Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

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VENISON WITH MUSHROOMS

I was recently given some ground venison. I’ve discovered you can prepare ground venison in the same way you cook beef or pork. That is, you can make burgers, casseroles, chili, meatballs, meatloaf, tacos or stew.  It is quite versatile. Also, venison is one of the  leanest, heart -healthy foods. It is low in fat, high in protein, and a great source of iron. This time around I decided to do it stir-fried with mushrooms. It came out great. I also paired it with pappardelle noodles; which are a broad, flat pasta similar to fettuccini. But you can pair the dish with any ribbon pasta or a grain like rice, quinoa or couscous. Some would consider this dish a form or Nuyorican picadillo (by the way, pronounced ‘pee-kah-dee-yoh’).

VENISON WITH MUSHROOM

Ingredients:

8 oz. (or more) mushroom, washed and sliced
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 pound ground venison
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoons light or heavy cream (your choice)

Instructions:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frypan or skillet over moderate-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have released their juices, about 3-4 minutes. Remove mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
  2.  In same pan or skillet, heat additional 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onion and cook until onions becomes translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  3.  Stir in venison. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Cook until venison is browned, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cream, stir to mix and cook about 2 minutes more. Serve immediately over pasta or favorite grain.
    Yield: 4 servings.

TOFU WITH OYSTER SAUCE

I am always looking of new innovative ways to prepare tofu. I discovered tofu in my young manhood, and have been a partisan ever since. The beauty of tofu is that it absorbs the flavor of whatever spice, seasoning or flavoring is being used. This makes it a great substance to cook with.  From what I’ve seen, in most Asian restaurants the condiment of choice is soy sauce or hoisin sauce. Another favorite is oyster sauce. I recall back in my youth that, in New York’s  Chinatown, one of the favorite, inexpensive dishes in the mon and pop restaurants was steamed vegetables with hoisin sauce. I decided to apply the same principal to tofu. In this case, with fried tofu. The result was marvelous.

As mentioned in prior posts, it’s a good idea, even with extra firm tofu, to have it pressed before cooking.  Pressing the tofu squeezes out extra moisture, making it firmer and dryer which means you get a wonderfully crisp exterior when you cook it. Let me add,  if you’re using tofu as is, it doesn’t require pressing; but if you are sautéing or shallow frying tofu (or looking to achieve extra crispy tofu), pressing is best. It also holds its shape better during cooking and ensures your seasonings won’t be diluted.  Pressing tofu is no big deal: wrap the block of tofu in a paper towel and put it on a large plate with a lip; then put something heavy such as a frying pan on top, weight it down further with cans and jars, and leave for 30 mins. The tofu will be about two-thirds its original thickness, and less than a ¼ teaspoon of water will have been removed. That’s it, now you can go on with the recipe.

I paired the tofu with soba noodles, something very common to Japanese cuisine. If preferred, you can pair it with  rice, quinoa, couscous, or string pasta.

TOFU WITH OYSTER SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 block tofu ( usually between 14-16 ounces)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil;
Pepper to taste
¾ cup oyster sauce (or more to taste)
½ cup chopped scallions

Instructions:

  1. After pressing (see above),  rinse tofu under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite-sized pieces, about ¼-inch.
  2.  In a small bowl, combine eggs ands flour and whisk until it forms a smooth paste.
  3.  Heat oil in a large saucepan over moderate-high heat. Add tofu and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes. Add egg-flour mixture, stirring to ensure all pieces are coated, and cook until tofu is golden. Add pepper to taste, and remove to a serving dish or platter. Top with scallions and serve over soba noodles.
    Yield: 4 servings.

CALAMARES SALTEAR

This dish I call Calamares Saltear or Sautéed Squid. It came about when we visited our local supermarket and discovered they had frozen cleaned squid available. In Nuyorican culture, squid is a favorite. From infancy, we are taught to appreciate it. I guess it goes back to life on the island when squid was, and is, a reliable inexpensive way to feed the family. Problem was, once you obtained the squid, you had to rinse it, cut the tentacles, remove and discard the mouth, rub off the purplish outer skin, squish out the innards, wash the inside of the body; discard the viscera, then cut into bite-sized pieces or strips. Admittedly, this is a time consuming process. Cleaned and prepared squid makes it far easier to cook the suckers.

Now, in our canon we have stewed squid (calamares guisado), stuffed squid (calamares relleno), even squid salad and sandwiches. This time I decided to prepare a simple squid sauté, easy and delicious. Served over Spanish yellow rice, it makes for a great criollo dinner.

