In the mood for Shrimp…hot off the grill!

It’s 95 degrees here in North Carolina today…seems more like August than June…. so I thought that I would share some favorite grilled shrimp recipes. Shrimp is the perfect protein for a hot summer supper.  The kitchen will stay cool and you will only have to stand over the hot grill for 5 minutes or so.

I prefer to buy shrimp at the fish market, and mine will peel and devein them for me if I call them and order in advance.  They charge an extra dollar per pound but it’s worth it.  If I buy shrimp a grocery store, I always peel and devein it myself.  Most shrimp has been frozen at some point and the shell protects the meat. Other general guidelines:

Shrimp should be firm and have a full shell with white meat.  (Don’t hesitate to ask for a smell.  It is annoying to get home and open a package of shrimp and get that strong “shrimpy” smell.)  If there is the smell of ammonia then the shrimp is way past it’s prime.

Go ahead and buy frozen shrimp and defrost it yourself if the “fresh” shrimp at the market looks or smells tired.

Never buy shrimp with black spots or rings on the shell. (Unless it is Black Tiger Shrimp)

I actually have quite a few shrimp recipes for the grill, but these three are the best of the best.  Enjoy!

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Spicy Grilled Jalapeno and Lime Shrimp

This recipe is from Cooks Country (June, 2007). You can adjust the amount of jalapeno according to your taste for heat.  Either way, these shrimp have a big burst of flavor that I love.
Marinade:
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
5 tablespoons lime juice
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Shrimp:
1 1/2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1.  For the marinade: Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth.  Reserve 2 tablespoons marinade; transfer remaining marinade to medium bowl.
2.  For the shrimp:  Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and add to bowl with the marinade.  Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but not more than an hour. (after that, the lime juice will begin to “cook” the shrimp.)
3.  Heat grill on high.  Thread shrimp onto metal skewers and sprinkle one side of shrimp with sugar.  Grill shrimp sugar side down on the hot grill until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip skewers and cook another 1-2 minutes until just no longer translucent.  Using tongs, slide shrimp from the skewers into a medium bowl and toss with reserved marinade.  Sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve.
Serves 4.
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Grilled Herb Shrimp

This has been my go-to shrimp recipe for years.  It comes from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook and she mentions that it is a slight variation of the recipe in the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne. Kudos all around for such a winning recipe.  The Contessa serves it with a mango salsa which is very good.  I have tossed it with pasta, skewered it for appetizers, served it over grits, and mixed it into salads.  One of my favorite things about this dish is that it can marinate for as little as one hour and up to two days!  I have marinated pounds of shrimp, filled up big zip lock bags, set them on ice in a cooler and  travelled to the beach for a cookout.  The easiest way to cook them is to use long metal skewers.  But they can be grilled individually as well…it just takes a bit longer to get them all turned. I do use wooden skewers from time to time but they really can be a bother catching fire, etc.
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
1/4 minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
Combine the garlic, onion, parsley, basil, the mustards, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals or preheat gas grill to high.  Clean the grill rack well and brush with oil to prevent sticking. Skewer the shrimp and grill for 1-2 minutes per side.  Serves 6
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Crusty Grilled Shrimp with Soy-Sesame Sauce

 
When I first tried this recipe, I couldn’t quite see how it would work to grill breaded shrimp.  I thought that I might be in for a huge mess on the grill.  Well, it does leave a bit more mess than the other shrimp recipes I’m giving you but I promise that it is worth it.  I have never, ever, had one shrimp left over when serving this dish.   (These shrimp can also be broiled in the oven.  I suggest that you do a trial with one or two shrimp to determine the timing and the rack placement that works best with your oven.  I found that putting the rack in the middle of the oven and turning the shrimp once after 2 minutes worked best for having the breading crispy and brown and the shrimp cooked through all at the same time.) The recipe is from At Blanchard’s Table, by Bob and Melinda Blanchard.
1 pound large shrimp
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Prepare the grill.  Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on.  Using a small knife, butterfly the shrimp by slicing down the length of the inside of each. Be careful not to cut all the way through.  Spread and flatten the butterflied shrimp.
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Put the bread crumb mixture in a pile on a cutting board.  Coat both side of the shrimp with the bread crumbs.
In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil together and set aside.
  Grill the shrimp on both sides until just done, about 4 minutes.  Drizzle with the soy-sesame sauce.  Serve immediately. Serves 5-6
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In the mood to Hold The Mayo!

 “Hold the mayo!” That’s one thing you will never hear me say.  I love the stuff.  Homemade or Hellman’s, I grew up on it.  But I married a man who can’t stand mayonnaise and it must be a genetic trait passed down through the male, because not one of my four children will tolerate even a dab of the glossy white condiment.  It used to drive me crazy.  No chicken salad, no potato salad, no deviled eggs!  How the heck do you get your BLT sandwich to stick together?  I used to eat mayonnaise sandwiches when the lunch options at my summer camp looked suspicious.  And I think that it was my sister who liked to mix mayonnaise and mustard together and dip potato chips in it.  But one day it occurred to me… Why am I trying to get my kids to eat mayonnaise??? With 90 calories and 10 grams of fat in just one single tablespoon, mayonnaise isn’t exactly health food.  Here are three wonderful recipes that will demonstrate how yummy it can be when you hold the mayo.

