Seafood Sunday Shrimp and Grits

August 12, 2018

For some reason Sunday has become seafood day here.  Maybe because I often have time to go to the good market and pick out something nice or something I can’t get in my regular grocery.  It’s just shrimp today, but feels special anyway.  Elegant comfort food.

There are as many ways to make shrimp and grits as there are people who make it.  Pro and con tomato.  Pro and con meat.  Pro and con cream.   Pro cheese grits, pro regular grits.  I tend toward pro meat, neutral tomato and con cream.  I love cheese grits, but not with shrimp.  I’m not a cheese and seafood person for the most part.

Tonight I had a recipe from The New York Times as inspiration – added some ham, removed some tomato paste, butter grits instead of cheese.  It’s not my favorite ever shrimp and grits, but the worst shrimp and grits I’ve ever made is still better than a lot of things I’ve made.  And on a very rainy Sunday with my basement taking on water, it was lovely to have.

A couple of comments before we get started.  One – make your grits first.  They’ll keep.  If you have both things going at once your grits will stick to the bottom or your shrimp will overcook or you’ll forget something.  Just get the grits done before you move on to the shrimp and sauce.  Second – do your prep work.  Get your shrimp peeled and deveined.  Get your chopping done. Put stuff in bowls so once you get started, you can just dump stuff in the pan.  It’s more dishes, but really worth it.

Step 1:  Make the grits

  • Follow the instructions on the package.  Use stock instead of water if you want.  Add cheese instead of butter at the end if you want.  I used half chicken stock and half water.

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  • NOTE:  Unless you’re sure you’re going to use all of the grits for this dish, don’t use your shrimp stock in the grits.  If you have leftover grits, and I always do, they’ll be a lot more versatile if they don’t taste like shrimp.

Step 2:  Make the shrimp mixture

Here’s what you need: (see, chopping already done)

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  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-3/4 C diced country ham
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes with a little of their juice (chopped canned tomatoes are preferable to less-than-perfect fresh tomatoes)
  • ½ teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound medium to large raw shrimp, shelled (reserve shells for stock)
  • ½ to 1 cup shrimp stock
  •  cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco

Here’s what you do:

  • For the shrimp, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion, pepper, garlic and ham until softened, about 3 minutes.

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  • Add the tomatoes and juice and Herbes de Provence; bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

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  • Sprinkle with flour and stir well.
  • Add the shrimp and stir constantly until they begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup stock and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.

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  • Add the cream, Worcestershire and Tabasco and more stock if needed to make a spoonable sauce that generously coats the shrimp.
  • Heat thoroughly, being careful not to let it come to a boil. Taste for salt.

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Goat Cheese and Fresh Tomato Pasta

August 9, 2018

International Vegetarian Week continues!  I had to take one of my precious pups to the vet for a biopsy today.  A little stressful.  Comfort food definitely on the menu tonight.  And something super easy with limited chopping and very few dishes, please.  I was worn out before I ever started tonight.

Pasta to the rescue.  At the farmers’ market last weekend I bought a lovely box of little heirloom tomatoes and some local goat cheese.  Dinner done, pretty much.  I did saute some minced garlic and sliced shallots because I had them.  A sweet or red onion would have done the trick as well.  I had some basil in my herb pot so I threw that in at the last minute.  One knife, one pot, one pan.  Beautiful.

The key to a goat cheese pasta is the pasta water.  You use some pasta water to melt the goat cheese and create the sauce.  The more starch the better in the pasta water.  So, boil your pasta in the smallest amount of water that you need to cover the pasta and make sure it has a little room to move around.  The less water, the more concentrated the starch will be.  That will help make the sauce feel like a sauce and not like watery goat cheese.  So, pour some of your pasta water in a cup before you pour it all down the drain!

Add the tomatoes at the end.  You want to toss them with the pasta long enough for them to get warm. If you add them too soon they’ll start to fall apart. The peels will separate and you’ll just have chunks of cooked tomatoes.  There are worse things, of course.  But these are such beautiful little tomatoes I want them to maintain their original form.

Did I meet the limited chopping criteria?  You be the judge.  I did quarter these tomatoes before I added them.

