Pasta, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Foolproof Marinara Sauce

Over the years, I kept adjusting my recipe for a true, delicious Marinara sauce. You know, that classic staple of Italian cuisine, a base for many Italian dishes. I love this marinara sauce in lasagnas, with meatballs, or, when adding a ground beef you can turn it into Bolognese. Why would you bother, when you can buy a ready to go jar of sauce from multiple brands? Well, maybe if you’re watching what you eat, like me, and want to eliminate unnecessary sugar, different preservatives or chemicals from your diet. Plus, making it yourself allows you to use organic ingredients and control the taste.

Marinara takes time, but it’s not difficult to make! You can even make a large amount, split into containers and freeze. With an extra bonus of the lovely aroma in the kitchen.  Mix with zucchini noodles and you have got a delicious Paleo or Keto meal!

 

Foolproof Marinara Sauce

Yield: 4-5 portions

  • 2x 28oz cans of whole tomatoes (preferably from San Marzano, any brand)
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 medium-size carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes

    San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, cut into similar size cubes
  • Dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato paste
  • ½ cup white wine (dry Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, do not use cooking wine)
  • ½ teaspoon red hot pepper flakes
  • tablespoon of butter (optional)
  • Big bunch of fresh basil
  • Rim of parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat up oil in a large pot, and sauté onions, garlic, hot pepper flakes, oregano, carrots, and celery for about 3 minutes on medium low heat, or until nice and aromatic. Most delicious dishes start with some variety of soffritto, which is also the base of this sauce. I personally like smaller pieces of veggies, but the cut is completely up to you, as long as they’re a similar size for even cooking.

Season with salt and pepper. In the meantime pour whole tomatoes into a food processor and pulse a few times (for small chunks of tomatoes in your sauce). If you don’t like chunks in your sauce, then process completely until tomatoes turn into a puree.

 

When the veggies start to soften up, add tomato paste and mix well to caramelize the paste. Cook for a minute with vegetables and pour white wine over everything. Let the wine evaporate, and when almost dry, pour in tomatoes with all its juices. Add water. I often pour little water into tomato cans and splash to make sure every bit of the tomato juice went into the sauce.

Cut a big chunk of basil, wash, leave whole and add to the sauce. Mix, turn the heat to simmer low, and let the sauce cook for about 1-2 hours, or until it reaches desired consistency. If using, add the parmesan rim for a flavor. The sauce will reduce about 1/3 of its original amount.

When the sauce is to your liking, taste for seasoning, and eventually add more salt and pepper. If too acidic, add a tablespoon of butter and let dissolve in the sauce. Fish out the big chunk of basil that was cooking with the sauce and the parmesan rim.

Slice up a handful of fresh basil and add to the sauce when you already took it off the heat. Now you’re ready to use your aromatic sauce as it is, with meatballs, in lasagna or whatever you desire. Enjoy!


 

Loaded Recipe Series, Poultry, Veggies based & Vegetarian

THE.BEST.Cauliflower.side.dish. EVER

For some reason, cauliflower wasn’t always a superstar. Yet one of the most favorite vegetables for me. We grew cauliflower in our family garden, and I loved it prepared many different ways. It surprised me how many people had reservation about this beautiful “white flower” and had no idea how to make it tasty.

 

 

Long before Atkins or Paleo was hot, I enjoyed cauliflower based dishes as a replacement for the meat. Fried, sauteed with sausage, onion, and eggs,  as cauliflower fritters or as my multiple veggie mixes. Later, when everybody started going avocado about the low carb diets, cauliflower was suddenly IN. Cauliflower fried rice, mashed cauliflower “potatoes”, cauliflower steak,  cauliflower dough for low carb pizza – and I must admit, these were exciting new ideas for me too. Cauliflower is delicious and super rich in nutrient on top of that. What’s not to love?

