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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Eve, Italian Style

Christmas Eve is traditionally our designated holiday to host, but with the end of this year being so busy for us, we were on the fence. As it is my favorite holiday meal of all time, I found that I was quite saddened by the idea of not being in the kitchen making a big fish feast, in keeping with the custom of so many (mainly southern) Italian and Italian American households. While I resolved that it would be too hectic to make seven fishes as normal, I was still very excited to choose two basic dishes that could be served to our small group of guests. Both dishes featured below can be made in less than 20 minutes once prep is done. 


First, the appetizer: Calamari alla Luciana (Squid Neapolitan Style) 


Calamari alla Luciana, Photo: NK - Recipe HERE 
and then the main, Monkfish Piccata


Monkfish Piccata, Photo: NK - Recipe HERE
 (Note: we omitted the artichokes and kale and served spinach instead) 



Do click through some of our more involved (but never difficult or unduly time consuming) Feast of the Seven Fishes menus below, but I hope today's post gives you some great ideas for your next fish-driven dinner party or family meal. 


For Dessert: Using the selection of Christmas Cookies we'd already baked and serving them alongside high quality store bought Gelato was a fas solution. 

I've featured all the recipe to links to this year's Christmas Cookie Assortment below. Five varieties to choose from may sound daunting, but the baking was made easy and achievable by spreading it out over a few days (freezing some of those made in advance helped us immeasurably). The key is also to choose easy, foolproof cookie recipes, sticking to those that require minimal prep, ideally less than 15 minutes.


Christmas Cookie Assortment, Photo: NK

Cookie Assortment, clockwise from the top:

Ina Garten's Shortbread Jam Thumbprints
Christmas Morning Biscotti
Arrowroot Cookies with Cinnamon
Pignoli Cookies 
Spiced Italian Pecan Meringues 

~~
I hope you enjoy and that the holiday season brought happiness and peace to your home. 
We look forward to returning to our usual menu program next Christmas Eve! 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Carols, Cookies and Christmas Cheer

The holiday season is in full swing, and though this is the most busy time for some, it's actually a bit slower in our household, believe it or not. The preceding months were absolutely action packed, and try as I might, I did not get to do nearly enough blog-worthy kitchen experimentation. 

Every holiday season, I attempt to add another cookie to my highly selective baking repertoire (find two of our other favorites HERE and HERE). As a prerequisite, the recipes I repeat must be both very easy to master and predictable in outcome. Nothing bothers me more than doing everything exactly the same and getting a less than stellar result, but such is life with baking, and that's why to this day, I will always prefer to cook. 

This year I have had a bit of an inexplicable thing for shortbread (all my life I had no idea it was so easy to make, often with only 3 ingredients in the dough! ) so Ina Garten's Shortbread Jam Thumbprints drew me in almost immediately. After one test run for half this large-batch recipe, I was convinced that it was totally foolproof. A baker I am not, but I know a good cookie when I taste one. 

You'll find the link to the recipe in the photo below
. You can make them ahead and freeze them too! I used unsweetened Coconut Flake whereas the Contessa calls for sweetened. I think ours came out delicious. Pull them just when the coconut stars to get slightly golden. You can't miss! 

Ina's Jam Thumbprint Cookies - Click HERE for Recipe! 
Next up, with all sugar and holiday treats around, I set out to bake an ever so slightly more virtuous treat for my family, one a little less sweet, maybe a little more biscuit like, but still satisfying over a cup of tea or, for the little one, a sippy cup of Milk. 

Arrowroot Flour always catches my eye in the health food store, and I've always been curious about it.  Given this, it only made sense that I should try and recreate a childhood favorite, Arrowroot Cookies. Turns out Arrowroot itself is pretty interesting. A starch derived from tropical plants, Arrowroot Flour is known for being easily digestible and the plant itself was prized in ancient Central American cultures. 

Once I got my hands on a super simple recipe from another blogger, I was pleased both by how fast the easy dough came together, the equally quick bake time and of course the results. The original recipe from Someone's In The Kitchen Blog appears below with my only change, the addition of a 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon, a favorite spice in our house, and the fact that I used light brown sugar instead of dark. Either would work. 

Kids and adults of all ages will enjoy these simple, homey treats, and you will love the cost savings as compared to other kid's crackers. You could get creative and cut the dough into letter shapes, stamp it, decorate with a fork as I did, or even engage your kids in the effort. 

