Lobster and Haddock Casserole

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This post was challenging for me to begin writing, which is not typically an issue. It’s just that so many memories came flooding back to me from when we were in Maine in October of 2021. But that’s exactly how this post came about, from an incredible day on a lobster boat.

Having never been to Maine before, a guide from Experience Maine recommended various activities, and one was spending a day with Linda Greenlaw on her working lobster boat. The day would end with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a lobster feast. I was certainly excited about dinner, but I knew the day would also be educational.

So, who is this Linda Greenlaw? This can’t be answered in one sentence. She is a daughter of a lobster fisherman, born and raised in Maine, lives on Isle au Haut, and certainly one claim to fame is being America’s only female swordfishing captain.

Here she is – small but mighty – second from the left.

From her website, Linda Greenlaw Books, Greenlaw first came to the public’s attention in Sebastian Junger’s book The Perfect Storm, where Junger called her “one of the best captains … on the entire east coast.” She was also portrayed in the movie The Perfect Storm, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

But it doesn’t end there. She also wrote the following books:
The Hungry Ocean, 1999, about her life as a swordfishing captain.
The Lobster Chronicles, 2001, about her life on a very small island.
All Fishermen are Liars, 2004, true stories from real fishermen.
Seaworthy, 2010, an inspirational story of her return to the sea.
Lifesaving Lessons, 2013, a memoir about her experience as an “accidental mother”.

Then, Ms. Greenlaw wrote mystery books! Here I’ve photographed 3 of many…

Because this is a food blog, I’ll get to yet another one of Linda Greenlaw’s achievements. Actually, two. Here are cookbooks written with her mother Martha, on regional Maine cuisine. Recipes from a Very Small Island was published in 2005, and The Maine Summers Cookbook, in 2011. Now do you see how I wasn’t too sure how to start writing about Linda?! She does everything!

The actual name of this recipe, one of her mother’s, is Head Harbor Lobster & Haddock Casserole. And I guess if you are married to a lobster fisherman, you get very creative with lobster!

Or, just serve it steamed. On a boat. As the sun sets.

Head Harbor Lobster and Haddock Casserole
Serves 10-12

2 pounds haddock filets
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup white flour
3 cups half and half
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon horseradish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 ounces medium-dry sherry
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 pound, about 3 cups, diced cooked lobster meat
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Butter a shallow 3-quart casserole dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the haddock in a skillet, add water to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook gently until the fish is no longer translucent in the center, about 5 – 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, break the fish into small chunks.

I ordered lobster tails so I prepared the meat by boiling them for 1 minute per ounce, placed in iced water, then removed the meat.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium to medium-high heat, whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the half and half, bring to a boil, and cook, whisking for 1 minute. Whisk in the ketchup, horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Whisk in the sherry and parsley and season with salt. The sauce will be very thick at this point; it will thin out with the addition of the seafood.

In a large bowl, combine the haddock and lobster meat with the sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Transfer to the prepared dish, sprinkle with the crumbs, and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

I served the casserole with a cherry tomato salad in a zingy parsley vinaigrette with capers.

I love the flavors of the bechamel in this casserole. They were spot on. And what a delight to enjoy the fresh haddock and lobster in this way.

A nice green salad, perhaps with a lemon dressing, would also be good.

Slow-Baked Citrus Salmon

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This dish is adapted from Alison Roman’s recipe in the New York Times, called Slow Roasted Citrus Salmon with Herb Salad. My sister made it when we were both visiting our mother, and I loved it so much I had to make it myself.

The major adaptation is the change from 2 cups of herbs in the “salad,” as listed in the original printable recipe below, to sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary added to the salmon before slow roasting; parsley is sprinkled for serving.

From the author, “This is truly the best way to cook salmon. Slowly roasting an already fatty fish in an even more luxurious fat (here, olive oil) makes it nearly impossible to overcook. Plus, you can flavor that oil with whatever you fancy — spices, herbs, citrus, chiles — which, in turn, will flavor the fish.”

