Sunday, May 29, 2011

Salmon with Shrimp Sauce & Pasta

Sometimes in my quest to try something new, I forget something old. And then I re-discover it. That's what happened to this recipe. The last time I made it was several years ago! And I loved it. But I'm older now. More experienced. I looked at the recipe. Studied it. Thought about it . . . "Hmmmm... I think it can be better . . ."

And so that's what I did. I "de-constructed" it. The original called for dumping the sauce (made with cornstarch) with the raw shrimp over the raw salmon and baking it. And I've done that and it was good. BUT . . . but . . . it just seemed so cruel. Why cook a perfectly good sauce twice? And I hate shrimp that is overcooked. It takes only a few minutes in the sauce. I cooked the salmon on its own sprinkled with my beloved fines herbes.* I kept the sauce separate and I ditched serving it over rice as the original recipe called for and used angel hair pasta, instead. When I can find it, I will use lemon/parsley pasta. I also added a dry white wine to the sauce. You just have to have wine in a sauce!

This is a stately dish fit for company but won't cost you a king's ransom like ordered in a fancy restaurant. Don't be afraid of the wine and cream. And, for heaven's sake, don't skip using real cream. It's not going to kill you and it's not like you're guzzling a whole gallon or something. The French love their wine and their cream sauces . . . and they live longer than us!

(Serves 2)
  • 1/2 pound salmon filet (I keep the skin on because I think it adds flavor as it bakes)
  • 1 teaspoon or so of fines herbes and sprinkle of dill and Kosher salt
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder**
  • 1/4 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and de-veined, cut in half if large
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, one reserved
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons dry, white wine (one that you would actually drink)
  • Red-pepper flakes--just a pinch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges and chopped parsley for garnish
  • 4 oz. angel-hair pasta

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Have all ingredients cut, sliced and measured before baking the salmon. Have salted water boiling for the pasta.

Sprinkle the salmon with a bit of olive oil and then the fines herbes and a few pinches of Kosher salt and a light dusting of garlic powder. Place on a foil-lined pie plate that has been spritzed with Pam and bake for about 15-20 minutes, just until the middle flakes. As it bakes, prepare the sauce. (I usually get a larger piece of salmon so I have leftovers that I add to my morning omelette.)

Saute shallots and mushrooms in one tablespoon of melted butter and one tablespoon of olive oil until tender. Don't let the shallots brown. Add about 2 tablespoons of dry, white wine. Stir until alcohol has evaporated. Remove from heat. Stir in the cream. Add the two cloves of sliced garlic and several twists of pepper from a grinder and pinch of red-pepper flakes. Bring to a slight simmer, stirring occasionally.

As sauce thickens and reduces, add a bit more cream and wine, if necessary, a tablespoon at a time. After about ten minutes, taste and season with salt as needed. If necessary, add the reserved garlic (I usually do). Continue to reduce. The sauce will turn lovely and creamy. When you can scrape a spoon on the bottom of the pan and it leaves a path, the sauce is done. The whole process takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Use a gentle heat.

When a path remains after a spoon slides across the pan, the sauce is done.

Remove salmon from oven and cover with a plate. Add pasta to boiling water. Angel-hair pasta will cook in a matter of about 4 minutes. Now add the shrimp to the sauce. As soon as they turn pink, turn over until other side is pink. If the sauce is too thick or you want it a bit more loose, simply add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water. I usually do. Remove pan from heat.

Drain pasta. Mound half on a plate, twisting with a fork. Place half of the salmon fillet leaning against it, trying to keep it whole. If it breaks, just make it "pretty" and don't be alarmed. Now spoon the shrimp and sauce on top. Sprinkle with parsley and grate fresh Parmesan on top.

This will serve two nicely along with a salad. Serve with a cold, dry, white wine. Oooooooo-la-la! Magnifique, mes amours!!! All that's missing is the Eiffel Tower!

*Fines Herbes are equal amounts of dried chervil, parsley, tarragon and chives.

**To sprinkle means to hold the spice about 1.5 feet above the food itself and lightly tap with your finger so it sifts evenly to cover the item.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fish Cakes, Fish/Shrimp Cakes

Fish cakes are a great summertime meal!

