Pickled Shrimp

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Would you ever think to name a restaurant based on your childhood nickname? Well Gabrielle “Prune” Hamilton did exactly that. She is chef-owner of Prune, the restaurant, which has been successful since its opening in 1999. The cookbook, Prune, was published in 2014.

I enjoyed reading the recipes in Prune; they all seem unique in some way. But one recipe that grabbed my attention, was pickled shrimp. This was definitely a new one for me.

When I serve a shrimp appetizer, I typically serve it marinated in a garlic-infused olive oil, an oil blended with herbs, or both!

Ms. Hamilton’s recipe has you cooking the raw shrimp in a spice and herb boil, followed by a 24-hour pickling. I just had to make it.

Pickled shrimp
Printable recipe below

2 pounds shrimp in shell

Boil
10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick
1 cup kosher salt
6 branches fresh thyme
1 unpeeled head of garlic
8 cups cold water

Pickle
1 cup paper-thin sliced lemons
1 cup paper-thin sliced red onion
1 cup thin-slivered garlic
1 cup inner celery leaves
3 tablespoons celery seeds
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
12 fresh bay leaves
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, Pepper

Peel the shrimp, devein, and leave the tails on. Oops, I forgot to leave the tails on.

Combine the boil ingredients in a large stockpot with cold water and bring to a boil.

Add the shrimp and cook for just a minute or two until the flesh turns pink. You can pull one out and test if it’s finished before you pull out the whole batch.

Remove the shrimp with a spider. Ice down the shrimp to get them to stop cooking, but don’t let them soak in the melted ice after they are cooled or you will waterlog them and undo all that nice seasoning.

Combine all the pickle ingredients, rub the fresh bay leaves between your hands to open them up a bit, toss with the cooled shrimp, and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. (I only had dried bay leaves.)

Let recover to almost room temperature before serving. To plate, place 4-5 shrimp and a little of all of the goodies, in a neat jumble, in a small, shallow bowl.

Note: The shrimp will continue to “cook” in the pickle marinade, so take care in the initial blanch to keep them rare; we don’t want to end up with mealy, over cooked shrimp after the pickling.



These shrimp were so good that you can almost see the number of shrimp dwindling as I photographed them!

These shrimp require some time and also a lot of good ingredients, so I recommend making 6-8 pounds of pickled shrimp. Then it’s definitely worth the effort and expense.

Gabrielle’s first book, Blood, Bones, and Butter, was published before her cookbook, in 2012.

It’s an award-winning memoir – the story of Gabrielle’s upbringing, her entrée into the culinary profession, and her reluctance to embrace her hard-earned skills and success in the kitchen. I could not put the book down once I started reading.

 

 

Peach Salsa

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I don’t buy into too many food trends, as you know. I don’t put lavender into ice cream, I don’t like rosemary in cocktails, I like lemongrass only in Thai food, and I don’t stick bacon into everything possible. It will probably be 20 more years before I ever make kale chips. No, I’ll probably never make them.

So years ago when I spotted peach salsa at a gourmet food store, I really surprised myself when I purchased it. I mean, peaches in tomato salsa? I don’t remember the brand, but it really was pretty tasty.

Being me, I knew I could make it even better. Not to say I’m that great of a cook, it’s just that anything home-made will beat anything jarred commercially.

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Anymore, peach salsa doesn’t really even sound very trendy. It’s become as commonplace as boysenberry barbecue sauce and the like.

The salsa works well with good canned tomatoes as well as fresh ones right out of the garden, but that peach needs to be ripe, so I only make it in the summer.

I serve this salsa slightly warmed. Oh, it’s good.

Peach Salsa

2 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 peach, peeled, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Have all of your tomatoes seeded and chopped before you start with this recipe. It doesn’t take long to make.

In a medium enameled pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes.

After cooking for a minute, stir in the peach, cilantro, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

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Give everything a stir, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. There should be little or no liquid in the salsa.

