Spain-Inspired Dinner

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One of the casualties of my returning to work full time a few years back was having people over for dinner.  Mostly because my dining room table became ground zero for all “work in process”: unfolded laundry, unpaid bills, school books and bags of chips that no one had time to put away.  I couldn’t even begin to think about entertaining as the task of organizing the chaos was overwhelming.

Towards the end of last year, I was feeling especially disconnected from friends.  And I realized how much I missed those dinner parties. I also realized it was about time I got a handle on the disorganization that had taken over my house, so I spent a few weekends cleaning and purging and FINALLY seeing my dining room table for the first time!20170211_185110500_ios

Then the planets aligned with a few other couples whose sons wrestled in high school with our son and we got a date to gather and wine and dine!  I thought a sunny Spain-inspired menu would be the perfect way to break up the mid-winter monotony.  For starters I put together this platter of traditional Spanish cheeses and charcuterie: Cana de Cabra (tangy goat cheese), Campo de Montalban (a 100 day aged cheese is a blend of cow, sheep and goat‚Äôs milk from La Mancha), prosciutto, sausages and my favorite Marcona Almonds.20170212_001516606_ios

Olives too!  Oh my…these Castelvetrano Olives Marinated with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Paprika were spectacular: 20170211_191404314_ios-1

There are so many versions of paella, it was difficult deciding which one to make!  I ended up with this Chicken and Seafood Paella from Jo Cooks since it offers a bit of everything.  A little tweaking was necessary as I omitted the clams, added some chopped roasted red peppers and about one cup of peas at the end.  16/20 shrimp is the perfect size and andouille sausage can easily be substituted if chorizo is not available.  With the right equipment and best quality ingredients (see Resources section below), this dish was a knock-out:20170212_023654293_ios-1

Because I love wine and especially Spanish wine, there was plenty of it to go around as well. For red, I chose a silky Tempranillo : 2014 Hito Cepa 21 available locally at Binny’s Beverage Depot for just $13.99/bottle.  Be sure to decant this one about an hour before serving so all of its complex fruit and smooth tannins are at their best.  For white, I didn’t want to veer too far into anything floral, so opted for a 2015 Naia Verdejo, which had just enough straw and citrus to compliment the seafood and work with the more assertive saffron/smoked paprika elements in the dish.  Available at Binny’s for just $10.00/bottle.  It’s a great value!

We ended the evening with chocolate covered strawberries, other sweets and of course more wine!

To me this is what cooking is all about and I can’t wait to gather friends together for another meal to share.  Whether I can keep my dining room table cleared until then remains to be seen ūüėČ

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!

Ann

~RESOURCES~

PAELLA PAN – Do you HAVE to buy one to make paella?  Well yes and no.  The week before I gave the recipe a test run in a shallow Le Crueset pan and it was very good.   For my dinner party, I borrowed a more authentic paella pan from a friend and the paella was even better. The large surface area and dimpled carbon steel base allowed for even cooking and that wonderful authentic paella “crust” to form on the bottom.  Would also make a great pan for sauteeing vegetables and for other rice-based dishes.  At just $29.95 for a 15″ pan (large enough to make a paella for 8),  at Williams Sonoma, how can you resist!20170212_153824811_ios

SAFFRON – In addition to a paella pan, it’s worth investing in some good quality saffron for this dish, as it is truly the star flavor ingredient.  Unless you’re in a bind, I would not recommend supermarket saffron as it is typically grossly overpriced and has likely been sitting on the shelf for ever.  Instead, head to Amazon and purchase a bottle of this Mehr Premium All Red Saffron.  3 grams will run you around $20 and yes I know that is a lot of money but this is a generous quantity and will last you a long time.  And with this stunning silky gift box, think of it as a gift to yourself!20170208_000645233_ios

OLIVE DISH – Part of the fun of entertaining is digging through my shelves of serving plates, glassware, etc. It’s amazing how much I’ve accumulated over the years. This pretty ceramic olive bowl makes frequent appearances at parties. Mainly because I LOVE olives and serve them at almost every occasion.  One compartment for the olives, one for toothpicks and a third for pits.  And it just happens to have been made in Spain. Perfect!  Available online at La Tienda for $29.95 + shipping.20170212_151906702_ios

 

Broiled Scotch Salmon

Broiled Scotch SalmonTime to break out the kilts and bagpipes and enjoy a recipe from the Dinner Is Served archives (aka..my beat up little recipe box).