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Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita

I can’t say enough about this chicken salad…the cool yogurt and the combination of spices is really special.  You can layer it as I did in a beautiful glass for a nice luncheon presentation, layer it in a jar for a picnic, (as described in this recipe from Gourmet Magazine, August 2008) or just mix the whole thing up in a big bowl for a casual family style meal.
For curried chicken salad:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat coarsely shredded (3 to 4 cups)
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved

For chickpeas:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 (19-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

For raita and topping:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled, cored, and chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Make curried chicken salad: 
Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add curry, cumin, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in yogurt, cilantro, and chicken. Cool to room temperature.
Make chickpeas: 
Heat oil in cleaned skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook chickpeas, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring to coat, until skillet is dry, about 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Make raita:
Stir together yogurt, cucumber, mint, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Assemble jars: 
Divide grapes among jars and layer curried chicken, raita, chickpeas, and almonds on top.

Makes 4 servings

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Mexican Potato and Black Bean Salad

It is super easy to make a potato salad without mayonnaise since potatoes work

with almost any vinaigrette, but this one is really special.  Sweet potatoes, corn, black bean, cilantro and one of the best dressings I have ever had.  This is from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers.

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Chipotle-Chile Dressing
1 chipotle chili (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato chunks with the oil to lightly coat them.  Sprinkle with coriander,cumin, chili powder and salt and toss again.  Spread that potatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until they are golden at the edges and just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, steam the corn for 3-5 minutes.  Drain excess water.  In a large serving bowl, combine the corn and black beans.
To make the dressing, in a blender or feed processor, place the chipotle chili, garlic and sweet chili sauce.  Process until mixture is smooth. Add the lime juice ad process again.  Add the canola oil and process until it is emulsified.
When the sweet potatoes are done, let coll slightly and add them to the corn and beans.  Add scallions and cilantro and toss gently.  Pour enough dressing over the salad to just moisten the ingredients and toss again.
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 Southwestern Deviled Eggs

This fun recipe is adapted from Taste of the South (April-May 2011).  The original calls for a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips so you can certainly do that if you want to simplify the recipe.  I wanted the shape and texture of these corn tortilla slivers and they only take a minute to fry.  If, like me, you don’t have one of those platters specially designed to serve deviled eggs, just use a sharp knife and take a tiny sliver off the bottom of each half egg.  That way, the eggs will stay stable on the plate and not roll about.

12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 corn tortillas, finely slivered
salt to taste
coarse ground pepper
fresh cilantro
Cut the hard boiled eggs in half and mash the yolks with a fork.  Add sour cream, pepper jack cheese, green onion, chili powder and salt and mix well.  Spoon into the egg whites. Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the tortilla strips until light brown, 45-60 seconds, and drain on paper towels.  Salt lightly. Garnish the eggs with the fried tortilla strips, chopped fresh cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of coarse ground black pepper.
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In the mood for a Champion’s Dinner…celebrating Masters week 2011

I recently learned that on Tuesday night of Masters week, the reining champion hosts a dinner for all previous tournament champions, an elite group indeed.  Not only does he get to choose the menu but he also is responsible for the check.  And, adding to the pressure (in my opinion) if the guests don’t fancy the menu that the host offers they are allowed to order something else off the regular clubhouse menu.  I can only imagine how busy the clubhouse kitchen was in 1989 when Sandy Lyle served Haggis and mashed turnips to his fellow golfers.

Tiger served cheeseburgers, french fries and milkshakes following his first Masters trophy in 1997 (perfect for the youngest Master Champion at 22) and since then he has served porterhouse steaks twice and then a Mexican style fajita dinner in 2006.  Understandably, players like to tout their own local cuisines…..  wiener schnitzel for Bernherd Langer, fish and chips for Nick Faldo and paella and tapas for Jose Maria Olazabal.  Check out VJ Singh’s menu:  seafood tom kah, chicken panang curry, baked sea scallops with garlic sauce, rack of lamb with yellow kari sauce, baked filet, Chilean sea bass with three flavor chili sauce, lychee sorbet.  YUM!

And so this week, Phil Michelson hosted his third Champions dinner.  After his first win in 2004, Phil served lobster ravioli in tomato cream sauce, caesar salad and garlic bread and then moved on to more casual fare (barbecue ribs, chicken, sausage and pulled pork with cole slaw) for his second go round.   I understand that this week he hosted a spanish feast to honor his friend and Spain’s greatest golfer, Seve Ballesteros, who is unfortunately quite ill and could not attend.

What follows is my interpretation of this years menu from the Champions Dinner at Augusta National.

