By Freya Bellin
Certain dishes intimidate me, and paella has always been one of them. It has a level of authenticity about it that makes it rather daunting to try to replicate. However, if you let go of the need to make it perfectly traditional, it turns out to be pretty easy to make delicious paella at home.
I was surprised to find that the recipe calls for neither pimentón nor saffron, both of which I associate with paella. I considered adding a dash of one or the other anyway, but the recipe is right; the dish definitely doesn’t need the extra flavor. The chorizo has a spicy smokiness that pervades the whole dish. Make sure you use the type of chorizo that comes wrapped like salami or a hot dog because you need to be able to dice it. The more sausage-like chorizo will crumble when you cut through the casing. Instead of fresh tomatoes, which are hard to find this time of year, I substituted 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes, and then used the juice from the canned tomatoes instead of 1 of the cups of water.
If you’d rather skip the seafood, this dish will still be great. Being a novice clam steamer, I overcooked mine so they didn’t add much to the paella, but it did highlight how great the rice is even without it. If you’re hungry and just want to dig in, you could skip the last step of toasting the rice, but if you can wait, your patience will be rewarded—the crust at the bottom of the pan is easily the best part of any paella. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 35 minutes
Sweet and totally delicious, with many wonderful variations possible. Other vegetables you can use: parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, or winter squash. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
1 to 1 1/2 pounds baby carrots, green tops trimmed, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Roasted Carrots with Fennel Seeds. Substitute fennel for the cumin.
Roasted Carrots with Pine Nuts. Omit the cumin. Add 1/4 cup pine nuts in the last 3 or 4 minutes of roasting.
Roasted Carrots with Sesame. Substitute 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, and 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil for the olive oil. Substitute up to 2 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds for the cumin; add them in the last 3 or 4 minutes of roasting.
Roasted Carrots with Dates and Raisins. Omit the cumin. Add 1/4 cup each golden raisins and chopped dates in the last 10 minutes of roasting. Garnish with chopped nuts, like pistachios, almonds, or walnuts, and a couple tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves.
By Freya Bellin
Stuffed peppers are among the most fun foods to serve because of the surprise factor. It’s like opening a little culinary gift. And in this recipe, the stuffing is so good that you may want to make extra to eat on its own or to serve on the side. Spicy scallions, sweet raisins, crunchy almonds, and just-melted cheese? It doesn’t get much better. If your peppers are big enough and you’re careful to avoid overflow, you can probably stuff a little bit more of the cheese mixture into them than is called for below. Anything hanging out too close to the open flame will burn, though, so make sure that the peppers stay closed up.
This recipe does require a delicate touch when rotating the poblanos. The smaller you can keep the stuffing opening, the less likely you are to lose stuffing when you flip them. An even char on all sides really helps the bitter skin peel away nicely.
Poblanos are on the mild side as far as peppers go, but they do still have a kick, so be cautious, especially when handling the seeds. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes
Fennel is a good candidate for many gratins, but because of its unusual anise flavor, it does nicely when combined with the sweet flavor of orange as well. Other vegetables you can use: celery. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
So last week I wrote about oatmeal, now I’m cooking it.
By Freya Bellin
Ripe, fresh tomatoes are elusive this time of year, but good quality canned tomatoes do the trick in this hearty winter-time soup. They can be just as sweet as the ones you find in the middle of August, and you get to skip over the washing and chopping step. Plus, they break down a little faster than the fresh kind.
I used half stock and half water for the liquid, but the broth was still quite flavorful from the onions, celery, and garlic cooked at the beginning. I especially liked the celery, which was subtle, but noticeable and appreciated. With the addition of bulgur the soup becomes heartier and more of a standalone meal. As mentioned below, the starch lends a surprising creaminess, making this soup seem much richer than it is. Unlike most soups, I found that I really preferred this one on day 1, so try to serve it all at once if possible. It shouldn’t be too hard to find willing eaters. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 1 large loaf
Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended
The traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews is rich, eggy, and very, very tender. There is enough dough to make a festive braided loaf, which is easy to make and fun to shape. However, unless you have a large food processor (one with at least an 11-cup workbowl), you will have to make this by hand or with a standing mixer. Leftover Challah makes excellent French toast or can be used in bread pudding. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
I’m not sure which I find more annoying: peeling chestnuts or peeling fava beans. With the last of the decent chestnuts lingering (I had these in my fridge for weeks) and the first of the favas not yet here (soon!), I didn’t have to choose.
The chestnut thing is really a hassle, but it’s always worth it. You can get those skins off any way you want: simmering, roasting, even deep frying. The issue is that they must be peeled while they’re still hot, and that is a definite Ouch! I roasted these: slashed the flat side, threw them in pan in a hot oven for 15 or 20 minutes, and started peeling; the towel helps. Some came out of their shells in whole pieces, which are gorgeous; some, of course, did not.
Then I sauteed them in butter, with leeks. Worth it? Seriously.
By Freya Bellin
As we approach the end of winter, I must express gratitude for carrots, one of the few vegetables still in season this time of year. Perhaps it is their seemingly eternal availability that causes us to overlook them, or their presence in our elementary school lunchboxes, but carrots are truly the kind of vegetable that can be made special with a little help. The mix of garlic, ginger, and scallion in this recipe enlivens the sweetness of the roasted carrots. By pouring hot oil over the seasoning mix, you create a quick and simple sauce, melding together the flavors of each component and lightly cooking the scallions for a sweeter, milder onion taste. You might even have all or most of the ingredients needed on hand, especially carrots, which will stay fresh and crisp for a long time in the fridge. I found I needed less oil than called for, so go light on it and add more as needed. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: About 6 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
Corn bread is indispensable, especially to a vegetarian diet, where its full flavor and slightly crunchy texture are welcome at any meal. And few dishes deliver so much for so little work. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.