Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: all (page 1 of 57)

SESAME TOFU

Once in a while a tofu dinner is called for. Tofu  is that rare ingredient ( a protein) that absorbs the flavor of any herb or spice one may use in cooking. That’s why this recipe is so marvelous. In this case, the prime ingredient is sesame seeds. Just marinate the tofu, then roll in sesame seeds and cook to perfection. Easy, quick and delicious served over steamed rice.

Note, as we’ve mentioned countless times before: tofu should be pressed before cooking. Why? Many tofu preparations don’t require pressing. But if  you are sautéing or shallow frying tofu (or looking to achieve extra crispy tofu), pressing is the best way to remove excess moisture. Pressing also helps create firmer tofu that better holds its shape during cooking and ensures your seasonings won’t be diluted. How to do it? Simple: Take your tofu out of the package and wrap it in a few layers of paper towels, placed on top and bottom.  Place the wrapped block of tofu on the counter or a cutting board, then place something flat and heavy on top. I like to use a cast iron skillet, weighed down with some canned goods, or a heavy book or two. After 30 minutes or so, you can remove and unwrap your tofu. It’s now ready for cooking.

Once the pressing is done, you can proceed with the recipe, and enjoy the best sesame tofu you’ve ever had.

SESAMER TOFU

Ingredients:

2 pounds extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely mince
1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger root or ¼ teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup sesame seeds
4 tablespoons peanut oil

Instructions:

  1. Marinate the tofu in a zip-lock bag for 2 hours.
  2. Remove from bag and roll tofu in sesame seeds.. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet or fry pan, and cook tofu in hot oil over medium heat until brown. Serve hot over steamed rice.
    Yield: 4 or more servings.

SEA SCALLOPS WITH TOMATOES AND ZUCCHINI

This recipe is Provençal in origin. Provence is  a region in southeastern France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s cuisine is known for its spices, especially that mix of thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, savory, marjoram, oregano, and bay leaf. known as “herbes de Provence.” Because of its location, it is also renown for its seafood.  And this is were Scallops with Tomatoes and Zucchini come in; a prime example of Provençal cooking.

Sea scallops are bigger than bay scallops. On average they measure five inches across the shell, and the thick meat they provide can be an inch and a half or more wide. That’s why in most sea scallops recipes, it’s prudent to slice the scallops horizontally. That way, the scallops cook faster and more evenly. For the recipe given, the cooking time for the scallops should be about three minutes total.

The vegetable base here is tomatoes and zucchini. The scallops are pre-cooked then added to the vegetables just before serving. Scallops and vegetables is a seafood dish that traditionally goes well with noodles or pasta. This time around, we paired it with couscous, and it was delicious.

SEA SCALLOPS WITH TOMATOES AND ZUCCHINI

Ingredients:

1½ pound sea scallops
3 small zucchini, about ½ pound
4 small, ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper taste
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:

1, Halve each scallop crosswise  if ¾inch thick or more. Set aside.
2. Wash the zucchini. Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice thinly
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet or fry pan. Add zucchini, salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes over high heat, stirring and tossing. Remove zucchini to a plate and keep warm.
4. In the same skillet, heat remaining olive oil over high heat and sauté the scallops about a minute. Season with salt and pepper while stirring.
4. Add butter, shallots and garlic. Cook briefly, add tomatoes and  and cook for a minute more. Add the zucchini, lemon juice and rosemary. Cook, stirring, for a minute over high heat. Blend well, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings.

POLLO ALLA MARGARITA

This recipe I got from an old newspaper clipping years ago, when I was young and spry. The newspaper clipping termed it as “Orsini’s Polla Alla Margarita.” I went online and discovered that Orsini’s was a restaurant on West 56th Street in New York, It was owned by one Armando Orsini  and it had a 31-year run until 1984. Ostensibly, it was a favorite  hang-out in the 1960s of movie stars, celebrities and society people. It’s noted that the place was shrouded in “velvety darkness,” and Mr. Orsini would kiss the hand of his favored female customers.

The restaurant is long gone; but I assume the recipe is from Mr. Orsini’s repertoire. The recipe is very straight forward and it doesn’t give much in terms of the ingredients. For instance, it says “flour for dredging,” “olive oil,” salt and pepper, but it doesn’t give precise measurements. The recipe is for two but, I assume, you can double it for 4 or more.

So, today, eat like you’re a 1960s movie star and are rubbing elbows with the swells. For the record, the dish is delicious and not that difficult to prepare. It makes for a perfect candle-light dinner along with a good wine, red or white, or  even champagne.