This recipe is one of the most fun, fast, easy and super tasty way to prepare a side dish with cauliflower. It screams SUPERFOOD!!!! Cooking for cancer patients, I have developed several recipes that are loaded with all the anti-cancer properties, boosting immunity and of course, tasting good. Here is one of them:

 

 

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Zucchini

 

 

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 medium green zucchini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon curry
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cumin (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • As much finely chopped or grated ginger root as you like
  • sea salt and freshly grated pepper to taste
  • a handful of cilantro, parsley or sliced scallions for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large deep bowl whisk together oil with all the seasoning. Cut cauliflower into similar size pieces and thoroughly rinse in the colander (not too small). Let it air dry, while you wash and cut zucchini into thick chunks (zucchini cooks much faster). Don’t know about you, but I don’t care for mushy.

Add both vegetables into the seasoning mixture and shake the bowl until everything is perfectly combined and every piece is coated with seasoning. It’s easy to see because turmeric and curry made everything bright yellow.

Spread vegetables on a large baking sheet. Make sure all the veggies are in one layer. Spoon the rest of the seasoned oil on the vegetables if there is anything left in the bowl.

Bake in the oven until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Time vary based on your oven and the size of the pieces you cut, so check after 15 minutes. Carefully poke a small knife into the thickest part of the cauliflower to check for doneness.

When ready, garnish with your chosen herbs and enjoy!

 

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower and Zucchini

I wanted to take a different picture of the full dish of this beauty, but it disappeared as soon as I took it out of the oven. I guess I’m not the only one who loves it!

Did you try this recipe? Do you have a different recipe you want to share? Let me know in comments!

 

Wine pairing:

I have opened my 2016 Muga Rose for this dish. It’s a rich, crisp and nicely dry rose that goes smoothly with the components of our dinner. Any other unoaked white would be a good match – try a Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All recipes paired with wine, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Simple Indian dish, all roasted in oven

Although I am not a vegetarian, I occasionally enjoy meatless dinner options without even thinking twice. And having this demand from my clients, I am constantly searching for more and more options and various cuisines to make my menus more interesting. Flipping through old Food & Wine magazines, I found this recipe, created by Grace Parisi. It had all the ingredients I like. Here is my slightly adapted version of

Curried Eggplant with Chickpeas and Spinach

Curried eggplant

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • 1 dried, crumbled chili if you like to add heat
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut oil
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch pieces (I did not peel the eggplant)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and washed in colander
  • 1/4 cup finely julienned fresh ginger
  • Freshly ground pepper and Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 5-oz bag baby spinach
  • Warm naan and Greek yogurt, for serving

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. On a work surface, mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a large bowl, mix the paste with the curry powder and vegetable oil. Cut eggplant into similar size cubes, mix with onion, chickpeas and ginger, season with salt and pepper. Toss well together with the dressing so every piece is coated with seasoning and oil.

Spread the vegetables in an even layer and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the eggplant and onion are tender. Take out of the oven, stir in the spinach (mix so it’s covered with roasted vegetables) and roast just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve with warm naan and yogurt.

Curried eggplant, chickpeas and spinach

Seasoned yogurt:

  • 3 full tablespoons of Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove of garlic, mashed
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly cut mint and parsley

Mix together and enjoy with curried eggplant dish.

Curried eggplant

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Guacamole and salsa, or let’s call it Gualsa!

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On Sunday, I posted this  picture on Facebook ans asked my friends to guess what I was making. And yes, it totally looked like guacamole – and/or salsa. I lately decided to save some time and combined the two  – because what’s better than getting all the guacamole and tomato salsa on the chip at the same time, right? Ever since, that’s the only way I am making it. Who has time to make guacamole, and then tomato salsa to go with it?

I call it my “Gualsa”. If you want to try it, here is the recipe (the amounts of each ingredient are flexible, it all depends on your personal taste, and how many people you want to serve). Down side: just like guacamole or salsa, it doesn’t keep well, so it’s better to make less and make a fresh one again soon!