Enjoy and I hope the holiday season is as stress free and fun as possible! 


Simple Arrowroot Cookies 
Lightly Adapted from Someone's In The Kitchen
Yields 25-30 Cookies 


Simple Arrowroot Cookies - So many possibilities! Photo: NK 



Ingredients: 

1/4 cup butter brought to room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/2 cup arrowroot flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon (optional) 

Method
Preheat oven to 350. 

In a KitchenAid or using a hand blender, combine butter and brown sugar together until creamy

Add vanilla and egg and beat well.

Sift together flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon if using.

Combing dry ingredients with egg mixture and mix until incorporated. 

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into about ¼ inch thickness.  

Cut into desired shapes and put
 cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, not too far apart as they will not spread out when baking. 


Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool on rack.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Comfort Cooking - Perfect Chicken Stock

Rainy, gloomy, and damp, today is just a Chicken Soup kind of fall day. 

Of course, the first step to any great soup is a well developed stock, and if you've got some leftover Chicken and nothing better going on for a few hours, making it is from scratch is both wonderfully easy and very worthwhile. 

Now, keep in mind, you can certainly put your own stamp on Stock (it's very hard to mess up and the longer you simmer it, the more the flavors will intensify), but it you're looking for a good basic method, the below recipe works very well and always seems to deliver a tasty result. 

Here's how we do it:


Perfect Chicken Stock 
Makes 5 Quarts 
Slightly adapted from Ina Garten 


Ingredients: 

The seasoned, cooked carcass of a 4.5-5 lb Roaster Chicken, with some meat still on it (we like make Chicken Salad with the meat of the Roaster Chicken, and reserve about 2 Cups of chopped, cooked Chicken to add back whenever we make the Chicken Soup from this stock)
3-4 large Carrots, rinsed, cut lengthwise and broken half
1 very large Yellow Onion cut into quarters, skin on
4 Celery Stalks, leaves on, broken in half
2 Parsnips, halved crosswise
1 head of Garlic, top slice off
1 large Leek, (hard green tops discarded then cut lengthwise and in half, then and soaked to remove dirt)
1 large handful of fresh Dill
1.25 Tablespoons Kosher Salt (a bit less if you are sodium sensitive, you can always add more later if needed)
2 Tablespoons Whole Peppercorns 
5 Quarts (1 Gallon + 1 Quart) Spring Water 
Squeeze of Lemon Juice (optional) 

Method:Add all the ingredients into a very large pasta or cast iron pot (ideally with a strainer basket inside to easily remove the large solids). 

Cover with Water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 4 hours (skim foam from the top periodically if you can). When finished, let it cool and strain it all using a colander until all solids are removed. I like to finish it with a squeeze of Lemon Juice. Use the Stock to make your favorite Chicken or Chicken Noodle Soup! (Cook's Note: for a very simple, improvised Chicken Soup, I just saute some chopped yellow Onion, Carrot and Celery and add chopped cooked Chicken, Stock, and some cooked Barley or small Pasta. Greens like Parsley, Dill or Thyme would be a welcome addition -- add Salt and Pepper only as needed, serve and enjoy!). 

Tip - Use extra Carrots, Onions and Leeks you may have bought to make our favorite Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Summer - Fig & Brioche Tartines

There are few things that make me happy about the end of summer, but the beauty of the fall season to come is one of them. With that comes great produce - Pumpkins and Pumpkin flavored foods get all the attention (or should I say, overexposure?), but for me, the humble Fig is the most worthy harbinger of the changing season. Earthy green or purply brown on the outside and bright and beautiful on the inside, it's as if they carry the last of the sweet summer memories into the autumn the chill.

Fig & Brioche Tartines, Photo: NK

If you you look back through Neurotic Kitchen's late summer posts, you'll almost always find a Fig recipe to try. This year's is the simplest, and was inspired by a decadent Grilled Cheese Sandwich I enjoyed from one of the food trucks at the lovely Hallockville Museum Farm Country Fair. Hallockville is a not-for-profit and working farm featuring landmark historic buildings. The organization seeks to "preserve and interpret the history of farming on the North Fork of Long Island." The Country Fair had lots of great food, farm-themed amusements for the kids, and lots of really interesting old-time tractors and farm equipment. This city girl was shocked by how much she enjoyed the antiques! If you have the chance, make sure to visit next summer. 