Add the apple cider vinegar, stir, and cook for about 1 minute.

Then add the lemon juice. Stir to distribute evenly.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool slightly before serving.

This warm, slightly fruit-sweetened salsa is really good with tortilla chips. But it’s also good on a basic cheese quesadilla.

Try out this salsa if you’re skeptical like I once was. You’ll taste the peach and the touch of cinnamon, but also the ripe tomatoes with Mexican seasonings.

And think about how much less expensive this salsa is to make at home!

Coconut Eggnog

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I happen to love eggnog. I mean I love eggnog so much that I even buy it in the carton. I doctor it up a bit with spices and bourbon of course; this photo is from last Christmas Eve.

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But why stop drinking eggnog after the holidays? I say hell no to that! I want my eggnog!

Recently I came across a Goya magazine ad for coconut eggnog, or Coquito, which according to the ad is an authentic Puerto Rican beverage.

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Since eggnog isn’t available at the grocery store any longer (why?) I knew I would have to try this version for my eggnog fix.

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This isn’t the same as regular home-made eggnog, but I thought the coconut flavor would be really fun, and it definitely is.

Here’s the recipe as I photographed it from the magazine.

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In a blender jar, add the evaporated milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Blend on high until mixture is well combined.

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Pour eggnog into a pitcher and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill until cold.

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When ready to serve, shake first, add to glass, and add rum to taste.

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Garnish with ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, if desired.

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I tried the eggnog both chilled and at room temperature, and I enjoyed both.

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The color isn’t as pretty if vanilla extract and cinnamon are included in the mixture, so these photos don’t show the eggnog with those ingredients.

I did include a grind of nutmeg before serving.

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Note: If you chill this eggnog overnight, you could always include a few cinnamon sticks.

Hot Buttered Rum

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It has taken me years to figure out that hot buttered rum, what I consider the original hot toddy, at least in my life, does not exist outside of ski resorts.

I should know because if it’s winter time and we’re somewhere, anywhere cold, I ask the bartender if he makes hot buttered rum. After the quizzical reaction I know I’ll have to order something simpler.

Not that hot buttered rum is a challenging toddy to make. It isn’t. There’s even mix that can be purchased, although of course it’s most likely inferior to preparing the drink from scratch.

The drink, served hot, does indeed have rum and butter in it. But then it’s sweetened with brown sugar and spices.
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Following is the hot buttered rum base so you can make a hot toddy to warm your frosty bits, whether you’re in an alpine setting or not! Then all you need is rum.

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Hot Buttered Rum Mix

1 pound brown sugar
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground

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1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon of vanilla powder, or use vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients in a microwaveable bowl. Slowly and carefully melt the butter.
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Alternatively, allow the butter to first come to room temperature and add the remaining ingredients.

Mix together well, beating until any lumps disappear.
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The mix can be used immediately, or stored in the refrigerator for future use.

If you are crafty, unlike myself, you can place it in cute jars topped with cute ribbons, and give the mix away to friends along with the hot buttered rum recipe.

Here it is:

2 heaping tablespoons of the above mix
2-3 ounces dark, spicy, or clear rum
Boiling water

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Place the mix and rum in a heatproof glass or cup.
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Add the boiling water and stir well.
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Serve with a cinnamon stick if desired.
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note: This hot buttered rum might look a little muddier than if I’d used clear rum, but I really like Captain Morgan!

Mulled Holiday Port

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We’ve all had mulled wine, but have you ever had mulled port? It’s like mulled wine on crack. It will warm you on the dreary damp days of winter. It’s like medicine for the soul. Yes, it’s medicinal.

I found the recipe for mulled port and adapted it slightly from this cookbook:
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Port is fabulous as is, but I never thought to serve it hot. Or mulled.