 

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Seafood Paella

 
Now I admit, this is not “authentic” paella.  But you should really make note of this brilliant recipe from Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  In it’s original form, it is Tequila Shrimp with Saffron Rice from their book,Cook What You Love.  I’ve made it many times and will give it to you verbatim so you can too.  For my spanish feast, I’ve substituted fresh clams for the black beans to give it a real paella look and taste.  If you choose to do that as well, add the clams when you stir in the rice as they take longer to cook than the shrimp.
1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound chorizo, thinly sliced (I tend to use about half that amount and I like the spicy chorizo)
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped (use one can chopped tomatoes if out of season)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups tequila
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large pinch saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large, shallow ovenproof casserole, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally,  Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and beans and sir well.  Increase the heat to high and add the tequila, chicken broth, rice, salt, saffron and turmeric and stir well again.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp, mix well, and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked and the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Serve right away.  Serves 6
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Arugula with Gazpacho Vinaigrette

During my quick research into the Champion’s Dinner menu for this year I found descriptions of two different salads. One a simple mesclun with sherry vinaigrette and olives and one a mixed salad with a gazpacho dressing.  I think that the latter sounds more interesting so here is my version.  I used spicy arugula, which really holds it own with the bold flavor of this vinaigrette.  You could make this in a blender to get a smooth dressing but I kind of like the colors and textures that hand chopping delivers.  This dressing comes from a recipe for a lovely new potato salad in a little book called Vegetable Sides, published by Rylan, Peters and Small.
Gazpacho Dressing
 
2 large ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and diced
2 ounces roasted red peppers (from a jar) diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
a bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over fresh arugula.
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Filet of Beef with Smoked Paprika and Garlic

Phil’s menu calls for prime beef tenderloin with manchego cheese and smoked paprika demiglace.  This reminded me of an excellent yet very simple recipe for a whole tenderloin that I cut out of Gourmet Magazine (July 2008) and have adapted here to create a quick and east way to impart warm, wonderful spanish flavors to the tender beef filets.
2 large garlic cloves, minced finely
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 beef tenderloin filets
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Mix garlic, paprika, cumin and olive oil together and rub this mixture into the filets.  Cover and let marinate several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.  Stir together the mayonnaise and the paprika and cumin and set aside.  Grill steaks until desired doneness and serve with the spiced mayo and lime wedges.
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Apple Empanadas with Vanilla Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche

 
The Champion’s menu called for an ice-cream topped apple empanada.  I’ve chosen to top the ice cream with dulce de leche and serve the pastries on the side.  Adapted from a recipe for Sweet Apple Cinnamon Empanadas by Marian Blazes in an article on South American Food (About.com), these melt in your mouth pastries can be dessert one night and breakfast the next morning.
 
For the pastry:
 
1 cup butter, chilled
8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
 
For the filling:
 
4-5 Granny Smith Apples
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
 
1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
coarse sugar for sprinkling
 
1.  For the pastry, put flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly.  Add the butter and the cream cheese and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together.   Add the vanilla and pulse twice more.  The mixture will look crumbly.  Turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and bring the dough together and pat it into a disk.  Wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hour, or overnight.
 
2.  For the filling, place the apple cubes in a saucepan with the butter, sugars, cinnamon and salt.  Stir over medium heat until the apples are tender then add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.  Remove from heat and cool then chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
 
3. To shape empanadas:  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch.  Cut out 4 inch circles, gathering scraps and re-rolling as necessary.  Wet the edge of a dough circle slightly, all around the perimeter.  Place one scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough.  Fold the circle in half, enclosing the filling and press the edges together firmly, flattening and extending them slightly as you pinch them.  Fold and crimp the flattened edge over itself to seal.  Repeat with the remaining empanadas.
 
4.  Chill empanadas for about and hour for best results (or 15 minutes in the freezer).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix egg yolk with a little bit of water and brush over empanadas.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
 
5.  Serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche, or your favorite caramel sauce. (pastries may be reheated in a low oven if you like)
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In the mood for a Tea Party, Southern Style!

  Although you never need an excuse to have a tea party, this one has a special purpose.  The folks atFoodbuzz have joined forces with Kelly Confidential  to raise money for The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and are donating $50 for every tea party posted today.  And on Friday, these tea parties will be the subject of a Foodbuzz “Top 9 Takeover”!  Fun stuff… and all for a very important cause.  You too can help raise money by going to Kelly Confidential and simply voting for an outfit for Kelly to wear to her “virtual tea party”.
So welcome to my tea party….southern style!
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 A southern style tea party needs iced sweet tea, of course!
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Pimento Cheese, Tomato and Chive Finger Sandwiches

Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender.  My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.
For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.
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Brown Sugar Shortbreads with Smashed Blackberries and Sweet Cream

Slightly sweet flaky biscuits slathered with smashed fresh blackberries and whipped cream…a southern take on the traditional British scones with jam and clotted cream.
For the shortbread:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing tops of biscuits
coarse brown sugar for sprinkling (such as Sugar in the Raw or Demerara Sugar)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder sugar and salt.  Cut cold butter into small pieces and toss into the flour.  Then, with a pastry knife, two table knives, or your fingers, blend butter into flour mixture until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Add the cream and stir quickly with a fork until flour is just moistened (do not over work the dough) then turn it onto a lightly floured surface and pat it gently to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out shortbreads and place them 1 inch apart onto baking sheet.  Brush with additional heavy cream and sprinkle generously with coarse brown sugar.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown.  Remove from oven and cool.
For the berries and cream:
1 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup heavy cream
sugar to taste
Wash the blackberries (don’t dry) then toss them with a tablespoon of sugar (or more, to taste).  Using a table fork, smash berries, leaving some whole until you get a nice chunky jam-like consistency.
Whip cream with a couple of teaspoons of sugar (once again, you can use more if you like).  With this amount of cream, I prefer to whip it by hand with a whisk.  It only takes a few minutes and is good exercise…at least for one arm!
Serve and shortbreads with the smashed berries and cream.
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 Hush Puppy and Deviled Crab Bites

