The sky is the limit.
Money is no object.
Add anything you like.
Use all of these ingredients.
What is your creation?
The sky is the limit.
Money is no object.
Add anything you like.
Use all of these ingredients.
What is your creation?
If you want to sing because you have just eaten something delectable – if you want to feel like you are dining in the manner of aristocrats – if you want an absolute slurpy flavor explosion with each little bite of food, then you need to prepare and eat the mussels that I just had for lunch. Seriously. I’m getting really passionate again about my lunch but it’s completely valid.
Mussels are so good and easy to make. The strangest thing is trying to guard their little lives so much from store to home, then confirm that they’re all healthy and thriving, only to quickly extinguish those little lives in a steaming pot. I would be kind of sad about it if they weren’t so extravagantly delicious.
I have been craving mussels and a smattering of left over ingredients from the week came together very quickly to make an absolutely glorious broth that obviously gets me very excited. A pinch of saffron and the addition of a tiny anchovy filet (both pantry staples in my house) added an extra layer of flavor to ingredients that are already outstanding. Imagine this bite: one tender little mussel swimming in a fragrant broth that tastes of wine and lemon and garlic and fresh parsley and summer with a hint of thyme and saffron. I realize that I sound a bit over dramatic sometimes when I talk about some of these things, but when food tastes this good it makes me want write poetry. And love letters. Food love letters, if you will.
We ate these mussels with some toasted slices of french baguette, rubbed with a clove of raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper. If you haven’t eaten bread this way, you are missing out on one of life’s great and simple pleasures.
The recipe below serves two and the entire meal took about twenty minutes to prepare; there really isn’t any excuse for you to not share in this experience with me. I want everyone to experience these little tastes of the good life – together. Let’s start with these mussels.
tender mussels in fragrant wine broth
All mussels should be scrubbed and inspected before cooking; discard any mussels that have cracked or broken shells. If a mussel is open, gently tap it on the shell; if it doesn’t close it should also be discarded.
Last week was so crazy (hence the single post). Weeks of going through closets and boxes culminated in a very successful garage sale. Yippee! To celebrate, I got everything I needed for a recipe that I was saving from Saveur. Oooohhh I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone; snapper baked in foil with clams, lemon, smoked sausage, fennel, olives, orange zest, shallots, fingerling potatoes, white wine… sounds amazing, right? It wasn’t. It just wasn’t good. DANGIT. I hate it when that happens!
So, I’ll share a faithful old stand-by instead. I used to make this all the time when I first started cooking… somehow it has left the regular rotation. We had it for lunch today and I was reminded of why we used to eat it so frequently! This is a very elegant take on red beans and rice; it’s extremely comforting but also a little refined. I love the soft orzo and the mixture of sweet peas, salty prosciutto and freshly grated parmesan. It’s herby, elegant, delicious, and you can get it on the table in about thirty minutes. Nice! Today I added a little green salad on the side with a quick dressing made from lemon, dijon, marmalade and white wine vinegar, topped with toasted, slivered almonds. It was the perfect compliment.
I have big plans for the rest of the week – lots of things from scratch – thai red curry paste, worsteshire sauce, pickled okra and fresh ricotta ravioli (my first attempt at homemade pasta) – I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, let me know if you make this and what you think of it. Oh, and if anyone has any tips on making pasta dough, I will be very grateful!
red beans and orzo
Wow. I have been away for a while. I feel distant from my little blog space and from my kitchen. We’ve been slowly reconnecting since my time in Orange County; I’ve been sleepwalking through my house the last few days and enjoying my own food in a dream-like state. Ahhhhh…
Anyway, I’m back and I want to share this easy and fabulous Moroccan stew. I made it just before I left for my event in So Cal; I felt so comforted and joyful and delightfully global while eating it – I was transported from my deadlines and pile of work to food fantasy land. It is the FIRST thing I made when I got home. It is warm and beautifully spiced and fragrant and very healthy and extremely delicious. How can something be comforting and sensual and exotic all at once? This is how. This dish. I know I get very intense and dramatic about food, but please, make this and go there with me. It is so, so good.
