Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grilled Shrimp, Avocado and Tortilla Salad with Lime Crema

Finally, I'm giving you a recipe in advance.  Unlike these Christmas cookies posted after Christmas, this one made it a few days early.  Until August, that is, when most of the country is guaranteed to see the return of warm weather.  At least in the Midwest lately, the air feels like early October and not end of July.  When that heat does return, this main course salad will be ready for you.  It's a great change of pace from all the grilled land animals you've been eating all summer.  It's quick and easy, and for the most part, healthy.  Sure there's some fat in the mayo and cream but fat isn't bad for you, in moderation. 

If you would rather pan sear the shrimp instead of grilling them, that is certainly an option.  Grilling dinner outside is always preferred, you should also be eating this dish outside.  We have been enjoying the hell out of our new patio dining furniture, eating dinner alfresco as often as possible. 

Not sure how to dice an avocado?  One of my favorite blogs has a tutorial

Wondering what to quaff with this lovely meal?  I would suggest a glass of chilled Sancerre, Pinot Gris, or a Mexican beer with lime wedge.  

Grilled Shrimp, Avocado and Tortilla Salad with Lime Crema
4 servings

1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 large bunch romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
2 C cherry tomatoes, halved, large ones quartered
1 small seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 Hass avocado, diced
1/2 C roughly chopped cilantro
3 C tortilla chips, roughly crushed
3 TB sour cream
3 TB mayo
3 TB fresh lime juice
1 ts finely grated lime zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fire up the grill for high heat.  Thread your shrimp onto skewers, if they are made of wood be sure to have soaked them for an hour or so.   Season the shrimp liberally with salt and pepper.  Grill for about 3 minutes per side, until opaque and cooked through.  If using metal skewers, remove them to prevent the residual heat from further (over)cooking.  Set aside. 

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients- sour cream, mayo, and lime juice and zest.  Season to taste with S&P.  

In a large mixing bowl, add the romaine, tomato, cucumber, onion, avocado, and cilantro.  Add most of the dressing and toss to combine.  Serve in bowls, then top each with shrimp and tortilla chips. Add additional dressing if needed. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Grilled Baby Octopus Salad

Octopus and I have had a thing lately.  Not sure what it is, but I've been downing them like a hungry sea creature swimming through a school of octopi.  They're pretty cheap at my fish guy ($4/lb) and always available.  Easy to prep, simple to grill, quick to toss with this Greek influenced summer salad.  So damn tasty!  That's why I've been making this salad almost every weekend for the past month.

If you've never prepared baby octopus before, it's not difficult.  Just slice off their heads and you're ready to go.  You might be able to find them frozen and already headless, I've never gone that route.  I enjoy the relationship with my fish guy.  He calls everyone buddy, even the ladies.  You could also leave the heads on and clean them out, cut off the beak, but that seems like too much work for such little return.  Here's a tutorial anyway.  

One time I brought home a normal, full-size, adult, giant octopus.  Man that thing was huge.  Lots of waste after cleaning and par-boiling the massive tentacles before grilling, the experience has certainly made me wiser.  Baby is the way to go. 

Olives, tomatoes, red onion, and good quality fruity extra virgin are key to make the flavors sing.  A few leaves of oregano from the garden, a shot of heat with the serrano, and of course fresh lemon juice to add the required acidity to bring it all together. 
 Grilled Baby Octopus Salad
2-4 servings as side or appetizer

1/2 lb baby octopus, heads removed
6-8 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
6 cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small serrano pepper, thinly sliced
fresh oregano leaves from a couple sprigs
lemon juice from 1/2 medium lemon
good extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
sea salt

Fire up the grill for medium high heat.  Preheat a perforated grill pan also, you don't want to lose any through the grates.  With your cleaned octopi in a small bowl, add a bit of EVOO and a touch of S&P.  Grease up those little guys and then get them on the grill.  Turn every couple minutes for about 4-6 minutes, until the tentacles are lightly charred and the bodies are cooked through.  Slice the large ones into halves or quarters, the little ones (which will cook quicker, pull them off the heat sooner) can be added whole. 

In a medium mixing bowl, add the olives, tomatoes, onion, serrano, oregano leaves, and the cooked octopi.  Pour a couple glugs of your best EVOO, then a healthy squeeze of a half lemon.  Toss well to coat everything with the oil and juice.  Season with a bit of pepper and sprinkle on some sea salt, or kosher will do also.  Mix thoroughly and serve at room temp or chill slightly.  Pairs very well with your favorite summer white chilled wine. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Radish, Cucumber, White Bean Salad

One of my favorite summer side dish salads is this cucumber dill feta.  Cool, crisp cukes tossed with yogurt and feta usually share a plate with cedar-planked salmon.  I have found that a perforated grilling sheet multitasks to let the moisture drip from the salted cuke slices.  Another sheet pan underneath for collection.  A soggy salad isn't so appealing.

