Monday, July 15, 2019

The Dessert You Didn't Know You Needed - Lemon Brownies

My love of lemon is well documented on this blog (take a look here, here, and here) so it was only natural that in my quest for the perfect dessert fix, I stumbled on yet another lemon sweet to add to my repertoire. If you're like most people, you might find the idea of a Lemon Brownie quite out of the box. Nevertheless, these didn't seem all that odd to me, because years ago I had discovered and enjoyed a similar recipe - Paula Deen's unexpectedly delicious recipe for orange brownies. And by discovered I mean I shamelessly ate far more than my fair share when a coworker brought them to the office. While my opinion of Paula has seen better days, her brownies (they are tangy, chewy, and orangey-just like a brownie but without the chocolate), made me a believer. 

Lemon Brownies, Photo: Neurotic Kitchen 
So what makes today's recipe more Lemon Brownie than the ubiquitous lemon bar? It's all about the texture - these will not be cake-like. What emerges from your oven will be chewy and fudgey, which is, in fact, just the way I like my chocolate brownies. The result is a bitesized confection that is tart but sweet, and overall, a hugely satisfying little sunny bite. For me, the lemon brownie is the epitome of an easy and elegant handheld dessert. Rest assured, the kids will like them too! 

We'll get to the recipe soon, but first, some tips:

Bring butter fully to room temperature.
Do not overmix batter.
Do not overbake batter. It's done when you see just the slightest golden color at the very corners of the pan. Not more than 25 minutes in most ovens - you'll want to keep an eye on it. 

Lemon Brownies
Recipe very lightly adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen


1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine Sea Salt 
2/3 Cup Salted Butter (equal to 11 Tablespoons) + a bit extra for greasing the pan
2 Large Eggs + 1 Large Egg White
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest 
2 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice

Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Sifted Confectioner's Sugar
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
2.5 teaspoons Lemon Zest
+ one drop of yellow food color (completely optional)
+ flakey Sea Salt (also optional)

Parchment Paper
Glass or metal pan (9x9)

Place rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. 
Grease the baking pan with butter and place parchment into the pan, leaving an overhang so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan once they've cooled. 

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a whisk in a large bowl and mixing by hand), stir together flour, sugar, and salt until well incorporated. Add butter and mix until well combined. Do NOT beat at high speed or over mix. In a small bowl whisk the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice together. Scrape edges of the bowl and pour the contents into the flour batter bowl, stirring with a whisk (or electric mixer) until the batter well blended and smooth. Once again, do not over-beat (note: this is precisely why I like to make this recipe by hand, just be sure ingredients are well-incorporated). 

With a rubber spatula, scrape batter into the baking pan and smooth the top. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake. You will see slightly golden edges beginning to appear. The middle will be semi-firm but not hard. 

Let the brownies fully cool and then gently lift them out of the pan by the parchment overhand, supporting the bottom as well. 

Make the glaze by combining the confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest and whisk vigorously until smooth and glossy. You have two options with the glaze - you can either pour it onto the uncut brownies and cut them once it has hardened, or you can cut the brownies into small bitesized bars and separate them on a plate. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze onto each until almost totally covered. This is my preference. In either scenario you can optionally sprinkle the tiniest bit of flakey sea salt on to of the icing as it hardens. If your lemon zest is not bright yellow, you can add a drop of yellow food color to the glaze before adding it.

These brownies can be stored up to five days in fridge if you place them in an airtight container. They also freeze nicely! 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Mardi Gras in Minutes - Cajun Shrimp & Grits with Chard

Sorry it's taken so long for me to do a new post. Life's gotten extra busy -- I'm sure you can relate. Though I'm committed to adding more content here on my very first love, Neurotic Kitchen, you can always find frequent updates on our everyday meals and exploits over on instagram. Today's dish, an easy Mardi Gras meal that comes together in just 20 minutes (if you get pre-cleaned shrimp), originated over on instagram! I so enjoyed making and eating it, I knew it had to be recorded here for my archives. 

Check out the details below and I promise it won't be so long until I post again! 

Cajun Shrimp & Grits with Chard, Photo: NK

Cajun Shrimp & Grits with Chard
Serves 3-4
Timing: can be made in 20 minutes with pre-cleaned shrimp

1 Cup Quick Grits
1 Lb medium sized wild Shrimp, peeled, pre-cleaned, tails on or off 
Cajun Spice Blend (double recipe below)
1 Bunch Rainbow or Red Swiss Chard
2 Pats Butter
Canola or Grapeseed Oil for cooking Shrimp
Cheddar Cheese, for grating, optional
Hot Sauce of your choice

Mix Cajun Spice Blend (do ahead if possible). Recipe follows below. 
Wash and dry Chard, cut the leaves into 2 inch ribbons and the stems into half-inch lengths (do ahead if possible)
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Season on both sides with Cajun Spice Blend.

