Monthly Archives: February 2012

Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage

Oh, shrimp and grits. So Southern, so low-country, so unhealthy. But what’s not to like about a combination of creole spices, firm shrimp, peppers, onions and sausage simmered with cream and then poured over grits (cornmeal) mixed with lots of cheese? I don’t know how shrimp and grits originally came to be, and I don’t much care. I’ve eaten all sorts of versions – with grits cakes, creamy grits, watery grits, seared shrimp, fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, etc. But never made my own…

I saw this recipe at Closet Cooking and it appealed to me because I happened to have many of the ingredients on hand. Part of my commitment to “being an adult” this year is to do more proactive grocery shopping: buying ingredients that are common across different meals and that have a long shelf life. Grits – I just used plain yellow cornmeal, which most cooks have; shrimp – had some in the freezer; andouille sausage – I had some left over from probably last year, but any smoked ham would do; onions, peppers, celery, cream, etc.

The recipe calls for cajun seasoning and wouldn’t you know it, I could only find creole. What’s the difference? This, again, falls into the I-don’t-care territory, and it still tasted so spicy and wonderful. #don’tsweatthesmallstuff

The only thing I would change next time is the peppers. I just don’t like peppers. And they figure prominently in this dish. Perhaps one jalapeno would do the trick? I’m not sure what the solution is, but I aim to find out.

I would also like to point out that Grant questioned why I was using cornmeal and not grits. Now, I’m not from here, but what’s the difference? He literally ate his words later, once his words were full of extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Adapted from Closet Cooking

Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup grits/cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cajun or creole seasoning
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning, or creole
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring the water to a boil, whisk in the grits, reduce the heat and simmer until tender.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and sear, about 3 minutes and set aside.
Toss the shrimp in the creole seasoning, add the shrimp to the pan and cook, about 2-3 minutes and set aside.
Heat the oil in the pan, add the onions, peppers and celery and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and creole seasoning and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the broth and tomato and simmer to reduce a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and shrimp, season with salt and pepper, mix in the cream, and remove from heat.
Whisk the butter and cheddar into the grits (they will be thick, like polenta….in fact, exactly like polenta) and remove from heat.
Serve the shrimp over the grits, sprinkling with green onions and parsley, to taste.

You also might want to add a dash or two of Texas Pete’s hot sauce, just for extra seasoning.

The grits are creamy and the extra-sharp cheddar is perfect in it. The shrimp remain firm and well seasoned, and the sauce is peppery and creamy. It fills you, top to bottom.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Green Goddess Dressing with Basil

Green goddess dressing combines every delicious dressing flavor into one creamy sauce. I made this last month for my birthday party – served with a bunch of fresh vegetables for dipping. However, it really should be treated like a salad dressing, not a dip – served over hearty greens such as spinach, romaine or bibb lettuce.

It’s like a caesar dressing with the addition of basil – amazing. Scallions, anchovies, lemon garlic – your guests will at first be concerned for the state of their breath, but then forget all that once they taste it. I had numerous people ask, “What is IN that?”

Once basil is in season again, I will definitely keep this as a refrigerator staple for my summer salads, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

Here, I just drizzled it over veggies.

Green Goddess Dressing with Basil

Ingredients (makes roughly 2 cups):

  • 1 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (6 to 7 scallions)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or equivalent anchovy fillets
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
Add everything except the sour cream to a blender and process until smooth. Add sour cream and blend completely.
Serve with your favorite veggies or drizzle over salad – you will not believe how robust the flavors are. And don’t worry about the anchovies, they are hidden among the other ingredients so as to not overpower.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

Don’t you just love eating that cheap, MSG-heavy Asian food at the mall? When I was little, it was my favorite meal. Now, it smells and tastes good…but doesn’t feel good….immediately after.

I’m not sure what, exactly, makes that mall food so evil for one’s entire body. Especially when you can easily make those foods at home for less money and without any of the repercussions. Anyhow, this meal offers all the pleasure of Asian flavors in a way that is guilt-free and risk-averse.

My Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken makes me feel like such a mom. It involves a Crock Pot, is healthy, makes large quantities and is pleasing for little people. I even found it on some mom blog that posts recipes on Pinterest. But in my never-ending pursuit of slow-cooker recipes, I charged ahead into momland and will never come back.

My only complaint is that the maximum cooking time is 4 hours. This working gal needs something that can slow-cook for at LEAST 9 hours, preferably 10. Do most people just come home at lunch and put the Crock Pot on? People take lunch breaks? I don’t get it. So I made this over the weekend, when a rainy day kept me inside with other endeavors: baking sandwich bread, pasta frittatas and a lovely spicy pork dish with black-eyed peas.

I made a few adaptations to this (I will definitely be trying more of their recipes!)…

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thighs would be fine too)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (surprise! don’t judge – just do it)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 6 Tablespoons water
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Chopped green onion, for garnish

Season both sides of chicken lightly with salt and pepper, place flat into Crock Pot. Scatter onion over the top. In a small bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, ketchup, oil, garlic, sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours, or until chicken is cooked through and shreds easily (mine cooked 3.5 hours). Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of cornstarch in 6 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened. Shred chicken into bite size pieces, then return to pot and toss with sauce before serving. Serve, sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions.

The honey plus ketchup add the right sticky sweetness that you expect from a good teriyaki-type dish. So yummy! Sweet and savory and satisfying. Wonderful over rice, as we had it, or noodles. Even in taco shells would be good.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spinach and Lemon Spaghetti Frittata

It must be my obsession of pasta that makes me attracted to dishes like this. Dishes that use pasta in random, unexpected ways. Although I had never made one until now, I love the idea of a pasta pie or pasta frittatas – dishes that I’m sure came out of the necessity of using leftover cooked spaghetti.

While the idea of baking pasta into a frittata seems low-country, it turns out surprisingly tasty and elegant. In fact, I like the texture of this better than an all-egg frittata – it seems somehow lighter (fewer eggs used?). The pasta gets nice and toasted on the bottom, almost acting like a crust for the filling.

Finally, the flavors are superb. Fresh baby spinach, feta cheese, lemon and basil – the yellows and greens create a spring/summer-like sensation that is full of sunshine.

Adapted from In Sock Monkey Slippers.

Spinach and Lemon Spaghetti Frittata with Feta and Basil

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 c. cooked spaghetti or capellini, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 T fresh basil, cut into strips

Preheat oven to 400.

Whisk together eggs, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large oven-safe nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low and add spaghetti. Add spinach on top of pasta, in even layer. Pour egg mixture over the spinach and spaghetti and tilt pan so eggs are evenly distributed. Simmer 3-5 min, until eggs begin to firm up around the edges. Sprinkle feta evenly across the top.

Place skillet in oven and bake for 8-10 min, until center is set.

Allow to cool 5 minutes, then slide a spatula around edges and under, to move the frittata onto a cutting board or serving platter.

Mine stayed together just fine. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, pepper and fresh basil. Cut into wedges.

Can you see the little pieces of pasta peeking out from the bottom?

I love how golden and slightly crunchy the “crust” became. Just wonderful – the spinach adds body, and that feta becomes creamy and lemony all on its own – wonderful additions to eggs.
This would be a wonderful Sunday brunch entree.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Kale Salad with Squash, Apples and Country Ham Croutons

The latest edition of Bon Appetit is all about The South, declaring this region as the next big food trend. Well, duh, everyone says. Whether it means black-eye peas, fish fried with cornmeal or country ham, it appears the masses are turning their heads to low-country cuisine.

One ingredient I surely never saw at the Safeways of the Pacific Northwest is country ham. The super-salty cured pork steak that is so sodium-soaked that it almost burns. In fact, the packages aren’t even refrigerated!

I typically enjoy country ham added to cooking beans or something that allows the salt and strong porkiness to distribute. But this Bon Appetit recipe uses it as a little crouton (my title) on top of a salad made from thick kale, tart apple, sweet squash and a simple vinaigrette. Oh, and buttermilk drizzled over the top. Just for effect … and more.

