Carving pumpkins kicks off the holiday season in my mind. Before giving thanks, or crossing off names on your holiday gift list, scooping out the gloppy, messy seeds from a pumpkin to create a smiling jack-o'-lantern is just plain fun. But this year – wait before you toss out those "guts"!
Westside Market in New York City wrote to Stir It Up! sharing ideas for using "the whole pumpkin." Westside Market in New York City was founded by the Zoitas family, who arrived in the United States from Greece more than 45 years ago and set up their neighborhood store based on a love of fresh-grown produce and authentic cooking. Maria Zoitas, creator of “Maria’s Homemade,” a line of prepared food, created these pumpkin seed recipes for the fall dinner table.
Sure, you can take the traditional route of just roasting pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, and eating them straight from the bowl as a snack. But oven roasted butternut squash with roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed crusted chicken also sound delicious. These recipes bring the humble pumpkin seed onto a sophisticated culinary stage – and demand dexterity from the cook.
To toast your pumpkin seeds, simply rinse off the seeds and spread them out on a baking sheet coated with a little olive oil in a 400 degrees F. oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Shelling pumpkins can be a bit of work, but if you don't like chewing on the shells the extra effort is worth it to get to the nutty flavored seeds inside. Once you've freed the seeds you can add them to all kinds of dishes – sprinkle them over salad, add them as a topping to baked apples, or use them as a garnish for your favorite pumpkin soup.
Roasted butternut squash with toasted pumpkin seeds
By Maria Zoitas of “Maria’s Homemade”
1 medium size butternut squash – about 2 lbs. peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt (kosher)
1/2 teaspoon clove powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
8 cups of water
1 bunch of kale, remove stems and slice into one inch wide pieces
1 medium size white onion peeled and 1/4-inch diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted and shelled pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, toss the butternut squash with salt, clove, nutmeg and 1/4 cup olive oil.
Place the butternut squash in a 9"x8" sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
In the meantime, bring the water to a boil and blanch the kale for 3-4 minutes. Remove the kale with a slotted spoon or tongs and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.
In a sauté pan, heat the remaining oil and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the cranberries and auté for 2 minutes, then add the pumpkin seeds, and stir over heat for an additional minute.
Combine the roasted butternut squash, kale, onion mixture in a large bowl or serving dish and serve.
Pumpkin seed crusted chicken
By Maria Zoitas of “Maria’s Homemade”
2 chicken breasts**
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs, beaten
2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs
2 cups of pumpkin toasted and shelled pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon salt (kosher)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fine chopped oregano leaves
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup sunflower oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice chicken breasts in half and pound them down lightly until they are 1-/4-inch thick.
In three separate bowls set up as follows: one bowl of flour; one bowl of beaten eggs; combine the Panko breadcumbs, pumpkin seeds, salt, black pepper, chopped oregano and orange zest in the third bowl.
Coast the chicken breast with flour, then dip into beaten eggs, and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture.
In a sauté pan, heat up the oil at medium heat. Lightly sauté the coated chicken breast until it reaches a golden color – about 1 minute on each side.
Place the chicken breast onto a sheet pan and cook it for 10-15 minutes.
** Note: You can also use your favorite fish fillet instead of chicken. Either reduce the oven cooking time, or cook through in the sauté pan.
The Silver Palate was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I was living in Boston, stumbling through my first year out of college and feeling rather lost, in general, when I came across it in the Brookline Booksmith. My friend, Ali, whom I'd lived with the previous three years at Wesleyan, and who is both a great cook and the daughter of a great cook, had told me good things about it so I decided to splurge.
At that point in my life, a $15 cookbook definitely counted as a splurge as I was positively raking in the cash at my $14 an hour research assistant job. And that was a big step up from my previous job where I'd made a whopping $11 an hour as a medical assistant in an OB/GYN office in order to see if nurse midwifery might be right for me.
I liked the book so much that, a few years later, after I'd ruled out both midwifery and research as careers, I bought Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins' much-expanded tome, The New Basics Cookbook. This chicken and apple dish was one of the first recipes I tried, drawn by its combination of caramelized onions, sweet apples, apple cider vinegar and cream. I've since made it many more times as I am a sucker for the combination of creamy, sweet, and piquant that it offers.
