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 Beef Brisket

Brisket 1

Everybody has a brisket recipe, and they are all delicious. Some have exotic ingredients such as grape jelly, cranberry sauce, chili sauce, etc. Here’s mine; it is pretty basic. This is cold weather comfort food.

Ingredients

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 first-cut beef brisket (I used a grass-fed one) about 5 LBS

5 yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks celery cut in 1 inch pieces

4 clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, and cut in half

½ tsp dried thyme

1 TBS chopped fresh rosemary

3 TBS chopped fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef stock or broth

½ cup of apple cider vinegar

1 14 OZ can of chopped tomatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

Recipe

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wipe the brisket with paper towels, and generously salt and pepper it. In a large oven-proof lidded casserole heat oil over medium high heat and carefully brown brisket without burning until it is nicely browned. Remove meat and put it on a platter. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté, stirring regularly until they are browned.

Add the wine, stock, vinegar and tomatoes and the herbs.

Bring to a simmer, put the meat on top, cover tightly and put it in the oven for about 3 ½ to 4 hours, depending on the size of your meat (grass fed seems to need a bit more time in the braise.) Some recipes have you turn it or baste it. This seems like extra work to me. I check it once at the half-way mark to make sure there is enough liquid in it.

When it is tender take it out and let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes until it is cool enough to cut pieces across the grain. Better yet, put the whole thing in the fridge and serve it the next day or two.

The traditional way is to serve it with potato pancakes, which is mighty tasty, but some extra work.

I served these with fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans. A sturdy red wine (perhaps a Cote de Rhone or something from Spain) would not be out of place.

brisket 2

 

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

 

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)

If life gives you basil, make pesto!

PestoWe had about as perfect a day as we ever get here in the Berkshires. Not too hot, not too cold, not humid, not windy, lots of sunshine and birdsong, and to top it all off, my little herb garden was yielding the first crop of basil. Welcome summer!

I have made more than my share of pesto in a variety of ways, and they all taste pretty great. The key is fresh basil and good olive oil and cheese.

Here’s my basic recipe, which works with a pound of pasta. I have used many different pasta shapes. My favorite is fettuccine, which I have learned is traditional in Genoa, where pesto originates (they call it trenette there).

Recipe:

2 cups basil leaves, the bigger ones torn in pieces

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS pine nuts

1-2 cloves of peeled and lightly crushed garlic (according to taste)

Salt to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

3 TBS freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 LB pasta of your choice

 

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and cook your pasta al dente

Meanwhile, put the first 5 ingredients in the food processor and  puree them.

Pour them into a large bowl and add the two grated cheeses, blending them with a wooden spoon.

As you cook the pasta save a few TBS of the cooking water and use it to thin out the pesto. Toss it all together and grind some black pepper on it. If you want to get fancy throw  1 or 2 TBS of softened butter into it just before you serve it.

Any crisp dry white wine will taste great with it. We had an Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc with it tonight, because that was what was in the fridge. Enjoy!

(Photo: R. L. Floyd )

Why I love Wisconsin

Thanks to Google Analytics and other widgets and whistles I can see where the visitors to my blog come from. On days when I have too much time on my hands (like when the Red Sox don’t advance in the playoffs, for example) I can entertain myself by analyzing the patterns of visits.

The state with the most visits is, as one might expect, Massachusetts, where I live and move and have my being, as do many of my friends and family. Other states with good representation include some of the adjacent New England states, Maine, especially, where my brother and his family live.

But one demographic that has been a surprise is the number of visitors I get from Wisconsin. Now I do have some family in Wisconsin, and a number of friends, which might account for some of it. But I have another theory about why I get so many visits from Wisconsin. My blog is mostly about theology and secondarily about food, and Wisconsinites apparently like both theology and food.

Here’s the evidence. I first noticed a big spike in Wisconsin traffic after I posted my first recipe (for chicken enchiladas) and I figured this was because it was laden with cheese. I don’t think of Wisconsin as a hotbed of Tex-Mex cusine, but apparently the cheese carries the day, for the same thing happened when I posted my shrimp saganaki recipe (also laden with cheese.) Two of my Facebook friends reposted the saganaki recipe, both from Wisconsin. Coincidence? I don’t think so. So food in general and cheese in particular seem to be a factor. Not much Wisconsin traffic on my mussels recipe, but then again, not many mussels there either.

Now I know that Wisconsin folks like their chow, and they have some good chow to like. And it is not just the cheese, although that is a wonderful thing. They have a whole pork fat love thing going for them, too. I once went to Mader’s, a German restaurant in Milwaukee, and ate a pork shank that could be barely contained on a platter nearly as big as home plate. And for Christmas my Wisconsin in-laws sent us this applewood smoked bacon from Nueske’s that makes it hard to eat any other bacon ever again (but I force myself.)

I’ve been visiting Wisconsin since my college days in the sixties when I went to Coe College in nearby Iowa. My first trip was with the Coe choir, when we did a concert in Janesville. We stayed with host families, and my roommate and I stayed with some lovely people of modest means, and it was clear that the bed we shared was our hosts’ and they had slept on a couch to extend us hospitality. That kind of hospitality impressed me, and I still think of Wisconsin as a hospitable place.

