Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Retraction

Okay, so I make mistakes sometimes. I get excited about something and my blinders come on. I have in the past month made two statements I no longer find true.

1. I love a strawberry rhubarb pie, but have really fallen in love with the flavor of rhubarb on it's own.

Yes, I still love rhubarb, but have decided it is truly the best when paired with strawberry (Sorry Martha!!) I came to this conclusion when vacationing in Maine this past week and found that the rhubarb and strawberry seasons here overlap (!!!!). We were at the farmer's market and I decided I need to make something with both. Hence I ended up adapting my "Rhubarb Crisp" recipe to include strawberries. It was DIVINE!!! Which leads me to retraction #TWO:

2. I am a strawberry purist. If I am going to eat a strawberry during it's season, I am not cooking it.

I cooked it. With the rhubarb. In the crisp. I can not get enough. PERIOD. If you can still find rhubarb make this dessert before both they and the strawberries are gone again until next year.

Strawberry/Rhubarb Crisp

serves 6-8

1 1/2 lbs rhubarb- cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint GOOD strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

for the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 TBS unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375

For the filling, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and flour in an 3-quart baking dish. Let macerate (the reaction between the sugar and the rhubarb will make the rhubarb start letting out its juice) for 15 to 20 minutes.

For the topping, combine flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a large bowl. Work dry ingredients with fingers until all butter is absorbed.

Spread topping over rhubarb. Bake crisp until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 40-50 minutes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What to Eat Where You Are

I'll admit I am not like most people when I travel on vacation. Usually people like to get away from the domestic chores that they are obligated to at home. Vacation is the time to let someone else do the cleaning and cooking. Not for me. When I travel (within driving distance mind you..) more than half my car is loaded up with food and cooking equipment. I never know what type of wonderful food I am going to find at my destination, especially with the bounty of summer upon us in the Northeast. This held especially true for my most recent vacation to the Southern coast of Maine. Known for their bountiful seafood selection, I couldn't wait to get there and get cooking.

I actually already had a plan before we even left Connecticut. I knew that I wanted to make something with lots of different types of seafood. I also knew that this dish needed to be easy (I was on vacation...) and impressive and quickly decided on Paella. Paella is a very adaptable dish. You can pretty much make it with anything you have laying around or access too. I obviously knew that I would have fresh lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops readily available. All I needed was a quick trip to Whole Foods before leaving for vacation. There I picked up basmati rice, Spanish onions and chorizo, then grabbed a few pantry staples (garlic, saffron and olive oil) and freezer basics (chicken stock) from home. I was ready to travel! (I did forget my paella pan, but luckily remembered before my in-laws had left LI and brought one for me.. WHEW!! Close call!! )

We made the Paella on a Saturday, and spent most of that day scouring the Maine roadside for my fresh ingredients. My husband Mike and I were quite a sight on our bikes, peddling around picking up our seafood. We found the lobsters at the farmer's market and had them cooked right there for only $1. Into my bike basket. Next stop was finding a good fish market to pick up the rest. After finally getting a tip, we almost ended up getting killed while biking down a main 4 lane road. After arriving and picking our littleneck clams, mussels and scallops (all locally caught), we had them packed on ice and in they also went into my basket. The bike ride back to the house left the top half of my body drenched in sweat and the bottom half drenched in the ice melting out of my basket. I was quite a sight, but the trip was well worth it. Dinner turned out amazingly and we now have a great tradition to repeat again next summer.

Beach Vacation Paella

Serves 6

3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 package Spanish chorizo (cured), sliced
2 large Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron, crumbled
1/2 white wine (use whatever you plan on drinking with dinner! I like Albarino, a Spanish white more on the fruity side that goes great with seafood)
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
6-8 sea scallops (you could also use bay scallops if that is what you had), sliced in half if really large
2 1 pound chick lobsters, steamed, and meat removed (or equivilant), cut into bite size chunks
2-3 TBS Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat over to 375

Heat 2 TBS oil in 15 inch Paella pan (brazier) or heavy bottomed roasting pan over medium heat. Add chorizo and cook 5-6 minutes, or until chorizo is browned on both sides. Add onions and garlic. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until onion are all softened. Transfer chorizo mixture to a bowl.

Add another TBS oil in same pan and add rice. Cook until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Add stock, chorizo mixture, saffron, seasonings and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 15 minutes uncovered.

Meanwhile, bring wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Add clams and cook 3-5 minutes or until shells just open. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat with mussels. Throw away any that do not open. Reserve cooking liquid.

Nestle lobster meat, clams, mussels and scallops into rice. Drizzle wine/shellfish liquid reserve over rice/seafood. Bake at 375 on lowest spot in oven for about 10 minutes or until lobster is heated through, scallops are cooked and all liquid is absorbed.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Fabulous weekend. Fabulous food. Two weekends ago I hosted and catered my BF's baby shower. Talk about pressure... didn't want to screw this one up!!! The smartest move I made was everything I served can be, and was, made in advance. The menu consisted of three types of tartines (open-faced sandwiches), my favorite Greek salad , watermelon gazpacho, and then mini lemon tarts. The piece de resistance was the most amazingly beautiful and delicious cake made by Caitlin's friend Dorothy. After the party was over I had lots of requests for my recipes, so thought this would be a great place to put them so everyone could get their hands on some good lunch ideas.

