Monthly Archives: February 2009

Shrimp Etouffee

food-9451This past weekend, I was digging through my Emeril Lagasse cookbooks and found a perfect weeknight recipe to celebrate Fat Tuesday. I shopped and bought the ingredients so I could prepare it, and was excited. And then I was sick Monday and Tuesday, making a Fat Tuesday etouffee celebration out of the question. So here we are, post-Mardi Gras, with a Creole dish. Good thing I could eat this stuff all the time! As always, Emeril’s recipes deliver. Flavorful, with a bit of heat. I made it as written, only halved the recipe, and minced the onion, bell pepper, and celery, as I like to taste the blend of those vegetables a bit more, rather than tasting each individual veggie, as you would if they were chopped. They meld together so well for a beautiful sauce. I also made steamed brown rice for a bit of fiber. Yummy!

¾ stick of butter (6 T)

2 c onion, minced

1 c bell pepper, minced

1 c celery, minced

1 t minced garlic

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 t salt

¼ t cayenne

1 T flour

1 c water

3 T chopped parsley

¼ c chopped green onion

 

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add the shrimp, salt, and cayenne and cook for 4 minutes, or until shrimp turn pink.

 

Dissolve flour into the water and add to the shrimp mixture. Stir until the mixture thickens slightly. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and green onion. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Serve over steamed rice.

Guacamole

food-9341I love avocados. I could eat them every day. Just sprinkle a little bit of salt on it and I’m in heaven. They taste indulgent, almost. Creamy and delicious, but they’re good for you! So what if they have fat, it’s good fat. I like to experiment with avocados and imagine up all sorts of wonderful, fresh dishes. Guacamole, for me, is not as creative…but it’s a good ol’ standby, great to accompany a weeknight “taco night.” (Or, I could always just add tortilla chips and eat this for dinner!) Although lately I have been focusing a lot on local produce, I make a small exception for avocados…chances are that even though I do live in Texas, I’m not going to find an avocado farm around here anytime soon. (now I know there’s the whole thing where you can grow an avocado plant from the pit, but that would take years, and it’d have to be a houseplant…little chance I’m going to get fruit from it. And my luck with houseplants is pretty dismal.) So, avocados from Mexico, when I live in Texas, aren’t too far…(okay I’m rationalizing a bit here…)

So, how do you choose an avocado? Well, it depends on when you want to eat it. If you are looking to eat the avocado the day you purchase it, find one that slightly gives when you press it. Too much give, and it’s overripe. Too hard, and it’ll take a few days to ripen before you can use it. If you can only find hard ones (this was the case when I was at Sprouts this past weekend), then set them on your counter for a few days to ripen.

I usually make this guacamole with red onions. Just didn’t have any for the batch I made up today, so I substituted some sweet yellow onions.

3 Haas avocados

Juice of one lime

2 T cilantro

1 T red onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Salt to taste

 

Slice each avocado in half. Remove the pit (you can do this easily by digging the blade of your knife in the pit slightly and turning to release it from the fruit). With a spoon, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Save one of the pits.

 

Using a fork, mash the avocado against the bottom and sides of the bowl. This does not have to be a perfect process, some chunks here and there add a pleasing texture to the guacamole. Add the lime juice, cilantro, onion, garlic, and jalapeno and mix with the avocado until incorporated. Add a pinch or two of salt, and mix. Taste and add salt as necessary. If you are not serving right away, place the reserved pit in the guacamole to help keep it from browning. It is best when served within an hour or two.

Ponzu Grilled Chicken with Stir-Fried Vegetables

food-9201I feel as though I’ve been in a slump lately. A cooking “mental block”, if you will. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have. It’s just that it seemed as though a lot of what I was cooking was either uninspired, boring, or otherwise just not all that wonderful. It wasn’t from lack of trying…it was just…a slump. So I was quite glad when I made this dish tonight, as I felt it was a joyous release from the previously mediocre dishes coming from the kitchen! (Okay maybe I’m dramatizing this a bit, and maybe it was just that I was craving some good ol’ Asian flavors!) But whatever the reason, this dish will definitely be one that will make the weeknight menus in the future. It was relatively fast, uncomplicated, healthy, and tasty. All good reasons to make it again in my book!

Ponzu shoyu is a Japanese citrus-based sauce. It’s basically as if you took soy sauce and married it with a few lemons. It’s nice and tangy, sweet, and salty all at the same time. It’s easy to find, just visit the Asian section of your grocery store. It makes a good substitute for soy sauce when you want some of those added tangy flavors to your dish.