Pretty sure the first time I ever cooked salmon, this is the recipe I used. ¬†It was fabulous then and still to this day, is one of my most favorite ways to flavor and cook salmon. ¬† You can see the original recipe below, worn and well loved. ¬†It may be a recipe from the ’80’s, but its bright, fresh flavors seem just as home in the year 2014.¬† And with the maiden name MacIntosh, I have even more reason to adore this dish.

Recipe box

The Scottish part of the recipe comes from a few tablespoons of the real deal:

dewarsEven the salmon itself came from Scotland!

Broiled Salmon with Scotch and Mustard Glaze

The fact that the soy sauce, rice vinegar and mustard are not from Scotland, we’ll just overlook that minor detail. ¬†But you must agree, it’s one beautiful marinade and takes a mere one hour to impart its brilliant flavors:

Broiled Scotch Salmon

For the food geekery section of this post.. ¬†I need to point out that although the salmon I found at my local market came from Scotland, it is farmed salmon (sound the alarm).¬† The good stewards of marine sustainability,¬†Monterey Bay Aquarium, advise against farmed salmon from Scotland and other locations.¬†¬†While I do make every effort to follow their guidelines, sometimes, I just have to buy what’s available and remember, I live in the Chicago area where our seafood choices are a bit limited.

Also a note about broiling:Broiled Salmon

I have¬†always preferred grilling over broiling; however when it comes to seafood, I’ve come to prefer the latter.¬†¬†No worries about fish sticking or drying out.¬† The only downside to broiling is dealing with any fish aromas that may linger.¬† For some ideas on¬†dealing¬†with that issue, check out this article from TheKitchn:¬† ¬†http://www.thekitchn.com/help-getting-rid-of-lingering-53504.

Coming next to DIS: 50 ways with Haggis!

Then again, maybe I’ll just stick with this salmon and a splash of Dewars.¬† ¬†Slainte Mhath

Clan Mackintosh

Broiled Scotch Salmon

  • 4 salmon filets, about 6 oz. each
  • 1/2 cup canola or safflower oil
  • 2 TBS each: soy sauce, Scotch whiskey, rice vinegar
  • 1 TBS “sweet & hot” mustard (see Note>)
  • 1 green onion, chopped plus additional for garnish

Whisk together oil, soy sauce, whiskey, rice vinegar, mustard and green onions.  Place salmon filets in a shallow dish. Pour marinade over; turn to coat.  Cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or up to two hours.

Remove filets from marinade and (if desired), transfer leftover marinade to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 3-4 minutes, then set aside.

Preheat broiler and set rack to about 6-8 inches away from heating element.  Spray broiler rack with non stick spray and place salmon filets, skin side down on rack.  Broil salmon for about 6-8 minutes, until top is starting to brown and inside is just cooked through.

Transfer salmon to plates, drizzle some of the reserved marinade over and garnish with chopped green onions.

Serves: 4

Note> I use Honeycup¬ģ brand sweet and hot mustard in this marinade. It is widely available throughout the states in many major grocery store chains.Honeycup Mustard

Chile-Tequila Shrimp Tostadas with Lime Crema

Chile-Tequila Shrimp Tostadas with Lime Crema | Dinner Is ServedThis week marks the first time I’ve seen my lawn in four months, and let me tell you it isn’t a pretty sight. ¬†I also have access to my grill for the first time in four months, but the gas bottle is empty. ¬†I would say that I tried on a pair of shorts too, but I’m just not going to go there for at least another month or two.

Welcome to “Spring that’s not Spring” in Chicago.

I find myself in desperate need of light and fresh food these days so when Friday came upon me a few days ago and I happened to have the day off work, my mind wandered to the flavors of Mexican cuisine: lime, cool sour cream, spicy chile, cilantro and fresh avocados. ¬†Fish tacos came to mind, but when I spotted these tostadas on Fine Cooking’s website, I was all over it.

