Red Chimichurri

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When my husband and I visited Argentina in 2019, I was served the well known green chimichurri in restaurants, as well as a red version. Yet I kept forgetting to look it up. Here’s what the traditional green looks like.

But finally today, I googled, and up came a Hank Shaw recipe for red chimichurri. His blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, and he is a James Beard award-winning author and former chef.

On his blog: “ If it’s wild game, fish, or edible wild plants and mushrooms, you’ll find it here.”

Mr. Shaw has written multiple cookbooks, my favorite titles being “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and “Buck, Buck, Moose!” I don’t own his cookbooks, mostly because I’m not a hunter, and I don’t actively fish or forage in Oklahoma, but I do enjoy his blog.

Shaw recommends chopping everything by hand, otherwise the chimichurri will turn a strange color. I think we’ve all learned with paints that red and green don’t blend together well!

Chimichurri is typically offered alongside steaks.

Red Chimichurri
Recipe by Hank Shaw

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 or 2 small hot chiles, minced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped (I used a 6.52 ounce jar Piquillo peppers)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup chopped fresh parsley, lightly packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked or paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix the vinegar with the minced garlic, shallot, hot pepper and roasted red pepper and let this sit for 10 minutes or so to mellow out.

Mix all the remaining ingredients together and let the sauce sit for at least a few minutes, or, better yet, an hour, before serving at room temperature. There were six Piquillo peppers in the jar. I first gently rinsed and dried them before adding to the chimichurri.

Chimichurri, whether red or green, is a fantastically fresh and flavorful condiment. I could eat it with a spoon.

Try it on steak, but also try it on fish and shrimp and lamb and eggs….

My only suggestion with this chimichurri is to finely chop the parsley!

A Seasonal Risotto

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I love making dishes that I can add stuff to, like pancakes, yeasted breads, risottos, mashed potatoes… well I guess just about any home-cooked dish! It’s one thing I enjoy and am good at. I didn’t learn creativity in culinary school, since I didn’t attend any cooking school ever. It actually comes from being financially strapped and never wanting to waste anything. Got a carrot? Juice it and put it in a soup, grate it and put it in a meat loaf, purée it and add to potato mash… and so forth.

But also, since I grew up experiencing various cuisines, I figured out that it’s easy to be creative by turning any random dish into an inspired-by cuisine. Take a potato soup, for example. Add chorizo, chipotle, and fresh cilantro and you’ve got a Southwestern-inspired soup. Use ricotta in the potato soup and top it with a spoonful of basil pesto, and you’ve got an Italian-inspired soup. And so forth. Every week you can make a “different” potato soup!

So that’s how I have fun in my kitchen, when I’m not following specific recipes.

Which brings me to risotto. I was looking over old blog posts a while back, and I came upon my Paprika Cream Risotto. It’s just a “plain” risotto with the addition of paprika cream. Simple, yet fabulous. The photos could be updated, of course, but what caught my attention were my own notes on suggestions of seasonal risottos.

Spring: Lemony goat cheese risotto with salmon, peas, and basil

Summer: Tomato and tomatillo risotto with chorizo and cilantro

Fall: Brussels sprouts risotto topped with grilled sausages

Winter: Smoked gouda risotto topped with short ribs and pickled onions

Damn. Those are great ideas! The Italian purists wouldn’t appreciate these recipes, but I have no problem with this kind of inspired cooking. Especially when the outcome is so wonderful!

I decided to start with the spring version, cause it’s spring! Now, this combination isn’t unique for springtime flavors, but they are really good together! Begin with the salmon, then keep the filets warm while you prepare the risotto, then put the final dish together.

After receiving a gift of a variety of fish from my daughter at Christmas from Sitka Salmon Shares, it has become my source for fish; their salmon is perfection.

Easy Sautéed Salmon Filets
Serves 2

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 salmon filets, not steaks
Salt
Finely ground pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it brown slightly.

Season the flesh sides of the filets, then place the filets in the skillet, flesh side up. Cook for about 2 minutes, then gently flip over.

Lower the heat slightly and cook the skin-up filets for a about 4 minutes. At this point you can easily remove the skins using a thin spatula.

Turn them over for one last time so the fish cooks under the skin more, about 2-3 minutes over the lowest heat. Place them on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm, then prepare risotto.

