Sunday, August 10, 2014

Maine Shrimp on Grits with Crispy Prosciutto

This recipe comes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks: Barton Seaver's For Cod and Country - Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking.  Mike and I went back and forth on whether we'd make it again or not.  There is no denying that this is an excellent dinner, but the prosciutto and butter with shrimp are so rich, that next time I'd serve it with a light salad (maybe frisee with grapefruit, or some other citrus.)

As Barton tells you in his book,
"Grits are good.  Grits are great.  I don't often think to make them, but when I do, I remember what I've been missing.  The process for making grits is not all that different from mill to mill, but there are a number of great artisanal producers of grits worth seeking out.  The difference is that the small guys tend to treat grits as a seasonal crop.  The mass-produced grits we are used to always taste old.  I learned this in Italy, where polenta is ground only when the corn kernels have dried just long enough on the cobs.  In Italy, you eat polenta in the winter and spring, and fresh corn in the summer and fall.  Small producers of grits, such as Anson Mills, treat their product in the same way.  Look for them locally or online.  Here I've paired grits with Maine shrimp, whose season frums from winter to mid spring."

We broke Barton's Italian Rule and made this dish in high Summer.  We could not find Maine shrimp, so I had to substitue with Mexican shrimp.  And the only grits to be had were instant grits (which I'm sure Barton would find to be stale, although made with milk, were a creamy and delicious base for the rich shrimip and prosciutto.)

- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups water
- Salt
- 1 cup coarse ground grits (I used instant grits)
- 4 slices prosciutto, sliced into very thin strips
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 pound Main shrimp, picked over for pieces of shell (I could only find Mexican shrimp at our local fish market)

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and water to a simmer.  Season with salt and slowly whisk in grits.  Stir constantly for about 6 minutes over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible and cover the pot.  Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, then let rest off the heat.
*Note: instant grits cook much faster, so adjust time according to directions on box.

Saute the prosciutto strips in the butter over medium heat until crispy, then transfer them to a plate.  Add the onion for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add the shrimp and saute for about 3 minutes, until just cooked through.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Season to taste with salt.

Divide the grits among 4 serving bowls.  Spoon the shrimp and onion mixture over the top, garnish with the crispy prosciutto, and serve.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Panzanella

I've had this recipe flagged for over two years and finally had a chance to make it.  Eli and Max Sussman do not disappoint!  As they say in their cookbook, This is a Cookbook, they take croutons very seriously (you make them fresh.)  Because we took this to the Bowl with us, I packed the tomato, cheese and basil mixture (already dressed) separate from the croutons and combined at our picnic table, just before serving.

This was worth the wait.  Exquisite!

- 3 Heirloom or 6 Plum Tomatoes, Ripe but Firm, Cored and Cut into Big Chunks
- 2 Garlic cloves, 1 minced and 1 crushed, but left whole
- 2 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Extra-Virgin  Olive Oil, plus 1/4 cup, plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 cup packed fresh Basil Leaves, plus more for garnish
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Loaf Crusty Sourdough Bread, unsliced
- 1 ball fresh Mozarella Di Bufala or Cow's Milk Mozarella

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and add the minced garlic, 1 Tbsp of sherry vinegar, 1 Tbsp of the balsamic vinegar, and the 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Tear the 1/2 cup basil leaves into the bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.  Toss the mix well.  Set aside so the flavors can develop while you make the croutons.

Slice the crust off the bread loaf and tear the bread into roughly 2-inch pieces.  Pile onto a baking sheet and toss with the 1/4 cup olive oil, a generous sprinkling of salt, and the crushed garlic.  Spread in a single layer and bake until the croutons are golden brown on the outside and still chewy on the inside, about 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven, tranfer to a bowl, and drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbsp of each of the vinegars.  Toss to combine.

To assemble the salad, arrange the croutons and tomatoes in a nonchalant manner on a large serving platter.  Tear apart the mozzarella and drape the pieces over the bread and tomatoes.  Garnish with a few more basil leaves and another drizzle of olive oil.  Serve right away.