It's been several years since I've made it but I happily dusted it off last week after a field trip with my son's class to the Stone Ridge Orchard. It was a surprisingly glorious fall day that may be the last warm spell we get until 2013 or, maybe not, given the craziness of the weather nowadays.
The weather has since turned decidedly nippier – it seems that real fall is upon us now. But the chilly air and falling leaves are a perfect backdrop for a warm, hearty dish like this. I love the way that caramelizing the apples turns them wonderfully creamy and sweet.
It's easy to make and goes well with rice – the lovely sauce needs something to soak it up. Try it with some cider-glazed delicata squash or baked sweet potatoes. The slightly adapted recipe follows – I've simplified it a tiny bit to make it less fussy and a little less time-consuming.
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
3 apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or MacIntosh, or a combination)
1/2 lemon (optional - see step 1 below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 whole, boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken broth (I use my chicken "stock-sicles" for small amounts of broth like this)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Core apples, peel them and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Rub them with the lemon to prevent discoloration. (You can skip this step if you're in a hurry – I usually do!) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet and sauté the apples over medium-low heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle them with sugar, raise the heat, and cook over high-heat until lightly browned on all sides, shaking the pan constantly to prevent the apple slices from sticking. Set the apples aside.
2. Rinse the chicken well and pat it dry. Cut each chicken breast in half along the breastbone line. Flatten each breast half with a meat pounder until thin.
3. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Raise the heat, add the chicken, and cook until it is lightly colored, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
4. Add the onion to the skillet, cover and cook until it is tender and slightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to high, and add the vinegar. Cook the mixture down to a syrup, about 1 minute. Then whisk in the cream, stock, and salt.
5. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer gently in the sauce, basting often, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the chicken is cooked, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook.
6. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon, and arrange them on heated plates (15 minutes in a 200 degrees F. oven, but not absolutely necessary). Add the apple slices to the skillet; cook over high heat until the sauce has reduced and the apples are thoroughly heated, about 1 minute. Spoon the apples around the chicken and pour the sauce over it. Serve immediately.
Related post from the Garden of Eating: Maple-glazed meatloaf with rolled oats and fresh thyme
This is a blondie recipe I put together while watching the vice presidential debates. I wanted to make something simple that wouldn’t have me babysitting the oven the way a batch of chocolate chip cookies would. I also needed to use up the miscellaneous ingredients I had in my pantry leftover from making Presidential Cookies with recipes from Michelle Obama and Ann Romney.
After poking around online, I found this recipe to serve as my base and then added white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and toasted coconut to make a blondie brownie bar.
The two cups of brown sugar (and no white sugar) makes for a really chewy blondie. The walnuts and coconut add a subtle nutty flavor and pair perfectly with the white and dark chocolate. Even if you don’t like coconut, you’ll still like these blondies, the texture of the coconut gets lost in the mix while still bringing another layer of flavor.
I shared them at the office – the whole point was to get the goodies out of my pantry – and they were a hit! And no one was pressured to cast a vote.
White and dark chocolate chip blondies
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I used 1 stick butter, 1 stick margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
3/4 cups dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup toasted coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Grease 13- x 9-inch baking pan.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at time, combining well before adding the second egg; beat until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in flour mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts, and coconut. Spread into prepared pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
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Comfort is good. It’s like a warm, cashmere sweater; one that’s three sizes too big so you can snuggle up within its soft embrace. Comfort is molten dark chocolate. It’s a warm, crackling fire. Comfort is this creamy roasted pumpkin caramel bisque. It’s slightly sweet, warm, and smooth. It smells like autumn and feels like a hug. Seriously…a great, big, warm hug.
Roasted Pumpkin Caramel Bisque
2 pie pumpkins (3-4 pounds each) or about 7-8 cups canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
salt (about 3 teaspoons)
1/2 cup prepared caramel sauce/dip
a few dashes of cayenne pepper, to taste
To roast the pumpkins – preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out all of the seeds and stringy pulp. Place the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with about 1/4-inch of water. Bake for about 90 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the tender insides. You should have about 8 cups of roasted pumpkin. Click HERE to see a photo guide on how to roast pumpkins.
