Tag Archives: One Pot

Fideua: Spanish Pasta with Clams, Mussels, and Shrimp

I had an urge to make paella — but not the more traditional kind made with rice — and now that I think of it, if rice isn’t in it, then it’s probably not called paella.  No, I’d seen a recipe featured in Saveur some time ago which used thin, short pieces of pasta resembling spaghetti broken to bits, and it’s taken me until recently to give it a go.  I haven’t made paella for years thinking that having a best friend who’s a pro at whipping out her four foot diameter authentic paella pan whenever anyone mentions “party” has kept me lazy.  I don’t have a paella pan, but can manage a batch in a large skillet on my stove instead of a wood fueled fire on the patio which could incite neighbors to call 911 because they think the house is on fire.

The intrigue of the pasta or fideos based paella is the cooking process.  It’s very similar to a rice-based recipe, but pasta absorbs the liquid more quickly, and there’s less a worry about whether or not to stir the rice you’re not supposed to stir so it can develop a nice crust.  That isn’t the case with the pasta version, but it’s a challenge to keep from stirring it when you’ve got an impetuous stirrer in residence.

A basic paella requires a good pan which is not so thick, heat that will be distributed evenly across the pan, a short-grained rice that will absorb liquid without making the rice gummy, and liquid.  The finished product should be moist, but unlike risotto, contain separate pieces of tender rice.  Since I was foregoing rice for the recipe I chose, and because the original recipe was relatively easy, I decided to make my own fish stock — because.

Picture me at the Asian market in front of the fish case scanning several varieties of fish heads.  Large fish heads.  Inexpensive fish heads —  all under $4/lb.  A perky young man behind the counter asks whether he can help me and I tell him while pointing to a white fish, “I’m making fish stock,” to which he responds pointing to the salmon, “It better for you.”  I know this, but also know it’s very oily.  Should I mention that no matter how good salmon is for me, I am not one of its biggest fans?  He continues, “You want me clean it up for you?”  And I say that I’m happy to do it myself, but he grins and says, “I do it better for you.  You too busy.”

I am so not busy and loving every second of it.  Any busyness in my life now is self-generated.

But he certainly was correct about doing it better than I could, because after I removed the brown paper wrapping at home, I had to admire an extremely clean,  perfectly sectioned salmon head.  What had I been thinking before?  Had I insisted on taking care of it myself, I would have had to wrestle with it without the correct type of knife, then smell like the village fish monger for my trouble.  A not very busy fish monger, but still.

I was still concerned about making broth with salmon so had to do some research before choosing a recipe.  Evidently, it’s a matter of opinion.

Have you ever made any kind of fish stock before?

If you aren’t in the mood to tackle that, there are other options, but if you’re a paella lover, try this version of Fideua for a change.  Or, if you’ve always wondered about paella but haven’t tried it, start with this.

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Vegetable Bean Soup

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I’m not sure how many years ago we started the tradition of taking a long weekend trip late in January, but it’s one of my favorites.  I think it all began when I figured out that the holiday presents other than clothing my husband received were rarely used, so I surprised him with a trip to Solvang one year.  The next year it was Monterey, and from that point on, we tried to find somewhere to go just to get away.  Sometimes the boy accompanied us, but most often, it was just the two of us.  One year we may have taken a plane, and the next we’d drive.  We’d talk occasionally about stretching ourselves to go somewhere we hadn’t been before — Monterey, CA is still our favorite — but the whole point of getting away is to relax, and when you’re the semi-unadventurous people we are familiarity facilitates that relaxation.

We don’t go as often as we used to since life isn’t as hectic, but this year my husband charged me with finding somewhere to go within a reasonable driving distance.  I’m thinking it’s because the patio is torn up and figuring what to do with it is a far less attractive option than heading off on a Friday afternoon for anything unrelated to a DIY project.  I don’t blame him.

I asked the boy what he thought, and without hesitation he mentioned Julian.  You may remember me waxing over this small town early last month, and since I’d toyed with the idea of gifting my husband with a get away there before moving on to something else, my research had already been done.

We’re back now, and as much as we might have enjoyed some sign of wintery weather, there wasn’t a trace.  Clear blue skies, dry air, and highs of 65 during the day welcomed us.  The cabin was nestled against a mountainside beneath huge cedars, young pines in the undergrowth, and massive coastal live oaks.  The persistent rush of water from a stream nearby was the only sound to be heard.  We hiked, cooked a little, played cards and Yahtzee, and enjoyed the quiet, our books, and one another’s company.   I took Tessa Kiros’ breathtaking book Falling Cloudberries:  A World of Family Recipes which I finally treated myself to after seeing it for the first time about a year ago, and  read through it over the two days.

When I open it to make one of the many wonderful recipes from now on, I’ll remember last weekend and smile.

Here’s a simple, delicious vegetable soup adapted from one of Kiros’ recipes.  It’s light and full of bright, fresh flavor that will warm you through and through.

