Paella

There we were, running like silly tourists, attempting to use our Barcelona tour map to cover our heads, as we searched for a hidden gem of a restaurant.

We ducked into a nearby alley, just as the unexpected rain shower passed by and the blazing sun returned.  Steam rose slowly from the hot, rain slicked cobblestone street as we stepped under the nearest balcony and, by our good fortune, found a fantastic little café that served the most delicious paella! 

Alright, here’s the real story.  One of my wife’s co-workers gave her a few threads of saffron and when my wife presented them to me, my thoughts, not surprisingly, went straight to paella.  I’ve eaten dishes that contain saffron before, like grilled lamb and couscous but I have yet to understand what makes the spice so special.  A tiny amount of saffron can really brighten a dish and make it very colorful but the spice is so subtle, in flavor, that it goes virtually unnoticed by my palette.  There’s a good chance that my palette lacks sophistication and there’s an even better chance that I am too heavy-handed with other spices that I don’t showcase saffron properly.

Saffron is ridiculously expensive, due to the amount of work and resources required to grow and harvest it, which means that you won’t see me at the bazaar, haggling over the price with a merchant.   

For me, the real joy of paella comes from the harmony achieved by the combination of the various vegetables, meats and rice.  And, it’s a one-pan wonder!  If you don’t have saffron, you can substitute with other spices that add brilliant color.  A tiny amount of turmeric, achiote, or a combination of both can be used to produce yellow, orange and red color just as easily, and they won’t break the bank! 

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced

½ green bell pepper, diced

½ red bell pepper, diced

4 or 5 garlic cloves, smashed and rough chopped

4 or 5 Roma tomatoes, diced

¼ cup olive oil

2 large bay leaves

1 tsp Hungarian paprika

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp saffron threads

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup white wine

1 lb chicken breast or chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cups uncooked rice

5 cups chicken stock or chicken broth

½ cup frozen green peas

8 jumbo raw shrimp, peeled, with tails on

6 to 8 green mussels

2 fresh squid, cleaned and cut into rings

1 lime, sliced

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables.  Chop the onions, bell peppers, garlic and tomatoes.  Set aside.

In a large stainless steel skillet, add oil and heat at medium/low heat.

Add all of the chopped vegetables, except the tomatoes.

Simmer and stir the vegetables for five minutes. 

Add the chopped tomatoes, spices and bay leaves.  Simmer for another five minutes. 

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add white wine.

Simmer and stir occasionally for ten minutes.

Add chicken and rice.  Stir for one minute.

Slowly add the chicken stock (or broth).  Shake the skillet to level the rice, but do not stir.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then set the heat to low.

Leave the pan uncovered and let the paella do its thing.  Do not stir. 

I get anxious, every time I add uncooked rice to a pan full of stuff that is already cooking but I have learned to walk away.  I find something else to do for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, nestle the squid, shrimp into the rice. 

Top with peas and mussels. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve the paella in pan.  Garnish with slices of lime.

Fresh Pizza

I drew inspiration for this pizza from the well of memories I have of the summer I spent in Tuscany, chatting with the local farmers and artisan bakers.  Oh, how I miss the sun dappled hazelnut trees that surrounded our villa!…

Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.

I saw a sprig of rosemary on my kitchen counter today, left over from last night’s meal, and my thoughts led me to pizza.  I wanted to make a pizza with some fresh ingredients.  So, here we go…

Ingredients for the sauce:

3 medium sized tomatoes, cored and chopped

1 Tbs white sugar

1 tsp olive oil

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp white vinegar

Directions:

Add chopped tomatoes to a sauce pan and simmer at low heat.  Add all of the other ingredients and stir.

Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, at first and then  increasing the frequency, as the sauce cooks down.

Ingredients for the spices:

2 cloves fresh garlic

1 Tbs dried basil

1 Tbs dried onion flakes

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 tsp red chili flakes

½ tsp dried oregano leaves

¼ cup olive oil

Directions:

Add all ingredients, except olive oil, to a mortar and pestle.  Pound and grind the ingredients until everything forms a thick paste. 

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the olive oil in a microwave oven for about 30 seconds.  Remove the olive oil and the mashed seasonings.  Allow the mixture to sit for an hour before using.

