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Archive for October, 2008

Ok.  I’ll admit it.  Things are getting a little slim in the fridge / freezer.  After Lucky’s arrival home from work today and the inevitable question, “What’s for dinner?”  Charmed quickly responded by with the witty response, “Uhhhhh….What do you want?”  Yeah, that’s the lively conversation at the ‘ol homestead.

After a quick glance through the freezer.  Pork Loin, nope takes too long for tonight… Chicken Breast, possible but not decided yet…. Then I spied the frozen shrimp, great for those needing a quick dinner.  In most cases, just a quick thaw in the microwave, peel, and decide how to prepare.  For me, usually, hot skillet, olive oil, salt, pepper, not-so-secret spice (more on that at a later date), and squeeze of lime, then finish with a little butter.  However, tonight, I’m making pasta!

So I knew I had shrimp and I wanted pasta, so now what? BTW – legal cheat on Fridge cleaning, since I’m making the rules.  I had picked up some carrots over the weekend to make sure I could have the bare basics of mirepoix. Mirepoix is a standard ratio of onions, carrots, and celery used in classical cooking. The ratio is 50% onion, 25% carrots, and 25% celery. Shrimp, mirepoix, and a little white wine – yeah, it’s pasta night!

Speaking of wine, I asked Lucky to search the wine cabinet for some buttery Chardonnay.  That usually means California beat-you-over-the-head-with-butter-on-a-stick Chardonnay.  Lucky grabbed 2004 Reserve Merryvale Carneros Chardonnay.

Whaaa?!?? I know, I can hear the shouting from here.  Yes, I cooked with this wine.  I snagged 1/2 a glass for the pasta, and enjoyed a glass with Lucky whilst I stewed and brewed.  Go ahead, shoot me.  So tonight, I cranked up the Rhapsody, via the Sonos, with a little Madeline Peyroux and started cooking.


Shrimp Pasta

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2 slices Hickory Smoked Bacon (thick cut)

2 stalks Celery diced 1 medium onion diced

1 carrot diced

2 cloves garlic

Salt (to taste)

Black Pepper (to taste)

1 tsp. dry Thyme

1 tsp dry Dill

1.5 tbsp prepared Roux

15 large Shrimp, peeled, deveined

1 cup White Wine (preferrably Chardonnay with big butter note)

1 cu. peas (frozen)

2 cups Chicken Stock

8 0z. Angel Hair Pasta (about 1/2 a box)

0.25 cu. Sour Cream

In a large saute pan over medium heat cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside on paper towel to drain.

In a pot over high heat, cook angel hair pasta in salted water.  Pasta is done when al dente, as we are adding it to the sauce.

Over medium high heat, add onion and saute for 1-2 min.  Add celery, onion and season with salt and pepper.  Lower to medium heat and cook vegetables for 2 min until slightly browned.  Add garlic, thyme and dill.  Add roux and incorporate.  Add shrimp and cook for 1 min stirring once to ensure both sides of the shrimp are seared.  Add peas.  De glaze pan with wine.  The wine should form a thin sauce with the roux.  Add chicken stock and stir to incorporate.  Let the sauce return to a simmer. Add cooked angel hair pasta.  If the sauce needs thinned, add a little pasta water.  Turn off heat.  Add sour cream and stir to incorporate.

Plate pasta in individuals bowls and garnish with broken bits of reserved bacon.  Serve with wine used to de glaze.

Cheers -Charmed

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Mediterranean Spiced_Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Mediterranean Spiced_Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Once again it is refrigerator and pantry cleaning days at the old homestead.  Charmed has a problem.  Remember kids, the first step is admitting you have a problem.   You see, Charmed likes to go to the grocery when hungry.  This means many items make it into the cart which, at the time of purchase were “Oh, I could use this for…” become at home,  “I’ve got WHAT in the fridge?”  The pantry, even worse.  SO… Charmed sometimes forces himself to break out of the rut of the usual good things to make, and come up with new and um… interesting recipes.

On the chopping block the other night was a big ‘ol head of cauliflower needing to be used before an untimely demise.  Also in need of use was about 1/2 a carton of plain yogurt.

I’ve never associated cauliflower with Indian cooking, but I’ve now seen quite a few recipes.  Most seem to involve marinating or stir-frying the cauliflower with onion and Indian spices.  The spice mix, usually involves turmeric.  You know the spice that turns everything yellow.   Turmeric is pretty heavy handed, a little bit goes a long way.  The sauce used for the Indian recipe sometimes uses yogurt.  So here we have my basic inspiration for how to use my aging produce.  The problem is, I’m just not too much of a fan of turmeric, so I adapted it to use another spice mix.

I have many spice mixes sitting in the spice cabinet’s apothecary jars.  In this case, I grabbed two jars, one a mix of coriander, cumin, mustard, black pepper, fenugreek (methi).  This has a sweet note from the fenugreek and is my “Indian inspired” spice.  The other a mix of coriander, cumin, mustard, black pepper, and fennel seed.  This is my “Greek inspired” spice mix.

Since I was thinking “Greek” and yogurt, it set me up to make my simulated “greek yogurt”.   Greek yogurt is much thicker and has a much higher fat content.  In most cases, I can’t get “Greek yogurt” so instead, I take readily available “plain yogurt” and let it strain through a fine sieve or cheese cloth over a  bowl for a number of hours in the fridge.  This thickens the yogurt into a soft-cheese consistency.

So here’s what was on the menu the other night.

Mediterranean spiced Creamy Cauliflower Soup

1 head Cauliflower cut into florets

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 med. size onion

2 cloves garlic

Salt (to taste)

White pepper (to taste)

3 tbsp.  Spice mix – 2 parts “Greek inspired” mix and 1 part “Indian inspired” mix

2 cups chicken stock

1.5 cups Yogurt (drained for at least 4 hours)

In a medium sized pot, boil cauliflower florets in water with mildly salted water.  Cook until cauliflower is very tender, approximately 30 min.  Drain florets and set aside.

In medium sized pot, melt butter over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add onions and garlic and cook on low to medium until softened.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.  Raise heat to medium high and add cauliflower.  Add spice mixture.  Stir to coat cauliflower, and allow to cook 1 – 2 min.  Using a spatula, mash cauliflower.  Add chicken stock and stir to incorporate.   Allow soup to come to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and use a stick blender or table-top blender and reduce to puree consistency.  Return to stove and heat soup on medium until hot, but not boiling.

Remove from heat and add yogurt.  Stir to incorporate yogurt.

Plate into individual bowls and garnish.

Garnish options

I garnised the soup with a few slices of grilled chicken breast using the same spice mixture and a drizzle of olive oil.

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