The ingredients are fairly straight forward on this one.  Although I did have to go out and purchase a bottle of tequila [too bad so sad :]   Chile Tequila Shrimp Tostadas with Lime Crema | Dinner Is Served

Hidden behind the shrimp is a wonderful Wisconsin White Clover honey I found at the store from Gentle Breeze. ¬†And speaking of “gentle,” a gentle reminder at this point to NEVER buy bargain basement honey, especially contaminated honey from China! ¬†For more info, check out True Source Honey online.

Gentle Breeze Honey

¬†This recipe also let me use a few of my favorite kitchen gadgets and also to mess around with photo editing a bit. ¬†Goes without saying if you don’t own a Microplane¬†or a Norpro Lime Juicer by now, well you’re missing out on two of the best kitchen gadgets ever created.

Microplane and Lime JuicerAnd here is where I admit to cutting a few corners by using pre-made tostadas. Forgive me but I was just not in a mood to deep fry tortillas!

Tostadas

And here is where I tell you this is a fantastic dish that I absolutely loved (which is pretty much what I say about every dish I post here)

Chile Tequila Shrimp Tostadas with Lime Crema

¬†Do I need to tell you what to do with the leftover tequila? ¬†Yeah…I didn’t think so ūüėČ

margarita-cocktail

Chile Tequila Shrimp Tostadas with Lime Crema*

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. pure chipotle chile powder (or regular chile powder)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. large or extra-large (20 to 30 per lb.) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (or substitute plain Greek yogurt or Mexican sour cream)
  • 2 medium limes, 1 finely grated to yield 2 tsp. zest and squeezed to yield 1 Tbs. juice; the other cut into 4 wedges
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup white tequila
  • 8 5- to 6-inch packaged tostadas (see Note>)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1 large firm-ripe Hass avocado, diced
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish
 In a shallow baking dish, combine 1 Tbs. of the oil with the chipotle powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the shrimp and toss well to coat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, lime zest and juice, honey, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat on one side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 1 minute more. Take the pan off the heat and add the tequila. Return to the heat and cook, tossing, until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Slather each tostada with about 1 Tbs. of the sour cream mixture. Divide the cabbage, avocado, and shrimp over the tostadas, drizzle with the remaining sour cream mixture, sprinkle with cilantro (if using), and serve with the lime wedges.

Serves 4

Note> You can easily turn these into shrimp tacos by substituting your favorite corn or flour soft tortillas or taco shells. ¬†Or…maybe give this technique a try! ¬†Instructions can be found at:¬†http://lifehacker.com/5885277/make-your-own-taco-bowls-by-flipping-over-a-muffin-tin/allMake Your Own Taco Bowls

*Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

 

Scallops with Pink Grapefruit Buerre Blanc

FINAL IMAGE 2This very special blog post is about courage, strength, support and the power of pink. ¬†The fact that I’m posting a lovely scallop recipe is really secondary.

Last month I received word that the twenty-nine year old daughter of a fellow food blogger was diagnosed with breast cancer and is beginning a multi-month course of treatment. ¬†Several bloggers offered to do guest blogs for her as a way for her to keep her food blog going, and giving her a break as well. I was happy to be part of this effort and submitted the following post to her. You’ll note that I have also added a badge on my site that will take you to the donation page for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, should you wish to make a contribution. ¬†However you can lend support, the important message, as stated at the end of my post, is that we will never stop fighting until there’s a cure.

PinkRibbonDivider

Greetings to all the Creative Culinary followers!  My name is Ann and I write a small food blog called Dinner Is Served, which was the name of the personal chef business I started right after graduating from culinary school (way back when).  I am honored to be a part of Barb’s food world, as she takes the time she needs to support her daughter, Lauren in her fight with breast cancer.

 Like many, cancer has affected my immediate family as well, with my younger sister undergoing extensive treatment for and ultimately winning the battle against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about fifteen years ago. This post is dedicated to all who bravely face this disease, their family and friends, and the doctors, nurses and care givers who heal and cure.

