Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coconut Lime Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple Rice

Last Year's Post: Jewels of Spring: Asparagus Soup and Chicken with Rhubarb Sauce
Two Years Ago:  Special Brunch - Egg Strudel

The weather is finally warmer and it's time to switch to lighter, healthier foods and start grilling!  This recipe couldn't be any more fresh and tropical with the slightly spicy shrimp balanced by the soothing pineapple flavor of the rice.  Serve it with your favorite tropical drink (complete with little umbrella, of course) and you have a party in the making.

I love that this meal is healthy and relatively low-calorie in addition to delicious.  It's extremely easy to make and very fast, once you've marinated the shrimp.  Be sure to notice the marinating time of two hours -  I wouldn't marinate it any longer (like, say, from breakfast to dinner much less overnight) or the lime juice will toughen the shrimp.  So, plan on about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish but only about 30 minutes of active time.  It would perfect for a weekend where you start marinating the shrimp, then work on your garden for an hour or two before focusing on dinner (or a two-hour happy hour, who's to say?).  If you're having a party you could always do a huge platter of just the shrimp for an appetizer and it would be fabulous.

As I mentioned, the shrimp are very slightly warm from the jalapeno.  If you like spicy food I'd leave the jalapeno seeds in when preparing the marinade, or add another jalapeno.  Either way, this is a great change from the same-old burgers, brats and chicken on the grill.

printable recipe
Coconut Lime Grilled Shrimp with Pineapple Rice
Serves 4

Notes:  Requires 2 hours marinating time.  Dried pineapple is more intense than fresh; don’t substitute if possible.  Also, several ingredients are common to both recipes – lime zest, juice and cilantro – and may be prepped one time and divided according to the recipes to save time.

For the shrimp:
2 jalapenos, seeded
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
1 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Wooden skewers, soaked in water at least 30 minutes

For the pineapple rice:
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
½ cup chopped dried pineapple
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon grated lime zest
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

To prepare the shrimp:  in a food processor, combine the jalapeno, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, coconut, olive oil and soy sauce; blend until smooth.  Place the shrimp in a large zip-top bag and pour the sauce over.  Seal and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for 2 hours to marinate.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.  Thread the shrimp onto pre-soaked skewers and reserve the marinade.

While the grill is preheating, make the rice:  bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add rice and next 4 ingredients (through salt).  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, onions and juice.

To grill the shrimp:  place skewers on the preheated grill, turning and basting with the reserved marinade, 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through.

Serve shrimp skewers over rice.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spaghetti with Chicken, Herbs and Cherry Tomatoes

Last Year's Post: Pasta Primavera
Two Years Ago:  Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts

Spaghetti doesn't always come to mind as a spring or summer food, mainly because we normally associate it with a heavy red sauce and meatballs.  This dish is quite different - vibrant with herbs, lemon and fresh cherry tomatoes, it's actually best served at room temperature rather than hot or cold like a pasta salad.  There's something very summery and refreshing about lemon, herbs and tomatoes, don't you think?

I found the original recipe online and was attracted to it because it's so pretty.  I made some significant changes along the way - decreasing some ingredients, increasing others, and serving it at room temperature - to make more to my preference.  Before I made it, I thought it was going to need an additional ingredient or two - preferably crunchy and/or green - because it seemed too simple.....pasta, herbs, chicken, tomatoes.  I was happy to find out it doesn't need anything else at all.  But because it's a relatively simple dish, the quality and proportions of the ingredients are important.  Use the freshest herbs and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and seriously consider splurging on the more expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano (rather than regular parmesan) because it's a important component in the finished dish. If you use regular parmesan it'll still be good, just not as good.

A couple of other key points make a big difference as well.  First, note that the chicken is marinated  so plan ahead - overnight is preferable for the best flavor.  And when you cook the chicken, let it saute undisturbed for a couple of minutes to develop a nice brown color - browning helps deepen the flavor.  But don't worry about browning the second side - if you do, the chicken will probably get over-cooked and dry.  Just be sure the chicken is almost cooked through before removing it from the pan, and let carry-over cooking take care of the rest.