Anyways, on the drive home, we stopped by our favorite farm stand where they were selling some really good looking, ripe black figs. Seeing as I can almost never resist them, I just knew they'd need to be worked into our dinner somehow. The next stop was to the supermarket where I grabbed a log of Brie and, when additional inspiration struck, some sliced Brioche. What followed was one of the easiest and yummiest pre-dinner bites I've had in a while. I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Fig & Brioche Tartines
Serves Six

Ingredients:
About 8 Ripe Black Figs, cut into 1/4 inch slices
8 Ounce Log or Wheel of Brie (doesn't need to be a fancy Brie)
6 slices Brioche
Fig Preserves (Optional)
Salted Butter
Coarse Sea Salt 
Fresh Thyme Sprigs (Optional)

Method: 

Hollow out the Brie Log or wheel and reserve the soft inside in a bowl or on a surface until it reaches room temperature. 

Just as you would a grilled cheese, butter both sides of each slice of Brioche and lightly toast until one side is deeply golden and close to fully toasted. Lower the flame all the way. 

Remove Brioche to heatproof surface, toasted side up. Lightly spread each slice with optional Fig Preserve (a thin layer) and a healthy amount of Brie. Butter the griddle again and return the toast, Brie Side up to the griddle where you'll heat until the Brie Fully Melts. 

Remove toasts and top with slices of Fig. Now give them a light sprinkle of Sea Salt and a garnish of fresh Thyme Sprigs (with a few of the leaves removed and scattered on top. Enjoy! 

Neurotic Kitchen Tip: This would make for a great brunch dish too!


Monday, July 24, 2017

House Special - My Rules of Seafood Pasta

Seafood pasta is the signature dish of our household, with Linguine and White Clam Sauce inarguably holding the top spot. Still I am at heart, a lover of variety. That's why especially in summer when fresh fish most appeals to me, I like to change things up a bit and create different variations of shellfish over pasta, whether in white (oil/broth based) or red "tomato-based" sauces. 

One thing is for sure, once you master the very forgiving technique of most basic seafood pastas, you are almost guaranteed a quick cooking meal that tastes and feels special. Just be sure you are choosing the absolute freshest fish you can find - it will make all the difference.


My latest Seafood Improvisation -Linguine Frutti di Mare in fresh Tomato Sauce 
with Clams, Calamari, Shrimp & Mussels, Photo: NK 

Below you'll find some of my rules and techniques for successful Seafood Pastas plus a few of our favorite recipes that you can try. Once you get the hang of them you owe it to yourself to improvise one on your own. You'll be surprised at how easy it is. 

TIPS

1. Always clean, prep and chop non-fish ingredients ahead.  Seafood pastas are quick cooking so if you aren't prepared, your timing can be really thrown off. Chop all vegetable or herb ingredients in advance (usually garlic, shallot or onion, and a green like Italian Parsley). 

2. With shellfish, smaller is always better. Particularly with bivalves, the smallest Littleneck Clams or Mussels are the way to go. I always find them to be sweeter, fresher, and more flavorful. If you cannot personally select them just ask your fishmonger to select the smallest they can find. Shrimp is probably an exception to this rule, as the various sizes can all be delicious as long as they are fresh (and preferably, Wild & American). Consider your recipe in choosing the most ideal Shrimp size. 

3. Scrub and prepare all shellfish as directed - this is crucial because no one likes a sandy dish of food. Additionally, the process of cleaning is your opportunity to to do some additional quality control. I personally sniff every Clam, Shrimp or Mussel that I serve. If anything has a cracked shell, or smells a bit off, definitely toss it. Your nose will almost always steer you in the right direction. The internet has a wealth of information on cleaning your shellfish, and you'll find tricks for all varieties (for instance, Ina Garten submerges Mussels in cold water with flour to get them to unleash any sand or impurities). Your fishmonger may also be able to execute timesaving measures such as peeling and deveining Shrimp. Even if you have to pay a little extra, it's nearly aways worth it. 

4. Salt the pasta water. This is the rule almost always, but I find it particularly important with Seafood Pasta which is usually delicately flavored and layered.

5. Don't overcook the pasta. Please. Al dente is crucial, and to get it perfect ever time, I time it!  Also, always reserve some pasta water to loosen the pasta if necessary or add to the sauce. 