¬†I told Barb I would focus on a pink theme in honor of breast cancer awareness.¬† I was inspired by a bounty of fruits, vegetables, seafood and spices, all in varying shades of pink. So much so, I created a special Pinterest board called ‚ÄúPretty in Pink.‚Ä̬† It was a reminder to me of the simple beauty of nature.

 I settled on this scallop recipe because, well I LOVE scallops, and I was intrigued with the idea of incorporating pink grapefruit into a buerre blanc sauce.  The result went beyond my expectations.  The sauce has a nice balance of richness and acidity. And the pink grapefruit garnish is not only beautiful to behold, they really compliment the flavor and texture of the scallops.  A perfect first course or entrée for an elegant spring dinner.

I leave you with these words from a breast cancer badge I found online:

We can survive, inspire, remember, empower, love and hope

Let’s never stop fighting for a cure.

Facebook collage

Scallops with Pink Grapefruit Buerre Blanc

8-10 ounces large sea scallops (about 8 scallops)

1 TBS all-purpose flour

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 TBS olive oil

¬ľ dry white wine

2 TBS fish stock or bottled clam juice

1 TBS minced shallot

1/3 cup fresh pink grapefruit juice

¬Ĺ tsp grated pink grapefruit zest

¬Ĺ tsp sugar

3 TBS cold unsalted butter, diced

1 TBS thinly sliced scallions or chives

Fresh pink grapefruit segments for garnish

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Pat scallops dry.  Heat oil in a large, preferably nonstick, skillet over moderately high heat.  Lightly coat the scallops in the flour, shaking off the excess and add to the hot oil.  Sear scallops on one side for about two minutes, then carefully turn and continue cooking them until they are just firm and lightly golden, about two minutes longer. Transfer the scallops to a plate lined with paper towels and lightly tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the wine to the skillet, deglaze the skillet, scraping up the brown bits, and stir in the clam juice, minced shallot, grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, and the sugar. Boil the liquid until it is reduced to about 1/3 cup and strain the mixture through a fine sieve set over a saucepan.

Set the pan over low heat and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, lifting the pan from the heat occasionally to cool the mixture and adding each new bit of butter before the previous one has melted completely.  Taste the sauce and add additional sea salt and pepper if necessary.

Arrange the scallops on a warmed plate and spoon the sauce over.  Garnish with scallions or chives and serve with fresh grapefruit segments.

Serves: 2

Scallopcollage

Latin-Style Citrus Garlic Grilled Shrimp

Many worlds collided yesterday and resulted in this succulent summer entree. ¬†The first being the local paper’s Wednesday Food Section, featuring Latin-influenced dishes. ¬†Then there was my trip to my local Savory Spice shop to score some new spices, followed by a trip to the market for some beautiful 16-20 count shrimp, heirloom tomatoes and ripe avocados. ¬†And finally, a stroll through my garden to snip some tender cilantro.

My sides were more reminiscent of Mexico as opposed to the Caribbean.  What can I say, the cilantro in my garden has been calling my name for weeks.

I decided to accompany this shrimp with a simple side salad of arugula dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, topped with chopped tomatoes, avocados and finished with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. ¬†Feel free to make some minor adjustments depending on which part of the globe you wish to channel. ¬†Rice and black beans work equally as well. ¬† And if shrimp aren’t your thing, then ¬†substitute chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or pork chops (and adjust grilling time accordingly). The flavors will still be bright and fresh. ¬†And by all means, keep the mojitos and Corona beer flowing.

When worlds collide, things can truly be delicious.

Latin-Style Citrus Garlic Grilled Shrimp

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp each: Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. Savory Spice Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning or 1/4 tsp chile powder (optional)

1 1/2 # shrimp, peeled and deveined (16-20 count shrimp recommended)

1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced green onions

Optional accompaniments: Warmed tortillas OR rice pilaf, sliced avocados and tomatoes

Combine the juices, garlic, oil, salt, pepper and optional seasoning in a large bowl.  Reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the dressing in a separate container for serving. Toss shrimp in remaining marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Heat grill to medium-high heat.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.  Grill, turning once, until pink and just firm, about 2 minutes per side. Place on a platter and drizzle with some reserved sauce. Sprinkle green onions and serve.