There is actually so much olive oil in the original recipe that the resulting salmon reminds me of a confit. I cut the 1 1/2 cups of oil to 1 cup, and used a regular lemon and orange for the citrus.

When my sister first told me about this recipe, I thought it would be perfect in the spring or summer. But I rethought it, and everybody needs some citrus in the winter to brighten their days! And, prevent scurvy.

Since I’m the only salmon lover in my immediate family, I only used two salmon filets.

Slow-Baked Citrus Salmon
Printable recipe below

4 salmon fillets, skin on or off, about 1 1/2 pounds
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced
Sprigs thyme and rosemary
1 cups olive oil
Chopped parsley, for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season salmon with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place in a large baking dish with sliced lemons and oranges, plus sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary.

Drizzle everything with olive oil and bake until salmon is just turning opaque at the edges and is nearly cooked through, 25 to 35 minutes. These filets were thin, so 20 minutes was perfect.

To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and flaky salt.

Add some cayenne pepper flakes and/or coarsely ground multicolor peppercorns over the warm citrusy oil and serve with crusty bread.

I actually think dipping the bread in the citrussy oil with cayenne and salt was my favorite part of this meal!

The whole idea of salmon served with a salad is a good one, I just don’t want it to be only herbs. A favorite recipe I’ve made is Bobby Flay’s hot-smoked salmon with an apple, cherry, and hazelnut salad.


 

 

Chicken Pizzaiola

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I never realized Lidia Bastianich had a website, until I randomly came across her recipe online for Chicken Pizzaiola. The name certainly caught my attention! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza ingredients!

The website is Lidia’s Italy, which highlights her restaurants, her books, her cooking shows (she even has a YouTube channel), plus recipes, and much much more. Her latest cookbook is Felidia, which came out in October of 2021.

Of this recipe, she says, “This dish has quickly become one of our most popular at lunch. The chicken is so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it. And the pizzaiola preparation is a favorite traditional of Italian American cuisine.”

The lunch she’s referring to is at Felidia, her flagship restaurant she opened in 1981 on Manhattan’s east side, although it now closed permanently.

Chicken  Pizzaiola

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian, on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus 1/4 cup leaves, and whole sprigs for garnish
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups prepared fresh tomato sauce
4 slices low-moisture mozzarella

Season the chicken breasts with salt, and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Drain the chicken, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, grated Grana Padano, dried oregano, chopped parsley, chopped basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate everything fully into the crumbs.

Put the drained chicken breasts in the bowl with the seasoned breadcrumbs one at a time, and pat well on both sides so the crumbs cover the chicken on all sides. Set the breaded chicken breasts on the parchment paper, arranged so they don’t touch each other.

Bake the chicken until the coating is crisp and browned and the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

While the chicken bakes, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ cup basil leaves in a blender, and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

Pour the purée into a small saucepan, and warm it over low heat.

When the chicken is just cooked through, top with the sliced mozzarella and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the tomato emulsion on plates, top with the chicken, and serve.

I served this chicken with simply sautéed spinach.

Maybe it’s not like eating pizza, but wow this chicken dish really is fabulous. I would use grated mozzarella instead of a slice. I don’t like the look of that.

The crust is wonderful, and the cheeses make it so tasty, along with the herbs, and of course with the sauce…. divine.

Beet and Feta Galette

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My girlfriend gifts me wonderful cookbooks, and one of the last ones I received from her was Falastin, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published in 2020.

Sami Tamimi is well known for his co-authoring of many Ottolenghi cookbooks. At least that’s how I became familiar with him. In fact, Falastin’s foreword was written by Yotam Ottolenghi, sighting that the authors “have picked up the baton where it was left after Jerusalem.”

On the back cover, it’s written: “This is a cookbook about Palestine. About its food, its people, and their voices. It is a book about the common themes that all these elements share, and how Palestine weaves stories and cooking into the fabric of its identity.”