POLLO ALLA MARGARITA

2 breasts of chicken, boneless
2 eggs, well beaten
3 tbsp. butter
½ cup white wine
½ cup dry sherry
4 slices mozzarella cheese
flour for dredging
olive oil
Salt
pepper

Coat chicken breasts in flour and then dip them into the beaten eggs. Fry chicken in hot olive oil until done and then drain on a paper towel. In a large pan, melt butter,  then add salt, pepper, wine, and sherry. Stir ingredients for a few minutes over medium heat until thickened. Then add the chicken breasts and place a slice of mozzarella cheese on each of them. Cover the pan and heat until cheese melts and sauce is reduced.
Serves two persons.

KEEMA CURRY

In Nuyorican culture, one of our favored meals is picadillo (pronounced pee-kah-dee-yo). It’s a ground meat stew that has become one of our specialties. I’ve now discovered there is an Indian version of it, Keema Curry. Even with the different spices, the dishes are very similar. Both are meat-like stews containing tomatoes, and served over rice. The only exception in picadillo is that, sometimes, depending upon preference, you may add potato cubes to it. Nevertheless, if you put them side by side when served with plain boiled rice, it’s hard to tell which is the Picadillo and which is the Keema Curry.

KEEMA CURRY

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 teaspoons ground ginger (fresh, if possible)
1½  pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon garam masala
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 cup tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup beef bouillon
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1¼ cup unflavored yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan or skillet. Add garlic and fry until golden.
  2.  Stir in ginger, beef, garam masala and chili powder. Fry, stirring, until meat is browned.
  3.  Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, bouillon, salt, pepper, and half the yogurt. Cover and simmer on heat for about 40 minutes or until meat is cooked. Stir in the remaining yogurt and serve over plain  boiled rice.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

GRILLED KEBABS

This past Labor Day we did what countless other Americans did, we barbecued. In this case, it was grilled kebabs (or kebob, if you want). This is a very straight-forward meal. When we cook kebabs, we brush the meat with an olive oil-cumin mixture. You can also add ground dried chili if you want to spice it up a bit.  In addition, we added some chopped cilantro leaves for garnish.

When we grill kebabs, we prefer lamb; but you can use beef or pork, if that’s your desire. In case you get rained-out, or the weather is not cooperative, the dish can also be prepared by broiling indoors. Either way, have fun.

GRILLED KEBABS

Ingredients:

1 pound lamb or other meat, cut into chunks
1 pound cherry tomatoes or bigger tomatoes cut into chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 coarsely ground dried chili, optional
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leave

Instructions:

  1. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes. Heat a charcoal or gas grill. If you are using charcoal or briquettes, be generous, you want a broad fire.
  2.  Thread meat and vegetables alternately on skewers. Mix olive oil and cumin, and brush on the meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with half of the chili and some salt and pepper. Let the kebabs sit while grill heats up.
  3.  When fire is hot but not scorching, place kebabs on grill. Brush them with the olive oil-cumin mix  once or twice as they cook. Grill until they begin to brown and become tender, about 10-15 minutes. Place on a serving  platter and sprinkle with remaining chili. Sprinkle with cilantro for garnish, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

TURKEY-AVOCADO SALAD

This recipe is my version of turkey salad, with some avocado thrown in. In some parts of the empire, it is still very hot weather-wise. Thus, salads are still a viable option. This is a salad you can prepare in no time. With some crusty bread and a light, chilled wine, be it white or red, you have yourself a top of the line summer meal.

TURKEY-AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

7 oz. package turkey breast (smoked or roasted), cut into bite-sized pieces
Half an onion, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup black olives, rinsed and sliced
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions:

  1. Layer turkey, onion, tomato  mozzarella, olives and avocado in a serving dish or platter.
  2.  Mix lemon juice and olive oil in a small cup and drizzle  over salad. Season with salt, pepper and oregano, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

CHICKEN RAGOUT

It was in my young manhood that I first encountered a dish called Ragoût. When I saw it on the menu I pronounced it “rag-OUT.” It shows how far I’ve come in my culinary knowledge. Whatever you call it, the French categorize it as well-seasoned meat and vegetables cooked in a thick sauce. In essence, a  main-dish stew. Now, the Italians have their own thing, ragù, which  is a class of Italian pasta sauces made with ground or minced meat, vegetables, and occasionally, tomatoes.

Today’s dish follows the French pattern, though it’s a Lebanese dish,  Yakhnet Dajaj (Chicken Ragout in our vernacular.) For full disclosure, this is  from one of my favorite cookbooks, Lebanese Delights by Raymonda Khoury Naaman. It’s a compendium that features the art of Lebanese cuisine in all its glory. The recipe is a ragout unlike any I’ve ever encountered. It has cinnamon as an ingredient, and it gives the dish a unique taste and flavor. Rice is normally served as the accompaniment to this dish.

 

Ingredients:

1kg (2.2 lbs.) chicken breast (skinned and deboned)
3 tbsp. butter
½ kg (1.1 lbs.) tomatoes, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 cups water
1 kg (2.2 lbs.) potatoes
Salt, pepper and cinnamon as desired

Preparation

Rinse and cut the chicken breast into medium cubes.

