This month’s Recipe Redux theme features recipes of sea vegetables and small fish. I usually have a small jar of anchovies in the fridge, so I felt pretty comfortable with the challenge, and I wanted the recipe I created to really demonstrate how anchovies can be used as an everyday ingredient. I’ve talked about using anchovies before as an easy way to add depth and a salty flavor to dishes and as a healthy inexpensive option for eating more seafood.
One of my favorite dinners is a simple preparation of brown rice stir fried in oil, topped with a fried egg and crisped garlic, and seasoned with Asian flavors like toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, or ginger. It’s quick and easy, and I usually always have the ingredients on hand, so it’s a good fallback option for when there isn’t time to grocery shop or meal plan. And it lends itself so well to this challenge. Because anchovies dissolve when you cook them in hot oil, they can be blended seamlessly into just about any dish that starts of sautéing something, anything, in olive oil. And I liked that the strong flavors of the egg and toasted sesame oil would complement the saltiness of the anchovies without overwhelming them (or letting the anchovies overpower everything else). And, in the true spirit of the RecipeRedux, I included some chopped steamed asparagus to make it even healthier.
I was ready to post this recipe at 12:30 last night, but as I hit “Publish,” an error message popped up and erased the whole post. At midnight, I was too spent to cobble together what I could remember of my original writing, but I thought it was a fitting end (hopefully) to a week that’s had some pretty messy flops in the kitchen. I guess it happens to everyone; sometimes things just don’t work out. Ideas that you think might turn into fantastic recipes fall flat. A few days ago, for example, instead of sweet potato and chickpea fritters, I had a disintegrated, oily mess. What that means is that the next few posts I’ve developed include some of the quick and easy meals I’ve made for dinner as a Plan B, when my bigger ideas didn’t pan out.
This fiddlehead pasta dish is a good start to my series of flops. My sister came to visit me earlier this month and brought a small paper bag full of these fiddlehead ferns. The first time we made fiddleheads, it turned out disastrously. It was a few years ago, and we were up in the Green Mountains of Vermont, celebrating my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. We hiked along the trails and saw these ferns growing in the wild, and we were intrigued when we saw them for sale at the local market. My family and I bought a bundle, cooked them up, and ate them. And they were so bitter. As I’ve since learned, fiddlehead ferns need to be steamed for a few minutes before adding them to a dish, like this pasta. Here, I sauté the fiddlehead ferns for four minutes and then plunge them into an ice bath to halt the cooking process. Then, after cooking the shrimp and pasta, I add the ferns to the olive oil sauce. It turned out beautifully.
Over the weekend, one of my favorite websites, Food52.com, won the James Beard Award for Publication of the year for their cookbook, a compilation of winners from their community cooking contests. I’ve used their contest themes for inspiration before, one of which was selected as a Community Pick on their site (pretty exciting, I thought). This time around, the idea is to showcase “Your Best Mango” in a new recipe, and this was what I came up with. Mangoes aren’t an ingredient I frequently cook with, but with Cinco de Mayo on the horizon, I went in a Southwestern direction, adding lime juice, cilantro, and onions to top off a shrimp taco. The shrimps are infused with a complimentary flavor profile, getting grilled with a dash of cumin. And before everything comes together, a small smear of adobo pepper sauce is spread across a lightly toasted tortilla, adding a smoky flavor and a kick of heat.
The combination of mango, cilantro, and lime brings an intense freshness to this recipe, and grilling both the shrimp and the mango adds complexity and layers of flavor. The recipe makes four individual tacos, which serves two people. It can easily be doubled or more.
I’ve never been a big fan of puttanesca pasta, but it’s one my good friend Kerri’s favorites, and I think of her every time I see it on a menu. I’ve always wanted to like it, and on paper, it makes sense that I should. It’s got garlic, onions, tomatoes, and anchovies: so why didn’t I like it when they all came together in a sauce?
With this recipe, I seem to have fixed the issue. Most importantly, I got rid of the capers, a traditional, briny ingredient that I think was causing most of my problems. The other quick fix that I found immensely helpful was pureeing the sauce into a marinara-like consistency. A traditional puttanesca sauce is kind of like a stew: there a bunch of discrete bits and pieces that blend together over time and the flavors meld, but each bite doesn’t necessarily capture the whole dish at once. Making a sauce with a uniform texture is the perfect solution and will also help others who might be hesitant about adding anchovies or olives to their pasta.
