Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

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ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH DIJON MUSTARD SAUCE

I’m always on the lookout for a good roast leg of lamb recipe. Well, it so happened that I had a led of lamb recipe that I never got to use. In this case, half a leg of lamb. That’s when I decided to try out this recipe. It’s lamb cooked in a Dijon mustard sauce that includes olive oil, garlic, thyme (or rosemary), basil, salt and pepper. Also, note that a half leg of lamb will cook faster than a whole leg of lamb which, depending on whether it’s a slow roast or not, may take from 2 to 4 hours to cook.

When I make a roast lamb recipe, I normally add potatoes to the roasting. They could be small potatoes, or large potatoes cut in half. The result is that you not only get a delicious roast, but seasoned potatoes as well, all cooked together. Depending upon the size of the pan, be it cast-iron or other, you may need 12 or more small potatoes along with the lamb leg. Or you can use about 6 large potatoes cut in half or quarters. Also, in the Rivera clan, we wash the potatoes but do not peel them. Some folks mix the taters with turnips or carrots, or whatever. You are only limited by your imagination.

If you desire a sauce with the meal, simply add ½ cup red wine to the pan juices and boil over moderately-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve with lamb

ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH DIJON MUSTARD SAUCE

Ingredients:

Half  leg of lamb (2½ to 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon crushed thyme or rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
12-13 small potatoes or 6 large potatoes cut in half

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Rinse lamb leg under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a roasting pan. Place leg in pan and cover with a mixture of the remaining ingredients. Allow to marinate and season for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Scatter potatoes around lamb. Place in oven and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then raise oven temperature to 425 degrees and roast for another 15-25 minutes depending on desired level of doneness. Note that perfect internal temperature is 140 degrees when measured with a meat thermometer. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.
    Yield: 4 servings.

PERSIAN RICE WITH PIGEON PEAS

PERSIAN RICE WITH PIGEON PEAS

I got this recipe years ago from a former co-worker when I was a wage slave. For full  disclosure: I included the recipe in my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press) since I needed additional rice recipes at the time. I titled the recipe Arroz de Persa (Persian Rice), and it is the same recipe we are doing today. In that dish I noted that, following my Nuyorican influence, I like to add peas to the rice, and sometimes olives and pimentos. This time around I experimented with it and added canned pigeon peas. Arroz con Gandules, rice and pigeon peas, is one of the staples in Puerto Rican cooking. So I thought I’d do the same with Persian Rice. I guess you could call this a fusion dish. Whatever, it’s delicious. Note that, if you can’t find pigeon peas, you can substitute a package of frozen green peas,

This entrée would make a great side dish to any meal, be it beef, chicken or pork. In this instance, we serve it with salmon.

PERSIAN RICE WITH PIGEON PEAS

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup vermicelli or thin spaghetti, broken up into 1-2 inch pieces
Water or chicken broth
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup rice
1 15-ounce can pigeon peas, drained

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet or saucepan. Add vermicelli and stir-fry until golden brown.
  2. Add water or broth to cover by ¼ inch, and salt. Add rice and mix well.
  3. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  4. Add pigeon peas and stir to combine. Cover again and simmer another 10 minutes.
    Yield: 4 servings.

EGG-CAKE BAKED IN A WOK

EGG-CAKE BAKED IN A WOK

This is a recipe I acquired from an old cookbook, The Wok, A Chinese Cookbook by Gary Lee and published in 1970 (Pacific Productions). Yeah, 1970, when I was a young whippersnapper and on the prowl (I had just returned from Vietnam). Over the years I’ve come back to this tome. As far as I know, it was one of the “modern” Chinese cookbooks published in that era. It’s got great recipes that can no longer be found in more contemporary Asian cookbooks. And this is one of them: Egg-Cake Baked in a Wok.

Until that time I did not know that one could bake anything in a wok, let alone eggs. But it’s an easy recipe and delicious. If you don’ have a wok, a fry pan or skillet will do. Note that the recipe calls for ‘oil’ in the preparation. By that is meant peanut oil. Yet I’m sure you can use olive oil or vegetable oil. In my rendition I used olive oil included in the egg mix, but peanut oil for the frying. I also tweaked the recipe by adding mince garlic. It came out marvelous. My wife, who is a stone critic and judge of food, declared it’s the best egg cake she’s ever had. And that, from her, is resounding approval.

