Tag Archives: Vegetables

Carrots in Vermouth

I was a tad worried about what recipe to provide for the second of three carrot recipes. Part of me wanted to go exotic. Another part of me wanted to do something simple and straightforward.

Alas, it was the part of me who screams “Where’s the booze?!” that won out. Here then, is a fairly simple recipe with booze as a flavor agent. I chose vermouth as I wanted to see how that played out, but really, I could have used bourbon, gin, even maraschino if I were so inclined.

It worked out very well, and it pared quite nicely with the shellfish I had served for dinner.

  • 2 lb Carrots sliced
  • 2 tbl Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Sweet vermouth
  • 2 tbl Chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place a 10″ skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and allow to bring to temperature. Toss in the carrot and saute until they just begin to get soft. Pour in the vermouth and simmer uncovered for 7-10 minutes. Salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

Serves 4-6

tags technorati : recipes,carrots,vermouth

Tips and Hints for Peas

As fresh peas and dried peas handle differently, I’m going to divide the tips up accordingly.

Dried Peas

  • One pound of dried peas equals 2 1/4 cups. When cooked, this 2 1/4 cups of dried peas equates to 5 cups after cooked.
  • Dried peas come from several varieties of field peas, and are a different variety from fresh peas or those found in the frozen food section.
  • Dried peas can be stored in an airtight container for up to one year at room temperature. They can be stored indefinitely if frozen.
  • Discard any discolored or shriveled peas, as they indicate immature growth.
  • Split peas do not require soaking prior to use.
  • Whole dried peas do require soaking and may be done overnight with the peas placed in a large bowl and at least three inches of cold water.
  • To Quick soak the peas, put the peas in a large pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 2 hours. Drain the water and use as needed.
  • Refrain from using salted water for cooking the peas, as it toughens their skin. Salt the peas after they are done cooking.
  • Remove the peas from the hot water once the cooking is complete.

Fresh Peas

  • Peas season runs from early spring to the first few weeks of summer.
  • Choose medium sized pea pods. Larger peas will be too starchy, while the smaller peas may be underdeveloped.
  • Choose fresh peas that are firm and plump. The colors should be bright, consistent and unblemished.
  • The pea that is more recently picked will have higher sugar content (and thus will taste sweeter). Once picked, peas will convert this sugar to starch, which will affect its flavor.
  • One pound of peas in their pod equates to roughly one cup of peas shelled.
  • Fresh peas can be refrigerated, unwashed, for up to two days
  • Shell peas immediately prior to use, to prevent sugar loss.
  • For a quick vegetable broth, use the pea pods and cook them in 4 cups of water (or previously made chicken or veggie stock) for one hour.
  • Prevent overcooking your peas. When done, they should still be crisp on the outside, but tender on the insider. They should have lost little to none of their color.
  • Acidic foods will leach the color from peas.
  • Frozen peas do not need to be cooked prior to use in other dishes. It is acceptable to add the frozen peas directly to the dish 2 to 3 minutes before the cooking time of the dish has completed cooking.
  • Frozen peas are one of the few vegetables whose taste is not excessively diminished by the freezing process, and are a decent substitute for when fresh peas are unavailable.
  • One 10 ounce package of frozen peas equates to 1 1/1 lbs od unshelled peas.

Technorati Tags: Food Tips, Peas,

Winter Squash Hints and Tips

Winter Squash, as partially defined here, is very easy to determine how good it is or not. Keep your eye open for the following:

  • The Squash should be very firm over the complete surface area of the fruit.
  • Pick a squash with a stem attached as opposed to one with the stem missing. Also, the thicker the stem the better.
  • A matted color is preferable to a shiny color. This include pumpkins.
  • Choose one that has a smooth, dry rind and is free of cracks or soft spots.
  • Avoid squashes with soft spots or bruises.
  • Squashes with thich skins can be stored in cool, dry place for 3-4 months on average.
  • Before using, wash any winter squash in cool water.
  • Thin skin? Remove the skin. Thick skin? Keep the skin on.
  • Squash grown in colder climates tend to have more flavor than those in warmer climates.
  • Squash goes well with ginger, honey, sugar, lamb, maple syrup, nutmeg, olive oil, onions, rosemary, sage, savory, or thyme.
  • Winter squash is easier to cut if microwaved for 1-2 minutes. Pierce the squash several times before putting in microwave oven.
  • For spaghetti squash: the larger the vegetable, the thicker the strands and the more flavorful the taste.
  • Marshmallows also go very well with squash, which I have learned on good authority.