Sambal oelek, or garlic chili paste, is one of my favorite condiments. We have a huge jar (Huy Fong brand) in our refrigerator. Back in the day, you would have to go to a specialty Asian grocery store to find this stuff. Now, I’m pretty sure you can find it in just about any grocery store. It’s great stuff. Spicy and full of flavor, I can’t help but use it in lots of marinades and to kick my stir-fry up a notch after it’s been served on my plate.

Anyway, on to the recipe. I served this with brown rice to round out the meal. You can use any steamed rice or even noodles. And as for the vegetables, feel free to substitute or add any additional vegetables you might like in your stir fry. Peas, mushrooms, onions, or even some red pepper would all taste great. Also, I think next time I marinate the chicken, I might add a bit of sweetness to the marinade, maybe a teaspoon of agave nectar or a bit of brown sugar. We’ll just have to see how that turns out!

For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/3 c bottled ponzu sauce

½ c peanut oil

1 T sambal oelek

 

For the sauce:

2 T ponzu sauce

2 ½ T rice wine vinegar

1 T agave nectar or honey

1 t fish sauce

2 t cornstarch

 

2 carrots, peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick

1 large head of broccoli or two small heads, cut into florets

 

1 T peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t minced ginger

1 small thai pepper, seeded and minced

2 T mirin or sake

1 t sesame oil

 

Accompaniment: Steamed brown rice

 

Put the chicken, ponzu sauce, peanut oil, and sambal oelek in a Ziploc bag and allow to marinate 4 hours or overnight.

 

Place the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate. Set aside.

 

Blanch the vegetables: Prepare a large bowl with ice water. Set aside. Fill a saucepan large enough to hold the carrots and broccoli with water. Bring water to a boil and add carrots, then broccoli. Allow to boil for 2 minutes, and immediately drain vegetables and place them in the ice water bath. This will allow the vegetables to stop cooking. Once the vegetables are cooled, drain them from the ice water.

 

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and discard marinade. Grill chicken breasts, about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through.

 

Heat a wok or deep skillet to medium-high heat. Add peanut oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger, and thai pepper, and stir-fry for a minute. Add mirin and stir for about 30 seconds. Add vegetables and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add sauce and stir. Cook until sauce thickens and vegetables are tender (but not mushy!), another 3-4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil.

 

Serve chicken breasts, sliced, on top of steamed brown rice and vegetables.

Farm Fresh Eggs and How to Hard-Boil an Egg

food-9091

I recently discovered a nearby farm by searching www.localharvest.org called Jacob’s Reward Farm. Visit Cindy’s blog here: http://www.jacobsreward.blogspot.com/. They are located in Parker, Texas. This farm sells fiber for handspinners and knitters, and even offers spinning classes. But more interesting to me is that they also have pasture-raised chickens that can provide fresh eggs. I thought to myself…fresh eggs? And they’re just down the street from me? What an amazing deal! So I contacted the farm, and am now driving by on my way home from work every so often to pick up some delightful, fresh eggs for our family. I encourage you to look at www.localharvest.org or visit your nearby farmer’s markets to learn what local, fresh goodies are available for you and your family. I’m telling you, it’s worth the effort! Fresh, local ingredients far surpass anything you will find at the grocery stores. That and you will be supporting local farmers and encouraging sustainability…investing in our future!

I realize this isn’t really a big fancy “recipe” post, but it’s taken a while for me to correctly hard-boil an egg, so I thought I would share my “method.” One of the things I hate about incorrectly hard-boiled eggs is the yucky-looking greenish yolk. Not pretty. I would rather have a creamy, yellow yolk, wouldn’t you? And as for the whites, I really don’t wish for them to be rubbery. This method prevents those two things.

First of all, you won’t actually be “boiling” the egg. Boiling would imply that your egg is rattling around in a pan of rolling, boiling water…sounds like an opportunity for the egg to crack open. What a bummer that would be! Also, when boiling at that high of a temperature, the white of the egg cooks too quickly and it becomes rubbery. Instead, you’ll be gently “boiling” the eggs, and preventing these things.

First, you will want to find a pot large enough to accomodate all of the eggs you would like to boil in a single layer. I usually boil a dozen at a time, so my stockpot or dutch oven works for me. If you’re boiling less than a dozen, then of course a smaller saucepan will do just fine.