Grilled Flank Steak with Chile Spice Rub

Makes an amazing picnic dish!!  Enjoyed here at the Hollywood Bowl.

Mike and I had tickets to see Barry Gibb at the Hollywood Bowl (it was an incredible night!)  I take no credit for this amazing Flank Steak he made.  My job was the Summer Panzanella that we had with it.  These two dishes made for an epic picnic meal, with a gorgeous bottle of Ravenswood Zin to compliment them.

Both Recipes come from This is a Cookbook - Recipes for Life, by Eli and Max Sussman.

- 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- 2 Tsp Ground Cumin
- 2 Tsp Ground Coriander
- 1 Tsp Paprika
- 1 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Flank Steak, about 3lb
- Oil for grill

In a baking dish large enough to fit the steak, stir together all the ingredients for the spice rub.  Add the steak and turn to coat thoroughly with the rub, pressing with your fingers to help it adhere to the meat as needed.  Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.  When you are ready to cook, let the steak come to room temperature while the grill is heating.

Build a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to high.  Using a grill brush, scrape the heated grill rack clean.  Rub the grill rack with oil.

Place the flank steak directly over a hot area of the grill and let it sit for about 3 minutes.  Rotate the steak 90 degrees, and again don't move it for another few minutes.  Turn the steak and repeat the process to grill the second side: 3 minutes without disturbing, rotate, 3 more minutes.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part will read 130 degrees F for medium-rare.  Finish cooking on a cooler part of the grill, if you like your steak medium.

Cover the steak loosely with the foil and let rest for 10 minutes.  Carve it against the grain into slices about 1/2-inch thick and serve.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Avocado, Cherry Tomato, Pine Nut, Lime Vinaigrette

This is a simple and delicious side dish from The Lemonade Cookbook - one of my favorite LA restaurants (it's Cafeteria-Style and full of yummy comfort foods and healthy, fresh salads + it's namesake, custom lemonades).

From the authors, Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli:

"One of Lemonade's most beloved dishes, this simply delicious vegetable side places avocados front and center.  Avocados are Mother Nature's butter, packed with good fat, fiber and a whole host of vital vitamins and minerals.  Plus, their smooth, creamy texture and earthy flavor allow them to shine in just about everything.  The key here is to cut the avocados into large chucks and not mash the pieces like guacamole, so you can sink your teeth into the supple, silky flesh."

(For the Salad)
- 4 firm-ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved crosswise
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I bought mine already toasted, from Trader Joes)
- 1/4 cup Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

(For the Lime Vinaigrette)
- Juice of 2 to 3 limes, (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

(For the Salad)
In a mixing bowl, combine the avocados, tomatoes, pine nuts, and vinaigrette.  Toss gently, taking care not to smash the pieces of avocado (the next time I make this, I will cut the avocado even larger; it was very hard not to mash the pieces, even when stirring gently.)  Season generously with the salt & pepper.  Serve chilled.
Makes 4 cups

(For the Lime Vinaigrette)
In a blender, combine the lime juice, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.  Blend on medium speed for a few seconds, and then reduce the speed to low.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil until emulsified.  Pour into a container or jar and mix in the cilantro.  Keep any leftover vinigraitte covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Makes 1 cup

Sunday, June 15, 2014

French Toast BLT with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Shown Here with Fruit Salad, Homemade Bloody Mary and Father's Day Love

This one tops in the Greatest Of All Time Breakfasts, rivaled only by Farm Egg Baked in Celery Cream.  It has everything you are looking for in a brunch meal - decadent, cheesy, rich and filling.  A little on the heavy side, but paired with a Bloody Mary, I'm telling you, Heaven on a plate.

Cooked only a few short hours ago, I had to post immediately.  This took 2 hours to prepare (you make the Vinaigrette from scratch, which is 30 minutes - can be done ahead of time) and about 20 minutes to eat (we gobbled with a fussy baby crying through....ahh parenthood.)  Still, Mike thoroughly enjoyed his special Father's Day Meal.