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Did I meet the comfort food criteria?  You bet.  Cheesy pasta always fits the bill when you need a little hug from your dinner.  And this is light enough with the fresh tomatoes that you get points for sophistication as well.  A pretty neat trick for comfort food!

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And it’s beautiful!  So that’s a bonus!

Quinoa Salad, some options

August 9, 2018

If you’re like me you’re frequently trying to figure out what’s for lunch.  Something at least kinda healthy, easy, cheap.  Grain and pasta salads are a good place to start.  Here’s my problem with these salads.  I start with some quinoa (or couscous or orzo or whatever).  It doesn’t look like too much.  I add a few vegetables.  Maybe some beans or chicken or shrimp.  Maybe some cheese.  Now it’s a vat.  My small amount of quinoa has become a behemoth dish that 8 people could eat for a week.  Likely you can’t freeze it.  Probably you’re going to be sick of it before it’s gone.  Definitely some of it is going in the trash.  Not good.  So what do you do?

You start with a base.  The things you would include in any variety of dishes:  onions, peppers, garlic.  Then you make up small amounts of salad with different things added.  So, start with 1/3 of your quinoa, onions, peppers and garlic and add black beans, corn, cumin and jalapenos.  Take another 1/3 and add chicken or chickpeas, feta, cucumbers, and lemon juice.  Take the last third and add sweet potatoes, green onions, crushed red pepper, and a peanut butter dressing.  Now instead of 6-8 portions of the same old thing, you’ve got 3 completely different dishes without having to start from scratch each time!

This approach was a revelation to me.  I don’t mean that you have to make all 3 dishes at the same time.  In fact, don’t.  Put the base together.  It will keep in the fridge.  Make the individual dishes as you need them.  One note, even if you think you’re going to use tomatoes in all varieties of your dish don’t add them to the base.  Tomatoes really suffer from refrigeration so add them fresh every time.

So, here’s my quinoa salad from lunch today.  It has green onions, bell pepper, paneer (left from yesterday’s palak paneer), cucumber and a dressing of lemon juice, white vinegar, olive oil and honey.  I didn’t make a ton of this, but I’ll probably still change up the protein as I eat my way through it – chickpeas, shrimp, chicken.

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You’ll notice that I broke my rule of not adding the tomato at the beginning.  I didn’t have much of a choice.  This lovely orange tomato was already sliced so I decided to finish it off rather than leave it to deteriorate.

It checks the boxes for sure:  healthy, easy and cheap.  Oh, and it’s good!

 

Palak Paneer

August 8, 2018

It’s turned out to be International Vegetarian Week in One Woman’s Kitchen!  And that’s not a bad thing.  I love it when I get to remind myself that there’s a whole world of yummy food out there.  And if it’s mostly plants, well, Michael Pollan would be proud.  I’m not giving up bacon any time soon, but this is the second of two fantastic dishes to come out of the kitchen this week! (See the Vegetarian Enchiladas for the first one.)

I’ve actually made a version of this before.  It’s a recipe from a Rasika cookbook.  Rasika is my favorite Indian restaurant in the US. If you’re ever in DC and you like Indian food, make it a destination!  Last time I made Malai Palak, so no paneer.  It’s not that hard, and nothing too unusual except for the fenugreek powder, which I leave out.  This time I wanted to add a protein and I choose paneer instead of chicken, which would work just as well if you’re not vegetarian.

If you’re not familiar with paneer, it’s a very firm cheese.  It tastes to me like cottage cheese might taste if it came in a block.  It doesn’t melt so it will hold its shape when you add it to boiling spinach.  It’s available in most large grocery stores, but if not, certainly in an Indian market.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that there’s no need to stem the spinach.  I’m pretty OCD about removing the stems even from baby spinach. I think they’re ugly to look at and unpleasant to deal with as you eat.  This spinach is going in the food processor so it doesn’t matter!

The key to making this successfully is mis en place.  Translation:  get your act together before you start.  Blanch all the spinach.  Do all your chopping.  Get out your spices so you don’t have to hunt for them when you need them.  Once you get started, things move fairly quickly.  The second tip is when it says “stir constantly,” do it.  It’s a defensive move as much as a cooking instruction.  Keeping the mixture moving prevents a lot of cursing.  Because it prevents being splattered by boiling hot spinach, which HURTS.  Warning issued.