 There is nothing dainty about the flavor of this little treat.  Crispy hush puppies, hollowed out slightly and filled with a cool and creamy crab salad.
1 package frozen hush puppies  (I use Savannah Classics original recipe)
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Prepare hush puppies according to directions on package.  Let cool slightly then cut top 1/3 off of each hush puppy and remove some of the interior to make room for a nice portion of crab meat.  You may also want to take a tiny sliver from the bottom of each hush puppy so that the finished product will stay level on a serving tray instead of rolling about.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and horseradish.  Gently stir in crab until it is well coated then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, fill hush puppies with crab salad and top each with a fresh parsley leaf.

In the mood for Orange!

Orange is the subtle citrus…sweet and delicate compared to the power of lemon or lime.  Oranges and their juice and zest are a surefire way to bring a little sunshine to all types of dishes.

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Tomato Soup with Orange and Cumin

 

I’ve been making this all winter and see no reason to stop now.  It is like a light tomato cream soup with no cream in sight, just a hint of orange juice and the warmth of cumin. If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it as it makes this soup a breeze to puree.  This recipe is from Food and Wine Magazine.
 
1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 bay leaves
2 cans (28 0z each) peeled whole tomatoes with their juices (I like San Marzano)
1 tablespoon packed finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper 
snipped fresh chives for garnish
 
Put the onion, orange juice, potato, butter, cumin, bay leaves, and 3 cups of water in a large saucepan.  Cover, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a summer.  Cook  until a skewer easily pierces the potato, 15-20 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juices and the orange zest.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady low simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the potato chunks are falling apart, another 20 minutes  Discard that bay leaves; puree the soup with an immersion blender,  hand blender, stand blender, or food processor.  Strain through a medium/large sieve; discard the contents of the sieve. Season immediately, let cool completely if refrigerating or freezing.  Heat gently, adjust the salt and pepper as needed garnish with the chives and serve. (makes about 10 cups)
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Scampi Al Dragoncello

This bright and beautiful shrimp recipe is from Christina’s Tuscan Table by Cristina Ceccatelli Cook.  The only change I made was to segment the oranges instead of slicing them.  It’s super easy if you have a small, sharp knife.  Just cut a bit off of both ends of the orange so that you can set it flat on a cutting board then,  slicing from top to bottom, remove all of the peel and pith from the orange.  When it is completely clean, you will be able to quickly slice between the membranes to remove the orange segments.

24 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined, tails left on
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for cooking
juice and zest of 2 oranges
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
a few sprigs fresh tarragon, for garnish
orange slices for garnish
salt to taste

Combine shrimp, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice and zest of oranges and lemon, tarragon, garlic, red pepper flakes, and parsley in a bowl.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the shrimp on high heat for 3-5 minutes,  adding a splash of marinade as you cook to keep them moist.

Season to taste and serve hot, garnished with fresh tarragon sprigs and orange slices. (serves 4-5)

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Berries with Orange Sabayon

I could live without a microwave.  For the most part, I use ours to melt chocolate for baking and to warm a tepid cup of coffee.  When I prepared to try this recipe, I almost pulled out the double boiler to cook the eggs then decided that if Chef Laurent Tourondel suggests the microwave, I should at least give it a try.   It came together like a dream and I am thrilled to have such a quick and easy make ahead dessert recipe for entertaining this spring and summer. (And the flavoring possibilities are endless!) This recipe is based on one in his book, Bistro Laurent Tourondel, New American Bistro Cooking. 
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
scant 1/4 teaspoon pure orange extract
fresh berries, like raspberries, blueberries or strawberries (about 5 cups to serve 6)
Make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool.
In a microwave safe bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the cooled simple syrup (the rest will keep in the refrigerator for another use, if you like) and the orange juice until frothy.  Cook 8-10 seconds on high heat in the microwave.  Remove from the oven and whisk until smooth.  Repeat 9-10 times, until the sabayon is cooked and thick.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes. (I cooked it 8 times for 10 seconds and then 2 times for 8 seconds, whisking between each and it turned out perfectly)
In a large chilled bowl, whip the cream with the honey and orange extract until soft peaks form.
Fold the whipped cream, gently but thoroughly, into the egg mixture and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Serve the sabayon over fresh berries and garnished with orange zest if desired.
Mint would be nice as well, of course, but I just couldn’t spend money on fresh mint when it will be popping up all over the place around here in just a few weeks!  The daffodil below is the first to bloom in my woods this year…Spring is here!
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In the mood for Quick Pasta!

