Zesty Shrimp Salad

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So while I have been cooking up a storm these past few months, I haven’t been posting the recipes — shame on me and I forgot how fun it is to share good food with everyone!  Well this is one recipe I have made over and over with several variations; it has become a go-to appetizer for potlucks and an easy make-ahead meal.  Since I have promised to send the recipe to a few people, what better time than to finally create a new blog post.

This Zesty Shrimp and Black Bean Salad recipe originates from Eating Well magazine.  It doesn’t call for tortilla chips, but we have found this is the most fun way to eat it.  Adding diced avocado is a delicious option too.

Zesty Shrimp Salad

Zesty Shrimp Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile in adobo (see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined cooked shrimp cut into pieces
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large poblano pepper or bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Tortilla chips for serving

Directions:

Whisk vinegar, oil, chipotle, cumin and salt in a large bowl. Add shrimp, beans, tomatoes, poblano (or bell pepper), scallions and cilantro; toss to coat. Serve room temperature or cold.

Chipotle chiles in adobo are sold in cans in most grocery stores.  You only ever need a small amount for a given recipe, so I like to toss the contents of the whole can (seeds and all) into the mini food processor and blend, then lay flat in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.  It keeps for a long time and you can just break off a chunk when you need it.

A Weeknight Like Giada’s

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Mediterranean Halibut Sandwich

Like most people, my creativity and enthusiasm for cooking seems to droop on busy weeknights.  I was recently flipping through the latest issue of Health magazine and they were featuring several recipes from Giada de Laurentiis‘ new cookbook, Weeknights with Giada.  I have to admit, they all looked pretty do-able, and the Mediterranean Halibut Sandwich recipe was calling my name.  I am all too familiar with making basic sandwiches for a quick dinner, but this halibut recipe is restaurant-calibre, in my humble opinion.  The fresh herbs and lemon zest mixed with the halibut really make the dish special.

I didn’t deviate much from the original recipe, other than to use fresh sliced tomatoes in the sandwich instead of adding sun-dried tomatoes into the halibut-mayo mixture — just to keep from throwing the kids off too much.  I also left out the capers.  The sandwiches were a big hit, and I will definitely be making them again.  I may also try using the halibut-mayo mixture in a pasta salad.

Mediterranean Halibut Sandwiches (adapted from “Weeknights with Giada”, as featured in Health magazine):

Cooking spray

2 (6-oz) halibut fillets, skinned (I used 14 oz in total)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided

1 (14-oz) loaf ciabatta bread, ends trimmed, split horizontally

1 garlic clove, halved

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayo (I used olive-oil mayo)

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp capers, drained and mashed

Grated zest of 1 large lemon

2 packed cups (2 ounces) arugula (I used a mix of baby greens)

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray; add halibut and season with salt and pepper; rub with 1 tsp oil.  Bake 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and the flesh flakes easily with a fork.  Cool.

Remove some bread from the top half of loaf (and try not to eat it all).  Brush  cut sides with 2 tbsp oil.  Bake on a baking sheet 6-8 minutes, until golden.  Rub toasted surfaces with garlic.

In a medium bowl, combine mayo, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parsley, capers, and lemon zest.  Add fish, flaking and mixing with a fork.  (I added extra salt and pepper at this point).  Spoon onto bottom half of bread and top with arugula (I tossed my greens in a bit of olive oil).  Add top of bread and cut into 4 sandwiches.

Seared Scallops (Finally)

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Seared Sea Scallops

I adore sea scallops and order them frequently when dining out.  I must have assumed it was an art form to get them cooked perfectly, because I’ve never wanted to try making them at home.  But a seven-year-old asking for more seafood will make you do crazy things, so I asked my daughter Samantha if she wanted to try scallops.  As it turns out, they are easier to cook than I thought.  Initially I couldn’t find a recipe for basic seared scallops (other than just cooking them in a little butter, of course), when low and behold I picked up the package of Archer Farms Sea Scallops at Target and saw the perfect Samantha-friendly recipe on the back of the bag.  She loved them.  I cut the amount of butter, salt, and sugar in half, so here is my version.

Seared Sea Scallops

1 lb wild-caught sea scallops (about 20)

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Drain scallops and dry on paper towels (they need to be dry to get a good sear).  Mix salt and sugar in a small bowl, then sprinkle half of mixture over scallops.  Melt 1 tbsp butter over medium high heat in a large skillet (I used a cast-iron pan).  Place scallops in skillet, seasoned side down, and cook 3 minutes.  Flip scallops and sprinkle with remaining salt/sugar mixture, cooking another 3 minutes, until browned on both sides.

Remove scallops to a plate and keep warm.  Add wine to the hot pan and scrape up browned bits to create a syrup.  Turn off the heat and add remaining butter and parsley, then pour over scallops.