First things first.  Blanch the spinach (a pound of it).  All that means is put it in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, until it wilts; and then pull it out of the pot and move it to a bowl of ice water.  That stops the cooking and keeps the bright green color.  Set it aside in a strainer and let it drain. Don’t worry too much about getting the water out.  You’re going to add water to it in a sec.  Add the spinach to a blender or food processor and some water, up to a cup.  Puree.

Beyond the spinach here’s what you need:

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  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 t cumin seed
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1 t minced thai chili or jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C  heavy cream (optional, but good)
  • 1 C paneer cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 t salt

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minutes

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  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach. (Watch the splatter!)

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  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.
    • You  know how two minutes talking to a friend is completely different than two minutes brushing your teeth?  This is a tooth brushing 5 minutes.  Watch the clock or set a timer.

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  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream, paneer, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Stir another 5 minutes. Same rules apply about the splatter.

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I served mine over rice so it felt like a full meal. Feel free to serve it as a side or with naan.  Frankly it’s also amazing over eggs.  This is a food I could eat 3 times a day.  The paneer adds a nice texture.  The bad news is that it won’t take me long to get through this batch.  The good news is that it’s not that hard to make more!

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Vegetarian Enchiladas ala Gourmet

August 6, 2018

It’s August in Central Virginia which means that there’s fresh local produce in spades.  I try to take advantage.  Over the weekend I went to my two favorite farmers’ markets and picked up some zucchini, squash, corn, sweet onions, hot peppers, and tomatoes amongst other things.  There’s also eggplant, mixed baby tomatoes and local goat cheese for another day.

My giant Gourmet cookbook is one of my favorite resources for meal planning.  I’ve had a bookmark on this recipe for vegetarian enchiladas for a while now.  Tonight I decided to tackle it.  It’s  more than a full page in the big book, so I figured it would be a commitment.  You make your own sauce and filling from scratch.  We’ll get to that in a sec.  Here’s what it looks like.

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Safe to say we’re out of the land of 20 minute meals for tonight.  I’m sure this was a lot faster for Ruth Reichl and staff, but it took me two hours.  I made the sauce and the filling and then took a beer break before I took on the tortillas and assembly.  The recipe does mention that you can make the sauce and filling and do the rest on another day.  Believe me, I thought about it.

Not only did it take me two hours to make this, it took me another 30 minutes to wash the dishes and mostly clean up the mess.  Anyone else play kitchen jenga with their dishes?

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Well, now that I’ve completely discouraged you from ever doing this, let’s take a look at the recipe.  I’ll give you some shortcuts as we go.

You make the sauce first.  It’s a green chili white sauce and it’s super good.  The good news is that you don’t have to do much chopping.  All the stuff you’d have to chop – onions, garlic, poblanos – goes in a blender or food processor.  Then you cook it down, add the cream and set it aside.  It take about 15 minutes to do.  I did roast and peel my own poblanos.  You don’t have to do that.  Get some in a jar if you want. Just make sure they aren’t pickled.  Or, if you want to take out the heat just use a can of diced green chiles instead.

I did substitute for the Mexican crema.  You have a few options.  You can use sour cream with a little extra water.  I didn’t have any.  I did have heavy cream.  If I’d had buttermilk I would have added that to the cream.  Well, when you don’t have buttermilk you squeeze lemon juice into milk and let it sour for a bit.  So, I squeezed some lime juice into the heavy cream and it worked just fine.

Here’s what you need (for my version):

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 C chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 1/4 C water
  • 1 C heavy cream with juice of 1/2 lime squeezed in

Here’s what you do:

  • Put the chiles, onion, garlic and water in a food processor and process until smooth
  • Heat oil in heavy skillet (cast iron if you have it) until it shimmers
  • Carefully pour in the chile mixture
    • Seriously, be careful.  You’re pouring water into hot oil.  SPLATTER!
  • Cook about 8 minutes, until much of the water cooks out
  • Add the cream
  • Remove from the heat and set aside

Sauce done.  Whew!  Congrats!

Ok, on to the filling.  I think you could use any number of vegetables in this.  I mostly used the ones in the recipe, but I added a can of black beans for protein.  I also added a package of Goya seasoning because I always use it when I cook black beans.  And, because it’s August and the tomatoes are amazing, I used fresh instead of canned.

