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Monday, June 26, 2017

Tried & True - Summer Menu Inspiration

I say it every year. Summer is my favorite time to cook. From simple yet elegant meals driven by the best seasonal ingredients (basically my goal all year), to desserts that practically make themselves, no time of year inspires me more. 


Neurotic Kitchen Summer Favorites 


As you think about your own cooking goals this summer, whether they include big parties or intimate entertaining, I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of just some of my tried and true summer dishes. You can rest assured that all of them have been made multiple times and, better yet, you can prep or make almost all in advance. This means you'll have more time to enjoy your parties, which is as it should be. I hope you enjoy and I wish you a season you can savor in more ways than one.  

Neurotic Kitchen's Summer Menu Ideas

"Surf" Mains/Starters/Sides
Turn any dish into a Surf & Turf with one of these

Grilled Marinated Calamari Salad - serve alongside Steak for an easy Surf & Turf, salad included, or as a great starter
Tuna Crudo with Peach & Jalapeno
Skewered Shrimp - Season the marinate large shrimp in flavors to your liking. Stack one serving (3-4 shrimp) and skewer them in two places for easy flipping. Grill on a piastra, pizza stone or grill basket
Clams in Cartoccio - these grillable hobo packs makes any main a Surf & Turf
Cooked Shrimp Ceviche
Fluke Ceviche
Rose Mignonette for Oysters
Margarita Oysters Verde (Salsa Verde, Lime & a splash of Tequila) 
Grilled Scallop Salsa Cruda


Pastas/Pizzas - App, First Course or Main

Lemon Pizza in Grill or Oven 
Scallop & Sungold Tomato Pasta

Menus:
Latin Inspired Menu

Mojo Marinated Skirt Steak
Yellow Rice
Watermelon Arugula Salad 
Or
Grilled Pineapple, Basil & Cucumber Salad
Corn with Jalapeno Lime Butter 

Florentine Inspired Menu

Prosciutto & Melon
Bistecca Florentina - T-bone Steak Marinated in Herbs on the Grill, 
Italian Corn
Summer Stone Fruit Panzanella Salad (use any seasonal stone fruit)
Assorted Gelati  

Classy American BBQ Menu
Israeli Couscous with Seasonal Additions  (ideas here, here or here
Tomato and White Onion Salad, Red Wine/Olive Oil/Oregano Dressing 
Corn on the Grill - just remove the silk, soak the corn a long while and grill in the husks
Ribeyes Marinated in Caper Vinaigrette then grilled 
Strawberry Pretzel & Gelato Sundae

Greek Inspired Menu

Shepherd's Salad (Any variation like Cucumber, Tomato, Scallion etc)
New Potatoes & Green Bean Salad with Vinaigrette
Leg of Lamb Marinated in Mint and Yogurt - Grilled
Assorted Sorbets (Mint, Lemon, etc) 

Other Easy Sides/Starters:

Sweet & Savory Watermelon Wedges 
Tomato Carpaccio
Grilled Peaches with Goat Cheese
Crab Salad served on or with Cucumber Chips
Grilled Asparagus on a Grill Basket or in Foil Packets 

Ready to Serve - Products We Love
Xotchitl Tortilla Chips 
Xotchitl Salsa
Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Il Laboratorio del Gelato - all flavors (especially the mascarpone used in our Pretzel Strawberry Sundae)
Talenti Gelato - Particularly Sicilian Pistachio
Spoonable Salted Caramel - Makes any Ice Cream special 
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers - add to Ice Cream, serve with coffee, etc

Your favorite Pie a la Mode -- we like Briermere Farms Peach Cherry 


Monday, June 19, 2017

Ingredient Spotlight - Mint Simple Syrup

The summer heat is on full blast and you are, no doubt, in need of some refreshment. At least that's how I felt when I decided to use the overflowing bounty of my herb garden to jazz up a cold glass of Iced Tea - one of the many simple pleasures of the season, I am sure you'll agree. 

If you've ever included Mint to your garden, you know that it is prolific, growing and spreading like a weed as it takes over everything in its immediate proximity. Looking for a practical way to capitalize on this abundance, I decided to find a Mint Simple Syrup Recipe. The process took just about 15 minutes (including washing and chopping the Mint) and the results were delicious - Simple Syrup can be used in Cocktails (the possibilities are really endless) and Mocktails and as you've probably guessed, it was an awesome way to add extra flavor and sweetness to home-brewed Iced Tea. 

Mint Simple Syrup, Photo: NK 
 RECIPE from Epicurious

Bottom's up and enjoy! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

London Calling - Dinner At Ottolenghi & More

Last week's journey to London was our first trip across the pond in several years, which makes me all the more excited to chronicle some of the highlights as I've done for many of our past travels, domestic or international. For more on some of the highlights (food or otherwise) enjoyed during our previous jaunts, click below.   

