romantic suppers and sweets

Shrimp pasta

I failed to post this column on time as I became ill shortly before the holiday! Sorry to all my followers! Here it is, new and improved!

Valentine’s Day means expressing your love for your spouse, partner, family, and friends. What better way than to say it with food you lovingly prepare? Here are two suppers and two desserts to consider.

pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and feta cheese
Who said you can’t serve seafood with cheese? Ever have a tuna melt? Crab and swiss? Here’s delicious exception perfect for a Valentine Day supper.

ingredients

  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb raw large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbs each white wine and balsamic vinegar
  • ½ to 1 lb pasta (I usually make only half a pound since I like a higher shrimp-to-pasta ratio using linguine or bowties.)
  • 15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 (6-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

directions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook shrimp, garlic and white wine for 4-5 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Do NOT overcook!
  2. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente; drain and keep warm.
  3. While pasta is cooking, place diced tomatoes and halved grape tomatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and basil over medium heat into wine mixture in skillet until tender—10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, toss hot pasta with shrimp, tomato mixture, and feta. Feta will melt slightly. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a crusty bread.

 

Chicken feta beans toms

greek chicken tenders with veggies
Prefer chicken? This dish is packed with flavors sure to spark up any evening!

for the chicken

  • 2 Tbs plus 1 tsp olive or avocado oil, divided
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 3­/4 Tbs balsamic vinegar (do not substitute)
  • 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved

for the greek dressing

  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/2 tsp black pepper

directions

  1. Sauté mushrooms in large frying pan with 1 tsp of the oil, until just browning. Remove from pan, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium­-high, add green beans. Sauté until green beans are cooked, but still a bit crunchy. Remove from the pan, set aside.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbs oil over medium-­high, add chicken, salt, and pepper.
  4. Cook chicken 3­-4 minutes on both sides and remove once browned & cooked though. Remove from pan, set aside. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
  5. In the same skillet, lower heat to medium, add dressing, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Stir and heat until bubbling.
  6. Toss in mushrooms, and green beans then the cooked chicken and tomatoes. Stir to heat through. Serve over rice or pasta.

 

easy chocolate bar fondue
This takes on a romantic hue when served with champagne. If made ahead, keep the chocolate warm in a double boiler till ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound milk or dark chocolate bars, broken into pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1 store-bought angel food cake, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces dried fruit, such as pineapple slices and figs

directions

  1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, warm the cream and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Transfer the fondue to a warm serving bowl or fondue pot.
  2. Serve immediately with forks for dipping strawberries, angel food cake, or whatever you like.

 

chocolate-cinnamon pudding with raspberries
So easy to put this together ahead of time. Kids will especially love the flavors.

ingredients

  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries, or frozen raspberries, thawed

directions

  1. Combine the cocoa, cinnamon, cornstarch, and 2/3 cup of brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in milk and 1/2 cup of cream.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  4. Whip remaining cream in a separate bowl with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form.
  5. Pour pudding into individual ramekins or a large bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chill for at least two hours. Top with raspberries and whipped cream.

your turn
Hope you enjoy these romantic dishes! Here is a PDF you can print out for your recipe collectionRomantic Suppers and Sweets Blog 2-16

tips & tricks – odds & ends – bits & basics

Saving time and trouble in the kitchen conserves a cook’s energy. Seasoned cooks know many of these tips and basics, but if you’re new to the culinary world, you’ll appreciate learning these.

tips & tricks (totally random)

  • Add ½ cup of water or beef broth to 1 lb ground beef (or chicken broth to ground turkey or chicken) for the juiciest burgers ever.
  • Cookie and ice cream scoops make life easy. How have I lived without them all these years! Use them to make uniform size cookies and meatballs, dip batter into muffin cups, the list is endless.
  • For sky-high muffins, let batter sit in tins for about a half-hour before baking.
  • If using coarse or kosher salt, double the amount called for in recipes calling for regular table salt. The opposite also applies.
  • Freeze ground meat packed in 1-qt zipper freezer bags, and flatten to about ½ to ¾ thick, distributing evenly. Freeze flat. This takes only a half-hour or so to defrost.
  • Wrap chicken or pork chops separately (I use cheap sandwich bags), freeze 2 hours; place in a larger freezer bag. Pull out only pieces you need. No defrosting huge blocks of meat for hours!
  • Never buy scallions for $1 a bunch again! Cut off the white root ends. Put them in a glass jar with an inch of water, place on a sunny windowsill, and they will re-grow! Keep trimming off when you need green tops, and they’ll shoot up again! Trimming encourages growth. Mine shot up 8 inches in a week. You can also plant them in a pot after a while.

