Blessed with an abundance of fresh dill from Blue Heron Farm and huge prawns from the local fish market, I finally gave in and made Ina Garten’s shrimp salad. I used the excuse that I was making it for a food photo contest, but I wasn’t all that happy with my photos of the finished dish. Nevertheless, we cheerfully ate it all (to hide the evidence, don’t you know).
We discovered that we can get big bags of frozen pre-cleaned squid rings and tentacles at the local fish market, and are preparing to embark on some serious experimentation with it. I know how to clean a squid in theory, but I’d really rather not, so this stuff is great. The one thing I’ve cooked with it so far, based on a recipe in James Peterson’s Fish & Shellfish, was incredibly simple and very, very successful: I sauteed chopped garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, added the squid and sauteed for 1 minute, then added chopped parsley and cooked another 30 seconds or so, then scraped it all out onto a pile of Israeli couscous with some roasted asparagus on the side. The ultimate fast dinner, and tasty too.
Any suggestions for our next foray into squid cookery?
night of butter
The theme for Casey Schanen and Tom Saunderson’s class at Gretchen’s last week was ostensibly Seafood with Wine Pairings. If you ask me, the real theme was Butter.
This was some of our mise en place – see that pile of butter pats on the plate? We used most of that over the course of the evening.
We put together an appetizer plate for the guests so they’d have something to nibble on right away. There were fresh radishes and turnips, Nell Thorn bread and rosemary crackers, all being dunked into an amazing dip of butter whipped with green olives. Yes, it looks like guacamole – but it ain’t. Caution is advised, as this stuff is addictive.
crab and eggs
In the annals of putting fried eggs on top of things, this breakfast came very close to perfection. Here’s how to make it.
Take one Dungeness crab, cooked and cleaned.
Pick the meat out and set aside. Put the shell into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain and keep warm.
setting fire to shrimp
I don’t know if we make this dish mainly because it’s tasty, or because it’s so much fun to set fire to a panful of shrimp. Probably both.
Shrimp fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”) is a traditional dish, the main idea being a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp, saucing long skinny pasta. The version we make comes from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It adds an extra step or two to the typical recipe, but it’s well worth the effort. If you’ve never flambéed before, give it a try – it’s gratifyingly easy. Just make sure there’s nothing flammable right above your stove burners. You can skip the flambéing step, but the shrimp won’t have as deep and rich a flavor.
Caramel-coated seafood sounds unlikely, I realize, but keep in mind this is Vietnamese caramel sauce: savory and bitter, it’s not at all like candy. Thankfully.
This wasn’t entirely my favorite way of eating scallops (panfried, wrapped in bacon, holds that honor), but we’d been looking for ways to use the caramel sauce Jon made awhile back, and it made for a very quick and interesting dinner. The sauce was made from a recipe in Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese cookbook, and the braised scallops were done more or less according to Molly Stevens’ book – basically, heating the caramel, adding fish sauce and shallots, putting in sea scallops and covering until just cooked through, mixing in chopped scallions, then dumping it all over white rice. The flavor was rich, and not nearly as salty as you’d think from looking at it. A plate of paper-thin slices of cucumber was a nice accompaniment, along with a sparkling low-alcohol Riesling.
I might consider making the sauce again, but maybe with halibut instead of scallops. Or if I did use scallops, I think I’d pan-sear them instead of braising. It’s hard to resist a seared scallop. Even if it doesn’t have bacon on it.
clams & beans
For some reason I was in the mood for clams last weekend. When I began delving into cookbooks to look for some new ideas, I stumbled across the exact same recipe in both 1080 Recipes and Casa Moro. Clams and white beans: so simple, but two ingredients I had never thought of combining. We brought back a bag of fresh clams from Taylor Shellfish after our walk on Sunday, and we were good to go.
I went with the Moro recipe, since it seemed a little more interesting, but it’s still not a complicated dish. Saute garlic in wine, add cooked white beans, saffron and parsley, add clams, done. I made it a little more work by using fresh cannellini beans, bought in the pod from Dunbar Gardens, but shelling beans is a very peaceful and philosophical activity – preferably with the aid of good music and a tasty beverage.
lemon, garlic, butter and grill smoke
The weather has been amazing (apart from the fun little storm that whipped through on Saturday), and the asparagus has been gorgeous. How many reasons do you need to fire up the grill? This was a fabulous dinner that Jon cooked up last week: an entire bunch of grilled asparagus, grilled shrimp bathed in a lemon and garlic butter sauce, and good local bread. It’s very fast to prepare, apart from getting the coals going, and really, really good.
ouzo shrimp and bread salad
When I decided to make two new recipes for dinner out of a brand new Malouf & Malouf cookbook, I figured there was a chance it might be a complete flop, but at least it would look pretty. Fortunately for me, it was pretty and tasty: shrimp with ouzo and garlic, and a salad of watercress, red onion, radish and fried strips of pita bread. It was good enough to make again; a little tweaking is in order for next time, of course.
The most exciting part was cutting a pita bread into thin strips and frying it in olive oil and butter until golden and crispy. That was really, really fun. The resulting croutons were almost like buttery potato chips. Continue reading
roasted parsnips and friends
The fish guy at the supermarket had arctic char (one of our very favorite fishes) a couple of weeks ago, but we had other plans for dinner that night. I asked him if he thought it would keep until Friday if I bought some that day, and he gave me a firm “nope.” Sigh.
But char doesn’t come around every day. Feeling uncharacteristically optimistic, I bought a filet anyway and stuck it directly into the freezer when I got home. The following week, I thawed it out and improvised a meal to go with it. And it worked, hurrah!