Succotash

I recently got back from a trip to Canada. I’ve been dreaming of going to Vancouver for a few years now, thanks to a cooking show I watched while in college. I think it was Giada De Laurentiis, checking out the restaurants and attractions.

Despite the drought, it was more beautiful than I expected (standards of beauty get lowered significantly after living in a rain-choked Texas for about 7 years), and it would have been beautiful even if I wasn’t snide.

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Other than the restaurant Giada went to, I didn’t have an idea of what the food scene would be like once we got up there. I knew I wanted poutine. I’d heard about good local breweries. My friends were mixed in their recommendations or warnings about Tim Horton’s, but other than that, I was a blank slate.

Most nights, we’d kind of wander into restaurants, getting what was convenient or close, or what seemed good enough to stop the bus for and get down. (On that note, if you’re interested in Tibetan food and are in Vancouver, you should check out the Yak & Yeti bistro.)

But one night, our Canadian friend got off work early and was able to prepare a tasty-ass dinner. Fresh salmon, grilled, and succotash. Of course I love salmon and it was wonderful, but what really stuck out to me was the succotash. Before that night, it’d never been real. “Succotash” is from the Loony Tunes universe–it was part of a catch phrase, not food! But it was real, and it was surprisingly tasty. We even had to make a new batch once we made it back to Texas, only three nights later.

Succotash

Looking online, there is absolutely no single definition of succotash. Our Vancouverite made no pretense of measuring ingredients, either making it from memory or winging it. So that’s how I learnt–just watching over his shoulder. Consequently, this recipe won’t have any objective measuring terms–you’ll have to decide what you like. I was told that corn and beans make a whole protein, and including the corn brings together the three sisters (at least symbolically) so they seem worth keeping together.

 

There are definite changes you can make to this. Add peppers, don’t use bacon, toss in some herbs or greens. Make it what you want.

1/5 or 1lb bacon
corn cut from 2 ears of corn
1 or 2 cans of beans
2-3 tomatoes
2-3 yellow squash
fresh thyme

1. Prep everything by cutting the corn off the cob and chopping the rest into smallish, bite-sized pieces (not the beans, they’re ok)
2. Fry the bacon until desired crispiness
3. Remove bacon from pan
4. Use desired amount of bacon fat (probably 1-2 tbs) to fry up everything else
5. Fry until veggies are desired tenderness (should’t take long at all). Add the bacon back in sometime before the end.

 

Although I didn’t remember at the time of making our Texas batch, the Canadian batch also included 1 large jalapeño chopped into thin strips (how did Texans forget a pepper?!), fresh thyme and basil, a yellow pepper, green and yellow zucchini, and some ground cumin.

Inspired by Saag

I’ve been so in love with exotic spices recently so I’ve been trying my hand at food that’s not traditionally in my family and I’ve got a couple of restaurants that will soon be burning holes in my pockets. Since these aren’t flavors and smells I’ve worked with for years and years, I still need to work on calibrating my nose a little and so I follow recipes and recommendations a little more closely. For this post, I used two articles for guidance: AllRecipes Indian Saag and Whats4Eats Saag.

The focus is on greens. One of my oversights was how few I had on hand. When those recipes call for two pounds, they really mean it. As they cook, they really loose volume and when there are more, it helps promote more of a saucy texture. I had one of those tubs of mixed greens, and I should have gotten 2 or 3, but it was still tasty. Many versions of this recipe also call for a blender, but since I don’t have one, I stuck with chopping.

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I’ve been told that I made a Saag Aloo, because of the potato, but I believe in the spinachy spirit of this dish and will leave it up to y’all to customize it and name it what you wish. This was an experiment of mine and I hope you find inspiration from it like I did those other articles.

 

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No two articles I found had the same spices, or even the same proportions, so I played around based on my tastes and what I had available. Slowly I’ve been splurging on spices, and it’s been nice having a variety on hand.

 

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Saag

 

  • Spinach
  • onion
  • garlic
  • potatoes
  • cream
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs niter kibbeh (or butter, or oil)
  • 1tbs coriander
  • 2 tbs turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

 

  1. Par boil the potatoes in a separate pan.
  2. Cook onion in the niter kibbeh, on medium, until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and spices, then saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and water. Simmer for about 15-25 minutes. (4 1/2 would be blend it if you got it)
  5. Add chickpeas, potatoes, and cream.
  6. Return to a brief simmer. Finish cooking the potatoes.