Prepare the pizza dough.  I use a simple recipe which only takes about one hour to rise.  It’s warm enough now that I can cover the dough and let it rise in the cab of my pickup truck. 

Roll out the dough and form the pies.  I prebake my crust is a conventional oven, since I don’t have a Tuscan wood-burning brick oven. 

Combine the spices with the sauce.

Spread the sauce on the pizza crust.

Add sliced onions and mushrooms. 

Top with grated Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400° for 10 minutes.

Top with arugula, or “scratchy endive”, as my dad likes to call it. Serve on the balcony, overlooking the lush rolling hills.

Étouffée with Roasted Chicken

It’s springtime in the mid-south and, if there’s one thing that can compete with the joy of seeing new buds on the trees and seeing the weeds in full bloom , it’s the return of our fresh Gulf seafood vendors!  I get  giddy just seeing the colorful trailers, parked at local gas stations.  For me, it’s a sacred rite of spring to haphazardly park, get out of the car and stand in line, amidst the  throng of excited seafood devotees. 

I try to find ways to make each visit to the seafood vendor special.  This time, the customers weren’t standing in an orderly line.  A crowd of people clustered around the trailer, jockeying for position.  I stayed back for a moment and enjoyed the tempting aroma of steaming crawfish and shrimp, billowing from large pots at the end of the trailer.  I struck up a conversation with a man who was waiting for his order and learned that he was a Marine veteran who served during the late 1950’s and 1960’s.  After a brief conversation, his order was bagged and ready and he was on his way home.

I ordered two pounds of fresh whole shrimp and one pound of boiled crawfish.  I’m still debating on what to do with the shrimp but I know exactly what to do with the crawfish. 

Crawfish isn’t for everyone.  It’s an acquired taste.  I have discovered that there are ways to prepare crawfish that even non-crawfish people can enjoy.  For this meal, I am roasting a whole hen.  Anyone that balks at the crawfish will still have something to eat!  And, for those who want to try the étouffée, I am asking the crawfish to play second fiddle to another Cajun classic – andouille sausage.  I am using Cajun seasonings sparingly, despite my usual craving for extreme spiciness, and I am adding  a gentle tomato sauce, to make the dish smooth and creamy.

Ingredients for the roast chicken:

1 whole roasting hen

1 Tbs dried thyme leaves

2 Tbs Cajun seasoning

3 Tbs salted butter

2 celery stalks

¼ cup chicken broth

Directions:

Wash chicken, inside and out, under cool running water.  Trim excess fat and allow the chicken to dry, on a clean surface, at room temperature.

Mix thyme and 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning with softened butter

Cut two large celery stalks in half and arrange them at the bottom of a large cast iron skillet.  This will support the chicken while it roasts and will keep it from sticking to the pan. 

Examine the neck cavity of the bird and slide fingers under the skin.  Carefully slide your fingers beneath the surface of the skin and slide the palm of your hand along the breast meat.  Angle your fingers down to the leg joint and begin separating the skin from the leg and thigh.  Do this for each breast and leg.

Cup some of the butter mixture in your fingertips and slide them along the breasts, legs and thighs.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of Cajun seasoning on the outside of the bird, across the breast, legs and thighs.

Pour ¼ cup chicken broth in the cast iron skillet.

Lay the chicken in the pan, top side up.  Roast uncovered for 45 minutes at 400°.  Turn the oven down to 350° and continue roasting for another 30 minutes. 

Remove the chicken and allow it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, prepare garlic bread and the étouffée.

For the garlic bread:

12” loaf of fresh French bread

4 Tbs melted butter

2 tsp garlic salt

A few dashes of finely ground black pepper

2 tsp dried Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Slice the fresh French bread, lengthwise.

Lay the opened loaf on a cutting board and brush each side with melted butter.

Shake garlic salt across each half, dust lightly with black pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Close the two halves of bread together and wrap tightly in aluminum foil.  Bake in a 350° for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Étouffée ingredients:

1 lb boiled crawfish (boiled with Cajun seasonings)

½ lb andouille sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces

3 Tbs cooking oil

1 yellow onion

1 green bell pepper

3 celery stalks

1 small bulb, fresh garlic (with stems)

1 tomato

3 green onions

8 oz tomato sauce

3 Tbs softened butter

3 Tbs flour

2 cups chicken stock

1 Tbs lemon juice

Cooked white rice

Directions:

Remove the tail meat from the crawfish and place the pieces in a bowl.  Squeeze the heads of crawfish over the tail meat, to extract the crawfish juices.  Set the crawfish meat aside and discard the crawfish shells, or use later for stock.