To prepare the soup, heat butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Add the roasted pumpkin (or pumpkin puree) and vegetable stock to the pan.
Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until smooth or transfer the mixture in small batches to a blender or food processor to blend. Return the blended mixture to the saucepan and heat to a simmer. Stir in the half and half, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the salt gradually, to taste. Gradually stir most of the caramel into the soup, reserving a spoonful or two for garnish. (Taste as you go. The soup should be savory and slightly sweet.) Season with a few dashes of cayenne pepper, as desired.
Garnish with a drizzle of caramel and pumpkin seeds or top with crunchy croutons.
Makes a huge batch of soup…plenty for freezing!
Related post from The Gourmand Mom: October pumpkin round-up
The curated group exhibition "Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life" at Brenda May Gallery in Sydney, Australia, considers the representation of food within the visual arts and beyond the standard still life tableaux. The consumption of food is a universally shared experience, enabling people viewing the exhibition to connect with the issues surrounding consumerism, food production and cultural identity.
Some of the highlights include a large installation of biscuit tins amassed by the artist Christine Turner over a 15-year period as well as an installation by Sue Saxon and Jane Becker of hundreds of fragile eggshells on strands of lights. The show also includes a number of photographs featuring melting ice sculptures by Janet Tavener, the colourful remnants of meals by Vin Ryan and both a colourful and melting ice block by Will Nolan.
A sculpture composed of Murray River salt by Ken and Julia Yonetani will be offset by the artistic rendering of salt diffraction by Al Munro. The only traditional still life painting in the exhibition is by Michael Edwards who paints cement fruit which makes for a perfect pairing with the actual cast cement hamburgers by Will Coles.
The salt sculptures of Ken and Julia Yonetani consider the way food production affects the environment of the Murray River basin in southeast Australia, the origin of the salt used to construct the work. Likewise, Maz Dixon’s paintings and collages feature "The Big Things in Australia" highlighting the influence of the food industry on tourism by depicting some of the giant "sculptures" which litter the Australian landscape.
The beauty of some of the more traditional mediums of photography and sculpture is offset by works that leave the viewer feeling somewhat more uncomfortable. Claire Anna Watson’s film "Sortie" begins with a pair of tweezers plucking pips one at a time from a ripe strawberry. The film progresses to a dissection of the fruit that echoes the look and feel of a gory surgical scene. Sarah Field’s quaint tea set includes human hair and fur which recalls the surrealist Méret Oppenheim sculpture of a fur-covered tea set, "Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure)" made in 1936.
For "Lifescapes," artist Christine Turner says, "I have found that biscuit tins require a simple configuration when presented in artworks. Each tin provides a great deal of information of its own. Information about societal customs, the economy, consumerism and much more." Most people, when viewing the work, circle the parameter recognising tins from their own mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. The installation draws on people’s nostalgia for familiar things and a certain time or place.
“In our house, the biscuit tin was only brought out on the weekends for afternoon tea. A humble suburban ‘high tea’. One that I relished," says Turner. "Central to this ritual was the beautiful treasure trove … the Arnott’s biscuit tin. It came with a 3-pound ‘fancy assortment’ of our favourite biscuits, from the delicate Shortbread Cream, to the decadent Monte Carlo. We always ate the Monte Carlos first. Once the biscuit tins were empty they became ‘reliquaries’ for all manner of things. Needlework, gloves, letters, keepsakes of every kind.”
"Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life" is a Crave Sydney International Food Festival event. Artists include Senden Blackwood and Laura Mathias, Will Coles, Maz Dixon, Michael Edwards, Stuart Elliott (courtesy Turner Galleries, Perth), Sarah Field (courtesy Michael Reid at Elizabeth Bay), James Guppy, Irianna Kanellopoulou, Al Munro, Will Nolan, Vin Ryan (courtesy of Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne), Sue Saxon and Jane Becker, Robyn Stacey (courtesy of Stills Gallery, Sydney), Susanna Strati, Janet Tavener, Christine Turner, Claire Anna Watson, Elizabeth Willing and Ken + Julia Yonetani (courtesy Artereal Gallery, Sydney).
The exhibit is on display at Brenda May Gallery until Oct. 20.