Here in the South, temperatures are rising. Today it will be 86; tomorrow, over 90! Fish cakes are a perfect summer-time dinner or late lunch. They're light, yet kind of rich in their own way. They fry easily on the stove, so no messy grill or hot oven. And they freeze beautifully! They also make a great appetizer.

Use skinless filets. I usually use haddock. If using frozen, allow to thaw and squeeze out some of the water between paper towels. I used cod for this batch because it was on sale. Sometimes I throw in a piece or two of salmon (it looks pretty). Before adding to the food processor, hold back a filet or two to coarsely chop by hand. I like the fish in my cakes on the chunky side.

  • 1 pound white fish filets
  • 1/3 cup thawed frozen spinach, squeezed dry
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons green onions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning (I use Old Bay's)
  • 1 tablespoon Fines Herbes (optional)
  • Pinch of cayenne or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4-1 cup fresh bread crumbs (not dried)*, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Dried breadcrumbs and/or Panko for dredging
  • Olive oil/butter for frying

Cut fish into chunks and add to food processor. Pulse on and off just until chopped and still "fluffy." Really, you don't want a paste. If desired, and just in case, hold back on one or two filets and coarsely chop by hand and then add to finished fish from processor.

Place processed fish in a large bowl. Add minced garlic, chopped green onions, seasonings, spinach and bread crumbs. Using your fingers, mix and incorporate without pressing down to keep things loose and fluffy. Add the egg and lightly mix with a fork.

I like to refrigerate this for a few hours to let the flavors build, but it's not necessary.

Using a 1/2-cup scoop, form into patties being careful not to compress them too much. They should be about 3/4 to 1-inch thick and about 2.5-3 inches in diameter.

Lightly coat each cake in dried bread crumbs or Panko bread crumbs (or both). If freezing, wrap each in cling wrap and freeze.

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of butter to a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add cakes and brown, about five minutes per side.

You may also add freshly chopped shrimp to the mixture. I usually use half as much shrimp as I do fish (1/4 pound shrimp to 1/2 pound fish, for example). And I like to keep the shrimp a bit chunky, too, so I can bite into it.

To fry a frozen fish cake, proceed as above but use lower heat and use a cover for part of the cooking process to allow the steam to help cook the cake. You may need to turn them more than once.

Serve with fresh corn off the cob and green onions: Kitchen Bounty: Corn Off the Cob with Green Onions

*to make fresh bread crumbs, add some slices of firm bread to the food processor and pulse. Freeze any leftovers. When I first began making these years and years ago, I add Pepperidge Farm Seasoned Stuffing (not Stove Top Stuffing) to the fish mix and allowed it to sit for several hours to soften the bread chips. I'll have to re-visit that one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rhubarb Cream-Cheese Pie (And So Much More!!!)

Feeling a bit tart? A bit saucy? In the mood to wear a bit of naughty--as in "red?" Then I've got a pie for you. Oh, yea!!! Pucker up, baby! Slap one on this tasty little number! YUM! And then lick your lips. Pout a little. This isn't a date. It's a rendezvous. Don't look back.... Just go for it and enjoy.

Did I really just write that? Oh, well . . . this is a "pie with possibilities." Don't stop at the rhubarb layer. Think blueberries when they are in season. Or mix things up a bit--add a bit of strawberries to that rhubarb. Raspberries would be sheer bliss!

But for now, we're sticking to the rhubarb which is in season. If you like things a bit tart, you will love this pie. It's a beautiful blend of fruit married to a light cheese layer and topped with heaven itself--whipped cream (yea, I know....rhubarb is a veggie but it just doesn't act like one. I love a rebel, don't you?).

A kitchen scale is indispensable for cooking.

This is pretty straight-forward. Make your own crust or buy a pre-made one. If the latter, roll it out a bit on a floured surface to make it a tab bigger than the 9-inch pie plate.