CALAMARES SALTEAR
(Sautéed Squid)

Ingredients:

2 (10.6 oz.) cleaned and prepared frozen squid, thawed
2 cups fresh mushrooms, washed and chopped
2/3 cup cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup water

Instructions:

  1. Wash squid under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Note that that the squid, though cleaned, will come with the tentacles.  Cut the squid, inclusive of the tentacles, into  bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a large bowls, combine mushrooms, bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, tarragon, egg and butter.
  3.  Heat oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add contents of bowl and stir fry for about 3 minutes. Add squid and sauté about 3 minutes more.
  4.  Add wine, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Stir everything over high heat. Add water, and cook, uncovered on moderately-low heat for 5 minutes. Serve over white or Spanish yellow rice.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

PASTA WITH BLUE CHEESE AND ALMONDS

Another recipe that came out of necessity. My wife had purchased some premium blue chesses and we thought we’d have it as an appetizer with the usual crackers. Then dinnertime came and the thought occur: how about doing something different with the blue cheese? Back on the block, when times were lean, the family would prepare spaghetti with blue cheese instead of the usual tomato sauce. It was a quicky, cheapie dinner that satisfied everyone. So I harked back to those humble pasta dinners in times of old. As always, the result was a pasta dish full of complexity and flavor with just a handful of basic ingredients. So here it is: Nuyorican pasta at its best. You can use whatever  variety is preferred, be it string or shells. We opted for for good ole whole wheat linguini but, as stated, whatever you want goes, be it thin angel hair or hearty bucatini. If you got the money for it, you can go for gorgonzola dolce—or any other good blue cheese. Whatever suits your pocketbook, and you have a dish you can whip up in no time. With a crusty loaf and some good red wine (or white), it can’t be beat.

Note that I added almonds to the dish. Reason being that I had a package of almonds on hand. If you want, you can substitute walnuts or pecans.

The other thing about this pasta thing is, the amount of pasta available in a package. Up to resent times a whole pound package (16 oz.) was the norm. Then, due to our dysfunctional capitalistic  system, now 12 oz. is the norm. You get the idea: you pay more for less. If you can find a pound package, for for it. If not, what can I say? As long those those thieving corporate weasels rule our lives, we’re stuck.

PASTA WITH BLUE CHEESE AND AL,OMNDS

Ingredients:

1 pound (16. oz.) fresh or dry pasta
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup slivered or chopped almonds
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Ground black pepper to taste
Few drops freshly squeezes lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large of pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions
  2.  While the pasta is cooking, place a skillet or frying pan over medium heat, add the butter  and heat until melted. Add the almonds and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  3.  Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the almonds, butter, spinach, blue cheese and plenty of pepper, tossing until mixed and cheese melts. Add a few drops of lemon juice if desired.   Serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

 

CURRIED BLACK BEANS

This is a recipe that came out of necessity. In Nuyorican culture we love beans. For example, rice and beans, to us, is manna from heaven. It is an integral part of our diet. Of course, we’ve refined and modified our bean intake so that we have all sort of bean dishes. And, usually, I cook beans from scratch. That’s the way my mom did, and it is family dogma. However, looking though my cupboard, we came across a couple cans of black beans. I do not recall when these were purchased  or by whom. And they were just short of the expiration date. I hate throwing away items that can still be utilized. So, I figured, okay, this one time I’ll conjure up a good bean dish that will make use of the canned stuff. That’s when I thought of Curried Beans. In my experience, most curried bean dishes, especially in Indian or Southeastern Asian cuisine involved chick peas. What we call garbanzo beans. But would the curry combo work with back beans. I considered, why not? And gave it a try. Let me say it was an experiment that rendered majestic results. I’ve come to the conclusion that almost any bean category could be used in a curried context. It may not work with green beans, which is more of a vegetable category, but then, as stated numerous times before, you’re only limited by your imagination.

This is an easy and quick dish to prepare. Following on the Asian concept, we decided to serve it with rice noodles. Just like regular rice and beans, it’s a marriage made in heaven. Note that if you don’t have rice stick noodles around, you can always substitute vermicelli pasta. So, enjoy these suckers. You won’t be disappointed.

CURRIED BLACK BEANS

Ingredients:

2  (15oz.) cans black beans
½ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon curry powder (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet or saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat until somewhat soft and translucent.
  2.  Add curry powder, flour and chicken broth. Mix well. Slowly mix in broth. Stir until slightly thickened. Add black beans. Stir and cook until beans are heated though.  Serve over rice noodles.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

EASY PUMPKIN PIE

A friend had given us a pumpkin and, honestly we thought, what do we do with this thing? A pie? Full disclosure, I am a cook but not a baker. Making pies, to me, has never been something I do on a regular basis. We have a local store where one of the employee makes great pies; and when we need one, we just call them, they bake it right on premises, and we pick it up the next day. So this pie thing, was new to me. But I decided to give it a try.