Falastin reminds me of the Ottolenghi-Tamimi cookbooks, in the size and heft, the beautiful photos, and fascinating stories. The recipe I chose to make is called Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey.

It’s so easy to pull out puff pastry for a savory or sweet galette, but I was attracted to this recipe because a delicious, oregano- and thyme-laden dough is used for the crust. A nice change from puff pastry, or a plain pie crust.

Beet and Feta Galette with Za’atar and Honey
Serves 4

2 small purple beets
1 small golden beet
Salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/4 ice-cold water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 1/2 teaspoon
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4” slices
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt
1 tablespoon za’atar
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup ricotta
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Black pepper
3 1/4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until completely soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then use an old dish towel to gently rub away the skins.

Slice each beet into 1/8” slices and place in separate bowls, to keep the purple away from the golden beets. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt a good grind of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the golden beets. (I only had purple beets.) Combine the purple beets with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a good grind of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon oil. Set both aside until needed.

To make the crust, put both flours into a large bowl along with the sugar, salt, and herbs. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. Don’t overwork the butter – you want chunks of it throughout the dough. Add the water and use your hands to gather the dough together. Transfer to a well-floured surface and roll out into a rough rectangle, about 11 x 7”. The dough here is fairly wet and sticky, so you’ll need to flour your hands, rolling pin, and work surface often.

Fold the shorter ends in toward each other so that they meet at the center, then fold the dough in half, like a book. Roll out the dough once with a rolling pin and then just fold once in half again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Put the 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned. Add the sugar, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, then stir in 1 teaspoon of za’atar, the parsley, and the oregano.

Put the ricotta, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper into a bowl and set aside. (I happened to have leftover creme fraiche, so I used that.)

Generously flour a 12” square of parchment paper. Transfer the crust dough to the prepared parchment paper and roll out to form a rough circle. It will have uneven edges but should be about 11” wide. Lifting up both the baking parchment and the dough, transfer to a baking sheet; you don’t want to be lifting it onto the sheet once filled.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the base of the dough, leaving a 1/2” rim clear around the edges. Top with half the feta, then the onions. Next, and this time leaving a 1 1/2” rim clear around the outside, top with the beets, alternating between purple and golden, with a little overlap between each piece. Wash your hands well, then scatter the remaining feta on top.

Using a knife, make 3/4” incisions spaced about 3 1/4” apart around the edge of the galette. Creating these “strips” will allow for the beets and cheese to be encased. Take a resulting dough strip and fold it over the beet, in toward the center of the galette. Repeat with the next strip, pulling gently to slightly overlap and seal the last fold. Continue this way with the rest of the strips, then refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply golden and cooked through.

Drizzle with the honey and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil, then scatter with the remaining 2 teaspoons za’atar.

Transfer to a wire rack so that the bottom remains crisp and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Garnish with thyme leaves.

Slice once set, and serve.

And that crust?! Flaky, tender, and herby!

Baked Ratatouille

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From the guy who introduced me to speidie sauce, comes a baked ratatouille, from the cookbook, Charlie Palmer’s American Fare.

Being that it’s late summer and my garden is producing nicely, a ratatouille is a perfect dish to make. A baked ratatouille was really enticing to me.

From Chef Palmer: “This is a dish that I make all summer long when the farmers market is filled with eggplant and summer squashes. It is based on the traditional French Provençal vegetable dish that usually includes bell peppers and a mixture of dried herbs. You really can do anything you want with it: Some cooks prepare each vegetable separately and then mix together, while some layer the vegetables and bake them.”

I used a regular eggplant, a large zucchini, a large golden zucchini, and a purple onion.

This dish could be called a ratatouille gratin, because there are layers of ratatouille, plus layers of cheeses, all topped off with crunchy breadcrumbs.

It’s not terribly pretty, but at least the ratatouille didn’t turn to mush; the individual pieces of vegetables are still in tact and I like that.

