Ronnie Paul
Special to The Union

Ronnie Paul: Monstrously good recipes

It’s almost Halloween, the night monsters roam the streets. I’m comfortable thinking about that now, but I remember my childhood fears and anti-monster rituals.

As a kid — I admit I was a chicken — I developed no-fail safety practices. Each night before I got under the covers, I shut the closet door, pushed in the bureau drawers, and checked under my bed.

Those were — and probably still are — favored monster hiding places. Once tucked under the sheets and kissed goodnight, I was safe, but only for the few hours before I awoke and had to go to the bathroom.

Although I tried to will myself back to sleep, fretting about lurking ghouls left me sleepless and still needing to go.

The route to the bathroom loomed frighteningly long. Because everyone knows that monsters love feet, I developed an aerobic move called “scamper feet,” frantic off-the-ground foot pedaling that propelled me from bed to light switch to bathroom unharmed.

The return trip was equally arduous. I could easily have qualified as a fleet-footed Olympic sprinter as I rocketed through the hall and back to bed with a single mighty leap. In my rush, I routinely forgot to turn off the light, but my mother — who apparently honored important anti-monster practices — never mentioned it.

A monster never grabbed me, but cooking did. Try these and you’ll feel hooked, too.

Cucumber Salsa

3 cups

Use up your garden cukes! Try this as a chip dip, on fish, or tossed in a green salad.

1 mango, chopped

2 cups chopped, seeded and peeled cucumbers

1/4 packed cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped red onion

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)

1 speck of cayenne pepper

Mix everything together and chill.

Polenta-Mushroom Pie with Tomato Sauce

6-8 servings

I thank my husband Jeff, for always making our garden fresh tomato sauce.

1 cup cornmeal

3 cups water

2 tablespoons butter

A little salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cups chopped Swiss chard

1/4 cup minced parsley

2 cups tomato sauce

1/2 cup crumbled Provolone cheese

Bring the cornmeal, water, butter and salt to a boil, then turn down the flame and simmer. Stir constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Turn off the flame, and stir in the Parmesan.

Pour the cornmeal mixture into a greased 10-inch deep-dish pie pan, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan, and sauté the mushrooms, Swiss chard, and parsley, until the mushrooms are soft.

Add the tomato sauce to the veggies, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Strain off the excess liquid and spoon it on top of the cornmeal. Sprinkle the veggies with the Provolone.

Broil the casserole for a few minutes until the cheese melts and turns a luscious golden color. Serve immediately.

Rainy-Day Cole Slaw

4 Servings

I made this on a rainy day, but you’ll love it in any weather.

1 cup grated red cabbage

1 cup grated green cabbage

2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup raisin

Dressing

Whisk together:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons lemon juice

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons Worcester sauce (I used a vegetarian brand)

Combine the veggies and raisins, toss well with the dressing, and chill.

Delicate Delicata Soup

Serves 4

Delicata squash is my blue ribbon favorite. And, they’re in season now!

2 1/2 cups baked Delicata innards (about 2-3 large squash)

1 cup diced potatoes

1 cup chopped onion

2 celery stalks, sliced

1 bay leaf

3 cups veggie broth

Salt and pepper

About 20 gratings of nutmeg

Slice the Delicatas lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and brush the flesh with a little olive oil. Place the squash face up in a glass pan. Pour 2 inches of water on the bottom, cover tightly with foil, and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes until the squash is soft. (If you can’t contain yourself, forget the soup and gobble the squash now. I love it dotted with a little butter and sprinkled with salt.)

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, bay leaf and broth, and cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the veggies are tender. Remove the bay leaf, and puree the soup ingredients with the squash until smooth. Stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, reheat and serve.

Tomato-Bean Salad

4-6 servings

We’re still using up the cherry tomatoes from our summer garden!

2 cups (12 ounces) halved cherry tomatoes

1 15-ounce can navy beans

3 tablespoons minced red onion

1/4 packed cup minced parsley

Dressing

Whisk together:

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, pressed

Mix everything together and chill.

Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer in Nevada City.


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The Union Updated Oct 22, 2013 11:06PM Published Oct 22, 2013 11:06PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.