West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder

20 Dec

This is one of those beautiful soup recipes that can be created 100% from your local farmers market produce, even in the thick of winter.  Onions, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms and herbs are some of the staple items these markets build on in winter (plus a wonderful selection of bread, cheese and jarred goods).  This week I went a little crazy at the River Valley Ranch mushroom stand and purchased about 6 pounds of mushrooms for my Mushroom-Asparagus Strata which I plan to make for our weekly supper club which is themed Breakfast for Dinner this week,  for a green bean casserole I plan to make for Christmas (more to come on these in the next few days), and for this soup.  I had the poor guy at the stand separating Creminis, Shitakes and Oysters into 3 separate bags of various sizes, rummaging through my list while I counted pounds off on my fingers.  Needless to say, Tom crept back into the crowd, ashamed of my torture of the local mushroom man  and my embarrassingly horrible mental math skills.   I was embarrassed not in the least!  It’s winter, I’m carrying my coat and my hat and my scarf, a new bottle of hot sauce, a bag of lettuce…and I could hardly be his most difficult customer of the day…right? I also picked up a new barrel-aged hot sauce from my new favorite local hot sauce supplier CO-OP (who also makes a great Ghost Pepper and Grapefruit hot sauce which I have been unable to stop raving about for weeks).

The aromas emanating from this soup while cooking are reason enough to make it.  It just smells so good.  I was actually a little concerned in the early stages of cooking that the dish would be overwhelmingly rich but it is actually very well-rounded, subtly highlights each of the individual flavors.  Tom’s 8 year-old nephew even finished the bowl.  The addition of Worcestershire and sherry (or red wine) brings out the earthy flavors of the mushrooms and the hot sauce adds a nice, gentle kick (although I doubled the hot sauce).  If you still have not picked up the Soup & Bread Cookbook, get out there and pick it up.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 cups chopped mixed mushrooms

1 1/2 cups carrot, finely diced

2 1/3 cups peeled potato, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, minced

1/2 cup sherry or dry red wine

5 1/3 cup vegetable broth or water

2 large bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Sauté: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until tender and slightly browned (7 minutes).  Add mushrooms, cover and cook on a lower heat until the juices release from the mushrooms (5 minutes).  Uncover, raise the heat to medium and cook until the mushrooms are tender (7-10 minutes).

Reduce: Add carrots, potatoes and garlic and stir.  Add wine or sherry and cook until the vegetables are coated and the sauce has reduced to a glaze (2-3 minutes).

Boil: Add broth or water.  Add springs of thyme and bay leaves, preferably tied so as to easily be removed.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer until all vegetables are tender (20 minutes).  Remove bay leaves and thyme.  Puree one cup of the soup in a food processor or puree slightly with an immersion blender.  Chowder should remain slightly chunky but the puree will add a heartier texture to the broth.

Cream and Season: Add cream and return to boil.  Reduce to medium and boil until slightly reduced (10 minutes).  Add Worcestershire sauce.  Season soup with salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Garnish with croutons and chopped fresh thyme.

Adapted from West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder by Susan Goss as published in the Soup & Bread Cookbook.

 


French Bread

22 Nov

In honor of today being my birthday, I am posting my absolute favorite recipe of all time: french bread.  In keeping with both my, and many of my friends’, ongoing efforts to cook from scratch, craft, draft, build, hammer, plant, knit, eat, think and dream for ourselves and with ourselves – with the help of friends and local artisans and experts, of course – I decided this summer that I would make my own bread too.  I started shopping around for a breadmaker but came across Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible first.  I thought, why not give the old elbow grease and oven method a try before spending a minor fortune on a machine that would do it for me.

