"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, July 8, 2011

Minestrone and Paella


I made both of these this week.  They always seem to change a bit each time, but I thought I would finally write them down.  There are a number of variations to them, but here are the basic recipes:


Most people think paella is a complicated dish.  It isn’t.  While it does have a number of ingredients, and a number of steps, it is not the elaborate process most people think.  The trick is to cook the rice first and let it cool before mixing it with the tomato sauce so that the mixture is not gummy.

* 1 can tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano)

* 1/2 can tomato paste

* 5 lg. cloves garlic, chopped

* 4 links merguez (preferred), chorizo (second choice) or Italian sausage (try to get a good brand that does not have a lot of sodium.  Many brands have nearly 1000mg per link which will keep you up at night and make the sauce too salty)

* 2-3 doz. ffresh little neck clams in their shell

* 1 doz. lg. shrimp, unpeeled

* 1/2 lb. cleaned, whole squid (you can substitute canned squid or octopus.  Vigo brand is in the supermarkets)

* 2 tsp. oregano

* 2 tsp. ground cumin

* 4-5 shakes hot pepper flakes

* 1 cup red wine

* 3 Tbsp. olive oil

* 1 cup rice (your choice.  I like basmati or jasmine)

- Steam the rice at least 4 hours before the meal, and set aside in the cooking pan. 

- Steam the shrimp, peel, and set aside

- Cut up the squid into 2” pieces. You can use both bodies and tentacles.

- Brown the sausage in 1 Tbsp. olive oil.  Cut each link into four pieces and return to pot.

- Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, but not browned

- Add the tomatoes, squid, tomato paste, wine, hot pepper, remaining olive oil, and spices

- Cook for about 2 hours, stirring every half-hour or so.  Taste for spices.  If there is not enough garlic, you can add garlic flakes.   The sauce is done when it is thick and flavorful.

- A half-hour before the meal, put about 2 Tbsp. of water into the rice and put on the lowest heat possible on the stove to heat.  Place the shrimp on top of the rice so that they heat as well.

- Steam the clams in water and white wine.  There should be just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan.  Give the pan a few shakes to mix up the clams while steaming.  They are done when all clams have been open.  Do not overcook! So when the clams are done, turn off the heat and remove quickly, reserving the liquid

- Reduce the liquid down to about 1/4 cup and add it to the tomato sauce, stir, and mix well

- Put the rice on a platter, spread evenly, put the sauce on top, and mix well.

- Arrange the clams in their shells and the shrimp over the rice and serve.


Minestrone is one of those dishes that changes from cook to cook.  If you look online, you will find many recipes, many with pasta, some with meat, others with lots of greens.  I prefer mine very tomato-y and without pasta. 

* 1 can marzano tomatoes

* 1/2 can tomato paste

* 4-5 Tbsp. olive oil

* 4-5 lg. cloves garlic, chopped

* 1-2 lg. handfuls fresh basil, chopped with stems

* 1 lg. handful parsley, chopped without stems

* 5 med. carrots, chopped into 1-2” pieces

* 2 med. onions, chopped

* 4 yellow or zucchini squash, cut into 2” thick pieces

* 1 lg. red pepper, cut into 2” pieces

* 2-3 shakes hot pepper flakes

* 1 cup red wine

* 2 tsp. each dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil

- Sautee the garlic and onions in the olive oil for about 5 minutes

- Put in fresh parsley and basil, stir and cook for another 5 minutes

- Add tomatoes, tomato paste and all other ingredients

- Cook for about 1 hour or more until the soup is thick and flavorful.  Stir every 20 minutes or so and adjust for taste.  Most canned tomatoes have plenty of sodium so you should need no salt or very little.  Since the tomatoes and wine are acid, I often put in a teaspoon of sugar, but this is up to you.

If you like pasta in the soup, boil the pasta (should be shells, or rigatoni) and mix in with the soup before serving.  You should put in just 5-6 pieces of pasta in each serving.

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