The next tip is to use lots of fresh herbs, and add some of them right before serving when everything is at room temperature so the herbs don't wilt and lose their bright taste.  Parsley is a key (and often over-looked) herb here.  And finally, be sure to serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over everything - that bright hit of lemon heightens all the other flavors and makes it even more summery.

printable recipe
Spaghetti with Chicken, Herbs and Cherry Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings

10-12 oz boneless skinless chicken breast (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus more to moisten the pasta)
½ teaspoon coarse salt (not table salt)
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
8 oz dry spaghetti
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (to sauté the marinated chicken)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups whole small cherry tomatoes plus more for garnish (Optional)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup parsley, chopped, divided
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 lemon, quartered

Add the thyme and next six ingredients (through black pepper) to the chicken pieces in a large zip-top bag and marinate refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight (much better).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti al dente according to package directions.  Drain well; drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to prevent sticking. Set aside to cool.

Drain the chicken pieces.  Preheat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add the chicken pieces; spread out into one layer and allow to cook undisturbed for approximately 2 minutes until golden.  Flip the chicken pieces and turn the heat down to medium low; continue to cook for approximately 2 more minutes until almost cooked through (they will continue to cook somewhat as they cool). Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

In the same sauté pan, add butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until the butter melts.  Sauté garlic until fragrant and soft, about 1 minute.    Add cherry tomatoes and cook until softened and slightly collapsed, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

 Add the chicken pieces to the tomato mixture, then toss with the cooked spaghetti.  Add the basil, half of the parsley and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the dish and let cool completely to room temperature. Moisten with a little additional olive oil if the pasta looks dry after cooling.  Before serving, taste and adjust seasonings, then finish the dish with the remaining chopped parsley and grated cheese (serve extra on the side if desired).  Garnish with a few extra cherry tomatoes on top, optional.  Serve with lemon quarters for squeezing on top.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Prosciutto, Gruyere and Egg Toasts

Last Year's Post:  Cotswold Quiche
Two Years Ago:   Tabbouleh and Greek Chicken

This recipe is adapted from a very popular dish served at A.O.C. Wine Bar in Los Angeles.  Although I can see that it would be very good as a light dinner at a wine bar, I think it's even better as an elegant brunch entree.   The wine bar owner recommends serving it with a bright, berry-scented sparkling rose wine, or I think Champagne would be equally good.  Add some fresh fruit, french pastry, coffee and fruit juice to round out the meal for a beautiful Easter or Mother's Day brunch.

In case you're not familiar with frisee (free-say), it's a beautiful, lacy lettuce that doesn't get limp when tossed with dressing.  I often add it to other salad greens for texture and because it's so pretty.  You can often find it upscale grocers like Whole Foods.  If you can't find frisee, watercress or baby arugula leaves would make a good substitute.

Cut the core off and wash like any other lettuce.  I like to mix the outer darker leaves and inner lighter leaves for contrast.  Just be sure to chop them up into bite-sized pieces or they can be a little unwieldy to try to eat whole.

The toasts are fast and easy to make - just toast up some bread, fry some eggs, toss the salad, and melt some cheese.  Although the recipe calls for leaving the egg yolks runny it's easy to cook the eggs to everyone's preference.

printable recipe
Prosciutto, Gruyere and Egg Toasts
Serves 6

6 slices of Italian, sourdough or farmhouse white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus softened butter for brushing
6 ounces frisee, torn into bite-size pieces (3 cups)
¼ cup lightly packed parsley leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
6 large eggs
½ lb Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
12 thin slices of prosciutto (6 ounces)

Preheat the broiler.  Brush both sides of the bread slices with softened butter and arrange in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Broil the bread 8 inches from the heat, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes total.  Leave the broiler on.

In a medium bowl, toss the frisee with the parsley, green onions, lemon juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in each of two large nonstick skillets.  Crack 3 eggs into each skillet and cook sunny side up over moderate heat, until the whites are firm and the yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper.

Top the toasts with the Gruyere, covering as much of them as possible with the cheese.  Broil 8 inches from the heat for about 3 minutes, watching closely, until the cheese has melted.  Transfer the toasts to plates.  Top with the frisee salad, prosciutto slices and fried eggs.  Serve at once.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mixed Berry Jalousie

Last Year's Post: Joanne Chang's Lemon Bars
Two Years Ago:  In Praise of Asparagus

I've always admired the beautiful pastries in French pastry shops, but never thought I could actually make one.  To my surprise, it's really easy to make a jalousie (zhah-loo-ZEE), which is a light and flaky puff pastry enclosing a luscious fruit filling, using frozen puff pastry and frozen mixed berries.  It reminds me of a fruit turnover in terms of taste, but it's much more impressive.  Since Easter and Mother's Day are coming up, I thought I would publish this recipe because it would make a perfect addition to your brunch table.  Serve it whole on a cutting board with a sharp knife and let your guests cut small pieces to their desire.  Jalousie also makes a great dessert served with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream.

