A vibrant combination of juicy grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime sections, accented with fragrant and spicy habanero pepper, the Yucatan peninsula is home to this colorful and healthy salsa. The Mayan name for this dish is Xec, pronounced, shek which roughly translates, “mixed”. It is an easy to prepare dish, all of the fruit is cut vertically and sectioned, the way you would cut into your morning grapefruit. If you prefer, the citrus could also be cut into supremes or segments.
The salsa gets its heat from habanero chiles. Lantern shaped and bright red, orange or yellow in color, the habanero is the hottest chile available in grocery stores. For perspective, a habanero registers in at 300,000 to 475,000 units on the Scoville scale, the standard for measuring the heat of a chili pepper, the jalapeno only 2,500 to 10,000 units. Treat all hot peppers with a certain amount of caution, wear gloves when working with them and keep your hands away from your face. It is best to add a little bit of chili pepper to see what your heat tolerance is before ruining a dish with too much at once.
I am fortunate to have a supply of NuMex Suave Orange peppers from the garden to add to the salsa. NuMex Suaves have the citrusy flavor that most people miss in the habanero, without the numbing heat. I like this salsa with fish, but it would pair with chicken or pork as well.
Mayan Citrus Salsa (Xec)
Makes four servings
1 large orange
1 medium grapefruit
1 medium lemon
Finely chopped habanero pepper (according to your heat tolerance)
1 NuMex suave pepper
½ c finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Cut orange in half horizontally and section it as you would a grapefruit. Do this over a bowl to capture all the juice. Remove the seeds and combine flesh and juice in a bowl. Repeat with the grapefruit, lemon and lime. Stir in habanero, NuMex suave and cilantro. Season with salt.
Is there really a need for another recipe for butternut squash soup when there are already three other butternut squash soup recipes on the blog? Well, when you have a metal locker in the basement still half full of last year’s harvest, (in excellent condition I will add) there’s always room for one more soup. This time the squash isn’t blended into a silky purée resulting in a soup that’s perfect as a starter for an elegant meal, here the squash pulls double duty. The fat bulbous end becomes part of a squash “stock” and the neck is cut into chunks that are simmered in the stock to make this hearty main dish soup.
Start with a medium-sized squash, 2 to 2 1/2 lb, use a sharp knife to cut off a half inch piece at both ends. You can either cut the squash in half (approximately) where the neck meets the bulb or leave it whole for peeling. The next part I find easiest to do using a vegetable peeler, the inexpensive Kuhn Rikon ones are my favorite. A well sharpened chef’s knife works well too. Place the squash on its side and run the peeler down the length. This part goes quicker with the neck, the curved bottom takes a little more time, but with practice the whole process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Be sure to remove the white flesh and green fibers that are right below the skin’s surface. The squash should be completely orange after peeling. Scoop out the seeds and the fibrous pulp from the bulb end. I save the seeds for roasting as a garnish for soups and salads.
The bulb halves are cut into four chunks and combined in a saucepan with stock, water, butter and soy sauce or tamari. The soy brings a savory umami note to the natural sweetness of the squash and the butter adds richness. Cook until the squash is very soft and mash in the pan until broken down.
While the stock is cooking, cut the neck end into 1/3 inch cubes. Sauté leeks and tomato paste in a Dutch oven. The mild sweet onion flavor of the leeks complements the squash and the tomato paste adds a little umami to the mix. Add the garlic and squash pieces and cook, stirring occasionally. Pour in the squash stock, bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook for ten minutes. Canned cannellini beans are the last addition and add a hearty creaminess and some substance to the soup. Simmer until the squash is tender. You can serve it now or if you have the time, make the soup, cool, refrigerate and reheat and serve the next day. As with many soups and stews, the flavors have time to meld together and it even tastes better.
Don’t skip making the pesto, it is a wonderful addition to the soup. Sage and parsley replace the typical basil in this recipe. I’m glad that sage is one of the first herbs to perk up in the garden, in spite of the cold temperatures of late. I truly despise paying several dollars for a handful of less than perfect leaves when I can pick them fresh.
Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto
Ingredients for soup
1- 2½ lb butternut squash
4 c broth, chicken or vegetable
3 c water
4 T unsalted butter
1 T soy sauce or tamari
1 T vegetable oil
1 lb leeks, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly, sliced thin
1 T tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced finely
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3-15 oz can cannellini beans
White wine vinegar to taste
Directions for soup
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin and the fibrous threads just below the skin, the squash should look completely orange, no white spots remaining.
Cut the squash in half where the neck and bulb meet. Cut the bulb section in half and remove the seeds and any strings. Save seeds for toasting if desired.
Cut each half into four sections. Place the squash sections, broth, water, butter and soy or tamari in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until squash is very soft.
Using a potato masher, mash the squash, still in the broth until it is broken down. Cover pan to keep warm and set aside.
While the broth is cooking, cut the neck of the squash into 1/3 inch pieces. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped leeks and tomato paste and cook until the leeks are softened and the tomato paste darkens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add squash pieces, some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Add squash broth and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add beans and their liquid, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender 15 to 20 minutes.
Ladle soup into individual bowl, add a splash of white wine vinegar and dollop of pesto and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Sage Parsley Pesto
Ingredients for the Sage Parsley Pesto
½ c toasted walnuts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c fresh parsley leaves
½ c fresh sage leaves
¾ c extra virgin olive oil
½ c grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for the Sage Parsley Pesto
Pulse walnuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 5-6 pulses.
Add parsley and sage to the bowl, with the processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
Transfer to a bowl, stir in Parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste.
I didn’t think the day would come, but I finally exhausted my supply of freezer pesto. I’ve been using it this winter to top boneless chicken breasts before baking as an easy weeknight supper. A little looking around the freezer and I found the ingredients for this new impromptu sauce. Chicken with poblano cheese sauce is loosely based on a Mexican classic. Poblano peppers have a dark green skin and if left to ripen further on the vine will turn red. They are somewhat heart-shaped, 3-6 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. Poblano peppers are rich and flavorful with a mild to medium heat.
This recipe can be made as mild or as spicy as you like, depending on the number of poblanos added to the sauce. Since most recipes begin with roasted and peeled poblanos, there are several methods for roasting. If you have a gas stove as I do, they can be roasted on an open grated grill known as an asador. If you don’t have a gas stove they can be broiled on a foil lined baking sheet. With either method, turn them often so they char evenly. Put the chilis in a bowl while they are still hot and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let them rest until they are cool enough to handle, 15-20 minutes. Pull on the stem to remove the seed core and cut the chile open to remove any additional seeds and ribs. Remove the skin by running your hands down the chile, use a damp paper towel to remove any skin that won’t easily come off. Resist rinsing the chiles, you will dilute the flavor.
The base is cauliflower Alfredo sauce, a recipe from the blog two summers ago. I wasn’t certain if this would be good to freeze, but I’m pleased to say it reheated well. Since my first step was to see if the sauce held up to freezing, I started with a cup of the cooled down sauce in the food processor. To this I added several roasted poblanos, from the end of last years garden, also from the freezer.
I puréed the sauce, along with a cup of raw spinach leaves, a teaspoon of ground cumin, salt and pepper. Start with one stemmed and seeded poblano, cut into strips and add more as desired just to give a little kick of heat. I topped chicken breasts with this sauce, covered with foil and baked for 23 minutes. After 23 minutes, I took out the chicken, removed the foil and topped with grated cheese and placed under the broiler. Delicious and the chicken is cooked perfectly! Next time I might add some roasted garlic too. This sauce would also be good to top chicken enchiladas or even as a dip for veggies.
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, remove tenderloin if attached, breasts cut in equal halves
½c or more shredded cheese, a Mexican blend is good here, mozzarella is fine as well
Non stick spray or oil to coat baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375°F
Put the first four ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until all ingredients are incorporated. Taste for seasoning and add another poblano if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape sauce from processor into a bowl and set aside.
Spray a 9″ X 11″ baking dish with non stick spray or coat lightly with olive oil.
Remove tenderloins from chicken breasts if still attached. Cut each breast in half to make even (as possible) pieces. Place the chicken breast pieces in the baking dish.
Cover each piece generously with the sauce. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 23 minutes. Remove baking dish from oven, take off the foil and set oven to broil. Sprinkle cheese over chicken breasts and return baking dish without the foil to the oven. Broil until the cheese is melted and starts to brown in spots, 3-4 minutes. Watch closely. Serve with cauliflower rice to sop up the juices.