Peel and chop the yellow onion, bell pepper and celery.  Dice the garlic and add to the vegetables.  Set the vegetables aside. 

Chop the tomato and green onions and set them aside.

Add 3 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet and set heat to medium.  Add the yellow onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic to the skillet. 

Sautee for 10 minutes while stirring frequently. 

When the onion turns translucent, add tomato sauce

Simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes.

Mix the melted butter and flour in a small dish.  Add some of the warm, cooked sauce to the flour and butter mixture and mix well.  Add the mixture to the sauce and mix well.  Simmer at low heat for 5 minutes, to thicken the sauce. 

Add two cups of chicken broth while stirring the sauce.  Add lemon juice and chopped tomatoes.  Simmer for a few minutes.

Add the and andouille sausage and mix well. 

Add the crawfish meat and simmer at low heat for a few minutes.

Arrange the cooked rice in the center of a large serving platter.  Pile the étouffée on top of the rice.  Carve the chicken and arrange the pieces around the outer edges of the platter.  Top with chopped green onion.

Serve with the warm garlic bread.

Now…what to do with the shrimp?!  Maybe a fresh shrimp cocktail, or a shrimp po’ boy, or shrimp remoulade, or coconut shrimp, or… 

King Cake French Toast

Mardi Gras is right around the corner and that means King Cakes are back in season.  My wife recently made her first attempt at making a King Cake and I must say, it was superb!  The texture of the cake was springy and light and the sweet glaze that topped the cake was sprinkled with yellow, green and purple confectioner sugar, in traditional New Orleans style.  We have been nibbling at the large cake for a few days and it occurred to me that it might be well suited for French toast.  So, that’s what I did this morning.

Ingredients:

Several 1” thick slices of King Cake

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ lb butter (on stick)

Maple syrup

Directions:

Add eggs, milk and heavy cream to a shallow baking pan, or shallow plastic storage container.  Whisk the ingredients briskly. 

Lay the slices of King Cake in the mixture and allow the cake to soak for 15 minutes.  Turn the slices over and soak for another 15 minutes.

While the cake soaks, heat a large skillet, at low heat, and add the butter.

Once the butter begins to bubble, turn the heat up to medium heat.  Place slices of cake into the pan.  Do not overcrowd the pan. 

Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes and turn the slices over, after they have browned.  Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes and remove the slices to a serving dish. 

Serve with maple syrup, bacon and fresh fruit.

Ribeye Steaks on the Grill

June, 2020.  It seems like years ago to me now.  Beef prices rose quickly in May and I nearly cut beef out of my diet entirely as a result.  That is, until my self-imposed deprivation finally got the best of me and I splurged on a big ribeye roast!

I consider the economy of my food choices when I shop so, when I saw the price of the large roast I took a deep breath and began portioning it in my mind.  I figured I could get 10 thick steaks from the cut of beef and the thought of having 10 delicious, grilled steaks at $7.50 each made me realize that this might be a wise choice.

As I hefted the 7 ½ pound roast from the butcher’s case I took a look at the label on the package.  “WHOLE NO ROLL RIBEYE” was proudly displayed at the top of the label.

I wasn’t familiar with the term “WHOLE NO ROLL RIBEYE” and I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing.  As it turns out, the term “no roll” means that the meat had not been graded by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture).  Simply put, it might be a tremendous cut of beef or a not-so tremendous cut.  It was, however, inspected by the USDA to ensure that it met the all of the safety requirements.

I can assure you that this was a perfectly fine cut of beef, good marbling and tender texture.

As I mentioned, this made ten 2” thick steaks, each weighing about ¾ pounds.

My intention was to make the classic American steak dinner, baked potatoes and a side of steamed vegetables or a garden salad but, my inclination to Tex-Mex cuisine overtook me and I turned this meal into a fiesta! 

