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Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I learned how to make this Creole okra stew from friend Cliff Domio many years ago . . . let’s just say decades! But I haven’t made it in several years, and I’m not sure why it fell off my rotation. Maybe the difficulty finding okra here in the upper Midwest of the U.S. When I first moved here in the 90’s I almost never saw it at the farmer’s markets or grocery stores.  Or maybe it was because not many people here were familiar with okra or avoided it because of its slimy reputation. So I had sort of forgotten about this dish.

All of a sudden this year it seems that many of the farmers at the market have oodles of okra, especially the Hmong. (They are a great study in adapting to market demands and I wonder if the recent immigration from countries where okra is a staple has prompted them to grow it.) On a recent trip to the big farmers’ market downtown, I thought the okra looked really good so I decided to revisit a favorite. Serve this over rice for a satisfying meal. You might also consider a side of cornbread or a baguette to round things out.

Ingredients

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 medium green pepper small dice
3-5 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1-2 links smoked sausage, sliced 1/4-inch rounds (I like andouille)
3-4 cups okra, cut in 3/4-inch pieces
4-5 cups diced fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small can tomato sauce, optional (I rarely use)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
10-12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup dry rice, cooked according to directions (we used brown)

Directions

Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil on medium high heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and the smoked sausage and saute for another minute or two. Add the okra and saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Note that if the heat is maintained, it won’t get slimy. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, if using, and crushed red pepper and stir to combine.

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Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 min or so till okra is done but not massacred.

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Add the shrimp and simmer for another 5-8 minutes till shrimp is just cooked through. Serve over rice – we used brown rice. Enjoy!

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Greek-style Green Beans - Fassolakia Ladera

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I made this dish a year ago after seeing Romano green beans at the farmers market and fully intended to post this recipe then. But time got away from me it seems. Just last weekend, we were in Vermont to visit Randy’s brother and his professional gardener partner, Bill, for their wedding. It was non-stop eating and cooking out of the garden. Bill had an abundance of runner beans he wanted to find a use for and, shazam, it just so happens that I had a recipe.  Plus, he had almost all of the ingredients right outside.

Greek-Style Green Beans - Fasolakia Ladera

This is a delicious vegetarian “stew” that can be served as a side dish or as a main, as we did on the last night of our visit. It was a treat to have this lighter supper after feasting for three days although, speaking for myself, I sorta stuffed myself on this meal as well. 🙂 I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of this year’s version.  In looking around at the various recipes, I learned that “ladera” means braised in olive oil, hence a larger quantity of oil than you might expect in a recipe like this. With all those recipes in mind and some advice from a Greek friend, I decided to make this dish as follows. It is HIGHLY adaptable, however, so have at it! Once finished, serve with slices of feta cheese and a nice crusty bread. A dry rose on the darker, richer side goes really well.

Margaux says . . . 

I’ve been wanting to make this since my friend Beth from Tasty Yummies told me about it a few years ago.  She even wrote a blog post about it after we talked about it, and I just completely forgot to make it!  I’m kicking myself now for forgetting, and I’m very happy that Aunt Suzy brought it up again, because I TOTALLY love it.  This is like comfort food, for summer.  I will be making this often, I think.  Beth’s recipe has beef or lamb in it, and I think that would be a nice way to try it when the weather gets cooler.  Speaking of the weather, it worked out perfectly that I planned to make this when I did, because it got unseasonably cool here in Chicago, perfect weather for eating stew.  I actually had to wear a lightweight sweater today!  In August!  So weird.