From Esquire's, Eat Like a Man.

(Serves 6)
Ingredients (for the BLT):
12 Thick Slices Smoked Bacon
2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices Challah bread, at least 1" thick
2 tbsp canola oil
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
12 slices ripe tomatoes (about 3 small)
6 cups arugula, cleaned
Roasted-Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Ingredients (for the Vinaigrette):
3 heads garlic
olive oil for drizzling
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions (for the Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette):
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Slice the tops off the garlic so the cloves are exposed.  Place the heads in a baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover the pan with foil and roast until the garlic is golden brown and fragrant, 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove the garlic from the oven.  Cool briefly before squeezing the cloves out of their skins into the bowl of a blender.  Combine the vinegar and mustard, blending until smooth.  With the machine running slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup olive oil.  Keep the blender running and season with salt and pepper.

Directions (for the BLT):
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.  Leave the oven on.

Combine the heavy cream and eggs in a bowl and whisk to thoroughly blend.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Soak the bread in the mixture for 15 minutes, then turn the slices over and soak for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the canola oil.  Once the oil is hot (it will shimmer slightly), fry the challah slices on each side until golden brown, working in batches.  Transfer the challah to a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Bake until the custard is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes; the bread should souffle, or puff up.

Remove from the oven.  Cover each slice with grated cheese, and return the pan to the oven to melt the cheese.  Once the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes, remove from the oven.

Put 2 slices bacon and 2 slices tomato on each slice of challah and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.  Toss the arugula with the remaining dressing (or enough to coat) and place atop each piece.  Serve warm.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beans with Kale and Portuguese Sausage

The first time I made this was to celebrate my friend finally ending a toxic relationship.  It's as warm and comforting now as it was then.  Not terribly hard, and you can quick-soak the beans using the directions on the bag, so you don't have to plan ahead more than a few hours.

Found this guy on

Epicurious Tip: Keep a resealable bag of leftover Parmesan rinds in the freezer for recipes like this; they will add great depth to tomato sauces and vegetable-centric soups, too.

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 oz Portugues sausage (such as linguica) or kielbasa sausage, sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 medium onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, mashed
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 small piece Parmesan rind (optional)
2 chiles de arbol or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dried cranberry, navy or cannelli (white kidney) beans (about 10 ounces), soaked overnight, drained
4 cups baby kale or baby mustard greens
1 tablespoon fresh lemon

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add wine and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot and stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add Parmesan rind, if using, chiles, thyme, bay leaf, broth, tomatoes, and beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, 1-1 1/2 hours.  Mix in kale and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.  Serve beans drizzled with oil.

DO AHEAD: Beans can be cooked 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lemon-Stuffed Grilled Branzino with Herbed Roasted Potatoes

This is an incredible, Farmer's Market-Style Summer Meal.  The Branzino was a recipe I found online when we (ironically) found a beautiful piece of Branzino at the Torrance Farmer's Market.  The potatoes from my all-time favorite - The Good Housekeeping Cookbook.  Enjoy!

(For the Potatoes)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsley ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, cut in half

(For the Fish)
Four 1-pound whole branzino - scaled and gutted, heads and tails removed
4 thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
2 lemons - 1 thinly sliced, 1 cut into wedges
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Finely chopped parsley, for serving

(For the Potatoes)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter with parsley, lemon peel, salt and pepper over medium-low heat.  Remove saucepan from heat; add potatoes and toss well to coat.

Place potatoe mixture in center of 24" by 18" sheet of heavy-duty foil.  Fold edges over and pinch to seal tightly.

Place package in jelly-roll pan and bake until potatoes are tender when potatoes are pierced (through foil) with knife, about 30 minutes.  Makes 6 accompaniment servings.

(For the Fish)
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan.  Season the fish cavities with salt and pepper.  Stuff each cavity with a thyme sprig, a bay leaf and 2 lemon slices.  Rub the outside of the branzino with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the branzino over high heat, turning once, until browned and crsip and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side.  Serve right away, passing salt, lemon wedges and parsley at the table.