I made this pickled shrimp recipe from Saveur magazine at least four times over the past few weeks, and I’m sure they’ll keep finding their way into my menu planning throughout the spring and summer months, too. My family always serves shrimp on Christmas Eve, and this works well as an elegant holiday appetizer. I could also see it being a convenient and portable snack for Super Bowl parties. I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon a few new recipes this fall that will make their way into my repertoire, but I’m kind of surprised that this is one of them. For one, the shrimps are marinated overnight, so it’s not the kind of dish that can be a last-minute menu idea. But each time I’ve made it and brought it to parties or dinners, it’s gotten rave reviews. Continue reading
To top off my week of homemade comfort foods, I made seafood risotto. And it was a great way to finish a great week. First, my mom celebrated a special birthday (happy birthday Mom!). Then, on Saturday, I spent the afternoon cooking with my friends from school for a project – and isn’t it amazing that my program requires some kitchen time? And now, as I’m writing this, David and I are both sitting happy with wins for our favorite teams. Incidentally, both games were St. Louis vs. Wisconsin: the Green Bay Packers beat out the Rams yesterday afternoon, and are now 6-0, and late last night the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Brewers to head to the World Series! Very exciting.
As for the recipe, this is another one of my own creations. I absolutely love the combination of tarragon and seafood, so it was easy to come to the idea of flavoring a seafood risotto with tarragon. Being on a student budget, I thought a shrimp & pea risotto would be simple, relatively inexpensive, yet delicious. So I headed to my neighborhood seafood mercato to pick up the shrimp. Kerri, one of the owners of Mercato del Mare, tucked in a few lobster meat claws for us, too (thank you, Kerri!). Perfect.
Filed under Seafood, Shrimp
Most weekends I start out with grand plans about what I’m going to cook. Homemade pasta is high on that list. But so often the workload of a full-time student/part-time employee means I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like lingering over super hands-on dishes. But, luckily, my schedule as a graduate student means I was able to spend Monday afternoon at home, so I put on a large pot of brown rice and made shrimp stir-fried rice for dinner.
This is a great recipe because it doesn’t have any of the heavy, leaden textures and flavors that take-out can have. I upped the cilantro and lime by a lot, cut down on some of the salty ingredients, and added peas to up the amount of veggies in the dish. The intense flavors of the cilantro and lime really add a lusciousness that more than makes up for the lack of greasiness (if you’re into that). Plus, the leftovers heat up really well for lunch the next day. Continue reading
The new semester started this week, and this was the last dinner I cooked over my summer vacation. It was delicious, but was pretty involved. It really felt like I spent all day in the kitchen cooking in order to prep all the various ingredients and wait for the salad flavors to blend (it needs 4 hours of refrigeration before eating). I was excited to make it because I’m starting to experiment with anchovies, an ingredient I’ve never used before. Although all this work was worth it, I might stick to ordering this in restaurants next time. Continue reading
Filed under Healthy, Seafood
Leftover ingredients can sometimes take you to an unexpected dish. I already had pancetta on hand, and a bunch of chives were starting to go bad in the fridge. Based on this pairing, I searched the web for a recipe that would help me use up a lot the chives before they went to waste, and I found this dish. Despite trying to use up the food I already had in my fridge, I brought home nearly a pound of swordfish.
The recipe is called oil-poached swordfish, which makes little sense to me. Poaching involves using a moderately low temperature “bath” to cook delicate meats like fish. The original recipe called for a lot of oil (4 cups!) – although the fish won’t absorb all that oil (over 7,000 calories), it will absorb some. I made a couple of changes to this recipe to simplify it, starting with searing and pan-frying the swordfish. Swordfish is a meaty fish, and it doesn’t need the delicate treatment of poaching. I’m also a fan of using (and washing) as few dishes as possible, so instead of making a chive oil suspension, I muddled the herbs in the oil for a chunkier dressing.
For dinner last night, I made enchiladas with a sweet potato and shrimp filling. This is actually a pretty healthy dish — it helps you get one of your 2x/week servings of fish and sweet potatoes are an amazing vegetable. In the midst of winter blah, sweet potatoes are a perfect choice for supper.
Filed under Seafood, Shrimp