Sunday, February 19, 2012

Okra with Corn & Zucchini Saute

The produce market I frequent recently featured a new crop of okra. Not a  vegetable most markets carry year round, these were beautiful, unblemished, fresh looking okra, that I simply couldn't pass up. Ordinarily, I would prepare them the way my mother did, by sauteing them with some garlic, onion, and perhaps green pepper. Then she would pour a can of chopped tomatoes over the mixture and let it stew until all the vegetables were well cooked and the flavors have a chance to come together. Though simple and quite delicious, I wanted to change things up a bit.  

With a simple search on the internet, this recipe from Epicurious popped up. Always one to go for the pretty pictures, this one looked particularly enticing with its interesting mix of ingredients and splash of bright colors. What really sold me was use of cilantro to give it a whole new flavor dimension. And, indeed, it does. 

I changed the recipe a bit to suit my preferences. The most significant was to simply saute the okra with the rest of the vegetables, instead of dredging them in cornmeal and then deep frying them in oil. I also added the red peppers for more color, plus I personally love the flavor they add to dishes. 

The flavors in this dish are quite pronounced, so it is best served alongside a simply prepared meat or fish entree. Or, start the dish off with some sauteed sausage or ground meat and it can become a perfectly delicious entree unto itself. 

Okra with Corn & Zucchini Saute
1 lb. okra, trimmed and washed
2-3 green onions, sliced
1 small red sweet pepper, diced
1 zucchini, medium dice
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 - 1/2 c. chopped cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. olive oil

The okra can remain whole or chopped into bite-sized pieces, as I have done. 

In a medium Dutch oven or large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the red peppers on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook to release the garlic flavor. Now add the zucchini and okra. Stir and cook for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, and cook till the tomatoes begin to breakdown. Now add the corn and cook for 10 minutes until all the vegetables are well cooked. 

Add the green onions and cilantro. Mix and saute for another minute or two, and serve.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Strawberry Cloud with Chocolate Sweetheart Pizzelles

Something sweet for your sweet someone. A classic Bavarian cream with cream cheese and strawberry puree topped with a simple chocolate heart-shaped pizzelle cookie. Not too sweet or overly indulgent, and fancied up with some fine china and crystal. A light finish to perhaps a lovely dinner for two.

Strawberry Cloud with Chocolate Sweetheart Pizzelles

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 T. cocoa

Beat the eggs and sugar till very light and thick.  Add the cooled melted butter and vanilla and mix well together. 
 Add the flour, baking powder and cocoa, and mix well together. 

Spoon just a small teaspoon of batter onto a hot Pizzelle iron. Bake until the steam has stopped. Gently remove and quickly, while still warm and soft, press a heart shaped cookie cutter into the cookie. Reserve scraps either for eating or to sprinkle on ice cream.

Strawberry Cloud:
1- 16 oz. container of frozen, sweetened strawberries, thawed
1 pint heavy cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. sugar
pinch of salt
1 packet unflavored gelatin (0.25 oz.)
2 T. cold water
Puree the strawberries in either a food processor or blender. Strain the mixture with a fine sieve to separate the pulp from the juicy puree.  Reserve 1 cup of the puree.

In an electric mixer, using the whipping attachment, whip the heavy cream till soft peaks form.  Pour into a bowl and set aside. 

Using a cleaned mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese till smooth and soft. Add the sugar, salt, 1 cup of the strawberry puree and the lemon juice, and blend until very smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl to eliminate any lumps. 

Soften the gelatin in the water, then heat the water gently until the gelatin is dissolved.
Blend the warm gelatin into the cream cheese mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the gelatin is mixed in. 

Immediately, fold in the whipped cream and quickly pour into glasses or serving dish. 

Chill till set.  Mix cut up fresh strawberries with the leftover puree. Spoon over top of Strawberry Cloud and top with a Pizzelle cookie.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Red Cabbage Slaw - Zippity Quick

Here is the easiest slaw ever! With the help of my Oxo mandoline slicer and my cool julienne slicer, making this healthy, crunchy, delicious cabbage slaw is a cinch. My Cuisinart tends to pulverize rather than shred, so when a very thin slice or shredding vegetables is required, I prefer to use my mandoline. It's a tool I find myself using quite frequently these days.  

The recipe here is a simple one - red cabbage, some onion (I like a combo of red and green onion), carrot, celery, a few golden raisins to add a little sweetness, and a vinaigrette dressing.  Aside from the carrot, where I prefer to use the julienne slicer, all of the vegetables can be shredded on the mandoline in a flash.  If I'd had it on hand, I would also add either some fennel, or jicama for even more crunch.

Red Cabbage Slaw
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
1 stalk celery, finely sliced
1 carrot, julienne
2 T. golden raisins
1/4 c. red onion, very finely sliced
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. sugar or 2 tsp. honey
2 T. rice, cider or red wine vinegar
1 tsp. light salad oil 
Shred the cabbage, celery, red onion with the mandoline.  Use the julienne slicer for the carrot. Chop the green onion. 
Mix all veggies together. Add the golden raisins. Season the mixture with the salt, pepper, celery seed, sugar (or honey). Add the vinegar and oil. Toss and let sit in the refrigerator for a bit for the flavors to blend.  Enough for 4-6 servings. 
Oh so simple and fast!