Ingredients for the salsa verde:

15 to 20 tomatillos (cut in half, radially)

3 serrano chiles

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs kosher salt

Ingredients for the pico de gallo:

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and chopped

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Mexican oregano

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for the grilled steaks:

1 beef ribeye roast, 7 to 8 lbs

   Spice rub:

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp chili powder

Ingredients for the side items:

1 onion, sliced in half radially

3 serrano chiles

1 yellow bell pepper

4 medium russet potatoes

1 ½ cup prepared guacamole

2 cups fresh lettuce, rough chopped

1 ½ cups fresh cilantro leaves

16 oz prepared refried beans

Directions:

Prepare the grill by heating some charcoal. 

While the coals heat, slice the tomatillos and add them to a large mixing bowl.  Add the serrano chiles and splash some olive oil over the tomatillos and chiles.  Sprinkle the salt over everything and toss to coat everything with the oil and salt.  Set aside.

Chop the tomatoes and chiles for the pico de gallo.  Add to a mixing bowl.  Add the spices and squirt lemon juice over the mixture.  Toss briefly and reserve for later.

Peel the potatoes, slice into large wedges and air-dry in a colander.  Set aside.

Remove the beef roast from the package, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Slice the roast into 2” thick steaks.  Lay the steaks on a platter and dust each side with the spice rub.  Set aside.

Heat some oil in large pan.  Add the potatoes and fry until crisp.  Remove and strain the oil.  Return to the pan of hot oil and fry until crisp again.  Stage the potatoes in an oven-proof serving dish in a 200°.

Add the hot coals to the grill and lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grill.  Spread the tomatillos and chiles across the foil.  Cover the grill. 

Start another batch of coals.  These will be added to the dwindling coals and will be added to the grill prior to grilling the steaks. 

Steam and grill the tomatillos and serrano chiles for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally.  Once the tomatillos become very soft, and slightly charred, pull them off the grill.  Remove the aluminum foil and discard.

Lay the half onion, yellow bell pepper and 3 serrano peppers on the grill.  Turn every few minutes until each have charred.  Pull the vegetables and reserve.

Reserve 2 of the chiles and the remaining tomatillos and chiles to a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Set aside.

Add the new batch of hot coals to the grill.  Carefully lay the steaks on the grill.  Sear and cook the steaks for 5 minutes.  Turn the steaks and grill on the other side for another 4 or 5 minutes.  Press the steaks with the side of your thumb for doneness.  If the steaks spring back, they’re done.  Remove the steaks and cover loosely with foil.  Stage in a 200° oven.

Prepare the sides… guacamole, lettuce, cilantro and refried beans.

Pull the steaks and potatoes from the oven.  Top the steaks with the charred onion, bell pepper and serrano chiles.   I sliced the steaks into slightly smaller pieces before serving.  Serve warm.

Shrimp Pizza (Extraordinaire)

When I think about making pizza I first consider the taste that I want.  Do I want something spicy, like pepperoni, or perhaps something more subdued, like ground beef?  Do I want a thick, rich, tomato sauce, or a thin whisper of tomato sauce?  Do I want bold herbs and spices?

After I decide on the taste, I start to think about the flavor.  Taste and flavor are not synonymous, even though we sometimes use taste and flavor interchangeably when describing food.  Flavor includes taste, texture and aroma, among other sensory experiences, like sight and sound.  Taste is like listening to a musical instrument and flavor is like listening to an orchestra.

I have made pizzas with shrimp before but none of them had the flavor I wanted, until now.  Charring yellow bell peppers provided a slightly sweet taste that green peppers can’t provide.  The garlic and onion, along with butter and oil made a fantastic sauce.  The overall flavor of the pizza was reminiscent of shrimp scampi, complete with a spritz of lemon juice.  Subtle use of herbs and spices rounded out the flavor nicely.  And of course, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella was the perfect choice to go with shrimp and the vegetables. 

This was a pizza symphony!

Ingredients:

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp red chili flakes

½ tsp salt

1 cup raw medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 Tbs butter

3 Tbs olive oil

5 cloves garlic, mashed

1 orange bell pepper

1 white onion

1 medium sized tomato, chopped

Juice of ¼ lemon

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Crush the oregano, chile flakes and salt in mortis and pestle.  Set aside.