Fruit Layer:
  • 1 pound fresh rhubarb or 2 cups that have been cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch

Cheese Layer:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Stabilized Whipped-Cream Layer:
  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
  • 4 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Roll out pastry dough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Flute the edges. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, mix together the cut-up rhubarb, sugar and cornstarch. Stir over low/medium heat. At first, nothing will happen. Just keep mixing around. Eventually, the heat will cause the rhubarb to begin "sweating" and release its juices. Just keep mixing. As more liquid is released, up the heat a bit. After about 8 minutes or so, the rhubarb chunks will suddenly break down and turn to mush. That's what you want. Stir until bubbly. It will be the consistency of a thick jam. Pour into pie crust.

Bake in oven for ten minutes. This will form a skin on the fruit layer so the cheese layer doesn't bleed through.

As it's baking . . .

In a medium bowl mix the softened cream cheese with the sugar. Add the eggs and flavoring. Beat just until smooth. Do not over beat.

Remove pie from oven. Dial down to 350 F. Pour cheese filling over rhubarb filling. Return to oven and bake 25-35 minutes or until set.

I should have taken this out of the oven about five minutes earlier,
hence the crack around the edge. Not to worry. At first,
the edges of the pie will be higher than the center.
That's okay. It will level down as the pie cools.

Remove pie from oven and allow to cool then chill in refrigerator before applying whipped cream.

Heat some water in a small saucepan. In a heat-proof custard cup, mix the gelatin with the water. Allow to dissolve. When dissolved, place in the water bath until melted. Remove. Pour whipped cream into a cold bowl. Begin beating on low, then medium, upping the speed a bit as you go. When it starts to get thick, stop. Add dissolved gelatin and begin beating again as you add the powdered sugar. Beat until path marks are left by the beaters. Do not overbeat or it will a) turn into butter or b) curdle.

Spread on cooled pie. Refrigerate until entire pie is cool and set. (I set a 10-inch glass pie plate over it.) Cut with a sharp, wet knife.

Notes: Stabilized whipped cream prevents it from getting watery as it sets and allows for piping if you are so inclined. If you change the fruit layer to berries, you will probably have to adjust the sugar and cornstarch amounts to accommodate the extra juice, so be careful.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Strawberry -Rhubarb Crisp with Ginger and Orange

As a child, rhubarb is one of the first things I remember growing in my small garden patch. It was one of the first things to pop up from the cold, spring ground. I hated it, but my big sister loved it and would suck the sour stalks like a stick of candy. As I got older, and wiser, I discovered the magic relationship between rhubarb and strawberries. "Rhuberry Pie" is one of my most favorite desserts: Kitchen Bounty: rhubarb-strawberry-blueberry pie.

Sadly, many people don't know about this wonderful plant and the great things you can make from it (stay tuned!). This crisp is pretty straight forward. You can omit the ginger and orange (or add a shot of Tripe Sec). Either way, it's really important to serve it with vanilla ice cream or vanilla frozen yogurt. It just ain't the same without it. Really.

  • 1 pound rhubarb, diced, (about 2 cups)
  • 2 pounds strawberries, sliced, (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup granulated sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon minced, candied ginger
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch (or 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch)
  • Grated orange peel (about 1/2 orange)

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup "old fashioned" rolled oats
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon and dash of allspice

Slice the stalks of rhubarb down the center and then cut into chunks about the size of your small fingernail. Place in a large bowl.

Slice your berries. If large, slice in thirds then in half. Add to cut-up rhubarb. Add diced ginger and several grates of fresh orange peel. Do not mix.

Mix together your sugar and cornstarch or cornstarch flour mixture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, oats, spices, baking soda, baking powder. Mix in melted butter. Mixture will be lose. When squeezed in your hand, it should hold its shape but fall apart when prodded with your finger.

Pour sugar mixture over strawberry/rhubarb mixture and gently mix with a spatula until well incorporated. Pour into a 10 x 7 x 2 dish. Crumble the topping over the surface.

Bake in a 375 F oven for about 25-30 minutes. Open oven door and dial temperature to 325. Close door and bake for another 15 minutes to allow juices to thicken. The crisp will be bubbly all around the edges and the top golden.

Remove and allow to cool completely before serving.

*The amount of sugar you use is your preference, but you should use at least 1/2 cup. I like a ratio of more strawberries to rhubarb, so I don't use the full 1 cup. If you like more rhubarb, you may want to add more than 1/2 cup.

