Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: vegetables (page 1 of 9)

SAUCED CUALIFLOWER AND SPINACH

I happened to have some cauliflower and spinach on hand. So, what to do with it? I thought, how about cooking the suckers in a nice sauce? And the dish came out superb.

This is what I call a one dish meal. I find it’s best cooked in a wok. If you don’t have a wok, then a large skillet or frypan will do. It’s a simple enough project. Just make a nice white sauce, add the cauliflower and seasonings (inclusive of turmeric), cook some more, then finish with the spinach. The dish can be served over rice, quinoa, farro or pasta of choice. This time around we combined it with Israeli (or pearl) couscous. It made for a fabulous vegetarian meal that even carnivores will love.

SAUCED CAULIFLOWER AND SPINACH

Ingredients:

Half a stick butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken or beef bouillon
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 head cauliflower cut into florets
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups fresh chopped spinach

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in wok or skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Add chicken bouillon and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes until it makes a creamy sauce. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  2.  Mix in cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, oregano and turmeric. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until florets are fork tender.
  3. Stir in spinach and cook 2 minutes more. Serve immediately over couscous or preferred grain.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

 

CREAMED SPINACH AND COUSCOUS

This rendition makes for a great vegetarian dinner than even non-vegetarians will love. And it has spinach. Yes, spinach—but it’s creamed spinach, which even recalcitrant young ones will like. Seems, if it’s creamy, it’s no longer spinach.

Cream spinach also comes in the canned variety. Yet nothing compares to this dish being made from scratch. Fact is, it’s not that hard to prepare. It’s quite easy, and more nutritious and delicious than the canned stuff.

The other dish given is couscous, Creamed spinach over couscous is as marriage made in heaven. But you can use whatever grain desired, be it rice, quinoa, farro, or even kasha.  And with regard to couscous, this time around we used what is called Israeli or Pearl Couscous. This is couscous with an oval  grain texture, like orzo. If you prefer the fine grained variety, go right ahead. Both  will a make a meal that will garner oohs and aahs, even from those vegetable adverse. With a good crusty loaf of bread and some good wine, be it white or red, you have a winner of a dinner—that is good tasting as well as heart healthy.

The guideline for this recipe is to cook the couscous first. And while the couscous is cooking, prepare the creamed spinach. Simple as that.

CREAMED SPINACH AND COUSCOUS

Couscous

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1½ cups Israeli (Pearl) couscous
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried
2 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

  1.  In a medium pot or saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium-high heart until golden.
  2.  Stir in couscous. Add salt, pepper, and parsley and mix well. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until couscous is tender.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Creamed Spinach

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh spinach, coarse stems removed, washed and drained
Salt to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
5 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large heavy skillet or saucepan. Add spinach and sprinkle with salt and nutmeg. Turn heat to high. Toss and stir the spinach for 3-4 minutes; by which time the spinach should be cooked. No additional water is necessary. Sufficient water will adhere to the spinach leaves.
  2.  Drain spinach and press out any excess moisture. Place spinach in a blender with the cream and blend until smooth. Return spinach to the skillet or saucepan and reheat. You can add a little more nutmeg if you want. Some say this improves the taste.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

 

 

 

FRIED EGGS IN PEPPER RINGS

This is a simple quick meal that is a novel way of doing fried eggs: cook them in pepper rings. You can use whatever bell pepper desired, be it green, red or yellow. The color combination is up to you. The dish can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, your choice. For breakfast you can add the usual bacon as an accompaniment. For lunch, you can pair the eggs with French fries. For dinner, we prefer to serve the egg rings over rice. You can call this recipe a multi-purpose meal.

Note that you may have to cook the eggs in batches. Even with a large skillet you can cook about four pepper rings at a time. If, by chance, you have a skillet that can accommodate more, then more power to you.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
2-3 sweet peppers of your choice of colors
8 eggs
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
Sprinkle of dried oregano

Instructions:

  1. Wash peppers under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Slice crosswise into ¼-inch rings, seeds removed.
  2. Warm butter in a large skillet until butter sizzles. Add three or four pepper rings, spread out, and crack an egg into each and cook until set. In our crowd we like well-cooked eggs, so we don’t mind if the yolk gets broken. But, if you prefer a soft yolk, be gentle so it stays intact. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano, then flip over with a spatula and cook just until set on the other side.
    Yield: 4 servings.

SCALLOPS ON A BED OF SPINACH

This is a simple recipe that contains scallops (which we love) and spinach. Yes, spinach. I know, think of the old Popeye cartoon: “I’m Popeye the sailor man, I’m strong to the finish ‘cus I eat my . . .” You know the rest. I like spinach. I even liked it when I was a kid back at PS 75 in Harlem. And, believe me, I got hassled by my peers because of it. Kids are not supposed to like spinach. Well, some of us do.

You will note that for this recipe, we used frozen spinach. But, if you can get fresh spinach, you can use it as well. In this case, use 1-2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and trimmed. Steam the spinach for 3 minutes and drain. Then chop and toss with butter.

What makes this recipe good is that it’s a spur of the moment thing, and it works with any variety of greens, be it spinach or broccoli, or even okra. You can serve the scallops with any vegetable you want. With some crusty bread, a good wine (white or red), it’s superb. If you want to mix it with rice, quinoa, couscous or noodles, it’s still a definite winner.

Ingredients:

4 (10-oz.) packages frozen spinach
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Cook frozen spinach according to package directions. When done, toss with the butter and keep warm.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops and sauté for 1½ minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and balsamic vinegar, and braise for 3 minutes.
  3. To serve, place spinach on a warm serving platter. Arrange scallops on top and spoon some cooking juices over them.
    Yield: 6 servings.