Lemon and Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas
Generously serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Riesling or other non-dry white
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 or 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup prepared green peas (or sliced steamed asparagus if you prefer)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let melt. Add the shallots and sauté for about 4-5 minutes; don’t allow much caramelization.

Add the rice to the pot and stir it around in the butter and shallots until all the grains are coated. Pour in the white wine. Stir as the rice cooks in the wine and it gradually gets absorbed.

Without letting the pot go completely dry, add some of the broth, about 1/3 cup at a time, and repeat the stirring process, without allowing any burning or sticking. Turn down the heat if you think the rice is cooking too fast; it’s always best to go slower. You can see the risotto is cooking but not ready quite yet.

When you’re down to the end of the broth, turn off the heat and gradually fold in 3 ounces of goat cheese until well distributed.

Add the salt and white pepper and taste for seasoning. If you’re satisfied, gently add the peas, lemon juice and zest, cover the pot, and set it aside.

Lemony Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas Served with Salmon

2 tablespoons goat cheese, at room temperature
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
A chiffonade of basil leaves

Strain the reserved butter in the skillet into a small bowl. There should be at least 1 tablespoon of melted browned butter. Add the 2 tablespoons of goat cheese into the butter by gently whisking until smooth. If you don’t like this idea, just put a small dollop of soft goat cheese on each filet before serving.

To serve, divide the risotto into two pasta bowls. Top each serving with a salmon filet. Divide the goat cheese-butter mixture between the filets.

Divide the lemon zest between both servings, and finish with the basil chiffonade.

I loved the goat cheese, lemon, and basil flavors together!

If you’re not familiar with the term salmon “filet,” here are photos of the two most common individual cuts – the thinner filet, and the thicker steak. Filets can be trimmed so their thickness is uniform. Save the scraps!

Thanks to Cooks Illustrated for these photos!

Watermelon Jicama Salad

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I’ve finally fessed up to subscribing to People Magazine. I feel like it keeps me up-to-date on the who’s who and what’s happening. It’s probably not working because I’ve never been accused by my kids of being hip. But occasionally, there are recipes in the back pages of People, and some times I make them, like this fabulous salad.

It’s watermelon, jicama, Oaxaca cheese, arugula, and candied sunflower seeds, topped with a zingy lime dressing.

The chef is Matthew Trebek, who owns Oso restaurant in Harlem, New York. It serves Southwestern cuisine, and this salad is on the menu. The good thing is that it appears that Oso survived the pandemic.

Chef Trebek is also the son of Alex Trebek, who is a well known game show host in the U.S.

What I loved about this recipe are the two main ingredients – watermelon and jicama. When I went to California to attend college one of my roommates turned me on to jicama. She ate jicama with lime juice and salt, and that’s how eat jicama to this day.

And who doesn’t like watermelon?! Well, I actually have a friend who doesn’t, so I won’t share with him. However, because I still can’t drive because of my hand surgery, I’ve been relying on teenage grocery shoppers for my weekly deliveries. And I ended up with a yellow watermelon!


It tastes the same as the red, of course, but I’m weird about food colors. I prefer red watermelon and red tomatoes.

But I persevered, and wow this salad is incredible. I hope you make it. Seriously.

Watermelon Jicama Salad

1/2 medium shallot
1/2 serrano chile
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
5 tablespoons white sugar, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
4 ounces arugula
1/2 small seedless watermelon (20 ounces) cut into matchsticks
1/4 medium jicama (9 ounces) cut into matchsticks
6 ounces Oaxaca, cut into thin strips

Combine shallot, chile, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of salt in a blender jar. With blender running, add oil in a steady stream until blended, about 30 seconds. Set aside.

Place sunflower seeds and remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has caramelized and amber in color, about 9 minutes.

Pour onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cool completely, about 15 minutes. Break apart into clusters.

Arrange greens, watermelon and jicama on a large platter. Scatter with cheese strips.

Top with candied seeds and add about 1/2 cup dressing.

Then dig in!

It’s really flavorful with the arugula mixed in with the other ingredients, and the dressing is fabulous.

I’m making it again soon, but omitting the candied sunflower seeds. I didn’t feel they were an integral part of the salad, but if you want crunch, include them.

Potato Halloumi Pancakes

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I’ve always enjoyed making savory vegetable pancakes. Thankfully my husband enjoys eating them, often right off the plate as I cook them.