I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Stewart, as we have spent many long walks dreaming of taking a week or two and attending a cooking school in Italy.  I am hoping that 2011 just might be the year that we make it happen.
These three pasta dishes are relatively quick to throw together, especially if you have the components prepped in advance.  And they all taste best if you serve them right away.  Two tips for all pasta dishes: Always reserve a cup or so of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.  It is the perfect liquid for loosening the sauce and rewarming pasta.  And, when a pasta dish calls for zest, as two of the recipes below do, try to use one of the Micoplane brand zesters.  They create a fine, snowy zest that just melts into the pasta.
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Linguine alla Carbonara di Salsiccia

(Sausage Carbonara)
     I was nervous to try Carbonara because it involves tossing eggs with hot pasta to create a luxurious, creamy sauce (or, I feared, a mess of hot pasta and scrambled eggs!) But it came together like a dream and while this is certainly a rich, special occasion dish, I am thrilled to add it to my collection.
     There are a couple of differences between my photos of this dish and the Jamie Oliver recipe that I am going to post below.  First of all, I was out of linguine so I had to use spaghetti and secondly, I didn’t have any pancetta so I made it without.  Next time I plan to use the pancetta and leave out the sausage because this decadent, creamy, lemony pasta really doesn’t need much more in my opinion (and the dish would come together even quicker).  But the little meatballs are fun for sausage lovers.
4 good quality sweet Italian sausages
olive oil
4 slices of thick cut pancetta, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried linguine
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
a sprig of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthwise an pop all the meat out.  Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.
Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil.  Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking fro a couple of minutes until it’s golden.  While this is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the package instructions.
In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest, and the parsley.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pot.  Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together,  The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble.  The sauce should be smooth and silky.  If the pasta becomes a little sticky, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly,  Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.  Eat immediately!
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Penne with Ricotta and Spinach

 
This quick, one pot pasta dish is from Cook What You Love, by Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  I love it for a vegetarian entree but it would also make a great side dish for chicken or salmon.
1 pound penne pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 cup ricotta cheese (I use whole milk ricotta)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the penne and cook until tender but still firm.  Drain and return to the pot.  (don’t forget to save a cup of the cooking water, just in case)
With the heat on very low, add the olive oil, salt, pepper, spinach, ricotta, basil, parsley, and 1 cup of the Parmesan to the penne and mix well.  Heat gently, stirring occasionally.  As soon as the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes, remove the pot from the heat.  Serve immediately, topped with the remaining Parmesan.
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Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola

(Spaghetti with Shrimp and Arugula)
This recipe is from Jamie’s Italy, by Jamie Oliver.  I’ve made it many, many times and it is one of our favorites.  The only advice I have is to only use a wine that you would be happy to drink.  It does makes a difference.  (I found that out the hard way)
1 pound dried spaghetti
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to butterfly them)
1 small wineglass of white wine
2 heaping tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (I like the one sold in a tube, for convenience)
1/2 tablespoon butter (my addition)
zest and juice of one lemon
2 handfuls of fresh arugula, roughly chopped
Cook your spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat 3 good glugs of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and toss in the garlic and chili flakes.  As the garlic begins to color, add the shrimp and saute them for a minute.  Add the white wine and the tomato puree and the butter and simmer for a couple of minutes.   When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water,  Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, and add half the chopped arugula, using a little of the reserved cooking water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit, and correct the seasoning.  Divide between four plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the arugula leaves.
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In the mood for Crab Cakes!

I set up this blog with three recipes per post to give myself the structure to use recipes from my collection and at the same time make it necessary to find new ones to complete each category.  I always have one or two recipes in my repertoire for a certain post, and the fun part is finding new ones to complement them.  I keep a huge binder with all of my best recipes and if a new dish fails to make the cut to enter the binder, I won’t post it….even if the photograph turned out really well…which can be annoying.  I have a beautiful photo of white gazpacho on my computer that I will never post, or make again, because it wasn’t very tasty.  (Still looking for a good recipe if anyone out there has one!)
I am also trying to figure out how to take appetizing photos of some very yummy, but not particularly attractive, dishes.  I’ll go ahead and post those, I’m sure, because it is all about the recipes after all.

I guess that the point is that I am having lots of fun, and learning so much about food and photography by keeping this blog, so thanks for checking it out.  By the way, I didn’t have to do any research for this post on crab cakes.  These three recipes are firmly established in my binder and are there to stay.

 

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Daniel Boulud’s Crab Cake Sandwich

 

A really special sandwich!  Worth the effort! (published in Elle Decor magazine)
 
1 pound jumbo lump crab, picked over for shells
1 egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of ginger powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 pinches cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup good white sandwich bread, cut in 1/8 inch dice, then lightly toasted
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed
2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
 
Sauce Remoulade
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 teaspoon paprika
dash of garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper 
salt to taste
In a bowl, mix together the egg, mayonnaise, mustard and all of the spices and salt to taste.  Add the crabmeat, mix evenly and gently fold in the toasted bread cubes.  Shape 6 crab cakes of the same thickness without pressing too hard.  Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the remoulade.  
Preheat the broiler.  Slice the bread into pieces that are 4 inches long.  Cut each segment horizontally and brush the cup sides with a little of the olive oil.  Toast briefly, open faced, under the broiler, then set aside.
Place the crab cakes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush them with the melted butter, Broil each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Spread some remoulade on the bread and add 1 slice of tomato,  a leaf of lettuce and a crab cake.  Garnish with a dollop of sauce and an herb sprig to make it pretty!
Serves 6
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Oven Baked Crab Cakes with Two Sauces