You can pretty much turn anything into a tartine. They are traditionally French breakfast fare, with either butter, jam or cheese spread on bread. If you go to a French bakery these days you can find tartines with pretty much anything you would normally put in a sandwich, which is where I got my inspiration. I love sandwiches, but who needs all that bread (though there are plenty of times I want or NEED two slices)! If you have a great topping you won't even miss that extra slice, or you can try different topping in the same meal! These make a great light lunch and are great for a party (as I found out!) You can make the topping a day or two in advance and then buy your bread the day of your lunch/party and assemble right before serving.

Mango-Cashew Chicken Salad

makes about 3 cups (can be double, tripled, etc I tripled it for 26 people and had about a 1/3 left over)

1/3 cup mayonnaise (SPECTRUM!!)
2 TBS apricot preserves ( I like Bon Maman)
1/2 tsp curry powder
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups cooked chicken- cubed (I think it is best to do this part yourself, but feel free to buy a rotisserie)
1 mango, peeled and diced (make sure it is not super soft otherwise the mango won't hold up in the salad)
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup scallion, sliced
1 TBS chopped cilantro
1/2 cup cashews, toasted and chopped ( you don't need to toast if you want to make this quicker)

Combine mayo, preserves, curry, lime juice and seasonings in a large bowl.

Fold in chicken, mango, celery, scallions and cilantro. Add cashews right before serving.

Dilled Egg Salad

makes enough for 16-20 tartines

1 dozen eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise (Hellman's is the best for this dish)
3 tsp whole grain mustard
1 TBS chopped fresh dill
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Place eggs in a pot of cold water, making sure they are covered. Bring water to boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Shut off heat and let sit in hot water for 5 more minutes. Place eggs (gently) in a bowl of cold water and let cool. Peel eggs and let cool completely.

Place eggs and rest of ingredients in bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth and spreadable.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Casual Company

Fish tacos are a favorite in our house for entertaining. When having company over in the summer for dinner, tacos are an easy way to feed a crowd. With a little advance prep work, you can entertain your guests without having to be stuck in the kitchen. Plus to serve this dish you can set up a buffet and let your guests put together their own plate (buffet=not setting the table). To make this a rounded meal add a simple bean and corn salad (which can also be made in advance) to the table. Don't forget the margarita or Mexican cervaza. ¡Buen provecho

Blackened Shrimp Tacos

Serves 6

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbs canola oil
2+ Tbs blackening seasoning (Bayou Blackening is my favorite.. you can order it or find it at Fresh Market if you have one near you.... otherwise any blackening will do)

corn tortillas (white or yellow)
yellow or purple cabbage, sliced thinly
tomatoes, diced
shredded cheese (cheddar, pepper jack)
guacamole (recipe to follow)
yogurt & mayo white sauce (recipe to follow)
limes, cut into wedges

Toss shrimp with oil and blackening seasoning. Skewer, and grill for 5-6 minutes over medium-high heat.

To assemble tacos, place a spoonful of guacamole on tortilla and spread to coat. Top that with tomatoes, cabbage, a few shrimp, cheese and a drizzle of taco sauce. Finish your creation off with a squeeze of lime. So simple and a great change from your typical taco night!

Non Recipe Guacamole

When I make guacamole I usually just wing it. It turns out different every time, but I love cooking that way. Sometimes I am missing onions so I go without. Sometimes I don't have limes, so I use lemons. Taste a lot and make it the way you like! This is just a suggestion! This recipe makes enough to share with 4-5 hungry adults.

4-5 ripe avocados, meat scooped out
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half and seeds removed ( you don't want that extra liquid in your guac.)
1/2 - 1 jalapeno finely chopped (depending on how hot you like things)
big handful of cilantro, finely chopped
1-2 limes, juiced (depending on how much you like and how juicy your limes are)
Kosher or sea salt, to taste

Mash avocados with a potato masher in a large bowl. Fold in onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Enjoy on tacos on with a big bowl of tortilla chips!

Yogurt & Mayo White Sauce

1/2 cup plain yogurt ( don't use Greek yogurt here.. you want the consistency to be thin, and this won't work)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Spectrum Canola is the BEST!)
fresh lime juice as needed to get the sauce to a runny consistency
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (you can use a habanero if you are feeling brave)
1 tsp capers, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Mix yogurt and mayonnaise in a bowl. Add lime juice until you get a slightly runny consistency. Add in jalapeno, capers, oregano, cumin, dill and cayenne. This will keep in the refrigerator for a while so don't worry if it makes a lot more than you need. Otherwise you can half it easily.