Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Last-Minute Sort-of Spanish Shrimp

That's quite a name, huh?  I saw it while scrolling my New York Times Cooking app.  I probably would have kept on scrolling because, let's be honest, that name doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the recipe.  But I love Spanish flavors, I had some cherry tomatoes to use up, and nearly anything Mark Bittman does is fantastic.  So I tapped the picture to see more.

There were no tomatoes listed in the ingredients.

I was thoroughly confused.  Just as I was about to chalk it up to an error with the app, thinking surely the wrong picture made it to the recipe posted, I noticed the picture was actually a video.  I clicked on it and, wouldn't you know it, there was Mark Bittman, surrounded by a whole mess of ingredients, talking.

As it turns out, this "recipe" is more of a basic guideline, which is why the tomatoes weren't listed.  If you're not a terribly confident cook or you need a recipe for everything you make, I think you'll get a lot of information from this video about how having basic pantry staples on hand can make easy dinners possible and how certain ingredients work together.  As a more experienced home cook, I really enjoyed hearing his thought process on putting ingredients together to develop flavors.  If you do watch the video and read Bittman's recipe, you'll notice I didn't exactly follow either--I did what he said and used what I had on hand!

No matter your experience level, I can assure you you'll want this dish in your weeknight repertoire.  It truly took 20 minutes, including cleaning the shrimp and chopping the ingredients.  If you prefer to cook your shrimp with the shell on, it'll be even quicker.  Served with a glass of wine (or two) and some toasted bread, such as the fantastic olive bread I get at my grocery store, to sop up the deep red, flavor-packed oil, this is sure to become a new staple.    


In a rush and not sure what to make for dinner?  With just a few pantry staples and about a pound of shrimp, you can make a dinner that home that'll be tastier and quicker than your usual takeout.  

Last-Minute Sort-of Spanish Shrimp
based on a recipe from Mark Bittman, New York Times

Ingredients:
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for drizzling, if desired
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and black pepper, to taste
3/4 c. halved cherry tomatoes
chopped parsley and lemon wedges, if desired

Direction:
1.  Over low heat, warm the oil in a sauté pan large enough to cook the shrimp in one layer.  Add in garlic and chili flakes and adjust the heat so it barely sizzles.  Cook until garlic becomes fragrant and blonde, but do not let it brown.  Add the paprika and cumin and cook, stirring a couple of times, until ingredients are incorporated and oil is a deep red color, 2-3 minutes.

2.  Salt and pepper the shrimp and tomatoes, then add to the pan in one layer.  Raise the heat to medium-low and cook, turning once, until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the size of the shrimp.

3.  To serve, spoon shrimp into three or four shallow bowls, distributing oil evenly.  If desired, drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.  Serve with lemon wedges and/or toasted bread.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Monday, July 11, 2016

Meatless Monday--Linguine with Sweet Pepper Sauce

Here's the good and bad of this recipe.  The good is really two-fold.  First of all, carbs.  Love.  Clearly.  Second of all, it's a quick and easy, light, summery recipe that make for great lunch leftovers.

The bad.  I went to Italy shortly after making this, so it all of a sudden paled in comparison to what I had in the trattoria with the adorable Italian nonnas making fresh pasta at a table next to the window.  But we can't all have that everyday now, can we?  Unless we're Italian.  Which I'm not.

Even still, I recommend adding this to your summer weeknight dinner list.  Better yet, make it for a weekend lunch like I did.  Since it comes together in a breeze (you can even make the red pepper sauce in advance), you'll have more time to enjoy the sunshine, swimming pool, and all the other things we'll miss when the season passes.


Sweet summer bell peppers, creamy cheese, and fresh basil combine for a light and healthy vegetarian pasta that's out of this world.