Now, the recipe given can be done with cooked fresh pumpkin. Problem with that is that you have to cut the thing, take out the seeds, scoop out the interior, etc.. , and then cook it. Last time I checked you can get cooked canned pumpkin. That will save time and effort, and make it a whole lot easier.

The recipe itself is one I got from discussions I had with people who bake. I’ve added a caramelized topping made from slivered almonds since I had a package of almonds on hand. I’m told this is not the usual topping for a pumpkin pie. My learned friends tell me that a pecan topping is the   de rigueur preferred topping for pumpkin pies. Well, the caramelized almond topping turned out great with the pie, so there. Also, the recipe is easy to make, and perfect for a holiday treat.

Another thing,  the idea of making a pie crust from scratch is not something I would contemplate. If you want to do it, go right ahead. I opted for a pre-pared Graham cracker pie shell that can be found in almost any market these days. And you know what? It came out just fabulous.  However you do it, I’m sure the results will be more than satisfactory.

EASY PUMPKIN PIE

Ingredients:

2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup maple syrup or brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups evaporated milk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degree F.
  2. Blend together eggs and pumpkin. Stir in maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Add and blend in evaporated milk.
  3. Pour into pie shell and bake 45-50 minutes or until  knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, top with caramelized almond topping and serve.

CRARAMELIZED ALMOND TOPPING

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons soft or melted butter
2/3 cup maple syrup or brown sugar
2/3 cup slivered almonds

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine butter, maple syrup and almonds.
  2.  Gently drop by spoonfuls over cooled pie to cover top. Place in broiler and broil until mixture begins to bubble, about 3 minutes. Watch carefully: if cooked too long, top will turn syrupy. Cool and serve.

 

STEAMED LAMB CHOPS

Steaming is a process well known in cooking. Our Chinese brethren have used it for centuries for cooking fish and chicken. But how about steaming meats like, let’s say, lamb?  I had some round bone chops on hand and I decided to give it a try, and it came out really good.

If you have a steamer, this recipe is a cinch. A wok also works. If you don’t have such an appliance, then you must improvise. I used a large skillet with high sides, placed a 5 oz. tuna fish can on the bottom, placed the seasoned lamb chops on  a plate atop the can and that became my steamer.  You can use a large sauce pan as well.  What’s the old saying about necessity being the mother of invention? Most times it’s true.

As noted, I used round bone lamb chops. Boneless will work just as good, if not better. I’m sure the recipe will work with with pork chops. I haven’t tried it with steak and, honestly, I don’t know if it will come out as good, You’re welcomed to try, and let me know the results. Also, for this recipe I used a seasoning mix of olive oil, cumin and coriander. You’re encouraged to experiment with whatever seasoning combination desired, be it  a simple combo of olive oil, salt and pepper, or anything else for that matter. The trick is to be creative (within reason).

STEAMED LAMB CHOPS

Ingredients: 

4 lamb chops of choice, 8-12 ounces (or more)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Rinse lamb chops under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2.  Brush with olive oil and season both sides well with coriander and cumin. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Place on a plate and  put dish inside the steamer. Put enough water to cover the bottom of the pan or skillet, being sure not to use too much or it might spill into the dish. Heat the water to  a fast boil, cover and steam lamb for approximately10 minutes or until tender. The steaming time will vary depending on the thickness of the meat. Boneless lamb chops will cook faster than bone-in. Serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.

FISH FILLETS WITH ONION SAUCE

I had some fish fillets om hand and I needed a quicky recipe. So, I created this gem:, pouched fish fillets in an onion sauce. Now, for some explanation: Poaching is a cooking technique that involves heating food submerged in a liquid, such as water, milk, stock or wine. Poaching is differentiated from the other “moist heat” cooking methods, such as simmering and boiling; and ii uses a relatively lower temperature. There are three basic methods for poaching; shallow, submerge, or deep-poaching. Fish fillets are excellent for poaching. In the recipe given I used the shallow water cooking method. I also decided to use a good, easy and quick to prepare sauce to go with the fish. Onion Sauce came to mind, and it worked out pretty good.

The recipe itself  is multifaceted in that it can be served with pasta, a grain ( like rice, couscous, quinoa) or like we did it this time, with kasha (buckwheat groats).  Thanks to my Jewish Brethren, I’ve developed a fondness for kasha.