This vegetable and bean salad also tastes lovely with grilled protein, perhaps a pork tenderloin or a bone-in chop.  The anchovy is optional, a jar is always present in my pantry, if you don't like or have any don't go out of your way.  Half a garlic clove could be a good substitute?

I thought about busting out the mandoline to cut the cucumber and radish paper-thin, but good knife skills get them thin enough.  Another option if you have that tool and need more things to wash up. 

And just in case you need another cucumber salad for your summertime dining.

Radish, Cucumber, White Bean Salad
three to four servings as side

1/2 medium seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1/2 bunch radish, ends trimmed, large ones halved, sliced thin
1 C parsley, loosely packed
1 15 oz can cannellini or northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 C white wine vinegar
1/2 C EVOO
1 anchovy filet (optional)
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
S&P to taste

For the dressing-
in your blender or with a stick blender, zap the white wine vinegar, EVOO, 1/2 C of the parsley, anchovy filet if using, shallot, and a pinch of S&P.

For the salad-
Combine the cuke, radish, and beans in a large mixing bowl.  Roughly chop the remaining 1/2 C parsley.  Pour on most of the dressing and mix thoroughly yet gently, you don't destroy the beans.  Taste and adjust S&P if needed, add more dressing if desired.  Serve immediately or chill for a few hours while assembling the rest of your meal.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Perfect Guacamole

If you like guacamole, making your own in the summer is a must.  It's cheap, quick, and tastes so damn good with some quality tortillas chips and a cold beer.  I recommend those Mexican chips in the green bag or Frontera, and a very chilled Tecate with a little slice of lime.  Sitting on a boat is ideal, although your backyard or balcony will be just as nice.  Double the batch for a party, it won't last long.

Are you one of those that think cilantro tastes like soap?  Then feel free to omit it.

Want to keep the flavor on the mild side?  Leave out the serrano.

Want to boost the heat even more?  Add in the seeds and ribs of the serrano pepper.   

What are 'Hass' avocados anyway?

Hope this guacamole helps to make your summer tastier.

The Perfect Guacamole

2 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, flesh scooped out
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 TB fresh lime juice
1/2 ts kosher salt
1-2 TB cilantro, optional
1 small serrano pepper, seeded and minced, optional

Scoop the avocado flesh into a medium mixing bowl.  Add the onion, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cilantro and serrano if using.  Mix well with a fork or potato masher.  Let chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Will keep for a day or so, covered. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Scones

What would you want for your 237th birthday?  Blueberry lemon scones?  Perfect!  Can't think of a better way to start the July 4th celebration than with a batch of these.  I hope you are enjoying your country's independence.

I read an interesting diet plan recently.  Eat anything you wish, as long as you make it yourself.  No counting calories, no restricting carbs or any of that nonsense.  I like that guideline.  We love making food from scratch for the whole family, especially tasty scones like this that make your whole house smell delicious.  The dough comes together quick while you sip on the morning coffee.  Come fall, these apple cheddar ones are quite fantastic.  BLT has put up a blueberry scone recipe before, but this one is better. 

Be gentle when kneading the dough so your breakfast turns out light and fluffy on the inside.

Blueberry Lemon Scones
8 pieces

1/2 C buttermilk
1 large egg
2 C flour
2 T brown sugar
2 ts baking powder
1/2 ts kosher salt
zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 C unsalted butter, diced and frozen for 10 min
3/4 C fresh blueberries

Fire up the oven to four twenty five, rack in middle.

Whisk the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl until frothy, set aside.

Add the dry ingredients in a large bowl- the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.  Introduce the very cold butter, and use your fingers, two forks, or a pastry blade thing to coat the fat (butter) with the flour.  Mash it up until you have little pieces of butter the size of peas.

Fold in the blueberries.

Introduce the wet ingredients, all but 1 TB of the buttermilk/egg mixture.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the wet and dry ingredients until it just comes together, then dump out onto a lightly floured board.  Knead a half dozen or so times to just bring the dough together, shape into a circle about 1" thick. 

With a floured knife, slice the circle into 8 pieces.  Place onto a sheet pan and brush each scone top with the remaining milk/egg mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before spreading on a thin slice of butter and devouring.  Will keep for a couple days in a tupperware but are best eaten within a few hours of baking.