Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Roasted Shrimp and Polenta

I'm really into the clean food movement, little if any processed foods in our diet here.  I like to start with good fresh ingredients and build flavor the old fashioned way avoiding tons of salt and preservatives.

I really like the Golden Pheasant brand polenta easily found in local grocery stores. Its just the right grind and fresh corn flavor to build flavor upon.  The key to polenta without lumps is to stir constantly with a whisk and slowly add polenta to the boiling water in small amounts and incorporate completely before adding the next bit.

Roasting shrimp is stupid easy and they can marinate in the flavors while you prepare the polenta.  They simply roast in a hot oven until pink and cooked effort on your part once they are on a sheet tray.

Roasted Shrimp and Polenta
  • 1 c Golden Pheasant polenta
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan
  • 2 lbs 21-25 count shrimp
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 3 T olive oil 
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • salt 
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 400f

Peel and clean shrimp.  Place in mixing bowl.  Add minced garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and thyme.  Toss to combine.  Set aside while preparing the polenta.

Bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add garlic salt.  Slowly whisk in polenta meal until it is well combined with no lumps.  Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly, stirring continuously until thick and big bubbles puff their way to the top...15-20 minutes.  Reduce heat to lowest setting and stir in Parmesan cheese.  

Spread shrimp onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in preheated oven 5-7 minutes until pink and cooked through.

Put a dollop of hot polenta in a serving bowl.  Ring it with Roasted shrimp and enjoy! 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gnocchi with Brown Butter Mushrooms and Herbs

Gnocchi is those little potato dumplings that are light as a feather and totally act as the best damn flavor carrier in the world.  I buy mine from a local Italian Deli (Claro's) to save time in the kitchen.  Fresh herbs and mushrooms in a brown butter sauce finishes them perfectly.  A quick shave of Parm gives it the final touch to take it from terrific to awesome.

I use cremini mushrooms (aka baby portabella) as they have a nuttier richer flavor than the more easily found white button mushrooms.  Easy swap with only a minor difference in flavor.

Browning butter is easy, takes a few minutes but the results are worth it....a richer nutty flavor to play off the mushrooms and accent the freshness of the herbs.Simply heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and stir gently until it stops foaming.  The milk solids in the butter will turn a golden brown and then you're ready to cook.

Gnocchi with Brown Butter Mushrooms and Herbs
1 8 oz package gnocchi
1 stick unsalted butter
1 T minced garlic
8 oz cremini mushrooms - sliced
1 T fresh thyme (stripped from 4-5 stems)
1 T fresh sage - chiffonaded
Parmesan cheese

Brown butter.  Add mushrooms,garlic, thyme and sage when it stops foaming.  Saute until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste,  8-10 minutes,

Bring salted water to a boil.  Cook gnocchi according to package or recipe directions.  When they are done and floating remove with a spider and add to the browned butter and mushroom mixture.  Toss to coat.  Serve with a dusting of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Shrimp Chowder

This is a slightly richer tastier Shrimp Chowder than I had posted before...richer in that I add just a tidge of heavy cream the end for that smooth creamy mouth feel.  

At my house we like a  little heat so I use a full 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if you aren't a fan of the heat dial it back to taste.  But a little really plays nice with the inherent sweetness of the shrimp.  

Which gets me to my next point...Shrimp.  I splurge for the jumbo 21-25/lb as they are that much sweeter and more tender than the smaller variety.  Do make sure you buy the whole shrimp not the already peeled and deveined variety.  You need the shells and end bits for making the hearty stock.  And in terms of stock...use the whole vegetable leaves, skins and all for maximum flavor.

Unusual for me I opt for Russet in this recipe.  They absorb flavor nicely but more importantly hold their shape not dissolve into the stock as they cook until tender to the bite.  Important reason to use...they are there for shape and texture not to make a pot of mashed potato soup.

Shrimp Chowder
  • Shells and end bits from 2 lbs large Shrimp
  • 6 c water
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 celery stalk - leaves included
  • 1 half included
  • 1 large carrot

  • 2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 onion - minced
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 cups small diced potatoes
  • 3 strips bacon
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/8-1/4 cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 T parsley
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 6 cups shrimp stock

Clean and devein your shrimp.  Place clean shrimp in colander and refrigerate until needed.  

Place shells with tail and heads into a large pan with 6c water.  Add salt and Old Bay Seasoning.  Add vegetables cut to fit into pan.  Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer and simmer covered for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes.  Pour stock through a fine meshed strainer and discard the solids.  Yield about 6 cups stock.

In large soup pan fry up bacon until crisp.  Reserve the fat.  Add pepper, butter, onion and garlic and sweat over moderate heat until translucent.  Add flour and stir until dissolved.  Add potatoes.  Add stock slowly and stir until smooth and begins to thicken.  Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer covered 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.  Test for salt and add as needed.

Add Parsley and shrimp.  Stir and cook 5 minutes over low heat stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in cream until dissolved.   Do not add cream while on the flame as the cream could curdle if overheated.

Serve the Shrimp Chowder hot with a crusty loaf of bread and a nice wine that can stand up to the rich and spicy shrimp!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Spinach, Ham, Smoked Gruyere Quiche

Its really easy and a hearty way to start the morning.  Quiche.  That egg pie with meat and stuff surrounding by oh so delightful melty smoked cheese.  Sort of an omelet in pie form.

I opted for the smoked cheese simply because I wanted to play up the smokey flavor of the ham one more way.  If you can't find smoked Gruyere, any old unsmoked Gruyere or Swill cheese will work fine.

The key to this Quiche bottom pastry being flaky is to keep it dry.  Spinach, even the wilted stuff releases a lot of water.  Adding a thin layer of dried minced onion soaks up the excess moisture so you still get a baked flaky crust on the bottom.  

Spinach Ham and Smoked Gruyere Quiche
Pie Dough for a 9" pie plate
4 3ggs
1 c half and half
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c diced ham
1 C wilted spinach - cooled
2 T dried minced onion
1/8 t nutmeg
1 1/2 c smoked Gruyere cheese
2 T grated Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 400F

Add pie dough to pie plate.  Flute edges.  Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any boil over.

Sprinkle dried minced onion evenly over the bottom of the prepared pie plate.  Add even layer of wilted cooled spinach.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Add 1/2 of the Gruyere cheese and spread in even layer over the spinach.  Add ham in even layer over the cheese.  Top with remaining Gruyere cheese.

Whisk together eggs, half and half and salt.  Pour over the meat/spinach/cheese layers.  Dust with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake 30-35 minutes until set and tester comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes before cutting.  Serve warm.  Chase with a nice mimosa, or if a tee-totaler plain OJ.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

No Bakes Cookies...perfect for a summer heat wave

I type this as the temperature in the SGV has broken 100f and it isn't even noon yet.  Too hot to bake but you still want a good cookie?  This is the ticket.  The "No bake cookie" has been floating around my Mom's house since we got the first version from our friend Marty Hintsala back, way back in the '60s.

Added bonus is its stupid easy.  Use a large nonstick pot and the clean up is easy too.

What makes this "MY COOKIE" is that I switched up some ingredients to make it deeper and richer in flavor than the original.  Half brown sugar instead  of all basic white granulated.  My current go to "Black Onyx Cocoa" instead of regular Hershey's as its an almost black all cocoa solids powder for better flavor.  A bit of kosher salt to balance out the flavors and cut the sweetness.

No Bake Cookies 

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 4 T Black Onyx of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 c brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 c quick cooking oat meal
  • 2 t vanilla

Put first 6 ingredients into a large non-stick stock pot and bring to boil over medium heat.  Boil at full rolling boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter.   Stir in vanilla.  Stir in quick cooking oats.

