Grilled Hoisin Sauce/lime juice/Sambal Olek marinated shrimp

shrimpWe often grill shrimp in the summer for a quick dinner. I have no single recipe, but many of my variations utilize the wonderful fresh flavors of Asia.

Here’s a marinade that people seem to enjoy:

1 TBS Hoisin Sauce

Juice of ½ of a lime

1 TSP hot pepper sauce. I like Sambal Olek or Sriracha sauce, but you can use Tabasco or Franks’s

1 TSP peanut oil

1 TSP sesame oil

1 TSP good soy sauce

Whisk it all together and marinate your cleaned and deveined shrimp for no more than a half an hour.

Thread the shrimp on skewers.

Prepare a hot fire. Cook the shrimp 3 or 4 minutes to a side.

Serve over rice or (as in this photo) lovely cold sesame noodles.

(Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2016)

Rick’s Shrimp and Sweet Pea Risotto

RisottoRisotto is a nice change from pasta, and it is not hard to make if you are attentive during the half hour or so you need to watch and stir the rice. For special events we make a rich and decadent Risotto ala Milanese with our Osso Bucco.  This recipe is a bit of a lighter tweak on that, without the Parmesan cheese and extra butter. If you use  frozen shrimp and peas  this can be pulled out of the larder, and you can make it in under an hour on a weeknight. And it is very good! Continue reading

Rick’s Chicken and Shellfish Paella

Paella

My seminary classmate Carlos Diaz gave us a paella pan and the Time-Life Cooking of Spain cookbook for a wedding present. That was forty years ago and paella has been a mainstay of my kitchen for special events. I made one last night for a family birthday.

The original Time-Life recipe was a lovely Valencia style paella with some not very authentic ingredients such as lobster. Paella was originally a humble peasant dish of saffron infused rice with whatever fresh vegetables and fish or game that was available.

This elaborate Valencia style paella is the one most Americans know from restaurants. This is my take on it with four decades of my tweaks. It is pretty labor intensive, but a fun project in the kitchen, and the results are unfailingly crowd-pleasing. Serves six with generous portions. Continue reading

Rick’s salade niçoise

Nicoise

As the weather warms up it’s time for a hearty dinner salad. Some friends of ours served us a lovely salade niçoise a few weeks ago and then last week I was at a bistro in Boston and one of my dining companions ordered a good-looking one. It seemed as if it was calling to me to make it since it has been a long time, and I knew I had some nice cooked French beans and some cooked Yukon gold potatoes leftover from a supper a couple of days ago. So the only thing I actually had to cook were the hard-boiled eggs. There are nearly endless variations of this. Here’s mine:

The Ingredients

A few leaves of washed lettuce or other greens (I used Romaine since I had some)

1 can of good quality oil-packed tuna, drained

Some cooked small potatoes such as Yukon Gold sliced.

About 8 good quality canned anchovy fillets, rinsed and drained

½ cup good black olives, such as (duh) niçoise, or kalamata

8 oz. cooked French beans (haricot verts) or green beans

4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Thinly sliced red onion (or scallions)

Coarsely chopped good fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes halved

Capers and fresh herbs (parley, basil or tarragon are nice) for garnish

Some sliced radishes for color (I didn’t have any)

The Vinaigrette

4 TBS red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil (French evoo is nice if you can find it and afford it)

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced

½ TBS Dijon mustard

¼ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 TBS finely chopped parley

Putting it together

Whisk the dressing ingredients and put it aside. Assemble the salad on a platter starting with the greens, the tuna, the potatoes, the beans, the egg slices, the onion, the tomatoes, the anchovies, the capers and herbs. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, a few turns of the pepper mill, and serve.

It’s a meal on a plate. Get yourself some good bread, some Provençal rosé and “Robert est votre oncle!”

(Photo: © R. L. Floyd, 2015) If you see an ad here it is WordPress doing their mercantile thing, over which I have no control. This has always been, and will continue to be, a non-commercial site.

Veal chops with mushroom Marsala sauce

Vealchops

I saw these beautiful veal loin chops at my local market. One of my wife’s go-to meals in a good Italian restaurant is veal Marsala, which is made from very thin scallops of veal. Why not use these same wonderful flavors for chops? This recipe is for two, but it can be easily doubled.