Since Joe has already lost ten pounds on a South Beach phase 1 diet, I am looking for ways to adapt recipes we already like to fit the plan. My latest “rework” is Pad Thai. Pad Thai is a stir fried noodle dish, typical food cart fare in Thailand that over the last thirty years has gained popularity worldwide.
Most of the Thai cookbooks I own are over thirty years old and I was surprised to see that I rarely found a listing for Pad Thai in the index. What I did find were recipes for “Noodles, stir fried Thai style”. I learned that Pad Thai was made popular in the 1930’s and ’40s as part of an attempt to modernize and revitalize the economy of the country. The full name of the dish is Kway teow phat Thai. Kway teow means rice noodles in a Chinese dialect and phat Thai means Thai-style, hinting at the possible Chinese origins of the dish.
The dish is a harmonic combination of flavors, umami (fish sauce), sour (lime or tamarind paste), salty (soy sauce or tamari) and sweet (palm sugar). Fish sauce used to require a special trip to the Asian grocer, now it can be found in most large supermarkets. I prefer tamari in recipes over soy. A by product of miso production, it is thicker and less salty than soy sauce. Palm sugar is a sweetener made from the sap of the flowers of the coconut palm tree. The taste is similar to brown sugar with caramel and butterscotch notes. Tamarind comes from the pods of a large tropical tree and adds a pleasant sweet tart note to dishes. . If you look at the list of ingredients on a Worcestershire sauce bottle, tamarind extract is one of the ingredients. Lime juice is usually substituted when tamarind isn’t available. Another recipe I found in my research called for apricot or prune puree if a substitute for tamarind was needed. One well known cookbook author recommended ketchup as a substitute for tamarind, texture yes, taste, not like any ketchup I’ve tried.
Several months ago I bought a container of tamarind pods with no specific reason other than to possibly use them some day. This recipe presented my opportunity, but I really had no idea how to extract the pulp from the pods. My first step was to remove the dried outer pods. Don’t expect them to come off neatly, they will break off in pieces. When the dried brown pods are removed, the sticky pulp is exposed along with strings that run the length of the pods, remove as many of the strings as possible. In the middle of the pulp are the smooth shiny seeds that almost look like they have been polished. After reading several articles I came up with the approach that worked for me. I put the pulp that still contained the seeds in a bowl. I covered the pulp with warm water for about twenty minutes. Then I put the softened pulp in a sieve and pressed on the solids with a pestle to extract as much pulp as possible. I got a decent amount of pulp and some tamarind water too. Next time I think I will take the easy route and order tamarind paste on line.
My version substitutes shredded cabbage for the traditional rice noodles since they aren’t part of phase one of the diet. Cabbage provides a good base for the dish and adds sweetness too. Noodles made from zucchini or daikon radish would work here too. I used shrimp as the protein in this dish, but chicken and either of those combined with tofu works as well. The secret to making any stir fry dish is to have all your components ready before you start cooking. It comes together in less than a half hour and I must say we enjoyed it very much.
6-8 cups finely shredded green cabbage
5 T peanut or neutral oil like grapeseed (divided)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
12 oz to 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 green pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely sliced
1 large shallot, finely sliced
1 cup of mung bean sprouts, rinsed and trimmed
2 t or more of nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
2 t tamarind paste or lime juice
1 T tamari or soy sauce
¼ c chopped peanuts
¼ c cilantro leaves
1-2 Thai chiles (optional)
1 lime cut into wedges
Heat 2 teaspoons cooking oil in a large wok over medium high heat. Swirl the oil around to coat the entire pan, then add the cabbage. Season with some fresh ground pepper and stir fry until barely crisp tender, 3-4 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
Add a little more oil to the wok and add the eggs, and scramble quickly with a fork. Cook until set and remove to a cutting board and cut into thin strips.
Add oil as necessary and add the garlic and the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp lose their grey color, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon to a plate.
Add the shallot and green pepper to the wok. Season with salt and pepper and stir fry and stir fry until crisp tender, 4-5 minutes.
Raise the heat to high and add a tablespoon or more of oil as needed Add the cabbage, eggs, shrimp and sprouts to the wok. Season to taste with the nam pla, tamari and tamarind or lime juice. Cook until all the ingredients are heated through.