Fairly straightforward, no?

Cucurbitaceae – Cucumbers and Squash

This is what I get for applying all this fancy book learnin’ to real life. Now I have to address a food that I’ve been dreading…Those foods found in the Cucurbitaceae family. This would include those items which fall into the “gourd” family. I, as a rule of thumb, have not made a habit out of eating anything which could also be used as a musical instrument.

This, undoubtedly, makes me a bad person.

Sure, sure, there are cucumbers I can look forward to, even if they are now at the tail end of their growing season. I have nothing against the majority of melons either, although the name “muskmelon” has been known to make me all wobbly. Luckily for me, muskmelons (also known as cantaloupe) weren’t domesticated until roughly 2400 BC. Since I’m still roughly at 5000 BC in my exploration of various food stuffs, there’s still plenty to explore between then and now.

No, it’s the squash that has me all atwitter. There’s the summer squashes, with its zucchini. I can handle that. I suppose it’s the winter squashes, native to North America, which I have intentionally avoided for most of my life. Excluding all pastries pumpkin related (pies and breads and such), I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve volunteered to eat these brutes.

Part of the reason for my skittishness is the name….squash. It gives such violent imagery to a fruit (and yes, technically, they are fruits) that seems to rot if you just give it a dirty look. The other reason they bug me is that they look so alien to me, what with their odd colorings (oranges and yellows) and their pod-like appearance. Have I mentioned that Invasion of the Body Snatchers scared the bejesus out of me when I was a child? Perhaps this is the source of my apprehension to squash.

I do, however, find it interesting that squash is one of the three crops that helped sustain the native American population for 2000 years prior to the Western Europeans arriving. Along with maize and beans, these three products were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided groundcover to limit weeds. Hows that for efficient agricultural engineering?

I will soldier on, as is my dictate to this site. Expect three cucumber recipes to offset three squash recipes…with pumpkin pie as a dessert.

Next up! Lettuce Ho!

As I’ve mentioned before, part of the problem of researching various food items and writing about them is finding the requisite amount of “excitement”. Talking about wine, cheese or chocolate actually brings out a fair amount of passion within me. Talking about lettuce? Meh, not so much.

But Lettuce is where we are currently at on the food timeline, so talk about it we must.

Part of the problem with lettuce is that we Americans deal mostly with iceberg Lettuce, a light green, lightweight leafy veggie that’s crunchy when cold, yet has almost no flavor that I can discern. To state that I hate iceberg lettuce would be a massive understatement. When I eat out, Every time I see iceberg lettuce in a salad, I know that the restaurant gave little or no thought to the dish. This also proves, once again, that I have an opinion on everything.

But Lettuce is far more than iceberg. In fact, iceberg is a relatively new variety of the leafy vegetable, having been developed in the mid 20th century. Back in the day, say around 600 BCE, lettuce was served on the tables of the Persian kings, and was likely a cultivated version of wild lettuce. Wild lettuce is now widely scattered over the globe, but it originated in inner Asia Minor, the trans-Caucasus, Iran, and Turkistan.

The Egyptians and Greeks loved the stuff, and by the apex of Roman history, there were several varieties, none of them iceberg.

So we’re talking about a vegetable that has seen the highs and lows of history. Columbus is said to have brought Lettuce to the Bahamas, thereby introducing it to the Western Hemisphere. Because the ease in which one can grow lettuce, lettuce seedlings were very likely brought over from Europe to the new colonies.

