Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a fast, easy and delicious meal-in-a-bowl that I learned in my early 20’s.  I lived in New York City at the time and was taught this dish by a friend whose husband was originally from Spain.  My friend, who called this Pisto, learned it from her mother-in-law.  You might note I’m not calling it this, which is because I’ve understood since that Pisto usually refers to the Spanish version of ratatouille.  Although, I just looked up Pisto to find  in the Spanish dictionary that it cites a secondary definition as “hodgepodge”, which could be used to describe this dish.  Whatever it’s called, I’ve been making and loving this all my adult life.  I had not made it recently, but was reminded about it by my brother John, who cooked it last week.  It’s a dish that once I’ve got it in front of me, I can’t get enough of.  I hope you enjoy the unusual blending of flavors in this hodgepodge of rice, artichokes, roasted red peppers and a healthy dose of garlic – all drenched in lemon.   And as Randy said − “great mouth appeal”.  Serve with a salad with lemon-olive oil dressing and a nice lemony Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino.

This recipe serves 6 and can be cut in half

2 cups white or brown rice

3 1/2 cups water or chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 15-ounce cans artichoke hearts (NOT marinated), 10-11 medium

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, about 2 large

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons butter

1 8-ounce ham slice, diced

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 lemons, either Meyer or Eureka

Place the rice and liquid in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till done.  (White rice about 20 minutes, brown rice about 40 minutes)

Meanwhile, cut the artichoke hearts in quarters.  Cut the roasted peppers in 1 x 1/2-inch strips.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  When just starting to bubble, add the garlic and stir for a minute.  Add the artichokes and roasted red pepper.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer until the rice is done.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the olive oil till shimmering.  Add the ham pieces and saute on medium high heat for 5 or so minutes until it starts to brown.  Add the ham to the artichoke mixture and stir to blend.

When the rice is done, place in a large bowl, add the artichoke-ham mixture and stir to thoroughly blend all together.  Serve with lemon wedges.  People can squeeze juice from 1-2 wedges over their individual servings.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  I almost always make this with brown rice, but white is good and quicker if pressed for time. I almost always use chicken stock or part stock/part water for a richer taste.  Look for smoked ham with the least amount of sugar and definitely not one where maple syrup has been used in the curing.  I prefer Meyer lemons, but regular Eureka lemons are delicious as well.  I learned to make this with butter (even more than I called for!), but I think olive oil could be substituted.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love sweet corn but like eating it off the cob more than on.  This is my basic way of sauteing corn, but other vegetables can be added (tomatoes and limas would make succotash!) and the herbs can be varied.  Heartier herbs like oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary are best added with the corn.  If using tender herbs like basil, mint and cilantro, add these right before serving. We served this with our lemon-garlic grilled chicken and a delicious sauteed kale dish we posted last summer – it felt like the perfect meal for a delightful summer day.

4 servings

1 yellow or red onion, thickly sliced, each slice cut into quarters

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Kernels cut from 6 ears of corn, about 3 cups

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped

1/4 cup basil, cut in chiffonade

Salt and pepper

Heat a large saute pan to medium high, add the olive oil and heat till shimmering.  Turn down heat slightly and add butter.  Add onion and saute for 5-7 minutes till soft and starting to brown.  Add corn, thyme and oregano and saute for another 5 minutes or so until corn is heated through.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Persimmon & Feta Salad

November 17, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

It is so fun to eat something never tried before and find out that it’s delicious!  I’m speaking of persimmons, a fruit I’ve seen in the markets over the years.  I have always passed them by, not knowing how to use them.  My local co-op was demoing this salad last week – one bite and I was instantly sold.   For this recipe you will use Fuyu persimmons, which are hard (sort of like an apple).  I learned the other commonly sold persimmons in the U.S. are Hachiyas, which are considered ripe when fully soft and used mainly in baking/cooking.  Who would have known?!!  This salad is very refreshing.  I recommend it with something rich or hearty – we served it alongside chili and it provided a delightful contrast.

1-2 Fuyu persimmons, peeled, cored and sliced

3 ounces crumbled feta cheese

5 ounces baby arugula or spinach

1/4 cup pinenuts, sliced almonds or walnuts, toasted (optional)

5 ounces proscuitto, cut into strips (optional)

1/4 cup EV olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon (Meyer if available)

1/2 teaspoon honey (less or more to taste)

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice and honey together until slightly emulsified.  Toss the greens with a little of the dressing.  Place the sliced persimmon and proscuitto (if using) on top of the dressed greens and drizzle with more dressing.  Serve on small plates or salad bowls.  Top with feta crumbles and nuts (if using). 

Cooks Notes:  I read that Fuyu persimmons do not need to be peeled, but I found the peel tough so I recommend removing it.  I have not made this with nuts or proscuitto, although I think adding these would be good, if heartier.  The honey really adds to the overall integration of the flavor in this dish.  I usually prefer salads with a very light application of dressing, but I think using a little more dressing is the right approach for this yummy salad (as you can see by the shiny spinach leaves!).