Start your Quick Grits according to the package instructions (boil water and add the grits) and while you are doing so, add 2 tablespoons of oil in a separate skillet and cook your shrimp, a few minutes per side, until fully pink and golden from the spices - the inside should be opaque but not dry. When shrimp are done set aside. In the same skillet, add a few tablespoons of water and toss in the chard over medium high heat. Let it wilt in the pan, stirring a few times (3-4 minutes). Add some butter to the Grits and loosen with water if needed.

To serve, spoon some Grits into each bowl, add grated cheddar if you like. Top with shrimp and chard, plus hot sauce of your liking. Enjoy!   

Cajun Spice Blend
Yield: Enough for 8 servings of shrimp

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
Optional crushed red pepper (will be quite hot with it)  

Mix! Can be made ahead. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Italian Grill - Spicy Shrimp Skewers

Today I'd like you to check out one of my favorite recipes this summer -- Spicy Calabrian Shrimp Skewers. You may already know I'm a sucker for Calabrian chili, so when I find it in a jar anywhere I always stock up in order to have it on hand. I make Giada De Laurentiis' incredibly easy dish with large shrimp (about 16-20 count per pound). The recipe consists of a simple marinade which you let sit on the shrimp a few hours (4 is perfect). I then portion out the shrimp (4 per person alongside another protein is a good amount), and skewer them through the tail and opposite end of the shrimp. Using two skewers is a little trick I learned to prevent them from spinning on the stake, making them easier to flip. 

Remember to soak the wooden skewers for at least an hour beforehand to prevent them from burning. Grill these just a few minutes per side until they are opaque and cooked through. Serve the shrimp kebabs alongside any other fish (or meat for surf and turf) atop lightly dressed greens or herbs -- so easy!

Spicy Shrimp Skewers with Grilled Calamari on the side, Photo: NK

***To check out the Spicy Calabrian Shrimp recipe, click HERE.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Marinated Chicken on the Grill with Zesty Drizzling Oil

I always say I am not the world's biggest chicken fan but my family remains unconvinced. They say that for someone who claims not to like it, I sure make it a lot (a bit of an overstatement, if you ask me). The truth is, it's not that I really dislike chicken, it's that so much chicken out there is underwhelming, mediocre, and sometimes, awful. While I generally see chicken as a vehicle for other flavors, I will grant that when it's perfectly cooked perfectly, it doesn't need all that much enhancement. My rules for chicken are simple - bone in and skin on. With those two starting points, you're already ahead of the game. 

Marinated Chicken on the Grill with Zesty Drizzling Oil, Photo: NK 

The zesty marinade and drizzling oil that I will share with you today is perfect for chicken on the bone. The basic marinade paired with a bright and tangy dressing for serving come together to make a chicken dish that manages to be super juicy and flavorful, without taking away from understated greatness of well-cooked chicken. I like to use a mix of drums and thighs but you can select any combination of chicken pieces, including breast. 

After the marinade is prepared, I throw the chicken in a large gallon Ziploc and pour it in so it can sit in the fridge 4 hours or so. Jiggle the bag here and there to distribute the flavor. You can now make the drizzling oil ahead. Once grilled (or cooked), plate the chicken and drizzle it over each piece, reserving some for any guests that would like a little extra.

Zesty Grilled Chicken Marinade
Serves 4 

1/3 Cup Olive Oil 
Small Sweet Pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt 
1 small Hot Red Chile (or Jalapeno), roughly chopped 
1 large Lemon, (zested and zest set aside) cut in half, another large Lemon, cut in half for grilling 
1 tablespoon White Wine or White Vinegar
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice (squeezed from one of the Lemon Halves)
Handful of chopped Parsley 

Combine all ingredients and pour over chicken in a plastic bag or sealed container. Marinate in the fridge for 4 hours, turning occasionally. Bring to room temperature, scrape away the marinade from the chicken pieces and grill. Grill the second lemon cut sides down on the grill alongside the chicken (towards the end of the cook time) for a pretty, utilitarian garnish. To serve, plate the chicken and drizzle with the infused oil over it (recipe follows below). Scatter torn parsley around the platter and finish with the lemon halves. 

Infused Drizzling Oil
Enough for 4 Servings 

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons finely minced mini Sweet Peppers (two or more colors if possible) 
Finely minced Hot Chile to taste (1/2 teaspoon is a good start) 
3 Garlic Cloves, 2 whole and crushed, 1 clove minced finely and set aside
2 teaspoons Lemon Zest 
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon White Wine or White Vinegar
Handful Curly Parsley, torn 
Salt to taste

Warm the Olive Oil over a low flame with 2 whole cloves crushed garlic until the garlic starts to become slightly golden and fragrant, but not burnt. Remove the whole cloves and discard. Add the hot chile, sweet peppers, lemon zest and 1 clove minced fresh garlic. Warm for another minute or two and turn off the flam. Add the lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Cool the drizzling oil and then and add salt to taste. Reserve until chicken is cooked and drizzle over each piece.  Enjoy!