Monday

Seafood Pasta, Etiquette, and the Art of Dining Out


Lately there has been a lot of criticism of folks using their cell phones at the table which has been described extensively as anti-social behavior - these people are either being mocked for their attention to detail in taking artful Instagram pics of their meal (hint: the best angle is achieved if you stand up to get a bit of height), or looked down upon for staring at their phones instead of conversing courteously with their dinner companions.  

 Can we talk - about restaurant etiquette?
I myself may have scorned such behavior now and again, however, that's all in the past.  I know now that the quiet use of a cell phone during dinner is highly preferable to the shouting high decibel conversations of diners attempting to interact like walruses in a noisy restaurant. It's the very worst of table manners. This unchecked phenomena has become a dreaded but all too common occurrence. And it has virtually confined me to the home for meal eating. I am practically a hermit! I have come to dread going out to eat, especially wasting some good hard earned dollars that could have been much better spent on other things (shoes), because of the fear of getting jammed in a table between a couple of shrieking ninnies, and a table of guffawing buffoons.

Last week, I stuck my head out of my cave and ventured out to a former favorite restaurant with forgetful optimism. For a birthday treat, I was taken to Barbounia, on Park Avenue South, which serves pretty decent Mediterranean fare in attractive surroundings. Anyone who knows me, know that I love that type of food.

Disaster!

My dining companion and I only made it through the Taramasalata appetizer (FYI they need to invest in some sharper bread knives because the current ones don't actually cut the bread) before two gals were seated beside us and began shouting at each other at the top of their lungs, with very high pitched tonality that was impossible to ignore, much less speak over. It was so darned annoying that we could barely even enjoy our food - mine was a dish of linguine and seafood which, in my haste to depart, I barely touched.

So, here's my version of shrimp and pasta dish which you can eat quietly at home - staring at your cell phone while eating, optional. No judgements.


SPICY SHRIMP PASTA





Ingredients 

1 lb cleaned shrimp
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 thinly sliced onion
2 tblsp olive oil
1 can whole tomatoes
1 clove sliced garlic
handful olives, sliced (no pits)
1/4 cup corn
1 clove sliced garlic
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked Spanish Paprika
1 clove sliced garlic
fresh grated black pepper
1 tblspn cream cheese (optional!)
1 box Capellini pasta 

Put your water on to boil for the pasta.

Slice the mushrooms, and onion and saute until golden in olive oil.  Add the sliced garlic and lightly brown.
 Separate the canned tomatoes from the juice (reserve the tomato juice, about 1 cup) and chop - add to the onion mixture, cook for 3 - 4 minutes.

Season with the smoked Spanish Paprika, hot chili flakes, and add the olives.
Add the reserved tomato juice and the chicken bouillon and heat until simmering. Add corn kernels and olives. Add the broccoli and cover - steam for 2 - 3 minutes

Now cook the capellini pasta in the pot of boiling water (it only takes a 3-4 minutes)

Toss in the shrimp into your mix and cover - steam and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Taste and season to your liking... 

Serve piping hot!  You can add some freshly grated Parmesan although I think technically you're not supposed to serve seafood pasta with Parmesan - but do the old rules apply anymore?  Certainly not the rules of etiquette or manners, anyway.

“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”

William Cuppy

Wednesday

Caribbean Cod with Coconut Rice

I love to cook - it's my way to unwind in the evening, especially with a nice glass of white wine!  But when the hot weather hits it becomes a bit problematic cooking something in the oven for an hour.  This recipe is a winner because it is very quick to cook but still delicious when made with fresh, fat fillets of cod.  You could also use any meaty white fish such as haddock or monk fish which take strong flavors very well.

Ingredients:

For the fish (3 - 4 servings)

  • 1 lb fresh cod
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced,
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  •  1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon sliced

For the Rice

  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 8 oz canned coconut milk
  • 3 cups water
Method

First, get the rice going in a pot with all the above ingredients - heat on high and, after it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

For the fish: Begin by lightly sauteing yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and scallions in the fresh lemon juice for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili peppers, cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomato sauce, sugar, ginger, salt, 1/2 cup of chopped basil, and top with the cod fillets. Cover and simmer on low for approximately 10 minutes, until firm (but not hard) to touch.

Serve the fish in the sauce on the coconut rice and top with a sprinkle of pistachio nuts, diced red pepper,  and fresh basil.  Garnish with a slice of fresh lemon.