Butterfly the shrimp and flatten them with the broad side of a chef’s knife.  Set aside.

Add butter and oil to a skillet.  Set the burner to very low heat.

Mash the garlic cloves and add them to the skillet.  Simmer at very low heat for 3 to 4 minutes.  The garlic should be soft, but not browned.  Remove the garlic to a cutting board.  Mash the garlic into a paste. Set the garlic aside.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the shrimp to skillet and simmer, while stirring.  Cook the shrimp until they just begin to turn pink.  Remove the shrimp from the skillet and keep warm.

Pour the hot butter and oil from the pan into a small bowl and set aside.  Return the skillet to the stove and set the heat to high.

Add the bell pepper and onion to the skillet and sauté at high heat until they begin to char. 

Add the chopped tomato and stir briefly.  Remove everything from the skillet and set aside.

Prebake the pizza dough in a 400° oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove the pizza and place on a heat proof surface.

Pour the butter/oil mixture on prebaked pizza dough.  Use a brush to thoroughly coat the dough.

Blot excess oil from the pizza with a paper towel.

Sprinkle ½ cup of the grated Parmesan cheese onto the dough.

Add charred bell peppers and onion.  Add the garlic paste.

Top with the shrimp.

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the pizza.

Add ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. 

Layer with slices of mozzarella.

Scatter the crushed oregano, chile flake and salt across the top of the pizza.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400°, or until the cheese bubbles and begins to brown.

Grilled Chicken Wings

Summer is just around the corner and winter rules no longer apply!  Winter rules, as it relates to wings, call for fried or baked chicken wings.  The heat of the oven is wonderul in the colder months but now, with temperatures reaching over 90°, I want to cook outdoors, whenever possible.  

This weekend has brought a heavy dose of hot sun and no rain, so grilling is a great option!

I thought long and hard about the dry rub and sauce for the wings.  The small amount of ghost pepper powder worked well in the rub because the grilling process nearly removed all of its spiciness.  The vinegar, apricot jam and hot sauce balanced perfectly.  These were not crazy hot, like I am prone to do.  They were sweet with a hint of heat.

Ingredients:

For the wings:

2 Tbs garlic powder

2 Tbs paprika

2 Tbs dried thyme

1 tsp ghost pepper powder (or cayenne pepper)

For the basting sauce:

½ cup apricot jam

½ cup hot sauce

3 Tbs butter

2 Tbs vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

3 cloves roasted garlic

Directions:

Heat an outdoor grill to 400°.  I used charcoal with a few small chips of mesquite, for a little smoky flavor.

Mix the garlic powder, paprika, thyme and ghost pepper powder in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Rinse and wash the chicken wings under cold water.  Remove any quills that might be lingering on the wing tips (I always find a few).

Allow the wings to air-dry for 10 to 15 minutes.

Prepare the basting sauce by adding all of the sauce ingredients to a mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Pour the sauce into a small skillet and cook at low/medium heat until the sauce begins to bubble.  Cook for a few more minutes and return to the mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Toss the wings with the seasonings in a large bowl to coat evenly.

Carefully place the wings on the grill and cover.  Go ahead, bunch them together.  This is one of those times that crowding is a good thing.  The wings will steam and roast, at the same time.

Grill for 15 minutes and turn the wings over.

Grill for another 15 minutes and turn them again.  Baste the wings with the sauce.

Let the wings roast over the coals for another 15 minutes and turn them again.  Baste one last time and roast for another 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken wings and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add any remaining basting sauce and toss to coat the wings.

Serve with crisp carrot sticks and ranch dressing.

I added a little fresh cilantro from the garden because, hey, I’ve got fresh cilantro!

Pizza Fiorentina (Spinach Pizza)

A near perfect combination of rain balanced with ample sunshine have provided me with lots of garden-fresh spinach and basil. 

The tomatoes are on their way and I can’t wait!

Fresh spinach is such a joy!  As a child, I never liked spinach but that’s because spinach came in a can, back then.  Canned spinach is a sad, soggy misrepresentation of what spinach is meant to be.  Fresh spinach isn’t bitter, like the canned version and it’s crammed with vitamins and minerals. 

