Saturday, October 23, 2021

COLORFUL AUTUMNAL PEPPERS

 

"Stoplight" peppers--red, yellow, green.



I was making meat loaf for dinner and wanted a sauce or side to go with it. Not gravy, thank you very much. I’m not a gravy person. And not mushroom sauce, because my version of meatloaf includes mushrooms in the mix. I settled on roasted semáforo peppers—part side dish, part sauce, a little bit relish.


Marketed in threes, these peppers are called semáforo, or stoplight, for their red, yellow and green stop-and-go colors. Their bright colors and zesty flavors make them a perfect accompaniment to autumn. 

Roasted pepper salad is a favorite in tapa bars. It’s also popular served alongside fried and grilled fish. It’s a terrific topping for pizza or the Catalan version, coca. The peppers are a perfect foil for grilled entrecôte (steak). Scramble the peppers with eggs for a pipérade. Use them as sandwich filling. 

Roasted peppers make a zesty sauce for chicken meatloaf with mushrooms.


Heap peppers on toasts and top with anchovies.



The perfect meatloaf sandwich--thick slice of meatloaf, toasted bun with a little mayo and lots of roasted peppers.



Roasted Bell Peppers
Pimientos Asados

Red, yellow and green peppers make a colorful mélange.


The peppers are oven-roasted and need almost an hour in a moderate oven. They won’t char, as they do on a wood fire, but the skins will loosen and the flesh will become soft. They can be finished after peeling or, as in this recipe, sautéd in olive oil with garlic.

 Use all red or mixed color peppers. 

Serves 4.

4-5 small bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise
Chile, to taste
Salt
¼ teaspoon Sherry vinegar
Anchovies (optional)
Toasts (optional)
Chopped scallions (optional)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Arrange the peppers in an oven pan and place it in the oven. After 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 350ºF. 

Oven-roasted peppers don't char, but skins come off easily.


Roast the peppers, turning them over every 15 minutes, until they are soft and the skin has visibly loosened from the flesh, about 45 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and cover the peppers with a cloth. Allow to stand 10 minutes.

Peel off skin, discard seeds.
Peel away the skins of the peppers. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, split the peppers open and carefully remove seeds. Save the juices, strained of seeds. Cut or tear the flesh into thin strips. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic and chile. When garlic begins to color, add the peppers. Sauté them on moderately high heat for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste and the reserved juices (4 to 5 tablespoons). Cook on moderate heat 5 minutes more. Stir in the vinegar.Serve the peppers hot, room temperature or chilled, with toasts, anchovies and scallions, if desired.


Meat Loaf, My Way
Rollo de Carne de Pollo

Meatloaf, as I knew it growing up in the Midwest, was an economical family meal of ground beef. It doesn’t really exist in Spanish cooking. There are meat versions of brazo gitano (gypsy’s arm), with fillings of ham, cheese, cooked egg, and extra-large meatballs such as the relleno that cooks in a cocido. But plebian meatloaf, no.

My version is not how my mother made meatloaf. I usually use ground chicken thighs, never beef. And I tend to add Spanish flavors such as olive oil, pimentón, garlic, capers. I like to add a spoonful of Asian fish sauce too--it contributes umami. If not using it, you may need to increase the amount of salt in the recipe.

3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup finely chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped carrot
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped mushrooms (6 ounces)
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
Pinch of thyme
Pinch of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce (optional)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 ¾ pounds ground chicken thighs
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 tablespoon drained capers

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic until onions are beginning to brown, 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue sautéing until mushroooms are softened, 5 minutes more. Add the pimentón, thyme and fennel. Add the Sherry and cook off the alcohol. Add the fish sauce, if using. Stir in the bread crumbs. Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly oil an oven pan.
In a bowl mix the ground chicken with salt and pepper. Add the onion-mushroom mixture and the capers. Mix thoroughly. Shape the meat into a compact loaf and place it in the oven pan. 

Place in the oven. After 10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350ºF. Bake until meat tests done (160ºF), about 45 minutes longer.





More meatloaf recipes:



Saturday, October 16, 2021

CHICKEN SOUP—FOR WHATEVER AILS YOU

 


I don’t have Covid (negative test). But, I’ve been pretty sick all week, in no mood for blog planning. 

I haven’t lost my sense of smell or taste. Nevertheless, I have no appetite for cooking or eating. I do get hungry, though, but, what to eat? I don’t want salty crackers and cheese or gritty nuts. Coffee with milk is disgusting (although, I find oat milk goes down okay). Spicy chai tea is soothing. Raw tomatoes are fine, but tomato sauce burns my throat. Salad tastes good, but it seems such an effort to prepare when I’m not feeling well. Plain toast and scrambled eggs are comforting. What I really want is the “cure”—chicken soup. 

Chicken soup is so basic that, even with a low-grade fever, I could go through the motions. A chicken carcass left from a roast chicken, onion or leek, carrot, celery, bay leaf, sprig of thyme, salt, water and a slosh of white wine vinegar. Cook it 45 minutes while I nap. Strain the broth. Let it set 30 minutes and skim off the fat.