 
One of my pet peeves is when a I am reading a cookbook or magazine and the photo of the dish obviously doesn’t match the recipe.  Probably the food stylist made a last minute change for the sake of art and the chef was unaware.  Well, now I’ve done it myself.  I’m going to give two recipes for sauces that I love to serve with these crab cakes,  but with all wonderful chaos of summer vacation, I didn’t have time to make them last night.  So I threw together a quick substitute as pictured.  Still, I want to include the best options and they can be made ahead of time, if you are more organized than I am at the moment.
Note:  This is the recipe that I turn to when I want to serve crab cakes to a crowd. ( adapted from The Sea Grill Restaurant)
5 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large egg yolks
2 pounds jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
In a food processor pulse cornflakes until ground coarse and spread in a shallow baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, and yolks an add crab meat and salt and pepper to taste, tossing mixture gently but thoroughly.
With a 1/4 cup measure, form crab mixture into cakes and gently coat with cornflakes, transferring as coated to a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Chill crab cakes, covered with plastic wrap, at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.  (This is an important step)
Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Transfer crab cakes to a large baking sheet.  Put about 1/2 teaspoon butter on each crab cake and bake in middle of oven until crisp and cooked through, about 15 minutes.  You will need to turn the cakes after about 10 minutes to brown them evenly on both sides. (You will NOT need to add more butter)  But it is key to wait  until they are golden brown on the bottom before you attempt this.  Otherwise the fragile cakes will come apart.  Dealing with the fragility of these crab cakes will be worth it when you taste the sweet crab inside…free of the fillers that you so often get in restaurants.
Makes about 20 small crab cakes.
Lemon Dill Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate until chilled.  The sauce will thicken as it chills.  (recipe from Paula Deen)
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Capers and Dill
 
2 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Puree the peppers, dill, parsley and capers in a processor or blender, maintaining a little texture,  Transfer to a small bowl,  Add the sour cream, mayo, salt and pepper,  Stir until combined.  Taste for seasoning.  Let stand until needed, about 30 minuted or refrigerate one or 2 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  ( from Teri’s Kitchen.com)
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Spicy Asian Crab Cakes

I just love this recipe from Ming Tsai in his book, Simply Ming. As a matter of fact, I love all of his recipes!  Sambal is an Asian chili sauce that is available in most supermarkets these days.  
 
2 tablespoons sambal 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon honey
juice of 1 lime
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons canola oil
 
In a small bowl, combine half the sambal, half the mayonnaise, and half the chives,  Mix well and set aside, refrigerated. This will be the sauce for the crab cakes.
In a medium bowl, gently combine the remaining sambal and mayonnaise with the honey, lime juice and crabmeat, and season with salt and pepper.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out 8 portions of the crab mixture and place them on a plate.  Wet your hands and form each portion into a cake, packing it tightly
Place the flour, eggs and panko in 3 separate shallow dishes.  Dredge the cakes in the flour, dip in the beaten egg, and then dredge with the panko.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat,  Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the cakes, and sear on both sides until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.
Serve with the reserved sauce and garnish with the remaining chives.

In the mood for Filet-O-Fish?

Back when I used to occasionally find myself at a McDonalds, during the “Happy Meal” years,  the Filet-O-Fish was my meal-o-choice.  Never a big fan of burgers (with the exception of the “World Famous Huey’s Burger” in Memphis, TN) I will always prefer a sandwich like the ones you see below.  None of them are even the slightest bit more difficult than cooking your basic cheeseburger… and even the burger lovers in my family devour them happily.  I’m going to write these recipes for one serving each and you can just multiply as needed.

 

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Open Face Salmon BLT

For this wonderful summertime sandwich, I bought a large piece of salmon fillet and cut it into portions that I knew would work with the bread that I was intending to use.  This can be a knife and fork sandwich, or you can do as we did, and use a fork to gently flake the salmon to cover the bread and pick it up to eat out of hand.
For one sandwich:
1 slice good crusty bread (I used a pre-sliced loaf of La Brea Pane Toscano)
olive oil
1 piece of fresh salmon fillet
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 slice tomato
1 leaf bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed
Brush a slice of bread with olive oil and toast until golden.  Season salmon with cracked black peppercorns, ground coriander and a bit of salt.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over high heat.  Place salmon fillet in hot skillet and let one side develop a beautiful golden brown crust before turning to cook the other side.  Cook to desired degree of doneness.  I prefer salmon just a touch more cooked than medium and that took about 3 minutes per side.  While salmon is cooking, start to compose the sandwich with the bread, lettuce, tomato and bacon.  Place salmon on top of the bacon slices and finish up with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and chopped dill.
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Minced Tuna Burger

This burger was somewhat of a revelation.  While trying to simplify a time-consuming recipe, and using whatever ingredients I had in the pantry so as to avoid another trip to the market, I ended up with what will be a new family favorite.  For those of us who prefer rare tuna,  it only took a few seconds to sear both sides of the burger.  But one great thing about this tuna is that it stayed moist and tender  even when cooked through, as in the photo above. Try to find a tapenade that is a good mixture of Mediterranean flavors…black olives, capers, herbs and spices and olive oil.  Most grocery stores have at least one or two and of course you will have lots of choices at a speciality food market.  Note that the burgers need to chill for about 30 minutes before cooking.  