Ingredients

2 TBS unsalted butter (divided)

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2 veal loin chops, about an inch thick.

Flour for dredging.

8 OZ white button mushrooms, quartered.

¾ cup dry Marsala wine.

½ cup beef stock

Salt and pepper.

Recipe

Start heating a no-stick pan over high heat. While you heat the pan dry the chops with paper towels and salt and pepper them. When the pan is hot add 1 TBS olive oil and 1 TBS butter.

When the butter and oil foam, dredge the chops in flour, and put in pan. You want to brown them but not burn them. When they are a golden brown remove to a plate and put in your mushrooms and saute’ them until they give up their juices. Splash in the Marsala and the stock, stir and keep them simmering for a minute or two to reduce a little.

Return the chops to the pan and cover. Turn down the heat. You want a gentle simmer to finish cooking the chops. Depending on the thickness of your chops and the heat source this will take between 8 and 12 minutes. You can flip them over about half way through.

When they are done remove them to a plate. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens a bit and is almost syrupy. Turn the heat off and add the remaining TBS of butter and stir. When it is blended into the sauce pour it over the chops and serve.

I served this over buttered noodles with a tossed green salad and a nice red wine from Italy.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Cardamom, Garlic and Prunes

Lamb shanks 1

We love braises in the winter such as osso buco and short ribs, but I had never made lamb shanks before, although I had enjoyed many good ones in restaurants. The only exotic part of this is the cardamom, which I have on hand because of my Indian and Moroccan cooking. You can find these in any Asian market, and some super markets, and it is worth it to find them for this dish.

This dish is pure comfort food.

2 TBs olive oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large onion sliced
2 carrots sliced
10 cloves of garlic peeled and squashed
The seeds from 7 green cardamom pods, ground with a mortar and pestle
1 cup dried pitted prunes.
3 cups beef stock

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You need a wide oven-proof casserole with a lid for this one. Brown the shanks in the olive oil until they are nicely brown, about ten minutes. Remove the shanks, and put the onions and carrots in the casserole and saute for about ten minutes until brown. Add the garlic and cardoman, and cook for another minute or two stirring. Then add the prunes and beef stock, put the shanks back in and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven for about two hours.

Serve with crusty bread or couscous. And a robust red wine such as a Spanish tempranillo or a Cote de Rhone.

Lamb shanks 2

(Photos by R. L. Floyd)

When life gives you beets, make borscht!

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The weather changes quickly here in New England in the Fall. A month or so ago it was hot and humid, and now we are having regular killing frosts and frigid mornings. Which means that the time has arrived for soups and stews and braises.

At the farmers’ market the green things have all been replaced by root vegetables. The other day Martha came home with five lovely beets, and some beautiful carrots. So it was time to make borscht.

There are innumerable recipes for borscht and endless debates about whether it should have meat in it, and whether it should be served hot or cold. There is no right answer to these questions, and I think it depends on the season, but when it gets cold outside I want my borscht hot and with meat.

So here’s my take on a hot, meaty borscht. Our moms would have used a shin bone or a short rib, let it cool, and skimmed the fat off it, but I just use lean chuck. You could buy it already cut up for stew, but I prefer to buy a small roast and cut my own.

5 beets
1 lb. beef chuck, trimmed of fat, and cut in 1and 1/2 inch cubes
All-purpose flour for dredging meat
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 32 oz. container of good beef broth or your own stock
1 28 oz. can of whole plum tomatoes
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
½ small head of cabbage (I used green but red is nice, too) shredded.
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish
Snipped fresh dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim and scrub (but don’t peel) the beets. Wrap them each in aluminum foil, place them on a cookie sheet (they’ll leak), and cook in the oven for 70 minutes.

While the beets are roasting prepare the rest of the soup. I make this in my big cast-iron Dutch oven, but any heavy-bottomed pot big enough to hold the soup will do. Heat the pot over medium high heat. Add the oil. Dredge the beef cubes in flour and add and stir, watching the heat so you don’t burn the flour, until the cubes are all nice and brown. Add the stock or broth and the tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in carrots, celery, onion, cabbage and bay leaf to the pot, cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

When the beets are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them, slice them, and quarter the slices, saving a few whole slices to put on the top of each serving bowl. I should warn you to wear an apron, and do this over the sink, since these beets will give off a lot of juice and you’ll be having a Lady Macbeth caught “red-handed” kind of experience.