Perfect.  Just like our weekend.

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Cream of Greens Soup: Dandelions, Spinach, and Arugula

Earth Day Soup

When I think of Earth Day, I think more about how I was raised instead of an event marked on a calendar that occurs once a year.  I guess my mother was green before her time simply because she needed to be frugal with her earnings.  But that’s not all.  Her common sense was what was really at work.  If you’re a single mother who works split shifts and have three children under the age of six, you put all of them in the tub at the same time and teach them that the water cannot rise above their belly buttons.  Absolutely no showers, ever.  You rinse your two girls’ very long hair with a tablespoon of  apple cider vinegar mixed with water they wished was warm instead of shockingly cold.  You nag your children incessantly until they understand that lights are turned off when not in use and that electricity costs money — which sadly does not grow on trees.  You make your children’s clothes, and as much as your younger daughter may not love the idea, pass the older daughter’s clothes down once outgrown.  You make shorts from cut off pants, either outgrown, or made possible by knees that have worn through.  You purchase less of everything and teach them how to take care of what they have, because if they don’t, they’re not getting anything new.  You make popsicles from koolaid poured into ice cube trays and dole them out over a few days like they were gold nuggets.  You remind them to bring home from school each day, not only the brown bag their lunch was in, but the baggies their chips and sandwiches were stuffed in to.  You teach them to clean their plates at meals, and never, ever to waste food.  Ever.   Or else.

And you teach them how to eat their vegetables — especially the green ones.

In celebration of Earth Day and smart, frugal moms everywhere who were green long before it was the cool thing to do, this soup is for you.  It’s healthy, and made with a bit of this, and a bit of that from my vegetable drawer.

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Chicken Soup with Southern Dumplings

When we were in the thick of our remodel, I had my eye out for magazines that would help me narrow down the paint choices since we were having the whole interior repainted.  O At Home caught my eye while I was standing in line at the grocery store because The Color Issue was emblazoned across its cover and promises of 21 frsh, can't fail palettes lured me to throw it in my basket. 

Along with the good advice I came across that did inevitably help me choose my colors, tucked in the back was an article on One-Pot Meals with gorgeous photos of food I wanted to make right then and there.  Of the four recipes featured, I tried Alice Waters's Winter Minestrone first with average results.  I could take the blame for this because I used scarlet runner beans instead of cannellinis, and potatoes instead of turnips, but neither of those changes would have turned this soup into something less than good if it had been a decent tasting recipe to begin with.  I love minestrone, and this recipe just didn't cut the mustard.

The second recipe I tried was Art Smith's "Chicken and Dumplings."  It caught my eye because I grew up eating very different dumplings than the flat, egg noodles looking strips nestled in the clear broth and vegetables I was staring at.  I had to try it since my life long idea of a dumpling was a dollop of wet dough that was dropped onto the hot contents of a pot of chicken soup or stew and covered for a time to steam and puff up before being uncovered to finish off the cooking.

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Besides, it was going to be tough to ignore a piece of chewy dough.  Sad but true.  Unfortunately, again, something was amiss….

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Spicy Game Day Chili Beans

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Having been a resident of San Diego for so many years, it’s impossible not to get caught up in our Chargers even though there always seems to be just as many fans in the stadium for the opposing team as there are Chargers fans.  Lots of people who grew up elsewhere find their way here because of the weather and they rarely leave, but manage to hang on to their old teams enough to drive the rest of us crazy.  Inevitably, a comment is shouted about something to the effect of, “If you’re loving your blinking bleebs so much, then why don’t you go back to where you came from…” when the visitors are winning, and their San Diego fans are loudly proclaiming their superiority on the field.  Ah, the joys of being sports fans!

Being married to the most intense sports fan you’d ever imagine has helped me understand more about football than I’d have ever known otherwise.  Unfortunately, he’s more of a cup-half-empty guy when it comes to sports, and suffers from knowing way too much — using all the statistics he naturally holds in his brain to calculate possibilities for their athletic demise.   It’s a sight to behold, watching his intensity each week, often standing in front of the television with his arms crossed instead of slouched in a chair with a beer.

He’s not much of a beer guy.  He likes Coke — and hot tea.

But he’ll be at the game today, so I’ll be home with our 16-year-old, cheering for our team with my usual it’s not over ’till the fat lady sings attitude when it comes to our Chargers.  And no….I’m not planning on being the singing fat lady.

To spice things up a bit, I happen to have a bet going with a foodie friend Peter over at Kalofagas regarding the outcome of this game today.  His pick is Indy, and I’m saying no way on that one.  The Chargers are going all the way.  They’re so due.  Over due.  Peter and I have agreed that should out team lose, we must admit our defeat, worship the winning team, and celebrate the winning city.  I sure hope he’s studying about San Diego right now, because he’s going to have a lot to write about.

But now for some real spice.

How about a big ol’ pot o’ chili for the game?

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Indy Colts Helmet

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