Below is the actual recipe from the book. I served the baked ratatouille with spicy sausages.

Baked Ratatouille

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 pounds Japanese eggplant, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 large yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 – 28 ounce can chopped San Marzano tomatoes with their juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the interior of a large ceramic baking dish with olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or just until soft.

Add the eggplant and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until just beginning to soften.

Stir in the zucchini and yellow squash and cook, stirring frequently, for another 10 minutes or until just barely tender.

Stir in the tomatoes and basil and season with salt and pepper.

Scrape about half of the eggplant mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover with half of the mozzarella. Spoon the remaining eggplant mixture over the cheese. Top with another layer of mozzarella. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mozzarella and then top with bread crumbs.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

The baked ratatouille is wonderful. And the crust on top is really good!

I served it with sausages, but just about any protein would go with it, or just eat as an enjoyable summer meal and be proud of all of your garden-fresh vegetables!

Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp

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A while back, I posted on David Chang’s Bacon-Fried Rice recipe, which I found in a People magazine, of all things. It’s a fairly classic stir-fried rice recipe, but starts with cooking diced bacon and ends with fish sauce. It’s fabulous.

So I got to thinking, what about making a stir-fried rice, but using noodles instead of rice? That’s when I googled, and discovered that stir fried noodles is a thing. I didn’t invent it.

What’s interesting to me, is that the recipe I came across is by none other than Martha Rose Shulman, who I’ve never known to make anything Asian, but she obviously does. (And obviously I’m no Martha Rose Shulman expert!)

Her recipe, called Stir-Fried Rice Stick Noodles with Bok Choy and Cherry tomatoes, is from New York Times Cooking. The recipe sounds wonderful, but I’m subbing bok choy with spinach, because it’s easier to find, and I’m including spicy shrimp.

Stir-Fried Rice Stick Noodles with Spicy Shrimp, Spinach, and Cherry Tomatoes
Slightly adapted

1 pound shrimp, shelled, cleaned, sliced in half lengthwise
1-2 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
Shichimi Tagarashi or cayenne, to taste
7 ounces rice stick noodles
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced jalapeño
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 eggs, beaten with a little salt and pepper
1 pound baby spinach
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved, lightly deseeded
Salt to taste
Pinch of sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with the oil until well coated. Add the Shichimi Tagarashi and toss gently.

Heat a little peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat with the ventilation on. Cook about a third of the shrimp at a time, about 1 – 1/2 minutes per side, until they are pink. Place on a plate, and continue with remaining shrimp, adding a teaspoon oil if necessary. Tent with foil and set aside.

Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Soak for at least 20 minutes, until soft. Drain in a fine colander and, using kitchen scissors, but into 6” lengths. Set aside.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, and rice wine in a small bowl. Set aside. Combine the garlic, ginger, and minced jalapeño in another bowl. Set aside.

Heat the same skillet over high heat and swirl in 2 teaspoons of the peanut oil. Make sure the bottom of the pan is coated in oil, then add the eggs, swirling the pan so that the eggs form a thin pancake. Cook 30 seconds to a minute, until set. Using a spatula, turn the pancake over and cook for 5 – 10 more seconds, until thoroughly set, then transfer to a plate or cutting board. When cool enough to handle, roll up the egg pancake and cut into strips 1/4” wide. Set aside.

Swirl the remaining oil into the skillet and add the garlic mixture. Stir fry for no more than 10 seconds, until fragrant, then add the spinach. Stir fry for 1 minute, until bright green and wilted. Add the broth mixture, the noodles, and tomatoes.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir fry 1 to 2 minutes, using tongs to move around the noodles, until they are just tender and the tomatoes are beginning to soften. Stir in the shrimp gently, then add the cilantro, egg shreds, salt, sugar, and stir fry another 30 seconds until well combined.

Add the sesame seed oil, and serve.

I also added black sesame seeds.