There’s nothing difficult about making this filling, but there’s some real chopping involved.  That took me a while.  You could save yourself a lot of time buying frozen chopped vegetables.  I don’t think you’d sacrifice a ton in flavor.  And you’re cooking the vegetables until they’re tender so the texture should work out okay as well.

You can see that I missed the part in the instructions where you cook the onions and garlic first.  I had everything in one bowl and had to try to separate out the squash and corn.  Oh well.  I probably didn’t even need to bother.

For the filling, here’s what you need:

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package Goya seasoning
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small yellow squash, diced
  • kernels from 2 ears of corn
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan
  • Cook onion, garlic and seasoning until tender, about 5 minutes
  • Add zucchini, squash, and corn – cook another 7-8 minutes
  • Add black beans and tomatoes, with the juice
  • Cook over medium/high heat, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed – about 10 minutes
    • TIP:  if you’re adding salt, do that at the beginning of this step.  The salt will pull moisture out of the vegetables and you need to cook that out.
  • Pour the mixture in a bowl and set aside

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Filling done.  Getting closer!

BEER BREAK!

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Now you’re ready to put it all together.  Do all the tortillas first.  Your hands get super messy once you start filling and rolling enchiladas so you don’t want to be back and forth to the pan on the stove.

Set up a little station with your sauce in a shallow dish; your baking dish; and your filling.  When you roll them make sure you put the seam on the bottom so they stay rolled.  You could absolutely do this in layers instead.  It would be quicker for sure.  And I found that the cheese covered up the enchiladas so I couldn’t see where to cut them anyway.  It was a mess on the plate.

Here we go.  Here’s what you need:

  • 10-15 corn tortillas
  • 2-3 T vegetable oil
  • a baking sheet
  • paper towels for blotting

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until it shimmers
    • If you warm your sauce and then transfer it to a shallow dish, you can clean up that pan and use it for this
  • Place one tortilla in the pan, turn it once, remove it to the baking sheet
    • This should take 4-6 seconds
  • Repeat until all the tortillas are soft

Tortillas done.  One more step!

You’re in the home stretch now!  You’re going to sauce the tortillas; fill them; roll them; and cover them in cheese.

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat your oven to 450F degrees
  • Place a tortilla in the dish with the sauce and flip once
  • Move the tortilla to the baking dish
  • Put 1/4-1/3 C of filling in the middle of the tortilla
  • Fold one side of the tortilla over the filling
  • Roll the tortilla and filling over onto the remaining section of tortilla so the seam is on the bottom of the dish
  • Repeat until you run out of space in the dish
  • Pack them in tightly!
  • Cover with shredded cheese – I used pepper jack
  • Place the dish in the over and bake 15 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbly

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And that’s it!  Two hours later and you’re done.  Or take those shortcuts and cut that time in half!

I couldn’t see where to cut the enchiladas so it’s a wreck on the plate, but it’s awfully good.  As hard as I worked on this I’m really glad to have leftovers.  Honestly I probably wouldn’t do this for myself again, but I might do it if company was coming!

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Grouper with Pepper and Olive Relish

August 4, 2018

It’s Saturday!  That makes it farmers’ market day.  I actually went to 2 markets today – my idea of heaven.  I spent the afternoon pulling together, cleaning, and pricing things for a yard sale I’m having next Saturday. I know, just hit me in the head with a rock.  Junk scattered all over the living and dining rooms, done.  Time to do some meal planning around the things I bought at the markets this morning.

I bought a grouper filet this morning, so fish was definitely on the menu tonight.  I found a Bobby Flay recipe for Grouper Steamed in Parchment. It has an olive relish and a sour orange sauce.  Elegant.  Didn’t look too hard.  Here’s what happened.  It got to be 5:00 while I was wandering around Wegman’s and I realized how tired I was and how much my legs hurt. (3 miles with the half marathon training team this morning followed by dozens and trips up and down the attic stairs retrieving yard sale items).  No way was I going to waste this grouper so I needed a shortcut.

Welcome to the olive bar!  I spotted a bin of mixed olives, hot peppers, and garlic.  Sounds like relish to me!  I’m sure the Bobby Flay version is better, but all I had to do with this is put it in the mini chopper.