My typical potato pancakes involve potatoes and very little flour. These are not pancakes with a little bit of potato. These are raw, grated potatoes with just enough flour to hold them together.

The other day I was shopping out-of-town and I happened upon goat Halloumi. So I had the idea to grate the Halloumi along with potatoes and make potato pancakes. I figured the Halloumi wouldn’t melt easily so the pancakes would have that lovely salty cheese flavor, but without the mess.

Here’s what I did.

Potato Halloumi Pancakes
Makes about 14 – 3 1/2″ pancakes

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk or milk substitute
3 medium-sized white potatoes, scrubbed
6 ounces goat Halloumi
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
Flour, white or whole-wheat, about 3/4 cup
Butter, for frying

First place the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Whisk them together and set aside.

Grate the potatoes and add to the egg-milk mixture.

Grate the Halloumi and add to the potatoes.

Add the shallots, parsley, and black pepper, and stir well.

Add just enough flour to bind the ingredients. You are not making a dough, although it will not feel like traditional pancake batter either. Mostly it should not be runny.

Heat a large skillet or flat griddle over medium-high heat. Add a couple tabs of butter and let it melt. A little browning is good also.

Add a blob of the pancake batter to the skillet and spread it out slightly. It won’t be thin, but it can’t be too thick either. Continue with however many pancakes will cook in your skillet.

After about a minute or two, turn over the pancakes, and reduce the heat. This will allow the pancakes to brown on the other side as well, but also allow time to cook through. The total cooking time is about 6-7 minutes.

You must be patient; the potatoes can’t be served raw.

Continue cooking in batches.

Because I don’t require meat at a meal, I served the pancakes with a simple cherry tomato salad.

But of course, these would be fabulous with sausages!

The experiment with using Halloumi worked well. The slight melting of the cheese in the skillet was not problematic, and as a result it didn’t burn, which was my hope.

You could definitely taste the goatiness!

Potato pancakes like this are definitely best crispy on the outside, just out of the skillet. But it’s also fun to cook a big batch like this and reheat as needed.

Butternut Squash Soup with Gorgonzola Crema

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Many years ago I was gifted a little book authored by American cheese maven Paula Lambert, who owns the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas.

The book is called “Cheese, Glorious Cheese.” I couldn’t think of a better title for a cheese book myself!

I remember I was almost scared to open the book. I don’t need any help eating and enjoying cheese.

But then, I did. And the recipes are really fun.

Being that I’m dreaming of fall and, my butternut squashes have successfully matured in my garden, I thought what better recipe to make from this book but a butternut squash soup with a dollop of Gorgonzola crema.

It just takes soup to a new level, right? Oh, and there’s also some peppered bacon bits on top as well. Perfect for an almost-fall, wishing-for-fall lunch.

Butternut Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola Crema
Extremely Adapted from, “Cheese, Glorious Cheese”

1 large butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Chicken broth, about 4 cups
8 ounces peppered bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
8 ounces marscapone
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup crema, or Mexican sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

Begin the soup by peeling the butternut squash, and removing the seeds. Cut up the squash into fairly uniform-sized pieces and place them in a large pot.

Pour the broth over the top – just enough to cover – and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and let the squash cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove the lid and let the squash cool.

In a skillet, place the bacon and butter. Cook the bacon until to your taste. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, but keep the skillet with the butter and bacon fat.

Over medium heat, cook the onion and shallots for about 5-6 minutes, or until soft.

When the squash has cooled, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large blender jar. I only begin adding the broth when blending begins, so that I can control the consistency.

Add the onion-shallots, the marscapone, and salt. Blend, adding a little broth as necessary, to make the soup to your desired thickness. I prefer my cream-based soups quite thick.

Stir together the crema and gorgonzola, and have the bacon dice on hand.

Ladle the hot soup into soup bowls.

Place a dollop of the gorgonzola cream in the center, and then sprinkle on the bacon.

The flavor combination is incredible. I could actually do without the bacon.

Personally, I forced myself to follow through on the gorgonzola; I much prefer feta. But it’s wonderful.

It’s good to stir the gorgonzola cream into the soup, but not too much. You want to taste those different flavors.

