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Posts Tagged ‘shallots’

I’ve just returned from a week of travel, and the refrigerator is a tad bare.  But I’m hungry.  And we need to eat lunch.  There’s half a shallot from last night, some feta cheese that is still good, a jar of roasted red peppers, and four eggs.  A rummage through the fruit drawer leads me to two lone grapefruits.  Ladies and gentlemen – we have a lunch!

It is very interesting how some of the most delicious things that I’ve eaten for lunch have been discovered through the use of odds and ends ingredients and the benefit of a well stocked pantry and spice cabinet.  I will never forget the day the kitchen sink eggwich changed my life… 

Anyway, as I was sauteeing the red peppers, shallots and garlic, I added a little pinch of dried basil and a little pinch of dried oregano.  Everything was smelling fragrant and delicious.  I started feeling sassy and added a splash of dry sherry to deglaze the pan and WOW.  Sherry and eggs and shallot and garlic and feta and basil and oregano and roasted red peppers equate to very, very tasty and wonderful scrambled eggs.  The salty feta is such a wonderful counterpoint to the other flavors.  I think my humble little eggs felt very fancy with the addition of that dry sherry.

Now if we ever have any fancy people show up for brunch, I’ll serve them these scrambled eggs; they’re the best I’ve ever had.  In the meantime, I plan to add this to the regular rotation, finished with two juicy little grapefruits drizzled with honey or any other fruits hanging out lonely in the fruit drawer.  A handful of lettuce tossed in vinaigrette will also make a very tasty addition. 

scrambled eggs – fancy pants style

serves two

  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • one small shallot or half of one large shallot, chopped
  • one roasted red pepper, chopped
  • four eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked with a splash of milk, salt and pepper
  • a pinch of dried basil
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • about two tbsp of dry sherry
  • about 1/3 cup of crumbled feta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to thinly coat; add the garlic, shallots and roasted red peppers, and cook until just beginning to brown – stir regularly to prevent the garlic from burning
  2. slowly pour in the sherry, stirring to coat the vegetables (you should hear the sherry sizzle in the pan)
  3. reduce the heat to low and add the eggs, stirring constantly around the edge of the pan to gently “scramble” the eggs
  4. when the eggs have reached their desired consistency, gently stir in the feta
  5. garnish with some chopped chives or parsley if you have fancy people dining with you

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I love it when I make something from scratch and have enough left over to store some in the freezer.  It makes me feel so prepared… so wholesome (which is excellent since “prepared” and “wholesome” probably aren’t the first words that come to mind when describing myself).  It also makes me feel smart, because making something from scratch that you would normally buy jarred from the store tends to be much tastier, much cheaper, and much better for you.   

the components

In fact, I love this so much that one may assume by the looks of my freezer that an eighty-five year old woman lives at my house.  My freezer is full of little labeled bags, each one containing enough of some little morsel or ingredient to be used for a specific serving amount.  Didn’t use an entire can of tomato paste or chipotle chiles?  Just divide the rest up and put it in a little bag, I say!  Who doesn’t love stretching one dollar across four meals?!  If only I exercised this level of mindfulness and precision with my laundry or, I don’t know, our budget.

accidental art

Back to making things from scratch; I’ve been really into this lately.  The discovery of very inexpensive spices that can be found at international markets (basically any place that sells food outside of your conventional chain grocery store) opens up a new world of possibilities in this realm.  I’ve always been a relative purist in terms of cooking meals from scratch; I keep it simple and fresh with veggies, grains, meats and bread.  Now I’m moving on to condiments.  I have big plans for some Guiness mustard, a fantastic worsteshire sauce, Harissa paste and maybe ketsup.   Once you deconstruct a sauce or flavor component that you use regularly and typically pick up at the store, you discover that the ingredients in a store bought item tend towards fillers and artificial ingredients that diminish flavor and aren’t really good for you.  Homemade marinara or Bolognese sauce, for instance, is a revelation after years of stuff from a jar.

possibilities

Anyway, I started this journey with Thai Red Curry paste.  The beauty of Thai Red Curry paste (aside from the fact that it is utterly delicious) is that it has so many uses: stir a little into noodles, add some to rice, slather on meat for a marinade, whisk some into soup, add to oil and vinegar for a unique salad dressing… Having some of this curry paste on hand means that a can of coconut milk, shallots, lime and a pound of mussels is all it takes to quickly put together an elegant and exotic meal.  I love this!  I enjoy so much the complilation of all these ingredients, coming together to make something fantastic.  There may be a little extra work on the front end, but I’m so thankful when I pull my well marked baggie out of the freezer for instant flavor.  This little trend has started to extend to a multitude of other genres… spice blends, jams and jellies… I’m actually dreaming of getting my hands on some veal bones to make my own demi glace this Fall.  

the end result

In the meantime, I’ll just share this recipe that I used from Saveur; I hope someone will try it and share with me in the unusual satisfaction that comes from a freezer full of tiny baggies.  