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/2 pounds runner beans (also called pole or Romano), ends snapped off and snapped in half if especially long

2-3 carrots, cut in half length-wise then sliced in 1/2-inch chunks

1/2 cup olive oil

1-2 onions, sliced then each slice cut in quarters

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups of chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano

3-4 large round ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped (or 1 large can diced tomatoes)

4-5 whole allspice berries, optional

1 cup of water

3 large potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks (if using russets, peel, if using white or gold, no need to peel)

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Warm the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When shimmering turn heat up to medium high and add the onions. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, till translucent, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, stir and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and mint and all of the oregano. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beans, the carrots, the tomatoes and allspice berries, if using, and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the water and press all ingredients down into the juices so they are just covered. Cover the pot, bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the potatoes and press all ingredients down into the juices again. Bring back to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. While the potatoes are cooking combine a few tablespoons of parsley, 2 tablespoons of mint and the minced garlic. When the dish is finished, stir this herb/garlic mixture into the pot. Turn into a serving bowl or just serve right out of the pot!

COOKS’ NOTES:

Aunt Suzy: The quantities of ingredients are what I would call guidelines. I’ve seen many recipes that use dill in addition to other herbs and many that use solely parsley. The oregano is my addition. I saw a couple of recipes that said “DO NOT forget to add 1 teaspoon cinnamon at the end”. I asked a Greek friend for advice, and he suggested the carrots and said he adds zucchini when he adds the potatoes (but had not heard of the cinnamon :-)).  If you cannot find the flat, longer type of beans called for here, you can use “regular” green beans. I see runner beans occasionally here in the farmers markets, but have not seen in supermarkets in Minnesota. There are versions of this dish that include meat – beef, veal or lamb – but I really like this as a vegetarian meal.

Margaux: I added about a teaspoon of salt when I added the potatoes, because I really don’t like potatoes cooked without salt.  Then I added pepper at the end with the herb/garlic mixture.  Also, I used regular beans and it turned out great!

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

Margaux says…

I love making frittatas for dinner in the summer.  It’s a great way to use up random produce sitting in the fridge, it’s quick and easy, and it is best served at room temperature, which is great in summer.  I got the idea for this one from Skinnytaste.com, except this isn’t the skinny version.

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

We don’t have tons of tomatoes and zucchinis like some people, because we unfortunately don’t have a garden.  But I know that when you do grow those things, they are plentiful, so this is a great way to use it up.  And the Asiago adds so much delicious flavor to this dish!

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced

2 medium zucchinis, cut into matchsticks

8 large eggs

3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese

1/4 cup chopped basil

salt and pepper

2 small garden tomatoes, sliced thinly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together eggs with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and Asiago cheese.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a 10″ non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and turn up heat to medium-high.  Saute until zucchini is soft, about 2 more minutes.  Add egg mixture and let sit for a minute, then tilt the pan and loosen the edges with a spatula, letting uncooked egg slide underneath.  Cook until the underside is golden but the top is still liquid, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the top of the frittata, sprinkle a little salt on them, and transfer to a center rack of the preheated oven.  Bake until the top is set, about 5 minutes.  If the top doesn’t set in that amount of time, turn the broiler on high, move the rack to the top position, and broil until the top sets, about 1-2 minutes.  Don’t overcook!  Remove pan from oven and let cool to warm.  Remove frittata from pan onto a large serving plate, or cut right in the pan and serve.  I like to serve it at room temperature, but it’s also good warm.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

September 4, 2012

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I’ve wanted to make oven roasted tomatoes for a couple of years, but never got around to it.  My brother John made some recently which spurred me into taking the plunge.  In addition to asking friends and family for recipes and tips, I looked at several online to get a picture for various approaches.  There are a lot of recipes out there, but with only slight differences in cooking temps, times and methods.  There are two definite camps, however, when it comes to seasoning.  One camp uses only salt and pepper and the other adds herbs and garlic.  So, always one to see for myself and draw conclusions, I made a batch of each.  The results were great in both cases!  I have already used the plain in ratatouille in place of some of the fresh tomatoes, and we had the seasoned ones on pizza last night (yum!).  I look forward to making more while it’s still tomato season and to experimenting further with both types for appetizers and in sauces and pastas.