Add the chopped peanuts, cilantro leaves and optional pepper. Toss once or twice and transfer the contents of the pan to a serving platter. Serve with lime wedges.
Broccoli is an all season favorite that usually has a place of prominence at the front of the produce aisle. I love to roast broccoli toss it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It’s so good we’re lucky it makes it to the dinner table. This time I used a little restraint and combined it with some roasted chickpeas, cilantro leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. A tahini dressing brings it all together and makes a wonderful winter side dish. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute flat leafed parsley.
Roasted Broccoli Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing
1¼ to 1½ lbs broccoli crowns
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 T tahini
1 ½ T lemon juice
2 t balsamic vinegar (white preferably)
1 t tamari
1 t honey
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 c chickpeas
1 c cilantro leaves
2 T finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the broccoli into florets, including some of the stem. Place broccoli in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Move the broccoli to a baking sheet and place in an even layer.
Roast until the broccoli is nicely browned, stirring and flipping the pieces occasionally, check after 5 minutes. Roasting will take about 15 minutes total. Leave oven on.
While the broccoli is roasting, combine the dressing ingredients, tahini, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, tamari, honey, chopped garlic in a small bowl. Stir to combine and add a little water if needed to thin the dressing.
Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Place them on clean cloth kitchen towel or paper towels to dry and roll gently to remove skin. Place chickpeas on the same baking sheet that the broccoli was on and roast until they turn golden brown in spots. Roll the chickpeas around on the sheet during the baking time to ensure even browning.
In a large bowl place the roasted broccoli, chickpeas, cilantro leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss gently. Drizzle dressing on individual portions and serve immediately.
The last two days have brought us very pleasant but unseasonable temperatures in the seventies. While opening a window to let some fresh air in I spotted two pansy “volunteers” that had sprung up close to the house but not in an area where we normally plant anything. On a walk down to the garden I spotted the first dandelion. An early spring? Looks like even though the temperatures are going back into the forties by this evening. A few days of warmth is not enough to show evidence of new life in the garden. There are some beet greens and radicchio under a cold frame and I will take it on Joe’s word that there is miners lettuce and some kale in the greenhouse. I did see a bit of green in the circle garden, the beginning of the rebirth of the Chinese chives. In a month or two we will be pulling them out by the bucketfuls but for now it’s nice to see that first poke of green, letting us know that spring isn’t that far off. Until then my produce is from the local supermarkets and club stores.
This Brussels sprouts salad is simple and delicious with a satisfying crunchy texture. The sprouts can be sliced in no time in the food processor, I used a 2 mm (thin) slicing disk or with a mandoline; trust me use the guard. If you want to work on your knife skills, slice them by hand. The dressing couldn’t be simpler, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and capers. If you always wondered what those little green things are, capers are the unopened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly perennial shrub like bush, native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. The buds are harvested, dried in the sun and then pickled in vinegar, brine or salt. The size of a caper can be as small as a green peppercorn, and as large as a small olive. The largest ones are usually served as part of an antipasto platter, the small ones are referred to as non pareils (French for without equal), the size best suited for this recipe. Many recipes call for rinsing them first but I would say taste them and decide for yourself. Rough chop the capers and add them to the dressing. Shredded Asiago cheese compliments the salad with it’s creamy nutty flavor. Finish the salad off with toasted slivered almonds and garnish with thinly sliced scallions. Leftovers are even better the next day.
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing and Asiago Cheese
Shred the Brussels sprouts using the slicing disc of a food processor. You can also slice them by hand with a well sharpened knife or a mandoline slicer. Place shredded sprouts in a bowl large enough to toss them in.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, capers, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour about two thirds of the dressing over the sprouts and toss. Add the toasted almonds and Asiago cheese and toss again. Taste and add more salt if needed and additional dressing if needed. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately.
Toasted cauliflower rice takes plain cauliflower rice to the next dimension. If you are already making cauliflower rice, there’s not much more to do to give this “stand-in” a more rice like texture along with the nutty quality we love in regular rice. Make cauliflower rice either by pulsing it or using the shredding disc of the food processor. You can also go low-tech and grate the cauliflower on a box grater with the medium sized holes. I think it’s even more important to press out the additional liquid when you are making toasted cauliflower rice, so your rice will toast, not steam.