thai red curry paste

  • 8 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 tbsp corriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, with stems
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 5 gloves of garlic, smashed
  • 3 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 holland or fresno chiles, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer layers discarded, tender interior layers finely chopped
  • 1 one inch piece of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  1. break the chiles de arbol into pieces, transfer to a small bowl, and cover with one cup of boiling water; let them soak until softened – about 20 minutes
  2. meanwhile, add corriander, cumin, peppercorns, and cardamom to a small skillet over meadium head; toast spices, swirling constantly, until very fragrant – about 4 minutes
  3. transfer spices to a grinder (I use an electric coffee grinder) and grind to a fine poweder – set aside – (if you’re feeling really rustic, you could smash and grind them with a mortar and pestle)
  4. strain the chiles de arbol through a sieve, reserving the soaking liquid
  5. in a food processor, combine chiles de arbol, ground spices, fish sauce, cilantro, oil, salt, nutmeg, garlic, shallots, fresh holland chiles, lemongrass and ginger – puree until paste is smooth, about 2 minutes (sprinkle in a tbsp or two of reserved chile soaking water to help paste grind)
  6. refrigerate for up to three weeks or freeze for up to three months

Thai Red Curry paste doesn’t have the flavor that many people associate with the traditional Indian Yellow Curry; the word “curry” is used in both Indian and Thai cuisines to indicate a pungeant and flavorful spice paste or mixture, and is not indicative of one specific flavor or aroma.

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summer on a plate

summer on a plate

Summer is almost over, my friends.  It’s going to be hard for me to say goodbye to the berries, the peaches, the summer squash – all of the beautiful produce that is overflowing at the market right now.  I’m clinging to this food season with every meal, and tonight was quintessential summer. 

Roasted baby tomatoes and a fresh and lively vinaigrette go perfectly with simple pan sauteed chicken; shallots and the sweetness of the tomatoes add a mellow balance to the assertive flavors of dill, mustard and champagne vinegar.    We ate this with fresh yellow corn on the cob, slathered in butter and seasoned simply with salt and pepper.  The corn is really so delicious that it doesn’t need anything, but I look for any excuse to eat a little melted butter. 

Even though it’s been raining for at least five days straight in Atlanta, I felt so summery while we ate dinner… I gnawed (literally) on my tender little corn and imagined that I was sitting at a picnic table somewhere outside near some tall, climbing trees, a canopy of twilight stars over my head, warm summer breeze on my face and a show of fireflies twinkling through the trees… I could almost smell freshly mown grass and honeysuckle… Yes – buttery, perfectly in-season corn can cause me to wax poetic; I might have even burst out with a rendition of Billie Holiday’s Summertime if a pitcher of homemade lemonade had graced our table.  Jon broke up my mental reverie by announcing that our dinner made him nostalgic for the summers of his childhood when he and his family would pick corn from a neighbor’s field.  I love food that is so firmly planted in a season or a memory that each bite, each taste, transports you to a cherished place or time. 

I should also mention that his warm and fuzzy recollection was followed by a comment that corn on the cob is really better eaten at home than in public.  I chose not to ask about the inspiration for this proclamation, but instead to wipe the butter and corn from my chin and cheeks. 

This was ready and on the table in less than thirty minutes; it would be a tragedy for others that I know and love to not share in the final stages of summertime deliciousness by eating this fantastic meal.  The original recipe came from Gourmet and can be found here; the recipe below is with my modifications. 

As for my bizarre three week absence from the blog, I have no explanation.  All I can say is that I’m back!  Thanks to those of you who encouraged me to get writing again.

chicken paillards with tangy tomato-dill relish and tender buttered corn

  • four skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar (or red wine, if you don’t have either of those two)
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved (I like to scoop out the seeds with my finger)
  • fresh corn on the cob, shucked
  • butter, salt and pepper to taste
  1. preheat oven to 425 degrees and set a large pot of water to boil
  2. pound the chicken breasts to 1/4 of an inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap with a meat mallet or rolling pin
  3. whisk together oil, dill, shallot, mustard and vinegar in a large bowl
  4. toss the halved tomatoes with a few spoonfuls of the vinaigrette mixture and roast in the oven for seven to ten minutes
  5. meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with a little kosher salt and pepper and spoon some of the vinaigrette over one side of each breast
  6. add chicken breasts to a skillet heated over medium heat, vinaigrette side down; spoon more vinaigrette over the unseasoned sides of the chicken in the pan; cook chicken three to four minutes per side, adding the remaining vinaigrette at the end of cooking
  7. while chicken is cooking, add corn to boiling water and cook for five to six minutes
  8. serve the chicken with the roasted tomatoes scattered on top – buttery corn on the side – prepare to reminisce in happiness

This recipe serves four, but I made the full amount of vinaigrette for our two pieces of chicken because I like things saucy and extra flavorful; if serving four you may want to make some extra vinaigrette.

I generally use this method for cooking chicken; splitting a chicken breast between two people is actually an appropriate portion size, saving money and extra calories.  Pounding the chicken flat allows for quicker, more even cooking and a seemingly larger size.  This is a great, everyday method.