Megan Fizell is the curator of "Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life."
Candy corn, peanut butter and chocolate, and Rice Krispie treats all say “Halloween.” So why not combine them all into one decadent treat? A crunchy, gooey crust under a creamy milk chocolate-peanut butter layer and topped with a dark chocolate ganache and a candy corn gem.
Rice Krispie treats may say "kiddie food" to you – but so what? You should have stopped wearing Halloween costumes a long time ago, too. Get in the make-believe spirit by whipping up a batch of these delicious treats.
The only trick here is to set aside (one or two) for yourself before they all magically disappear.
Chocolate peanut butter rice krispie treats
Inspired by The Pastry Chef’s Baking
For the crust:
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 10-ounce package of marshmallows (about 20 marshmallows)
3 cups rice krispies
Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add rice krispies. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into pan.
For the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer:
5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter together in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Remove the top half from the bottom half of the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refrigerator for one hour, or until the top layer hardens.
For the Chocolate Icing:
3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a large nonreactive bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter.
In the top half of a double boiler, set over hot water, melt together and stir until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the topping hardens. When firm, cut into small squares and serve.
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There are certain dishes when made and eaten just set your soul at ease. They comfort and they fortify. That's what a big pot of stew does.
Perhaps stews evoke these feelings due to the process involved that results in succulent morsels and a sauce/gravy brimming with incredibly deep flavor from all of the ingredients. Such stews give you pause, they force you to slow down – to prepare them and to enjoy them.
A stew means different things for different people depending on where you are from, but for the purposes of this column, a stew means seasoned meat or poultry cooked low and slow with liquid and some flavorings that also gives color – burnt sugar, browning, tomato paste, tomato sauce, or annatto (achiote, a Caribbean spice).
One of the many things that's great about a stew is that it does not require expensive cuts of meats or poultry, actually, the cheaper the cuts, the more flavorful the stew. And you can add so many other things to a stew – vegetables, beans, peas, potatoes, and dumplings. It is a hearty dish that can feed a large family or a crowd. What's great about a stew is that the next day or the day after, it is even better!
Serves 4 – 5
10 chicken drumsticks or thighs
3 tablespoons green seasoning (a Caribbean relish)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
water, chicken or vegetable stock
chopped parsley or thinly sliced green onions to garnish (optional)
1. Wash and pat chicken dry.
2. Add chicken to a large bowl along with green seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Rub seasoning into chicken, cover and let marinate at room temperature for half an hour (you can opt to marinate longer or overnight in the refrigerator).
3. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat and brown chicken in batches then setaside.
4. If there is too much oil in the pot after browning the chicken, remove all but 3 tablespoons.
5. Toss in onions, garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper; reduce heat to low and let cook until the onions are softened.
6. Push the onion mixture to one side of the pot; add the tomato paste smearing itwith the back of the spoon on the vacant part of the pot. Toast the tomato paste for 2 to 3 minutes by smearing and turning it a few times.
7. Mix the onion mixture with the tomato paste and cook together for 1 minute.
8. Raise heat to medium high and add back the chicken to the pot along with any drippings or juice from the chicken. Mix together and cook for a minute.
9. Pour in enough water or stock to come up to the same level as the chicken (but not to cover it).
10. Cover pot and bring it to a boil, when the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, move the lid partially over the pot and let cook until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduced to a sauce consistency you desire. Taste for seasoning (salt) and adjust.
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My big brother and my two adorable nieces are in town for a little visit this week so I handed the baby off to his dad during our older son's nap in order to pull together a simple but tasty dinner of grilled cheeseburgers with avocado and tomato, the world's best oven fries, a green salad with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas, and even (gasp!) dessert.
I decided to make baked apples for three reasons: (1) They are yummy and comforting and warm, (2) It is apple season and the Hudson Valley is bursting with delicious, crisp, sweet-tart fruit, and, (3) Perhaps most importantly, they are amazingly easy to make.
I think baked apples are good pretty much any way but I included crystallized ginger to spice things up a bit (my husband loves ginger) along with some toasted pecans we had leftover from another meal.
The rest was easy – brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, butter, and some fresh apple cider that we got at a wonderful cider press party we'd gone to a few days earlier.