Put the cauliflower granules in a large enough bowl to mix it around, toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind of pepper (white pepper if you are fussy). Spread the riced cauliflower evenly over a lined baking sheet, foil works best here for easy clean up. A full head of cauliflower will probably take two baking sheets. Bake at 375°F convection heat for about twenty to twenty five minutes. I flipped the baking sheet from front to back and top to bottom at the halfway point and gave it several good stirs during the cooking time. The end product is toasty with an amazing rice like texture. Bake more than what you think you might need, it will shrink (after all cauliflower is 92% water) during the cooking process and yes, it is that good. Feel free to add any spices or add-ins to this dish. I served it with pesto chicken breasts to absorb the sauce but the possibilities are endless.
Oven Toasted Cauliflower Rice
1 head cauliflower
1 T olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Preheat convection oven to 375°F. Cover two large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the food processor bowl and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10 to 15 one-second pulses. You may need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding.
Place the cauliflower rice in a large bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss until the rice is coated with the oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender, rotating the baking sheets halfway during the baking time. The rice is done when it starts to look golden in spots.
Cauliflower florets are a low carb substitute for white rice in this savory one pot, or should I say one wok, dish. It’s low glycemic, gluten-free and South Beach Diet friendly. Packed with juicy shrimp and colorful vegetables, this recipe is perfect for an easy go-to weeknight meal.
Cauliflower is sold by the head, not by weight. Depending on the time of year a standard head can vary greatly in size. Cauliflower is a cool weather crop in our area and harvested in the fall. When they appear at the farmers markets they can be huge, five pounds or more. In the winter months, imports from the West Coast are fairly small. The head I used weighed in at 2.13 pounds and half of the head made 5 cups, just what I needed for this recipe.
Stores like Trader Joe’s are now selling prepackaged cauliflower rice, but it’s easy enough to make your own. Cut the cauliflower into florets by quartering the head through the stem end and cut away the piece of core from each quarter. Then cut the cored cauliflower into florets. You can use a box grater with medium-sized holes or the food processor fitted with the grater blade. With both techniques you are aiming for little pieces the size of rice granules. I like to press out any additional moisture from the rice by placing it in a clean cotton tea towel and squeezing to remove remaining water. No excess moisture equals a dish that won’t turn out soggy.
As with all stir fry preparations, all of your ingredients should be ready to go when it’s time to cook. Trying to stay with a South Beach friendly preparation I used red pepper strips and snow peas. The peas were frozen from last year’s garden and perfect for a meal like this. Other possibilities are peas, carrots, and water chestnuts. Heat your wok, the pan is hot enough when a bead of water instantly sizzles and evaporates on contact. Once this happens, add one tablespoon of a neutral oil; peanut or canola are fine here. Swirl it around to thoroughly coat the pan. Add the shrimp all at once and spread them out over the pan so they are not overlapping. Cook shrimp on first side for one minute then flip and cook for thirty seconds. The shrimp should be almost cooked but not quite, they will finish cooking when you add them back to finish the recipe. Remove shrimp to a plate.
Add the eggs in next, stir and break them apart to get scrambled egg pieces. When the eggs are not quite cooked through, add them to the plate with the shrimp. Keep warm.
Wipe out your pan with a paper towel and return it to high heat. Add the second tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan. The aromatics are in next, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often until the onion is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Stir in your choice of vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for 15 seconds. Add the cauliflower rice to the pan and sprinkle the tamari and sesame oil over the rice. Warm the cauliflower rice through and finally add in the shrimp and eggs. Let the shrimp and eggs heat back up and finish cooking. Toss to mix the rice evenly with all the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, adding more tamari and sesame oil if desired. Serve hot.
Shrimp Fried Cauliflower Rice
1 medium head of cauliflower
¾ to 1 lb medium uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
½ t kosher salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
2 eggs, beaten in a small bowl
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, minced
1-2 c vegetables, I used a combination of snow peas and red pepper slivers. Peas, carrots, water chestnuts can be used.
1 T tamari and more to taste
1 teaspoon and more toasted sesame oil
For the cauliflower rice, cut the cauliflower in half, cut out the core and discard. Cut the cauliflower into chunks. Place the cauliflower into a food processor and pulse until it’s the consistency of grains of rice. Alternately you can a small handheld cheese grater or a chef’s knife. Set aside 4-5 cups for this recipe.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper, set aside.