I imagine this dish would be served with steamed white rice. We had it with homemade baked rolls, and it was just as good. So this dish could be for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Your choice. You won’t be disappointed. The recipe makes 4 servings. Yes, you can add more eggs if you have more people coming over. By the way, the recipe calls for “green onion.” By that, it means scallions

EGG-CAKE BAKED IN A WOK

1 cup eggs (8-6 six eggs)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

This is a practical dish for a variety in egg dishes.
Beat eggs with salt, onion., garlic and oil (olive oil). Heat the wok, but not too hot and add 1 teaspoon oil (peanut oil). Tilt the wok around and around until the oil coats the entire cooking area of the wok. Pour in the beaten eggs. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the batch with a small lid – just big enough to cover the eggs. Wait for several minutes then add in a few drops of oil (peanut oil) around the edge of the lid. Repeat after a few minutes. The eggs should be firm after about 6 to 10 minutes. Take the eggs out and serve upside down on a plate, cut diagonally into strips ¾” to 1 ½” in size.

 

ARROZ CON POLLO (Rice with Chicken)

Some would argue that Arros con Pollo is the most well known dish in the Puerto Rican/Nuyorican pantheon . To us, it’s more popular than paella. To some, it’s just paella without the seafood and chorizos. Its saving grace is that, though it may take some time to prepare, you can fancy it up by adding sweet peas, pimento strips. assorted olive or whatever else you desire. Some rice with chicken recipes call for saffron, ground cumin or paprika to give the rice its color. We use tomato sauce and achiote.

As noted, our rendition calls for achiote and aji dulce, or sweet chili peppers. Note that the latter are not the common hot peppers associated with Mexican cuisine. Sweet peppers are just that, mild and sweet. They can be found in any Latino or Asian market. If you live in a major metropolitan area you can usually find it in your local supermarket.

Achiote is what we use for giving color to such dishes as yellow rice, pilaf rice, or any dish you want to enliven with a nice yellow-reddish hue. A simple method to prepare achiote is to cook 1 tablespoon annatto seeds, what we call the achiote (also found in Latino/Asian markets), in ½ cup olive oil or vegetable oil. You cook the seeds, stirring frequently, on low heat for 5 minutes. Be aware that if the flame is kept on high the seeds may crack and splatter. During cooking, the oil will turn a bright orange-red, The longer the seeds steep in oil, the darker the hue. Remove from heat, let cool and, using a small strainer, pour into a jar or container. Cover and refrigerate. That’s it.  If you want more achiote, use more seeds.

Back in Spanish Harlem, arroz con pollo was normally served for a special occasion. But, in our family, we ate it frequently. It was one of the foodstuffs that kept the family vibrant and together.

ARROZ CON POLLO
(Rice with Chicken)

Ingredients:

3 cups rice
1 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
12 whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 ounces salted pork (also called fatback), rinsed and diced
(Note: you can substitute 3-4 strips of bacon, cooked and diced)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
3 aji dulce (sweet chili peppers), seeded and chopped
½ cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth or bouillon
2 cups water
2 tablespoons achiote (see above)
1 8½-ounce can green peas (drained) or 1 10-ounce package frozen green peas

Instructions:

  1. Wash rice at least three times (until water is clear).
  2.  Rinse chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Place peppercorns, garlic, oregano and salt in a mortar and pound until crushed. Blend in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and vinegar.
  4.  Rub chicken pieces thoroughly with the seasoning. In our clan, if we’re in a rush, we let chicken stand for 15 minutes just before cooking. Otherwise, we marinate it for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
  5. Heat remaining olive oil in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven and brown salted pork over moderate heat. Add onion, bell pepper and aji dulce. Sauté until onion is translucent.
  6.  Add tomato sauce, chicken broth and olives. Stir to combine.
  7.  Add chicken pieces plus 2 cups water. Mix, lower heat to moderate-low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
  8.  Add the rice and achiote. Add more water to cover contents in pot, if necessary. Mix well and simmer, covered, on low heat until rice is tender (about 30) .
  9. Stir in peas. Cover and cook 10 minutes more.
    Yield: 8 servings.

 

SALMON CON LIMON Y PIMIENTO (Lemon-Pepper Salmon)

This dish is a family favorite. We like it because it’s one of the easiest ways to cook salmon.  Just mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and that’s it. Initially we would bake the salmon fillets at 375 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes. Later on I discovered that the salmon could also be broiled, an even quicker method of preparation—and that’s how we’re serving it today. Back on the block, we would serve the fillets over white steamed rice, or yellow rice. This time around we’re pairing it with farro, that ancient whole-grain popular in Italy. But, whatever side dish you prefer, you won’t be disappointed with the piquant delicious nature of these fish fillets.

Note that, in our family, we always referred to pepper, ground or otherwise as pimiento. If you check a Spanish dictionary, it is noted as pimienta. In other words. a feminine pronoun. For linguistic purists, my apologies, but I’ll stick with the family designation. To us, pepper was pimiento, and what can I say? Just enjoy the dish.