I used 10 Roma tomatoes in each batch, but you can use as many tomatoes as you’d like and regular garden tomatoes as well as Romas.  My hunch is that if the tomatoes are very juicy,  squeezing out some of the juice would aid in the carmelization, but I can’t say for sure.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375°.  Have handy baking dishes or jelly roll pans.

Plum (or regular) tomatoes, cut in half (or quarters for very large tomatoes)

Olive Oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Optional seasoning:  oregano, thyme, chopped garlic

Place tomatoes, cut side up,  in a baking dish or jelly roll pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add salt and pepper and seasoning of your choice.  Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, until tomatoes start to carmelize.  Remove from oven, cool slightly and then remove to a platter to cool completely.  Once cooled, remove the skins – they will slip off very easily.  These will keep several days in the fridge or you can freeze using freezer bags or containers.  I hope to freeze a few packs of these because I can picture how fabulous it would be to get a hit of summer in January!

COOK’S NOTES:

Be judicious about the amount of salt.  I used about a teaspoon of kosher salt on the plain tomatoes and felt they were too salty.

I used just oregano and thyme for the seasoned version, but I think rosemary and basil would also be good.

Don’t be daunted by what the pans look like after!  I soaked these for about 30 minutes in very hot water and dish washing liquid and they wiped clean easily – no elbow grease required!  I used a Pyrex dish and a Le Creuset cast iron lasagna pan.  Both worked, but I think the Pyrex had a slight edge in terms of results.

Main Dish Spanish Rice

July 10, 2012

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This dish was inspired by a recipe in Sheila Lukin’s All Around the World Cookbook.  It was a somewhat typical recipe for the Mexican dish we know as Spanish Rice, with Chorizo and an abundance of tomatoes added.  I thought it would be even better with lots of vegetables and started building my recipe from there.  I make a vegetarian version of this just as often as I make the recipe with Chorizo – instructions and ingredients for both are included.  I thought to make this because we had an open bottle of Spanish Rioja, which turned out to be an excellent match.  A Mexican beer – light or dark – goes really well also.  I often serve this with orange and avocado salad as it complements the richness of the dish.  I made a watermelon-cucumber salad yesterday, which also was a refreshing companion.  In addition to use as a main dish, this can be served as a side to grilled fish/meat or tamales.

Please note this makes a mega amount (8-10 servings), so the recipe can be easily halved, although leftovers at a later date are delicious.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium white or yellow onion, small dice

1 large or 2 medium carrots, small dice

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Spanish-style Chorizo sausages, fully cooked, split lengthwise and sliced in half-moons (omit for vegetarian)

1/2-1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, rinsed and diced, use for vegetarian

2 cups long-grain brown rice

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted

3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (water for vegetarian)

1 summer squash (yellow or zucchini), diced

2 cups green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half

1-2 cans black beans, use for vegetarian

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Drain the tomatoes, using a strainer over a quart measuring cup.  Add enough chicken stock or water to the strained liquid to measure 3 1/2 cups.  You may not use all 3 cups of stock/water.  Set aside the liquid and the drained tomatoes.

Steam or simmer the green beans to desired doneness.  I like just past tender crisp for this dish.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a large saute pan on medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  Once shimmering, add the onion and carrots.  Turn down heat to medium and saute for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and Chorizo and saute for 2-3 more minutes.  For vegetarian, add the garlic and the chipotle pepper.  Next add the rice and saute for another 4 or so minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the tomatoes, the 3 1/2 cups of liquid and the diced summer squash.  Bring to a bubble, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, until done, 50-60 minutes.

When liquid is fully absorbed, remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.  Stir to combine ingredients, then stir in the green beans, black beans if using, and any other vegetables you are using.  Let sit for a few minutes to heat up these last additions.  Finally, stir in the cilantro or parsley or pass these for garnish at the table.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  I do not salt and pepper this dish due to the high salt content of many of the ingredients.  I find it plenty flavorful without either, but add according to your taste.  When making the meat version, I like to use AmyLu’s Chicken Chorizo, but I have used pork Chorizo and both chicken and pork Andouille sausage in this dish.  Make sure you are using fully cooked vs. fresh Mexican Chorizo sausage.  The original recipe called for white rice, but once I started using brown rice the dish with white paled in comparison :-). I’ve been thinking this would be nice with 2 cups of diced fresh tomatoes during season (vs. the canned), but haven’t tried it.  Other vegetables can be added such as green peas or corn, and I think this would be good with thinly sliced radishes and avocado as garnish.  Lots of options!