In retrospect, these noodles really aren’t “stir-fried” even though Ms. Shulman actually refers to “frying” the noodles. With the 1/2 cup plus of liquid, there’s really no frying. Oh well.

I tried a stir-fried noodle recipe, and it was really good. That’s what’s important.

Prawn and Tomato Stew

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I was gifted the cookbook Falastin by a dear friend, and I’ve already made many recipes from it. The authors are Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, and the book is all about the food of Palestine, published in 2020.

From the book, “There is no letter “P” in the Arabic language so “Falastin” (pronounced “fa-la’steen”) is, in one sense, simply the way “Falastinians” refer to themselves. But this word is also about geography, history language, land, identity, and culture. Falastin is a celebration of this culture: the recipes and stories, the food and the people of Palestine.

I chose to make an enticing prawn and tomato stew, made with fresh tomatoes. It’s hearty, warming with the spices, but also has a fresh element with the cilantro pesto.

I don’t mean to disrespect the great Sami Tamimi, but 3 ingredients in this dish caught my attention – the use of cilantro, ginger, and dill together. I am familiar with cilantro and ginger together in Asian cuisines, but the dill really confused me. Not being a huge dill fan I omitted it. I would not have been surprised if it was mint instead of the dill, but there it is.

Prawn and Tomato Stew with Cilantro Pesto
Serves 4

Cilantro pesto:
1½ cups cilantro (30g), roughly chopped
1 green chile finely chopped
⅓ cup plus 2 tbsp pine nuts (50g) lightly toasted, reserve 1 tbsp for garnish when serving
1 lemon finely grate the zest to get 1½ tsp, then cut into wedges for serving
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (80ml)
salt and pepper

9 oz cherry tomatoes (250g)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (60ml)
1 large yellow onion (1¼ cups / 180g) finely chopped
4 garlic cloves crushed
¾-inch / 2cm piece of ginger (1½ tbsp / 15g) peeled and finely grated
1 green chile finely chopped, with seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds lightly crushed in mortar and pestle (if needed, substitute with 2 tsp ground coriander instead)
1½ tsp cumin seeds lightly crushed in mortar and pestle (if needed, substitute with 1½ tsp ground cumin instead)
8 cardamom pods lightly crushed in mortar and pestle (if needed, substitute with ½ tsp ground cardamom instead)
1 cup dill leaves (20g) finely chopped (I didn’t use)
2 tsp tomato paste
6 plum tomatoes (2¾ cups / 500g) roughly chopped
1¼ cups water
salt and black pepper to taste
1⅓ lbs shrimp (600g) peeled

To make the cilantro pesto, combine cilantro, chile and pine nuts into a food processor and pulse a few times, until the pine nuts are roughly crumbled and incorporated with the cilantro and chile. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add the lemon zest, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix to combine, then set aside.

Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tsp of olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until blistered and charred on all sides. Remove tomatoes from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan clean, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and place it over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasinally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic, ginger, chile, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dill and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the plum tomatoes, water, 1½ tsp of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then decrease heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes, uncovered, or until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes have broken down.

Pat the prawns dry and mix them in a bowl with ¼ tsp of salt, 1 tbsp olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Put 2 tsp of olive oil into a large sauté pan and place over high heat. Once hot, add the shrimp in batches and fry for 1 minute on each side, until cooked through and nicely browned. Set each batch aside in small mixing bowl while you continue with the remaining prawns. When the sauce is ready, stir in the prawns and charred tomatoes and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, to heat through.

Serve either straight from the pan or spoon into wide shallow bowls.

Scoop out the cardamom pods if you like, they are there to flavor the dish rather than to be eaten. I couldn’t find my pods, so I opted for ground cardamom.

Dot the stew with about half of the pesto and pass the lemon wedges and remaining pesto in a bowl alongside.

Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of pine nuts on top.

This dish is outstanding and I will be making it again. The flavors are marvelous. The pesto, made with jalapeño and lemon in lieu of garlic, is wonderful, and pairs so well with the shrimp and tomatoes.