Serves 6

Halibut with Pine Nuts, Tomatoes and Ni√ßoise Olives

So a funny thing happened to me today as I was having a rare moment of down time. ¬†I realized it had been a while since I posted to my blog. ¬† Time to head to my “thinking chair” and craft a brilliant piece on the ¬†Chicken Piccata recipe I made last week. ¬†Only to discover I already had another blog post in draft form. ¬†Just sitting there like a well behaved dog wagging its tail. ¬† Ready to be shared with the masses. ¬†My most awesome halibut recipe…how could I have forgotten! ¬†So without further adieu…

I can say without hesitation that this is perhaps one of THE finest seafood recipes I have ever encountered. ¬†Especially for those of you that may be slightly intimidated by preparing fish, really…honestly…you cannot go wrong with this dish. ¬† The fish steams in a succulent mixture of tomatoes, olives and pine nuts. ¬† Healthy and as pretty as a picture. ¬†What more can one ask?

Note the bread in the photo? ¬†An absolute must for soaking up the sauce. ¬†Or alternatively, serve over a bed of angel hair pasta. ¬†Most definitely dinner-party-worthy, although I’m still a tad conflicted on a wine pairing for this one.

Halibut recipe? ¬†I’m ready to click the Publish button. ¬†Go forth and conquer the food world my friend. ¬†Your time has come.

Halibut with Pine Nuts, Tomatoes and Niçoise Olives

1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups grape tomatoes, halved (quartered if large)
1-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup pitted, halved Niçoise olives (or other pitted, black brine cured olives)
4 skinless filets of halibut (black cod or Pacific cod may be substituted)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and let simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, and olives. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 8 minutes.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Stir the thyme into the sauce. Nestle the fish into the sauce, return to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the fish is just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer the fish to 4 shallow bowls. Add the pine nuts to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.

Serves 4

Seared Scallops with Creamy Spinach and Leeks

As a ten year old girl, there is no way I ever imagined myself blogging about scallops and spinach.  First of all, in 1971, there were no personal computers and no internet..and thus no such thing as blogging.  Then there was the matter of my intense dislike of all things green and swimming creatures.

After all, I was the kid who when treated to lunch at the legendary seafood restaurant Bookbinders, in Philadelphia, ordered a hamburger. ¬†I was also the kid who spent most Sunday suppers at my grandparent’s home, frantically trying to conceal my peas under my mashed potatoes. ¬† I suppose my parents took some comfort in the fact that every now and then I would eat a pickle. ¬†You know, pickles are green.

Indeed, my culinary transformation has been as remarkable as the tech revolution.  Because here I sit decades later, giddy with excitement over the meal I made last night: a bed of cream spinach and leeks topped with seared scallops, fresh ciabatta and a fragrant Pinot Gris from Oregon.  And, thanks to the marvels of microchips and mysterious things that happen in the airwaves, I can share this recipe with you.

One point I need to emphasize: this creamed spinach is rich and flavorful beyond belief. ¬†So if seafood isn’t your thing, feel free to make the spinach and serve it with a grilled filet mignon, roasted lamb chops, or a sauteed chicken breast. ¬†Of course the seared scallops are in this case, total icing on the cake. ¬†Remember the four simple rules of scallops:

  • buy fresh, preferably¬†dry packed scallops
  • pat them dry
  • season only at the last minute and
  • get that oil as hot as possible before adding scallops to pan

This meal is minimal prep and comes together in about 15 minutes.  Nice for a busy weeknight and yet elegant enough for a dinner party, served with a dry sparkling wine.

Oh Bookbinders, had I known then what I know now…

Seared Scallops with Creamy Spinach and Leeks

2-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
10-12 oz. baby spinach (about 12 loosely packed cups)
2 medium or 1 large leek (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, and rinsed (about 1 cup)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
10 large dry-packed sea scallops
4 tsp. vegetable oil

Melt 1/2 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the spinach and cook, tossing with tongs, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer with tongs to a colander set over a bowl; let drain and cool slightly. Repeat with the remaining spinach (adding a tad more butter if necessary). Squeeze handfuls of the spinach to release as much liquid as possible.