I originally came across the inspiration for this dish on Gourmet’s website, but I’ve changed it so much that I’m just giving you my version below. The dish departs from the traditional couscous and is made with quinoa, which is actually an ancient Incan grain and is extremely nutritious. I love nutty and tender quinoa, which is what originally caught my eye; the warm addition of spices is what inspired me to try it immediately. You can be very flexible with this – adjusting, eliminating or adding spices to your liking; all of my measurements are estimates since I tend to just spoon and pinch into the pot. If you want to go vegetarian, add chick peas instead of chicken. The first time I made it without the dried prunes and it was savory and spicy tomato-y goodness. The second time I added the prunes which gave the dish a sweeter dimension. I liked both ways so much that I think I’ll keep switching it up. This could serve two to four depending on the amount of quinoa you prepare – I made enough “stew” for four and quinoa for two – we just ate extra veggies and sauce.
Soft and nutty quinoa, toasted almonds, tender chicken, sweet carrots and earthy turnips, warmly spiced sauce, bright and green little onions or parsley – all so tasty and so good for you, too! I’m in love with this dish – I will make this over and over again.
Sit down at the table and inhale the lovely fragrance of the spices – take time and enjoy the flavor in every bite – imagine that you are wandering the narrow aisles of a souk in Morocco with the intense aromas of steaming tagines, the colors of the market and the sounds of music and humanity joyfully confronting your senses.
warm moroccan stew
I always freeze tablespoons of tomato paste in separate bags so that the entire can doesn’t go to waste after one use
Remember how I mentioned that the secret to perfectly roasted chicken is the very top rack of the oven at 500 degrees, lots of olive oil and skin-on, bone-in chicken? If you don’t remember, now you know. Thank you, Gourmet, for sharing this extraordinary knowledge. This sweet and spicy and roasty toasty recipe is the first way that I had this magical chicken – so pleasing and delicious.
It’s a perfect weeknight dinner because it is ridiculously easy to prepare. It’s also a very economical way to feed quite a few people. The simple combination of paprika, cayenne and cinnamon ends up tasting surprising and complex – the onions roast to sublime tenderness and sweetness. I like to roast a few vegetables in a different dish next door to the chicken in the oven. Sometimes squash and zucchini, sometimes cauliflower; either way I give the veggies a generous dose of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and a little parmesan. Gourmet recommends green beans with shallots and cashews – also magnificent. Just make sure you put your veggies in for about 25 minutes instead of the 35 that the chicken needs.
I can never actually follow the rules for anything, and I don’t always have the patience to measure, so I say you get to adjust the amount of spices to your taste. The recipe below is just a guideline. I love lots of paprika, lots of cinnamon and a little less cayenne. I also add a dash of smoked paprika. You can use a whole, cut up chicken for a full table; I use a couple of skin-on, bone-in breasts for two or three. Sweet onions or regular – either will be very tasty.
Once again we have an amazing dish that tastes fabulous, cooks all at once in the oven, makes your house smell fantastic and is easy to clean up. Yes, please. Stay tuned for future editions of “fabulous roasted chicken” – I’m thinking szechwan peppercorns or chile and lime… adobo spices or something sweet and Moroccan…
delicious paprika and spiced roast chicken with sweet onions
inspired by Gourmet magazine – serves 4 to 6
Serve with all of the pan juices poured over the chicken and onions for extra flavor.
Be sure and roast with the skin on, even if you don’t plan to eat it. This will help to keep the chicken moist and flavorful and cannot be omitted.
Lately, a lot of people have asked me to write them a weekly menu and corresponding grocery list. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to do this (or write the post on my latest dining experiences in Texas, my first post on “beauty,” starring Ella and Ava, or the post I’ve been planning on my favorite market…). My insane schedule does not line up with my desire for slow living! I suppose the next best thing is to post what we are eating for dinner tonight…something simple, healthy and supremely delicious for a weeknight dinner.
