Monthly Archives: January 2011

Shrimp Chowder (serves 4)

We call this chowder at my house but I don’t know if that is the right name. Households around the world have their own special take on the food they prepare and WE think this is chowder! It was a wonderful evening – almost felt like the weekend – that’s what making and eating food together does!

Many pans used tonight!

You will need: 1 lb shrimp (I used 41-50 count for this), 6 bacon slices, 1 celery stalk, 2 leeks, 2 tbl unsalted butter, 12 dry scallops (optional) 8oz bottle clam juice,  3 cups of water, 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 cups uncooked Basmati rice, 2 tbl olive oil, 1 tbl maple syrup (both the olive oil and maple syrup are only needed if you use the scallops in this recipe)

I have a rice cooker so I put it on at the onset of preparations. If you don’t, put on your rice to cook at this time. When it is cooked turn off heat and leave pot on stove-top to keep warm. Dice celery (you do this by cutting the stalk in three pieces and slicing each piece length-ways 4 times and thin slicing finely), dice leaks –  white parts and a little of the green only (you do this by doing exactly what you did to the celery). Put saute pan on low to medium heat and add butter. Add leeks and onion and saute until soft (about 8-10 minutes).

saute celery and leeks until soft..

While this is cooking put on another pan (can be small pan – 8″) on low to medium. Cut the bacon into 1/4″ strips and saute until just getting crispy. Remove to plate and set aside.  ALSO at the same time, rinse shrimp and remove shells. Chop shrimp in half and place in a bowl. Put another small pan on low to medium heat and add milk and cream and shrimp shells and a few grinds of black pepper. Let it come to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let it sit until needed.

Infuse milk with shrimp flavor...

When leek and celery mixture has softened add the 3 cups of water, clam juice and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil and turn down heat. Add bacon and simmer with lid on for 5 minutes. Take off lid and strain the milk into the broth using a sieve (discard the shells) and turn off heat. Turn on pan with bacon fat to medium low heat. When warmed, add reserved shrimp and saute for 4 -5 minutes until cooked through. Remove shrimp from fat with slotted spoon and add to broth. At this point taste broth and add salt if you would like  (1/2 tsp?) and a grind of black pepper.  Turn on heat to low to keep your shrimp dish warm. In a warm shallow bowl add 1 cup cooked rice and ladle the shrimp chowder over this. If using scallops as a garnish, place on top. Serve and pass pepper and salt as needed. Note: I had about 10 left over roasted cherry tomatoes in the fridge and I added them when I turned down heat at the end of cooking – nice color.

dinner's Ready!

Scallop Garnish: At the beginning of your preparations get a medium bowl, add your washed and dried scallops and add 2 tbl of olive oil and 1 tbs maple syrup. Mix well and set aside. When dinner is almost ready to serve turn on a pan large enough to cook scallops in a single layer to medium heat. Add oil and let pan and oil get hot (about 2 minutes or so). Add scallops to pan with tongs, shaking off excess marinade as you go. Cook on one side without touching for 2 to 3 minutes, turn, and do the same on the other side. Garnish your chowder with this. It adds a lovely sweetness to the dish and looks very impressive!

Cosmopolitan cocktail (serves 1-that would be me..)

the perfect treat..

I know it is one of those “faddy” girly drinks but I am one girl who is not afraid to say that it is the absolute ultimate cocktail. It is not something I drink as a matter of habit but when I want a cosmopolitan, I must have one. It is festive and cheers me right up. Sometimes when my friend drops in for dinner and has the look of “I hate my life!” in her eye, I immediately grab my trusty shaker and fill it with ice…..almost instantaniouly, she is purring like a grateful little kitten who gets to drink cream from a Wedgwood saucer!!! I think my way of making this cocktail remains true enough to the original but I am certain the quantities have evolved to suit just my taste (and apparently all of my friends!) The one thing I insist upon is the right cranberry juice. The run-of-the-mill juice is far too sweet and kills the other flavors so I found what works best for me is a wild Organic Cranberry juice. It is not that unreal red color but a lovely hazy burgundy and mildly sweet. I’m sure you can find something similar in your local “healthy” food shop. I also store a bottle of vodka in the freezer. Colder is better for this drink. The vodka gets syrup-y thick.

You will need: 1 shot vodka (if you don’t have an actual shot measure, it is just over 3 tbl), 1/4 shot triple sec ( scant tbl), 1 shot organic cranberry juice, 1 tsp lime juice, 1 lime wedge.

Put a martini glass (or a glass with a narrow bottom and wide rim) into the freezer to chill. Fill a shaker with ice and add vodka, triple sec, cranberry and lime juice in that order. Shake vigorously. Take glass from the freezer and pour. Garnish with a lime or lime twist.

nothing more to be said....cheers!