So here’s the recipe. If you like mulled wine, you’ll love mulled port!
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Mulled Port

4 Clementines or tangerines, preferably seedless
1 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
About 10 whole cloves
About 8 cloves allspice, smashed
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2 sticks cinnamon
Sprinkling of ground nutmeg
1 bottle ruby port

Slice open 2 of the Clementines and squeeze the juice into an enameled saucepan large enough to hold a bottle of port. Add the water, brown sugar, cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks, and the nutmeg.

Add the segments from the other two Clementines and add them to the saucepan as well.
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Simmer the liquid and Clementines for about 10 minutes. The sugar will dissolve and your whole house will smell good.
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Then add the bottle of port. I happened to be low on ruby port (husband) so I substituted tawny port for the rest.
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Heat the mixture through, without letting it boil.
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Sieve the mixture into a bowl with a spout.
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Pour the mulled port into 2 or 4 heatproof glasses or cups. Serve immediately.

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I also put a couple of Clementine segments into each glass, but that’s optional.

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If I’d used shorter glasses, I also would have placed a cinnamon stick into each one.

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verdict: This stuff is perfect. I wouldn’t alter anything with the recipe. Sweet enough without being too sweet. The original recipe called for 2 cups of water, but let’s not kid ourselves. While we’re warming our bodies, we want a buzz. We’re not drinking watered down port. Amen.

Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.


In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.
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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!
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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.
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Curried Salmon

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Typically, when I prepare fish, I pretty much leave it alone. A little salt and pepper, and that’s it. Because my theory is that if it’s good fish, then why cover up its delicate flavor with seasonings and sauces?

But salmon is different in my mind, with its stronger flavor. It can really hold its own. So I decided to make a meal of salmon accompanied by a dish of curried spinach and mushrooms.

When I follow Indian recipes, I use the individual spices listed in the recipes. But it’s nice to have a good curry powder on hand. After testing this one, sweet curry powder from Penzey’s, I now always have it on hand. I think it’s excellent.

However, I don’t want my curry dishes to all taste the same, so sometimes if I use this curry powder, I might add some extra cumin or cinnamon. If you have a favorite curry powder, feel free to use it for this dish!

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Here is my recipe for salmon and curried vegetables.

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Curried Salmon
Serves 2

3 tablespoons olive or tasteless oil
1 small onion, halved thinly sliced
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves
1 teaspoon curry powder, or to taste
White pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 salmon filets, rinsed and dried on paper towels
Salt
White pepper
3 tablespoons white wine
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
Ground turmeric

In a large wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them until soft. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat a little, and sauté them until golden.


Add the garlic, give it a stir, then add the cream.

Stir to combine, then add the spinach. Stir gently to incorporate it, then turn down the heat to the lowest setting, put on a lid, and let the vegetables steam-cook for about five minutes.
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Remove the lid and stir the vegetables. You want to reduce the liquid a bit, so let them cook over low heat for a few minutes. Then add the curry powder, white pepper, nutmeg and salt. Stir well, then set aside.
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Heat the butter in a skillet over high heat. When the butter is browned, add the salmon, skin-side up and turn the heat to medium.
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After five minutes, turn the filets over and lower the heat to its lowest setting. The salmon should be nicely browned.
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Season the salmon with salt and white pepper. After another five minutes, the salmon should be cooked through, yet still tender in the middle; do not overcook them or they will be dry. The timing, of course, depends on the thickness of your salmon filets.

Remove the filets to a plate and heat the butter remaining in the skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the wine and a little turmeric, about 1/4 teaspoon. I added turmeric mostly for a little color.


Reduce the wine to just about one tablespoon, then add the cream. Reduce the cream sauce until there’s about three tablespoons left in the skillet and remove the skillet from the heat.

To serve, place the warm vegetables on the place and top with a salmon filet.
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Then divide the cream sauce between the two servings.
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The curried salmon was perfect with a pinot gris.
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Bastila

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A Bastila is a savory Moroccan pie with a chicken filling that is cooked within crêpes. The preparation is a little involved in that both the filling and the crêpes need to be made first. But it’s not a difficult pie to make, and so worth it!