As mentioned previously, it’s only been recently that lettuce, as we recognize it, came into existance. For that you can blame a plant disease called “brown blight”. The USDA back in 1922, asked a plant breeder to develop a lettuce that was resistance to the blight. His results ended up in several varitation that fall under the “Imperial” cultivar (parent), one of which was a head of lettuce we call iceberg. I should note the lower case “i” in “iceberg”. If you see a capital “I” in “Iceberg Lettuce”, you’re actually refering to a softer, smaller cultivar of the “Batavia” variety.

At any rate, here are the basic lettuce varieties you can find in most markets:

  • iceberg
  • crisphead – Another Imperial derivative, similar to iceberg
  • Romaine
  • Butterhead
  • Batavia
  • Loose Leaf
  • Chinese lettuce

There’s also endive and chicory which I will talk about later, which is a cousin of lettuce, but is technically NOT lettuce.

Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup

This is no the cream based soup that most of us here in the States are familiar. Rather this is an Italian soup (Zuppa di broccoletti) that is based off of two ingredients…broccoli and broth. I added a rind from a larger piece of Parmigiano Reggiano that Tara and I had finished. It added a nice taste to the soup I thought.

  • 1 1/2 lbs of Broccoli (fresh, not frozen)
  • 7 1/2 cups of Chicken Stock
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 rind of Parmigiano Reggiano (optional, but worth it)

Chop the broccoli into chunks, about the size of a pair of dice.

In a large stock pot (or sauce pan) bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the broccoli and the cheese rind. Lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, puree about half of the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the rest of the soup and mix. Season with pepper and salt. Reheat to just below boiling.

Serve in a soup bowl, pouring the soup over slices of bread and topping with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and more ground pepper.

Serves 6

Broccoli – Hated by Nearly Everyone

When doing the thing that I do, it is sometimes difficult to write about certain topics. I mean really, how does one make the topic of Broccoli sound interesting and intriguing?

There are many threads in which I can approach the topic…for instance, President George H Bush had vocally disdained the green vegetable, and…how does the phrase go…An enemy of my enemy is my friend? But alas, Bush the elder isn’t really my enemy (although we have differing political leanings), so it doesn’t make a really good theme when approaching writing a post.

I could write about how Broccoli is relatively new to us Americans. Stephano and Andrea D’Arrigo re-introduced the green product to San Jose and Boston at roughly the same, surely taking into account the large Italian immigrant populations in both areas. From there, it took off in popularity. The irony here is that even though broccoli has only been popular on this side of the world for 80 years, it’s cultivation for food may have occurred as early as 8,000 years ago when an ancestral vegetable was grown along the Northern European coast. From there a variation surely made it’s way to Italy where it became popular (the Romans loved the stuff), but rarely elsewhere. The French barely acknowledged poor broccoli, and the English dismissed it.

Even after Broccoli became popular here, there were critics of the vegetable. Too common or too much like “spinach” were the claims. I am of the opinion that these critics were talking out of their tuckus.

If you’re curious about this type of thing, Broccoli is in the Brassicaceae family and is classified as Brassica oleracea italica belonging to a family whose other members include cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collards, turnips, rutabagas, Brussels sprouts, and Chinese cabbage. The Brassica vegetables all share a common feature. Their four-petaled flowers bear the resemblance to a Greek cross, which explains why they are frequently referred to as crucifers or cruciferous.

But, it should be noted that although George Bush, the English, the French, and various food American food critics of the mid 20th century have disliked broccoli, many people have enjoyed it. Roman Emperor Tiberius (14 BCE to 37 BCE) had a son named Drusius who loved broccoli. It is said that he once excluded all other foods, gorging only on broccoli prepared in the Apician manner for an entire month. When his urine turned bright green and his father scolded him severely for “living precariously”.

Let it be said, for the record, that my definition of “living precariously” differs dramatically from Tiberius’s.