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Archive for March, 2007

This is becoming a recurrent theme for our dinners: the other day it was a quick weeknight meal of Massa Organics brown rice, Gulf shrimp marinated in chile powder, oregano and olive oil and then seared, blistered cherry peppers with Pedro Ximenez vinegar. Served with tender romano and boston lettuce leaves to fill your own bundles.

Tonight being a weekend i had time to cook so the dinner plan was more elaborate: Anson Mills polenta croutons, caponata style escarole and haddock burgers.

Escarole_caponata

Well i haven’t succeeded to get polenta to a solid state but caponata came out very good especially with Ortiz anchovies. For burgers i used a 4/3 ratio of Gulf shrimp to haddock. Marinated chunks of shrimp and fish in green chile powder, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil for couple hours and then processed half of it into a coarse paste while dicing the rest into 1/4" cubes and mixing in. The patties were chilled for an hour and fried in olive oil for 3mins on each side. Recipes for seafood burgers call either for egg or bread crumbs or even both. Is this for lightening the texture or as a binding?.. Anyway i skipped both – didn’t want to dilute the flavor, and fish paste is quite sticky so no need in additional binding; as for the texture – i guess many would prefer the fluffiness of crabcakes but i just loved the dense texture and pronounced flavor of the main ingredients.

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My life is a bit hectic these days but couple of things are still worth to put down for a future reference.

I roast chicken spatchcocked as long as i remember myself cooking but the idea of nestling the bird on top of greens was interesting – Please Try This at Home. Instead of butter i stuffed the chicken with creme fraiche to which harissa was added and put it on top of a big bunch of broccoli rabe and halved young vidalia green onions. Be very generous with greens – they lose so much volume during the cooking – i actually added more after the dish was in the oven for 15mins. And no need to dry them – the additional liquid prevents both the meat and the vegetables from drying out. The recipe gives a perfect timing for a small chicken (3 plus lb) although in our case a several mins under the broiler helped to brown the skin. Very nice.

I like non traditional burgers, and scallop and corn combination sounded particular well. Though the original recipe has a perfect ratio of corn/scallops the caveat is in order – after cleaning scallops should be thoroughly dried otherwise the mixture will be too wet and hard to shape into appropriate patties (they will start spreading out). Broiling works well (provided you have a decent broiler). Served with cavolo nero bruschetta (the recipe from Wolfert’s Slow Med where the ribbons of kale are cooked slowly for 30mins) and green hatch chile mayo. On toasted Balthazar multigrain buns (surprisingly soft). The dinner was light healthy and damn tasty.

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Because the first attempt was so successful we decided to stick to the technique, and these ribs came out even tastier, something to do with the meat itself  although in both cases the ribs were from Whole Foods.

Served with whole grain brown rice from Massa Organics – highly flavorful rice and especially good twice cooked: after the initial steaming just add a bit of butter and put covered on the low med heat for 5mins to develop a delicious crust.

The other side was baked asparagus, from Wolfert’s Slow Med: i never figured how so many stalks can be wrapped in a relatively narrow parchment paper and stay in one layer, unless you use a stapler. So i just put asparagus into a baking pan, topped with lettuce leaves and covered with foil and left in 175F for two hours. As promised the stalks were green and evenly cooked end to end – fat, succulent and delicious.

Bbq_short_ribs

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Had some leftover uncooked shrimp from yesterday’s dinner so shelled it and panfried for breakfast. After overnight marinating the shrimp became even more flavorful. And very nice on top of quick yellow grits from Anson Mills. I flavored grits with a lot of hatch green chiles powder. And as usual these days we had chunks of texas star ruby grapefruit on the table.

Speaking of breakfasts, during the week it’s mostly Total yogurt, with honey or recently with  Frog Hollow apricot conserve – we bought some on SF Ferry Market, and now with the stash all gone and the cravings remaining, i’m so ready to mail order more…

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Reading a lot on healthy food these days, and working dinner plans accordingly.

The night before we had a usual fare of pan roasted scallops and rajas  con crema. And green peas (almost always available at Wegmans shelled) made into a nice dish from Olney’s provencal book – peas slowly braised under lettuce leaves with almost no water (just a splash of white wine).

While buying scallops at Wegmans i noticed a lot of nice fish (turbot, halibut etc) and seafood (gulf shrimp, langoustines…). Incidentally Leite’s newsletter was in my email box prompting to check his site and right away skillet roasted shrimp caught the attention though i didn’t like the idea of the butter. Then i googled gulf shrimp and the second hit was The Gulf  Shrimp Make a Comeback with a bunch of ideas including Tabla’s tandoori black-pepper shrimp, marinated in coriander seed, black pepper, and olive oil… But wait a minute don’t i have Cardoz’s book? Bingo, on page 96 there was a recipe for panfried black pepper shrimp. Added a lemon chive raita to the menu.

Marinated the shrimp (shells on) for several hours, and then broiled in the hot Le Creuset skillet for 3mins on each side. Served with steamed haricots verts and the excellent raita – with chunks of lemon it was nicely bitter and refreshing and not sour as i feared.

Couple of beers new to us: Harpoon Frankenfest, a nice octoberfest, and Butte Creek Organic Revolution X Imperial IPA – our opinions divided on this one, i found some unbalanced sweetness of honey in this beer.

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This chicken picnic roll looked like an ideal centerpiece for a late night dinner, where everything should be light and cooked in advance.  Lightening the original recipe even further i substituted the ham with the same amount of tiny mushrooms (roasted whole with a splash of calvados) for yet another layer of texture.

Chicken_roll

The salad of roasted pepper from Cuisines of Spain (an amazing book published at the same time as The New Spanish Table and deserving the same accolades) was not only delicious but visually pleasing with a contrast of pale purple spikes of roasted red onion against bright orange mass of bell peppers and tomatoes…

The dinner took place at 4am – time more appropriate for breakfast but then there was a bottle of chinon involved…

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Slow Squid

Wanted to make a squid stew for a long time, some nice recipes are there in greek cookbooks but most of them call for tomato and i’m not a big fan of tomato based braises.

So as usual a perfect answer was in Wolfert’s Slow Med: squid with fennel, spinach and sorrel. The resulting dish was outstanding and required nothing more than some good steamed waxy potatoes like fingerlings.

Notes on the recipe and ingredients. Sorrel of course is out of season but instead of doubling the amount of spinach i decided to use anaheim chiles: broiled, peeled and diced. I also was out of any white wine so went with a fino sherry (as an afterthought dry vermouth like Noilly Prat would be nice here as well). The first step of the recipe calls for cooking squid pieces for about 20mins over low heat until the liquid they exude evaporates. I had still a lot of liquid remaining so poured it out to use later instead of water. In the absence of sorrel i used juice of almost a whole lemon – acidity is integral to this dish.

Further recipes to explore: braised squid with leeks, fennel orange, chili and red wine from Tamasin Day-Lews Good Tempered Food, cuttlefish and spinach stew from Modern Greek,  squid with dill and green olives from Kremezi Foods of Greece and a bunch of stuffed squid recipes – from La Cocina de Mama, Modern Greek and Arabesque to name a few.                              

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