Peel and rinse the potatoes, then cut them into medium cubes

Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a frying pan. Add the chicken cubes, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Cook until the chicken cubes turn golden in color.

Sautee the potato cubes in 1 tbsp. of butter.

Place the fried chicken in a cooking pot, add the potato cubes, the sliced tomatoes, the tomato paste (dissolved in half a cup of cold water) and the remaining water.  Boil until the chicken is done (about 25 minutes).

Serve hot with cooked rice.

COLIFLOR A LA ESPAÑOLA (Spanish Cauliflower)

The Spanish table does things does amazing things with vegetables. In this case Coliflor a la Española, or Spanish Cauliflower. Let’s be honest, you either love or hate cauliflower or just bypass it at the table for something more appetizing. This dish makes cauliflower sexy! It brings to the lowly veggie a taste and flavor you never knew existed. My wife, who is no fan of cauliflower, called this the best cauliflower dish she’s ever had. And that’s high praise indeed coming from someone who would never countenance cauliflower in a meal. Plus the dish is really easy to make: tender cauliflower, with garlic and parsley braised in olive oil, and chopped eggs sprinkled on top. That’s it. With a good crusty loaf of bread, a good light wine (red or white), and you’ve got a great meal that vegetarians and non-vegetarians will love,

As is the norm in Spanish cuisine, we served this dish with yellow rice; but you can substitute couscous, quinoa or farro, if desired.

COLIFLOR A LA ESPAÑOLA
(Spanish Cauliflower)

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower, rinsed, trimmed and divided into florets
Salt to taste
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. Boil cauliflower florets  in salted water for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
  2. While cauliflower is cooking, heat olive oil in  small heavy skillet and fry garlic and parsley until crisp.
  3.  Drain cauliflower, place in a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped egg; then sprinkle with garlic/parsley mix, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

MARVELOUS GREEN SAUCE

I call this recipe ‘Marvelous Green Sauce.’  It goes specially well with fish, especially if fresh caught. Think of it as a green jade sauce since it also has a splendid  green color as well as taste. We recommend you prepare it several hours ahead of serving time to get a full blending of flavors. It’s a wonderful  summer meal when served cold over pouched or steamed fish. This time around we added pasta to the dish, using tagliolini, a type of ribbon pasta; but you can also use spaghetti, tagliatelle or capellini, or even rice with this dish. The sauce just makes it perfect.

MARVELOUS GREEN SAUCE

Ingredients: 

1¼ cups mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup finely chopped spinach leaves
½ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream ,spinach, parsley, dill, scallions and lemon juice, Mix well.
  2.  Season with pepper and check to see it salt ifs needed. If so, add sparingly. Cover and chill thoroughly before serving. Flavors develop further during this time.
    Yield: 2½ cups (approx.)
    As noted above, in this recipe we served it over poached fish on a bed of tagliolini (or you can substitute any ribbon pasta).

CURRIED TOFU

Curried Tofu is a popular vegetarian dish, and I have no own slant on it. So, here it is, my version of tofu (bean curd) in a curry sauce, Let me add you can double the recipe and serve a whole load of people, I normally serve it with steamed rice. Although I’ve also tried it with pasta and other grains such as quinoa and couscous, and it’s just as good. It’s a perfect dish, even in  summer, with a chilled dry white wine or a good ale or beer.

As noted in prior posts, it is recommended that tofu be pressed before cooking. Why? Pressing the tofu compresses it and squeezes out extra moisture, making it firmer and drier when cooking giving you a close grained interior and a crisp exterior. You do not want shredded tofu in your pan. Pressing mitigates that. So, how do you press tofu, especially if you don’t want or own a fandangle tofu press?  Simple: place tofu block on a plate;  then place a few folded sheets of paper towels underneath and a few on top. Finally, place a heavy skillet or pot on top. Fill the skillet or pot with something heavy such as a jar of sugar, a bag of flour, a few cans, books, etc.  You can press the tofu for 30 minutes or, ideally, up to one hour.  After the tofu has been pressed, remove the skillet and its contents and discard the paper towels. Cut the tofu into whatever size is desired and proceed with your recipe.

CURRIED TOFU

Ingredients:

1 16-oz. package extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth or bouillon
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in thin rings
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons green scallions, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Rinse tofu under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.  Do the pressing ritual as described above and cut tofu into cubes, about ½-inch thick or to your liking.
  2.  Melt butter in a wok or heavy skillet. Add flour and blend well over low heat,
  3.  Stir in chicken broth and blend with a fork or wire whisk until you have a smooth sauce as it cooks. Bring slowly to a boiling point and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add onion and mix it in with the sauce.
  5.  Stir in curry and ground ginger. Mix well. You can season highly to taste adding more curry if desired.
  6.  Stir in tofu until it totally combines with sauce.
  7.  Sprinkle with scallions and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

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