The length of the recipe may give you pause, but most of it is just an explanation of how to roll, cut and assemble the puff pastry.  There aren't many ingredients and you can assemble the whole thing the night before so it's easy to bake in the morning.  It's worth looking for sparkling (coarse) sugar because it makes the pastry look professional - you can find it in some upscale groceries, gourmet shops, or at King Arthur Flour.

If your berries vary widely in size like mine did, it's a good idea to cut the larger berries to a more uniform size with the other fruit.  I cut the strawberries with a kitchen shears after they were cooked, mainly because I wasn't smart enough to cut them before I started.

To assemble the jalousie, you roll the pastry out and cut it lengthwise, then put one piece on a baking sheet and brush the edges with egg wash.  Add the berry filling, then fold and slash the top piece and put it on top of the pastry.  Unfold, seal the edges, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or overnight.  Before baking you simply brush it with egg wash and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

People will be impressed.  I know I was.

printable recipe
Mixed Berry Jalousie 
Makes 1 6”x 14” pastry; serves 6 as breakfast or dessert, or 12 as part of a brunch or dessert buffet

Note: the filling may be prepared and the jalousie assembled in advance, up to the night before baking. 

For the filling:
12 ounces frozen mixed berries
¼ cup granulated sugar (or more to taste)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
¼ tsp finely grated lemon zest
Generous pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

For the pastry:
1 sheet frozen packaged puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
Flour for rolling out the dough
1 large egg
1 tsp sparkling sugar (can substitute granulated sugar)

Sweetened whipped cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream, optional

For the filling:
In a 3 quart saucepan, stir together the frozen berries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt.  Heat over medium high until the berries start to release their juices and the juices begin to bubble, 1-2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring gently from time to time, until the berries release more juices and soften but still hold their shape somewhat, 7-9 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

With a slotted spoon, scoop out the berries, letting as much juice as possible drain back into the pan, and put the berries into a small heat-proof bowl.

Dissolve the cornstarch in 3 tablespoons cold water.  Whisk into the juices in the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until very thick, up to 2 minutes.  Scrape the sauce into the bowl with the berries and gently fold together.  Taste and adjust sugar and lemon juice to your preference.  Let cool completely before proceeding. 

May be refrigerated for up to 2 days in a covered container before using.

For the pastry:
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

In a small bowl, make an egg wash by beating the egg with 1 tablespoon cold water until well combined. 

Unfold the puff pastry dough on a floured surface, and gently pinch together any seams that have split.  With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12x14-inch rectangle, using a sharp knife to even the edges.  Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise to form two 6x14-inch rectangles.  Gently fold one of the rectangles in half and transfer to the baking sheet, then unfold.

Use a pastry brush to brush a 1-inch border of egg wash around all edges of the dough.  Save the remaining egg wash.  Spread the fruit filling evenly down the length of the dough, leaving the egg-washed border clear.

Lightly dust the remaining piece of puff pastry with flour and gently fold it in half lengthwise; don’t crease the fold.  Using a sharp knife, cut 1 ½ -inch long slashes at 1-inch intervals along the folded side of the dough, leaving at least a 1-inch border on the remaining three sides.  Do not unfold the dough.  Gently lift the folded strip (another pair of hands helps here) and position it over the fruit-filled dough rectangle, match up the straight edges (the fold should be down the middle of the pastry).

Gently unfold the top piece and stretch it over the filling, matching the straight edges all the way around.  Press the edges gently with your fingertips to seal, then gently crimp all the edges with a fork.

Chill the assembled jalousie for 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point the jalousie may be refrigerated, covered with foil or plastic, overnight.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400d.

Right before baking, brush the top of the jalousie with a very light coating of the remaining egg wash (you won’t need it all) and sprinkle with sparkling or granulated sugar.

Bake the jalousie for 15 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet.  Continue baking until the pastry is puffed and deep golden brown, 12 – 15 minutes.  Immediately transfer the jalousie from the baking sheet to a wire rack by lifting the parchment paper onto the rack, then sliding it out from under the jalousie.

Let cool for at least 45 minutes.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, with optional cream or ice cream.  

Best the day it’s baked, but will keep wrapped well in aluminum foil, for 3 days.  Reheat at 325d for 5 minutes before serving.