Vegetables & Sides
The dilemma for gardeners and cooks this time of year is “ what am I ever going to do with all these vegetables?” Don’t panic trying to come up with three or four recipes that accommodate various vegetables. Why not take the simplest route and braise them all together? I find what emerges from the oven is a deeply flavorful melange of vegetables that are substantial enough to serve as a main course along with rice, couscous, bulgar wheat, or try tossing them with a pasta.
The other obvious beauty of this approach is a quick easy meal that almost makes itself. A short saute on the stove top and then into the oven to braise for an hour, and that’s all there is to it!
You hardly even need a recipe for this other than a few words about the cooking sequence and timing. Use any combination of seasonal vegetables available.
Braised Summer Vegetables: serves 4
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large brown onion, peeled and diced
- 1 green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
- 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 5 oz/142 g shiitake (or other mushrooms) brushed clean and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup dry white wine, dry sherry, or water
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 small pumpkin (or squash) peeled and diced
- 1 cauliflower, separated into florets
- a bunch of kale leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves
- ½ teaspoon lemon thyme
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- vegetable stock or water
- harissa (optional)
preheat the oven to 350f/ 180c
Best to use a Dutch oven if you have one or a pot with a tight fitting lid. Place the pot on the stove top over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute 4 or 5 minutes until soft without browning.
Add the bell peppers and turn up the heat a bit. Toss along with the onions for several minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute and then throw in the mushrooms. Saute, while tossing, 4 or 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and aromatic.
Make a well in the center and add the tomato paste. Compress the paste against the bottom of the pot to caramelize before stirring into the sauteed vegetables. Continue to saute another couple of minutes. Then stir in the white wine, sherry, or water. Saute until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Add the carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, kale leaves, marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper and toss everything together until well combined. Level out the contents of the pot and add stock or water to nearly reach the surface of the vegetables. Cover the pot with the lid and transfer to the oven and roast about 1 hour.
Check after 45 minutes and add a little stock or water only if needed, tasting and adding more salt to taste.
Serving suggestions: As a main dish serve with rice, couscous, or bulgar wheat, or toss with pasta.
I like serving these vegetables with a spicy Moroccan harissa. (see recipe here)
This is an ideal light yet abundantly flavorful vegetarian dish to consider when putting together summer meals for family and friends. Traditionally Gobhi Panch Phoron is usually served with yellow rice, a dal, and some pickled vegetables, but this dish also pairs beautifully with a selection of summery western style vegetables, grains, and salads.
A trip to your local spice purveyor may be required, but otherwise the preparation for this dish is a breeze. In no time at all there is a heady aroma of exotic sizzling seeds wafting through the kitchen and brilliant turmeric hued cauliflower florets dancing away in a hot skillet. This is fun and lively cookery that delivers some light and spicy Indian taste bites that are sure to please!
Panch Phoron seed mixture is the flavor base for this dish, but the seeds are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Cumin seeds have an earthy flavor and aid in digestion. Anise seeds are aromatic with a slight sweetness. Mustard seeds are hot and pungent. Nigella seeds have a peppery smokey flavor. Fenugreek seeds are aromatic with a slight bitterness. The combined seeds are sizzled together in hot oil that unleashes their flavors and aromas before other ingredients are added to the pan, and sauteed.
Make the Panch Phoron seed mixture before you start cooking.
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds (jerra)
- 2 tsp. anise seeds (saunf)
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds ( sarson)
- 2 teaspoons nigella seeds (kalongi)
- 2 tsp. fenugreek seeds (methi)
Combine the seeds and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Gobhi Panch Phoron serves 4
- 1 medium size cauliflower, separated into florets
- 8 oz green beans (optional)
- 2 ½ teaspoons Panch phoron
- 3 tablespoons neutral flavored vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced and minced
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled, and minced
- 1-2 fresh green chilies, seeds removed, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- 1/4 to ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or butter
- fresh coriander leaves for garnish
I prefer steaming the cauliflower and green beans separately, both al dente, before proceeding with the cooking for this recipe.
Select a wide skillet or a wok with a lid and set it over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan and when hot add the panch phoron seed mixture. Using a wooden spatula, give the seeds a quick stir and then promptly cover with the lid as the seeds will immediately start sizzling and then popping, the seeds rapidly bouncing off the lid. Once the popping stops remove the lid and add the onions. Lower the heat slightly and saute while stirring until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes.
Add the ginger, garlic, and green chilies and stir while sauteing another 2 minutes. Add a teaspoon of sea salt and the red chile flakes and stir until well combined.
Add the cauliflower florets and green beans (if using) and cook while continuously turning the vegetables for about 5 minutes. You will notice the pan drying out so it is important to keep the vegetables moving so they do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.
