One Pot Wonder

The colder it gets, the lazier we’re inclined to be, and there’s only one category of recipes that perfectly suits that mood: one-pot wonders. Whether it’s soup, stew, chili, or your own weird concoction, throwing a bunch of ingredients in a covered pot and forgetting about it, only to return hours later to discover that you’ve already made the dinner you’re so hungry for, is pretty damn satisfying.

Cabbage, potato & mushroom stew:
1/2. large onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 head. green cabbage
2 handfuls. cremini mushrooms
2lbs. purple potatoes (other varieties are fine, as well)
4 cups. beef stock (vegetable if you’re not a meat-eater)
2 pinches each. thyme, rosemary, parsley
olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Put a large pot on medium heat, and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. This is a stew, so we’re gonna keep the cuts chunky on everything we put in it. Start off by slicing the onions and garlic into large chunks, like so:
When the oil is hot, put the onions and the garlic in the pot along with the herbs and black pepper. I got the tip to add the herbs and spices in right at the beginning from a couple of friends who love to cook, and I think they were spot on. The essential oils from the herbs get immediately infused in the oil and thus permeate the dish much better than if you were to add them in later on. Fresh herbs, though, almost always go in right at the end. Anyway, back to the task at hand. While your onions and garlic are cooking, cut the mushrooms in thick slices and then add them to the pot right away. DO NOT SALT. Always, always, when cooking mushrooms, let the moisture stored inside of them cook off before you add any salt to the pan, otherwise they will become spongy. The mushrooms will cook in time for you to cut up the potatoes and cabbage. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and add them in first to get some color.
Add the cabbage in after the potatoes have cooked for 5 or so minutes. The stock, salt, and more black pepper should go in now as well. Go easy on the salt depending on if you’re using a low sodium broth or not. You can add more at the end if needed.
 Now cover the pot (with a plate if, like me, you’re lacking in kitchenware) and turn the heat down to a low flame. Let it simmer for 45 minutes, then check on it to a) stir the pot, and b) see if the potatoes and cabbage are soft. Once you have stirred, taste the broth and see if it’s right, and add or do not add herbs/salt/pepper accordingly. Put the lid back on and let it simmer for another 15 minutes, then ladle yourself a bowl and curl up on the couch. You’ll have plenty of leftovers, so the slothful state can prevail for the next couple of nights, too.

Sweet & Purple Potato Chips

In keeping with the Halloween color scheme, here’s a good recipe to have on hand for hosting friends… or giving yourself a little TLC on a lazy Sunday. It’s real easy and real fast.
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
1 lb. purple potatoes
2-3 tbsps. olive oil
salt
paprika

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wash the potatoes and scrub any dirt off of their skin, which you will NOT be peeling (whew) and cut off any tough nibs you find on them. Cut the potatoes in rounds, almost as thin as you can get them. Don’t worry too much about how thin or thick they end up being. As always, the most important thing is consistency–try to get them all a uniform size.
Put them in a bowl with the olive oil and toss with your hands. It’s messy, but the only way to make sure each round is coated in oil on both sides. Once the rounds are coated evenly in oil, same deal: add the salt and paprika, toss with your hands to get the spices on everybody.
Line them on a large baking sheet (or two, otherwise do multiple batches) and bake for 10 minutes. Then remove them from the oven, flip them over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
If your chips look pretty crispy when you first take them out to flip, only bake them for an additional 5 minutes. If they still look a little limp, up the time to 15 minutes.

Spooky Cauliflower Roast

This week’s post is dedicated to the amazing colors at the market right now. Just because summer has gone doesn’t mean we can’t find beauty at the market any longer. This is the mad rush before winter’s long march, albeit full of delicious crucifers and root vegetables, one that can get a little monotonous.  A week before Halloween, I thought I’d get in the spirit by cooking with some classic Halloween colors, — purple, yellow, red — adding a hot little pepper for the trick, and a mild, nutty cheese for the treat.

Roasted cauliflower with pequin peppers:
2 heads. cauliflower, one purple, one yellow
5-6 pequin peppers (handle with extreme care: wash hands thoroughly after slicing, and under no circumstances should you touch your eyes or face with those hands before washing)
3 cloves. garlic, halved
1/8 lb. grating cheese (parmesan, pecorino or grana padano would be fine)
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper

 To begin, preheat the oven to 400°. Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets, halving the bigger pieces. Don’t worry about there being smaller florets, they’ll just come out crispier and equally delicious. Rinse the cauliflower in a strainer and give them a good shake until they’re mostly dry, then put them into a large bowl. Halve the heads of garlic, making sure to cut off the stem ends, and put them in the bowl.