London at Dusk, Photo: NK 
Montreal Family Trip for Four



Though the primary purpose of this trip was work, I am so glad that while I headed out to the office, scenically located near the Thames by gorgeous St.Paul's, my family was able to enjoy the sights in lovely London, even if we did have a few rainy days in between. As for myself, it was a pleasure to take in the city through adult eyes, having last experienced it decades ago as a ten year old. 

As far as culinary highlights, the undeniable winner was our trip to Ottolenghi in the Islington section of London. I have a real fascination with this amazing chef. From his gorgeous cookbooks packed with creative recipes built largely on Middle Eastern flavors, to his charming public persona and commitment to activism, there is nothing not to like about Yotam Ottolenghi. You'll find his restaurants in multiple locations across London, but if you make the trip to the Islington Ottolenghi, I can tell you you'll be greeted by a display window overflowing with sweet treats. Upon entering, you cannot help but feast your eyes on the counter offering an array of colorful and appetizing prepared foods. Continue even further and you'll discover the chic yet bustling communal tables in the back. 

The Ottolenghi dining format is small plates driven, allowing you to taste a great variety of creative preparations. I love this sort of meal as I am always wanting to sample more dishes than my stomach or wallet will allow. You'll also find lots of vegetable-centric dishes, so it's a great option for non meat eaters. 

Our dinner was mouthwatering start to finish, with almost all the dishes executed impeccably. Add to that friendly and approachable servers, and the fact that this was the scene of our first taste of orange wine (I cannot believe I've lived my life never discovering this wonder), and it was a memorably dining experience through and through. Luckily, I was able to discretely capture some photos for you. 
Heirloom Tomato Salad, Scallops with Mango, Roasted Beets with Tahini, Spiced Pork Chops and the most amazing Carrot Cake. All from Ottolenghi Islington, Photo: NK 
We surely enjoyed some other very solid meals, with a strong honorable mention going to Cote Brasserie (a reliable chain - we visited the charming Marylebone location) where we dined on quite a lovely bistro meal. Similarly, Osteria Antica Bologna in bustling Clapham (a quick overground rail trip outside London) offered a delicious Italian meal and endearing service. Special thanks to our two sets of lifelong friends for hosting us at both venues, and in their lovely homes.  

As for the rest of our trip, we were able to pack in some of the enumerable sights that London and its surrounding areas offer, from a visit to Greenwich by boat, a trip to the Natural History Museum, to the Temple Church and the absolutely not to be missed Churchill War Rooms (the latter two to the particular delight of my inner history nerd), there was certainly something for everyone. 

Thanks to all our friends and colleagues for an amazing trip and until next time, London! 


The Temple Church, Photo: NK 

Leave lots of time to enjoy the Churchill War Rooms,
Photo: NK

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Italian Pasta Classics - Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint & Pecorino

Mint, lemon and chili together are a very classic Italian flavor combination. They also happen to work deliciously together with seafood. This incredibly easy and company-worthy Pasta dish is an excellent choice if you are looking for an entree that is zesty, light and comforting all at once. At well under 30 minutes to prepare (if you get the Shrimp cleaned in advance) it's also doable on a weeknight. I know Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint and Pecorino is definitely going to be a regular on our summer menu rotation. Try it today and buon appetito! 

Photo: NK






































Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint & Pecorino
Serves 3 as an entree (or 4 lightly)
Lightly Adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:
1/4 lightly toasted Pine Nuts
1/2 Pound Spaghetti 
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
2 Garlic Cloves, halved
1/2 Pound Large Wild Shrimp, shelled, cleaned and cut in thirds (buy them cleaned to save time!) 
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Zest of one Lemon
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Chopped Mint, plus small leaves set aside for garnish
1 Cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon jarred Calabrian Chili (we like Tutto Calabria) or substitute Crushed Red Pepper


Method: 
Prepare Pasta as directed in well-salted water. Reserve 1/2 Cup Pasta water, drain and set the Pasta aside. 

Meanwhile in a large skillet, warm 2 Tablespoons of the Olive Oil over medium low heat and add the Garlic Cloves. Cook, stirring until slightly golden, for about 5 minutes. Discard the Garlic. 

Sprinkle Shrimp with a little Salt and Pepper. Add them to the skillet and cook about 2 minutes until almost totally opaque. 

Add the Pasta, Water, Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, 2/3 of the Pecorino Cheese, and the 2 remaining Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Cook, tossing constantly until the sauce thickens nicely, about 2 minutes. Season with a bit more salt and stir in the Calabrian Chili.

Plate and garnish with remaining Pecorino, toasted Pine Nuts and Mint Leaves. Enjoy!