I have been feasting on spinach salads for over a week now and the garden is outpacing my consumption.  Must eat more spinach!

So, with that in mind, I find myself including it in more and more dishes.

Today’s culinary excursion took me to Italy, Florence, to be precise.  ‘Florentine’ is an adjective that is used to describe many things.  To fight Florentine style is to use a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, but I’m not a fighter.  My passion is food and preparing food, Florentine style, often refers to the use of spinach in the dish. 

Pizza Fiorentina speciale!  Mama mia!

I’m making three pizzas today.  Two showcase spinach and one is an Italian meat extravaganza.  The spinach pizzas are made with garlic infused olive oil, rather than a traditional marinara sauce. 

I recommend using fresh spinach for the pizzas.  Frozen spinach can be used by it must be squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible…and for pity’s sake, don’t use canned spinach!  Use homemade pizza dough, or store-bought pizza crust. 

Homemade pizza dough

Pizza Fiorentina (Pizza Florentine)

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup fresh spinach, rough chopped

½ cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1 Tbs dried oregano

1 tsp red chile flakes (optional)

1 ½ cups grated mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil, to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan over low heat.  Simmer and stir for a few minutes until the garlic softens. 

Strain the garlic and reserve the olive oil.

Chop and mash the garlic.  Return the garlic to the olive oil and set aside.

Combine ricotta and Parmesan cheese, spinach, oregano and red chile flakes.  Mix to combine.

Prepare the pizza dough.

Spread the olive oil and garlic on the pizza dough and bake in a 425° oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the pizza crust and add the cheese mixture, spreading the mixture evenly across the pizza crust.  Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. 

Remove the pizza from the oven.  Top with fresh basil.  Slice the pizza and serve hot.

Pizza con Varietà Di Salumi (Pizza with a variety of cured meats)

This pizza features thinly sliced pepperoni salami, hot capocollo and hot calabrese. 

Ingredients:

6 oz cured Italian meats (pepperoni salami, hot capocollo and hot calabrese)

1 cup marinara

2 cups mozzarella

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Prebake the pizza crust, if making from scratch. 

Add marina, followed by the meats and then the cheese.

Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Remove the pizza, slice and serve hot.

Pizza Spinaci all’Aglio (Pizza with Spinach and Garlic)

In its purest form, this pizza is nothing but olive oil, garlic, spinach and cheese but, I added a few other items to add sweetness and flavor.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs olive oil

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 fresh tomato, sliced thin and marinated in olive oil and oregano for 30 minutes

1 cup fire roasted yellow bell pepper, chopped

¼ cup fresh onion, thinly sliced

2 cups fresh spinach, rough chopped

1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese

½ cups Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, to taste

Directions:

Simmer the garlic in olive oil over low heat until the garlic softens.  Strain the garlic, chop and mash and add back to the olive oil.

Roast the bell pepper over an open flame or over hot coals. I laid the pepper on top of the gas burner and set the heat to the lowest setting. I rotated the pepper every few minutes until the whole pepper was charred.

Store the pepper in a paper or plastic bag for a few minutes to steam.

Remove the pepper and wipe away the charred skin, under cool running water. Dice the pepper and reserve.

Spread the olive oil mixture onto the raw pizza crust.  Allow the oil to soak into the dough for about one minute and then blot with a paper towel, to remove excess oil.

Add tomatoes, bell peppers and onion.

Bake at 425° for 10 minutes.  Remove pizza crust and add the spinach.  Top with mozzarella and Parmesan.

Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Remove the pizza from the oven, top with fresh basil.  Serve immediately.

Crunchy Fried Shrimp

As you might recall from my previous post, I purchased 3 pounds of fresh shrimp a few days ago.  I used half of the shrimp in the Camarones ala Diabla but, what did I do with the other half?

Well, to be honest, the Camarones ala Diabla was intended solely for me.  I made it fiery hot, just as I like, and it was only fair that I made a second entrée for everyone else. 

The tangy sauce complemented the crispy shrimp perfectly.

Crunchy Shrimp Tacos

Who can resist fried shrimp?  Even people who don’t love shrimp will sample a little, when it’s fried.