If you didn’t notice, I like thick, rich, creamy soups. If you didn’t want to make a rich soup, you can use evaporated milk instead of marscapone. But don’t omit the butter! Butter belongs in soups!

Or, you could simply use chicken broth. But that’s no fun. Happy Fall!

Cherry Salsa

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The prettiest cherries I’ve ever seen was on a drizzly day in Trier, Germany. Coincidentally, the white asparagus was at its peak as well! This is a photo from 2006, while walking through a square on our way to lunch, where I failed miserably attempting to speak German and read the menu!

Later on this trip, we visited the Schwarzwald, or the Black Forest region of Germany, known for Schwarzwald Torte, or Black Forest cake. At the Black Forest open-air museum we ran in to these ladies wearing their bollenhut.

The tradition is that the hats/bonnets with the giant cherry-red woolen bobbles must be worn while ladies are single. After the point they are married, they get to switch to a black version. I think I would have just moved to a different part of Germany.

Recently I was lucky enough to pick cherries from a friend’s trees. As I mentioned when I posted on the baked goat brie topped with roasted cherries, I wanted to create recipes for these fabulous fresh cherries that went beyond the basic cherry pie. That’s when I decided on cherry salsa.

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Now I know that I’m the first to gripe when terms are loosely used in the culinary world – words like confit, coulis, pesto, and yes, salsa. But it’s the only word I could think of to describe this lovely seasonal condiment.

It not cooked like a chutney, and it’s not a sauce. It is similar to the fresh tomato salsa I make in the summer, which really is a salsa, and also the cranberry salsa I make for the holidays. I used fresh cherries,orange, cilantro, shallots and ginger. It has zing, a freshness, some tartness and sweetness.

Use it with any kind of meat and poultry, just like you would a chutney or cranberry sauce. Here’s what I did.

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Fresh Cherry Salsa

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 shallot, minced
1 slice of ginger, approximately 1″ in diameter x 1/4″ thick, minced
Zest of 1 small orange
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave, if cherries are tart
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne
2 cups cherries, halved if they’re large

Combine the cilantro, shallot, ginger, and zest in a bowl. Add the liquids, the salt and cayenne.

Then add the cherries and stir gently to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

I love using sesame seed oil, and I thought it would enhance the shallot, ginger, orange and cayenne.

Serve at room temperature.

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I served the cherry salsa with a simple roast chicken and butternut squash.

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The flavors are spectacular.

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Sweet Chili Shrimp

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A while back I came across a cookbook called The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. When I first saw the title, my snobbiness took over and I refused to look into it further.

But then I came across the cookbook again, and it got me thinking about the whole idea of Chinese takeout. I don’t do takeout of any kind of food, but if I did, it would be Chinese. I love all of the vegetables and the bean sprouts and the noodles, especially! And who doesn’t love egg rolls!!! Plus, you get it in those adorable little boxes with the handles.

In the U.S., really all we know about Chinese food, at least in my experience, is from little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants that serve Americanized versions of Chinese food. You know, the breaded, deep-fried everything served with gloppy sauces that all seem to taste the same. (I even had an MSG reaction at one of these restaurants.)

But the thing is, a lot of this food is really good, especially if you know what to order. And until you go to a real Chinatown and have dim sum, like Chinese steamed buns, or happen to have a mother who cooks authentic Chinese, it’s all you know as an American. Just like we all used to think that Italian food was really all about lasagna and spaghetti.

So I decided to buy this cookbook after all, and I’m glad I did. It’s been fun looking over recipes like Kung Pao Chicken, Dan Dan Noodles, Chop Suey, and Egg Foo Young. Remember all of those?!!!

But the first one I decided to make out of the cookbook was Sweet Chili Shrimp because I’d just purchased a pound of beautiful shrimp.

So here is the exact recipe from this cookbook – no MSG required.

Sweet Chili Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey*
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili sauce

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 shallot, finely chopped

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar, and chili sauce. Set aside.

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Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 to 40 seconds. Toss in the shrimp and stir-fry about 2 minutes, until pink.

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Pour in the sauce and stir to coat the shrimp well.

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Transfer to a plate and serve.

* I used less honey just because I didn’t want these too sweet.

note: These would also make a fabulous hors d’oeuvre!

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The author of this cookbook is Diana Kuan. She is a food writer and cooking instructor who has taught Chinese cooking in Beijing and New York.