Vera’s Gualsa

Ingredients:

4 ripe tomatoes (I like campari tomatoes, they seem to have the most flavor)
1/4 red onion
1 lime
1 green bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper (or, when you don’t have one when you feel like Gualsa, you can use Sriracha for heat, instead)
1-2 avocados
salt and freshly grated pepper
2-3 tablespoon of high quality olive oil
bunch of chopped cilantro

Start with tomatoes and cut them into small dices (personal preference here, if you like bigger chunks, that’s fine). But smaller are better to get on the tortilla chips. Place into larger bowl.

Seed the pepper and cut  into strips first, then small dices. I like to use green pepper for the color, but any peppers are fine. Add to the tomatoes. Do not mix yet. Next, finely chop red onion and jalapeno pepper. If you like spicy, leave the seeds in jalapeno, otherwise take the seeds out and chop just outer pepper. It’s still going to add heat to your Gualsa.

Wash and chop cilantro (I like plenty, again make it to your personal taste and preference), and let cilantro join the party. Season with salt and pepper. Do not mix just yet.

Last, halve the avocados. Take out the pit with your knife, and with small pairing knife, carefully cut stripes into the avocado, all the way to the skin, while holding the half in the palm of your hand. Be careful not to cut through the skin and not to cut yourself. Then repeat crosswise, so you’ll end up with dices of avocado. Repeat with the other avocado. For my own taste, I like to leave avocado in bigger chunks – since they are soft and will be inevitably little broken when mixed anyway.

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With table spoon, carefully run it against the skin, and take the avocado flesh out, straight above the bowl with the rest of the vegetables. Sprinkle all over with the lime juice. I use juice of whole lime for that. You can squeeze the juice ahead of time, and then just pour it all over. Make sure to cover the avocado evenly; the lime juice is not added just for the taste, it also prevents avocado to oxidize and turn dark. When everything is in the bowl, sprinkle with olive oil and mix carefully together. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
IMG_1169 blog
Cover with plastic foil, and let cool in the fridge for 1/2 hour. That is, if you can wait – or dig in right away, and enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips! I also use this as super bright salad on its own.Oh – and as for wine pairing – when I go this road, although devoted wine lover, in this case I reach for nicely chilled bottle of Corona with a slice of lime. What would be your choice of drink? How about some great margarita?!!!

Enjoy!

All recipes paired with wine, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Quinoa Edamame Pilaf

This dish started as a phantasy ride on “fried rice” – but I was in hurry and Quinoa cooks much faster than rice. And I like the crunch this grain has. I was kind of mixing stuff together without plan, but the result was surprisingly delicious! Nobody complaint about “healthy food”!!! The recipe might look like a lot of ingredients, but it’s basically your “Chinese cooking stuff” already in the pantry.

Quinoa Edamame Pilaf

1 cup quinoa – cooked in 2 cups of chicken broth
½ red onion, finely copped
1 carrot – peeled and chopped
½ cup chopped celery root (you can use celery stick as well, but the root is softer)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
¼ cup low sodium soya sauce
¼ cup oyster sauce (I like Ka.Me)
¼ cup blended sesame oil
3 tbsp peanut oil
¼ Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper (careful, sauces are salty)
Juice from ½ lime
2 tbsp Sriracha (hot chilli sauce) (optional, but delicious!!!)
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp flex seeds
1 can of Straw mushrooms
1 cup cooked Edamame soybean

Cook quinoa, following the instructions, until soft. Fluff and lets stand.
In the large pan cook (or wok) heat peanut oil and sauté onions, celery and carrot for a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and mix together. Sauté for another 30 seconds. Add all the sauces and sesame oil.  Add Sriracha if you don’t mind the heat.  Stir in quinoa and Edamame soybean.  Season with lime juice and sprinkle seeds over the mix for a healthy crunch.

At the end, mix in the drained straw mushrooms (chop in smaller pieces if desired).