Lemon Pappardelle with Nduja

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Up until now, I’ve only used nduja on charcuterie platters – the wonderful spread that is so good on warm bread. That is, until I saw this recipe online.

If you aren’t familiar with nduja, it’s a spreadable pork sausage from southern Italy, spiced with Calabrian chile peppers. Nduja can be made from scratch, and maybe some day I will, but it’s so easy just to buy a tube. How to pronounce? In-doo-ya.

I have seen nduja included in red sauces, but in this recipe the nduja flavor is right there, not masked by anything else.

The recipe that got my attention is from Delicious Magazine – a really posh British cooking magazine that is also online. The actual name of the recipe is Sicilian pappardelle with nduja and crunchy breadcrumbs. In it, Sicilian lemons are recommended, but alas, there none to be found in Oklahoma. However, I did use Castelvetrano olives in this pasta, to make it a bit more Sicilian!

I wanted to include broccolini in this pasta for something green, but there wasn’t any at my local store. Frozen peas would work, or asparagus in the spring.

Sicilian Lemon Pappardelle with Nduja and Crunchy Breadcrumbs
Slightly adapted

30g/1 ounce unsalted butter
4 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Zest and juice of 3 lemons, plus wedges to serve
50g/2 ounces nduja, crumbled
Bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
50g/2 ounces fresh white breadcrumbs
400g fresh papardelle (I used dried)
1/3 cup heavy cream
40g/2 ounces Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
Castelvetrano olives, pitted, sliced lengthwise (optional)

Heat the butter in a large pan over a low heat and fry the shallots for 15 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, then cook for a minute.

Add the nduja and half the parsley, then fry for 1-2 minutes.

In a small frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil, add the breadcrumbs and fry over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until crisp. Set aside.

Cook the pappardelle according to package directions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the nduja mixture. Set over a medium heat, then toss with a splash of the pasta water, cream, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the Parmesan.

Season to taste and divide among bowls or place in large serving bowl. Add the olives, if using, then sprinkle with the crunchy breadcrumbs and remaining parsley.

Serve with lemon wedges and extra Parmesan.

I also served the pasta with the Calabrian peppers for some extra heat!

note: Not all of my grams to ounces calibrations are correct. The ounces are what I actually used.

BBQ and Blue Chicken Salad

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When I visit my daughter and her sweet family, about 1 1/2 hours away, I often stay with her to help with the kiddos. Plus, after their bedtime, we drink some wine and catch up. If I’m in the mood to cook, I do so, but there is a fabulous food delivery service called Postmates that services a whole range of great restaurants in Oklahoma City.

One restaurant we often order lunch from is Red Rock Canyon Grill. I’d call it an American grill – nothing fancy, but definitely quality food that’s consistently a pleasure to eat.

Normally, as is my way, I rarely order the same thing, with this restaurant’s menu being one exception. They have a rotisserie chicken salad there that is so good, that it’s always what I order via Postmates. Rotisserie Chicken Chop Salad.

It doesn’t look terribly appealing in the to-go container but it is delicious. What’s unique to me are the combination of dressings: actual barbecue sauce as well as a chipotle-blue cheese.

What really surprised me when I went to the restaurant’s website to make sure I got the name of the salad correct, is that this restaurant is a chain! There are Red Rocks from Texas to Kansas! Well, if all chains were as good as this one, America would be a better place to dine!

For this salad, I used my favorite bottled barbecue sauce. If I’m not making my own, I’m buying this brand.

Following is not a recipe, but a list of ingredients for this delicious salad. Make one serving or a huge salad. You’ll love it!

Southwestern Rotisserie Chicken Salad with BBQ Sauce and Chipotle-Bleu Cheese Dressing

Rotisserie or roast chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Romaine
Black beans, drained from can
Corn, fresh or drained from a can
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Cubes of avocado
Jicama, peeled, cubed
Hard-boiled eggs (optional)
Tortilla chips
BBQ sauce
Chipotle-bleu cheese dressing, recipe below

Chipotle-Bleu Cheese Dressing

4 ounces good blue cheese
4 ounces buttermilk
3 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 whole chipotle plus
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove

Place all ingredients in a small blender jar and blend until smooth. Alternately, use only half of the cheese in the dressing, and save the remaining crumbled cheese for the salad.