6. Don't overcook the Shellfish. Noticing a theme? Whether clams, mussels, here is my secret to success -- the second they open, take them out and set them aside in a bowl to catch the juices. To achieve this, you'll need to stand by your pot with tongs and work quickly, checking under the lid of the pot frequently. This is no big deal - Shellfish cooks so quickly and there's nothing worse than rubbery seafood (I'm talking to you, Calamari). 

7. This one is more a suggestion but I can't resist -- skip the Cheese! There's an unwritten rule that Italians don't put grated cheese on Seafood. I abide by this rule and it has never failed me. If you follow these steps, the flavor will be there - or there is not much a sprinkle of Salt can't fix. 

BASIC METHOD

1. Start your salted Pasta Water boiling. 

2. Add either Olive Oil or Salted Butter to a large, deep pan. (I actually like a mix of both - depending on how many you are serving, either one or two Tablespoons of each will do. Warm it over a medium flame taking care not to let it smoke). 

3. Add minced fresh Garlic or finely chopped Onion or Shallots. These are always good aromatic base ingredients. Cook gently taking care not to burn, especially if we're talking Garlic. If you burn the Garlic, dump it and start over. 

4. Time for Liquid. For Clam Sauce I use Clam Juice and White Wine. White Wine, even in a red-based sauce, is preferably. It won't turn your Calamari or Onions purple. That's a plus. As an aside, if you are cooking Calamari, always cook the Tubes before the Tentacles, removing the Tubes before cooking the Tentacles, the reason being that the Tentacles have the purple pigment which will turn the whole dish purple - it'll taste fine but won't look as good.

5. Once your liquid is bubbling, add the shellfish -- Clams, Mussels, a mix, etc. If you are working with Calamari, Shrimp, or finned Fish, I usually choose to cook them in a separate pan and toss it all together towards the end b. If you are adding "red" or Tomato Ingredients (fresh chopped Tomatoes, Sauce, Paste, now would also be a good time to add it). Cover to steam, checking frequently. As Shellfish begin to open, pull them out one by one right away and place them in a bowl to catch the juices. Continue until all Shellfish has opened and discard any that take much longer than the rest. 

6. Want it more brothy? You can always add more wine! Also add Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper as needed at any point in the process, just be gentle with Salt as Seafood has natural salinity. My rule of thumb: you can always add but never subtrace salt. If you over-salt, Lemon can some times counteract it. Speaking of Lemon, Lemon Juice and Zest are natural partners to "white" style Seafood Pasta preparations. 

7. When are you done? Your fish and Shellfish is all cooked, you have some sort of brothy sauce or tomato based sauce, and your Pasta is done and drained (with some pasta water reserved). Either plate the Pasta and top with Shellfish and Broth, or toss it all together in a large, high-sided pan. You can add a few drizzles of Oil and/or some Pasta Water to create more of a sauce (stirring consistently). Taste for Salt, Pepper and add fresh Herbs to finish-- my favorite is finely chopped Italian Parsley for versatility. Serve and enjoy! 

Some Recipes to Get You Started

Scallops With Sungold Tomato Pasta
Linguine With White Clam Sauce
Spaghetti Rigati With Lemony Calamari

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! 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017 - Persian Style Herbed Rice

As long as I can remember, Easter has always been my absolute favorite holiday. For me, it's a day already so filled with hope, joy and a sense of renewal. It also coincides with spring, a season of rebirth itself, one signaling that summer is right around the corner. Last but not least, with the exception of delivering some baskets the Easter Bunny may have dropped off for the little ones, Easter isn't saddled with all the pressures gifting that plagued Christmas. No, in my mind, Easter is just perfect - right down to the menu.

This year, we went with the very traditional Lamb main. It was warm enough to grill outside and my husband cooked it perfectly. We adapted a great recipe for full racks (vs. sliced up chops from the rack) and drizzled it with a Greek lemon sauce called Ladolemono before serving. This would be a winner any time of year and it was so easy. Find the recipe HERE


Amazingly easy Lamb that we adapted Michael Psilakis' recipe by upping the grill time for a few full racks vs.
individual chops. Simple Ladolemono (a Greek Lemon Sauce) provides a little extra brightness to this rich dish. 