NOTES: Do not use generic brown sugars since many have less molasses and don't hold together as well. I would have preferred a baking dish maybe a tad bigger. This recipe is easily adapted to your needs. For example, you could do one cup rhubarb and two cups strawberries and simply adjust the sugar to your taste and cut the thickening agent to 1.5 tablespoons. For the "crisp," reduce flour, oats and brown sugar to 1/2 cup each and use only 4 tablespoons butter.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baked Shrimp

I get off work at five o'clock which means I won't be home until at least 5:30 or, if I do some quick errands, around six. What to do for dinner? Lately, it's been shrimp. At around seven bucks a pound, a half-pound will give me a dozen--not a bad dinner for only $3.50. Add an avocado or fresh broccoli and voila! A dinner fit for a king.

Snazzy appetizer? Dinner? You choose. Either way,
you can't go wrong!

Adapted from a Jacques Pepin recipe, this is also a knockout appetizer. And it can be prepared ahead of time, refrigerated, then baked in no time.

Unlike a shrimp scampi, it's not swimming in butter. Feel free to play around with different herbs. On one occasion I used half fresh chives with the green onions. On another, a bit of chopped rosemary. Sometimes I add several good shakes of Old Bay's. Or a light dust of Cayenne. If you like things spicy, I could see a bit of finely diced jalapeno pepper. I also add a bit of grated Parmesan to the bread-crumb topping. But one thing is certain: don't skimp on the garlic! And I always add a bit of grated lemon zest.

Having said that, my new favorite way is to add one tablespoon dried 'fines herbes' with a bit of dried dill. (Click here for info about how to make fines herbes: Kitchen Bounty: Fines Herbes--OR use heaping teaspoon each of the following dried herbs: chervil, parsley, chives and tarragon.)

(Serves 2 as a main course or 4-6 as an appetizer)
  • 1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 12) 26-30 size
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions (see "notes" at end of post)
  • 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon finely-chopped or pressed garlic (I use 2-3 teaspoons)
  • Several grates of fresh lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter mixed with 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and/or Old Bay's Seasoning or seasonings of your choice--to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or Panko break crumbs (not dried!)*
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter and/or oil
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons dry, white wine

In a small bowl, toss the shrimp with the onions, mushrooms, fresh herbs if using or  fines herbes (recommended) garlic, and powdered seasonings of your choice. Add the two tablespoons melted butter and one tablespoon olive oil. Mix well.

Spread in a shallow pan that is large enough so the shrimp form a single layer. I use an 8 x 8 pyrex dish. I've used a pie plate but don't recommend it since the juices congeal around the sloped edges and don't cook with the shrimp.

Mix the Parmesan with the bread crumbs. Add just enough melted butter and/or oil to coat them and still leave "fluffy." Sprinkle over the shrimp. Sprinkle white wine over all, if using.

Bake in a 425-degree oven (F) for about 15 minutes. Cool a bit and serve with lemon wedges.

*I'm not an advocate of dried bread crumbs. It's a cinch to make fresh in the food processor and even easier to buy Panko-style bread crumbs--both are light and fluffy, absorb juices well, and add a crispness without being dried and grainy like the traditional dried bread crumbs. If you live in a country where green onions are not readily available, I'd suggest one tablespoon of chopped shallots.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Easy Rice with Spinach and Parmesan Cheese (Company Rice)

I love "green rice," but it's complicated and takes time. You have to cook the rice first. Saute onions. Assemble it and then bake it. And I love rice. So, years ago, I began experimenting with all the basic ingredients of green rice but in one pan. It's now a standard recipe for me. When served to guests, it's always a hit, hence my real name for this recipe, "Company Rice." It's just too easy not to make!

Use chopped frozen spinach in a bag--not the box!
Fresh Parmesan works best for this recipe.

  • 1 cup raw, white rice (I prefer Uncle Ben's Par-Boiled)
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach (maybe a tad more)
  • 1 tablespoon dried, minced onion flakes (I use McCormick)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 scant teaspoons Kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water less 2 tablespoons
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not canned)

Add all ingredients except for butter and cheese in a 1 1/2 quart pan. Stir. Bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover until water is absorbed and rice is done, stirring once or twice during the process, about 15-20 minutes or so.