Heat a wok or large sauté pan on high heat. When the pan is hot enough for a bead of water to instantly sizzle and evaporate, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat pan. Add the shrimp, quickly spreading out around the pan so that they are not overlapping. Cook the shrimp untouched for a minute then flip over and let the other side cook for 30 seconds, or until about almost cooked through. Remove the shrimp from the pan onto a plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.
Turn the heat to medium high and let the pan heat up again. Pour in the eggs, stirring in a quick motion to break up and scramble the eggs. When the eggs are almost cooked through, scoop out of the wok onto the same plate as the cooked shrimp.
Use a paper towel to wipe the pan clean and return to high heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, swirling to coat. When the oil is very hot, add the garlic, ginger and onion to the skillet, and cook, stirring often, until onions have become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in red pepper strips and snow peas, and cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender, about 3-4 minutes.
Add green onions and stir fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add in the cauliflower rice and stir well to mix in the green onions throughout.
Drizzle the sauce all around the rice and toss. Add the cooked eggs, shrimp and sesame oil, tossing to mix the rice evenly with all of the ingredients. Finish cooking the shrimp and eggs and let everything heat back up again. Taste for seasoning and add additional tamari and sesame oil if desired. Serve hot.
Shrimp toasts, bite-sized triangles of bread topped with shrimp paste are a popular dim sum item and a new addition to our Chinese New Year celebration. It is said the dish originated in Guangzhou (Canton) in China nearly a hundred years ago. There are others who claim it is a hybrid of a traditional Chinese shrimp recipe and bread, not native to China but introduced by foreign travelers to Hong Kong. I chose to use a recipe from Susannah Foo, a popular and highly acclaimed Philadelphia chef who eponymous restaurant closed in 2009. Shrimp toasts are often fried, this version is baked and can be made ahead and frozen, a big plus when you are serving an extensive menu. This year we celebrate the year of the rooster, which comes after a monkey year and before a dog year. Roosters are said to honest, bright, communicative and ambitious.
Baked Shrimp Toasts
Makes 3 dozen or more
10 to 12 slices thinly sliced white bread, crusts removed
1 large egg white
1 lb medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T heavy cream
1 T vodka
1 t kosher salt
½ c chopped water chestnuts
2 scallions, minced
Preheat oven to 250° Cut each piece of bread into 4 triangular pieces. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about twenty minutes, until the bread is dry but not browned; leave oven on.
While the toast is drying, beat the egg white lightly. Dry the shrimp well with a paper towel and place in a food processor; puree.
Add the egg white, cream, vodka and salt. Process until just pureed. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the water chestnuts and scallions to the shrimp mixture and mix just until all the ingredients are combined.
If you are baking the shrimp toasts immediately, increase the oven temperature to 375°F and coat a baking sheet lightly with non stick spray.
Spread 2 heaping teaspoons of the shrimp mixture on each piece of bread. Repeat with the remaining triangles.
At this point, the shrimp toast can be frozen for later use. Place the triangles on baking sheets and freeze. Once frozen, remove from the baking sheets, place in freezer bags and return to the freezer.
Bake frozen shrimp toasts directly from the freezer, about 10 minutes, the shrimp will be cooked through, all the ingredients hot and the toast is golden brown on the bottom. Triangles that were not frozen will take a little less time.
Inspiration for the recipes I post originate from many different sources and this qualifies as the most unusual, my new car. In the first week of driving my 2015 Volvo I received this warning, AWD (all wheel drive) disabled, please schedule service. This was accompanied on the dashboard with the picture of the frame of a car with two wheels out of line. That was enough to get my attention. I had it in for service in less than a week of driving off the lot, only to have the same message reappear the day after the first service. So I needed to take it back in again. Nothing seemed wrong with the steering, and the warning would be on one day, and off the next. Of course the day I took it in the service light was out.
I am occasionally offered a loaner so I don’t have to wait on the car but that can also be a pain too, driving to the dealership, driving home, driving back and so on. So this time I thought I would just wait. I came prepared with a large stack of food magazines. The lounge is large and on this day, pretty full. The television was on and several of the men who were there seemed to be enjoying the banter on Live with Kelly. So I settled into my spot, pulled out my magazines and started reading as much as one can when the only available chair is right next to the television.