For one sandwich:
 
3-4 ounces fresh tuna
1 generous tablespoon prepared black olive tapenade*
coarse ground black pepper
1 split English muffin
olive oil
1/2 green scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
 
Use a sharp knife to mince the tuna into 1/4 inch pieces then place it in a small bowl and gently stir in the tapenade and a nice big pinch of black pepper.  Since some tapenades are quite salty, it is best not to add additional salt at this point.  Also, the product I used had a nice amount of olive oil.  If your tapenade seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil to the tuna.  Using your hands, gently mold the tuna into a patty and place it in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, (about 30 minutes) as this will help the burger hold together while cooking.   When ready to serve, brush English muffin with olive oil and toast.  Place tomato and green onion on bottom half of English muffin bun.  Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, remove the tuna burger from the frig and use a spatula to gently place in in the pan.  I know that I keep saying “gently” but the point here is that this is a fragile burger and that is what makes it so good…you don’t want to overwork it.  Once one side is nicely seared, it will start to hold together and the English muffin is the perfect “bun” as it provides the right amount of structure.  So, cook the burger to order over high heat and serve it on the English muffin topped with the mayo mix and the capers and a sprinkle of salt if necessary. 
*Tapenade: a Provencal paste or dip, made from black olives, capers and anchovies
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Grilled Grouper Taco

 

There are so many options with a fish taco like this.   I’ve used fresh corn tortillas but you can go with flour tortillas or even hard taco shells.  The possibilities for toppings is endless.  Sliced avocado would be great, or you could add black beans and salsa.  Anyway, you get the idea.
I used about 4 ounces of fresh grouper per taco.
This is enough marinade for 4-6 servings.
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
tortillas
tomatoes
green onions
sour cream thinned with a bit of lime juice
Cut the fish into portions that will suit your tortilla shell.  Mix together the 6 marinade ingredients and brush the fish liberally.  Let marinate 5-10 minutes.  Season fish with salt and grill over high heat until opaque throughout.  I used a grill pan indoors but of course these would be great grilled outdoors as well.  (Make sure that your grill rack is clean, hot and lightly oiled)  Serve with warm tortillas and a variety of toppings.
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In the mood for Thai!

I didn’t grow up eating Asian food….unless you count the brief period when, as teenagers, my friends and I liked to get won ton soup and fried rice from a local inexpensive “Chinese” restaurant.  Come to think of it, I stopped eating there when I heard a rumor that each won ton in their soup was filled with a tiny little chicken brain.  How embarrassing to think that I believed that they were taking the time to extricate a chicken brain for each and every won ton wrapper!

 
Flash forward a few years and, living in Paris, I discovered the amazing variety of Asian cuisine…. Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, not to mention the many unique provinces of China.  When I first started making these dishes at home, after returning to the States, some of the ingredients were hard to find.  That has really changed in recent years and most big grocery stores have decent Asian sections.  But don’t let that stop you from popping into one of the small Asian markets that may be around town.  The prices are better and you will be inspired by the variety of ingredients!
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Beef with Thai Sweet Basil Leaves

Thai basil has small leaves and a subtle licorice/mint flavor.  It is definitely worth a trip to an Asian market which may offer it in the produce section in the summer months.  For the last couple of years, it has been available here in nurseries so I have been growing it in my herb garden.  If it isn’t to be found near you, another basil variety can be used,  but you may need to tear the leaves if they are large.
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 small red chilies, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8-10 ounces beef fillet steak, thinly sliced
1 handful Thai sweet basil leaves
Mix the fish sauce, oyster sauce, stock and sugar in a small bowl.  Place a wok or heavy skillet over high heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of the oil.  When very hot, add the onion and chilies and stir fry until just wilted and starting to brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside while you cook the beef.  Add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the wok and then add about half of the beef and half of the chopped garlic.  Scatter the beef slices so that they can cook in a single layer and let them cook undisturbed on one side 1-2 minutes until starting to brown nicely.  Then toss the beef a couple of times quickly and remove it to the plate holding the onion mixture.  Repeat with remaining beef and garlic, adding a bit more oil to the wok only if necessary.  Return everything to the wok and stir in the sauce mixture.  Stir for 30 seconds to let the sauce heat through and to coat the beef. Add the Thai basil leaves and remove from heat.  Serve over Jasmine rice.
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Peanut Shrimp with Rice Noodles

 This recipe is based on one that was published in the New York Times in August of ’09.   This is a wonderful dish because the sauce stays light and fresh while still delivering an amazing amount of flavor.  I like butterflying the shrimp because they curl up quickly into perfect bite sized morsels, but if your shrimp are very small you might want to leave them whole.
1 lime
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
12 ounces flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound raw medium to large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut in half lengthwise
1 bunch green onions, sliced, white and light green parts only
1 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 minced jalapeno chili
coarse ground black pepper
salt
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, fish sauce, the zest and juice from 1 lime, and just enough water to make a smooth sauce.  (about 1/3 cup)
Cook rice noodles in boiling, salted water until just tender, being careful not to overcook or they will become mushy.  Drain.
Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add oil and quickly stir fry the shrimp until they curl and begin to turn pink.  This should only take a minute or two.  Add scallions, carrots, garlic and jalapeno and toss around until the vegetables soften a bit and the shrimp is just cooked through.  Remove from the heat.
Toss the rice noodles, shrimp and peanut sauce together and season well with the black pepper (and salt if necessary)  Serve hot or room temperature. (Serves 4)
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Cashew Salad