Lemon Couscous

A few years ago I found out that my grandpa’s grandpa was Moroccan. I had already been into Middle Eastern food for a while, but that got me pretty revved up about it. I learned a few things, my favorite of which were preserved lemons and tagines.

 

These days, many of my coworkers come from Africa, so I get to eat all sorts of tasty food. We love potlucks and I feel very blessed. When one talented lady brought in her couscous, that sparked in me the desire to try it out. I had some lemon-marinated chicken in the fridge and ran with that. I searched the internet for couscous recipes that used the ingredients I felt like using, then came up with this mash-up of my favorites.

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Lemon Couscous

  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 -2 boxes of couscous (2 makes a surprising amount. it’s what I made, but you can probably get away with 1)
  • 3-5 carrots
  • 1 medium – big onion
  • 1/4 – 1/3 head cauliflower
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • tomatoes
  • about 4 cups veggie broth
  • cumin
  • pepper
  • allspice
  • lemon zest
  • tomato paste
  • turmeric
  • celery salt
  • bragg’s liquid aminos
  • celery salt

 

 

  1. Chop up all the veggies into stew-sized chunks, except for the tomatoes
  2. Slice chicken into bite sized pieces
  3. Cook chicken and onions for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the carrots and a 1/4 cup broth, if it’s not juicy enough. You basically want something to help stew, but not quite simmer, the carrots in.
  5. Add spices, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes. The carrots should soften slightly.
  6. While this is going, cook the couscous. It happens pretty fast, so it’s easy to do while waiting between steps.
  7. Add cauliflower, cover and let cook for 10 minutes more.
  8. I let mine stew for about 30 minutes, but if you’re hungry you could eat it sooner.
  9. Slice fresh tomatoes and serve on top.

Kale Pasta

On a quest to find cheap and healthy food, I ransacked the HEB and came away with a 98 cent bush of kale about 3 times the size of my head. It was a great find, but since leafy greens don’t do so well in my fridge, I knew I’d have to eat them fast. I did some experimenting, and this was one of my favorite recipes that came of it.

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I sorted the prep vegetables according to how cooked I wanted them to be.

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First, I sauteed the onion in olive oil, over medium heat until they started getting translucent. After that, I tossed in the rest, sauteing for a few minutes before adding the sauce. Together, I let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes (feel free to do it as long as you’re willing, just make sure it doesn’t dry out).

 

While that was going, I made bacon sprinkles. If you want to keep this recipe Vegan, skip that. It’s totally option and I did it on a whim, anyway, so not much will be lost if you skip it. Only bacon, which you don’t really care about anyway.

 

Bacon sprinkles are just tiny strips of bacon fried until they’re crispy. I’ve used them in a handful of dishes so far and I’ve found them to be a nice way to add a little bit of salty/crunchy to your food. Since they keep well, you can even cook up half a pack or so and just keep them in the fridge for whenever you need some on your pasta, fried rice, or grits.

 

As the pasta was nearing completion, I tossed the kale into the sauce. I waited till the end because I wanted it to still be crisp and fresh tasting. The diversity of texture alone is worth it, and if you’re down for an experiment, I recommend just adding some fresh. Also, if you’re a cheesy kind of person, I’d recommend a hard Spanish cheese for this. I tried it with some idiazabal and it worked really well.

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Here’s my attempt at a printer friendly recipe card:

Kale Pasta

Bacon sprinkles and cheese (optional)

1 med white onion

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (I eat it in everything, you might not want as much)

24 oz pasta sauce

whatever spices you like in pasta sauce: salt/pepper/garlic/oregano/etc

3 giant kale leaves

noodles

1. Make bacon sprinkles. Drain and set aside.

1 if you don’t want meat. Chop veggies, keep onion separate.

2. Warm a sauce pot with olive oil to medium. Saute onions for about 5 minutes.

3. Add jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for about a minute.

4. Add sauce and stir. Lower the temperature to med-low, but keep an eye on it just in case.

5. Start boiling pasta water (waiting to do it until now is a great way to time the sauce and also gives you time to clean up some if you don’t want to save it all till you’re done) and cook the pasta as per the recommended instructions.

6. With about a minute left on the pasta, add the kale to the sauce.

7. Everything’s all a flurry now! Strain the pasta! Add a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick! Stir the sauce some more!

8. Serve. Top with bacon sprinkles and/or delicious Spanish cheese, as you desire.