I haven’t looked back.  There is nothing better than fresh bread from the oven, made from scratch, molded by hand.  And all it takes is a bowl, a whisk, an oven and a little muscle.  Hensperger’s book has changed my entire thinking about cooking; it has really changed my life.  These days, when I’ve had a bad day, all frustration is spewed out and soaked up into the yeasty, welcome embrace of my bread.  I whisk that dough like I’m slashing through thick forest of problems.  And then I kick its ass.  I punch it and toss it and squeeze it until I simply don’t want to anymore.  Because there’s no rules in bread.  It’s done when you say it’s done.  It’s done right when you like it.  My bread and I reconcile during kneading, as my fingers get submerged in its warm and sticky embrace.  And at the end of it all, there’s me, and there’s this springy little ball of purposeful dough standing ready for what may come.

When I’ve had a good day, you may spot me through my 3rd story window, prancing from room to room, whisking away at my bowl while jibberjabbing about my day to Tom or to another friend who’s stopped by.  I’ve been known to dance to some tunes while kneading (it helps, trust me).  Hensperger compares kneading to Tai Chi, but I don’t have the patience for all that.  For me, it’s a goofy looking dance at best, but we all relax in our own ways.

The real joy of making bread is the act of using your hands, getting them dirty, covered in dough balls, physically contributing to the bread’s creation.  You know that bread.  You know what it’s made of and where it came from and how it was molded into what you’re now eating.  It’s a little work and that work makes it so much more rewarding.

And to think, I almost bought the breadmaker…

2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)

1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups bread flour

2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

Sprinkling of cornmeal

Bubble: Pour water into a large bowl.  Spread yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.  Whisk to combine.  Let this mixture rise and bubble for 10-15 minutes, or until the surface appears foamy and bubbly.

Whisk: Add 2 cups bread flour and whisk until fully combined (3-5 minutes).  Add remaining bread flour and all-purpose 1/2 cup at a time.  Whisk thoroughly until fully combined before adding the next 1/2 cup.  I usually use only 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, but continue adding flour until the dough just pulls away from the edges of the bowl.

Knead: Flip the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the bread for 5-10 minutes or until a springy ball of dough is formed.  Add flour to hands and surface as required to prevent sticking.

Rise: Lightly oil a large bowl.  Place dough in the oiled bowl, flipping the dough once to lightly cover the entire surface in oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  You can either place the bowl in the fridge overnight or place the dough at room temperature for 1 -2 hours*

Prep: If you have a pizza/bread stone, use it.  If not, any old baking pan will do.**  Preheat the oven to 450 and keep the pizza stone in the oven as it preheats so the stone is nice and hot when you start baking.  This will allow the bottom of the bread to crisp evenly with the rest.  As the oven preheats, flip the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface and break into 3 even pieces.  If the dough seems too sticky, knead in additional flour as needed.  Shape the three portions either into round balls for loaves or long ovals for baguettes.  Cover with the plastic wrap and allow to rise as the oven preheats (approximately 30 minutes).  As the bread rises and the oven preheats, whisk 1 egg into 1-2 tablespoons water in a small bowl.

Bake: Pull the stone from the oven and sprinkle the surface with cornmeal.  This will prevent sticking and add a nice texture to the base of the bread.  Place the 3 loaves/baguettes onto the stone.  Cut a shallow “x” into the top of each loaf or slice 3 shallow lines across the top of the baguette. Glaze the outside of the bread with the egg/water mixture.  This will create a crispy and shiny crust.  Turn the oven down to 400 degrees and spray or flick a little water into the oven.  Again, this will help create a crispy crust.  Then place the stone with bread into the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes (or until the crust reaches the desired crispness and color).

Cool: Pull the bread off the stone as it will remain hot for quite a while.  At this point, most good cooks would suggest allowing the bread to cool, but let’s be serious, the bread is best when it’s hot out of the oven.  I can rarely resist breaking of a piece to try while it is hot enough to melt a little olive oil, cheese or butter.  However, for storage purposes, you will want to let it cool before placing it in a bag on your counter.  The bread usually lasts 2-3 days at room temperature.