After Kelly comes Rachael, as in the Rachael Ray show. I don’t watch much daytime television but Rachael’s show isn’t too bad. After a very interesting segment on cutting edge skin care, celebrity cooking with folks I’ve never heard of (too many channels, too many “celebrities”) and how to get your house ready for a Super Bowl party, it was time for Rachael to cook. Her recipe grabbed my attention since Joe and I were both fighting the good fight against pretty nasty colds. We blamed each other for giving it but I think I know which one of us spends a lot more time around sick people! The night before per Joe’s request I made a chicken soup with veggies and ditalini pasta. Rachael’s recipe for tomato lentil soup looked fairly quick and just the thing for my Cold-Eze numbed taste buds.
This time of year there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of soup. Rachael calls this soup cheap, cheerful and filled with great nutrition. This recipe makes a lot of soup for two people, but as she points out, soup freezes beautifully. Perfect for a cold winter’s night or just the right thing when a cold is coming on.
Start the recipe by cooking the lentils. Unlike other beans that need to soaked overnight, lentils just need to be picked through to remove stones and rinsed well in a colander. Put the lentils in a pan with water to cover by at least two inches, they will at least double in size. Add a clove of crushed garlic and salt and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for thirty to forty minutes. You want tender, not crunchy or mushy lentils. I used the French Puy variety available from Bob’s Red Mill. If I used the lentils di Norcia referenced in recipe I would need to mail order them through Amazon, but at almost thirty dollars a pound, I will stick with French lentils. Lentils di Norcia are grown in the high plains (4500 ft) of the Apennine mountains of Central Italy. They are said to have thin skins and a soft consistency. I will never know….
In a soup pot over medium high heat, add olive oil, she calls it “two turns of the pan”, which translates to approximately two tablespoons. The vegetables and herbs are added and partially cooked to soften. Add stock, she used vegetable to keep this a vegetarian dish, but chicken stock is fine with me. Next into the pot are the San Marzano tomatoes that we both like for their natural sweetness. Rachael pointed out that some canned tomatoes have the word San Marzano in the title but not in the can! Spin the can around and make sure it contains San Marzano tomatoes in the ingredients. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, kitchen scissors or for the tactile inclined, with your hands. Rachael and her mom do it that way. Tomato passata, a new one on me, is next into the pot. Passata is uncooked tomato puree that has been strained of seeds and skins. It is very common in Europe. I found a product from Pomi brand tomatoes in an aseptic container referred to as strained tomatoes. Substitute tomato puree with no sugar added if you can’t find it, but I think it is worth searching out.
Add the cooled lentils to the pot and simmer to combine flavors and the thickness you desire. Remove the herb bundle and bay leaf before serving. This is a vegetarian dish but my husband is not. To make this more to his taste I added a few turkey meatballs at the end of cooking time. Rachael serves this soup with bruschetta, which really is, as she points out, just charred bread. She took a chunk of ciabatta and charred it over an open flame, then seasoned it with cut garlic, a good quality olive oil, flaky sea salt and chili flakes. This bread is ripped up in pieces to wipe the bottom of the bowl, in Italian that is called the scarpetta. Rachael tops the bowls of soup with grated Parmesan. Delicious!
Tomato Lentil Soup
Serves 6 or more
1 pound lentils, I used small French lentils
4 cloves garlic, 1 crushed and 3 chopped, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small bulb fennel, cut into small dice
1 leek, quartered lengthwise then chopped
2 to 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large bay leaf
Herb bundle of parsley, thyme and rosemary (a few sprigs of each)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups passata or tomato purée
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
Chili flakes and EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to serve
Rinse lentils well and add them to a large pot with enough water to cover by about 2 1/2 inches. Add crushed garlic clove and bring to a boil. Add salt, reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. Turn off heat and let lentils cool in any remaining liquid.
Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add chopped garlic, fennel, leeks, celery, onions, bay, herb bundle, some salt and pepper, and cook partially covered for 7-8 minutes to soften, stirring frequently.
Add stock, passata or purée, and tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon or crushing them with your hands when you add them to the pot. Stir in cooled lentils; combine and simmer to combine flavors and until soup reaches desired thickness.
Remove bay and herb bundle, and serve in shallow bowls garnished with chili flakes and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.