What makes this pie’s flavor unique is that traditional Moroccan mixture of almonds, cinnamon and sugar. If you’ve ever been to a Moroccan restaurant you are familiar with this seasoning mixture, as it seems to be in every dish!

I wish I could tell you a lovely story about how I came about this recipe, but I can’t. I know I tore the recipe out of a soft-backed cookbook of international recipes. At one point in my cooking life I felt it beneath me to keep anything but beautiful, hard-back cookbooks. I’ll never toss a cookbook again. But at least I was smart enough to save the recipes I loved!
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Bastila

1 – 3 pound chicken
4 ounces butter
2 onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter, approximately 4 ounces, at room temperature
18 crêpes, at room temperature
Powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon

Begin by poaching the chicken with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns, and a little salt. You can do this the day before.

About 2 1/2 to 3 hours is sufficient to get moist, succulent chicken. Let the chicken cool, then remove the bones and skin and place the chicken in a bowl and set aside. I shredded the chicken more than cut it up into pieces.

Add the butter to a large Dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5-6 minutes. Then add the parsley, ginger, and all of the spices.

Break the eggs and place them in a medium-sized bowl, along with the egg yolks. Whisk them well.

After the onion and spice mixture has cooked a minute longer, pour the eggs into the onions. Make sure the heat is low. Gently stir the eggs into the onion mixture until they are completely cooked.

Add the chicken to the onion-egg mixture and stir well. Add a little broth if the chicken mixture seems dry. Also taste for salt.
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Using a dry blender, blend the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon together. If you have a few pieces of almond, that’s okay. Set aside.
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To prepare the Bastila, use a large skillet, preferably with rounded sides. Generously butter the skillet.

Begin by layering approximately 8 crêpes around the side of the skillet, followed by 4 more covering the center bottom.


Add the ground almond mixture to the bottom of the skillet and spread it around. Then add the chicken filling. It shouldn’t be over the top of the skillet, preferably.
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Then fold the side crêpes over the filling. Use the remaining 6 crêpes to cover the top of the pie, buttering them first on the bottom side. Spread a little soft butter on the top of the pie as well.
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To cook, begin at medium-high heat. You will see the butter bubbling.
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After about 8 minutes, I lowered the heat to ensure that the crêpes sealed themselves, and to heat the inside of the pie.

Have a cookie sheet and large spatula on hand for the next step.

When you feel that the pie bottom has browned sufficiently, place the cookie sheet over the skillet, and using oven mitts flip the skillet over so that the pie is on the cookie sheet.

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Then gently coax the pie back in to the skillet, and cook the bottom side in a similar fashion.
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The cooked Bastila makes a beautiful presentation.

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When I made this pie before, I prepared and served it in an iron skillet. But you have to be able to cut into your skillet. If you cannot, simply slide the pie out gently onto a serving platter.

The final step is to mix powdered sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it on the top of the warm Bastila.

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In this photo you can see the crêpes wrapping around the spiced chicken filling that is topped with the ground almond mixture. Heavenly!
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Holiday Potpourri

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I started making this stove-top citrus and spice potpourri when my daughters were young. And a Christmas doesn’t go by to this day that I don’t make it.

My older daughter and I are severely addicted to Christmas. We are both very enamored with the smell of this potpourri, and every year she makes sure I make it!

When she had her first apartment, I gave this potpourri to her as an early Christmas gift, so she could make it, put on Christmas carols, and study. Or party. I simply bought a cheap pot, filled it with the ingredients, and included the recipe. That’s pretty creative for me, actually.

There is no hard and fast recipe, but here are the general ingredients. You can adjust according to your taste smell!