freezing veggies

  • Most vegetables like peas and green beans should be blanched before freezing. Blanching means boiling for three minutes or so (varies by vegetable), plunging into icewater to “shock,” draining very well, and wrapping securely before freezing. Blanching ensures your veggies will maintain their color and won’t get freezer burn if used within a reasonable period.
  • I always blanch my bell pepper halves before making stuffed peppers because they bake up so much more colorfully. Fresh sliced, halved, or whole bell peppers, however, can be placed in plastic bags and frozen dry without any need for blanching. So can sliced apples and berries.

basic recipes i can’t live without

homemade ranch dressing is so good, and it is SO much healthier than the bottled kind, which is loaded with sugar (Really! Have you read the ingredients?) This mixes up quick and easy.

  • ¾ cup buttermilk (Shake well!)
  • ¾ cup real mayonnaise (Do not substitute with Miracle Whip!)
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp each dried tarragon and basil (Essential!)
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Whisk together and refrigerate for a couple of hours if you have time. Make it on the fly, and it still tastes better than that stuff hiding in the valley advertised on TV. Add some fresh chopped chives just before serving. (Mine are coming up! So stoked!)

crumb topping can always be found in my ’fridge. I make it in triple batches and never have an excuse not to whip up an awesome pie. This topping bakes up golden-buttery and sweet and makes that second crust unnecessary. I’ve used it on apple, berry, peach, and rhubarb pies with great success.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ stick soft butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Mix with your fingers till crumbly. Pile an inch or more deep on top of your pie and bake as usual. Double or triple so you always have it on hand. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. Makes a great topping for coffee cake, too!

basic quiche is a springboard for endless variations you can whip up in record time, amazing your friends and family! Well, maybe not quite that fab, but it’s a handy, delicious, and filling meal and makes great leftovers. I love my homemade crust, but I use the prepared rolled crust for my quiche. Add grated cheese (any kind), ham, cooked mushrooms, or whatever.

  • 2 cups shredded cheese (Swiss is traditional but not required)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat eggs. Add milk and salt. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Spread cheese (or any other stuff) evenly over top. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit 15 minutes before cutting. Great cold the next day!

basic crepes (pronounced kreps) are a meal or a starting point for fancier dishes. Whether served with fruit and eaten like pancakes or stuffed with savory crabmeat filling and smothered in Swiss cheese sauce, crepes are not only versatile—they are also convenient since you can make up a bunch of them and freeze for a quick meal on busy nights.

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • Dash of salt

Beat well. Batter should be thin, so add more milk if needed. Prepare a 10-inch nonstick frying pan by heating to medium and spaying lightly with cooking oil. When pan is hot enough (a drop of water dances around and disappears), pour in one third cup of batter and immediately swirl pan around to distribute so batter covers entire pan surface. When top is set and edges brown and begin to curl, flip crepe carefully. Cook till second side is lightly brown. Slide on to a large plate and cover with a damp tea towel till all batter is cooked. These can be rewarmed in the microwave and served right away or stored in the refrigerator or freezer separated by sheets of wax paper or parchment and well-wrapped in plastic or foil.

basic brown butter sauce is a delicious way to transform a plain pasta or rice meal into something special, and the ingredients are usually on hand or easily obtainable. This is a basic recipe, but there are endless variations with the addition of mushrooms, Parmesan or Romano cheese, fresh sage leaves (yummy), lemons, hazelnuts, or pine nuts, vegetables like parsley, chives, blanched green beans, asparagus, artichokes or cauliflower, and proteins like lobster, mussels, crab, scallops, or chicken. I’ve been making this on the fly, so thanks for the great directions from CD Kitchen!

  • Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) of salted butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and place in a 2-quart sauce pan. Place the pan of butter on a burner over medium heat. Bring butter to a slow boil (about 5 minutes).
  • Once the butter begins to boil, stir constantly to prevent residue from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the butter cooks, it will start to foam and rise. Continue stirring, otherwise the butter foam could overflow (about 5 minutes) and catch fire.
  • When the butter stops foaming and rising, cook until amber in color (about 1 to 2 minutes). It will have a pleasant caramel aroma.
  • Turn off the heat and remove pan from burner. Let the sediment settle to the bottom of the pan for a few minutes.
  • Pour the brown butter through a strainer into a small bowl. Do not disturb the residue at the bottom of the pan.
  • You can keep it hot over a double boiler. Brown butter can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in a microwave as needed, but be careful!
  • Boil your pasta of choice until al dente. Drain pasta and divide into four servings. Spread with 1/4 cup of hot brown butter.