"The only time I eat diet food, is while waiting for the steak to cook."
Julia Child

Tuesday

Easy Party Appetizer: Tomato Bruschetta

I can't think of anything I like to do more than invite a few close friends over for a meal!  I used to entertain on a weekly basis but lately it is more a rarity and I put less pressure on myself to create a "groaning board" with every possible variety of culinary delight. In the old days, there were always a few casualties among the diners who had arrived hungry, ate mightily, and wound up in a food induced coma on the sofa at 1 a.m. unable to summon the ability to leave. Now I stick to one or two simple appetizers for the guests to attack while I finish preparing a simple main course.

Bruschetta is something delicious and garlicky that everyone can dive into - just make sure you have a stack of cocktail napkins!  It's also an excellent way to use up yesterday's baguette which often otherwise goes rock hard and gets thrown out.

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta


Ingredients
• 1.2 inch slices of french bread,  grilled
• 2 -3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (red & yellow mix is nice)
• a few sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked, washed, and chopped, smaller leaves reserved
• 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
• extra virgin olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 x 125g ball buffalo mozzarella, or the small marinated balls of buffalo mozzarella
• 2 clove of garlic, peeled and halved,

Put your slices of bread in the toaster oven or onto a hot griddle and toast on both sides. They need to get rather hard because they are going to soak up all the delicious tomato & olive oil mixture. Chop up the tomatoes and basil leaves and most of the mozzarella. Add a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a good pinch of salt and pepper then toss everything together. Have a quick taste to make sure the seasoning is right and add more salt if needed.  As it sits, a lot of the liquid will come out of the tomatoes and make a nice juice.

When the bread is nice and toasted, rub the cut side of the garlic all over each piece. Place all the pieces on a large serving plate and spoon the tomato all over, making sure the mozzarella is evenly distributed.  Drizzle all of the olive oil/juice mixture over the bread.  Pass around to everyone who is now waiting to enjoy your perfect appetizer!

"As a teenager you are at the last stage in your life 
when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you."
~Fran Lebowitz

gif animator online

Monday

Monday Night Morrocan Meat Sauce

When things seems to be crowding in on you a bit too much - lingerie orders pressing, furniture stacking up and covered with tarps, ex-husbands hassling with lawsuits, bills to pay - what better meal to prepare for dinner than a comforting spaghetti and meat sauce? The weather still hasn't heated up so there is still time to squeeze in some cold weather classics! Unfortunately, pasta is currently off my diet, since I have been attempting to be gluten free - and successfully, I guess, since I have managed it for around 8 weeks. Amazing!  However, I can still serve spaghetti to the Man, and serve meat sauce to myself on a lettuce leaf. Joking! Spaghetti squash is nice, too. And I have even been known to eat Shiritaki noodles.  Or just serve it in a bowl, chili style, with a blob of low fat sour cream and some chopped avocados. Mmmmm...!

Meat sauce can be a bit mundane, so I like to experiment with different variations - and tonight I visit the far off land of Morocco, adopted home to Yves St Laurent and Proust.  
 

Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves,minced
  • 1 28 ounce can of organic plum tomatoes in puree
  • 1 tsp Oregano 
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon 
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp Hot Hungarian Paprika
  •  Salt & fresh ground black Pepper 
  • Chopped pitted Spicy Olives
  • 1/4 cup Raisins
  • 1 tblsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly grated parmesan
Method

Brown the ground beef in a frying pan first and then drain off the fat in a colander (it is very indigestible, put in a saucepan on the side. 
Next, wipe out the pan and add 1 white onion, chopped and sauteed until soft in olive oil, 4 mushrooms, sliced, added to the onion. If you like, add 1 carrot, sliced in very thin rounds and then cut into quarters 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly or minced.
Mix the above in with the cooked meat in the saucepan and combine with tomatoes, add the oregano, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper, chopped olives, raisins, Balsamic vinegar...bring to a boil and then and simmer, covered,  for at least 1 hour until fragrant.

About 15 minutes before the meat sauce is ready, remove the lid and reduce the sauce down a little.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add the pasta. Use some of the pasta water to adjust the thickness of your meat sauce, if it is too sticky. 

Serve over a steaming bowl of spaghetti & top with fresh parmesan- delicious!