Remove from heat. Stir in the butter until melted. Taste for seasonings adding more salt and/or pepper if necessary and/or butter. Mix in the cheese using a fork. Re-cover and allow to sit about ten minutes. Re-fluff and serve.

Notes: I've also used half water and half chicken stock to cook the rice. If serving with a beef dish, use half beef broth and half water. This dish is easily made ahead and re-heated in the oven or microwave.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Homemade Lamb Sausages with Feta, Rosemary, Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Simmering sausages allows the spices to shine. Frying and grilling
literally burns them away.
Yes, you can make your own sausages. All you need is ground meat and some small Ziploc freezer bags. And, I guarantee you, they will taste better than anything you purchased pre-packaged or frozen. (More Ziploc sausage recipes can be found here: Kitchen Bounty: sausages.

With Easter just a short memory behind us, lamb is still abundant, particularly ground lamb. And it's pretty reasonably priced, too. One pound will yield four sausages. Don't be afraid to experiment with your spices. Lamb loves spices. Since the sausages are simmered and not fried or grilled, the cheese stays intact instead of melting away.

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 heaping tablespoon freshly minced rosemary, needles only, no stems (stems can puncture the plastic bag when forming the sausage)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon minced or pressed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsely
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) dried thyme flakes
  • 4 sun-dried tomato halves, soaked in hot water, drained and chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons Feta cheese crumbles
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • pepper
  • Pinch or two of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water (scant)

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. To test, take a small teaspoon of the meat and microwave for about 15 seconds. Taste. Re-season if necessary, paying close attention to salt.

If possible, refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to mix, or for a few hours.

Place 1/2 cup meat mixture inside a Ziploc freezer bag. Form into a sausage shape by sliding the meat down into bag with the edge of your hand. Expel air and seal carefully. Roll. At this point they may be frozen for future use.

Fill a large pot of water 3/4 full and bring to a boil. Reduce to a slow, slow simmer. Place sausages into water trying not to allow the top of the bag to sink into the water. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Remove sausages from pot and allow to sit for about five minutes. The fat will rise to the top of the bag. Removes sausages. If you'd like to serve them with their natural juices, carefully make a small cut in the corner of the bag and drain the juices.

Serve plain or with Tzatziki (cucumber) sauce.

  1. Use name-brand, pint-sized plastic bags. Generic are usually thinner and the corners leak so you will lose the poaching liquid inside the bag resulting in a very dry sausage. Name-brand, such as Ziploc, do not contain BPA, a harmful chemical.
  2. Use less, not more, of each spice if in doubt. You can always add more later on. Keep a notepad nearby to record what you add.
  3. I actually prefer dried spices and herbs, but prefer fresh garlic that is smashed into a paste. Use fresh cheese, not canned/powdered which can dry the sausage.
  4. After mixing, place a good teaspoonful on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds or until no pink remains in center. Taste. Adjust seasonings accordingly.
  5. The ideal sausage mixture is 70/30. Pre-ground pork is 80/20, but it's okay. If you have a friendly butcher, he will be more than happy to grind some fresh suet for you. You can also add ground bacon. Allow it to partially freeze, cut into chunks and grind in your food processor. But remember it will alter the taste of your sausage.
  6. As the sausages poach, they will shrink. Sometimes the bag will, too.
  7. Be sure to add the water to your mix. This adds moisture and helps to incorporate the spices.
  8. If possible, refrigerate your mixture for several hours or overnight before forming into sausages.
  9. These freeze beautifully. I allow mine to thaw before poaching. 
  10. If you want, carefully remove sausages a bit before they are done and brown in a bit of butter/olive oil. 
  11. Smoked paprika adds great smoky taste to homemade sausages.
  12. Because they are lower in fat than regular sausages, condiments work well with Ziploc sausages.
  13. If your sausage mixture ends up too strong in spicy flavors, form into patties and fry. Frying reduces the strong tastes. 
  14. Here's a great site for sausage recipes and even supplies: Len Poli's Sausage Making - Homemade Sausage Formulations and Recipes