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This dish is a “Wow!” in so many ways.  First and foremost, it’s delicious!  But also easy, with a minimum of fuss.  I made a few adaptations from the original recipe in Bon Appetit.  This is also a great option for use of leftover cooked salmon instead of  cooking the salmon specifically for this dish.

You can see that we enjoyed it with a French rose wine, which was a perfect complement.  We served it with this favorite quinoa salad, Lemony Quinoa with Crunch, which also was a great companion.  The whole meal screamed spring, although I can’t wait to make it later in the summer when tomatoes are in season!

Recipe makes 4 main course servings

The Salmon

EV olive oil

2 small garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

1/2- 3/4 pound salmon fillet, preferably wild caught

Pre-heat the oven to 450° and place the oven rack in the top 3rd of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Coat the salmon with a thin layer of olive oil.  (If using farm raised salmon, you can skip this step.) Press the garlic through a garlic press and spread over the salmon, then season with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on thickness of the salmon,  until salmon is medium rare (or to your desired doneness).  Cool slightly and then remove the skin and dark layer of flesh.  Set aside.

The Salad

3 tablespoons EV olive oil

Chickpeas from one large or two small  cans, drained, rinsed

2 cups chopped tomatoes (we used baby heirlooms from Trader Joe’s)

1/4 cup Niçoise olives or other small black olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers in brine, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1/4-1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and remaining ingredients except basil. Stir until tomatoes start to soften and the juice has thickened, 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the basil. Place desired quantity of salad on individual serving plates. Tear salmon into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces and scatter over the salad.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam

September 11, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . . . .

I’m not sure I had every heard of tomato jam before; maybe on the periphery of my awareness, but nothing that ever sunk in.  What made me seriously consider tomato jam is this post on The Wednesday Chef, specifically the photo of a fried egg on top of toast smeared with the jam.  I love fried egg sandwiches, so I was sold.  I made one for breakfast this morning on top of sour dough rye and it was quite a taste treat . . . even though it didn’t look good enough to photograph and besides I was hungry!

I think this jam has lots of possibilities – as an accompaniment to roast chicken, on top of grilled salmon, as an appetizer with baguette and goat cheese are a few ideas.  I’ve been wondering how it would be on a peanut butter and jam sandwich which I might have to try soon.   Luisa notes that this is a Mark Bitman recipe originally published in the NY Times.  I especially enjoyed reading the accompanying article about his discovery of tomato jam and the process he went through perfecting the recipe.  This recipe made about 1 1/2 cups of finished product for me, but I think I might have cooked it down a little more than necessary.  (the original article said it made a pint – 2 cups)

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 5 cups), cored and coarsely chopped (Roma recommended but not essential)

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced (or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan and stir to blend thoroughly.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam.

This took 50 minutes for me, although the original recipe suggested about 1 hour 15 minutes.  I recommend checking at 45 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn or get too thick.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  (see note below) Cool to room temperature.  Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.  The original recipe said this will keep at least a week, but I have a hunch it has a much longer shelf life if kept in the refrigerator.

UPDATE August 16, 2012:  I’ve now made this jam a few times, including today.  I found that measuring out the tomatoes to 5 cups is better than going by pounds.  That amount of tomatoes made 2 cups of jam.  Also, 50 minutes seems to be the magic number for when this jam is finished – for me anyway.  I recommend sterilizing half-pint jars with boiling water, filling them with the hot jam, capping and then turning upside down to seal.  The jam will then last a lot longer in the fridge before being opened for use.