Six words I will never say to a man again: "Can you paint my apartment?" 
Anonymous

Saturday

Potato Chip Fritatta

On the recommendation of a friend, I went on the Whole30 diet and made it all the way through the entire 30 days without any slip ups. As with any diet plan, it does take some dedication but I think it never hurts (at least for me) to 1.) shed a few winter pounds before the warm weather kicks in, and 2.) get out of the habit of stuffing my face with gluten and sweets which caused me to gain a few winter pounds!

The main problem with the plan, as I see it, is that although it gives you a generous list of foods to eat, and a pretty strict list of foods not to eat (which you just have to go along with and not question the logic behind it  - for example, why no Stevia to sweeten your coffee, but fruit and dried fruit and other sweet foods are encouraged?  Couldn't a cavemen have found a sprig of Stevia to chew on?) but if you're not careful and eat too many nuts and dates etc., the calories rack up and you won't lose any weight.

So what have I taken away from the Whole30 diet experience? One is a genuine liking for coconut cream in my coffee, and the realization that I really miss my evening glass of wine too much when I can't have it. Ouch! Oh, and I lost around 5 pounds.

For me, the only thing that made the Whole30 plan tolerable was the fact that you are allowed to eat potatoes. Eggs and potatoes are a really nice combination and I made several fritatta combinations over the month but I think that my "Potato Chip Fritatta" is the best! Don't use potato chips out of a bag, but make your own homemade oven roasted potato chips - they are chewier. That is the only thing that takes the tiniest bit of effort and the rest is as simple as 1, 2, 3....of course, don't add the cheese or cream if you are on the Whole30 and going lactose free!


Ingredients
1 or 2 large russet potatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil to coat the potatoes 
1/2 cup diced or sliced onions
1 cups small broccoli florets
3 slices deli ham or crispy bacon
12 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons cream, optional
1 tsp salt,
pinch of pepper, 
dash of nutmeg 
2 slices of Swiss cheese, optional  

Method 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the potatoes, salt, and roast in the oven with olive oil until golden - they don't have to be very crispy. Saute the onions in a little olive oil or butter until golden, then add the broccoli and steam in the pan until soft.  Layer in the bottom of the pie dish. Beat the eggs and add the cream, pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Pour in the mixture into the dish. Layer in the ham or bacon and the Swiss cheese. Top with your now golden oven roasted potato chips.  Place on a middle rack and cook for 30 - 40 minutes or until just set in the middle. It will puff up when it's cooked!

  "What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow."
  A.A. Milne

Friday

Light & Healthy Salmon with Corn Relish

I have been finding ways to cut down on calories in preparation for the warm weather and still make delish meals for everyone -  and they haven't even noticed that they are eating lighter fare!  I had a stab at the Whole30 plan - which wasn't easy, I might add  - and completed the 30 days. It just goes to show that we don't need all that heavy starch, cheese, and bread on our menus every day.  And there is an extra benefit for those of you not on a diet: you will have saved a little room for dessert!

This is such a simple way to kick up the flavor but not the calories. You can use this recipe with salmon or any fish that you like. It is a perfect summer meal and another way to serve the fresh corn while it is in season - and it is pretty much carb free.

Light & Healthy Salmon with Corn Relish



                                                                        
Ingredients
  • 1 filet of salmon per person
  • 1 cup snap peas (stems & strings removed)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • one shallot, finely chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • handful of cilantro chopped
  • kernels from one corn on the cob
  • juice of one lime 
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • kosher salt to taste 
  • Fresh pepper
  • 1/2 cup fish broth  (I use a cube!)
  • 1 healthy dash or squirt of hot chili paste, to taste (optional)
 Method

Keeping this one as simple as possible - no marinating or anything elaborate is necessary because the fresh ingredients will hold their own.  And all you need is one skillet to prepare this!  

Start by slicing the corn from the cob, halving the tomatoes, dicing the garlic & shallots, and chopping the cilantro.  Add them to the pan with the wine and let them saute - keep and eye on the liquid so that it doesn't dry out.  As the wine cooks down, add the broth and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Take your salmon and give it a rub with  kosher salt and pepper & a squirt of lime juice.  Then add to the pan and let it cook with the vegetables for 4-5 minutes

At the last minute, throw in the snap peas and let them steam in the broth for 2 minutes.  