Aunt Suzy says

The heat that has been plaguing the rest of the country has finally caught up with us here in the Upper Midwest.   On Sunday it was mid-90’s with bright sun and humidity, so Randy and I decided to make a variety of salads for our main meal.  We split the cooking, which allowed us time to play a cribbage game – one of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon.

 These salads are either no-cook or minimal cooking, like sauteeing a few items.  Two of the salads are from a previous post – Tuna with Roasted Peppers and Pine Nuts, which includes a link to the Morrocan-inspired Carrot Salad with Feta from Smitten Kitchen.  (The carrot salad uses Harissa.)  I am excited to have recently purchsed a new-fangled Julienne Peeler, which I think makes for a crunchier and lighter carrot salad than a box grater.   We also made White Bean and Arugula salad from Mark Bittman’s great 101 Salads N Y Times article from last summer.  (If you need salad ideas, check this out!)  And lastly, we made one of our favorites, Zucchini Carpaccio with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan.  All made more delicious with the refreshing French rose wine we served wtih the meal.  So if it’s hot where you live, stay cool with one or more of these delicious salads!

Aunt Suzy says

My favorite new discovery is food writer Francis Lam on  Not all his spots include recipes, but all are interesting. The minute I saw his column last Friday I knew I had to bunny-hop down to the farmer’s market on Saturday to get ingredients.  All I needed was arugula, tomatoes and shallots.  I was thinking that it might be too late in the season for arugula, but the great growers of Burning River Farm came through.  I was shocked to see home grown shallots (from another vendor);  I was fully prepared to have to buy them from a store.  I was able to get all three fresh ingredients required for this simple, elegant and beautiful dish. Randy and I ate the entire recipe, which I think was supposed to serve four!  It paired beautifully with a rich Spanish rose wine.   A note about the pasta – I thought from experience that we should be using small pasta shapes of some sort like fusilli or penne, but I’m glad I followed the recipe and used linguine.  It was perfect and fun to eat.  On another note, I heartily recommend reading the original column – link above – it was fun to read and made my mouth water! (August 2011 addendum – Francis is no longer at Salon, but is now at another food site Gilt Taste, where he posted an article about this recipe.)

Margaux says

Making dinner while entertaining a 19 month old is quite a challenge, so I’m always looking for fast and easy…but I don’t want to compromise on flavor!!  This is another winner for me because it took no time at all to make, and it was delicious.  I agree with Suzy that I was going against what I know about pasta by using spaghetti instead of pasta pieces for this dish, but in the end I was glad I followed the recipe!

2 1/2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes (a variety is nice, but good old red farm-stand or garden tomatoes will be just fine)

2-3 handfuls of baby arugula (we added about 3 cups)

thinly sliced shallot or shaved onion

3/4-1 pound spaghetti or linguine, depending on what pasta to veggies ratio you want (we used 3/4 lb linguine)

1 cup grated Parmegiano (the recipe said optional, but I don’t think so :-))

olive oil, salt and pepper

Seed and chop the tomatoes into chunks.  Place in a large bowl – large enough to hold everything including the cooked pasta and with enough room to toss vigorously.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste.  Place the arugula on top and then the sliced shallots or shaved onion.  (the shallots were fab!)

In the meantime, the spaghetti or linguine should be cooking away – or at least the water should be at the boiling point when you’ve finished setting up your bowl of vegetables.  Cook the pasta in salted water till al dente according to package directions.  When finished cooking, drain and then dump the drained pasta on top of the vegetables.  Press down a little and dowse with olive oil.  Let sit 3 minutes for the arugula to wilt and the shallots or onions to soften up a bit.  After the 3 minute timer goes off, toss a little to blend and then add the Parmegiano and toss away to thoroughly blend the cheese in and distribute the ingredients throughout the dish.  The recipe said to add some red wine vinegar if you want, but we thought it was perfect without.

Aunt Suzy says . . .
It’s time for summer “side” salads – salads to accompany grilled items now that we can get out and grill! I was recently at my brother John’s and family in Batavia, IL, and we grilled Moroccan Lamb Sausages that we picked up yesterday at the mega-Whole Foods on North Ave in Chicago. This reminded me of a simple couscous salad from the Joy of Cooking. It’s not Moroccan, but it’s fresh-tasting and a snap to make. We served it with the sausages, roasted golden and red beets and sauteed beet greens. Yum!


The salad
1 box couscous cooked according to directions OR
2 cups dry couscous (I use whole wheat) and
2 cups boiling water
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
zest of one lemon
zest of one lime
1/2-3/4 cup chopped cilantro (to taste)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped parsley

Put the couscous in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the couscous and let sit for 15 minutes and then fluff with a fork. (I prefer this method to cooking in a saucepan on the stove because you never get gummy couscous this way.) When cooled slightly, toss the couscous with the remainder of ingredients. If you do not like cilantro, this is pretty good with just the parsley.

The dressing
3-4 Tablespoons EV olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
pinch cayenne pepper, optional or to taste

Blend thoroughly to emulsify slightly. Pour over couscous mixture and mix until distributed evenly. I like to mix with my hands so that I can break up lumps if there are any in the couscous.