Begin by preparing all of the ingredients. I roasted a chicken and chopped up mostly the white meat.

Then add lettuce to the salad bowl, then cover with the black beans and corn.

Then add the tomatoes, jicama, and avocado. I tossed my avocado pieces in lime juice before using.

Follow with the chicken, season with salt and pepper, then add any necessary remaining ingredients for a nice representation.

Drizzle the barbecue sauce and the chipotle blue cheese dressings over the salad and serve.

The restaurant’s salad has tortilla strips, but I found these, called horneadas, and thought they were fun! I don’t like feeling “forced” to eat things in a salad that I don’t love. Namely, tortilla strips.

Besides the wonderful flavors of this unique salad, the textures are lovely, especially because of jicama.

Banana Mousse with Butterscotch

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Cookbooks make the best gifts, especially if you love to cook new recipes and learn more about cooking. My daughters have always gifted me cookbooks and they typically know my style and favorite chefs.

They know, for example, that I am enamored with Gordon Ramsay. He’s an expert chef, has had many restaurants, holds many Michelin stars, and he’s hysterically funny to me. And yes, he likes to yell and swear.

One Christmas my daughters gave me Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food. I know I read the book, because I’d never ignore a cookbook, but I haven’t picked it up since. It was published in 2008.

The part that didn’t “thrill” me was the fast food aspect. Why would I need to make fast food?! (Note that this didn’t affect my joy in receiving that cookbook as a gift.)

I know that a lot of busy young parents who care about putting meals on the table require the “quick and easy” style of cooking. But even when I was at my busiest with children and work and life, how fast I could put a meal on the table was not my highest priority. Putting good and nourishing food on the table was.

So, not to sound like I think I’m so cool for having done that. On the contrary, I worked hard! It wasn’t always easy. But every school morning I’d get up extra early and make something like whole-grain pancakes with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. My daughters never purchased lunches at school because I made those fresh every morning. And dinners? Even if I was dodging swim lessons or gymnastics classes, a heathy meal was always served, no matter how long it took to prepare.

So, when I re-read Ramsay’s cookbook, most of the recipes weren’t surprising to those of us who cook a lot. Pastas with olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs, or parsley, or tomatoes, or tuna. A lamb chop, a fish filet. Sandwiches. All to be expected in the fast food category.

I do give Chef Ramsay kudos, however, in that he writes, “Don’t skip meals or resort to junk food, however busy you are.” Amen.

So what did I pick to make from this book? A dessert!

Banana Mousse with Butterscotch Ripple
Serves 4

1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups whipping cream, chilled
4 large ripe bananas, chilled in the freezer for 1-2 hours
Squeeze of lemon Juice
Semisweet chocolate, for grating

Put the sugar, butter, and 2/3 cup of the cream in a pan over medium heat and stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved and the butter melted. Let bubble for a minute or two, stirring frequently, then remove from the heat and let the sauce cool completely.

Pour the remaining cream into a blender. Peel and chop the bananas and add to the blender along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Whiz until smooth, thick, and creamy.

Spoon a little sauce around the sides of four glasses, smudging some of it for an attractive effect. Divide the banana mousse among the glasses and top with more butterscotch.

Use a small teaspoon to ripple the butterscotch through the mousse. I’m not very good at this sort of thing.

Grate over a little semisweet chocolate and chill until ready to serve.

My husband loves bananas and he loved this dessert. Me? Not so much.

As much as I love butterscotch, the banana and butterscotch wasn’t a great pairing to me. I would have preferred a dark chocolate sauce.

But I wouldn’t tell Chef Ramsay that…