Sunday night Meat Loaf (serves 10-12)

meat loaf for dinner tonight!

I needed a little think this morning about tonight’s dinner as I knew I would be arriving home late…..I asked for some suggestions and my son’s voice was the loudest – So, Meat Loaf it is. I hadn’t made this in ages and although it is “child’s play” (literally) to make I wanted to prep some things in the morning and eliminate some of the evening’s work. The reason I refer to this dish as being equal to a child playing is because when I am mixing the meat around with my hands and squishing all the add-ins together I feel like a little girl with a big bowl of mud making a big messy pie or pudding! When I plonk the seasoned raw meat onto a tray and get to shape and mold it into a loaf I am usually joined by one of my kids who would love nothing better than to mall the thing to death – just make sure all hands that want to join in are nice and clean!

Meat Loaf with olives and Dubliner cheese

I am not that picky about what goes into my meat loaf. If I have three different types of minced meat (beef, lamb, mild Italian sausage meat??) I will just mix some or all of them together. The same goes for the seasonings. If I have mushrooms they are added , if I have olives or jalapeno – the same thing, even cubed strong cheese. I do think about what would taste good together and try to match things accordingly.  I always make 2 loaves as it is just as easy to double up. It is so great to have frozen, although we don’t get much of a chance to do this since everyone likes to have it fried for breakfast, or on a sandwich. It is even good cold on a piece of toast and topped with hot sauce. I took  the casual approach to the meat loaves I made tonight and everything turned out very well indeed. Now your turn!

You will need: 4 lbs minced meat (any combo you like or just 1 meat), 2 mild or hot Italian sausages, 3 eggs, 2 celery stalks (including leaves), 3 small onions, 4oz shiitake mushrooms, 4 or 5 cloves garlic, 6 sprigs of fresh thyme (rosemary or sage would be fine also), Bacon (7 to 8 slices per meat loaf), 1/2 cup black olives – optional – (I used Kalamata), 1 cup cubed strong cheese (optional), 7 (about 5 cups) slices of white sandwich bread (I mean the real “plastic” kind – it works the best. I always buy a loaf and keep in the freezer for this dish or if someone wants a real gooey, crispy grilled cheese), 1 1/2 cup milk (any % besides skim), 2 to 3 tbs olive oil,  1 tsp salt (1/2 for each loaf) 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper.(1/2 tsp for each loaf).

Preheat oven to 375*

cut celery length-ways and then it's easier to dice..

Dice onions (small dice), dice celery (I cut length-ways about 4 times and then dice, so I end up with nice small pieces), dice mushrooms, chop garlic (finely), take thyme leaves off of stems (I run my fingers from the top to the base of the stem and the leaves come off very easily), slice olives (or leave whole if you want a big dramatic shape when you slice the meat), cube the cheese (small cubes).

Tear the bread and put in a bowl and pour milk over it. Push down bread to submerge as much as you can and leave it to soak.

saute vegetables until soft..

Put a big saute pan on low to medium heat and add 2 tbs olive oil. Add onions, celery, garlic, mushrooms and thyme and saute for about 15 or so minutes or until everything is nicely softened minutes. Cook with lid on (you may have to turn your heat down to low and add more oil) for last 10 minutes. Add 1/4 tsp salt and some freshly ground black pepper to the mixture. Take off heat and reserve in a bowl (this can be done ahead of time and stored in the fridge – this is what I did this morning and it really helped speed things up this evening). At the same time cook sausages on low heat with lid for about 15 minutes. Take off heat and set aside on plate covered with foil until it is time to assemble the meat loaf.

mix together with hands..

In a very big bowl crack your eggs. Whisk a little with a fork. Add all meat and pour all sautéed vegetables, bread (squeeze it out a little but mainly leave wet),  1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Mix all this together (the fun bit!) with you hands. At this point you can do one of a couple of things. You can proceed to add the rest of the add-ins and make two identical meat loves or you can do what I did…..divide the mixture into two bowls and in one add the olives and cheese and 1 tsp of garam masala or 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 very finely diced jalapeno pepper and 2 tbl chopped cilantro. Set aside until ready to shape.

In the other bowl add 1 1/2 tsp madras curry powder (optional) and get ready to add the Italian sausage.

Ready for oven..

Make the loaves: If you have one big batch – divide in two and place on a cookie sheet or baking tray on which you have spread a piece of oiled parchment.  Shape into a loaf. Take a sausage for each and starting at the top bury it lengthways until you get to the middle. Reshape. Take bacon and cover the meatloaf entirely, tucking the bacon under the loaf as you go. Place in center of oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Take out and let rest for 5 minutes or so before slicing.

dinner is ready..