Remove the salmon and place in a large shallow bowl.  Top with the corn and tomato relish and scatter the snow peas around.  Top with a sprig of fresh cilantro for effect.

Lastly, taste the broth, add a squirt of fresh lime juice, and adjust the seasonings - add the hot chili paste, if you like the heat.  Drizzle it all over salmon and serve!
That's it, and it only took me ten minutes to make. So no more excuses that something light and healthy can't be tasty as well.....

"Rich, fatty foods are like destiny: they too, shape our ends."
Anonymous

Tuesday

Soft Shell Crab Burgers

Don't you love Spring with the cherry blossoms, and the first hint of really warm sunshine... and the whole glorious summer ahead of us?  Yep, it's time to get the barbecue out!  Grilling makes a simple dinner into a party.  But you can run out of things you can cook over the coals.  If you're getting tired of the endless line of beef burgers, why not try soft-shell crab for a change?  The season for soft-shell crab is usually May to July, so now is the time to throw one on the grill - or saute it in a pan, if you can't get outdoors.  Soft-shelled crabs have a rich flavor and you only need one per person to make a perfect sandwich.  Use a soft Brioche or Challah roll and serve with a side of  coleslaw or potato salad and an ear of grilled corn. Yummy!

 Soft Shell Crab Burger

Ingredients

  • 1 Soft shell crab per person, cleaned (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
  • 1/2 cup seasoned flour (seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, celery salt, garlic powder)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Red onion
  • Tomato, thickly sliced
  •  Spicy mayonnaise (Mix 1 tablespoon chili paste with !/4 cup mayo)
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Soft brioche or Challah rolls, one per person

My picture is a little blurry - I was so excited about eating this that my hand was shaking!


My favorite Chili Paste


Pan cooking Method

Saute the garlic and parsley lightly in the butter and olive oil.  Then, simply dust each soft-shelled crab in seasoned flour, shake off the excess flour, and sauté the crabs, top side down first over a medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until the crabs turn a deep orange color. Remove  Serve immediately on warmed rolls with slices of red onion, tomato, thin slices of pickles, and home-made spicy mayonnaise.

 "The crab that walks too far falls into the pot"

Saturday

Hangover Cure Korean Style Soup "Buddae-jjigae"

They do say that buddae-jjigae is a legendary cure for a hangover and, although I eat some form of this for lunch nearly every day, that is not to be taken as an admission that I have a hangover every day! However, on that topic of hangover cures, I think the theory is that anything spicy is a cure for overindulging because it's a kick-starter to your system - and also an egg, if you go by Jeeves' authority.  I will say that it's also good if you're dieting because, if you add an egg to this soup, you can skip breakfast, which is not only economical calorie-wise, it also goes along with the overall premise of Buddae-jjigae which is said to date back to the days of the Korean war when rations were scarce. Honestly, I scoff at that particular theory because, as every cook around the world has known since the dawn of time, soup is an essential menu item when you have to stretch the pantry ingredients - or simply want to use up leftovers.

There are nice things to add to soups, and it's a great way to use up the ends of packages of pasta that are too small in quantity to use for dinner...but if you keep on hand your favorite noodles on hand such as ramen - packs of soft rice noodles are amazing - you can give yourself a midday treat.  Also great to add are the ends of jars of interesting spices, such as curries, chili paste, and jars of black bean paste, hoisin, kimchi, for example. And you need some broth paste or cubes, preferably without monosodium glutamate - good advice which I rarely follow personally.

This particular buddae-jjigae I concocted from a leftover pasta dish with kale & spicy pork sausage I served the night before, to which I added 2 cups chicken broth, a teaspoon korean chili paste, and an egg. 


I let it simmer for half an hour or so while I conducted the morning's business before I added the egg which poached nicely in the broth - and I left the yolk a bit runny. I always like to eat soup with chopsticks and a spoon which adds to the novelty and makes it seems like you are eating something really interesting which, in this case, I was!


Once again, not exactly a recipe...but you can use your own taste buds to adjust the seasoning to your liking, I believe.

When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste. ~Laiko Bahrs

Tuesday

Extra Chocolatey Marshmallow & Sea Salt Brownies

Are you seated? No longer am I "strictly stove top"! Yes, it's true - I have a new oven. Santa brought it! There is always a sense of relief and accomplishment after you make it through the holidays and I am considering this one a big success, even though my daughter announced several times that next year she will be in Aruba, to which I say - it isn't Christmas until somebody cries...and you'll still have to give me my present next year, even it you go away!