Christmas Potpourri

1 large can pineapple juice
1 large can orange juice
1 cup sugar
3 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
Handful of cinnamon sticks
Handful of whole cloves
Handful of allspice berries, slightly crushed

So, when I was at the grocery store, I couldn’t find large cans of orange juice, probably because it’s pretty terrible. So I decided to use cans of frozen, concentrated juices instead. But that didn’t really affect the recipe. I just added some water, and still included all of the ingredients. But following is what you’d do if you actually found both canned o.j. and pineapple juice.

Place the pineapple and orange juices in a large, not fancy pot. If you forget about this stuff on the stove, it will burn your pot, so use something inexpensive. In fact, go buy a cheap pot just for this potpourri. Then you can just throw the pot away after Christmas if you can’t clean it.
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Add the sugar and begin heating the juices over medium heat.

Squeeze the oranges and lemons into the juice, then throw in the rinds as well.
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Add the spices.
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Let the potpourri lightly simmer to fill the house with the smell of the holidays. Turn off when you don’t want it on, because the mixture will thicken and burn.
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Occasionally refresh the potpourri with more juice and spices, if necessary.

Eggnog Ice Cream

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What is eggnog? Have you ever thought about it? I mean, it’s a drink – a lovely caloric drink – that is very traditional during the holidays. It’s made with separated eggs and cream and flavored with nutmeg.

And that’s really what it is. It’s not a flavor, per se. And yet, you can make eggnog flavored pancakes, eggnog flavored quick breads, and so forth. But eggnog itself is really just a drink.

I never thought about that until I decided to finally make eggnog ice cream – something I’ve wanted to do for many years. I realized there’s not an eggnog “flavoring” that I could add to a basic ice cream base to duplicate that wonderful eggnog flavor. Not like pumpkin or cranberry, for example.

So I decided that the best thing to do was to incorporate actual eggnog, but not the home-made variety – the yellow, thick stuff that comes in cartons. There’s not too much in the way of food that I buy that contains fake colors and a variety of chemicals. But in this family, we all love eggnog in a carton. Of course, once you add the brandy or rum, you really don’t care about the chemicals.

So here’s the recipe I created using eggnog, and I must say, it really turned out fabulously. Unfortunately, the recipe creates a volume larger than for one bowl, given your basic ice cream maker capacity, but if you have one with two bowls, this will work out perfectly.

Eggnog Ice Cream
begin this in the morning

6 cups eggnog from a carton
Heavy sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of nutmeg
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup spiced rum

Pour the eggnog into a large saucepan. Begin heating up the eggnog.

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Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and continue to heat the eggnog.

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Meanwhile, add the heavy cream to the yolks in a small bowl and whisk them together.
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When the eggnog is hot, slowly add the egg-cream mixture to the eggnog. This will be a slow process.
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Turn up the heat just a little bit more, and continue whisking the eggnog mixture. It should continue to become thicker.

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Once the mixture just comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool at room temperature for about 45 minutes or so, whisking occasionally.

Then cover the pan and refrigerate the mixture for at least 2-3 hours.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, set up your ice cream maker. Add the rum and whisk it into the eggnog mixture.

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Pour the ice cream base into the ice cream maker bowl, and begin processing.
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You will know when the ice cream is done when the machine starts making a little more noise, and ice cream forms.

At this point, place the bowl in the freezer. Try not to make the ice cream more than two hours before serving. Even with the rum, the freezer always seems to over freeze ice cream, and you have to wait quite a while for it to soften.
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I served this ice cream atop pumpkin pie that included a layer of rum-soaked raisins, and was baked in a hazelnut cinnamon crust. A little over the top with many flavors of autumn, but it truly worked.
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verdict: This ice cream turned out beautifully. Incredible flavors, and not so subtle, because of the use of the commercial eggnog. No sugar was necessary in this ice cream, either, as the commercial eggnog is already sweetened. I just felt it necessary to add some heavy cream, to increase the fattiness of the ice cream, since I don’t believe in low-fat ice cream, and the egg yolks made this ice cream more like one that is custard-based. Delightful. I’ll definitely be making this again!