If you are making two different kinds: Shape each (add sausage to only one – so you will need only 1 sausage or maybe 1 1/2). For the meat loaf with the sausage: cover with bacon and, for the other, brush about 2 tbs of warm honey over the loaf (will taste good with the spices) Cook as above.

Meat Loaf with mashed potatoes, peas, corn and lightly curried gravy..

Serve with mashed potatoes, gravy and peas or with a rice and a vegetable.

Pork Tenderloin with Shells Carbonara (serves 4)

you do have thyme to cook!

This was a bit of a leap. I had taken a pork tenderloin out of the freezer this morning and, then got home late….what to make?? I wanted something different, but was stuck with my pound of defrosted pork? I yearned for some hearty winter food, but I wanted exotic..maybe something I would have eaten after a late night Opera in Venice?  So, pasta was a must, and how to make it Italian…..Carbonara? – a bit of a challenge but, the results were quite respectable and very speedy. So, no excuses, it is possible to make something good in a 1/2 an hour….about as much time as it would take to heat a frozen meal. But what a difference – you get the activity in the kitchen, the smells, the chatter and you get a home cooked meal served on a your favorite plate, as opposed to, the drone of a microwave or the beep of an oven after 12 to 14 minutes and, hey presto you get to take out your foil dish of food and unwrap your plastic fork! As I keep saying it is not just about the food, it is so much more. You are going to have to give cooking for your family a go and then, try to argue with me. I am not some super woman who does it all. When I cooked tonight I was tired, but know from doing this act of kindness for my family each night I am doing something very important.   Here you go…

You will need: 1 lb pasta (I used shells, but penne, fusilli, farfalle etc etc will do), 1 lb pork tenderloin, 2/3 cups heavy cream, 2  egg yolks, 1 cup peas (I used frozen), big handful of fresh spinach (optional), 3 sprigs thyme,1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil.

Put a big pot of cold water on for pasta Add a tsp of salt to water. Shells or penne take about 9 minutes to cook and the water takes about 4 minutes to come to a boil….So, figure you have about 13 minutes to do the following: Take tenderloin and slice into 1/2″ pieces and then chop each piece into 3 or 4 pieces. Season raw meat with some salt and pepper. Separate egg yolks and reserve in a little bowl (transfer whites to a freezer bag and store in freezer for another use).

saute pork 3 minutes on each side..

Measure cream into a bowl and put 1 cup of peas in a bowl. Put 12″ saute pan on medium heat and let it warm for 1 minute. Add the olive oil and let it get warm before adding the seasoned pork and thyme sprigs. Let it cook on one side for 3 or so – do not touch or stir. Turn and do the same on the other side. Turn off heat and wait for pasta to cook. When pasta is about 2 minutes for being ready add the peas to the pot and continue cooking until the pasta is ready.  Before draining pasta scoop a 1/2 cup of pasta water out of pot and set aside. Drain pasta in a colander and pour directly into pork. Stir in egg

shells Carbonara!

yolks and cream immediately. The heat of the pasta and meat will

my husband is fond of his pepper..

cook the egg and thicken everything. Add pasta water and stir.  If you are adding spinach, this is the time to stir it in. Taste and season with more salt (if desired) and plenty of pepper. You’re done!

I could have curled up and eaten this right out of the pan with a wooden spoon!

Seafood Linguine (serves 4)

Seafood linguine (with roasted cherry tomato garnish)

This was one of those dinners that just came together. I was going to be home late and knew everyone would still want dinner as soon as possible  –  fish was the only solution? I knew it had to be fast without compromising on taste. I detoured to the supermarket on the way home and thought that if I got to the fish counter and everything looked sub-par  I would be stuck,  but, the fish and seafood did not disappoint. I spied some great shrimp and dry scallops and the loveliest looking sole. This combination would dictate the menu. I have to tell you……find the protein and go from there! I was excited to put the fish in my basket and head out the door. A friend (Chef Panza!) was helping my husband with a project and would be staying for dinner. I love when I have company to cook for and I am always determined to please their palates. It is the best kind of pressure. Well…..dinner is over and all went well. I have to say that the fish was the star and anything I did was truly minimal. I took the praise graciously but knew in my heart of hearts I had nothing to do with it. The secret to good food is good ingredients.  I had never cooked this particular dinner before which made my time in the kitchen all the more fun. When you invent as you go it’s best  to mess very little with the major ingredients.  If you start second-guessing yourself and adding too many flavorings the end result can be confusing and unfortunately taste badly. I cooked with this in mind and ended up with something I am very happy to pass along to you.