As usual, I don’t recall where this recipe came from – as always, I’m sure I have made a few modifications. The recipe is still scribbled in one of my “food” notebooks, but now the contents reside in my head. While the ingredient list may seem bizarre or unappealing, do not be deterred. These flavors and spices come together beautifully for a moist and delicious dish. I’m sure that the recipe is to serve four, but I still make all of the extra sauce and topping for two. I love EXTRA flavor!
When I’m preparing this for two, I split one chicken breast between us and bake in a loaf pan; this way all of the juices don’t disappear. I’m sure this would be very tasty served over couscous or quinoa, but I just pair it with some roasted carrots. I have served this many times for guests in my home; it is a hit every time.
garlic lime chicken and olives
note: I use balsamic vinegar paired with rosemary and red wine vinegar paired with thyme
My Mom was inspired from my post about trout almandine and prepared a letter and a few recipes for the blog. I am delighted to share them! However, the main ingredient is a bit of a stretch for me personally. I am still steadfast in my goal be a tad more adventurous in the meat department, but turtle? I like turtle. We had a little turtle that visited our backyard regularly, and I took pictures of her. How can I eat turtle? Turtles are cute; thus nullifying their qualification as food (see my previous post on this matter). Nonetheless, the recipe deserves to be shared. Please note that Mom (aka Mimi) has shared some of her own notes following the recipes. Enjoy!
Your blog about your “meat issues” reminded me of when I first moved to New Orleans from Southern California – talk about meat shock! Nothing was the same, the types of seafood and meat were totally different, and the way to cook everything was totally different, even the way people talked was totally different…I had a lot to learn.
I worked in a high rise office on Poydras Street and would go out to lunch with groups of “natives” who thought it was their sacred duty to introduce me to the cuisine of the Crescent City. Some days I was happier with the introduction than others. (We will not discuss my first look at a boiled out crab carcass in my first bowl of seafood gumbo. Your dad was there, he saw the horror on my face! It produced reoccurring nightmares for years. It’s a good thing Turtle Soup isn’t made from those teensy little turtles they used to sell at the pet store…talk about finding an unwelcome shell in your soup…but I digress.)
Anyway, one of the things best things I was introduced to during that time was Turtle Soup, a New Orleans specialty. I first had it at Galatoire’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. Back in the day, you had to wait in line outside the restaurant for a table. I remember that it was a windy fall day and I had to hold my dress down to keep it from blowing over my head! Once we were inside I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this truly elegant restaurant and nervous about whether I could afford to eat here.
One of the guys in the group (the late, great Frank Fetter) decided that he was going to order for me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was pretty panicked about it and told him that if he was going to order then he was going to pay! I didn’t have the money for food experimentation at one of the most expensive restaurants in town! Well, he took me up on it and I was stuck with his choices…in hindsight, it was one of the best moves I ever made because it introduced me to two of my most favorite dishes ever, Turtle Soup and Shrimp Remoulade. Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the meal because I was so entranced by these two dishes.
For years after, at every restaurant in New Orleans that served it, I ordered Turtle Soup. Every recipe was different – thickness, clarity of broth, ingredients – the only constants were turtle meat, sherry and chopped hard boiled eggs. Some stirred the eggs and sherry into the soup, some garnished the soup with the eggs chopped fine and served the sherry on the side in an elegant cruet. My eventual favorite ended up being the Turtle Soup from Commander’s Palace. As for the shrimp, no one ever topped that first Shrimp Remoulade from Galatoire’s. Here are the recipes from both restaurants for my favorite soup and favorite shrimp dish. I have not altered these recipes in any way, why mess with perfection?
Shrimp Remoulade – recipe and comments from Galatoires.com
Shrimp Rémoulade is in every New Orleans girl’s arsenal of favored dishes for relaxed entertaining. Serve this simple dish on elegant china and its fit for a king- Mardi Gras or otherwise. This is our most popular dish and most frequently requested recipe. Bonus for the home cook: The sauce is definitely best made a day in advance and refrigerated, then all that’s left to do is toss in the shrimp and plate and serve. It’s a snap to make, yet it’s always impressive.
