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Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)
Mar 12th, 2015 by

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

This side dish is a definite keeper. I made it up yesterday, while trying to come up with a good green side dish to go with baked stuffed shrimp.

At first I was thinking of an arugula salad, but didn’t feel like driving three or four miles to a farm stand where I can get it at a good price: less than $2 for a good-size bag. And I wasn’t going to spend $6 or $7 for arugula at the Stop & Shop, just a few blocks from my home. So, I set my sites on the Asian supermarket, which is about a 1/4 mile from my house.

Super 88 doesn’t sell arugula, but they have an amazing selection of bok choy. And it’s cheap.

I thought about stir-frying it with some scallions and then a crazy idea hit me on how to offset the subtle bitterness of the greens with something sweet. Raisins! And just to keep things real, I decided to finish it off with a vinaigrette, a balsamic vinegar being a perfect match to bring out the flavor of the raisins.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Bok Choy. I used about 15 pieces of the baby bok choy and it was enough for three people. Washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces.
  • Scallions, about 6. Cut off with about 2-inches of green showing and then sliced into small wheels.
  • Peanut oil, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic, one clove, crushed.
  • Raisins, about 1/2 cup. I used regular raisins, but I think golden raisins may work even better.
  • A balsamic vinaigrette, about 2 tablespoons. You could also use Italian dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Procedure:

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, spreading it around to coat the sides.

Add the scallions and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and the bok choy and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the raisins. Stir everything occasionally and cook until greens are wilted but the white parts of the bok choy remain crisp.

Add the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Put lid on wok and cook on low heat for a minute. Then turn heat off.

Serve with your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, even eggs).

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

Risotto (This time with mushrooms and eggplant)
Sep 24th, 2012 by

This is a perfect dish to welcome fall in New England.

This is a perfect dish to welcome fall in New England.

You can add many things to risotto but mushrooms (especially porcini) are my favorite. I made this dish up last night with vegetables I had on hand: crimini mushrooms and eggplant. Feel free to omit the eggplant, it’s just as good.

Making risotto is not hard, but it is an art. The key is adding small amounts of liquid to the rice, only enough for it to be absorbed a minute or two at a time. This ensures the dish will be not only flavorful but will have the correct texture: think al dente (with a little bite); never soggy or water-logged.

And of course, the main thing you do, is stir, baby, stir. (Tip: Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring and lower the heat if you think the liquid is evaporating too fast or if there is a danger of the rice burning.)

Ingredients:

  • Arborio rice (1 pound). Accept no substitutes, this is what makes risotto, risotto.
  • Chicken broth (About 44 ounces). You can use home-made stock (the best), or canned broth, or some bullion cubes with water or a mixture of all. You can also use a little white wine. Last night I used a combination of canned broth, chicken bullion cube, and a porcini bullion cube with hot water. Whatever liquid you use, be sure to heat it up before you add it to the rice.
  • Onion (1 small or a 1/2 of a large onion; chopped)
  • Olive oil (About 1/4 cup; enough to cover the bottom of a medium-sized pot; plus more to coat the eggplant and mushrooms.)
  • Mushrooms (About 8 oz.; chopped)
  • Eggplant (1 small or 3/4 of a large eggplant, sliced thin)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon. A mixture of dried basil and mint will also work).
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/2 cup, grated; or to taste)
  • Butter (About 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Pepper (Just a sprinkle, to taste)

What I did:

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent.

Add rice and stir. Add more olive oil if needed, just enough to coat the rice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.

Ladle in the liquid, just enough to cover the rice and stir. When liquid is absorbed, add more liquid, just enough to cover and stir. Continue doing this until risotto is done (about 45 minutes).

In between stirring the risotto, coat a cookie sheet with olive oil and salt (kosher is best). Put down a layer of eggplant and brush tops of eggplant slices with oil and salt. Bake in a 400-degree oven, turning over when bottom is brown. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add nepitella to the cooked mushrooms and set aside.

When risotto is done. Stir in eggplant and mushrooms. Stir in butter and parmesan cheese. Add pepper to taste.

This dish takes about 45 minutes to make if you work fast. Add another 15-minutes to 30 minutes if you work at a leisurely pace.

You can serve this as a main meal (serves four) with a side salad; or as a side dish. And if you’re out to impress, try serving it as a side-dish inside a parmesan basket.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

More From Nice: Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce
Aug 29th, 2012 by

This makes a great first course or can be served as a side dish.

This makes a great first course or can be served as a side dish.

Here’s another recipe from La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard. They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

A Gift: Smothered Escarole (Scarola Affogata)
Feb 11th, 2010 by

This side dish marries well with drier foods, such as roasts and fried chicken.

This side dish marries well with drier foods, such as roasts and fried chicken.

I came home the other day and found a plastic bag filled with four heads of escarole tied to my back fence. There was no note: just the mystery lettuce left hanging there.

I didn’t bring it in right away. After all, I live in the city and who knows what crazy person with questionable hygiene might have left it there.

But soon the mystery was solved as I checked my answering machine. My neighbor, Nina (known as “Mama Nina” to her grandchildren), left a message saying her cousin brought her a box of escarole and she didn’t know what to do with all. She suggested I could use it in a variety of dishes, including a fine escarole soup.

Instead I headed to my cookbooks and found one for “Smothered Escarole,” in “La Cucina Di Lidia, Recipes and Memories from Italy’s Adriatic Coast” by Lidia Bastianich and Jay Jacobs. It sounded good, was simple, and she suggested it be served with drier foods such as roast beef or fried chicken.

It went well with the roast beef I made last night for dinner. It tasted a little bitter, a little savory sweet.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Escarole (1 pound, about 2 medium heads)
  • Garlic (About 6 cloves, crushed)
  • Olive oil (About 3 tbsp.)
  • Salt (1/2 tsp.)
  • Hot red pepper flakes ( 1/4 tsp.)
  • Fresh black pepper (About 4 twists of the mill)
  • Bacon or sausage, cooked. (Optional; I used about 1/4 pound of bacon I had leftover in my refrigerator)

What I did:

Remove the outer leaves of escarole if damaged or discolored (Nina’s escarole was fresh and beautiful, without discoloration or wilted leaves). Cut off the bases and wash the leaves twice in abundant cold water and then drain.

In a large pot, saute the garlic in oil until golden, but not brown. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and cook over moderate heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Discard the garlic and serve immediately.

(Note: Lidia writes that when she was a child, she would often eat this as a sandwich between two slices of thick Italian bread. And if you pack it for lunch, it tastes even better as the bread absorbs some of the vegetable juices.)

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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