Then add the water and deglaze the pan using the wooden spatula, releasing any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the contents of the pan are bathed with the deglazed liquid add the ghee (or butter) and fold it into the ingredients until the vegetables are evenly glazed.
Taste and add salt if needed.
Serving: Spoon the Gobi Panch Phoron into a serving dish, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
Malfatti, which loosely translates as “poorly made” in Italian, are billowy dumplings of ricotta and spinach. Essentially gnocchi, but without the dough casing. A wonderful choice for a gorgeous light meal that is sure to satisfy even die hard meat sauce lovers.
Malfatti speak for themselves. Unlike gnocchi, there is no fiddling about making perfectly shaped dumplings. These have a very rustic homemade allure that harkens back to 17th century northern Italian cooks in the countryside. Malfatti can be steamed, boiled, sauted, or gently cooked in a simple tomato sauce.
I make my own ricotta (see recipes here) paired with the simplest tomato sauce (see recipe here) made with imported Italian tomatoes or tomato passata, fresh Italian tomatoes which have been passed through a food mill to remove the skin and seeds. Imported passata is readily available. To a passata just add onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil and you have the simplest of red sauces made in no time.
Malfatti: makes about 15 3 servings
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- large bunch of young spinach leaves, chopped
- 6oz/170g ricotta cheese
- 1 organic egg, whisked
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ¼ tsp finely grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
prepared red sauce
- whole dried red chiles (optional)
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the spinach and saute just until the spinach has wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer the spinach to a paper towel to absorb excess water and set aside.
Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and add the wilted spinach, egg, ¾ cup of Parmegiano-Regiano, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and flour. Fold the ingredients together until just combined and coming together.
Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will make the malfatti easier to form.
Then scoop out a generous tablespoon size portions of the mixture and form into elongated egg shapes without being too concerned about their uniformity. Think malfatti!
Place them on a parchment lined tray, cover, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them in red sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350f/180c
Warm the red sauce and pour a cup or so in a baking dish. Then add the malfatti to the dish and add more sauce to nearly cover the malfatti with only the top exposed. Add the dried chiles if using and transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Open the oven and add the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmigiano over the tops of the malfatti. Turn the baking dish for even baking and continue baking until just lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
Serve the malfatti as pictured in a pool of red sauce along with a mixed greens salad and some crusty bread.
A perfect summer meal!
The Holidays are nearly upon us and we cooks are all no doubt busy planning parties and finalizing menus for holiday meals for our families and friends.
Every year I host a Christmas dinner for friends here in Chiang Mai, where Christmas is pretty much a non-event other than the usual retail angle. Early on I tried replicating a traditional western Christmas feast, which required a turkey imported from the US and winter root vegetables from Australia and New Zealand. It was complicated and expensive and, to be honest, rather ridiculous when it was all said and done. So from that point onward I have been creating holiday menus from various cuisines from around the world which are so much more interesting and fun for myself as well as for my friends. This year it is going to be a casual Spanish paella supper with various Spanish inspired accompaniments including this beat salad. At first glance this salad may not garner much attention. But that said, the earthiness of the beets combined with a sweet note from currants plumped in a hot Spanish sherry bath and the perfumed accent of toasted anise seeds magically reveals this salad’s hidden deliciousness.
This is an easy and deeply colorful salad that is not only a perfect addition to a holiday menu, but to serve throughout the rest of the year as well.
Roasted Beet Salad with Currants and Anise serves 4-6
- 6 medium size beets, roasted
- ¼ cup dark dried currants
- 3 tablespoon sweet sherry (Madeira, or Marsala)
1 small red onion, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons anise seeds, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- radicchio leaves
- flat leaf parsley sprigs
For instructions on roasting beets (click here)
You can also simply boil the beets if you prefer. Place the beets a in large sauce pan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the beets are tender but not too soft, about 30-40 minutes. Test by slipping a sharp knife into the flesh. Drain off the water and set the beets aside to cool.
In either case, when the beets are cool enough to handle slip off the skin and discard. Cut the beets into thin slices. Stack the slices and cut into batons crosswise and place them in a large bowl.
Place the currants in a small sauce pan and add the sherry. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sherry is absorbed. Add the plumped currants to the bowl with the beets.
Add the sliced onions, 1 ½ teaspoons anise seeds, , sea salt, and pepper. Toss until the ingredients are well combined. Add the vinegar and olive oil and toss until evenly coating the beets. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.
Cover the beet salad with cling film and refrigerate until well chilled.
Remove the beet salad from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Serving the salad at room temperature allows the flavors of the salad to bloom.
Arrange the radicchio leaves on a serving platter or individual plates. Nestle the beet salad over the radicchio leaves. Sprinkle the remaining anise seeds over the beets and garnish with parsley sprigs.