Archive | May, 2012

Cimeron’s Not-So-Suffering Succotash

Hurray – the sparkling sunny days are here! And so are fabulous veggies bursting with flavor. If you love the warm seasons as much as I do, you’re going to want to try this dish: it tastes like summer! The creamy smoothness of butter beans provides a most luxurious base for the layers of luscious summer flavors in this dish: sweet, crispy white corn, tangy vine-ripened tomatoes, and the distinctively fabulous taste of sun-kissed basil. Every time I make this, it disappears instantly. Friends eat multiple helpings and John vacuums it up. (Shhh, I’m going to tell you a secret: this dish is so good that sometimes I hide it in the fridge so that I can have it all to myself.) And the best part is that it’s as good for you as it is tasty.

This is not your mother’s succotash (I still have nightmares about that frozen bag stuff my mother tried to force-feed me when I was a kid that had mealy beans and mushy corn – blehk!) This bright, sunshiny dish is truly remarkable and is hearty enough to make a meal, although it also makes a perfect side dish, especially if you’re barbequing. And it’s got lots of protein, which is a nice bonus for vegetarians and vegans. So celebrate the season and bite into summer with my Not-So-Sufferin’ Succotash!

Cimeron’s Not-So-Sufferin’ Succotash

Serves: 8 as a side-dish
From fridge to table: about 30 minutes if using canned beans (a longer if using dried beans, but it’s worth it!)

Olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups white corn (if using fresh corn, it’ll take about 2-3 ears of corn to get 2.5 cups of kernels)
3 cups vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (that’s about 2 pounds of tomatoes)
2 ½ cups cooked butter beans* (I prefer making my own from dried beans, but if you want quick and easy, use canned baby butter beans. Or canelli beans if you can’t find butter beans)
½ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
smoked sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

* If using dried beans, see below for soaking and cooking instructions

Heat a big old high-sided pan over medium-high. Sautee the onions in some olive oil (1-2 tbsp) and sprinkle with some smoked sea salt. Once the onions become translucent, add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Toss in the corn, beans and tomatoes and stir well. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and season to taste with additional smoked sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm (and bonus – the beans retain heat very well, so it stays warm on your plate for a long time!) When you take your first bite, close your eyes and taste summer come to life on your tongue. 🙂

* If using dried beans, cover the beans with lots of fresh water and soak for at least 5 hours, changing the water as often as possible (at least 5 times) to de-gas the beans. It also helps to soak them with a piece of “kombu,” a kind of seaweed that helps to de-gas beans. After they’ve been fully soaked, discard the water and the kombu. Put the beans in a big pot and cover fresh water so there’s at least a couple inches of water above the beans. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Then uncover the pot and simmer for about 2 more hours until tender, stirring occasionally. Test to see if the beans are done – they will be cooked through and creamy when they’re ready. Drain and rinse with cold water. The extra beans freeze well, by the way!

Silky Portugese Style Pasta With Toasted Almonds and Soy Chorizo

Ever been to Portugal? I recently landed a PR and Editorial Director position with the Kite Surf Pro tour and so I’m heading to the first tour stop soon: spectacular Guincho Beach in Portugal. Yes, I know you’re crying for me right now – my job is tough but I will persevere! 😉  To prepare my stomach for the trip, I started experimenting with traditional Portuguese and Spanish cooking methods and flavors, only with a meat-free twist. Oh meu deus, I found a winning combination!

I think you’re going to like this quick, simple, healthy and incredibly tasty dish: silky Portugese style pasta with toasted almonds and soy chorizo. What’s silky pasta? It’s damn good, that’s what it is! By sautéing dry pasta and then allowing it to absorb a flavored wine sauce, it creates a silky, almost creamy texture that’s rich, flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth good. Pasta normally doesn’t do anything for me, but this is spectacular and now I’m in love with it. Plus, the soy chorizo imparts a fantastic smoky flavor and the toasted almonds give the dish a surprisingly satisfying and interesting crunch. My carnivore husband also loves this dish so much that it’s going into our rotation, and I love it since it’s delicious and fast to make. Ole!

So take a trip to Portugal with me…with your taste buds. I think you’ll really like this, and I guarantee that it’ll totally change the way you look at pasta. It’s muito excelente!

Take a trip to Portugal with your taste buds.