Linguine with Sweet Pepper Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2014

Ingredients:
8 oz. uncooked linguine
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more for finishing
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more as desired
4 oz. semi-soft cheese, such as Burrata or mozzarella, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, julienned

Directions:
1.  If you have a gas stove, turn burners on medium and place peppers directly on to grates.  Turn as needed, until flesh is black and bubbling.  Put peppers in a large brown paper bag and close.  Let sit ten minutes, then peel all charred skin from the peppers, remove flesh, and cut into strips.  Discard seeds and stem.  Alternately, preheat boiler to high.  Halve and seed the peppers and place, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Flatten with hand and place under the broiler.  Broil eight minutes or until blackened.  Wrap peppers in foil and let stand ten minutes.  Peel black skin from flesh and cut into strips.

2.  Cook pasta according to package directions.    

3.  Meanwhile, place half of each color bell pepper strips in a food processor along with 1 TBSP oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and all the pepper.  Purée until nearly smooth.  Set aside.

4.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Add three TBSP oil to pan and swirl to coat.  Add garlic and cook two minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant and soft.  Add 1/4 c. pasta cooking liquid, puréed bell pepper, and the remaining salt.  Stir to combine.  Toss in pasta.  Taste and adjust seasonings, keeping in mind the cheese will add some saltiness.

5.  Divide pasta among four bowls.  Top each bowl with equal amounts of the bell pepper strips, cheese, and basil.  Serve immediately.

Yields: 4 servings 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Momma's Rhubarb Pie

When I count the many blessings in my life, my mom is right up at the top.  I could never, ever find a way to thank her for everything she has done for me.  Words and gestures simply could never be enough and I can't afford the farm in the Swiss Alps I think she'd really love.


We spent this past weekend in Las Vegas.  You see, among the many, many lessons my mom taught me was how to have just the right amount of fun.  This was no easy task.  I was a serious kid with a tough streak of perfectionism.  I was a know-it-all who had a tough time understanding and exhibiting patience.  But, as I learned during one of our many talks over the weekend, my mom recognized this early on and actually took it upon herself to seek out information on how to be encourage my love of learning, nurture my self-esteem, and surround me with opportunities to explore, even if my impressionable young disposition wasn't always the rosiest.  Many, many years later, I've learned to lighten up, trust in others, and find happiness in leading other children much like me.

So how did my amazing mom do all of that?  The short answer is I have no idea.  But what I do know is many of our best talks and fondest memories happened in the kitchen.  I've always loved to cook with my mom.  In fact, some of my first memories are making Christmas cookies for the church Christmas pageant with some classic Barbara Mandrell "Christmas at Our House" playing in the background.  My job was always to roll the cookies in powdered sugar.

Over the last several months, I haven't cooked nearly as much as I used to.  It wasn't intentional.  Between my new job, which has very different hours than I've had in my past ten years as a teacher, lots of travel, and a new and wonderful relationship, my routine has changed quite a bit.  But now that I've got my head above water with my job, I've come to realize that cooking isn't just a way to put food on the table.  To me, it's so much more.  It's one of my favorite ways to relax and it's an integral part of who I am.  I feel more settled, more grounded, and more complete when I'm in the kitchen.  I guess I have my mom to thank for that, too.



Sweet, tart rhubarb is the star of this seasonal and nostalgic family favorite.  With my tried and true ultra-buttery, ultra-flaky perfect pie crust and a scoop of farm-style vanilla ice cream, it's sure to become a favorite with your family, too.

Mom's Rhubarb Pie
family recipe, courtesy of my sweet momma

Ingredients:
4 c. rhubarb, cut into 3/4 in. slices
1 2/3 c. sugar (vanilla sugar, if possible)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1 recipe perfect pie crust
2 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
1 TBSP Turbinado or demerara sugar (optional)

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400° F.  If you have a pizza stone, place it on the middle rack.  (This is my mom's trick to get a nice, crisp bottom crust on a pie.)

2.  Trim the leaves and the ends of both ends of each stalk of rhubarb.  Cut into 3/4 in. pieces and pt into a medium bowl.  Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl.  Pour over rhubarb and toss to combine.  Let sit 15 minutes to bring out the rhubarb's juices.   