Add chopped celery, carrots and leeks, some greens. Cook some fideo noodles in the broth and add chopped (leftover) chicken. Serve piping hot. A Spanish touch—finish the soup with chopped serrano ham and mint leaves.

No recipe needed--chicken broth with vegetables and fideo noodles. The soup is "seasoned" with a sprinkling of chopped serrano ham and a sprig of mint.


Ah, that’s better already.

If I were preparing the simple soup for others, seeking flavor as well as comfort, I might 
Add a splash of fino or medium Sherry
Stir a spoonful of alioli (olive oil-garlic mayonnaise) into each bowl
Add chile paste and chopped cilantro



Saturday, October 9, 2021

WHEN THE NEIGHBORS COME FOR DRINKS

 
Salt cod fritters, a dipping sauce and a few other tidbits to serve with drinks.

I invited my new neighbors down for drinks this evening and then thought, “so what am I going to serve them?” 


Desalted cod scraps.

I had part of a package of bacalao (salt cod) that I had used for another recipe (see the orange-olive-cod salad here). These migas, or scraps, needed only two to three hours of soaking to desalt them (rather than the 36 to 48 hours needed for a thick piece of salt cod). Just right for making buñuelos de bacalao, cod fritters.

The fritters make good finger food, speared on picks and served with a spicy tomato dipping sauce. They go particularly well with white wine, fino Sherry or beer, but, hey, if guests want red wine or gin-tonic, that’s fine too. 

I gave my mini-processor a good workout, using it to flake the cod, chop ham, mince onions and parsley for the fritter batter and to blitz the tomatoes for the dipping sauce. 

Buñuelos are best, hot or room temperature, within an hour of frying them.


Dipping sauce is optional. The fritters are also good with alioli, garlic mayonnaise.



Fritters are crisp on the outside, spongy inside.


Salt Cod Fritters
Buñuelos de Bacalao

If starting with dry salt cod, cut it into small pieces and soak in several changes of water to rehydrate and remove salt.

Be careful about adding salt to the batter, as both cod and ham are salty. Best to taste the batter or fry up a sample fritter and add more salt if necessary. 

Moderate the heat so the fritters don’t brown too quickly. They need time to allow the flour to cook. 

The fritters are best within an hour of frying them. But, fried in advance, they can be successfully crisped up by submerging them briefly again in hot oil. 

Makes 1 dozen fritters.


Use food processor to chop ingredients.
3 ounces salt cod, desalted
1 ounce cooked ham
1 large egg
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion or scallion
¼ cup water
Olive oil for frying
Tomato dipping sauce, to serve (recipe follows)

Squeeze out excess moisture from the cod. Chop it finely with a knife or in a mini-processor. Finely chop the ham in the same manner.

Add saffron to batter.
Beat the egg in a bowl. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat in the water. The batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mix in the saffron. Add the parsley, onion, cod and ham. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Place oil in a heavy skillet to a depth of 1 inch and heat the oil on moderate-high heat. Test the oil by dropping a little of the batter into the oil. When the oil is ready (360ºF), the batter should begin to sizzle and rise to the surface of the oil. 

Use two teaspoons to drop balls of batter into the oil. Don’t crowd the pan. The fritters will puff up and bob to the surface as they cook. 

Moderate heat so fritters don't brown too quickly.


When golden-brown on the bottom, carefully turn the fritters and brown the reverse side. In total, the fritters need about 3 minutes. 

Remove the fritters with a skimmer or slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Serve them hot or room temperature accompanied by Tomato Dipping Sauce.

Spicy Tomato Dipping Sauce
Salsa de Tomate Picante

Serve spicy tomato sauce for dipping the fritters.


This sauce goes very well with fried foods.

I used the mini-processor to finely chop the onions and garlic and to chop the skinned tomatoes as well. How spicy? That’s up to you. I added 1 whole chile (I think a cayenne) and fished it out afterward. The sauce was not very spicy. Using chopped chile with seeds makes a hotter sauce. 

Chiles for picante.
1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes (8-10)
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1 chile pepper or to taste
1 bay leaf

Peel tomatoes easily.

Cut out the stems and cut a slash on the bottoms of the tomatoes. Place in a single layer on a plate and microwave on High for 2 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over and microwave on High 1 minute longer. The skins should begin to peel away. Let the tomatoes cool. Slip off the skins and either chop the tomatoes or blitz them in the mini-processor. Save the pulp and juice. You should have about 1 ½ cups.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot and sauté the onion and garlic on moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, oregano and salt. Add the chopped tomatoes. Add the chile and bay leaf.

Cook the tomatoes, partially covered to avoid splattering, on moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and jammy, 30 minutes.  Remove and discard the chile and bay leaf.

Serve the sauce room temperature or chilled. 

More buñuelos:




Welcomd to new neighbors, Nina and Urban.