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Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

Seafood Risotto for the Daring Cooks’ Challenge!

In Breads / Grains, Daring Cooks, Seafood on March 15, 2010 at 10:13 am

Oh my. Can't you just smell it from here?

Okay, kids, this one’s fantastic. The Daring Cook’s challenge this month was risotto, and we were free to experiment with any delicious variation we could think of. The given recipe suggested lemon risotto, but I thought we could get a little more adventurous than that! For some reason, the taste of lemon in a savory dish always makes me think of seafood. I guess it’s from growing up in the mid-Atlantic area. Anyway, it really wasn’t a stretch for me to decide to do a beautiful seafood risotto!

It was fantastic. I mean, really. The risotto was creamy and velvety, and beat the heck out of the gluggy mess you usually get in restaurants. I got a seafood risotto at Carrabba’s one time, and it was like a soupy, hard rice with tomato sauce and a shrimp. Awful. Don’t try it. But do try this! The flavor of the risotto is delicate enough to let the flavor of the seafood shine through, and the lemon ties it all together nicely. And for a seafood-based dish, it was really rather inexpensive. Bonus! And the homemade chicken stock makes all the difference. Feel free to use a carcass instead of a whole chicken – I did.

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

Seafood Risotto

Chicken Stock

Ingredients:
1 large chicken 2-3 pounds about 1 kg
chicken bones 2-3 pounds 1 kg
2 onions, roughly diced
1 medium leek – white part only, roughly diced
2 sticks celery, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. white peppercorns ( Any type of whole peppercorn will do)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried, it doesn’t matter.)
peel of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. allspice

Directions:

  1. Wash the chicken and bones and places in a 5 Litre pot, cover completely with water and bring to a boil
  2. Skim away any scum as it comes to the surface
  3. Add the vegetables and bring back to a boil
  4. Add the rest remaining ingredients and simmer very gently, uncovered for 1.5 hours
  5. Carefully lift out the chicken, set aside. The chicken meat can be removed from the chicken, shredded off and used for other things like soup!
  6. Simmer the stock gently for another hour. At , at the end you should have around 2 Liters
  7. Carefully ladle the liquid into a fine sieve, the less the bones and vegetables are disturbed in this process the clearer the stock will be. 
The stock is now ready for use. Freeze what you don’t need for later use.

Risotto Base

Ingredients:
olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml

1 small onion, chopped fine

3 cloves garlic

Arborio rice 14 oz 400g

white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml

chicken stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L

2 Swai fillets

1/3 pound shrimp

4 clams

4 mussels

4 sea scallops

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

about 1 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavor the oil.
  2. Add the rice and garlic and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
  3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
  4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don’t actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
  5. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
  6. Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step.
  7. In a separate pan, sear scallops and set aside.
  8. Add water to pan to 1 inch, add 2 ounces wine, and juice from 1/2 lemon.
  9. Add fish, shrimp, clams, and mussels. Boil until shells open.
  10. Add scallops, boil until fish is done. Set aside and retain cooking liquid.
  11. Repeat step 5 again, this time adding the cooking liquid from the seafood as well.
  12. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, remove from heat, and stir in tomatoes and basil.
  13. Plate, top with seafood, and squirt with lemon. Done!

I realize the recipe looks a bit long and intimidating, but it’s really not – try it, okay? Just take your time, go step by step, and everything will come out wonderfully in the end. I promise.

Shrimp and Asparagus Salad

In Salads 'n' Stuff, Seafood on March 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Okay, this one really is healthy, I swear!

I found another great salad recipe! Aren’t I awesome? It’s almost spring – well, not really, but it’s not February anymore, so we’re getting closer. Don’t you want to have an arsenal of nice, fresh meals to break out once the weather breaks? I thought so. This would be one of them. It screams spring. I mean, it’s 80 degrees and pouring here right now, so the weather is also screaming spring, but this salad trumps even South Florida humidity in its springness.  Try it! You’ll see what I mean.

I found it on ShrimpRecipes.org – this website reminds be of Bubba from Forrest Gump, I swear. Steamed shrimp, boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp creole, shrimp kebabs…shrimp and asparagus salad! It’s light and refreshing, but still plenty filling. Although we had it for dinner, I can see it making a great weekday lunch, too – just keep the hot part, the salad part, and the dressing separate until you’re ready to eat it so it doesn’t get soggy. Actually, the hot part is supposed to be chilled before you mix it with the salad part, but I served it hot because I dislike cold dinners. But it’s convenient that way!

The recipe was great as written, but you know me – I had to make some changes. Find the original on the link, or use my adapted version. Whatever makes your mouth water.

Shrimp and Asparagus Salad

(adapted from ShrimpRecipes.org)

Ingredients:

Salad-

1 pound asparagus, chopped

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

6 leaves Romaine lettuce

3 cups mixed greens

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

3 scallions, chopped

2 ounces aged white cheddar cheese, grated

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Dressing-

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh parsley

3 tablespoons fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

dash cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all dressing ingredients in chopper or food processor. Process until herbs are chopped but still recognizable – do not puree. Set aside to let flavors mingle.