So, anyway, the oven opens up a world of cooking possibilities and I was toying with the idea of roasting a post holiday turkey, which I haven't done in at least 7 years (post or pre holiday) - however, no one really likes turkey in my house...and then there is the problem of the price of turkeys, which surged drastically this year due to bird flu. Who knew that the birds get it, too?  So forget the $90 gobbler, bring on the $2.99 brownies! 

I freely admit that I can't really even call this a recipe, since I cheated and used a box mix for the base, the excuse being that I whipped it up while I was making a cup of tea, just because my new oven was calling to me - but I also had to get back to work!  I know, I don't really like mixes for cakes, cookies, or brownies, either - they are over sweet and a bit tasteless. But I doctored up a Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie mix and the result was surprisingly good.  This is what I added:

1 slosh coffee liqueur
1 small dark chocolate bar, broken into bits
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


 You can add whatever you have in your pantry but I think that the addition of the sea salt is a huge improvement to the taste and takes it out of the bland box mix and into the world of something yummy and home-made.  Salty sweets are all the rage right now, and with good reason. Shake a little powdered sugar over the top for a little extra effect!



I owe it all to little chocolate donuts.
John Belushi

Wednesday

Thanksgiving Eve Lamb Tagine

Day before Thanksgiving: I was walking back from Fairway today in the yucky rain/sleet/snow with heavy bags of groceries and 2 pies, and no umbrella. I complained "this is a shopping nightmare!" to anyone who would listen.  Later, when I began to write this blog, I thought about the meaning of gratitude and I suddenly remembered to be thankful that I could even afford two pies (one blueberry & one pecan) and thankful I had two arms to carry them home with.   





I still don't have an oven and, not being able to cook a turkey, I was trying to think outside the box of the usual fare but I couldn't find the Cornish game hens I was looking for so I did end up with the ubiquitous whole chicken, but what the heck.  It just means that I won't have to wrestle with the left overs and torture the dogs & cat by cooking turkey for 8 hours straight.



Having said that, I also found lamb shanks and put them on to cook at 3pm for the night before Thanksgiving dinner - Thanksgiving Eve - which isn't a holiday but feels like it ought to be one...I much prefer the calendar prior to Black Friday which brings the dreaded pressure of holiday shopping - ugh!  Uh oh, there I go again - it's all to easy to get into the mode of finding something wrong with everything.




Sometimes I CAN be that Pollyanna person, looking for the positive, and right now the apartment is filling up with a wonderful aroma of simmering lamb with herbs, spices, red wine, and onions.  Lamb Shanks are really very easy to make - although not very photogenic as they take a photograph along the lines of a drunk person in a dark bar - murky, sloppy, and suspicious looking...also there are a bazillion pictures online of lamb shanks, so I am not going to add one here.  Instead, here is a picture of my friend Olga, who is a fabulous belly dancer.



(Loose) Method of preparing Lamb Tagine:


  • In a large heavy bottom skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and brown the lamb shanks on all sides.   
  • Grind fresh pepper over (I like lemon pepper)
  • Add 1/2 chopped sweet onion, 1/4 finely chopped red pepper, and saute. 
  • Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp oregano, basil, thyme, cumin, hot chili peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Add 6 whole cloves garlic
  • De-glaze with 1/2 red wine
  • Add enough beef stock to cover
  • 2 dried bay leaves 
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup coffee (optional red-eye version)
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes ( make sure you use the tomatoes in the carton because canned tomatoes are not very healthy for you) 
  • 1 tbls tomato paste

Simmer covered for 3 hours.  Then add:

  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup olives (not the canned version!)
  • 1 tbls cocoa powder unsweetened (first mix with in a cup with hot pan broth to blend without lumps)
  • 6 organic carrots, scrubbed & chopped
Simmer uncovered for 1 hour until the broth has reduced and become syrupy.  Taste.  Add salt if needed.  At this point, you can decide if you want to serve it with Cous Cous, mashed potatoes, polenta, or French bread - I just put a pot of water on to boil, in case I decide to serve it with egg noodles.  If you do make egg noodles, by the way, at the last minute you have to toss them with butter and finely chopped garlic.  That was my mother-in-law's recipe and I still use it. Top with Greek yogurt, if you wish.  Voila! 