I mixed up the filling in a bowl and then cored the apples, stopping an inch above the bottom to avoid going all the way through. I stuffed the apples with the filling and topped them with butter. I arranged them in a baking dish so that none would tip over while baking, and poured some cider into the bottom of the dish. Finally, I topped the whole dish with foil and put the apples into the oven for a while.
My advice: Eat with ice cream. The wonderful syrupy, spiced cider mix perfectly with the melting vanilla ice cream – it makes a great companion to the soft, sweet, slightly tart flesh of the apple and the sugary, nutty, gingery filling. It's simply a delightful and easy-to-make fall treat!
Baked Apples With Candied Ginger & Toasted Pecans
4 large, fresh baking apples (Rome, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoons butter
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup apple cider (or water if you don't have cider)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wash your apples then remove their cores to about 1/2 inch above the bottom of the apple. I used an apple corer in combination with a small, sharp paring knife – it was kind of messy/clumsy but worked. You should have a hole roughly an inch wide that does not go all the way through the apple.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and pecans. Place the apples in a small baking pan – you want one small enough to keep all the apples upright but not so small that they're crowded – they'll bake better if they're not touching. Stuff each apple with the filling mixture and top with a small pat of butter.
3. Add the cider (or water) to the baking dish and bake the apples for 30-40 minutes, taking them out several times to baste them with the cider in the bottom of the dish, until they are tender, but not mushy. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
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When the weather turns chilly, it may seem that the time for cold salads has past. But this lovely, homey lentil salad is perfect for fall. The ingredients for this could not be humbler, but somehow the whole comes off as sophisticated. This is the kind of dish I imagine a French home cook would whip up if you just dropped by unexpectedly.
This salad is great beside a grilled piece of pork or a roasted chicken. It makes a great lunch with a piece of crusty bread, and can easily be packed to take to the office or a picnic. For company, I toss the nuts, herbs and cheese in right before serving, but the leftovers, or a fresh batch just for you, are great sitting in the fridge for a few days as you snack out of the bowl.
Walnut oil can be a bit pricey, but it is a wonderful treat to give salads and dressings a nutty zing. Something about it adds to the French-ness of this salad. You can use olive oil, either as half the oil or all of it. French green lentils, or lentils de puy, are the perfect for salads because they cook up tender but still retain their shape. These lentils used to be only found at gourmet shops or mail-order, but I have finally shared this recipe because I now find them regularly in the organic grains aisle at my large grocery store.
French lentil salad with walnuts and goat cheese
6 cups chicken broth
1 celery stalk
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2-1/2 cups petite green lentils (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup walnut oil
salt and pepper
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
4 1/2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Pour the chicken broth into a large pot. Cut the celery and carrots into large chunks and add to the broth with the peeled garlic cloves and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add the lentils, stirring well. Boil the lentils for three minutes, skimming off any green scum that rises. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the lentils are tender, but still hold their shape.
While the lentils are cooking, place the garlic, vinegar and mustard in a blender and food processor and blend until smooth. Add a good pinch of salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Drizzle in the oil with the motor running until you have a creamy dressing.
When the lentils are done, drain away any remaining liquid and discard the carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves (It’s best to do this is in a fine strainer, these lentils are small). Transfer the lentils to a bowl, then pour the dressing over the warm lentils, tossing gently to fully coat. Cool slightly, then cover the bowl and refrigerate the lentils for eight hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, lightly toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until they are just brown and smell toasty. Toss the walnuts, parsley and crumbled goat cheese with the lentils. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
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One of the things I love about cooking is how recipes for the same essential dish can be so different. For fideos – short, thin noodles toasted and then cooked into Spanish (and Italian and Mexican) stews and soups, this is spectacularly so.
Fideos is actually the name of a specific type of thin noodle, most often short, slightly curved pieces. According to Joey Campanaro, chef/co-owner of The Little Owl in New York, fideos is the Catalan word for noodles, and many Spanish cooks use it instead of rice to make paella. Typically, English-language recipes call for using vermicelli, cappellini, or spaghetti and breaking it into short pieces.