Rip Romaine into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add mixed greens and scallions. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper, and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the asparagus, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and tomatoes, and cook until the shrimp are pink and no longer translucent. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons of dressing.

Toss the lettuce mixture with remaining dressing. Top with shrimp mixture, cheese, and bacon crumbles.

Dig in and enjoy! Goes well with a nice, crusty bread, if you happen to have any. Just sayin’.

Mezze for the Daring Cooks Challenge!

In Breads / Grains, Daring Cooks, Salads 'n' Stuff, Seafood, Vegetables on February 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm
pita and hummus

HOMEMADE pita and humus!

This month’s Daring Cook’s Challenge was mezze! Never heard of it? Me either, until recently. Mezze refers more to a style of eating, not a particular food. It’s kind of like tapas, only with a more Mediterranean flavor – lots of small dishes that can  be combined in a variety of ways. You can go Greek, Turkish, Moroccan, Egyptian, or any combination you can think of. And since authenticity is not really that important for our purposes (you don’t get a prize for the most authentic dinner at home), there are really no rules!

Mezze is great for cocktail parties, pool parties, or any kind of casual gathering. See, most of these dishes can be made ahead, so instead of spending the whole party in the kitchen, you actually get to socialize with the guests. To make it even easier, you can structure your mezze to include only cold dishes – that way you can make it all ahead of time, and just pull it out of the fridge when the guests arrive! Because it involves everyone clustered around a beautifully laid table, picking from communal plates, it fosters a sense of closeness, and conversation tends to flow quite nicely from there. Of course, alcohol does that too.

My particular mezze table included:

-pita

-hummus

-sulu yemek

-grilled chicken and shrimp

-marinated cucumbers

-feta

-toasted walnuts

-tzatziki

Again, you can use whatever dishes you’d like (not like, french fries and cotton candy, but you get my point). In fact, it’s a great way to experiment and try foods you’ve never had before – if it turns out you don’t like it, someone will, and they will sing your praises for days. Look around, do some research, and come up will some cool stuff to try. Broaden your horizons. Try new things. Insert cliché here.

These are fun to bake - they puff!

Homemade pits beats the pants off the stale, dried-out store-bought versions!

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

Directions:
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

The hummus recipe is a good one, too. Although, I did make one small change – Mr. Gorilla does not like peanut butter or tahini (I know!), so I got all cheeky and used apple butter. It was actually very good! Suprising, yes! The apple cinnamon and garlic flavors actually work well together, and it didnt give me gas like hummus usually does. All this time I thought it was the chickpeas doing that, turns out to be the tahini. Go figure!

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

Directions:
1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste

This is the best veg dish ever!

I’ve already posted the recipe for my sulu yemek here. It’s such a delightful dish, and again, fully customizable. Use whatever you have lying around. I know you like that as much as I do. And it comes out so juicy and tender and fragrant! It will change the opinion of the toughest anti-vegetable person out there, I promise!

What? Yes, cucumbers!

The marinated cucumbers are so easy, and so very refreshing! Just peel, quarter, and slice a large cucumber, and marinate in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and black pepper for about an hour. To serve, just dump it all into a bowl – liquid and all! Kids tend to like this too.

The chicken and shrimp I just marinated in Mojo seasoning (see? no rules!) for a couple of hours and grilled until done.

To toast the walnuts, you just spread them on a baking sheet and toast at 425 for about 10 minutes or so. Keep and eye on them though, and stir them often! You don’t want them to burn. Then they taste awful, and dinner is ruined. All because you burnt the walnuts.

For the feta, just crumble it into a dish straight out of the package, no other prep needed. Sure, you could drizzle it with some honey and throw in some calamata (that’s very awkward to type. try it. calamata) olives, and sprinkle it with black pepper, but I did not do that, and this is MY food blog!

Now we’ve come to the tzatziki segment of the show. Everyone thinks their tzatziki recipe is superior to everyone else’s. The tzatziki controversy is second only to the great falafel debate, which is why I did not make falafel. I like to stay out of politics. I will give you the tzatziki recipe I used because I was quite satisfied with it, and that’s the best I can do.

Tzatziki

Combine 8 ounces Greek yogurt (drained overnight) with 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon dill, 1/2 cucumber (peeled, seeded, diced), 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a blender or food processor, and process until creamy. If your yogurt doesn’t seem very thick, you can knock the lemon juice down to 1/2 teaspoon, and don’t add the olive oil at all unless you need to thin it out at the end. DO NOT use Yoplait, or Dannon, or those kinds of bastardized yogurts for this. You want true Greek yogurt. Fage is nice, and pretty common in stores.

Fage is also very good with honey drizzled on it. But now my mouth is watering.