¾ cup chopped celery
¾ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
½ cup chopped curly parsley
1 cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup ketchup
½ cup tomato purée
½ cup Creole mustard or any coarse, grainy brown mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Spanish hot paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup salad oil
4 dozen jumbo (15 count) shrimp, peeled, boiled, and chilled
1 small head of iceberg lettuce, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons
Mince the celery, scallions, parsley, and onions in a food processor. Add the ketchup, tomato puree, Creole mustard, horseradish, red wine vinegar, paprika, and Worcestershire. Begin processing again and add the oil in a slow drizzle to emulsify. Stop when the dressing is smooth. Chill for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Correct the seasoning with additional horseradish, if desired after the ingredients have had the opportunity to marry.
In a large mixing bowl, add the sauce to the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Divide the lettuce among 6 chilled salad plates. Divide the shrimp evenly atop the lettuce and serve.
Mimi’s Note: The chilled iceberg lettuce ribbons are essential – they taste delicious with the sauce and shrimp bites – it cools the sauce down a bit and compliments the taste of the shrimp.
Chef’s Note: We use alligator snapping turtles, which is a farm-raised fresh water species available all year long. Turtle meat usually comes in 2 ½ pound portions. This soup freezes well. Makes 5 servings
Mimi’s Note: Freshwater turtle meat (either snapper or soft shell) is usually available at Asian markets. Both of these meats are legal when purchased from a licensed turtle meat supplier or retailer. Other types of turtle meat may or may not be legal depending on the state you live in. Salt water turtle meat is strictly illegal in the USA. Salt water turtles are highly endangered! Don’t eat them! If you cannot find turtle meat locally, it is available at 1-800-Steaks.com in 1# and 5# quantities, also from marxfoods.com in a 5# bucket. Thaw and cook it all, then refreeze for future use in small portions. Be prepared, turtle meat is pricey! If you cannot find veal stock locally, veal demi-glace to make the veal stock is available from dartagnan.com and morethangourmet.com. Concassee tomatoes are tomatoes without skin or seeds, it is a process, not a type of tomato! A great explanation on how to do this is at kitchensavvy.com. By the way, it sounds harder to do than it really is.
1 ½ sticks butter
2 ½ pounds turtle meat, medium dice
2 medium onions, medium dice
6 stalks celery, medium dice
1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
3 bell peppers, medium dice
1 tablespoon dried thyme, ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano, ground
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock
1 cup flour
26 oz. dry sherry (750 ml bottle)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups concassée tomatoes
10 oz fresh spinach, stems removed, washed 3 times, coarsely chopped
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into large pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium to high heat. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add onions, celery, garlic, and peppers, stirring constantly, then add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and sauté for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have caramelized. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that comes to top.
While stock is simmering, make a roux in a separate pot: Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color, and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.
Using a whisk, vigorously stir the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking on the bottom.
Add the sherry, bring to a boil, and add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire, and simmer, skimming any fat or foam that comes to the top. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to simmer, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. This soup freezes well.
Chef’s Note: Caramelize the vegetables and meats thoroughly, by cooking until the natural sugars form a thick dark liquid, to get a nice dark color.
Remember, this soup is like a stew and could be eaten as a main dish. Because of its thickness, prepare it in a heavy pot, and stir frequently to avoid burning.
Mimi’s Note: NEVER use “Cooking Sherry”, it contains a large amount of salt so that it can be sold legally on a regular grocery aisle. Remove the bay leaves; they shouldn’t ever be left in the pot to be accidentally ingested. Also, I like to garnish with a small amount of finely chopped egg with a small green leaf like a celery leaf. Serve with extra sherry on the side to suit individual taste. If serving as a main dish, serve a hot, crispy French baguette with the meal so that everybody can soak up the meaty goodness.