Sauéed Turnips, Carrots, Brussels Sprouts and Apple with Anise Seed

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I put some olive oil in a skillet and heated it with some peppercorns and anise seed until it was perfuming the air.

Then I added chopped onions (1/2 an onion) and one minced serrano chile and sautéed.

I cut up one small parsnip and 2 carrots into thumbnail chunks and added, with a bit of salt and pepper, and cooked until nearly done. Then near the end, I added about 6 brussels spouts that I had cut in half and an apple I cut into chunks and tossed them in to cook until tender. Tossed a bit of rice vinegar on to finish. Salt and pepper. This made two large servings.

This was the most delicious vegetable sauté I can remember. It was earthy and warm, piquant with the vinegar and parsnips. The brussels sprouts gave it a lovely earthiness and the chile gave it some heat. The sweetness of the carrots and apple added another flavor note.

I served it with a pork loin, but it is a vegan dish that you can serve with anything.

Pickled Peppers

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I have my groceries delivered and sometimes the person packing my order makes a mistake as when I was recently sent 2 pounds of serrano chiles rather than 2 chiles. Oops! Well, I did cook with more serranos this month than usual, but there is no way I was going to use them all up before they spoiled, so I had to figure out what to do with them. I thought about making salsa, but just as I was about to do that, it occurred to me that some pickled peppers might be perfect. So here goes.

The pickling liquid is always a one to one ratio of water and vinegar. You only want enough liquid to cover the chiles so what I did to get the right ratio was add 1 cup of water, then 1 cup of vinegar, then 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar until the chiles were covered. In this case, it took 2 1/4 cups of each. For a bit of deeper flavor, I used 1 cup of white wine vinegar in place of one of the cups of white vinegar. This is 4.5 cups of liquid  The ratio of salt and sugar is 1 TBSP of each for each 3 cups of liquid, so I used 1.5 TBSP of salt and sugar.

So the final recipe for this quantity of peppers (1.8 pounds)

  • 1.8 pounds of serrano peppers, cleaned and pricked with a knife, about 3 to 4 times for each pepper.
  • 2 1/4 cups of water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1.4 white vinegar
  • 1.5  TBSP of sugar
  • 1.5  TBSP salt
  • I added 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBSP white peppercorns
  • 1 TBSP black peppercorns
  • 1 TBSP rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

I put them all on to boil. Once it reached a rolling boil, I reduced heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Then let it cool, put it in containers with brine, covered and refrigerated.

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I can’t really tell you how it turns out for a week – after the flavor has had time to fully be a absorbed, so I will update when they are ready.

Update: After 36 hours, they are amazing! They have that combination of sweet, sour and heat that you associate with pepperoncini, but with with about double the heat.

Baja Bean Salad

Baja Bean Salad

This is a variation on my Cuban Bean Salad. I decided to call it a Baja Bean salad because I used limes and red peppers instead of lemons and tomatoes. It’s fresh, delicious and full of protein.

To start rinse and drain 1 can each of black beans, garbanzo beans and red kidney beans. Toss them in a large bowl. Clean and chop 3 stalks of celery, 2 red bell peppers and 8 baby dill pickles. Add and mix well. Set aside while you make the dressing in a separate bowl.

Crush 3 garlic cloves, sprinkle with salt and let rest while you add the other ingredients to your dressing in a small mixing bowl. Clean and finely chop one serrano chili and put in the bowl with 3 TBSP of olive oil, 1 TBSP white vinegar, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of oregano, 1/2 tsp cayenne and the juice of 2 fresh squeezed limes. By now the salt will have made the garlic very juicy. Mince it and add to the dressing. Mix well and pour over salad. Put a lid and shake to distribute the dressing throughout the salad.

Now clean, strips the leaves and chop of 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro.

The salad tastes good right away, but it’s heavenly the next day. This is subtly spicier than the Cuban salad, with a bright, fresh flavor that’s addictive. This makes way more than a single serving, but it keeps its flavor, freshness and texture well. It’s a real win at potlucks.

Vegan Corn-Cauliflower Chowder

Vegan Corn & Cauliflower "Chowder"

This makes a lot more than one serving, but generally I like making a good size batch of soup and reheat for a few meals. In a medium sauce pan, add 1 onion chopped, 1 diced serrano pepper to a 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook until softened. Add salt and pepper. Meanwhile chop up a whole cauliflower and toss in the pan and cover with water. Toss in a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender. Remove from the heat and let cool. After it’s cooled, puree and put back on the heat, adding a small package of frozen corn, salt and pepper and some parsley.

This has the consistency and look of a chowder but has a much bright, fresh flavor that blends well with the heat from the serrano. If you don’t want it vegan, adding sour cream as a garnish or into the puree would give you a slightly more mellow taste.

Tomato-Zucchini Tortellini

Tomato-Zucchini Pasta

In a saute pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 diced garlic cloves, 2 tbsp chopped onion and 1 serrano pepper diced small. Saute until tender and add 3 chopped mushroom and 6 oz of ground turkey. Saute until brown.

Start water boiling for tortellini. Add and cook until they all float.

Add 1 diced tomato and 1 chopped zucchini and juice of 1/2 fresh lemon to the mix in the saute pan. Cook down to a sauce and stir in cooked tortellini.

Celery Soup

Celery Soup

This is not your usual celery soup. It’s light, lean and spicy with a rich earthiness that is in every way the opposite of the Cream of Celery soups that were used to add a vegetable to church potluck casseroles. It’s also quite possibly the easiest soup in the history of soups. Quite simply, you take a head of celery and chop it into big chunks and toss it in a a pot with a chopped up carrot, half an onion, a couple twigs of thyme and a serrano chili. If you want it milder, you can carefully clean the chili. I went for heat and just chopped it up a bit and left the seeds in. I tossed on some salt and pepper and put it on to cook. To show you how ridiculously simple my chopping and prep was, here’s a snap of the pot just before I turned on the heat. Yeah, I spent two minutes chopping.

Celery Soup

So then I let it come to a boil and then turned it down to a high simmer. I checked it a couple of times by trying to smoosh a piece of vegetable with my spoon. When it cooked enough that my spoon could squash (but not disintegrate) the veggies, I took it off the stove to cool down enough to puree. I use a Magic Bullet and if it’s too hot, there’s no opening it back up without help. Once it was a bit cooler, I pureed it and sat down to a delicious soup. I ate it plain since I don’t like crackers in my soup, but some chopped pecans or almonds might have been a nice touch.

There’s a earthy, umami flavor from the celery and a nice spicy heat from the chili, the carrot adds a mild touch of sweetness to balance the flavors. It’s a filling, hearty soup though with no oil, no cream and no meat, it’s almost no calories. This makes 8 servings, but since it is not a cream soup it will keep for several days in the fridge.