For the pequin peppers, use the tip of your knife to make little slits in the skin, maybe two slits per pepper, and add them to the bowl, as well. By making these slits, rather than cutting open the pepper and fully exposing the membrane and seeds, we’re making sure your cauliflower (and subsequently, your mouth) won’t get the full brunt of the INFERNO that lies within the pequin.

Lil' devils

Pour the olive oil into the bowl with the cauliflower, garlic and pequins, and toss until everything is evenly coated. Add salt (not too much, the cheese we use later will make up for it) and few grinds of black pepper, then toss again. Empty the bowl onto a sheet pan and make sure that the pan isn’t too overcrowded, so the cauliflower can crisp evenly.

Grate the cheese over the pan and stick it in the oven. After 25 minutes, give the pan a shake or turn the cauliflower to brown the other side, and bake for 5 additional minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cauliflower cool down for 3-5 minutes. The cheese should have crisped nicely onto the cauliflower, nutty and delicious, with the peppers adding a bit of a kick, great to munch on at any Halloween gathering.

Roasted Finger Food: Carrots, Okra

I love roasting. The flavors and textures that you can coax out of vegetables are unsurpassed by any other at-home method, in my opinion. And it’s so easy! You preheat the oven, get all your goods ready, then throw them in and forget about them. In the spirit of the matrimony between oven and vegetable, here are a couple of recipes:

Something old: Especially in fall and winter, I like to roast carrots until they’re sweet enough to be candy, with a crispy, caramelized outside and a soft, perfectly cooked center. One version of that is roasted carrots with honey, orange & rosemary:
2 lbs. carrots (the smaller the better, and see that they are all a similar size)
1/4 cup. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey (or maple syrup)
1 tbsp. orange juice
1-2 dashes. soy sauce
1 tsp. dried rosemary
salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Mix the olive oil, honey, oj, soy sauce and rosemary, then set it aside.

Rinse off your carrots if they are pretty dirty, otherwise, just pass them over a few times with a vegetable peeler (you could also roast them without peeling, just give them a more thorough cleaning).
Lay them in a sheet pan or baking dish, giving each carrot some personal space, so that they are all touching the bottom (this will aid in the caramelization). Pour the honey-orange liquid over the carrots, not worrying if each carrot is perfectly coated. Cover the pan or dish tightly with aluminum foil and stick it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle the carrots with salt and pepper, and return them to the oven. When 15 minutes have passed, take the carrots out and rotate them so that the top sides can brown. Bake them for another 15 minutes and they should look like this:
 The big guys should stay in longer, clearly.

Something new: Okra, on the other hand, has always intimidated me. I had never attempted to cook okra, only having it at restaurants, and only if I ever ordered gumbo or a stew. For my introduction to okra, I thought I’d go as bare bones as possible, and see what these pods were all about.

Roasted okra:

2 lbs. okra (as with the carrots, try to find smaller ones that are all relatively the same size)
2 tbsps. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
That’s it.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Rinse the okra thoroughly in cold water and dry them with a towel. Cut the tops and bottoms off and toss them into a large bowl.
Pour olive oil over the okra and toss until they are lightly coated. Then add the salt and pepper, and toss again. Arrange the okra on a large sheet pan, giving them a little space. Roast for 15 minutes, rotating once after 8 minutes to brown both sides.

with pan-fried shiitake mushrooms

Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Green and Yellow Beans

This is one of my favorite dishes to make, and it’s all because of the sauce. The person I got the recipe from calls it “Yummy Asian Crack Dressing” — ‘nough said, right? She got it from her mama, who got it from some mysterious cookbook floating around out there. I’d like to thank every thing and one involved in passing it down to me. This recipe is also awesome because it keeps really well in the fridge, is great cold, and perfect for lunch the next day.

Yummy Asian Crack Dressing:

2 tbsps. tahini
1 clove garlic, **finely chopped or minced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped or minced
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsps. honey (vegans: agave works just fine here)
1 tsp. sesame oil
3 tbsps. soy sauce

Combine all of the liquid ingredients first and stir briskly, then chop the garlic and ginger as small as you can get them and add to the mixture, stirring once again. Let the sauce sit, either on the counter or in the fridge, while you prepare the rest of the dish.