 
In Savoring Southeast Asia, Joyce Jue writes that cashews are grown in abundance the south of Thailand and that this “culinary gem” is a perfect snack to serve with iced limeade or beer.  Be sure and have all of the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you fry the cashews.  And be mindful of the fact that nuts burn very quickly so watch them carefully.  As I did not have any fresh lemongrass, I substituted a bit of fresh lemon zest.  Not the same thing at all but OK in a pinch for this particular recipe.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 pound raw, large, whole cashews
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced (white and light green parts)
1 lemongrass stalk, tender midsection only, finely minced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped celery leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Place the still hot cashews in a bowl and immediately add the shallots, green onion, lemongrass, celery leaves. mint, and chili.  Toss to mix well.
To make the dressing, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar in a small bowl.. Stir until the sugar dissolves,  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well,  Turn out onto a serving plate and garnish with the cilantro leaves.

In the mood for Lettuce Wraps!

Like many people, our first exposure to lettuce wraps came from PF Changs and soon we were making our own version of their appetizer as seen below.  That was years ago and we still love to make a whole meal of these chicken lettuce wraps.  But why stop there?  There are endless possibilities when it comes to the lettuce wrap concept.  Here are three of our favorites.  While iceberg lettuce is the traditional vessel for the filling, bibb lettuce and even romaine can be a nice change of pace.

 

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Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I like the texture of hand minced chicken much better than that of ground chicken.  It’s very quick and easy to do if you have a good sharp knife.  It is important not to overcook chicken breast meat or it will be dry and tough.  My method of letting the minced chicken sit undisturbed in a single layer until almost cooked through will keep it moist and tender.  This is necessary because our home cook tops just don’t get hot enough stir fry effectively.
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
salt
1 can bamboo shoots, diced
1 can water chestnuts, diced
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
3/4 cup celery, diced
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
lettuce leaves for wrapping
Sauce:
1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Trim chicken of all visible fat and, using a large knife, slice lengthwise and then crosswise to get 1/4 inch minced pieces.  Season with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and set aside.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in wok or large skillet until very hot.  Sprinkle the oil with a pinch of salt and add 1/2 of the minced chicken and quickly spread it out to cook evenly.  Let cook undisturbed for about 2-3 minutes or until the the chicken is golden brown on the bottom.  Then toss the minced chicken around a for a few seconds (at which point the chicken will be almost cooked through)  then remove to a platter while you repeat with the remaining chicken.  After the last of the chicken has been cooked and set aside, stir fry the bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, scallions and celery for 2 minutes, adding a bit more oil only if necessary.  Return chicken to the pan. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch mixture and cook, tossing constantly, until chicken is cooked through and all ingredients are nicely glazed.  Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Taste and season with salt and black pepper if necessary.   Mix sauce ingredients together in small serving bowl.  Arrange serving platter with lettuce leaves, minced chicken and sauce.
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Ginger Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

 

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped coarsely
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only, saving some of the dark green tops for the sauce below)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
black pepper and salt to taste
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped green scallions
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh lettuce leaves for wrapping
Stir together first five ingredients.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over the oil then spread shrimp mixture evenly in the pan and let sit undisturbed for about 45 seconds.   Then, using two spoons or spatulas, toss and stir fry the mixture until the shrimp is just cooked through, another minute or two.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and season with pepper and extra salt if necessary.   Stir together soy sauce, water, ginger, brown sugar, sesame oil, scallions and lemon juice for sauce and serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping.
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Char Sui Pork Lettuce Rolls

 

 Char Sui is the name for the roast pork dish found in most Chinese restaurants.  This recipe is adapted from Barbecue Bible, by Ainsley Harriet.  This will serve 4 as a main course or 6-8 as an appetizer.
2 pork tenderloins
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 large garlic clove crushed
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
to serve:
1/2 cucumber
6 scallions
1 large iceberg or bibb lettuce, broken into leaves
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Chinese plum sauce
Trim any fat and membranes of the outside of the pork tenderloin.
Finely grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice into a shallow non-metallic dish.  Stir in the rest of the marinade ingredients.
Add the pork tenderloins and turn the over in the mixture until they are really well coated.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon.  Cut into thin strips about 3 inches long.  Halve the scallions and cut lengthwise into very thin shreds.  Arrange on a serving plate in separate piles along with the lettuce leaves and a small bowl of the plum sauce mixed with the Dijon mustard.
Barbecue the pork over medium hot heat for about15- 20 minutes turning now and then and basting with the leftover marinade.
Transfer the pork to a board, carve it into very thin slices, and lay it on the serving plate.  Instruct everyone to take a lettuce leaf and place a row of cucumber strips, shredded scallion and sliced pork down the center.  Then spoon a little of the plum sauce mixture over them and roll up the lettuce leaf into a parcel to eat!
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