Fill your pot with enough water so that once you place your eggs in, the water will cover them by an inch or so. (don’t put the eggs in yet, just guesstimate this water amount) Place the water on the stovetop and bring to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, reduce back down to a much gentler boil. You should still see lots of bubbles coming to the surface, but they should be much smaller. Then add your eggs, a few at a time, gently into the water. I use a skimmer or a slotted spoon for this, it makes it easier to lay the egg down to the bottom of the pot.

Let your eggs “boil” for 14 1/2 minutes for large eggs. If your eggs are medium-size, then 13 minutes should do. Extra large? 15 minutes or so.

While you are waiting for your eggs to cook, prepare a bowl of ice water. Use a bowl large enough that it would hold all of the eggs…I use a mixing bowl.

Once your eggs have cooked for this time frame, remove them from the pot with your skimmer or slotted spoon and place them in the ice water. This will stop the cooking process much more rapidly (and prevent over-cooking, which leads to the greenish yolk issue). Let the eggs sit in the water for several minutes. To determine if they have sufficiently cooled, take an egg out and place it in your hand. If you can still feel the warmth from the egg, it needs to sit in the ice water longer.

Once the eggs have cooled, you can peel them immediately for use, or you can keep them in the fridge for a week or so. (Be sure to mark them accordingly if you are keeping them in the fridge, you don’t want to mix them up with fresh eggs!)

That’s it! Enjoy in a salad (I love hard-boiled eggs with fresh spinach), or as an on-the-go breakfast or snack.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Beets, and Beet Greens

food-891The other day, I discovered a wonderful new website. www.eatgreendfw.com If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you should visit this site! It’s almost like visiting the farmer’s market from the comfort of your home…you can order local, sustainable produce, meat, dairy, and other items from area producers. (Don’t live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area? There is a great website for anyone in the U.S. http://www.localharvest.org/ I actually found a little farm not far from our house that sells fresh eggs from this site!) I was excited about the idea of this site, so I ordered some winter vegetables from Garden Harvests, a local farm near Waxahachie. Within 2 days, I received a box that contained some of the freshest, most beautiful winter vegetables – swiss chard, collard greens, beets (with their greens), and a bunch of cilantro. I was literally so excited that I jumped up and down. (yes…I realize that makes me a bit weird…jumping up and down over a bunch of vegetables. I am comfortable with my eccentricities.) What to do with all of these vegetables?

Well, as for the chard, I simply chopped and sauteed it with a bit of olive oil, crushed red pepper, and garlic. Check out Simply Recipes, Elise happened to have a recipe that worked wonders for this vegetable. It was slightly sweet, and just what I wanted. http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/000965swiss_chard.php

But that’s not what this post is about. I’m getting to that.

I also have had a bit of a butternut squash “thing” lately. It’s one of the most wonderful winter squashes. Sweet and creamy, and you can put it with anything. Since I happened to have one in the kitchen, I figured, why not use it? As for those beets, they were gorgeous. See? GORGEOUS.

Gorgeous Red Beets

Unlike most of the beets I’ve purchased in the past, the greens were still quite pretty. I didn’t want to waste them. So I began to think…why not use these ingredients together, for one super-whiz-bang vegetable side? And suddenly, this dish was born!

Of course, you can serve any one of these three vegetables on their own. Or combine two out of the three. But the three together complimented one another quite well.

I’ve listed each recipe out separately.

Roasted Butternut Squash

 

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into ½ inch cube

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 sprig thyme, leaves picked

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an 8X8 baking dish, toss diced squash with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Roast in oven on center rack for 30-40 minutes or until squash is soft and lightly browned.

 

Sauteed Beets

 

Olive oil

5-6 small beets, peeled and diced into 1 inch cube

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

 

Heat a shallow, wide skillet to medium heat. Add olive oil, swirl to coat. Add beets, and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Turn meat to medium-low and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes. Once beets are browned and soft, add garlic, and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Beet Greens

 

1 T oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ c water

1 T sugar

¼ t crushed red pepper flakes

About 1 lb beet greens (or greens from about 6 beets), rinsed thoroughly and chopped into bite size pieces

2 T sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper

 

 

Heat a large saucepan to medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add water, sugar, and red pepper flakes and stir. Bring to boil, and add greens. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

To serve: Put a portion of beet greens on each plate. Top with beets and squash, and serve.