**garlic & ginger, finely chopped

Yummy Asian Crack Dressing

Here’s what else you’ll need:
1.5 lbs. green and yellow beans
4-6 oz. buckwheat soba noodles (2-3 serv.)
1 stalk. scallions
1 small handful. fresh dill (optional)

Start boiling 3-4 quarts of water in a pot. While that’s going, put the beans in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly under cold water. Once clean, cut off the tough, vine ends and discard them, then cut the beans into 1-2 inch pieces.

Once the water is boiling, throw the cut beans back into the strainer and place the strainer on top of the pot, with a lid or a plate covering it. Prepare a large bowl of cold water and ice cubes. Steam the beans for 5 minutes, tossing them once throughout so they cook evenly. After 5 minutes, immediately dunk the beans in the bowl of ice water to shock them and stop the cooking process. Salt the boiling water and throw in the soba noodles (these should take 5 minutes, as well, but follow the directions on the package you have).

While the noodles are cooking, chop the scallion stalk on a diagonal (this will make you look fancy) into thin slivers. Also, remove any remaining ice cubes and empty the large bowl of chilled beans into the strainer, putting them back into the bowl once they are relatively dry.

When the noodles are finished boiling, strain them and rinse briefly with cold water, then give the strainer a shake until the noodles are almost dry. Dump the noodles in the bowl of green beans, add the dressing and the scallions and toss thoroughly, so that the sauce is evenly distributed and the noodles don’t stick together.

Voilà:

Chips and salsa for dessert

Now that it’s falltime it’s a bit of a stretch to find peaches, and definitely blueberries at the market… but I’m in denial of summer’s end, so here’s the recipe. Whip it out at a dinner party, this one is sure to impress.

Step 1: Peach and blueberry salsa

(Serves 2-3)

1 fat-ass. ripe peach, or two smaller peaches
1 handful. blueberries, halved if you’re feeling motivated
1 tbsp. red onion, diced very finely
1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped finely
2 tbsps. of a light oil (sesame or walnut would be ideal, but if you’ve only got olive, take it down to 1 tbsp. and let the salsa hangout for longer)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 pinch o’ salt (a coarse sea salt, if you’ve got one)

1 even smaller pinch o’ cayenne pepper (adding mystery, avoiding spicy)

Chop the peach(es) into 1/4 in. chunks, going smaller or larger depending on your preference for chunkier or smoother salsa (I think a chunkier version lends more to the presentation, personally). Put all of your salsa ingredients in a bowl and give them a few good tosses with a fork, but don’t beat them up. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it hangout in the fridge until you need it.
 
Step 2: Cinnamon sugar tortilla chips
I found this step really necessary for the sake of calling this a dessert.
 
1/2 pack. fresh tortillas from the grocer’s (if you know where to buy a good, homemade tortilla, DO THAT).
1 tbsp. of the same light oil you used for the salsa
cinnamon sugar (aka sugar and cinnamon mixed together)
 
Preheat the oven to 350°. Take the whole tortillas and lay them on top of one another, then cut them into triangular pieces. Lightly brush a large baking sheet with the oil, and lay down your chips. Brush the top side of the chips lightly, as well, then give them a sprinkling of the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
 
Step 3: Assemble the ingredients
Clockwise from the left: Peach and blueberry salsa, plain yogurt to dollop on the chips, and roasted pistachios to sprinkle on top, like so:
 
Enjoy.

Amuse Bouche

def: \a-‘myuz bush\ [Fr. amuse the mouth] 1: a small bite before the meal begins . 2: greeting of the Chef de cuisine.

Hello. My name is Viveca and I live in New York City. I’d like to be brief on introductions for the sake of delivering the goods: delicious recipes, informative reviews, and practical advice on cooking.

Why sicilianwitch? I am a critic by nature, as my friends and family can attest to, and I wear my heart on my face, so when something doesn’t satisfy me, it shows. The most common manifestation of this is known in my family as the “Sicilian witch face,” or the infinitely perturbed face I would make as a baby, a face that I still sport to this day.

What elicits such an expression? Many things, of course, but as a culinarily-obsessed individual, there is nothing quite as disappointing as a bad, or even mediocre meal that I’ve paid for.  We all know cash money is hard to come by these days, so I want to be damn sure that when I spend it on food , it either tastes great or is great for me (when dining out, usually these are mutually exclusive, except in some rare cases… see: Angelica Kitchen). That also includes my grocery shopping habits, and I’m a big believer in perusing your local farmers’ market to find the best produce. If you don’t already shop there, you will be surprised how inexpensive it is and how much better your food will taste.

A lot of people are intimidated by cooking — I hope I can allay some of those fears and show you that good food is well within your reach. Now, let’s eat.