For a great side, you can't go wrong with our ilili Brussels Sprouts, a sweet, savory and tangy dish inspired by an amazing Lebanese restaurant in NYC by the same name. 

ilili Brussels Sprouts, Our version of the restaurant's recipe featured HERE on the blog

Finally, I adapted a much more technically complex (and phenomenal looking recipe for Sabzi Polo, Persian Herbed Rice served in a slightly molded form with a crispy crust on its outside) by playing off many of its flavors but presenting it more as a traditional (and far faster and easier) Rice dish. One day I will try the real thing but this meal was all about speed and ease despite the significant amount of time it took me to wash, chop and prep the many herbs that went into our meal! 
Persian Style Herbed Rice - A quick version of a much more involved side dish, Sabzi Polo. I adapted ours using many
of the same flavors and folding them simply in a basic rice dish. The recipe follows below.

I hope you enjoy the easy recipe below. And don't wait until next Easter to try it! 

Persian Style Herbed Rice

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 8  

Ingredients:


2 Cups Basmati Rice
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 Cup minced Dill
1/2 Cup minced Italian Parsley
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Water heated with a 1/4 teaspoon Spanish Saffron Threads

Method:

1. Prepare Basmati Rice as directed in Water, cooking until just the tiniest bit underdone.

2. As Rice cooks, heat Salted Butter in a small pan and saute minced Garlic a few minutes until soft and fragrant but not browned. Turn of the heat. 

3. In another small pot, heat the Saffron threads over medium heat in 1/3 Cup water until quite hot and water becomes deeply colored, about 5 minutes. Allow to sit. 

4. Fluff the Rice and carefully fold in all the Herbs, the Butter and Garlic, and toss gently adding the brewed Saffron liquid and distributing it throughout, reserving a small amount for serving. Follow by drizzling in 1/4 Olive Oil. Stir to incorporate. 

5. Finish by adding 1/2 teaspoon Salt and then combine.

6. Taste and adjust Salt as needed. 

7. To serve, remove to a serving bowl and drizzle with remaining brewed Saffron. Garnish with leftover herbs and enjoy! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Comfort Food Classic - Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf

Every once in a while, I get a craving for Meatloaf. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I go out of my way to make it something special.  Most often, I'll go for our standard (but very awesome) Turkey Meatloaf recipe, complete its own yummy basting and serving sauce, but this particular night, I wanted something different - a slightly faster cooking Meatloaf packed with savory, tender Mushrooms that the whole family (toddlers and up!) will eat. 

Because this Meatloaf is also relatively small-batch (double the recipe and cook in two pans if you'd like to make more), it stays extra juicy and cooks in just about hour.  You don't have to love Mushrooms to love this recipe, but you will find that they add extra richness, texture and meatiness.  You almost feel like you're eating Beef instead of healthier Turkey Meat. Try this for your next family dinner. You won't regret it. 

Most Delicious Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf (Pictured with extra Mushrooms on top). Photo: NK

Most Delicious Mushroom Meatloaf
Serves 4 
*(If you double the recipe, best to divide into two portions and bake it in two sheet or roasting pans, side by side)

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, divided
1 large Carrot, minced
1 Leek, white and light green parts, minced (you can sub in 3 minced Scallions as well)
1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely diced
Cup and a half minced or diced mixed Mushrooms (we used Oyster and Cremini)
3 Tablespoons minced Chives

1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 LB Ground Organic Turkey
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese 

Method:

Turn oven to 350 with rack in the middle. 

Melt 2 Tablespoons of the Butter medium skillet over medium heat. Add minced Carrots and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add Leek, and saute for about 2 minutes. Add Onion and saute another two minutes. Add minced Mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-4 minutes until they have softened but are still springy. Stir in Chives and Parsley and turn off the heat.

Add Panko to a large bowl. Stir in Chicken Broth and blend to moisten the Panko. Add the Mushroom Veggie Mix to the bowl as well as the Turkey, and 1 Egg. Blend. Melt the last Tablespoon of Butter and pour it in. Season with Salt and Pepper. Add Ketchup and Parmigiana Cheese. Blend.

Grease a high sided Baking Pan and mound the Meatloaf down the middle of it. It will seem rather wet and that is ok. It should be about six inches wide to nine inches long and about an inch and a half high. Bake about 1 hour until cooked through (170 in the middle with an instant read thermometer). Rest for 5-10 minutes and serve warm. 


Enjoy!