I must admit that I am trying so hard to like squash, and I simply don’t. Still, you can see why roasted butternut squash is great in this medley – the acid of the lemon vinaigrette, the heartiness of the kale, the saltiness of the ham, the crunch of the apple and the creamy tang of the buttermilk. It all works and is full of good vitamins and minerals.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, which used mustard greens and a few other details I changed.

Kale Salad with Squash, Apples and Country Ham Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 10 c. fresh kale, stems and ribs removed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 2 cups 1″ cubes peeled butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced country ham, chopped
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
Method:
  • Gently rub greens with 2 Tbsp. salt in a large bowl. Let stand, checking often, until the greens begin to release water and soften, about 15 minutes. Rinse in two changes of cold water. Squeeze greens dry and pat with a kitchen towel; transfer to a clean bowl.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss squash with 1 Tbsp. olive oil on prepared sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, 20–25 minutes. Let cool.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add ham and cook until crisp, 1–2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Add squash, apple, shallot, lemon juice, and remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil to greens.
  • Toss to combine; season to taste with salt. Divide evenly among plates. Drizzle with buttermilk. Arrange fried ham over. Season with cracked pepper.

Bon Appetit tells me that one whole salad contains less than 300 calories and less than 3 grams of saturated fat. Nevermind the sodium. :)

I’ve never had kale like this before and I think I had trouble getting used to its tough texture. But a bite that consisted of ham, the apple, the kale and the squash had a really sophisticated balance to it.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Best Bread Recipe

The New York Times’ No-Knead Bread recipe has become my Moby Dick. It’s perfection always manages to escape me as I feel myself getting closer.

But then, recently, I realized something. The science of baking bread – coaxing a living organism to life in hopes that it will make your mound of dough rise, then going through processes of resting and more waiting – it’s just not exact. Baking bread on the top of a mountain is totally different from baking in my kitchen, or in my kitchen on a humid day, etc. If baking bread is a metaphor for life, then I need to stop reading the directions so closely. The dough will rise when it’s good and ready. The bread will become the loaf it’s destined to be, no matter how hard you try to control the various environmental factors.

If you labor through the journey, and the destination isn’t really what you expected, should you not still eat it? Of course you should eat it! Preferably in a nice sandwich.

Celebrating my no-knead bread epiphany, I made the loaf again, on the top of a mountain in Virginia, where the winds outside draped snow drifts against our cabin walls and the snow fell in tiny balls – too cold to become pretty, unique snowflakes. I used an old-timey cast-iron Dutch oven that Grant picked up at some dubious junk shop years ago. I scrubbed it, seasoned it and hoped for the best.

Even after stoking the fire orb with extra hickory logs, I could never find that perfect place where the dough could rise for 12-18 hours in a consistent temperature. Again, I hoped for the best. The closest bread grocer was 45 minutes away.

So my little ball of love-hate turned into a pretty ball of bread that was a bit of a runt, and awkward to make sandwiches out of, but still tasted delicious.

If you have a favorite bread recipe, please share! I’m taking on challenges!

xoxo

Crock Pot Moroccan Lamb Stew

Whenever we go out to eat Indian food, I order a lamb curry. It’s not that much more expensive than the chicken and I just love the deep, rich flavor of lamb stewed in spices and vegetables. Yet, I’ve never made a stewed lamb dish at home, until now.

Lamb seems like such a splurge, if you’re able to get over any lingering ethical concerns (in my opinion, the lives of full-grown beef cattle are equally as horrifying as the lives of lambs grown for meat). But really, it’s not that much more than a cut of beef, especially if you watch the sales.

Why is lamb so wonderful with spicy Middle Eastern/Indian dishes? There’s something about curry spices that brings out the lamb’s flavor – stronger than beef, but not gamey in a bad way. It just works, and this easy Crock Pot recipe is something I quickly threw together before work one day. I came home to a house warmed with the aromas of a hearty, exotic stew – not thick, but with a light sauce that soaks nicely into couscous.

Interesting – it includes an apple, which I couldn’t discern in the finished product, but I am sure it adds a sweetness that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

Thank you, mom, for sharing this recipe!