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The key to this is the parchment paper.  First, be sure you’re using parchment paper and not wax(ed) paper.  Second, when you wrap up the fish be sure it’s sealed on all sides.  You’re steaming the fish and that doesn’t work if the steam can escape.  Cook the fish packets at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove them from the oven and let them sit 1 more minute before serving.

 

I did try to make the sour orange sauce.  I reduced the orange juice for about 25 minutes.  It reduced, but it never really thickened.  I added the honey, lime juice and vinegar but most it just still tasted like hot orange juice.  And it was runny.  So that was a waste of time.  I’m guessing it matters that I used bottled OJ instead of freshly squeezed.  There was zero chance I was going to squeeze 2 cups of orange juice, or any other amount.

Still, not a thing in the world wrong with steamed grouper with spicy pepper and olive relish.  It’s another 20 minute meal!  I threw some sliced tomatoes and mozzarella on the side – tis the season – and voila!  Dinner.  Healthy.  Quick.  Yummy.  Can’t ask for more than that!

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Easy Weeknight Dinners: Pizza and Hash (not together)

August 3, 2018

Sometimes the hardest thing about cooking is coming up with something to make!  And while I’m all about keeping my favorite foods in steady rotation sometimes I just need a new idea.  All the better if it’s something I can do in 20 minutes or with odds and ends.

Let me start with the hash, because I know you’re going to read about the pizza!  I’m not talking about 1970s cafeteria corned beef hash here.  A hash is traditionally just cooked meat and potatoes, diced and cooked again.  Leftovers!  It doesn’t have to be meat and potatoes though.  This is one of my favorite things to do when I have half an onion, a pepper, one sweet potato,  or one ear of corn in the vegetable drawer.  Add some sausage if you like.  Sweet potato goes great with black beans if you want to add protein, but not meat.

Hash is also a terrific way to stretch meat, whether you’re trying to eat less of it or trying to save a little money.  The meat adds some protein and flavor, but it’s the vegetables, potatoes and beans that make up the bulk of the dish.  I made one chorizo link last 3 meals in this hash!

If you want a short cut for something that’s only going to take you 20 minutes, including chopping, buy a bag of your favorite frozen chopped vegetable combination; cook it in the microwave; crisp it up in a skillet.  Add a meat or some beans or put a fried egg on top.

So, here’s my hash of red bell pepper, onion, roasted sweet potato, and chorizo.  I put an over easy egg on top and the yolk makes a yummy sauce.

My frequent go-to is pizza.  There are lots of quick recipes for making your own crust, but none are as quick as opening a package of naan. I like naan for the crust better than pita, which I know a lot of people use.  Pita can be dry or spongy depending on the kind you buy.  Naan gets crispy on the bottom and it has the dough bubbles that you get in real pizza crust.  Perfect.

Clearly pizza is a great way to use up odds and ends of vegetables and meat as well.  You can use tomato sauce, garlic olive oil, barbecue sauce or pesto for the base.  And what ever you want for the top.  Eggplant pizza with tomato sauce is my favorite.  Sometimes with sausage, sometimes not.  Always with fresh mozzarella.

This is the kind of dinner where everyone can have what they want.  Get individual sized naans and set out the toppings like you would a taco bar.  No more ordering pizza with half this and half that and still having someone picking off the things they don’t like.

Just remember to set your oven to 500. It’s the high temperature that makes the crust crisp.  Sometimes I give the naan a head start by baking it 10 minutes at 500 before I top it.  Do I still order take out pizza sometimes?  Yep.  But every time I look at the total I wonder why I did.  I can have pizza like this at any time for less than $5.

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Foodie Sunday: Books, Beans, and Burgers

July 29, 2018

Having a puppy in the house with two other dogs is exhausting.  I’m still figuring out how to manage my life with this new addition.  What I really needed out of this weekend was 1) to feel a little caught up on the chores – food planning, cleaning, laundry; and 2) to have a little time to myself to relax and recover.  I did most of my chores yesterday so today was my day to entertain myself.

I’ve spent a good part of the afternoon reading Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year.  It’s the story of how food and cooking carried her through the demise of Gourmet magazine, which occurred when she was the editor in chief.  I love reading books by chefs and food writers.  I really love reading cookbooks that have stories in them.  This books takes us in chronological order through the year that followed the shut down of Gourmet.  There’s a story for every recipe and all the feelings that go into them.

Lots of people cook or bake their way through difficulty or sadness or loss or frustration.  Even more people eat their way through those emotions.  In that way, there’s something in here for everyone.  I will say that it’s a little bit difficult to connect sometimes.  I absolutely understand how devastating it must have been to feel like somehow the end of Gourmet was your fault.  When you steer the ship on any kind of enterprise you feel responsible for the business, but also then for the other people who are on the journey with you.  Feeling like you’ve failed them must be beyond awful.  Here’s where she lost me a little.  As difficult as this experience must have been for Reichl, for her to say that she wasn’t sure how they were going to pay the bills within pages of describing spending weekends at her country house felt super out of touch.  To bemoan the possibility that next year a rib roast, that undoubtedly cost more than some people earn in an entire day, might be out of reach feels self-indulgent in a way that makes empathy more difficult.

That said, the vignettes about the recipes are enjoyable to read.  The connection that Reichl draws among the shopping and the cooking and the food and her feelings does help me understand the recipes even better.  I look forward to trying some of them.

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On to the beans!  At the farmer’s market yesterday they had a sizable bag of green beans for $5.  So, I snapped beans last night and cooked them today.  You might expect that I cook my beans with bacon or ham hock.  I’m not opposed to that at all.  But my favorite way to cook green beans these days is salt, olive oil and garlic cloves.  The garlic just melts into the broth as they cook.

This is a big pot of beans for one person.  Did you know that you can freeze cooked green beans?  Here’s the key.  Make sure there’s enough broth to cover them in the containers.  If you have beans that peek over the broth they’re likely to get freezer burn.  If you have less broth than you need just add a little water to each container.  They’ll last a number of months.  I recommend that you reheat them on the stove and not in the microwave.  You just want them to get warm, not cook further.

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And more beans!  I also bought a pint of fresh butter beans.  I just love them.  They’re nothing like the ones you get out of a can covered in something kind of slimy.  They’re creamy and starchy and buttery and wonderful.  Cook them in simmering salted water for 30-40 minutes, depending on how soft you like them. They will develop some foam on the top as they cook.  You can be as diligent, or not, as you like about skimming the foam off with a spoon.  Drain them and stir some butter into the hot beans.   Heavenly.

That brings us to burgers.  I recently bought some Beyond Meat brand vegetarian burgers.  I’m not wowed by them, but I wasn’t going to throw one out either.  I followed the directions precisely, 3 minutes on each side.  I think it’s cooked exactly right to get the texture you want.  I just find the flavor slightly underwhelming.  This strikes me as “processed food” in a way that other veggie burgers don’t.  I’m not sure I’d buy these again for myself, but if there was one left over from having folks over, I’d eat it.

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You’ll see there’s more squash casserole tonight.  Summer squash is only around for so long so I make this a bunch.  I’m always looking for a way to make it taste more like squash, but still like comfort food.  The adjustment tonight was that the squash is cut in chunks instead of sliced.  Bigger pieces of squash is nice, but more water comes out of them in the baking so be sure you have enough rice and bread crumbs or stuffing mix to account for that.  Still, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with this.  Here’s the recipe in case you missed it!

So, a burger, beans, and a casserole – and all vegetarian!  Not a bad foodie Sunday!

 

So Special Seafood, Corn and Chorizo Risotto

July 28, 2018

We’re still getting settled in to the puppy routine here so relaxation isn’t really on the agenda.  Still, I needed to do something to reward myself for enduring the nights of wandering into the yard at all hours in my pjs whispering, “Go potty!  Go potty!”  And to remind myself that my life is still my own, not the property of the tiny terror.

(She really is amazingly cute and sweet and will charm the socks right off ya’).

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Risotto with this many ingredients, and very little preparation on my part, was perhaps a bit too ambitious, but here we go.  In a risotto the quality of the ingredients really matters.  I mean, we’re really talking about starchy rice, broth and whatever proteins and vegetables you decided to add.  Make those proteins and vegetables count.  You really taste them.

I planned to have a lobster, shrimp and chorizo risotto.  I opted to boil the seafood to help the broth along. Sadly I chopped it before I put it in the pot and I left it a touch too long.  Those pieces will be lobster and shrimp salad in a day or two.  So, a quick pivot to scallops and a few shrimp I left out of the pot.

