June19

Obsessing Over :: Rhubarb!

Rhubarb's peak season is fleeting, a couple more weeks and then poof, it's gone until next spring.  Often under-appreciated, rhubarb is one of those ingredients that can make your eyes light up when spotting it at the market or featured on a menu.  Versatile, vibrant and mellow in taste, it's certainly worth a test-drive if you haven't cooked or baked with it ever before.  Last year, I dabbled with it's savory side, pickling it to pair with asparagus and creamy feta...totally out of this world for a stunning side dish.  Strawberry-rhubarb crisp is always in the mix each spring and early summer as a not-too-sweet dessert that's crammed with fruit and topped with oats and brown sugar.  Dab a dollop of brandied-vanilla whipped cream* on top and it's near heaven. 

And just last week, I went the route of a rhubarb-vanilla simple syrup and compote.  Shockingly quick and easy...and ridiculously tasty.  Use the syrup to stir up a perfectly pink cocktail (prosecco+fresh lemon juice+rhubarb syrup or gin+rhubarb syrup+club soda+lime both come to mind) or even to give pellegrino and lime a little pop.  The compote that's leftover after making the simple syrup is great to spoon into morning yogurt.  It'll for sure start your day with a smile.

*quick little note on that brandied-vanilla whipped cream (cause it's spatula-licking fantastic)...add 1 cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, the inside of 1/2 a vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of brandy to a mixing bowl and either whisk with some major arm power or use an electric beater to whip until soft peaks form.  

 

Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup and Compote

Ingredients

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 stalks of rhubarb
½ vanilla bean, spilt in half

Directions

Bring all ingredients to a simmer until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is soft, about 15 minutes.  Strain syrup through a sieve and allow to cool.  Place remaining rhubarb compote in a mason jar or air-tight container and refrigerate.  Both syrup and compote can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks.

TAGS: cocktails, rhubarb, compote

posted: 06.19.11

June16

Kitchen Sink Cooking

Ask me to classify my standard "method" when I cook and my response would likely be the following: whatever ingredients are the most fresh, in-season, look drop-dead gorgeous at the market...and then really whatever the hell is remaining in my fridge.  Call it kitchen sink cooking or a mish-mosh of items, but ingredient-based cooking and creating a recipe from your own intuition and inspiration, rather than stressing over an entire pre-printed recipe, is by far my preferred way to cook.  It also tends to be cheaper, and in many cases tastier, at least in my opinion and I'm my own harshest critic!  And when I get home late on a weeknight, I can skip a trip to the grocery store or calling for delivery and instead, turn to my fridge and take 20-30 minutes to destress, relax and experiment with different flavors, herbs, spices etc with whatever ingredients I have on-hand.  From my latest concoction comes a light, vegetable-heavy pasta...with a just a kick of heat from chili pepper.  And  pairing cilantro, eggplant and tomato all together...with pasta??  It totally makes the dish pop and somehow the flavors meld really well, promise.

Pappardelle with Shrimp, Calamari and Pan-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Eggplant

Serves :: 2

Ingredients

¼ package of pappardelle
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ lb shrimp or prawns
¼ lb calamari, cleaned and thinly sliced into rings
1 pint of yellow and/or red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small Italian or Japanese eggplant, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
spring onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small red Thai or hot Italian chili, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 to ½ cup of cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

Directions

Boil pasta in salted water for 9-11 minutes.  Reserve 3-4 tablespoons of the pasta water, drain and set pasta aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Cook shrimp and calamari for 4 to 5 minutes.  Set aside in a bowl.  Add additional tablespoon of olive oil into pan over medium-high heat.  Add tomatoes and eggplant and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until slightly soft.  Lower heat to medium and add in reserved pasta water, garlic, spring onion and chili and cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until tomatoes and eggplant are nice and soft.  Add in shrimp, calamari, cilantro and parsley.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes, add in pappardelle, cook for 30 seconds and toss well before serving.

TAGS:

posted: 06.16.11

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June13

Summer Brights & A Simple BBQ

There's nothing better than winding a weekend down with good friends and a laid-back Sunday dinner.  In this case, we made the most of the cool evening, sans rain finally, and took to my balcony for a simple summer supper.  Here's what we ended up with... 

Grilled Lime-Cilantro Shrimp & Scallops with Zucchini Ribbons & Harissa-Caper Potato Salad

Serves :: 4 to 6

Ingredients

Shrimp & Scallops

½ lb scallops, local if possible
1 ½ lbs large shrimp, wild or local if possible

lime-cilantro marinade:
juice of 3 limes
1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp pickled jalapenos
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a dash of chili powder
½ tsp cumin
a dash of hot sauce for an extra kick
salt to taste

Zucchini & Summer Squash Ribbons with Ricotta Salata & Mint

1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow summer squash
1 cup sugar snap peas
3 radishes
1/3 cup ricotta salata, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh mint, roughly chopped

*I’ve made another version of this salad in the past skipping the snap peas and radishes and popping in toasted walnuts instead.  Also delish.

Potato Salad with Capers, Spring Garlic & Harissa

*yup, get ready for a rocking potato salad with ZERO mayo - and you'll never know the difference!

10 or so small red bliss potatoes
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/3 to ½ cup spring garlic, chopped (scallions or red onion would also work well)
¼ cup capers
1-2 Tbsp pickle juice (trust me, it makes the salad!)
juice of ½ lemon
1-2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 5oz container of 2% Greek yogurt
1 tsp harissa (in spice powder form rather than sauce/condiment form) *I used a lovely harissa-rose petal spice blend by Steenbergs that I picked up in London a few weeks back
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Shrimp & Scallops

Whisk together all ingredients for the lime-cilantro marinade and pour over shrimp and scallops.  Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or 3-4 hours.

Heat a gas grill on medium-high or start up a charcoal grill.  If you’re without either, grab a grill pan and get to work, over medium-high heat.  Place shrimp and scallops on skewers or you can grill them straight on a grill pan or in a foil packet on an outdoor grill.  Can’t really go wrong either way.  Grill them about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Zucchini & Summer Squash Ribbons with Ricotta Salata & Mint

Cut the zucchini and summer squash in half lengthwise.  Make ribbons using a mandolin (carefully so you don’t lose a finger!).  Blanch sugar snap peas in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.  Drain and place directly in an ice bath to halt cooking.  Thinly slice the radishes, also with the mandolin.  Toss zucchini, summer squash, snap peas and radishes with ricotta salata, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with mint and serve.

Potato Salad with Capers, Spring Garlic and Harissa

Boil potatoes in salted water until soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Drain, cool and cut into quarters.  Add eggs to potatoes.  Mix together remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add to egg-potato mixture, evenly coating potatoes.

TAGS: shrimp, potatoes, zucchini

posted: 06.13.11

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