Ingredients for the garden filling:

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

3 green onions, diced,

1 large carrot, matchstick cut

1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and diced

½ cup fresh spinach, chopped

¼ cup bell pepper, diced

Ingredients for the sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

3 Tbs spicy ketchup (chili sauce)

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp cumin powder

Ingredients for the fried shrimp:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 large egg

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

Two dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce (less than ¼ tsp)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 lime, quartered

1.5  pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 flour tortillas (homemade this time)

Directions:

Prepare the garden filling by chopping, dicing and slicing all of the ingredients.  Toss in a bowl and squirt a little lime juice over the top and mix briefly.  Set aside.

Prepare the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, flour, cornstarch, egg, Sriracha, Maggi sauce and salt and pepper, to taste.  This will be the batter for the shrimp.

Add some Panko breadcrumbs to a separate bowl.

Working one at a time, dip the shrimp into the batter, then dredge in Panko breadcrumbs, pressing to coat.

Add the shrimp to the skillet, one at a time and cook until golden and crispy. This only takes 2 or 3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Assemble the tacos by smearing some sauce on a tortilla, adding a small handful of garden filling and topping with several shrimp and a few squirts of lime.

Serve with rice and beans.

Sticky Wings and Crispy Rice

This was a fun thing to work on while ‘Zooming’ with distant family members.  If I counted correctly, we had 10 people on the Zoom call, along with cameos from our various pets. 

Chicken wings are easy to make, especially if they are baked in the oven. You can use any type of sauce imaginable for the wings, which makes wings an exciting go-to recipe for a weekend afternoon.

This time, I went for an Asian flair. 

Ingredients:

2.5 lbs chicken wings (about 20 drummets and mid-joints)

1 Tbs cooking oil

2 Tbs sliced ginger

6 garlic cloves, mashed

2 cups broccoli, chopped

1 white onion

3 small carrots

3 jalapeños, seeds removed

¼ cup cooking oil

2 cups cooked rice (day-old rice is best)

Asian sauce (Ingredients shown below)

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/3 cup ketchup

1/3 cup apricot preserves

3 Tbs soy sauce

2 Tbs Sriracha sauce

2 Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 ½ tsp oyster sauce

½ tsp fish sauce

Directions:

Rinse the chicken wings in cold, clean water.  Allow the wings to air dry for about 20 minutes.  Pat them dry with a paper towel and place them on a parchment paper covered backing tray.  Bake at 400° for 30 minutes and then turn them over to brown on the other side.  Turn the oven down to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the skin on the wings have crisped.

While the wings are baking, prepare the sauce. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Pour into a sauce pan and simmer for about 10 minutes at low heat. Whisk the sauce while it cooks. Return the sauce to the bowl and set aside.

Cut the vegetables.  I went for long and slender pieces this time so that meant julienne cuts on the onion and jalapeño and match stick cuts for the carrots.  Set the vegetables aside.

Take the cooked rice and add it to a mixing bowl.  Add about ¼ cup cooking oil and thoroughly mix the rice by hand.  All of the grains of rice should glisten when mixed properly. 

Add the rice to a large skillet.  Do not add oil.  Spread the rice out evenly over the bottom of the skillet and cook at low/medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.  Do not stir! 

Turn the rice over after about 5 minutes and crisp the other side.  The rice should turn light brown.  Turn the heat off after 4 or 5 minutes.  Keep the rice on the stove top while the vegetables are cooked.

In a wok, add 1 Tbs cooking oil and the ginger and garlic.  Simmer at low heat for about a minute.  Remove the ginger and garlic, (before the garlic browns).  Set the ginger and garlic aside.

Add the broccoli pieces to the wok.  Set heat to low and stir-fry briefly.

Cover the broccoli with a lid, or aluminum foil.  Steam the broccoli for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the broccoli to a bowl and cover.

Add the carrots to the wok and turn the heat up to medium.  Stir fry for a few minutes and then add the onion and jalapeño.  Chop some of the cooked ginger and garlic and add it the wok.  I added about 2 tablespoons of ginger and garlic. Add the broccoli and stir briefly.

Pull the wings from the oven and add them to a large mixing bowl.  Pour the Asian sauce over the wings and toss to coat.  Add the wings to a serving platter.

Arrange the crispy rice and stir-fried vegetables on another platter. 

Serve with plenty of napkins.  The wings are going to very sticky!