That’s all there is to it! I know, it seems like a lot of work, but there’s nothing that says you have to have this many dishes. Use what you have! Experiment! And make your table pretty and engaging. I used my belly dancing veil and coin belt as table dressing. But everyone was concentrating on the food…

My mezze table. Table for two. God, we are pigs.

Thanks for the challenge, Michelle! Everyone, stop by Veggie Num Nums to say hi to Michelle. YOU GO NOW!

Shrimp and Spinach Toss

In Pasta, Seafood on February 5, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Oooooohhhhhh.....cheeesy....

You know those days when you’re in the mood for something that feels decadent and naughty, but you really don’t feel like cooking? Me too. So you go out to a restaurant and order something expensive. So do I. But occasionally, these “me” days also coincide with “sitting in front of the tv  in sloppy sweats” days. Yeah. They won’t let you in to that restaurant looking like that. Nor should they.

It was one of those days that inspired this dish. I had some good shrimp, and some spinach I had to finish off, and I was feeling really lazy. In fact, I’m still feeling rather lazy, so this is going to be a short post. Fridays do this to me every time.

Shrimp and Spinach Toss

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups fresh spinach

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 pound fettucine

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt, pepper, basil to taste

Directions:

Couldn’t be simpler – Cook your fettucine according to package directions.

While this is going on, saute the shrimp in the olive oil and garlic over medium heat until no longer translucent.

Throw in the spinach (but not too hard – the leaves will fly everywhere), cover, and let simmer over medium-low heat until spinach is wilted.

Stir in ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and basil,  and remove from heat.

By now, your pasta should be done – drain it. Dump everything into the pasta pot, and toss to coat.

You’re done! Serve with a nice mixed greens salad if you want to be a little good. Otherwise, bring the pot to the couch with a fork, and chomp away!

Shrimp and Egg Stir-Fry

In Eggs, Seafood on January 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm

A lighter take on stir-fry. Very good, I promise!

I so love it when someone with intimate knowledge of a cuisine takes a signature dish and does something unexpected. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I love a good stir-fry (it’s that versatility thing again) – but I think we non-Asians tend to screw it all up with our too-sweet sauces and our over-abundance of meat in every dish. There is such a thing as a western palate, and we miss out on a lot of good cuisine if we keep tweaking recipes to make them more familiar.

All I’m saying is that any foodie worth his or her salt should be accustomed to stepping out of his or her comfort zone and trying new things. Taste foods you’ve never heard of. Experiment with dishes from your own culture and see what new and exciting things you can come up with. It doesn’t hurt, I swear! Well, sometimes it might. I’ve heard of people eating live scorpions. Ouch.

Boredom is death to passion of any kind. Food is my passion, therefore I take culinary risks (sometimes ill-advised). Occasionally I have to pay the price, but no matter how the dish turns out, I always learn something.

This brings me to today’s dish – Shrimp and Egg Stir-Fry. I found it while browsing food blogs, on Wandering Chopsticks. What a name, huh? I think it’s adorable, and so is this blog. The recipe itself is very quick and easy, without any unusual ingredients, so it’s a good backup to have for nights where you don’t feel like cooking.

The dish really does taste like comfort food! And I love comfort food, especially when it’s so healthy. The recipe is so perfect I didn’t change a thing, so instead of rewriting it here, I’ll just refer you to the above link. I do have a couple of comments though:

Look at these tomatoes! Not bad for January, huh?

First of all, when she says to cut the tomatoes into big chunks, she means BIG CHUNKS! As in, quarter them lengthwise. With all the simmering, I don’t think a dice would hold up in this dish. And you definitely want big chunks of tomato in the finished product, because they simmer so beautifully and turn all sweet and perfect. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you? And use Roma tomatoes if you can – regular ones have too much liquid, and I think it would flood out the dish.

Secondly, she says that you can add a dash of salt and sugar if you want to. Definitely add the salt, because it brings out the awesomeness of the tomatoes. The sugar I think you could skip because between the tomato, shrimp, and egg, there’s plenty of natural sweetness already there. Might as well save calories where you can, right?

Lastly, it really does save time if you scramble the eggs while the tomatoes are simmering. You’ll have plenty of time, I promise. Yes, I know, it means you’ll have to wash two pans, but that’s what dishwashers are for, right? And lacking a dishwasher, that’s what kids are for right? If you don’t have a dishwasher or kids, I’m sure the dog would be happy to assist in the matter. What? No dog? Oh, just wash the stupid pans!

And Now For Something Completely Different…

This is my puppy, and my ugly kitchen floor.

I’d like to introduce you all to my kitchen assistant, Penny. I can’t believe I’ve been so remiss as to not have done so before! Any time I’m in the kitchen, she dutifully takes up her post between my feet. She is responsible for keeping the floor free of food, and catching anything that might drop. She is also instrumental in the pre-cleaning of dishes before they go into the dishwasher.

All things considered, she’s an invaluable assistant.

Alrighty, kids! I’ll be back tomorrow with a great chicken recipe! Until then, keep eating!

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