Spicy Shrimp & Feta Pizza

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Spicy Shrimp & Feta Pizza

I’ve been playing with the new pizza stone I got for my birthday — pizza on the grill is amazing and makes for such an easy dinner.  My daughter Samantha actually made the request for a shrimp pizza (yes, I was thrilled), so we decided on shrimp, feta, and grilled yellow bell peppers (for my half).  I’ve previously written about all the delicious ingredients I’ve picked up at Oil & Vinegar at Watters Creek, and this was the perfect opportunity to put my two latest purchases to use:  Peperoncini Oil, and the “Hot Shot” spice grinder.  The Peperoncini Oil is light and flavorful with just a bit of spice.  The Hot Shot spice grinder contains all kinds of wonderful things:  chili pepper flakes, sea salt, mustard seed, coriander, onion, garlic, and paprika, to name a few.

We brushed the pizza crust with the oil, then topped with a bit of tomato sauce.  Next we added cooked shrimp, grilled bell peppers, a little shredded cheese (a 4-cheese blend), and lots of feta cheese.  Finished it off with a generous amount of the Hot Shot spices (only on my half!).  Delicious.

Peperoncini Oil & Hot Shot

Five Eggs and a Nest

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Rice Krispie M&M Eggs

This recipe for “Hidden Surprise Easter Egg Treats” was too hard to resist.  You use the ingredients for Rice Krispie Squares, but instead mold the ingredients into plastic egg halves and fill with M&M’s.  My girls had a ton of fun making them — there is nothing quite like using melted marshmallows as glue, and getting to snack on M&M’s throughout the process.  While these aren’t going to win any healthy food competitions, they are pretty light as far as dessert goes, and we opted for the whole grain “brown” Rice Krispies.  Most importantly, they got a good lesson in improvisation:  we were making six eggs (and there would be six people at our dinner table), but the eggs must have been a little two large, as we ran out of “egg” near the end and had to make one “nest”.  My mother was gracious enough to request that one.

Rice Krispie and M&M Eggs (Adapted from Kellogg’s “Hidden Surprise Easter Egg Treats”):

6 Plastic snap-apart 3×2-inch Easter eggs

1 1/2 tbsp butter

2 cups mini marshmallows

3 cups whole grain Rice Krispies

1/4 to 1/2 cup M&M’s (we used white chocolate and dark chocolate)

Clean, then coat the inside of plastic eggs with cooking spray.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add Rice Krispies and stir until well coated.

Using greased hands, firmly press 1/4 cup of the cereal mixture into each plastic egg half.  Use fingers to make hollow center in each half.  Remove from molds.  Place on wax paper and cool slightly.  Place about 6 M&M’s in one half of each egg.  Gently press two halves of each egg together until they stick.  Cool completely.

Red Lentil Pancakes

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Red Lentil Pancakes

I like how virtuous and healthy I feel when purchasing something like lentils.  Until now, every package of lentils I have bought has sat in my pantry until I threw it away — not healthy and certainly not virtuous!  I came across this really simple recipe for red lentil pancakes from Wendy Van Wagner and finally decided to give dried lentils a try.  You soak the lentils overnight and then buzz them in the food processor with a few other ingredients before pan-frying.  They were really tasty with the turmeric and cilantro, but a bit dry, so take her advice to use them for dunking — I served mine with plain greek yogurt and a big salad…perfect.

Red Lentil Pancakes (Adapted from Wendy Van Wagner):

1 cup red lentils

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground pepper

2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro, or to taste (I used twice this amount)

2 tbsp coconut oil for frying

Rinse the lentils well and place in a large bowl.  Cover with 2 cups warm water and soak for least 8 hours, or overnight.

Drain the water and place lentils in food processor.  Blend until smooth, adding 1 tbsp of water at a time to make a smooth batter (I used 3 tbsp in total).  Blend the salt, turmeric, pepper, and cilantro into the batter.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, and add 1 tbsp oil.  Drop spoonfuls of batter to make 4 pancakes, about 3-4 inches wide and 1 inch thick.  Cook about 2 minutes, until set.  Drizzle a little oil over the top and sides before flipping (I struggled with this and just sprayed a bit of olive oil spray before flipping) and cook another minute or 2 or the other side.  Repeat with 2nd batch of pancakes, adding more oil as needed.

Serve warm with a big helping of greek yogurt, sour cream, guacamole, applesauce, chutney, or creme fraiche.  Makes about 8 pancakes.

Savory Greek Yogurt Snack

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Cucumber Salad

I’ve been on the Greek yogurt bandwagon for a while (Fage is my absolute favorite) and recently went from buying the kind with the sweetened fruit to getting the plain versions and mixing in my own cereal, fruit, etc..  I’m always hearing that Greek yogurt is the perfect substitute for sour cream and can be used in many savory ways, but I had yet to find a good use until seeing C&J Nutrition’s recipe for Cucumber Salad in Self Magazine.

To 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt, add 1/2 cup diced cucumber, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 chopped avocado, and salt & pepper.  That’s it.  It tastes amazing and is a nice change from my normal sugary yogurt snack.