Adapted from the French Bread recipe in Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible

* I have found that the bread turns out best if you can allow it to rise for 1-2 hours at room temperature, press the bread back into the bowl, then allow it to rise for another 1 hour after that.  However, since every day can’t be Sunday and seriously, who has a spare 3 hours after work, before night classes and between drinks with friends?  I usually use the overnight method and it still turns out just fine.

**I strongly recommend investing in a stone (or asking for one for your birthday or stealing one from you parents’ gigantic, awesome collection of long-unused kitchen gear, which is clearly what Tom and I have done) because it simply bakes everything better.  Every kind of bread and pizza simply turns out better on a stone.  And it keeps your food warm for quite a while after you’ve pulled it out of the oven.

Haitian Independence Soup

14 Nov

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion, small diced

2 carrots, small diced

3 ribs celery, small diced

1 turnip, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cube vegetable bouillon

SOFTEN: Place cubed butternut squash in large pot.  Cover with water and add sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer until squash is completely softened (15-20 minutes).

PUREE: Using an immersion blender (or blender or food processor) puree water, sugar and butternut squash combination until smooth.  Set aside and keep warm.

SAUTE: Heat 1 spin of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add carrots, celery and onion.  Saute until softened (5-7 minutes).  Add turnips, potatoes and salt & pepper (as desired).  Stir and cook for another few minutes (3-5 minutes).  Add garlic, stir and cook one additional minute.

SIMMER: Add butternut square puree to the other veggies.  Add water to desired consistency, if needed.  Add bouillon cube, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.  Stir in cilantro.  Simmer together, the longer the better (at least 15-20 minutes).

Adapted from Chantal Powell in Soup & Bread Cookbook

This is the first recipe in the newly published Soup & Bread Cookbook.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Soup & Bread, be sure to check them out.  S&B was started by Martha Bayne who was bored of spending cold, not-so-busy Wednesday nights tending bar at The Hideout so she invited some friends by to make some soup, share, mingle and eat.  She encourages local professional and amateur chefs to bring crockpots filled with their favorite soup or some tasty loaves of bread to share.  Everyone pitches in a donation which is then given to local charities, particularly the Chicago Food Depository.  She also has plenty of tips for getting similar initiatives started in other cities.   S&B is a great homage to soup itself, which has been building community, stretching foods to help ease hunger and keeping us warm through many winters.   Be sure to come out for the next S&B series in Chicago which starts this January.   The S&B Cookbook is a compilation of favorite soups brought to S&B over the years, with helpful tips and entertaining stories on using soup to foster community building.

This recipe is absolutely delicious.  Adding just a touch of sugar to the butternut squash as it boils adds a subtle sweetness, almost similar to sweet potatoes.  I added a little cayenne pepper which created a nice balance of spicy and sweet.  I love the simplicity, adding only cilantro to spice it up; yet simmering the cilantro into the soup prevented the cilantro from overpowering the it which I’ve found cilantro has a tendency to do.  Great start to an excellent cookbook.  More soup recipes to come..it’s only November.

Spicy Tomato Salsa

11 Sep

9 dried chili peppers

Hot water

12 cups diced cored peeled tomatoes (1/2 inch/1 cm dice) * See How to Peel Tomatoes.

3 cups chopped red onion

1 1/2 cups tightly packed, finely chopped cilantro

15  cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped * If you like your salsas extra spicy, leave in all or a portion of the seeds and membranes.

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp salt

3/4 tsp hot pepper flakes

1. In a heatproof glass or stainless steel bowl, combine dried chilies with hot water to cover.  Weigh chilies down with a bowl or a weight to ensure they remain submerged, and soak until softened, about 15 minutes.  Drain off half the water.  Transfer chilies and remaining water to a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until smooth.

2. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine chili puree, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, salt and hot pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa.  Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process both 8-ounce and pint jars for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

I haven’t been able to stop talking and thinking about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which chronicles the year she and her family  committed to eating 100% local produce.  She talks about asparagus the way some men talk about women in fishnets; and I can tell you, I’ve been as excited to see asparagus in local markets after a long, food-dull winter as many are to see beer, nachos and Bears football today. Maybe the book has stuck with me because I share her utter excitement in juicy, sweet tomatoes after months of unripened, tasteless toms from god-knows-where at grocery stores, but really, it’s just that she makes it sound so incredibly easy and doable.  And it turns out, it is.

I don’t live on a farm and I share my yard with 6 other units (currently 11 people total) so although the City of Chicago does allow its residents to raise and keep both chickens and roosters on their property within city limits, I figured all 11 neighbors would not be welcoming to a little brood of chickens between the 3 grills,2 tables and my garden.  Space is tight as it is.  These were the sorts of things I thought immediately as she described ordering her little box of chickens and the variety of wild turkeys for her property.  Literally every can-not that I’ve come up with has been followed by a very easy solution in the city.  For example, Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen, which is 3 blocks from my house, sells free range, organic chickens from a farm in Wisconsin and there are nearly always local eggs and meat at the farmers markets (and there is a farmers market somewhere in this city every day of the week).  I haven’t fully boarded the all-local-bandwagon (it’s so hard to resist avocados in summer) but I would estimate that well over 80% of the items I’ve cooked at home this summer have been local.

So as fall is setting in, I’m contemplating how to continue supporting local farming and how to save the tastes of summer.  This weekend was momentous because I finally started jarring.  This was yet another task that I had found completely daunting, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy and, between you and me, fun it can be.  I started with this salsa recipe but I also made a peach salsa that I hope to post soon.  It’s so convenient to have homemade salsa available when you need it and each of the individual ingredients shine in the homemade salsa rather than condensing into a homogenous stew like many of the store-bought options.  If it seems like too much work for you alone, get friends together to split the jars (this recipe makes 12 8-oz jars).  And I happen to know the local Ace Hardware on Lincoln Avenue is having a sale on jars and canners through the end of the month.  I’m happy to burst your can-not bubble, but no excuses,  you can do it too.

How to Peel Tomatoes

10 Sep

Peeling tomatoes is actually very easy.  It’s important to determine what kind of tomato will work best for the recipe you are making. Most recipes which require peeling tomatoes are sauces, salsas, soups, etc. I recommend using roma tomatoes because they have more meat and less water than your standard slicer or beefsteak tomatoes (and let ‘s be serious, who the hell wants to peel a million little cherry tomatoes? Not me).

Cut a shallow x into the bottom of each tomato.  This will give you a nice tab from which to peel the tomatoes.

Blanch the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for  1 minute and then run them under icy water to stop the cooking process.

The skin should easily peel right off.  Start from the 4 points created by the x cut.

Grilled Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches

26 Aug

 

1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 (2-ounce) ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
8 large fresh basil leaves
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

1. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Place zucchini in a shallow dish. Add 2 teaspoons oil and garlic; toss to coat. Arrange zucchini in grill pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Cut each zucchini piece in half crosswise. Return zucchini to shallow dish. Drizzle with vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
2. Brush bottom halves of rolls with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Top evenly with zucchini, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
3. Brush cut side of roll tops with remaining liquid from shallow dish, and place on sandwiches. Heat the sandwiches in pan until warm.

Jackie Newgent, Cooking Light, August 2011

At this time of year, there is absolutely no excuse for not eating locally farmed, locally crafted food in Chicago.  The vegetables are literally pouring off the tables at the farmers markets, peaches on being sold at reduced prices and you simply can’t go wrong with buying blueberries straight from farmers in bulk.  The reasons are endless: on average you spend the same or less than major supermarkets but your money goes straight to the hands of small farmers (no corporate middle man), you can talk to the farmers about where your food was grown, their methodologies, even the kind of weather they’ve had all week, if you’re interested.  By the end of the summer, you’ll know their faces and you’ve probably seen or made a handful of friends at the market.   It helps the environment by cutting down on fuel for shipping and encourages varied-crop farming which decreases erosion often found on massive single-crop farms and, let’s face it, it’s a whole lot nicer to look at than an endless field of corn (and yes, I am from Iowa).   And let’s be serious, the biggest reason is taste.  There is simply no comparison.  Luckily, all of these ingredients can be purchased at the farmer’s market in Lincoln Square except the salt and pepper, which hopefully you have in your pantry already.

This is one of those recipes that shines in its simplicity, bringing out the fresh tastes of the basil (from my garden), tomatoes and zucchini.  The acidity of the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar are perfectly balanced by the sweet mozzarella.  The crispy, warm bread, slightly softened by the garlicky olive oil and vinegar is the perfect texture for the softened cheese and veggies.  And I appreciated that this was a one-pan-wonder, ready in 15 minutes since I, and many others, returned back to school this week.

Spicy Corn and Crab Chowder

23 Aug

1 medium poblano chile
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup half-and-half, divided
1 (8-ounce) russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 (8-ounce) container crab claw meat, shell pieces removed

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 8 minutes on each side or until blackened. Place pepper in a small zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop.
3. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper) to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn; sauté 2 minutes. Remove 3/4 cup corn mixture from pan. Combine 3/4 cup corn mixture and 3/4 cup half-and-half in a blender; process until smooth. Add potato to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes or until potato is almost tender. Reduce heat to medium.

4. Combine remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half and flour in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return corn puree to pan. Stir in poblano, milk, and crab; bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Julianna Grimes, Cooking Light, August, 2010

As you may know, my favorite things to cook are breads, pies and soups.  So, when the weather turned chilly (and by chilly I mean high 70s to low 80s, but it’s all relative, right?) I wasted no time getting back to chop-stir-simmer-enjoy business.  I love that you can leave most soups to boil away, filling the house with complex yet comforting aromas and a steamy heat you can’t find anywhere else.   As such, I was a little disappointed to find that while this chowder did provide the hoped-for olfactory excitement,  it did require quite a bit of hands-on time and sagged on flavor.   The lack of sit-and-simmer time  may have contributed to the disappointing outcome of the chowder in which the flavors both failed to come together or to shine individually.  I love poblanos and could barely taste them.

If I made this again, I would add additional poblanos, sweet peppers, potatoes and possibly even bacon to to add a little something extra.  I would decrease the milk added in the last step as it seems a little watered down or, well, milky.  I would also add some additional spices such as thyme, chili powder or paprika (though not all at once) to spice it up a bit.   This could make for a good base upon which to develop a more complex chowder, but let’s face it, there’s much better recipes out there already.

Blueberry-Peach Focaccia

25 Jul

1-1/3 cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees F)

1 pkg. active dry yeast

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. sugar

3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt

peaches

cup fresh blueberries

Tbsp. sugar

tsp. vanilla

to 3 Tbsp. small fresh basil leaves (optional)

1.In a small bowl combine the warm water, yeast, 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil, and 1 tsp. sugar.

Let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly.

In a large bowl combine 3 cups of the flour and 1 tsp. of the salt. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir until combined. If necessary, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough.

Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is nearly smooth but still slightly sticky (about 3 minutes).

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once.

Cover. Let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1-1/2 hours).

2.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly oil paper. Turn dough into prepared pan and gently press evenly into the pan. Loosely cover; let stand in a warm place while halving, pitting, and slicing peaches.

3.Arrange peaches and blueberries atop dough in pan. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp. sugar and the remaining 1 tsp. salt. In a small bowl stir together remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and the vanilla. Drizzle over focaccia.

4.Bake about 30 minutes or until peaches are softened and bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil just before serving. Makes 24 servings.

Make-ahead: After placing dough in the oiled bowl, cover and chill dough up to 24 hours. Let dough stand at room temperature for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the dough is double in size. Continue as directed in step 2.