Crock Pot Moroccan Lamb Stew (from an arborist newsletter)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. boneless lamb, cut in 1-inch cubes (I couldn’t find boneless, so I just bought 2 lbs of lamb steaks and cut them up)
  • 2 small sweet onions, chopped
  • 2 c. carrots, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 c. dried currants
  • 1 tsp groun cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 c. chicken broth or stock
  • Fresh mint or cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • Cooked couscous (recipe below)

Add all ingredients to large Crock Pot -except fresh herbs – in order listed. Turn on low and cook for 8 hours (or on high for 4).

Meanwhile, prepare couscous: I melted 2 T unsalted butter in medium saucepan over medium, then added 3 T pine nuts and stirred until the nuts were golden and toasted – you will smell their nuttiness. Add 1 c. uncooked couscous and stir to combine. Add 1 1/4 c. water or chicken stock, stir, cover and remove from heat to let sit 5 minutes.

To serve, first stir the lamb. Scoop some couscous on your plate, then top with lamb stew. Finish with fresh herbs.

You may have to add more salt and pepper, to your taste, but we really loved the flavors. I might even add a dash of cinnamon next time – I just love cooking savory meals with cinnamon these days.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Edamame Hummus

When I first saw somebody post a recipe for edamame hummus on Pinterest, I knew I was on to something. Never a lover of garbanzo beans, edamame made perfect sense – it is full of protein and other goodies and has the same consistency as chick peas. But unlike chick peas, I love the taste of edamame – that light umami flavor that makes you want to follow it with a big sip of Sapporo beer.

So I made this for the Super Bowl, bringing leftovers to work. It was very popular and quickly disappeared, along with the Whole Foods fried tortilla chips I served along with it. But it’s also wonderful with cut veggies.

Here is my adaptation, which I took from a couple different sources…

Edamame Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. shelled edamame
  • 1/4 c. tahini
  • 1/4 c. water
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground corriander
  • 3 T EVOO
  • 1 T chopped fresh parsley

If edamame is frozen, thaw using  package instructions.

Place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor and blend until smooth. With motor running, add 2 T olive oil. I like mine a bit on the thick side.

Transfer to serving bowl and drizzle with remaining oil. I liked this recipe because it wasn’t too heavy on the tahini. I don’t want my hummus overly tahini-flavored.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Sauteed Lettuces with Salami and Shallots

I get the sense that lettuce is becoming a food trend. Seems that more and more food shows are incorporating plain old salad greens – from iceberg to romaine and arugula – into soups, sautees and other dishes. I believe the Brits are used to having peas with lettuce, which seemed strange to me until the doe-eyed Nigella Lawson demonstrated how delicious the combination can be.

Or maybe I’m just extra alert to green-food trends now that I’m trying to eat more of them. Anyway, I saw an interesting recipe in Bon Appetit for which lettuces are sauteed with spicy salami, garlic and ginger and served over brown rice, with fried shallots up top. It looked quite good and relatively healthy, so I decided to give it a try.

Both Grant and I loved it! He favors anything with a strong ginger element, and I loved the cured meat mixed with the just-wilting lettuces and crispy shallot. My goodness, what can’t be improved with crispy shallots on top?

I adapted this a little, but not too much.

Sauteed Lettuces with Salami and Shallots

Ingredients:

  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/2 c. chopped salami slices
  • 2 T thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 1/2 T minced peeled ginger
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Half a head of iceberg lettuce, cored and roughly chopped
  • 2 c. arugula leaves
  • Cooked brown Basmati rice (enough to feed everybody you are serving)

Get the Basmati rice cooking while you prep all your ingredients.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over low heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until golden brown – 12 min. Remove to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Increase heat to medium and add salami, then garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Stir until everything starts to sizzle and add 1/4 c. water. Increase heat to medium-high, add lettuces and saute until just wilted, 1-2 min. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon lettuce mixture over brown rice and top with crispy shallots. I also added some green onions and parsley, just because I had them on hand.

This recipe makes me want to try more with wilting lettuce into dishes – yum! They retain a little bit of crunch, but lose any bitterness. And it filled us up just fine.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo