Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon closeThese Brussels sprouts might be just an excuse to eat bacon but with Thanksgiving upon us, they are also the perfect side dish for that traditional Turkey. This is not a Paula Peck recipe but rather an adaptation from “The James Beard Cookbook” by her good friend and mentor James Beard. Although Brussels sprouts are more popular now than ever, it seems people either love them or hate them. If you hate them, than you probably haven’t tasted those that are cooked right. These bright green bulbs can be bland and mushy when overcooked but are tender with almost crunchy light leafy layers when cooked correctly. A little bacon doesn’t hurt either.

With just a few additions, brussels sprouts with bacon is the perfect example of the important culinary concept of balancing fat, acid, sweet, and salt. The fat is the bacon (obviously) plus a finishing of butter…just a tablespoon. The sweet is both the brussel sprouts themselves as well as a pinch of sugar. The acid is a squeeze lemon juice at the end and the salt is the seasoning combined with some of the saltiness of the bacon. Ok so I didn’t say this is healthy but at least we are eating vegetables!  Even those friends or family members that “never eat green things” will be back for seconds. This dish might also be in the running to outshine that drab dry turkey and stuffing. Now I’ve gone too far…Happy Thanksgiving.

Ingredients:

1 lb or 1 quart Brussels Sprouts
6 slices bacon
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated onion or shallot
pinch (large) sugar
1 tablespoon or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the stems close to the sprouts and remove any discolored leaves. Soak the sprouts for 15-20 minutes in water with 1 teaspoon salt. In a medium pot, pour enough water to cover the brussels sprouts and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring water to a boil and add sprouts. Do not cover. Cook gently for 5 minutes until sprouts turn bright green and are just barely tender when pierced with a fork.

While brussls sprouts cook, fry the 6 slices of bacon in a large skillet. When crisp, remove and chop. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon grated onion. Return chopped bacon to the pan and add the cooked, drained brussels sprouts. Add sugar and saute until brussels sprouts are tender. To finish, add 1 tablespoon grated onion, squeeze lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

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Veggie Stuffed Eggplant – Imam Bayeldi

Veggie Stuffed Eggplant - Imam Bayeldi

Stuffed EggplantCatching the tail end of eggplant the season, this eye-pleasing dish showcases the juicy late summer (or fall) vegetarian favorite. I previously posted a couple of my grandmother’s vegetarian dishes. Paula Peck was not known for cooking vegetables and when she did, there were often whole sticks of butter or cups of olive oil involved. As a veggie lover though, I’ve managed to revise some of these dishes so that the flavor is maintained, but with less fat. In this case, the eggplant is stuffed with a fragrant mixture of garlic, onion, celery, tomato puree and herbs. These flavors soak into the eggplant as it roasts with just enough olive oil to keep it moist. The resulting succulent meaty flesh will make you forget that you’re eating an almost guilt-free and healthy dish.

So what does this strange recipe title “Imam Byaldi” have to do with eggplant? Well according to my grandmother’s introduction to this recipe in “The Art of Good Cooking,” the old Armenian title means “’the Holy Man fainted’- of shock because the eggplant tasted so good!” Ok so nobody is going to faint when they eat this stuffed eggplant, but it is pretty tasty.

Ingredients:

4 small eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Cut eggplant lengthwise into halves. Salt cut sides generously and let stand for about a 1/2 hour (this draws out the bitterness from the eggplant).

Preheat oven. Rinse eggplants and dry with paper towels. Brush cut sides with some olive oil. Place eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake until centers are soft and lightly browned.

While the eggplants are baking, prepare the following stuffing: sauté onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic in remaining olive oil until vegetables are soft but not brown. Add chopped celery leaves and parsley. Stir until leaves are wilted, then add tomato puree and herbs. Add sugar then salt and pepper to taste. Cook a few more minutes. Set stuffing aside until needed.

When eggplants are tender, allow them to cool so they can be easily handled. Raise oven heat to 350 degrees.

With a small knife, make an incision lengthwise, down the center of the cut side, being careful not to cut all the way through the eggplant. With your fingers, press soft pulp away from the incision on the 2 long sides so that a good-sized hollow is formed. Fill the hollows with the prepared filling, using a spoon.

Arrange stuffed eggplants on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional olive oil if filling looks dry. Bake for 45 minutes, basting with olive oil as necessary.

Note: To speed up this recipe, cut eggplant 1/2 inch thick and after it has been baked until tender, place slices of eggplant in a casserole. Arrange them alternately with the stuffing. Bake 30-40 minutes.

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Two-Toned Coleslaw

Two Toned Cole Slaw

Two-Toned Cole Slaw

As the quintessential picnic and BBQ salad, coleslaw is member of that famous family of American mayo salads. It often goes unnoticed, flying under the radar, a dull salad that always seems to stick around. Coleslaw remains a popular side but you almost never hear “ooh a side of coleslaw would be perfect with this” or “I’m craving coleslaw with my hamburger.” It’s usually more of a last minute thought, often an impulse buy to a fill that extra space on your plate of BBQ ribs.

Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly excited when I came across the my grandmothers unpublished recipe for two-toned coleslaw. I almost skipped right over it. When I started to read the ingredients though, it occurred to me that this was an actual salad and not the sugary bland mush of a slaw I was used to. In addition to the cabbage and carrots, this slaw has freshly sliced cucumber, celery, green bell pepper, and scallion. The contrast between the vegetables made this coleslaw worth a shot. It’s not even necessary to make the mayo for the dressing from scratch (for those of you concerned about eating raw eggs). But it does give it a nice richness that’s worth the extra work. With this old fashioned slaw all dressed up, it finally deserves that prominent salad spot at the picnic table.

Ingredients:

3 cups shredded green cabbage
3 cups shredded red cabbage
2/3 cup finely sliced celery
1/2 cup sliced cucumber (peeled and seeded)
1/2 cups chopped green pepper
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup homemade mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Combine all vegetables and celery seed in a bowl. Toss to mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, and half the vinegar. Taste for seasoning and add remaining vinegar and additional sugar if needed. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture. Mix together thoroughly. Chill for at least an hour before using.

Serves 6.

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Green Beans Catalan

Green Beans Catalan

I haven’t been overly impressed with the vegetables section of “The Art of Good Cooking.” In my opinion, this is the most dated part of the book where it truly shows it’s age. Too much olive oil or butter, often unappetizing soft veggies, more frozen veggies than fresh, and what we would normally try to make clean and simple today, is loaded down with fatty ingredients like mayo or bacon fat. I completely understand why this section is the way it is. No one in the 1960’s was eating kale salads or “super greens.” Like most of her cooking, which was often influenced by friend and mentor, James Beard, my grandmother’s recipes were based on classic French techniques. This is not to say that this section can’t be modernized and updated like the others. It’s just a little more challenging.

This is a very simple recipe from the vegetables section. Per my research on Catalan cuisine, my changes and additions may make it less authentic, as this seems to historically refer to the northeast region of Spain and it’s Mediterranean style cooking (such as the olives and capers I left out). However, it’s quick and the reduced olive oil (1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons) as well as the addition of goat cheese and tomatoes, makes it colorful and healthy.

Ingredients:

4 cups green beans, cut in 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, peeled (optional) and chopped
1 small green pepper, minced
1/2 cup snap peas
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup black olives (optional)
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
crumbled goat cheese
tomato, quartered

Place green beans in heavy saucepan. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, green pepper, snap peas, and wine. Season, cover tightly, and cook over medium heat until green beans are tender and very little liquid is left in the pan. Check seasoning and add parsley.

Serve with your choice of garnish: goat cheese, tomato quarters, olives, and/or capers.

Serves 6.

A few technical notes about this recipe:
Peeling the tomato before chopping is optional but if you don’t, you may end up with pieces of the skin throughout the dish (as you might see in some of these photos). I personally  don’t mind this but it can be avoided by quickly blanching the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling the skin off.
The snap peas may cook faster than the green beans. To avoid, add them after the green bean mixture has been cooking a few minutes on medium.

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Punjabi Vegetable Curry

Vegetable Curry

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking”

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Indian style recipes in “The Art of Good Cooking.” This was the first one I tried from the book and to be honest, I was skeptical. I first experienced well made tasty Indian food in high school. I say “well made” because prior to this, my experience with Indian food consisted of overly spicy burning your entire mouth to the point that you can’t taste and might as well be eating canned dog food mixed with oil and heavy cream. My stepmother introduced me to healthier, flavorful dishes, mostly of north Indian decent.
This recipe uses curry powder which was more available than spices such as turmeric, cumin, and ground coriander that curry powder can (but not always) be essentially comprised of.
A vegetarian dish that if served with rice and a side of Raita is easily a full satisfying meal. It has over 5 different vegetables which makes the dish more lively, and each one is easy to find and inexpenive. Like most curries, a fair number of ingredients are needed for this recipe. I find that each one creates a distinct layer of flavor within the dish that contributes to the overall highly spiced (but not necessarily hot and spicy-that’s up to you) multi-fascited profile. This is no boring dish.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 large onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated or minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder (or 1 tablespoon each ground coriander and cumin, 1 /2 tablespoon turmeric)
1 fresh serrano pepper or cayenne pepper to taste
1 small cauliflower cut into florettes
2 red potatoes peeled and diced
1/2 – 3/4 cup stock (or as needed)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 pound fresh green beans trimmed and cut in half (or 1 package frozen green beans)
1 package frozen peas
1 lemon juiced
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add mustard seeds. When seeds begin to pop, stir in green pepper, onions, garlic, serrano pepper if using and ginger, and saute until tender. Add curry powder, cayenne if using, salt, and pepper. Add cauliflower and diced potatoes and toss in spice mixture. Add stock and tomato sauce. Cover pot and simmer over medium low until potatoes and cauliflower are tender – add more stock if needed. Add green beans, then peas. Continue to cook until all vegetables are tender. Do not allow to dry out too much. Alternatively, you may turn up the heat at the end if there is too much liquid – there should not be too much sauce surrounding the vegetables. Add lemon juice. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and shredded coconut. Serve with fluffy steamed basmati or jasmine rice and Raita.

Serves 6-8

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