Silky Portuguese Style Pasta with Toasted Almonds and Soy Chorizo

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 30 minutes

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup white wine (a dry wine, like sauvignon blanc, is best)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp saffron, dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water
7 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 cup (or about 6 oz) soy chorizo cut into small pieces (I use soyrizo and it works great in this dish)
1 yellow onion, finely diced
12 oz thin spaghetti (such as angel hair), broken into 2 to 3 inch pieces
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted
Olive oil
* 1 cup cooked chickpeas – optional

Heat a medium pot and pour in water, wine, broth, salt and saffron. Bring to a boil then reduce to the lowest setting on your range to keep warm.

In a large pot, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat and sauté garlic for 30 seconds. Remove the garlic and set aside. Add the soy chorizo and brown it, which should take about 3 minutes. It may break apart, which is fine. Remove from pot and set aside with the garlic. Sauté the onion until it’s translucent and golden brown, about 4 minutes, then add the broken pasta and sauté until the pasta turns golden – about 5 minutes. Add the hot wine/broth mixture, cover the pot and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, which should take about 5-6 minutes. Stir well then add the parsley, the chickpeas if you’re using them (I’d say use them only if you are in love with chickpeas – the dish doesn’t totally need them) and a little salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve hot. Comer feliz! (Which I think is Portuguese for bon appetite…either that or ‘come here, Felix.’)

Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles

Knowing how much I adore Bali (who wouldn’t love that tropical paradise where you can get $4 massages?!), and probably remembering how much I talk about my favorite noodle and nut dish that I eat whenever I’m there (if allowed, I would bathe in this dish), my neighbor Martha and her daughter Jamie shared this fabulous and quick-to-prepare recipe with me. It’s from The Accidental Vegan cookbook and is an elegant vegetarian adaptation of a traditional Indonesian dish that is simply divine. Unlike my other favorite dishes that pretty much explode with flavor, this meal lightly dances on your taste buds with a slightly sweet flavor and a lovely nuttiness. It’s got loads of protein to fill your belly with joy. Plus, it’s quick, simple and delicious! Whether you’re trying to please a carnivore’s tummy, a vegan’s palate or a picky kid’s appetite, this dish delivers.

This is the sweet little Indonesian great-grandmother who taught me how to make this dish. See, I wasn't joking when I said her kitchen was blackened!

I learned how to make the traditional version of this dish in the blackened kitchen of an ancient Balinese great-grandmother who used Indonesian candlenuts to make this dish. It can be challenging to find candlenuts outside of Asia, but don’t worry – the other nuts listed below make fantastic substitutes. I’m also happy to report that you can use an actual range to cook this meal instead of the little cooking fire that the ancient great-grandma used. Although I’ll admit it was fun to cook with her, even though she didn’t speak a word of English and my mastery of the Indonesian language is restricted to massage- and surfing-related terms.  Unfortunately I didn’t remember almost anything she taught me since she bestowed on me the gift of an aromatic leaf that she indicated I should chew on while cooking. It made my lips numb. Being unable to feel my tongue, I accidentally swallowed the masticated leaf, which made the old lady’s eyes bulge in alarm – apparently you’re just supposed to chew it and spit it out. Who knows what it was – all I know is that I didn’t remember anything else that followed, except that I had monkeys sitting on my shoulder and that the flames in her cooking fire magically transformed into technicolor aliens that waved forks at me. So thank goodness for the Accidental Vegan cookbook for recreating this recipe!

I made a few changes to get the flavor to be a closer approximation to the dish I love eating in Indonesia, and I think the end result is divine. By the way, if you have sweet soy sauce, which is what is typically used in this dish, you can use that instead of the soy/molasses combo. You can find it in most Asian food stores. But I doubt your local Asian food store stocks that weird Indonesian chewing leaf with numbing and hallucinogenic properties. You never know though!
Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles

From fridge to table: about 10 minutes

Serves: 4

1 pound dry Asian noodles (such as udon or soba)
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (aka “filberts”) with the skins rubbed off
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1.5 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup bean sprouts (kale is also a great substitute)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp molasses
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles; cook until al dente. Drain noodles well then run under cold water so they don’t get gummy.

Meanwhile, put the nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Heat the olive oil in a wok over medium low heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Stir in the nuts, sprouts, soy sauce, molasses and sesame oil and cook for another few minutes until everything is heated through. Add noodles and toss everything with tongs until the noodles absorb the liquid. Serve hot.

Hmm, maybe I wasn't hallucinating?!