3.  Meanwhile, roll out both crusts.  Roll the bottom crust halfway on the rolling pin and place into the bottom of a deep pie dish.

4.  Pour the rhubarb into the bottom crust and dot with butter pieces.  Roll the top crust on the rolling pin and place on top of the pie.  Trim the excess crust, then crimp the edges to seal.  Alternately, use the excess crust to cut shapes with mini cutters or make braids to decorate the edges of the pie.  Brsh the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.  Make slits in the top crust. 

5.  Place the pie dish on a baking sheet, then place the baking sheet directly on the pizza stone.  Bake for 50 minutes, rotating halfway through and covering edges with foil if browning too quickly.

6.  Let stand at least one hour before serving.  Cut into eight slices and serve warm or at room temperature.  Best with a generous scoop of Oklahoma farm-style vanilla ice cream

Yield: 8 servings

      

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones

As soon as the cooler mornings of fall come around, I want nothing more than to get in my kitchen and bake something comforting to enjoy with a cup of coffee and a blanket.  Pumpkin bread usually gets the ceremonial first turn, but after that I'm up for all the new recipes I can find!

Scones are a perennial fall favorite for several reasons.  They're easy to whip up and can be adjusted to fit whatever flavor combination, season, or mood you might be in.  They can be sweet or savory, sturdy and slightly crumbly, or tender and soft, much like a biscuit.  But my favorite thing about making scones is making the dough, cutting it into triangles, and freezing it before baking.  Just wrap each unbaked scone individually and add about five minutes to the baking time.  It's the perfect way to have a warm, freshly-baked fall treat, even on a work morning!

These scones will absolutely go into the regular fall rotation.  In an effort to keep my breakfasts a bit healthier, I made a few adjustments like replacing some of the white flour with whole wheat and eliminating the cinnamon chips to reduce the sugar content.  I actually prefer the hearty nature of whole wheat flour with apples and, to be honest, I still found the scones to be plenty sweet, especially since I made them with Honeycrisp apples.  

Just like every recipe I've ever tried from King Arthur Flour, the comments were spot on.  My whole house smelled like the most perfect fall day while they were baking.  (Just writing this makes me want to go pull one out of the freezer and put it in the oven right now!)  The scones were soft and tender, even with the whole wheat flour.  With a small pat of butter, a hot cup of coffee, and a blanket, they were everything I love about fall.



With crisp, fresh apples and plenty of cinnamon, these soft and tender scones are the perfect way to begin any fall day--even a weekday!

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones
adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the scones:
1 1/4 c. whole-wheat flour (King Arthur preferred)
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur preferred)
1/3 c. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
8 TBSP (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
3/4 c. chopped fresh apple, cut into 1/2-in. pieces, either peeled or unpeeled
2 eggs
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

For the topping:
3 TBSP coarse raw sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 TBSP milk, for brushing

Directions:
1.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Using your hands, a biscuit cutter, or two knives, work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.  The crumbs may not be completely even; some larger chunks of butter may remain unincorporated.  Stir in the apples.

2.  In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and applesauce.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until everything is moistened and holds together.  The dough may appear dry at first, but it will come together.

3.  If freezing, form the dough into a circle about 1-in. thick.  Cut into eight equal wedges, brush the tops of each scone with milk, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping, wrap each scone individually in plastic wrap, and freeze.  

4.  If baking that day, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sprinkle a bit of flour on the parchment.  Scrape the dough onto the pan and form into a circle about 1 in. thick.   Run a bench scraper or knife under cold water and cut the dough into eight equal wedges.  Carefully pull the wedges apart to separate the scones, leaving about 1/2 in. space between them.   Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered.

5.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425° F and make the topping by stirring together the raw sugar and cinnamon.

6.  Brush the tops of the scones with milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping.  Bake the scones 20-25 minutes.  If baking from frozen, add about five minutes to the time.  The scones are done when they are golden brown and the edges no longer look wet or unbaked when pulled apart.

7.  Remove the scones from the oven and cool briefly on the pan.  Serve warm.  Any leftovers may be cooled completely, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature up to three days. 