Next time we’ll post additional basic recipes you can tuck away in your recipe notebook (you do have one, right?) and pull out when you’re in a bind or on a tight schedule. Add your own personal touch, and you’ll impress even your toughest critic.

Print this revised post: CJ-5-13-15-TIPS

seafood: a refreshing change

After all the red meat and gravy on the table the past few weeks, it’s a nice change to serve seafood. When buying shrimp, choose raw, not precooked, so yours don’t end up overdone and tough. Bags of frozen large or jumbo size are economical. You can use half a bag and keep half in the freezer.

When selecting fish, be sure to choose wild-caught, which is not heavily processed, nor does it contain antibiotics or unnatural food that can taint its flavor.

salmon cakes with peach salsa  Fresh salmon is quite expensive and best prepared poached or grilled. When making my tasty salmon cakes, use inexpensive wild-caught canned salmon, which flakes easily, and the edible crushed bones provide a big burst of calcium! This makes four nice size cakes you can serve with sides or pop them on a bun with lettuce, sliced red onion, and horseradish sauce along with the peach salsa. Very flavorful. I made these the other night. Jerry ate two and I ate one, so I saved the last one for my lunch the next day. Wow, so good heated up in the toaster oven at 400° for 10 minutes.

ingredients for the salsa

  • 2 large ripe peaches (or use a 15-oz can of sliced peaches packed in juice)
  • 1 medium scallion, finely sliced
  • 1 Tbs minced pickled jalapeno peppers (or use 1 fresh if desired)
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro (optional or sub parsley)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar

ingredients for the cakes

  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 15-oz can red or pink salmon
  • 2-3 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely minced sweet red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely minced yellow onion
  • ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup (or more) Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

directions

  1. Prepare salsa. Drain and dice peaches. Combine in a small bowl with scallions, lemon juice, jalapenos, salt, and sugar. Stir in cilantro and set aside.
  2. Heat heavy skillet over medium high heat. Thoroughly drain salmon and remove dark skin if desired. Flake salmon and crush bones with a fork. Mix in all remaining ingredients except oil, butter and Panko.
  3. Place Panko in a flat bowl. Line a platter with wax paper. Use your hands or ½-cup measuring cup to form at least four cakes about 1-inch thick, carefully coating them with Panko and placing on the platter. Cakes will be very soft.
  4. Place olive oil and butter in pan, swirling to cover bottom. When shimmering, transfer cakes carefully to pan. Fry 3-5 minutes on each side till golden brown. Serve with peach salsa and sour cream on the side.

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TIP: Panko breadcrumbs can be found in the ethnic section of your grocery store. The brand name is Sushi Chef.

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heavenly sweet coconut crunch shrimp  This delicious shrimp is not only good, but it’s also pretty low in calories. Serve with sweet and sour or sweet chili sauce, rice, and a green veggie.

ingredients

  • ¼ cup Fiber One Bran Cereal (original)
  • 1/3 cup shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
  • 3 Tbs Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12 oz (about 20) raw large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 1 small egg, beaten

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Place cereal in a sealable plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Using a meat cleaver or heavy can, crush cereal through the bag. Add coconut, Panko, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to bag. Seal and shake to mix. Transfer to a large plate and set aside.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  4. Pat shrimp very dry with paper towels. Beat egg and toss shrimp to coat. One at a time, shake excess egg off shrimp and place in crumb mixture, flipping and patting till well coated. Space evenly on baking sheet.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes until coating is light browned and crispy. Serve immediately.

deb’s clam casserole  My college roommate used to make this for us—a cheap but filling meal, delicious served with stewed tomatoes and toast points. This recipe makes plenty for four.

ingredients for the casserole

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 small cans minced clams (juice and all) or 2 cups freshly shucked clams
  • 30 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter, cooled

ingredients for the stewed tomatoes

  • 1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh, cored, skinned, and diced)
  • ½ small onion, finely minced
  • ½ green bell pepper, seeded and finely minced
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

directions for the casserole

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray the inside of a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly, ending with the butter. Pour into baking dish. Bake 1 hour until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

directions for the stewed tomatoes

  1. While casserole is baking, place all ingredients except the cornstarch mixture and salt and pepper in a saucepan. Cover and bring to boil over medium high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 8-10 minutes till vegetables are soft.
  2. Stir cornstarch mixture well and add to pan, stirring constantly till sauce thickens. if too thick, add a bit more water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover and simmer another two minutes till cornstarch is thoroughly cooked. Serve alongside clam casserole with English muffins or toast. Nice stick-to-your-ribs winter meal!

my baked stuffed white fish (cod, flounder, haddock, hake, pollock, sea bass, or sole) with my seafood stuffing  I buy whatever white fish is on sale or marked-down frozen as long as it is fresh-smelling and firm to the touch (never be afraid to ask the person at the fish counter to let you smell the fish before you buy it). White fish from the ocean is usually wild-caught, so you don’t have to be concerned about that. White fish can be used in chowders, breaded and fried, or baked. Avoid oily fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, or bluefish, which need to be prepared differently.