SALMÓN CON LIMÓN Y PIMIENTO
(Lemon-Pepper Salmon)

Ingredients:

4 salmon fillets with skin (about 6-8 ounces each)
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh chopped rosemary or tarragon for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Rinse fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Mix oil, lemon juice, pepper and salt in a bowl with a fork until blended.
  4.  Place salmon fillets in a greased broiler pan (we prefer cast-iron), 6 inches from heat source, skin side down. Drizzle half of the juice mixture over the salmon and place in the broiler for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from broiler and drizzle remaining oil mixture over the fish and top with slices of red onion.
  6.  Place salmon back in broiler. Turn off the broiler and let salmon stand for 5 minutes or until the edges of the fish turn golden brown and flake with a fork. Garnish with rosemary or tarragon and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

LASAGNA ROLL UPS

Lasagna roll ups have been around for a while. But I never considered them until recently. They are easier to prepare than regular lasagna; and you can use as many lasagna noodles as needed for any given meal. That makes them a dish worth trying, and enjoying on a regular basis.

Now, there are recipes that call for making them with just 9 lasagna noodles, or 10. I would suggest, in this case, use a 9″x9″ baking dish. In my rendition I used a whole one pound package of lasagna. As for  the baking pan, I used a standard size (15½”x10″); and  it held 13 roll-ups. The rest I used in another recipe which entail stuffing the noodles with baked, flaked fish  fillets. That’s the beauty of this recipe. You can stuff the noodles with meat, veggies or seafood. You are only limited by your imagination. With some crusty bread and a good chianti, you have a good but inexpensive banquet.

LASAGNA ROLL UPS

Ingredients:

1 pound package lasagna noodles
2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil (and more for topping)
Pinch of black pepper
2 cups marinara sauce (and more for topping)

Instructions:

  1. Boil lasagna noodles and cook until just soft enough for rolling (soft but not soggy, about 12-15 minutes). When they are done, drain in  a colander.
  2.  While noodles are cooking, prepare the filling. Thaw the packs of frozen spinach in a microwave and squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible. In a bowl, combine and mix well the spinach with the garlic, basil, black pepper and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.
  3.  When the noodles and filling are ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare  a baking dish or glass casserole by coating lightly with olive oil or butter.
  4.  Remove noodles from water, and lay side by side on a clean surface. Spread about 1/4 cup of the spinach-cheese mixture on top of each noodle. Roll up each noodle, making sure nothing squishes out in the process.
  5.  Spread about 1/4 – 1/3 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with more marinara, then sprinkle with the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. When fully cooked, remove from oven and top with fresh chopped basil.
    Yield: 6 servings

GREEK MEATBALLS WITH RICE

One of my favorite ways of preparing  meatballs is how our Greek brethren do it. I have long been a fan of Greek cuisine. They have 3,000 years of history in terms of cooking. We can learn a thing or two from them. So, you can consider this posting as a Greek meal. Simply, it’s meatballs  (keftaides) over rice with fideo (pilafi me fides). The latter dish  is just rice combined with cut thin spaghetti (fideo). Back in Spanish Harlem almost every household would add fideo to their soups. We never thought of combining it with rice (another innovation by our Greek brothers and sisters).

With this Greek dinner I took the liberty of adding saltsa bechamel to the meatballs. Saltsa bechamel is the Greek method of preparing béchamel sauce, that fame sauce attributed to French cuisine (although some historians state its origin is actually Tuscany—but that’s another story). Add some good Greek wine like a Agiorgitiko from Nemea or Xinomavro from Naoussa, and you’ll have a dinner that will transform you to a sunset evening in Athens. Don’t let the Greek wine tongue twisters deter you. An Agiorgitiko is similar to a Merlot. With a Xinomavro, think of a Barolo or Pinot Noir.

For this dinner, I would suggest making the béchamel sauce first. You can set it aside and heat it up again with the main course; then preparing the rice with fideo. While the rice is cooking, you can make the meatballs, which are served drizzled with the sauce.

SALTSA BECHAMEL

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Dash of nutmeg
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

Instructions:

Melt butter over low heat. Add  flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until blended into a consistent paste. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk and return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly until thick and smooth. Remove from heat and gradually add egg yolks, stirring constantly. Yield: 2 cups

RICE WITH FIDEO

Ingredients:

1½ cups long grain rice
¾ cup fideo (or crushed vermicelli)
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried chives

Instructions:

Combine the rice and fideo and sauté in butter in a 2-quart pan or pot until golden brown. Add chicken broth and chives. Cover and cook over very low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yield: 4 or more servings.

GREEK MEATBALLS:

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef or a mixture of beef and pork or lamb
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint or 1 teaspoon dried
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup ouzo or anisette
1 cup flour
½ cup olive oil (or more if needed).

Instructions:

  1. Combine meat, bread crumbs, salt, onion, parsley, garlic, mint, egg and ouzo. Mix well.
  2. Form into meatballs and roll them in the floor. Note that we like our meatballs medium-sized, not small. Place on a cookie sheet and chill for 1 hour.
  3.  Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan  and fry meatballs over medium-high heat until done, about 15-20 minutes. Serve them hot.
    Yield: Makes about 32 meatballs (4 to 6 servings).