Better Homes and Gardens, August, 2010

This is one of my favorite sweet snacks and/or desserts to bring to bigger get-togethers.  It’s both salty and sweet, light and fruity, soft and crunchy.   I also think it allows for some fun experimentation – you could substitute strawberries or raspberries for the blueberries, plums or plucots for the peaches.   You can get creative with the fruit arrangements.  And so far I’ve never served this to anyone who didn’t like it.  Perfect for hot summer block parties and cooler evening grill-outs.

Grilled Grape Leaf-Wrapped Goat Cheese

12 Jul

6 to 8 grape leaves (sold in a jar), drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 3/4-to-1-pound round piece goat cheese, such as bucheron, at room temperature (or 2 smaller pieces, stacked)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt
Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat a grill to medium high. Wrap the grape leaves around the cheese to cover it completely; tie with kitchen twine.

Brush the wrapped cheese with olive oil and grill, turning once, until the leaves begin to char and the cheese is soft, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, the rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to taste in a bowl.

Transfer the warm cheese to a serving plate, pour the oil on top and remove the twine. Serve with bread.

Food Network Magazine, June 2010

This recipe absolutely made my Sunday night.  This is so incredibly simple, but packs enough flavor that you’ll be thinking about those last few bites for days.  Tom and I made this as an appetizer for our Shrimp and Charred Lemon and Zucchini dinner.  There is nothing better than sitting out on a hot summer night, drinking chilled white wine, playing dominoes and eating this.  If you’re free tonight…

My food pyramid already has a solid base of cheese, beer and chocolate.  Slightly melted, warm goat cheese is downright dangerous.  Add a little olive oil, rosemary and crushed red pepper and I’m a goner.  Plus, its always an extra bonus when I find new ways to use my 5+ year-old rosemary plant in new and easy ways (hands-down, the easiest herb to grow).  Goat cheese is the perfect choice for its sweet, tart flavor and it maintains its shape during grilling better than most alternatives might.  The rosemary adds the perfect earthy spice which complements the slight acidity of the brined grape-leaves.  Crushed red pepper for a bit of spice and you have created the perfect starter.  Perfect for date nights or hosting friends.  Serve with sourdough or nice french bread.

Shrimp with Charred Lemon and Zucchini

12 Jul

16 jumbo shrimp, unpeeled, legs removed (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger1 teaspoon hot paprika
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, cut into 2 1/2-by-1/2-inch sticks
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsleyToasted sourdough bread, for serving.

Preheat the broiler. Use a sharp knife to make a slit through the shell along the back of each shrimp. Remove the vein, leaving the shell intact. Rinse and pat dry, then transfer to a large bowl.

Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, the ginger, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl.

Add half of the dressing to the bowl with the shrimp and toss.  Add the lemon and zucchini to the remaining dressing  and toss, then spread on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until the lemon and zucchini begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shrimp and broil until the shells are pink, about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp, lemon and zucchini and broil 3 to 4 more minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the parsley and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Divide the shrimp, lemon and zucchini among plates and drizzle with the parsley oil. Serve with bread.

Food Network Magazine, July 2010

After stuffing yourself with burgers, brats and loads of potato salad over the 4th of July weekend, this light dish may be just what the doctor ordered.  Rather than broiling, we wrapped the veggies in tin foil and tossed them on the grill so we could enjoy a hot summer night outside (rather than broiling ourselves to heat stroke in our un-air-conditioned apartment).  If you don’t have hot paprika on hand, you can substitute sweet paprika and a little cayenne pepper instead.  After cooking the zucchini/lemon toss for about 5-7 minutes, we added the shrimp to the foil packet and continued grilling until the shrimp turned its tell-tale pink.  We grilled slices of sourdough until lightly browned during the last few minutes of cooking and this was absolutely delicious.  Pairs perfectly with a nice dry white wine.   I also recommend starting with the Grape-Leaf Wrapped Goat Cheese.

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