Discard any liquid in the skillet. Melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat and then add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add the wine, raise the heat to medium high, and cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until it’s thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt, a generous grind of pepper, and the nutmeg. Stir in the cheese and gently fold in the spinach. Keep warm.

Pat the scallops dry and remove the side muscle if still attached. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering hot. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the pan and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until just opaque in the center, about 2 minutes more. Serve the scallops over the spinach.

Serves 2-3 adults

Shrimp and Asparagus with Cheddar Grits

Confession time: I, Chef Ann, being an admitted lover of all food, never tasted grits until I was in my late 40’s.¬†¬† I can see my followers south of the Mason-Dixon line are shaking their heads in disgust.

I’m sorry!¬† Really truly I am.¬† Let’s just chalk that unfortunate fact up to my living way ABOVE the dividing line my entire life.¬†¬† I suppose Cream of Wheat was the closest I ever got to grit-land, and well….let’s just say they didn’t exactly float my boat.

Fast forward many many years.¬† I am dining with my most excellent cooking friend, Kathy and on the menu for the evening: shrimp and grits.¬† What an odd combination, I thought.¬† In my still naive mind, grits belonged on a plate with ham hocks and collard greens while shrimp?¬† Well shrimp are classy!¬† They belong perched atop a champagne glass on a bed of ice.¬† Delicately poached and served with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge.¬† Shrimp + grits just seemed…counterintuitive.

Yes, I was wrong.¬† So very wrong.¬† Mea culpa.¬†¬† This indeed is an inspired combination with humble origins in the Lowcountry, discovered by chefs in the 90’s, and now on the menu in the most sophisticated of restaurants.¬† And no matter which side of the line you are on, you simply MUST give them a try!

Just a few recipe notes here.  The original recipe calls for slow-cooking grits which I could not locate at my Whole Foods the other day.  I substituted corn grits (aka polenta): a fabulous, flavorful alternative.  Instant grits are good in a pinch although, like instant oatmeal, you will sacrifice a bit of texture.  The shrimp are tender, the asparagus, just crisp enough and the Worcestershire/butter sauce gives it the right amount of kick.

I am indeed a convert and ready to move on to another culinary adventure.  Collard greens anyone?

Shrimp and Asparagus with Cheddar Grits

4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2-1/3 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup old-fashioned (not quick-cooking) grits or corn grits
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1/2 tsp. Tabasco or other hot sauce; more to taste
1/2 lb. medium-thick asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. large (about 10/15 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced

Heat 1/2 Tbs. of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. While stirring constantly, pour in the grits and 1/4 tsp. salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grits are thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the Cheddar and 1/4 tsp. of the hot sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more hot sauce. Cover and set aside in a warm spot.

Heat 1 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus, sprinkle with a little salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and a little browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is opaque and the asparagus is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the Worcestershire sauce and the remaining 1/4 tsp. hot sauce. Melt the remaining 2-1/2 Tbs. butter into the shrimp and asparagus. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more hot sauce. Serve the shrimp and asparagus over the grits, sprinkled with the scallions.

Serves 2-3

Pan Seared Golden Trout with Olives and Potatoes

I’ve been busy lately, which explains the few and far between blog posts.¬† Oh trust me, I have been cooking.¬† And eating….a LOT!¬† But unfortunately the¬† moments in between culinary enjoyment have been jam packed with work, meetings, laundry, holiday decorating and wishing I had time to post more recipes!
Thing is, I imagine all of you are just as busy as I am.  Which means not a heck of a lot of time to cook.  But should you find yourself driving by your favorite seafood purveyor one of these evenings, I highly recommend picking some filets and making this dinner.
I am very lucky to have a new market nearby with a stunning seafood section (Chicago area followers, check out Standard Market in Westmont.)  The golden trout they featured last weekend was perfect for pan searing and so fresh that for a moment, I fantasized that I had a brook running through my back yard and that the fish had just jumped through my back window.
The fish was absolutely delectable.¬† The potato, olive and rosemary saute are a heavenly combo and a spash of balsamic vinegar near the end really seals the deal.¬† This side dish would pair well with just about any protein you can imagine: steaks, chicken or lamb.¬† I threw in some haricots verts for a splash of color, texture, and because I’m passionate about veggies.¬† Last but certainly not least, a nice fruity bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau…. because I’m passionate about wine too!
Well friends, I have a massive spreadsheet that now needs my attention.  Hope to be back soon with more recipes.  In the meantime, stay warm and eat well!
Pan Seared Golden Trout with Olives and Potatoes
4 small red potatoes (about 3/4 lb.), sliced 1/4 inch thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 skin-on golden trout fillets (about 5 oz. each), scaled (or substitute arctic char, ruby trout or salmon)
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, each about 3 inches long
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
3 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
4 lemon wedges