Drop by tablespoonful onto silpat sheet.  Or by 2 tablespoonful if you like big cookies.  Cool to room temp to set.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Armenian Tabbouleh

A few weeks back my friend Rouzanna Berberian had a reception at her house to celebrate getting her MFA from Cal State LA.  Among the dishes prepared by she and her mother was Armenian Tabbouleh.  It was simply amazing and magical. I've been trying for a few weeks from recipes on the web to duplicate...but my efforts fell short in duplicating the bright taste of her tabbouleh.

So I broke down and begged her for the recipe.  As with most family dishes its a handful of this, some of that, less of the other type recipe that is typically passed down through the generations.  What she did give me was something I would have never guessed and never found in other recipes.  Spices...specifically Aleppo Pepper and Paprika to bring a sweet heat to the dish.  I had to guesstimate quantities and took copious notes.  I think I nailed it.  This is some righteous food stuff.

Also...this can be a lunch onto itself on a hot summer day.  Vegan too if you substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth in the bulgar wheat.  Or use it as a side dish with grilled meats or fish.  

I get my bulgar wheat at Fresh & Easy markets here locally.  Its inexpensive and oh so good for you.  If your regular groc doesn't carry, any local hippy mart surely will.

Armenian Tabbouleh
  • 1 1/2 c raw bulgar wheat
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 c grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 c thin sliced spring onion including green tops
  • 1 c fine chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c fine chopped mint
  • 2 t paprika
  • 1 t aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth to a boil.  Add salt and the raw bulgar wheat.  Cover and remove from heat.  Allow to steep for 30-45 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Add aleppo pepper and paprika and gently fold in to mix.  Put into a covered mixing bowl to cool.

About 1 hour before serving layer on to the cooled bulgar add tomatoes, onion, parsley and mint.  
Mix olive oil and lemon juice, some salt and pepper.  Pour over the veggies and herbs, gently fold to combine.  Test for seasoning and more salt and pepper if needed.  Cover and put in fridge to allow flavors to blend before serving.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dr Pepper Pork Loin Chops

This was the result of a little brainstorming and thinking...what could I do to jazz up a basic pork loin chop and play on the sweet white flesh of pork.  I've seen Coke used in marinades and chili and stuff, why not Dr Pepper.   Its sweet with vanilla overtones, could be a match with pork.  What did I have to lose right?  Nothing it worked out pretty swell.

Use regular Dr Pepper, not diet. You want the sugar to combine with the salt to create a brine.  Using diet you'll only get a funny aftertaste from the artificial sweetener in Dr Pepper, or in my case, a migraine.

Dr.  Pepper Pork Loin Chops
  • 4 thick cut Pork Loin Chops (about 2 lbs)
  • 3/4 c Dr Pepper
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper.

In mini food processor add garlic, salt, and pepper.  Strip leaves off the Rosemary stem by pulling backwards down the stem across the grain.  Add leaves to mini food processor.  Pulse a few times until garlic is finely chopped.  Add Dr Pepper and oil oil.  Pulse until mixed.  In small non reactive dish or large plastic bag add the pork loin chops and marinade.  Turn over a few times to coat well.

Set aside for 1 hour (no longer as the acid in soda will break down the pork).  Turn chops over every 15-20 minutes to keep well coated in marinade.

Preheat oven to 325F at end of hour.  Heat an oven proof pan such as the Calphalon everyday pan over medium high heat.  Coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Sear pork chops on one side about 5 minutes.  Turn over and turn off the heat.  Spoon 1 T marinate over each chop.  Cover and bake in oven until they test medium 145F.  About 20-25 minutes.  

Remove from oven.  Place chops on platter and loosely cover with foil to rest.  Use pan drippings to make a gravy from scratch or with the no-brainer stupid easy success every time Ah Bisto gravy mix. If your local groc doesn't carry you can buy it on line at Amazon.