 

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bright, crispy, buttery salmon

famous salmon

Does it matter that it’s April and it snowed this week in Atlanta?  No.  Is that going to keep me from craving the flavors and brightness of Spring?  No.  I persevere.  I pray for warm weather.  I eat springy food.  Actually, I eat this dish year round because it is so mind-blowingly delicious; however, the flavors are delightfully green and fresh and therefore appropriate for Spring.  In fact, this dish is what turned me on to salmon.  I’ve never really loved the fish; the strong flavor was not appealing to me.  Providence and this recipe lured me into trying it in my own kitchen.  What a wonderful day that was.  Now we eat salmon at least once a week in varied marvelous preparations that are also gorgeous and amazing. 

These flavors are astounding; you can’t imagine them until you’ve tasted for yourself.  The brightness of the peas with a little mint and garlic and the velvety, lemony brodetto sauce make the salmon taste like butter.  Fresh – beautiful – delicious.  I love to let the salmon get a crispy crust on the outside – so, so good.  This dish is a favorite with my husband and the regulars in our home; the sight of green peas evokes a silent hush and then a whispered question – “are we having the one with the peas?”  Oh, yes.  That’s the one. 

This recipe is from Giada DeLaurentis (bless her).  It serves four.  I love to serve it with roasted or grilled asparagus or squash and zucchini.  Please get in the kitchen and cook it immediately so that your world can be changed.

favorite salmon on peas with lemon brodetto

for the lemon brodetto:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • the juice of two lemons (meyer lemons if you have them)
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped

for the pea puree:

  • 2 cups of frozen petite peas, thawed (do NOT cook – will alter the flavor of this dish)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic
  • kosher salt to taste (at least 1/2 tsp)
  • freshly ground black pepper (at least 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (no cheating with the fake stuff – a good wedge of fresh parmesan cheese is one of the best kitchen staples anyway)

salmon:

  • 4 fresh salmon filets, skinned (your butcher can skin the salmon for you)
  1. start the brodetto by warming the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat – add in the shallots and sautee until tender but not browned (7 minutes or less)
  2. add the lemon juice, zest and broth – bring to a simmer and keep warm, covered over low heat
  3. next, put thawed peas, 1/4 cup mint leaves, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor, and pulse until well “chopped” and combined
  4. then, slowly pour the 1/2 cup of olive oil into the food processor while simultaneously pulsing to combine
  5. scoop the puree into a bowl and mix in the parmesan (taste it this point to test for salt) – set aside
  6. heat a grill plan or skillet over medium with some olive oil – season your salmon filets with some salt and pepper and put in the hot pan
  7. cook salmon about 3 to 4 minutes per side depending on thickness, only turning once (this will allow for a lovely brown crust to form)
  8. meanwhile, mix the remaining mint into the brodetto, saving a little bit to garnish the salmon
  9. serve with a few spoonfuls of brodetto on the plate, topped with a generous mound of pea puree, with the salmon crowning the top – sprinkle a little fresh mint, serve and become famous

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This is a quick and tasty little dinner.  We ate it last night, and it is consistently delicious.  The recipe for the sole came from Gourmet magazine.  While there aren’t many ingredients, you do have to pay attention and prepare this properly, or your almonds and butter will burn.  The texture and taste of the sole really compliments this preparation, and because of this, I don’t think any white fish would do as a substitution.  If there isn’t any sole at the market, trout may work well. 

Very tasty with some sauteed haricot vert (little french green beans – I buy bags of frozen from Trader Joe’s) and shallots, sprinkled generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sole Almandine – Serves 2

  • 2 sole filets – skinned
  • 3 tbsp butter (I use smart balance sticks) – divided
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds, or just  a generous handful
  • a lemon
  • a little flour, salt and pepper, and canola oil
  1. Heat 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp of the butter over medium high heat in a flat bottomed sautee pan
  2. Gently salt and pepper the filets and dust them with flour
  3. Cook the fillets in the pan, about one and a half minutes per side – very quick!  Remove them from the pan and put a fillet on each plate
  4. Dump the oil and fat from the pan, wiping out any excess
  5. Add the other 2 tbsp of butter and your almonds, cooking over LOW for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently
  6. Remove the pan from the heat, and squeeze your lemon juice into the pan
  7. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve – so tasty

Sauteed Haricot Vert or regular Green Beans – Serves 2

  • a few generous handfuls of the veggies (if using regular green beans, snap the ends)
  • one medium shallot, cut into half rings or very coarsly chopped (you could do an onion if you don’t have shallot, but for this I prefer the delicate flavor and size of a shallot)
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  1. add a few glugs of olive oil to a pan, heated over medium
  2. throw in the shallots with a little bit of salt, and cook for a minute or two
  3. add your green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for five to seven minutes, or until starting to brown a little (sometimes I blanche frozen green beans in a little bit of boiling hot water first, but it isn’t totally necessary)
  4. finish with some sea salt and a generous grind of pepper

This is a quick and easy dinner.  It’s not too terrible for you; although some could make an argument about the butter.  Oh well… it tastes delicious.  🙂

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