Thanksgiving Eve Lamb Tagine.
 


Monday

Spanish Smoked Paprika Chicken with Fire Roasted Chile Tomato Rice & Aioli

For the ragtag group of us who have been stuck in the city for the summer, the first part of which was rainy, the second part devilishly hot, and now we have been treated to a lovely cooler spell as a reward for being good little New Yorkers.

They say there are lots of exciting things to do in the city over the summer but most people try to get the hell out to their beach houses, which means it is the only time of year - particularly on the weekends - when you can walk down a comparatively empty sidewalk!  It does give the city a different feel altogether. Sometimes I like to pretend that I am sitting in a cafe in Palma, Majorca...and at other times when I sit in the open front of my favorite Happy Hour spots on Broadway, I can really imagine that I'm looking out onto my favorite street, Calle de Luna, in Soller, Majorca.

My neighborhood, "Nomad", (acronym for North Of Madison Park)  is the newest trendy area in NYC and restaurants & bars are popping up everywhere.  This week we're delighted to welcome a brand new Fairway gourmet supermarket open up only 4 blocks away - this is exciting news because means we can shop for groceries and be back home in under 30 minutes!  Wow!  Of course, I'll still shop at Trader Joe's if the lines are short after I have to go to the nearby TD Bank.  Side note: why does the elderly teller suck her bottom teeth and stare at my accounts on her computer screen for 5 minutes?  It's unnerving.

I am thinking of fun and easy things to cook for a crowd of people over the  weekend,with minimal effort but lots of flavor.  So, sticking to the Spanish theme, here it is:

Spanish Smoked "Pimenton" with Fire Roasted Chile Tomato Rice & Aioli

Ingredients
1 cup rice (we like sushi rice for a really sticky consistancy)
1 can Trader Joe's Fire Roasted Chile Tomatoes! (Oops, I revealed the secret!)
1 1/2 cups broth or water (you need 2 cups of liquid but the can of tomatoes should yield about half a cup of liquid - if not, add a little more as you see fit)
*
8 Chicken Thighs (skin on or off - boneless or bone-in, it's your choice)
juice of 2 limes
1-2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika 
 1/2 tsp sea salt
black pepper freshly ground
a good shake of ground cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder
*
1/2 mayonaise
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1 lime



Directions:
 
Marinate the chicken in the lime juice for 30 minutes, refrigerated.

Get the rice started while the grill heats up.  Add the rice to a heavy bottomed sauce-pan with a good fitting lid, 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid  and bring it to a boil, then slap the lid on the pan and turn it down to simmer, setting the timer to 25 minutes (the timing for sushi rice, which we are all addicted to, thanks to Nigella) and 20 minutes for a long grain type of rice. 

 Advice: rice seems like a no-brainer but, if you have been having any problems with it not cooking all the way through, I strongly urge you to ban the "lid-lifters" from your kitchen.  The rice has to cook completely undisturbed for the full 25 minutes and friends or family members on the brink of starvation who sneak a peak in the pot are the cause of most cases of rice ruination.

Slap the chicken on the grill and sprinkle generously with the herbs & spices.  I like to get them really covered with a crust of seasoning.  Cook for about 20 minutes, but you will have to make the judgment call of more or less time so you don't over or under cook.  Top the chicken with aioli or serve on the side.  Any of you who have been to Spain will think fondly of the baskets of rustic bread and dishes of ailo - which is a garlicky mayonnaise - the restaurants set on the table, along with the $3 bottles of wine!

Also, who doesn't love to eat as much summer corn as possible - but other great BBQ acoutrements are coleslaw or just a big green salad. 




Confession!  I freely admit that when I get to this point in the preparation, I want to get the food served and get out of the kitchen - so, clearly, fancy plating is something I need to work on, although I will say that in my opinion the recent fad of speed-striping the plates with sauce sometimes borders on the absurd.

"So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being."
Franz Kafka


Sunday

Light & Healthy Salmon with Corn Relish

I have been finding ways to cut down on calories and still make delish meals for everyone -  and they haven't even noticed that they are eating lighter fare!  Which just goes to show that we don't need all that heavy starch, oil, butter, and meats on our menus every day.  And there is an extra benefit for those of you not on a diet: you will have saved a little room for dessert!