Stir the beets into the pot with the vinegar and cook for 30 minutes or until the beets are tender, but still have some firmness to them. You may have to add some more stock or water to thin it out.

When the beets are tender, remove bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, then put the borscht into bowls, add a generous dollop of sour cream, and garnish with snipped fresh dill. My friend Bev Langeveld, who with her husband Martin, once years ago ran a country inn here in the Berkshires told me that they made borscht once there and stirred in the sour cream and nobody would eat it because it came out the color of Pepto Bismol. So with that cautionary tale in mind let each diner stir in his or her own. Serve with crusty bread, and enjoy!

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

Rick’s Gooey Inauthentic Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

These are a family favorite, but they have no claim to any regional authenticity. For one thing, I use flour rather than corn tortillas, and for another I load them with sauce, and to add further insult, they are also much bigger than usual since I use burrito-size tortillas.

For shortcuts you can use leftover chicken (or turkey) or buy a rotisserie chicken and chop it up. For the salsa you could use good jarred salsa. I use 2-cup packages of Mexican-blend grated cheese, but you can grate Cheddar (not sharp) or Monterey Jack. Be alerted that you will need a really big baking pan to get these big boys all in. I use my roasting pan. You could do it in two pans if you need to. Feeds eight normal people (or four Floyds)

Ingredients

For the filling:

8 Burrito-size flour tortillas

2 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 large chopped white onion

12 oz homemade or jarred salsa

1 cup of grated cheese (Mexican blend, cheddar, or Monterey jack)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

4 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp ground cumin (cominos)

1Tbsp chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo (optional, makes it pretty hot)

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice

2 garlic gloves chopped

2 tsp dried oregano

1 cup grated cheese

chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

chopped Romaine or Iceberg lettuce

To make the sauce:Make the sauce first, because it needs to cook down a bit.In a two-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and stir in the garlic and oregano for a few seconds being careful not to burn it.Add the chili powder and cumin and stir constantly for about a minute until you get a thick paste.Then slowly drizzle in the stock while stirring.You want to incorporate the other-ingredients into the stock.Stir in the tomatoes and the chipotles and bring the pot to a boil, then turn your heat down to get a good simmer.Let the sauce simmer and cook down while you assemble the enchiladas.It will not thicken too much, but don’t worry since it will spend another half hour in the oven.

To assemble the enchiladas:In a large mixing bowl mix chicken, onion, salsa, and 1 cup cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a large baking pan. Put a tortilla on a plate and fill with one-eighth of the filling, rolling each of them one at a time, and placing each of them into the baking pan with the seam side down to hold them together.

To cook.Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas so that it moistens the tops of all the tortillas.Sprinkle 1 cup grated cheese over the top of the enchiladas, and put the pan uncovered into the oven for 30 minutes.Remove the enchiladas from the oven and let them sit for 5 minutes.With a spatula put an enchilada on each plate, put chopped lettuce on either side of it, and sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

Where I Ruminate on My Long Love Affair with Food

I love food. I love to cook it, and I love to eat it, especially my own.

Mom and Dad both cooked. It wasn’t haut cuisine, but it was pretty healthy and had variety. I was born in 1949 so my earliest days in memory are in the fifties, not a heyday for American cookery. We had our share of frozen potpies and TV dinners and Mrs. Paul’s fish-sticks, but more often it was a home-cooked meal. My mother was a Midwesterner, so it was pretty simple with not a lot of seasoning. But she did have a well-worn copy of M.F.K. Fisher’s “How to Cook a Wolf” on her shelf, which was pretty avant-garde in those days. Fisher, Elizabeth David, and, of course, the incomparable Julia Child, were bringing back dispatches from the front about such exotica as olive oil and fresh garlic.

My favorite food was my mother’s friend chicken, which was a company dish. I remember fat pork roasts you couldn’t buy today for love nor money, with an inch of fat on the outside, and cooked ‘til it was gray for fear of trichinosis. The Sunday roast appeared mysteriously throughout the week in various guises and disguises. My Mom’s pork roast would supply the main ingredient for my Dad’s Pork Chop Suey or Chow Mein. That was exotica in the days before Szechuan and Hunan restaurants, when all American Chinese food was faux Cantonese. We had mac and cheese and ham steaks and haddock (frozen) that Mom would roll in corn meal and fry.