PESTO EGGPLANT

As most of us know, pesto sauce (or pesto alla genovese) is a sauce that combines pine nuts, olive oil,  garlic, salt, lost of fresh basil and Parmagiano or Pecorino cheese. The sauce can compliment almost anything. But how about eggplant? Which set me to thinking, Why not our beloved eggplant? The result is the dish given below. An experiment that turned out delicious. Even in Genoa, the city that invented pesto, they would appreciate this combo.

PESTO EGGPLANT

Pesto Sauce:
(Makes 2 cups)

4 cups fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
½ to 1 cup olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and ½ cup olive oil. Process until a paste is formed. Slowly add additional oil (if needed) in a steady stream, and cheese. Pulse several times more. Don’t forget to occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor.

EGGPLANT

1 large eggplant (about 1½ pounds),  sliced into ½-inch rounds (do not peel)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1, Preheat oven to 400 degree F.
2. Drizzle olive oil over eggplant slices. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Arrange eggplant in a large greased baking pan or dish (we prefer cast-iron). Note that if the dish is not large enough you may have to layer the eggplant slices to accommodate all.
3. Bake until brown and tender, about 35 minutes. Top with pesto sauce and bake 5 minutes more.
Yield: 4-6 servings.

 

 

 

 

ZUCCHINI BAKED WITH CHEESE

I’ve been cooking zucchini with cheese for years. Simple, slice the suckers, layer with cheese, usually Parmesan, and bake until tender. Then I discovered that I had been preparing a  fancy-dan classical dish all the while. Leafing through a book on classical cuisine I came upon Courgette Gratinées à la Milanaise. Guess what, all it is is zucchini baked with cheese. I’ve been cooking from the classical canon all these years and didn’t know. Figure that one out.

This dish goes good with a crusty loaf as a vegetarian meal. It also makes a great accompaniment to grilled or broiled meats or hearty roasts be it pork, beef or poultry.

ZUCCHINI BAKED WITH CHEESE

Ingredients:

8 medium-sized zucchini, trimmed
¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Wash the zucchini under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.  Cut into ¼-inch slices.
  3.  In a large frying pan or skillet, melt the butter with olive oil over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the zucchini slices and stir-fry for 3 minutes, Add salt and pepper. Remove the frying pan from the heat.
  4.  Sprinkle the bottom of a greased baking dish with one-quarter of the grated cheese. Cover the cheese with a layer of zucchini slices and on top of them spread a second layer of ¼ cup of grated cheese. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the melted butter over the cheese. Repeat the layers until all the zucchini and cheese have been used, then pour over the remaining melted butter.
  5.  Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender. Serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.

 

SOPA DE LENTEJAS (Lentil Soup)

This is one of the premier entries in my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes ( Running Press). Sopa de Lentejas, or lentil soup, is an old family favorite. Back on the block, our preference was for red lentils. But green lentil can be just as good. Your choice. When preparing this soup, the mind boggles with what you can mix in. Celery, carrots and mushrooms are among the most common vegetables added to the pot. Smoked ham or ham hocks  are other ingredients popular in this stew. In some recipes rice is mixed in with the broth. Depending on amount of liquid and cooking time, you can make it as thin  or as thick as you like. Whichever way you make it, with some crusty bread and a hearty red wine, this dish can’t be beat.

Our version is quite simple: lentils, chorizo and potatoes. We include tomato sauce for added flavor and color. Some cooks prefer to adjust their seasoning with salt and pepper added after the soup is done. It’s a matter of personal taste. However you season it, the soup should be served piping hot, with or without croutons, Back in the apartment in Harlem, we never added croutons.

Also note that you can double the quantity of ingredients to make 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

1 cup red lentils (or green)
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium  green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 cups chicken broth
3 small potatoes (or 2 medium), washed and quartered
2 chorizo sausages, casings removed and sliced into ½-inch rounds
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
½ can tomato sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1.  Rinse lentils  under cold running water (best using a fine strainer). Set aside.
  2.  Heat oil in a kettle or Dutch oven.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Stir-fry until tender but not browned.
  3.  Stir in lentils. Add broth and remaining ingredients. Mix well and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until tender but not mushy (about ½ hour).
  4.  Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve immediately.
    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.

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

SOY SAUCE BRUSSELS SPROUTS

In my young manhood, a close friend was Eddie Hor. Let me state that Eddie was bigger than life. He was a recontour, ladies’ man and an exceptional cook. Until I met Eddie, I was never a fan of brussels sprouts. But he made me a convert to the edible bud (which is considered a leaf cabbage). Eddie simply sautéed the vegetable in soy sauce. Something so simple and direct—and it changes the whole flavor of the sprouts. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe by adding onion and garlic. It makes for a great vegetarian entrée or side dish to any meal. In the Rivera clan we prefer to serve it over steamed rice, either white or brown rice. It also goes great with couscous, quinoa, or even kasha.

SOY SAUCE BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Ingredients:

1½ pounds brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup soy sauce

Instructions:

  1. Wash and trim the brussels sprouts. Run under cold water, removing any yellow leaves. Then, cut off the stems to help them cook.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts and onion and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes until sprouts are golden brown. Add garlic and soy sauce and cook 2 minutes more, making sure the brussels sprouts are coated with the soy sauce. If the soy sauce starts to evaporate, you can add more sauce to taste. Serve immediately over rice.
    Yield: 4 servings.
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