheese that need to be used up, or will add some goat cheese.  And I like a little spice -- usually just some red pepper flakes, but roasted chilis are traditional (for good reason), or diced raw jalapenos.  I tend to avoid canned green chilis as they just seem too wet.

These go together quick, so it's best to get everything assembled before you start cooking. You can use any size tortilla, just accommodate the volume of toppings to tortilla size. I have never tried the "alternative" tortillas (like the colored wraps, or low fat, or whole wheat..), so I don't know how they work. For a large tortilla, I use a "big handful" of cheese (about 2 ounces), a small handful of meat or beans, and a handful of veggies.

I put a little oil (any kind) in a skillet large enough to accommodate the flat tortilla and turn the heat on medium high.  You want just a very thin layer of oil.

When the skillet is warm (don't need to wait until its hot), put in the tortilla and quickly turn with your hand to evenly spread the oil.  Then start building:  spread the cheese over the entire tortilla.  Add the meat or beans on one size.  Add the veggies to the other side.  Add any other add-ins, like sun-dried tomatoes or chili's to which ever side is less full.  Add goat cheese (or even something like a bit of blue cheese) if that is what you want.  Wait for the cheddar cheese to melt.   Here are a couple of examples of what the assembled queso's look like:

Black bean, goat cheese, sun dried tom, green onion 

        Lamb, roasted veggies, sun dried tomatoes

When the cheese is melted, check underneath to see if the tortilla is browning.  When it looks like this, fold in half.

It's usually best to fold the veggie side onto the bean or meat side.  Press the folded queso with your spatula, and brown a bit more on each side.   When nicely golden brown, remove to a cutting board and slice into wedges.  Serve with garnish of choice -- avocado, salsa, a sprinkle of herbs, or maybe a salad.    If you go on to make a second queso, note that it will cook much faster -- be ready to turn down the heat.   I usually add a tiny bit more oil, and don't twirl the tortilla in the pan (or be really quick, as it's really hot fast).  


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Preserved Lemons

As many of you know, I have a large old lemon tree in my backyard, and always on the lookout for things to do with lemons.  Lots of lemons.  You can only drink so much lemonade.  So I decided to try making preserved lemons, which are a traditional food in North Africa (think a Moroccan tagine)... and when you have a giant jar of them in your refrigerator (not small expensive jars from a gourmet store) you start experimenting.  And now I get cravings for them, even though I have not tried making tagine yet!

Traditionally, to make preserved lemons, you "almost" quarter the lemons, then stuff with salt, then stuff the lemons in a jar.  This seems like a lot of bother.  Then I stumbled on this recipe where you just quarter the lemons... Eureka!  Actually, the recipe was for Meyer Lemons, but works just fine on Eureka lemons.  Next I am going to try with limes (and do a smaller batch).   Here is my short version of the recipe, click through the link for more details.

Preserved Lemons

15 lemons: quarter 12, the remaining 3 will be juiced
1 ½ cups Diamond Kosher Salt

Mix lemon quarters and salt in a large bowl.  Let sit at room temperature about 1 hour.
Tightly pack lemon quarters into a large 2 quart jar.  Use lemon juice to just cover (note – I use pickle weights to help hold down the lemons).

Let the jar sit at room temperature for about 7 days until lemon rinds are glossy and look translucent all the way through, then refrigerate.    They will be good for many months, at about a year they start getting mushy.

So, what do you do with them?  The first key is to rinse off each piece when you are ready to use it, and remove the pulp... you just use the lemon rind (the pulp is pretty mushy and super salty, although there are some recipes that call for it), and usually dice into small pieces.  They have a bright, briny pop, and use them like you might use capers or olives.  You can add to most any pasta or grain salad, I also like them with green salads that have fish in them.  I sometimes throw them into the Chickpea and Vegetable Saute.   They go great on roasted vegetables.  I haven't tried this recipe yet, but it looks good:  Roasted Carrots with Lemon.

If you want to do something a bit more fancy (and unusual), try this recipe, inspired by El Farol: Tapas and Spanish Cuisine by Chef James Campbell Caruso (one of those cookbooks where every recipe I have tried is really good):

Preserved Lemon Goat Cheese Spread

1 large head of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces soft goat cheese (such as Silver Goat), at room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemons (just the rind part)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Roast the garlic:   Preheat oven to 350F (can do in toaster oven).  Cut off the top of the garlic. Set the garlic in the center of a square of foil, drizzle with olive oil so that oil runs into the cloves.  Bunch (scrunch) the foil around the garlic head, leaving a bit of an opening then bake for 35 – 45 minutes until cloves are nice and soft.   Let cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl with a wooden spoon.  Slip the garlic cloves out of the skin and add to the bowl.  Mash them a bit on the edge of the bowl (you may or may not want to add the whole head depending on how big it is) then stir together.    Refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to let the flavors meld, but let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before serving so that is spreads more easily.

Serve on warm bread, crackers, or crudité.

And last, if you want to go the trendy route with kale and a home-fermented food, try this salad, which was inspired by my favorite salad at our local chop house, Stake. While they do have good steaks, we are much more likely to go there and just have a flatbread and salad, or a roasted vegetable outside on the balcony... along with a nice bottle of wine.
Kale Salad with Almonds and Feta

Per person for a main dish salad: 

¼ cup almonds – either slivered blanched almonds or coarsely chopped whole almonds
Handful of kale ~ 4 leaves, thick ribs removed and cut into thin slices (1/4 inch or so)
Handful of cabbage – cut into ¼ slices, each about an inch or two long
1 quarter of a preserved lemon (peel only), diced
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
1 small carrot (optional) – 1/8 inch julienne or shredded
¼ cup chickpeas (optional) – plain or roasted
¼ of an avocado (optional) – diced.
Olive oil
Lemon juice – about ½ a lemon

Roast almonds:  place on foil on a pan and toast in a toaster oven until light brown.  Alternatively, roast in a small skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently.  Or start with roasted almonds.

Massage kale leaves with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Let sit while you chop the remaining vegetables.  

Add the cabbage, preserved lemon, cheese and optional ingredients.  Add the almonds (they should be slightly cooled). Toss.  Add the lemon juice and a good grind of pepper, toss some more.  If the salad looks dry, add another bit of olive oil.  Taste to determine if more salt is needed (the preserved lemon and feta are pretty salty, so more salt may not be needed).  Serve in a handmade bowl.