We seldom went out because it was expensive. When we did it was for pizza at an Italian bar called the Antlers (this was North Jersey) or to Westwood to the Cantonese place, where my Dad would always silently issue a “winner take all” challenge to the poor waiter with the water pitcher. Or for a real treat we might get the clam strip roll at Howard Johnson.In those days, at least in my house, there was no extra virgin (or any) olive oil, no kosher salt, no pepper mill (that came ground from Durkees), no fresh garlic, no cilantro, no jalapeno peppers, no garam masala, or Hungarian paprika. Cheese was typically Longhorn cheddar. Steak was chuck and cooked gray. Pasta was spaghetti with red sauce from a jar, with some browned ground beef in it.

My parents didn’t drink when we were growing up, so the first wine I recall having was the sweet Portugese rose, Mateus, that was the rage when I was in college.I started cooking when I was a young adult in the years before I married. It started with a simple spaghetti sauce or chili con carne. I added a spinach loaf that was mainly frozen spinach and crumbled Saltines.

When Martha and I were married our friends the Handspicker’s gave us a copy of Fannie Farmer’s Cook Book as a wedding present. That was my first cookbook, and I made my way through it and added more dishes to my repertoire: sauerbraten, shish kabob, and variety of soups, chowders, and stews. Martha gave me Joy of Cooking in our early days and I added still more. We moved to Bangor in 1979 and they didn’t have a decent Chinese rerstaurant, so I went to the Bangor Public Library and found Joyce Chen’s Cookbook and taught myself rudimentary Chinese cooking. There was a little Vietnamese place with a small market, and I found tree ears and tiger lily blossoms to make hot and sour soup.

I discovered other cookbook authors: Julia Child, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Madhar Jaffrey, and Marion Cunningham. I made tandoori chicken and turkey enchiladas, paella and ratatouille. I discovered wine can be tasty. I still remember Arthur and Anne Perkins coming to dinner and bringing a bottle of Cabernet from Rutherford, and it was a revelation. In 1980 Martha and I went to Sonoma County to visit my college friend John Kwitkor, who worked for winemaker David Stare at Dry Creek Vineyards. John took us up and down the county, tasting and eating and having a ball.When our children arrived on the scene a few years later they landed in a culinary household far different from the one I grew up in. They ate tofu with scallions in oyster sauce regularly, and curries with raita, which Rebecca called “cucumber white.” When they were four and six we dragged them off to Oxford, England, for a term, and they ate pakoras and samosas, Scotch eggs and Cornish pasties, scones with jam and cucumber sandwiches with no crusts.

On a plane ride back in the days of airline food the flight attendant asked the woman next to my son Andrew, then about age five, which entrée she would like, one of the choices being coq au vin. “What is that?” she asked. “It’s chicken, Mam,” my little guy answered. When my daughter returned from Oxford she started in kindergarten again here in the states, and early in the year the children were all asked to name their favorite food. There was lots of pizza, pasta, and hamburgers represented, but the teacher got a big charge out of Rebecca’s choice: tandoori chicken.

This little culinary autobiography was prompted by Michael Pollan’s piece in the New York Times Magazine last week about food, where he writes about how we are becoming spectators of food rather than makers of it.

I still make food. Every day. I don’t do it to be virtuous, but because I enjoy it. I enjoy making it for others and sharing it with them. As a pastor for thirty years I know the joy of celebrating the sacraments with a community. There is a near-sacramental quality about a meal well-prepared and presented and enjoyed with family and friends. I often take pictures of the foods I make for a “cookbook” that maybe someday will be Christmas presents for my family (the pictures in this blog are all of things I have made).

My parents didn’t make fancy food, but they made good food, and from them I learned the joy of the table, about taking your time, and enjoying your food and the company and the conversation. We all know we need food to live, but I believe we also have a deep hunger for this larger communal experience of which food is just one part, albeit an important one. To me food takes time, thought, and creativity so it becomes something to celebrate and not just to eat.
(Photos from top: Grilled shrimp with uncooked basil tomato sauced pasta; Littleneck clams with black bean sauce; Portuguese Cataplana; Korean BBQ’d Flanken Beef Short Ribs. Photos by R.L. Floyd)