 

 

 

 

 

BREADED FISH FILLETS WITH YOGURT

One if my favorite recipes is breaded fish fillets. It’s an easy dish to make, and delicious. Another go-to recipe is fish fillets baked in yogurt (or a combination of yogurt and parmesan cheese). So I considered, why not combine breaded fish with yogurt? In this case, the yogurt is mixed with turmeric. This renders a nice sauce in which to cook the fillets. You’ll be amazed at the result. It is really good. This is a multi-dimensional dish that can be served by itself with some crusty bread, or with rice  or pasta.  Add a light red wine or good white wine, or even beer, and you have a winner.

For this dish you can use any good firm fleshed fillet, be it cod, turbot, halibut,  flounder, monkfish, etc. I would not recommend dover sole. It is just too mild and fragile for this recipe.

BREADED FISH FILLETS WITH YOGURT

Ingredients:

4 fish fillets, 6 ounces each
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ to 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 cup yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Rinse fish fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Place beaten egg in one dish, and breadcrumbs in another.
  4.  Mix turmeric with the yogurt. The turmeric will give the yogurt a pinkish color. Set aside.
  5.  First, dip fillets in egg, and then in breadcrumbs to coat thoroughly. Place fillets in a greased baking dish. Cover with turmeric-yogurt mix,  and bake until tender, about 25 minutes.
    Yield: 4 servings.

ORZO WITH BEANS AND SAUSAGE

This is another take on that famous Italian entry known as pasta fazool. In more renowned circle, it’s Pasta e Fagioli, or pasta with beans. In the post of 04/26/20 I gave my version of this classic dish. In my family, we prefer white kidney beans when we’re making this recipe. Still, we’re always experimenting and seeking to improve on it. And now we have another version: this time with red kidney beans and sausage. In this entry, the pasta base we’re using is orzo. That singular item that, to us, most resembles rice. And, yes, in past efforts we’ve used rice instead of pasta for this dish.

We prefer to use dried beans instead of the canned variety. True, it’s more effort in that you have to prepare the beans for cooking. This entails soaking overnight a one pound package of beans  in water to cover (by at least 2 inches). Next morning, draining the beans then placing in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 2 quarts (8 cups) water. Bring it to a boil, cover and cook over moderate-low heat until beans are tender (about 1 hour).  Now, because of time constraints and convenience, you can substitute 2 (15.5-oz.) cans of red kidney beans. We won’t fault you for that. But, again, it does not match the flavor you get from regular beans.

Note that this dish includes sausage. We prefer the sweet Italian type. Yet you can substitute any pork sausage, or even chicken or turkey sausage. If you’re health conscious, you can use organic vegetable sausages that have appeared in markets in the last few years. Be aware that some sausages come with a casing that has to be removed before cooking.

ORZO WITH BEANS AND SAUSAGE

Ingredients:

1 pound package dry red kidney bean
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (12 oz.) pack sweet Italian uncured sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (16 oz.) package orzo

Instructions:

  1. Prepare beans by soaking overnight; and then cooking as instructed above.
  2.  While beans are cooking, heat olive oil over moderate-high heat in a frying pan or skillet. Add sausage and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  3.  Add sausage mix to beans. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato sauce, cover and cook until beans are tender.
  4.  While beans are being done, prepare orzo as per package directions. Serve beans and orzo side by side; or you can serve orzo in a large serving dish topped by beans and sausage. Also, if desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

 

 

POLLO CON POLVO DE CURRY (Curried Chicken)

According to family historians the origin of this dish is Trinidad. My father, during the Second World War, spent time in Trinidad. That my be one of the reasons we acquired this recipe. It calls for curry powder, which is not a common  staple in Nuyorican cooking. That said, the dish is superb, especially for those who like a bit of spice in their dining.

POLLO CON POLVO DE CURRY
(Curried Chicken)

Ingredients:

1 3-to-3½ pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
8 black whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ¼ teaspoon dried
½ cup olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 hot chili pepper, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 cups water

Instructions:

  1. Rinse chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl
  2.  Put garlic, peppercorns, salt and thyme in a mortar, and pound until crushed. Rub chicken pieces with this seasoning. Cover bowl and let stand at least 30 minutes.
  3.  In a large skillet or frying pan, heat olive oil. Add chicken pieces, two or three at a time, and fry until golden. Remove and set aside.
  4.  Drain all but 2 tablespoons of oil from skillet. Add tomatoes, onion, chili pepper (if using) and curry powder. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  5.  Stir in 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Return chicken to skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until chicken pieces are tender. This dish is best served with bianda (root plans such as yucca, yautía, green bananas, malanga, etc.) or, as we did it, with tostones (friend green plantains).
    Yield: 6 servings.
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