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My best advice to you in making risotto is to do ALL, every single bit, of your prep before you start the risotto pot.  If you do, making risotto can be a lovely, meditative, enjoyable experience.  If you don’t, you’ll destroy your kitchen trying to throw things together and the panic will destroy all the zen of drinking some wine and stirring the risotto.  I fell somewhere in the middle tonight.

Here’s a view of my stove as I tried to do too many things at once.  Clean up is going to be a ginormous pain.

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How do you make risotto anyway?  Oil, diced onions or shallots, dry wine, arborio rice, hot broth.  And patience.  That’s it.  So, make your broth (or pour it out of a can or box) and keep it warm.  3-4 cups should be enough for 1 cup of arborio rice.

  • Heat the oil in a pot
    • I cooked my chorizo in the pot and used the rendering as the oil
  • Add the onions and cook them 3-5 minutes
  • Add the rice and stir 1 minute to coat the grains with the oil
  • Add 1/2 C wine and stir until almost absorbed
  • Add the broth 1/2 C at a time, stirring constantly
  • Stir until the liquid is almost fully absorbed before adding more liquid
  • Cook until the  rice is very al dente and then stir in the protein, vegetables and/or cheese

How do you make this risotto?

  • Cook the chorizo in the risotto pot.  Remove and set aside.

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  • Pat the scallops and shrimp dry.
  • Heat a heavy pan with a pat of butter until the butter browns
  • Add the scallops and sear 1-2 minutes on each side

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  • Remove from the pan and set aside
  • Add the shrimp and sear until opaque
  • Remove from the pan and set aside
  • Put an ear of corn, still in the shuck, in the microwave.
  • Microwave on high 1-2 minutes.
  • Shuck the corn and cut the kernels from the cob
  • Chop a tomato

Now what?

  • When the risotto is slightly harder than al dente add the tomatoes, corn and chorizo
  • When the risotto is done add the seafood and stir until it’s heated through

Lessons learned?

If something goes a little sideways at the beginning you can still recover and make something truly delightful.

Not all amazing food is pretty food.

Any day you get to stand by the stove and drink rosé as you stir your dinner is a good day.

Tuna Taco Tuesday!

July 24, 2018

One Woman’s Kitchen, and the rest of her house, is in chaos!  A 5 month old Dogue de Bordeaux pup has been added to the two adult Bordeaux who already live here.  There was a three day road trip to pick her up from the wonderful people at Dog Ranch Rescue in Anna, TX.  That means three days of eating meals in the car.  Gross.  Meanwhile, back in Virginia, there’s been nothing but rain for days.  That means endless mud in the yard and 3 slimy dogs.  Gross.  And it means house training said pup.  Gross.  I really need a decent meal.

Fortunately for me it’s Taco Tuesday and it’s National Tequila Day.  So, seared tuna tacos with tequila guacamole salad for the win!  These take about 20 minutes start to finish so completely do-able on a weeknight.

Here’s what you need to feed one person (plus a lime and a jalapeno, which I forgot until I got started):

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  • 1 small to medium tuna steak
  • chile powder
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 C diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 C diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 T tequila
  • corn tortillas

Here’s what you do:

  • Combine equal parts (maybe 1/4 t each) chile powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and salt in a small bowl
  • Rub spice mixture on both sides of the tuna steak
  • Combine avocado through tequila in a medium bowl, stir, add salt to taste

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  • Heat heavy pan until it smokes
  • Add the tuna steak.
  • Sear 2-3 minutes on each side
  • Heat tortillas in the broiler
  • Cut tuna into slices

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  • Top tortillas with tuna slices and avocado salad
  • ENJOY!

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You’ll note that I made a little salsa rice for the side.  This wasn’t necessary or good. I’m the world’s worst rice maker.  It turns out gummy or burned on the bottom every damn time.  Tonight was a burned on the bottom night.  Even with my new simmer burner, somehow I can’t get the heat right.  Ugh.  I can’t even blame this on the puppy.

What I can say is that the cooking around here is going to be of the 20 minute meal variety over the next many weeks while I get the canine pack pulled together.  And you may see a review or two of a meal kit delivery.  Wish me luck!