Coast Cooking

These three vegetables will make your recipes pop

This tomato and zucchini stew will bring them running to the table.
This tomato and zucchini stew will bring them running to the table. Special to the Sun Herald

Onion, bell pepper and celery are inexpensive, easy to find and are virtually indestructible in a sauté pan.

When combined in certain recipes, the base they create really makes dishes stand out.

The trinity, as the combination is known, is somewhat of an open secret, as most experienced cooks are familiar with it.

If you are not familiar with the trinity, it is simple to prepare:

Combine a chopped onion, a chopped bell pepper and 2/3 cup of chopped celery, add a dash of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning and a bit of olive oil, dance it all around in a big sauté pan for 15 minutes or so (you don’t have to stand there, just give it a stir every time you pass by).

The results produce a flavorful base for red sauce, gumbo and numerous stews.

Sometimes the trick for feeding your family well is just being in on the secret.

Red Sauce with Zucchini

1 chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 chopped bell pepper

½ cup chopped carrot

2 cups thick sliced zucchini

2 large cans whole tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper, salt, 1-2 pinches Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes

Butter and olive oil as needed

Season the onions, bell pepper, celery and carrot, then sauté in oil (and butter if your diet allows it) until tender (if you are really in a rush, 15 minutes, if you have the time, 25 minutes). Add the canned whole tomatoes, and one can re-filled with water. Simmer until almost thick enough. Add the zucchini and cook until tender. Remember to taste as you go along, and re-season as necessary. Serve with rice pasta or crusty bread.

Chicken stew

1 rotisserie chicken

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

1 cup chopped celery

4-6 cups chicken stock

¼ cup flour

¼ cup butter or olive oil

Black pepper, red pepper flakes

Olive oil

De-bone the chicken and set the chicken meat aside. Put the stock in a stock pot, add the chicken bones and simmer while you prepare the stew. Season the vegetables and sauté in oil for 20 minutes (cheat on the time if you must, but it will lessen the flavor of the stew). Strain the stock and add to the vegetables. Taste and season. Make a roux by combining the oil and flour, stirring over a medium flame until it is a dark brown. Add the roux to the stew and whisk in the chicken stock. Add the chicken meat, taste and season again. Serve with crusty bread.

Curried Black-Eyed Peas

Here’s a curve ball: black-eyed peas made with a little Indian influence. I ate a dish similar to this at a local Indian place and thought it was pretty darn good. When you are in the mood for something spicy, give this a try. You can use frozen peas, but add to the mix and simmer until done. It will take just a few minutes longer.

2 cups cooked black-eyed peas

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

½ cup celery

¼ cup chopped carrot

2 cups chicken (or vegetable stock)

Green curry paste or curry powder

1 cup rice

2 cups water


Sauté the vegetables in oil for 15 minutes. Add the chicken stock and 1 teaspoon curry. Be careful with curry paste, it is strong and a little goes a long way. Add a little, stir, simmer, then taste. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas and cook for another 10 minutes. Combine rice and water and cook or 20 minutes lid on. You can combine the rice and peas, or served as in the photo above.