The variations in fideos recipes start at the toasting of the noodles themselves. Some – the most authentic sounding to me – call for toasting them in a skillet or paella pan on the stovetop. With others, you toast them in the oven on a baking sheet. Still others would have you skip the toasting process altogether. This is just wrong; the nutty flavor the toasted pasta takes on is invaluable in this dish. And to me, if you don’t toast them, you end up with just another spaghetti recipe.
Even after I’d settled on a version using shrimp, variations abounded. Saffron, no saffron. Sweet paprika, smoky paprika (or both). Tomatoes or no. Wine, brandy; fish stock, chicken stock, stock flavored with ham hocks; clams, mussels, olives….
Chef Campanaro cooked a version for Martha Stewart using fava beans. I liked the nutty flavor and bright green color they add, especially with the red bell pepper. But fava beans aren’t in season right now and are a fair amount of work, what with shelling them twice. Edamame is a nice stand-in, offering the same nutty taste and touch of color. They’re available frozen at Trader Joe’s, among other places. As a bonus, you’ll end up with more than you need for the recipe – they make a great snack. If you can’t find them, frozen peas will add the color, but with a sweet note rather than nutty.
This recipe isn’t difficult at all, but there are a lot of moving parts. Doing some of them ahead – such as cooking and shelling the edamame, peeling and cleaning the shrimp, using the shells to flavor your stock (also optional) and even breaking the pasta into short pieces – makes it all come together much more quickly at meal time.
Shrimp fideos with red bell pepper and edamame
Serves 3 (see Kitchen Notes)
1 package frozen edamame (or 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed)
1/2 pound small or medium-sized raw shrimp
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth or stock, unsalted or reduced sodium preferred
8 ounces vermicelli or other thin pasta, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup dry white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine]
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Do ahead. Cook the edamame according to package directions. This can be done a day ahead, storing cooked edamame in the shells in the fridge. An hour or so before cooking the, shell 1/2 cup of edamame beans and set aside.
Peel and devein the shrimp. If you wish to use the shells to flavor your stock (recommended – they add a nice extra to the finished dish), heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shrimp shells, toss to coat with oil and cook, stirring occasionally, for two to three minutes. Add chicken stock and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6 or 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly; then pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup, pressing gently on the shells with the back of a spoon to release more liquid. Add enough water to bring liquid back to 2 cups (I added about 1/2 cup to replace what had cooked away). Set aside. You can do this as you prep your vegetables or a little before.
Cook the dish. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick sauté pan or deep skillet over medium flame. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and quickly sauté, about two minutes per side. Don’t worry if they haven’t cooked completely through – you’ll finish them later with the pasta. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Drizzle a little more oil in the pan and add the broken pasta. Carefully stir it to coat with oil and cook until nicely golden brown, stirring almost constantly, about 6 to 8 minutes. Watch closely – it can go from nothing to burnt quickly. Transfer to a large bowl with a spatula or other slotted tool.
Wipe skillet clean with paper towel. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil and sweat bell pepper and onion until softening, stirring frequently to avoid browning, 5 to 7 minutes (reduce heat if onion begins to brown). Season with a little salt and a generous grind of pepper. Stir in garlic and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add wine [or substitute] and cook until almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add pasta to pan along with 1/2 cup of broth. Cook, stirring, until broth is mostly absorbed into pasta. Add another 1/2 cup and repeat. Add the remaining cup of broth and continue cooking, stirring frequently to coat pasta. The pasta will seem to resist softening – alarmingly so as the broth level reduces. Don’t worry. At about 8 to 10 minutes in of total cooking time, it will start to relax. And even any errant strands that fail to totally soften won’t have that raw pasta taste, thanks to the toasting. Instead, they’ll have a nice, delicious crunch.
When pasta has cooked for about 6 or 8 minutes, stir in the edamame and nestle the shrimp into the pasta. (If you’re substituting peas, add them when you add the last of the broth to give them time to cook.) Stir occasionally and start tasting noodles at 10 minutes for doneness. Adjust seasonings and serve in shallow pasta bowls, arranging the shrimp on top. Top with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired, and serve.
Serves how many? Here’s another place where recipes varied greatly. One claimed a pound of pasta made two servings. Um, no. With half that much pasta, this recipe served two of us well and made a more than generous leftover lunch. It would easily serve three as dinner.
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