I’ve been back there several times since college days. When my brother-in-law went to Badger U to get his law degree I returned to Madison to visit for his graduation (he reminds me that I commented that I didn’t recognize the place without the smell of tear gas in the air) and I came back a few years later for his marriage as he settled down there to stay. I had my first beer and brats dinner there with him. He’s become such a Wisconsinite that he’s even abandoned his once beloved Patriots for the Packers, but I guess “when in Rome” and all that.

Anyway, I think my theory about food and theology makes a certain sense. First of all, Wisconsin is a farming state, and so good food is an important part of it’s life. To celebrate this they have lots of “fests” in Wisconsin: Oktoberfest, Summerfest, German Fest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, not to mention Cheese Days, and the ever-popular Brat Days in Sheboygan.

And the interest in theology makes sense, too, as 85% of the population are Christian, of which 55% are Protestant and 29% are Roman Catholic. And the Christians in Wisconsin aren’t theologically lazy latitudinarians like so many of us here in New England, but folks who approach doctrine with a certain rigor, like the Lutherans, who make up 23% of the population. Lutherans care enough about doctrine to split over it sometimes, so there are three good-sized Lutheran tribes there.

Even my own United Church of Christ, which comprises but 2% of the population of Wisconsin, displays significantly more interest in theology there than in most places I know.

So to all my Wisconsin blog readers who enjoy good food and good theology, thank you for your support, and keep up the good work. On Wisconsin!

Chef Hats off to Julie and Julia!

If you haven’t seen the film Julie and Julia yet you must.By now you probably know that it is based on two books, My Life in France (which I have read) by Julia Child and her nephew, and Julie/Julia (which I have not), by Julie Powell that grew out of a blog by Powell in 2002, in which she attempted to cook every recipe in Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year.Both books are getting a bump from the movie and are on the NYTimes best seller list.

The film interweaves the two stories, and although some critics have a point that the Childs’ sections overshadow the Powell sections, the result is engaging and lots of fun.The incomparable Meryll Streep once again demonstrates her powers as a conjurer by becoming Julia Child, the lilting voice, the stoop ofa too-tall woman, the goofy charm, it’s all there and it is something to behold.Stanley Tucci is wonderful as her husband Paul, and the chemistry between these two is terrific to watch.Would that any of us could have that much fun together

Of course, the real star of this movie is the food, as you see Julia and Paul eat their way through France, and Julie (played capably by charming Amy Adams), cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her upstairs apartment over a pizza parlor. The movie gets a little overly mystical for my tastes about Julie’s imagined bond with Julia, but after a year of cooking her recipes Julie is entitled to be a little off balanced.

So this one goes on my list of other favorite foodie movies with Eat, Drink, Man, Woman; Like Water for Chocolate; Babette’s Feast; and Tampopo. Foodie friends tell me I must see Big Night and it’s on my list.

Yesterday I pulled my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking off the cookbook bookcase and noticed it is a first edition. It was given to me by my late Aunt Tia (Grace Louise Forster, aka Brownie Boghosian). It is a Book Club edition, so I am pretty sure she got it from The Book of the Month Club.I have both volumes with their dust jackets and they are in pretty good shape, since Tia didn’t cook very much and was pretty neat when she did (like my mom she was a librarian.) I, on the other hand, who also take good care of my books but give cookbooks a big exemption, have left pinot noir stains on both the Boeuf Bourguignon and the Coq au Vin (photo below) pages.

In addition to these two provincial classics, I have made Julia’s Cassoulet, and all three of these dishes are delicious, labor intensive, time consuming, and laden with butter. The Cassoulet takes several days to digest,

Julia’s later book, The Way to Cook, has simplified recipes, but loses some of the joi de vivre (along with the butter) of the original.I have made her “Zinfandel of Beef,” an updated and simplified Boeuf Bourguignon, and it is delicious, but not nearly as sumptious as the original, in which you braise onions and mushrooms separately and add them to the final dish at the end.

In today’s NYTimes Book Review Mastering the Art of French Cooking is now number one on the Hardcover Advice and How-To List, which means it will be taking up space on many a kitchen bookshelf for years to come.For those who actually open it and try to cook from it be warned. It is a great cookbook and deserves its reputation, but Julia was not fooling around.

The movie makes Julie’s attempt to cook all the recipes seem pretty grueling, but I suspect the reality was even more daunting.These recipes take time, thought, care, attention, good ingredients and love.There are no shortcuts.They yield wonderful results.

And in many ways Mastering is an artifact from another age.It is not only French cooking made accessible for Americans, it is French cooking from 1960. A lot has changed since then, and even the French don’t cook this way much anymore.

But it is still wonderful, so hats off to Julia for being Julia, and also to Julie for sparking a new interest for another generation in this great cuisine and the oversized personality that brought it to America.

(all photos: R.L. Floyd)