Yield: 8 scones

Friday, October 16, 2015

Braised Eggs with Beef, Smoked Eggplant, and Tomato

So I have a culinary bucket list.  It's about a mile long and changes/grows constantly.  

I know, #firstworldproblems.

No matter how many iterations of the list I might have, one thing never changes--the fact that Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi's Ottolenghi and Rick Bayless' Topolobampo are tops on my list.  I've given up on deciding which one gets top billing because I just can't decide.  There's so much to love about all three chefs from the way they stay true to themselves, their commitment to authentic and interesting ingredients, their work ethic, and their social consciousness, among so many other qualities.  

But experiencing these chefs' talents at their flagship restaurants would require trips to London and Chicago, respectively.  With no such trips currently planned, I had to take matters into my own hands and cook for myself sing one of Tamimi and Ottolenghi's recipes.  As usual, I was not disappointed.

I'm a huge fan of eggplant and with its season coming to an end, I knew it was time to make one of their many eggplant (Or aubergine, as they would say--don't you love that?!?) dishes.  While browsing recipes, I came across this one and I knew my search had ended.  I love their Shakshuka recipe and this seemed to be, in a roundabout way, a kind of ramped up version.  Plus, it gave me the chance to roast an eggplant on my gas stove.  As someone who grew up primarily with electric appliances, this is very, very exciting.  You guys, I get to put food directly on the fire.  Right. on. it.  It's pretty great. 

My goodness was this delicious.  The eggplant was silky and rich and gave the whole dish the fire-roasted flavor I love.  The spices were warm and pungent and very, very present.  With a perfectly-braised egg complete with a runny yolk and lemony, nutty tahini, this dish was a complete and total knockout.  If I can create something so outstanding from their recipe, I can't wait until the day I get to experience this kind of food straight from the Ottolenghi kitchen.



Rich, smoky eggplant combines with tomato, garlic, onion, beef, and spices to create a silky base for perfectly cooked eggs, complete with runny yolks.  With garnishes of nutty tahini, bright sumac and parsley, and a luxurious drizzle of olive oil, this dish was everything I was hoping for.

Braised Eggs with Beef, Smoked Eggplant, and Tomato
from Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi via their website
(some ingredient amounts converted from metric measurements)

Ingredients:
4 small eggplants (about 2.5 lbs. total)
3 TBSP tahini
2 TBSP lemon juice
7 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 TBSP water
1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. chile flakes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 to 3/4 lb. ground beef (depending on preference)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. finely chopped preserved lemon (If you can't find preserved lemon, you may use a fresh, minced lemon slice, rind and all.)
4 eggs
3/4 tsp. sumac
1 TBSP chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife in a few places and place directly over an open stovetop flame.  Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, turning a few times with metal tongs until the outside is completely burnt and the eggplant begins to collapse on itself.  Alternately, set your oven's broiler on high and place the pierced eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil for approximately an hour, turning every 20 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the heat, cut a single slit from top to bottom, and place in a colander to allow the juices to drain.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop the soft, roasted flesh from the eggplant, taking care to stay clear of the skin.  Set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce by mixing together the tahini, lemon juice, water, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  If the sauce is too stiff, add more water until it reaches a thick, rich consistency.

3.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, chile flakes, cinnamon, cumin, and tomato paste.  Sauté until onions soften a bit and gain some color, about 6 minutes.  Add the beef, 1 tsp salt, and black pepper, to taste, and brown well, 5-6 minutes.

4.  Mix in the tomatoes, preserved lemon, and roasted eggplant flesh cook for 5 minutes.  Add up to 1/4 c. water if the sauce is too thick (I added about 2 TBSP).  

5.  Reduce the heat to low and make four small wells in the mix and break an egg into each.  Cook the eggs until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes.  (You may qicken the process by covering the pan, but the yolks will look cloudy.)

6.  Remove from the heat, dot with dollops of tahini sauce, sprinkle with sumac, and finish with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings