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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts tagged Vegetarian

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones

 
I will never turn town a potato chip or a French fry, the starch, the grease-slicked fingers, the lips split by the salt as if they had enjoyed a long night of kissing…but a fried plantain can be a scene-stealer. Fried until crisp in long, thin strips until the color of marigolds, they look like sleek surfboards. Cut into chips, they become edible coins from a slot machine, completely addicting. And of course, the double-dip method in which the plantain is fried twice is a favorite preparation.

Tostones begin by being cut into thick pieces, fried in vegetable oil, then flattened with a tostonera (see image) or the back of a small skillet, and returned to the frying pan. When finished, tostones resemble an exploding gold bloom. Seasoned with salt and served as an accompaniment to many meals, tostones can also be served as a “boca” or “botana” (appetizer) with crumbly or creamy Latin American cheeses like cotija and quesillo, refried beans, and vinegary cabbage slaws.

This is a basic method for making tostones. On average, each plantain will yield about 10 tostones; make as many or as few as you’d like. I’d recommend making more because the crunchy exterior and starchy, satisfying bite of the interior of the tostón calls for gluttony.

TOSTONES

Fun fact: plantains in Mexico are called “plátanos machos”!

Green plantains
Vegetable oil
Salt

– Cut off and discard the ends of each plantain. Cut the plantain crosswise into 4 pieces. With a paring knife, score the skin, cutting just enough to reach the flesh of the plantain. Use the knife to pry off the skin. Cut each plantain quarter crosswise into 1- to 1 ½-inch pieces.

– Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and reaches 350°F. The oil should be about ½-inch deep in the skillet.

– Fry a batch of the plantain pieces (don’t overcrowd the skillet) until golden, turning once halfway through frying, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pieces to prepared baking sheet and repeat procedure with remaining plantain pieces.

– Using a tostonera or a small skillet, press down on the plantain pieces until they are flat. Fry the tostones once more, until crisp and golden, turning once halfway through frying, about 3 minutes per side.

– Transfer tostones to prepared baking sheet and immediately season with salt. Serve immediately.

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I am notorious for inviting people over to dinner and not being ready on time. I cook for a living, yet, it seems that when I’m cooking for leisure, I lose track of time. It’s not uncommon for guests to receive apologetic (and admittedly, frantic and misspelled) texts requesting they show up a little bit later. Even after this purchase of a few extra minutes, this hostess is usually sweating and running between kitchen and bathroom with dish rags, tongs, and hairdryer in hand when the doorbell announces the first arrival.

After discussing these issues with Tara we decided that what every hostess who wants to be the one with the mostes’ are easy recipes that can be prepared with little effort yet look and taste amazing. Important tip: seems like a no-brainer, but do try to shop and prep the day before your party; you will ooze calm-and-collectedness rather than perspiration.

Recipe one is for briny olives wrapped in a feta and Mediterranean-spiced crust. The dough comes together quickly and by hand in a single bowl (which minimizes clean-up) and is easy to handle. The olives can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the fridge. When ready to serve, pop in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes, and, voilà, all done.

Pesto is always a crowd-pleaser, but we don’t like to settle for the usual basil variety. Watercress is a perfect substitute, peppery and bold. Creamy, salty feta and pistachios add a curious twist to the old standard. Served with warm naan and crudités (we like to cheat and buy tiny carrots and cucumbers to minimize prep time), this will surely become one of your go-to appetizers.

The grilled squid salad is simple and impressive. The squid tubes are scored in a cross-hatch pattern (don’t worry about making incisions that are too deep as the squid is very resilient) that makes them curl up into gorgeous little tubes when cooked. Squid cooks very quickly so you’ll be in and out of the kitchen in a flash (do this prior to getting dressed, though, to avoid smelling like a poissonière!). If making in advance, chill and let rest at room temperature about 10 minutes before serving.

SPICED CHEESE-CRUSTED OLIVES
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon za’atar spice
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
24 to 30  small pitted olives, such as Manzanillas
Green olives
Peppadew peppers

Beverage pairing suggestion: chilled Lillet

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

– In large bowl, stir together cheese, butter, lemon zest, and za’atar until thoroughly combined. Add flour and incorporate with hands until a dough is formed. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

– Scoop out 1-teaspoon portions of dough and, using palms, roll into balls. With fingertips, flatten out into 1 ½-inch circles. Place 1 olive on each disc, wrap around olive, and, once again roll between palms. Transfer to baking sheet and, once circles are finished, refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

– Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with green olives and peppadew peppers.

WATERCRESS PISTACHIO PESTO
Serves 4

1 garlic clove
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup shelled roasted pistachios
4 cups watercress
2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 1 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Crudités
Warm naan

– In food processor, pulse garlic, feta, and pistachios until they form a paste. Add watercress, lemon zest, and lemon juice and pulse once again until a paste is formed. With mixer running, slowly pour in olive oil and process until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with crudités and warm naan.


GRILLED SQUID SALAD
Serves 4

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 pound cleaned squid
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
½ pound small heirloom tomatoes, quartered

– Combine olive oil, lemon zest, orange zest, garlic, coriander, cumin, and Aleppo pepper in small bowl and microwave 45 seconds. Set aside.

– Cut squid tubes open to make flat pieces and, holding knife almost parallel to work surface (at a 30-degree angle), score inner side of flattened squid in a crosshatch pattern (do not cut all the way through). Pat squid bodies and tentacles dry and season with salt and pepper. Toss with vegetable oil.

– Heat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill squid just until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Cut squid tubes into 1-inch lengths (you can use kitchen shears for this).

– Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.

– Whisk lemon juice into olive oil mixture and drizzle over squid. Garnish with fennel, oregano, and tomatoes. Serve warm or chilled.