Turkish Style Paella with Mussels

I love making a good paella in the large paella pan while watching it simmer for hours.

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But sometimes I just don’t have that many hours, and I was looking for a new way to have dinner with mussels when I came across this recipe.

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Not only was it extremely simple, but the mixture of sweetness from the dried cranberries with the mussels and the mint made for an eclectic and refreshing tasting dinner.

Ingredients

1 lb mussels
Grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
1 small white onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red chili pepper
Good pinch of ground turmeric
1 cup dry white wine
4.5 cups seafoods, chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups long grain rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins if you can’t get cranberries)
salt
Grated lemon zest and juice of lemon
1 small bunch of fresh mint, leaves roughly chopped

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat enough oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onion and garlic and sweat until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the chile and turmeric.  Reduce heat to low and let the ingredients cook together for about 20 minutes.

Pour in the wine to deglaze, making sure to loosen up any ingredients that stuck to the bottom.  Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer, cooking until the wine has been reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add your stock, return to a boil, and stir in your rice.  Turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.

Next, add your mussels.  Cover the pot again and cook for another 7-10 minutes or until the mussels have fully opened.

Take the pot off the stove, stir in the currants and add salt or lemon zest if needed to taste.  Just before serving add the lemon juice and mint.

Adapted from Chris Taylor’s Twenty Dinners.

Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai

I have always loved veggies and legumes and after I have had a few meat-heavy meals, it feels good to make something that is vegetarian or vegan. This recipe would be vegan if you were to leave out the fish sauce.

Whenever I am making something for the first time, I try to look at several versions of the recipe by different authors and then I take aspects that I like from several of them. The original recipe that caught my eye appeared at Food 52, a website that I go to several times a day. But like Frances, I also enjoy reading Mark Bittman, so some of this recipe comes from him, with the rest from me. I did read a few other recipes for Pad Thai but these were the two that made me want to try it on my own. See what you think.

PS: Leftovers made for a GREAT lunch!

Almost Vegan Pad Thai adapted from Gena Hamshaw and Mark Bittman

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces pad thai rice noodles

For the sauce

6 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

1 Tablespoons tamarind paste (You will use this up in Indian food so don’t worry about what you will do with the rest)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or tamari

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1.5 Tablespoons sriracha or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup tap water

1 Tablespoon peanut oil

For the stir-fry

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 14-16 ounce block of extra firm tofu that has been pressed for at least 30 minutes (see note below)

1 Tablespoon grated ginger

2 medium carrots, cut into thin sticks

4-6 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into one-inch pieces

1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4-5 cups) OR equal amount of snow pea pods

8 ounce package mung bean sprouts

For garnish

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Lime wedges

Directions

  1. In order for the tofu to have some “bite” I like to press it under bricks (books or heavy cans will work too) for at least 30 minutes and as much as an hour. This gets all of the excess liquid out and compacts the tofu. I often do this and then marinate and bake the tofu, but that is for another day.  You can even do this a day or two ahead and refrigerate it until ready to use.pressing tofu
  2. Prepare the sauce by whisking all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Prepare the rice noodles according to the package. If made ahead, drain them and stir in a healthy teaspoon of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking too much. Do not over cook these or they will be like eating mush.
  4. In a large pan or wok, heat the peanut oil and stir in the garlic and ginger. After about 1 minute, add the carrots and scallions. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Now add the Napa cabbage or snow pea pods and the tofu and about 1 cup of the sauce.
  5. Stir-fry for 2 minutes and then add the rice noodles. Add more sauce until you have it the way you like it. Some people – like my husband – like LOTS of sauce. After about 2 minutes, add the mung bean sprouts. Stir-fry, moving everything constantly and gently so as not to break up the tofu or noodles, until warmed through.
  6. When warmed through, garnish with the peanuts and cilantro.

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey

short ribs with polenta

Today is one of those dismal grey days, where it can’t quite decide if it will rain or just spit at you! The temperature has begun to drop and this makes me want soups and stews – those deep, rich blends that get better when made ahead and that will last me throughout the week. Today I’m trying a recipe from the Food 52 blog that Frances introduced me to. Of course, I have to put my own spin on it, so here is my version. The whole house will just smell wonderful. It calls for buckwheat honey and you really shouldn’t substitute that. Buckwheat honey has a very rich, earthy, distinctive flavor that will perfectly compliment the brown ale and stone ground mustard. If you can’t find it in your store, then you can always get it online where I get so many things – Amazon. I also use it when I am baking my vegan challah. It lends a richness and color to the challah that would otherwise be missing because I am not using eggs.

Short Ribs with Brown Ale and Buckwheat Honey – adapted from Merrill Stubbs

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil

5 pounds of meaty shorty ribs (ask your butcher to cut eat rib into 2 pieces, with some pieces on the bone and some not)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1 very large onion, chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced

3 generous Tablespoons stone-ground mustard

1/3 cup buckwheat honey

18 ounces good quality brown ale (I just went to my local liquor store and chose a bottle that had notes that sounded good to me and was within my budget)

1 bay leaf (fresh if possible, but dried is fine)

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick

1 very large or 2 smaller parsnips, peeled and sliced into rounds or half moons depending on the circumference

2-3 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the oil in a 7 quart heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the ribs generously with the salt and pepper and brown them on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan or the pieces won’t brown properly. I did this in three batches, placing the finished pieces on a platter.
  2. After you have removed the short ribs from the Dutch oven, see how much fat is left in the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry about any brown bits – they will be dealt with, I promise! My ribs actually had very little fat, so I didn’t need to pour any off. You want to end up with 2-3 Tablespoons of fat/oil in the Dutch oven. Then add the onoin and garlic and stir until softened and it begins to carmelize. Use a wooden spoon and scrape up the brown bits as you go. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the mustard, honey, brown ale and bay leaf. Return the meat to the pan and make sure that the sauce coats the meat.
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cover the pan tightly. Place in the oven for 1.5 hours. Then add in the carrots and parsnip and cook for another hour.
  5. If you want a thicker sauce, you can remove the ribs and veggies with a slotted spoon. Skim as much fat as possible (If you make this ahead and can refrigerate it, skimming the fat becomes a cinch. If not, it’s still not that hard.) Reduce the sauce by simmering it until it reduces to the desired thickness. Adjust any seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if you like. Add the meat and veggies back and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve it with mashed potatoes, noodles or polenta and garnish with some chopped parsley. A green salad and an apple tart and this is a dish fit for friends and family.