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the potatoes to a boil in enough salted water to cover them by 1 inch. Reduce the heat to a brisk simmer and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 5 minutes. Drain. Set aside.

Pat the fish dry and season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Arrange the fish skin side down in the pan so the fillets fit without touching. Cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Flip the fillets and cook until the fish is cooked through, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spatula, transfer the fish to a serving platter or plates.

Add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add the potatoes and rosemary and cook, flipping occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the olives, parsley, balsamic, and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir gently to heat. Arrange the potato mixture around the fish. Serve garnished with the lemon wedges.

Serves 4

Summer Harvest Salad with Chili-Garlic Shrimp

I recently professed my  unconditional love for avocados.  I believe I claimed I could live on them.  I need to amend that claim today, because  I could live on this salad as well!  Fresh seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs,  shrimp with a slight kick and a lovely lime/soy/sesame dressing.  And yes, my beloved avocados.

It’s a virtual celebration of the summer harvest.

Feeling creative?  Vary the vegetables, swap one herb for another.  Substitute chicken tenders or tofu for the shrimp.   Cheese lovers  may want to add a few crumbles of goat cheese or queso fresco.  There really are no wrong answers here.  Just keep the basic seasonings the same and it will work.   Serve with some grilled pita triangles and a light-bodied white wine.

And if it’s not too much trouble, could you also invite me over for dinner when you make this salad?¬† Seriously, I’ll show up with a chilled bottle in hand.¬† I may even do the dishes, fold your laundry and balance your checkbook¬† in return for some of the leftover shrimp.¬†¬† If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

Summer Harvest Salad with Chili-Garlic Shrimp

1 tsp. chili-garlic sauce (see NOTE>)

¬Ĺ tsp. ground cumin

¬Ĺ tsp. kosher salt

¬ľ tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined

5 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 ears corn, husked

3 small tomatoes cut into ¬Ĺ-inch-thick wedges

1/3 English hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

4 tsp. fresh lime juice

2 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

1 large avocado, halved, peeled, pitted, cut into thin slices

8 cups (loosely packed) mixed baby greens

2 TBS thinly sliced fresh mint or basil or cilantro

Mix chili-garlic sauce, cumin, ¬Ĺ tsp. salt and 3 tsp. pepper in large bowl.¬† Add shrimp and toss to coat.¬† Heat 2 TBS oil in a heavy large non-stick skillet over high heat until hot.¬† Add half of shrimp and saut√© until cooked through, about 3 minutes.¬† Using tongs, transfer shrimp to plate.¬† Add 1 TBS oil to same skillet.¬† Add remaining shrimp and saut√© until cooked through.¬† Transfer shrimp to a plate and cool.

Cook corn in pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool.  Cut corn kernels off cobs.  Mix corn, tomatoes and cucumber into shrimp.

Whisk remaining 2 TBS oil, 7 tsp. pepper, lime juice, soy sauce and sesame oil in medium bowl.  (Shrimp mixture and dressing can be made 4 hours ahead.  Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Combine shrimp mixture with any accumulated juices, avocado, greens and the fresh herbs of your choice in large bowl.  Add dressing, toss to coat and serve.

Serves: 4 as an entrée

NOTE> Chili-Garlic Sauce is a versatile Asian condiment available in many supermarkets and specialty markets in the Asian-cooking aisle.  The brand I use is manufactured by Huy Fong Foods in California.  It really packs a punch, so use it sparingly.