This is such a simple way to kick up the flavor but not the calories. You can use this recipe with salmon or any fish that you like. It is a perfect summer meal and another way to serve the fresh corn while it is in season - and it is pretty much carb free.

Light & Healthy Salmon with Corn Relish



                                                                        
Ingredients
  • 1 filet of salmon per person
  • 1 cup snap peas (stems & strings removed)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • one shallot, finely chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • handful of cilantro chopped
  • kernels from one corn on the cob
  • juice of one lime 
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • kosher salt to taste 
  • Fresh pepper
  • 1/2 cup fish broth  (I use a cube!)
  • 1 healthy dash or squirt of hot chili paste, to taste (optional)
 Method

Keeping this one as simple as possible - no marinating or anything elaborate is necessary because the fresh ingredients will hold their own.  And all you need is one skillet to prepare this!  

Start by slicing the corn from the cob, halving the tomatoes, dicing the garlic & shallots, and chopping the cilantro.  Add them to the pan with the wine and let them saute - keep and eye on the liquid so that it doesn't dry out.  As the wine cooks down, add the broth and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Take your salmon and give it a rub with  kosher salt and pepper & a squirt of lime juice.  Then add to the pan and let it cook with the vegetables for 4-5 minutes

At the last minute, throw in the snap peas and let them steam in the broth for 2 minutes.  

Remove the salmon and place in a large shallow bowl.  Top with the corn and tomato relish and scatter the snow peas around.  Top with a sprig of fresh cilantro for effect.

Lastly, taste the broth, add a squirt of fresh lime juice, and adjust the seasonings - add the hot chili paste, if you like the heat.  Drizzle it all over salmon and serve!
That's it, and it only took me ten minutes to make. So no more excuses that something light and healthy can't be tasty as well.....

"Rich, fatty foods are like destiny: they too, shape our ends."
Anonymous

Friday

Spicy Soft Shell Crab Burger

Don't you love to grill out?  It makes a simple dinner into a party.  But you can run out of things you can cook over the coals.  If you're getting tired of the endless summer of beef burgers, why not try soft-shell crab for a change?  The season for soft-shell crab is usually May to July, so there is still time to throw one on the grill - or saute it in a pan, which is even easier.  Soft-shelled crabs have a rich flavor and you only need one per person to make a perfect sandwich.  Use a soft Brioche or Challah roll and serve with a side of  cole slaw or potato salad and an ear of grilled corn. Yummy!  (I realize that my picture is a little blurry - I must have been so excited about eating it that my hand was shaking.)

 Soft Shell Crab Burger

Ingredients

  • 1 Soft shell crab per person, cleaned (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
  • 1/2 cup seasoned flour (seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, celery salt, garlic powder)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Red onion
  • Tomato, thickly sliced
  •  Spicy mayonnaise (Mix 1 tablespoon chili paste with !/4 cup mayo)
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Soft brioche or Challah rolls, one per person



My favorite Chili Paste


Method

Saute the garlic and parsley lightly in the butter and olive oil.  Then, simply dust each soft-shelled crab in seasoned flour, shake off the excess flour, and sauté the crabs, top side down first over a medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until the crabs turn a deep orange color. Remove  Serve immediately on warmed rolls with slices of red onion, tomato, thin slices of pickles, and spicy mayonnaise.

 "The crab that walks too far falls into the pot"

Thursday

Grilled Marinated Lamb Chops

I had a few points sitting around on a credit card and so I treated myself to a set of Ginzu knives - advertised as genuine Japanese steel!  However, when more closely examined, it says on the blade of each knife "made in China"...ah well, this is the world we live in.  Regardless of the authenticity of their claim, the knives are very sharp.  VERY sharp.  I mean, don't drop one on your foot.  Seriously.

I used to make a lamb roast but now I prefer the rack of lamb because you can have it ready in just over 5 minutes.  I like to cut the rack into individual chops.  If I could, I would cook them on a barbecue so if you have one, go ahead.  Of course, I cook them on the ubiquitous George Foreman indoor grill!