My stuffing includes “imitation” crab meat, a product made from ground fish called surimi, which is purified and flavored, so it is purely protein and one I do not object to using in some of my recipes as it is very flavorful and economical. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surimi] If you prefer, you can use real crabmeat.

ingredients for the stuffing (makes 2 cups)

  • ½ of ¾-lb. block frozen imitation crab meat (Louis Kemp is the best brand)
  • 1 cup Ritz or Townhouse crackers, crumbled
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 stick celery, finely minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • Pepper to taste

directions for the stuffing

  1. Mix all well.
  2. Refrigerate for an hour before using.

ingredients for the baked stuffed haddock or any white fish

  • 1 lb. white fish fillets
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups my seafood stuffing

directions for the baked stuffed fish

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Prepare either a 9-inch square pan or two individual au gratin dishes with cooking spray. Drop 1 Tbs butter into individual dishes or 2 Tbs into pan. Place in oven to melt.
  3. Remove pan/dishes from oven and place half lemon juice into them.
  4. Cut the fish into pieces to fit the dishes or pan. Sprinkle remaining lemon juice on top, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  5. Divide seafood stuffing over tops of the fish, and dot with remaining butter cut into small cubes.
  6. Bake from 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Serves 2.

seafood newburg  Use lobster, white fish, or crab—even imitation crab or lobster by Louis Kemp. Make this sauce and placed cooked seafood in it for a few minutes to warm through. Be careful. Do not boil! The sauce is delicate and will break easily if boiled too hard. Simmer only. Sorry for the unconventional presentation of this recipe. It is the only one I have and have followed for years.

directions

  1. Melt a half stick of butter in a skillet. Add 2 Tbs dry sherry and 1 Tbs bourbon. (If you need to cook raw haddock or shrimp, you can add it here.) Stir, cooking for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove fish, and add 1½ cups milk, cream or half-and-half, bring to a boil and reduce heat.
  3. Stir in another Tbs sherry, 1 Tbs bourbon, and ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg.
  4. Whisk in 2 egg yolks OR 1 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs water, a dash of cayenne, and a ½ tsp paprika. Add your fish, including cooked lobster, back into pan.
  5. Cook 3 minutes or so. Keep warm. Serve over rice or toast.

seared scallops with brussels sprouts and bacon  Scallops can be very dear, but when they are on sale, 3-4 scallops to each diner should be plenty as they provide some pure protein and minerals from the sea—a winning combination. Ask for “dry” scallops if they are available. They haven’t been processed or plumped up with salt water, so they leak less liquid when you are cooking them. You also get more meat for your money. You can easily double this recipe for more diners at the table.

ingredients

  • 5-8 oz fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 slices bacon cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs water
  • ¾ Tbs butter
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of pepper
  • 6 large sea scallops
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

directions

  1. Blanch sprouts in a 2-qt. saucepan of boiling salted water, uncovered for 3 minutes, then drain.
  2. Cook bacon in a microwave or a heavy skillet over medium heat till crispy; transfer to a small bowl, reserving fat.
  3. Add 2 Tbs broth and 2 Tbs water to skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping up brown bits. Add butter, salt, sugar, pepper and blanched sprouts and simmer covered for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove lid and cook over medium high heat stirring occasionally till liquid is evaporated and sprouts are tender and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in bacon and remove from heat.
  5. While sprouts are cooking, pat scallops VERY dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil with 1 tsp bacon fat in a 6-inch skillet over medium high heat till hot but not smoking. Place scallops to sear, turning once till golden brown and cooked through, 4-6 minutes TOTAL (that means 2-3 minutes per side). Do NOT overcook.
  6. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
  7. Pour off and discard fat remaining in the 6-inch skillet. Add remaining chicken broth and simmer, scraping up brown bits for 1 minute. Stir cornstarch into remaining 1 sp water and stir into pan with any juices that have accumulated on the scallops plate.
  8. Simmer 1 minute, stirring, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve brussels sprouts topped with scallops and sauce.

PRINT THIS POST: CJ-Seafood-BLOG