FISH FILLETS WITH ONION SAUCE

Ingredients:

4 fish fillets of your choice, about 6-8 ounces each
½ cup white wine
8 whole peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Place all the ingredients, except the fish, in a large skillet and add at least 2 inches of water. Heat the water on medium high heat until it is steaming. The water should be moving around but not bubbling.
  3.  Slide the fillets into the water. reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook approximately 8-10 minutes to poach. The pouching time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. Once the fillets are tender to your satisfaction, carefully remove the fish to a serving dish or platter, using a slotted spatula. Serve immediately with Onion Sauce (recipe given below).
    Yield: 4 servings.

ONION SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 onions, peeled and slice thinly in circles
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 vegetable  bouillon cubes
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden.
  2.  Add flour, bouillon cubes and water. Turn heat to low and blend, stirring constantly until sauce has a smooth, gravy-like consistency.
  3.  Pour sauce over fillets, garnish with parsley and serve

 

 

SOPA DE AJO Y HABICHUELAS

Back on the block, in my family, this was one of our popular meals, especially when times were lean. Essentially it was just a soup of garlic and beans but, through time, we added other ingredients to enhance our palette. That’s the beauty of this dish. You can doctor it anyway you want depending upon what’s on hand. In terms of the beans, we always liked white beans, although it also works with garbanzo beans (chick peas).  We never did it with red, black or pinto beans, although you’re welcomed to try and let me know how it works out.

In our version, apart from the garlic, we add parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper, and sazón accent (you can substitute Goya sazón if desired). You can also use a teaspoon of turmeric in place of the sazôn. Your choice.  Note that in our culture, we soak the beans overnight and then cook the following day. If you’re press for time you can do the quick soaking method:  drain beans, place in a heavy pot or Dutch oven with 2 quarts (8 cups) water and bring to a boil. Cover and boil over moderate-low heat and cook until beans are almost ender. Then follow recipe as given. Also note that the recipe calls for water or chicken broth.  To us unsophisticates, adding 2 chicken bouillon cubes to the water counts as chicken broth—unless you have ready made chicken broth on hand.

With a good crusty loaf of bread you have a perfect inexpensive or (as my father use to say) beggar’s banquet. And you can make the soup as thick as you want adding less water (about 4 cups) and turn it into a stew.

SOPA DE AHJO Y HABICHUELAS
(Garlic-Bean Soup)

Ingredients:

1 pound dry white beans
2 quart water or chicken broth (or less if you want to make it into a stew)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
1 large potato cut into chunks (wash, scrub but do not peel)
1 packet sazón accent
Salt and ground black pepper to atste

Instructions:

  1. Soak beans overnight in a pot with water to cover. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 2 quarts water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover and boil over moderate-low heat until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  2.  Heat olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and sauté  garlic, parsley and marjoram for 3 minutes. Add to beans along with the potato chunks and sazôn. Stir to combine.
  3.  Add  salt and pepper and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

ROAST CHICKEN MOROCCAN STYLE

 

I’m , always on the lookout for a good roast chicken recipe, something out of the ordinary. Well, this is one for the ages: Roast Chicken Moroccan Style. I’ve never been to Morocco but, if I do, this is the first dish I’ll order. It’s a heavenly chicken replete with myriad herbs and spices not common to our version of roast chicken.  And, as an addition I’ve included a saffron rice recipe that goes great with the chicken. So, impress your family and friends with your worldliness. Give them a roast chicken dish that’s simply marvelous. They’ll sing your praises.

Now, traditionally, with this dish, it is cooked in an outdoor grill. This being winter in the northeast, we cooked the chicken in a preheated broiler and it came out just fine.

ROAST CHIKEN MOROCCAN STYLE

Ingredients:

1 roasting chicken, about 3 to 3¼ pounds, halved or quartered
3 scallions, white parts only, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped coriander or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenned pepper
4 tablespoons butter, softened

Instructions:

  1. Rinse chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Put the scallions, garlic, herbs, salt and spices in a mortar and pound until crushed. Blend with the butter to make a paste. Rub the paste all over the prepared chicken pieces. Leave the chicken to marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
  3. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side down under the broiler After 5 minutes turn and baste with any extra paste or the juices in the boiling pan. Continue turning and basting every 5 minutes for approximately 25 minutes or until the pieces are done. Serve with Saffron Rice (recipe given below).

SAFFRON (YELLOW) RICE

ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups rice
½ teaspoon saffron threads or ¼ teaspoon saffron powder
Chicken broth, about 3 cups or to cover rice
Salt and black peeper to taste
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cup finely chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, heat olive oil and sauté onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir in rice and sauté until grains are transparent.
  2. Add saffron and chicken broth to cover rice by about ¼-inch. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid absorbed, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper and serve on a platter with tomato and parsley border.
    Yield: 4 servings.

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