Ingredients


• 12 lamb cutlets
• extra virgin olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• small handful of fresh or dried rosemary
• a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 lemon
• smoked Spanish paprika
• 2 large handfuls of fresh basil & fresh parsley
• 3-5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 

Method
Chop up the rosemary, parsley and add a little olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Mix together, then rub the oil over the cutlets and season both sides of them. Sprinkle with paprika, sea salt, and pepper.  Let to marinate for a while while you prepare the side dishes. When you are ready to cook them at the last minute  If the cutlets are about 1.5cm (3/4 inch thick), just give them 3 or 4 minutes on each side until they’re really golden. This should cook them medium. (To be honest, I’m not really into really rare lamb cutlets, but if you prefer them like that then cook for a little less time.)  I served this with tiny new potatoes, and green beans cooked with mushrooms and onions.  But in this heat, a green salad, a fresh baguette with cold butter, and a chilled glass of rose, would be even better....












A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
  Aesop


Sunday

Cod with Sweet & Spicy Sauce and Coconut Rice

It is the first day of Spring and, all kidding aside, I have to start eating lighter meals if there is any hope at all in wearing a bikini this summer.  Otherwise, I'll be skulking around edge of the pool or beach again, covered up in a towel and dropping it at the last minute to plunge into the water!  This recipe is a winner because its very light but also delicious when made with fresh, fat fillets of cod.  You could also use any meaty white fish such as haddock or monk fish which take strong flavors very well.

Ingredients:

For the fish (3 - 4 servings)

  • 1 lb fresh cod
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced,
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  •  1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon sliced

For the Rice

  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 8 oz canned coconut milk
  • 3 cups water
Method

First, get the rice going in a pot with all the above ingredients - heat on high and, after it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

For the fish: Begin by lightly sauteing yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and scallions in the fresh lemon juice for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili peppers, cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomato sauce, sugar, ginger, salt, 1/2 cup of chopped basil, and top with the cod fillets. Cover and simmer on low for approximately 10 minutes, until firm (but not hard) to touch.

Serve the fish in the sauce on the coconut rice and top with a sprinkle of pistachio nuts, diced red pepper,  and fresh basil.  Garnish with a slice of fresh lemon.

"The only time I eat diet food, is while waiting for the steak to cook."
Julia Child

Challah French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

The clocks moved forward this morning and spring is almost here.  Honestly, it's like I've been living under a rock.  Now I am quite excited about the buds on the trees and the promise of cherry blossoms in Madison Park.  I celebrated this morning by making French toast, organic coffee, and watching a vampire movie....seemed appropriate since it feels like I haven't seen daylight in ages!

Challah French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

Ingredients

4 eggs
1/4 cup milk (or light cream)
4 slices Challah bread
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tlbs vegetable oil
2 tblsp butter
1 cup blueberries (washed)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 banana, sliced
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Just beat up the egg, milk, & vanilla.  Soak the bread slices until completely soggy.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan with the oil until hot.  Fry the slices until golden on both sides.  

Meanwhile, heat the blueberries in a saucepan with the maple syrup.

Serve with a dusting of confectioner's sugar, a few fresh blueberries, and sliced banana!





"Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday

Strip Steak with Morrocan Green Beans

I am very upset!  Our favorite local Chinese restaurant closed down.  The landlord raised the rent too high.  It will probably be replaced by a bank or a drug store.  There are lots of banks in the area, and at least six drugstores.  But there is nowhere to a quick dish of really good dry sauteed string beans in an emergency.  You just never think of all the possible negative side effects to your lifestyle when the neighborhood starts to improve.....sigh. 

These green beans aren't Chinese-y but they are delicious.  There is one slight drawback - you do have to make them yourself. 

Ingredients
(for the beans)

  • 1 lb green beans
  • 6-8 large caper berries, chopped (or 15-29 small capers)
  • 1 small handful raisins, chopped
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients (for the steak)

  • 2 strip steaks
  • 1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • sea salt & fresh pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp hot cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 cup Crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 branch fresh rosemary

    Method

     First cook the beans in cup of water until fairly tender.  Then rinse with cold water (to preserve the green color) and set aside.
    *
    Season the steaks both sises with the paprika, salt & pepper, cinnamon, & cayenne.
    Heat the grill.
    Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onions & mushrooms, saute until soft and golden.
    Add the balsamic and rosemary branch.
    Simmer until reduced to a syrup.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.
    *
    Add the steaks to the grill
    *
    Melt the butter in another skillet.
    Add the caper berries, raisins, preserved lemon, garlic and mix into the butter.
    Add the beans, toss, and heat.
    Season with lots of lemon pepper & sea salt.








    Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat.  ~Fran Lebowitz