You will need: 1 lb linguine, 1/2 lb dry scallops, 1/2 lb sole,  1 lb shrimp, 1/3 lb bacon (about 6 stripes), 1 celery stalk, 6 scallions, big handful of basil, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 cups broth, 1/2 cup white wine, 2 tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

First, slice scallions (including green parts), chop celery very finely, chop garlic

chop scallions and celery

finely, take leave off of basil stems, wash scallops and sole and dry in paper towels, take shell off shrimp, chop bacon into thick slices. Using a big saute pan

fry bacon until lightly crispy, take off pan and drain off fat from pan..

(12″) cook sliced bacon on medium/ low heat until lightly crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and  pour off the fat and put pan back on heat (pan will have a coating of brown bits from the bacon on the bottom). Add 2 tbs of extra virgin olive and put the scallions and garlic to pan and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. At the same time put big pot of pasta water on and when boiling, cook linguine according to instructions (I used Barilla pasta – cooked in 9 minutes). When cooked, drain and leave in colander (the fish and seafood will be cooked by

add vegetables and saute, add wine, broth and basil and cook let come to a simmer..

then ). After vegetable mixture has cooked for several minutes add the white wine and turn up heat to medium. Let cook for about 1 minute before adding the

Add seafood and bacon to broth, cover and simmer for 5 minutes..

broth. Let it come to a simmer after which you should add the shrimp, scallops, sole and basil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and prepare serving bowls (I ALWAYS warm bowls in the oven – I never serve on

put linguine in bottom of bowl and top with seafood broth (I garnished with roasted cherry tomatoes)

a cold dish – the food becomes cold very quickly). To serve, put a mound of linguine in a shallow bowl and top with seafood, fish and scallion-y broth. Sprinkle some cayenne pepper flake. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a good bread if you like.

very good dinner indeed..

Chicken Pie with Cheddar Bread Topping

Great dinner!

Pulled a trusty standard out of the freezer today – A  Cut-Up Whole Kosher Chicken! We had another mouth to feed tonight and he has a ravenous appetite so I thought it best to lean towards “better safe than sorry” and make sure no one went to bed hungry. Dinner is now over and the kitchen has been cleaned to make ready for morning madness. When I arrive into the kitchen early in the morning the last thing I want to see are any remnants of last night’s dinner! I want to turn on the heat under the kettle and stare at in a daze until it bellows steam and I can make a strong, wonderful cup of coffee. Dinner was really lovely though. There were a couple of steps involved but also some big breaks in-between so no real pressure to speak of. The cheddar crust was particularly good. I used “Dubliner” cheddar and it had a strong, grainy, almost salty taste. The peas captured a sort of old world flavor which was comforting while also adding a nice contrast to the creamy sauce.  It is a great dinner to make for a crowd because it’s guaranteed please everyone!

Preheat 425*

You will need: 1 cut up chicken  – 4 lbs or so (I buy a kosher chicken which means it has been brined or, given a salt bath – the meat is moist and tender and I don’t need to use salt in my dish – if you are using regular chicken, make sure to add 1 tsp salt to the skin when you are seasoning),  2 small onions, 4 sprigs of thyme, 2 medium carrots, 1 celery stalk with leaves, 1 cup frozen baby peas  (any pea would do actually), 4 garlic cloves, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1/2 cup white wine, 2 tbs olive oil.

For the Bechamel Sauce: 3 tbs unsalted butter, 3 tbs unbleached white flour, 1 cup milk (whole or 2% will do), freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt.

Making bechamel: While chicken is cooking, make the bechamel sauce: Melt

mix flour with butter

butter in pan on low heat. When butter is melted add flour and stir vigorously

Set aside in bowl unti lready to add to broth

until the flour becomes a smooth thick yellow sauce. slowly add milk while still whisking. Let the sauce cook and thicken. When it is thick (about 5 minutes) remove to a little bowl and cover until needed.

Cheddar Bread Crust: 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, 4 tbs unsalted butter, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (strong or mild depending on your preference!), 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I use lowfat because it’s usually all I can find).

Making Dough: Put flour in bowl and add salt, baking soda, pepper and swirl together with hand whisk. Chop butter and add to flour. Rub between fingertips until flour feels like “rubble” add cheese and mix in. Make well in center of dough and add buttermilk. Mix with wooden spoon until it becomes a dough ball (it will be on the wet side). Cover with tea towel and set aside until needed.

Ok – you will need to prep and cook your chicken first! Take a 12″ saute pan and throw in the following: diced onion, thyme, chopped celery, sliced carrots, garlic

place in oven..

cloves (whole, left in skin), white wine,  1 cup of chicken broth and grind some pepper over the vegetables. Lay chicken skin side up in an even layer. Cover skin with olive oil and grind some more pepper (and salt if not using a Kosher

take chicken out of pan to cool, take meat off bones and return meat to pan..

chicken). Place in oven and time for 40 minutes. . (While chicken is in oven make sauce and dough and set aside). Take out and add 1 cup of broth (pour over chicken) and return to oven for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place chicken on a plate.  Cover plate with foil and let chicken rest and cool for 15 minutes or so. Take garlic cloves out of pan, remove from their skin and mash into pan juices. Add last of chicken broth to pan (1/2 cup). Add peas and the bechamel sauce to the pan and stir to incorporate.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take meat and skin off bones and return meat to the pan. Stir meat into broth and sauce mixture and turn pan on to medium heat and let the sauce get hot. Turn off heat and place dough on top in “blobs”. Don’t worry about

Pie with crust..

the dough not completely covering the top – there should be gaps. Turn oven down to 400* Place pan back into oven  for 20 minutes or until the dough is a golden color. Take out and allow to cool for 5 minutes before dishing out!

ready to eat!

“Crispy Pasta” with Bacon & Tomatoes (serves 4)

Crispy Pasta for Dinner

Still being in the depths of winter all we want to eat in our house is comfort food. I am dreaming about Spring and Summer and all the bounty it brings with it. I am itching to plant herbs and try my luck at a few of my favorite vegetables. My garden is puny but I plant wherever there is a patch of dirt! More on my whole gardening life when it is happening…..For now the evening meals are robust and filling, bringing me to tonight’s fare. I have been making this dish for absolutely years and it never fails to please. This is our version of “macaroni & cheese” without the creamy sauce and the little noodles clinging to it’s cheesiness! I’m not against a good creamy pasta but tonight I wanted a fresher lighter taste and so I made my old stand-by. I use ridged penne noodles and cherry tomatoes (I use freshly sliced tomatoes from my, or a neighbor’s garden in the Summer and Autumn). Cheese is involved but no butter or cream. I used bacon tonight but that is not always the case. I just happen to have it and it gives a lovely salty and bacon-y-ness to the dish. The bacon also satisfies my husband who always wants to see a bit of meat on the plate! This whole dinner takes an hour from the time you put the pasta water on to the time the baking dish comes out of the oven.

You will need: 1 lb box ridged penne (I buy a mini ridged penne by Barilla), 1 lb cheese (use fontina for a mild nutty taste or a hard cheddar for something stronger, or, a mix of both), 2 cups cherry tomatoes or 4 medium ripe tomatoes, 1 lb bacon, 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I use the food processor or a grater and make my own – use about 3 slices of white bread,- any kind), kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, 1 tbs unsalted butter (optional), some butter to grease baking dish.

Preheat oven 350*

do everything in this order for smooth sailing: Put pot of water on for pasta, add 1 tsp salt to water. Cook according to directions. When cooked drain in colander and rinse under cold water (I never rinse pasta but I have found out from

cook bacon straight away..

experimenting that it makes for a much better dish – the pasta stays firm and separates nicely from each other) Cook all bacon and drain on paper towels, chop into big slices when cool – about 1/4 inch, (you can cook bacon earlier in the day or the day before and keep it in the fridge until you need it) While the pasta & bacon are cooking grate all of the cheese and set aside in a bowl, wash tomatoes (slice if not using the cherry type) and set aside. Make breadcrumbs. Lightly butter a 12″ casserole. When bacon and pasta are cooked you are ready to go into

first put the tomatoes on the bottom of dish..

assembly mode! Line bottom of dish with 1/2 of the tomatoes and sprinkle with

pasta layer next..

salt and pepper to season, add 1/2 of the pasta and spread evenly. Next top with

sprinkle 1/2 of the bacon over pasta layer..

half of the bacon and cover with 1/2 of the chopped cheese. Repeat with

cheese on top of bacon..

tomatoes, salt, pepper, pasta, bacon and cheese. You should now be at the top of your dish. Sprinkle entire top with breadcrumbs. Dot with tablespoon of butter if using (I don’t do this often) and place in center of oven for 40 minutes or until

nice golden crust..

the top is golden. Let it rest for five minutes before serving. I always have spinach in the house and serve this with spinach on the side of my plate. You could go with a salad also? My husband puts a ranch style dressing on his spinach and it sort of mixes in with the pasta as he eats. He loves the combination (give it a try if you like!)

Crispy Pasta with spinach..