Tag Archives: Pepper

Calamari and Kiwi

While a crispy fried calamari is a favorite appetizer, especially in restaurants, there are a myriad ways to prepare squid as a first course.  I am trying my hand at cooking squid as it takes only a few minutes (easy for a weeknight) and is very reasonably priced (about $7.99 per pound).  Last night, I created this dish as I had a jalapeño in my vegetable drawer and a golden kiwi in my fruit bowl.

For this appetizer for two, use four medium to large squid tubes and four tentacles.

After rinsing the squid, use kitchen scissors to slice the squid bodies into rings of about 1/4 inch wide.  Roughly chop about four thin slices of jalapeño – this quantity depends on your heat tolerance! Slice the kiwi into eight slices and fan them along the bottom of an appetizer bowl or plate (I used two small antique vaseline glass bowls).

Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil in a wok until it sizzles.  Then, add the jalapeño and sauté for about two minutes.  Add the squid and cook for two minutes.  While the squid is cooking, move it around with a wooden spoon and coat it in the oils.  Spoon the squid atop the kiwi along with the oils and jalapeño, and season with sea salt to taste.

calamari-and-kiwi

The sweetness of the kiwi is a bright balance to the kick of the jalapeño!

Sweetbreads With Some Heat

This recipe for offal is a simple summer appetizer with a kick…

Rinse one pound of sweetbreads, then cover them with water in a large pot.  Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar and two pinches of salt.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a colander to rinse, then place in a bowl of water and ice to cool.  Remove the sweetbreads from the bowl and drain on a paper towel.

Use your finders to separate the sweetbreads into small pieces, removing the membrane.   Season with salt and pepper and dredge in cornmeal.  In a nonstick pan, heat several tablespoons of olive oil then sauté the sweetbreads until golden brown and no longer pink.  Add slices of jalapeño to taste as they sauté.  Arrange on an appetizer plate alongside several slides of focaccia.

Sweetbreads and Jalapeno

If you have never enjoyed organ meats, sweetbreads are a good place to start due to their mild taste and smooth texture!

Careful – Scorpion Pepper

Careful! While fitting for the month of October, the Scorpion pepper is one of the world’s hottest.  The Pumpkin peppers are a bit milder but still provide a lot of heat!

Scorpion 3

In response to Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Careful

Black Pepper Pasta

This weekend I was reminded how simple it is to make fresh pasta.  As I was flipping through Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook for inspiration, I decided to use his recipe for a variation on a basic pasta dough.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 extra large eggs

1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh ground pepper

Mound the flour in the center of your work surface.  Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs, olive oil and black pepper.  Beat the eggs, oil and pepper together with a fork, then incorporate the flour starting from the inside rim of the well.  Expand the well by continuing to incorporate flour while making sure to retain the shape of the well.  As the dough comes together, knead with the heels of your hands.  Push aside any floury bits that do not incorporate, sprinkle more flour on your work surface and knead for about 5 minutes.

Pasta Dough

The dough will be slightly sticky but should not stick to your hands.  Place the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Pasta Drying

Roll out the dough into your desired shape…We rolled the dough through the thinnest setting on our pasta machine and then rolled it through the fettuccine attachment.

This recipe makes about one pound of pasta.  Half of this recipe was more than enough to serve as a side to a braised rabbit for two.

My new goal – enjoy a homemade pasta once a week.  Abbondanza!

Corn Salsa and Crab Cakes

Corn salsa is a refreshing, and somewhat spicy, way to enjoy summer’s bounty of fresh corn.  I recommend pairing this salsa with crab cakes…

Ingredients for Corn Salsa:

2 ears of corn, preferably white, sweet corn

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4 slices jalapeno, chopped

1 large tomato, cut into small chunks

Chiffonade of 5 basil leaves

Juice of 1/2 lime

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Cut the corn from the cobs and place in a large bowl.  Add the scallions, jalapeno, tomato, basil and lime juice.  Mix together and taste before adding the desired amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Corn and Scallions

Ingredients for Crab Cakes:

16 ounce container lump or jumbo lump crab meat

1 egg

Zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

2/3 to 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

My recipe for crab cakes is very simple – no filler! In a large bowl, mix the crab and egg with a fork.  Then, mix in the lemon zest as well as sea salt and pepper to taste.  Add the bread crumbs last, using your hands to mix the ingredients and feel for the amount of bread crumbs necessary to bind the crab.  Shape the mixture into 4 cakes, and chill on a plate in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.  Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a nonstick pan.  When the butter begins to foam, add the crab cakes and sauté until golden brown on each side (about 8 minutes total).

Plate the crab cakes topped with the salsa; or, serve the salsa in a flat serving dish alongside other summer favorites, such as slices of nectarine and mozzarella.

Corn Salsa

Okra on the Side

Fresh okra has probably caught your attention at the farmers’ market this summer.  It has certainly caught mine…

okra 1

If you would like to enjoy this summertime treat without committing to a gumbo, try it as a side dish with another summer star – cherry tomatoes.

To prepare this simple and healthy side, slice a pint of okra into chunks on a bias and halve a cup of cherry tomatoes.  Sauté the okra slices in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick pan.  This small quantity of olive oil may seem like it is not enough, but it will permit the edges of the okra to brown.  It will also enable the okra to retain its crispness rather than become too slimy.

Sauté for about seven to eight minutes while moving the okra around the pan with a wooden spatula.  Add the tomatoes and cook for another two to three minutes until they are slightly softened.  Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  I also recommend some Aleppo pepper for its medium heat and somewhat salty taste.

Serve immediately and enjoy okra’s pleasant crunch and unique flavor.

okra 2

Paella – A Dish Fit for a Summer Dinner Party

If you are looking for a centerpiece for a summer dinner party, consider a paella.  The variety of ingredients – chicken, shellfish, vegetables, chorizo – will appeal to all taste buds and will surely wow your guests.  Below is my recipe that will serve six to eight.

Ingredients:

¼ cup achiote oil (made from heating achiote seeds in olive oil until the oil turns a rich red) or extra virgin olive oil

12 chicken thighs, bone-in and skinned

3 chorizo, cut into ½ inch slices

1 jar Goya Sofrito

2½ cups Bomba rice or Arborio rice

16 ounces clam juice

48 ounces chicken broth

24 large shrimp, shelled and de-veined

18 littleneck clams (and/or 18 mussels)

6 squid bodies, sliced into rings

½ of a 10 ounce package of frozen peas, defrosted

4 peppers, sliced (use a mix of red, orange and yellow peppers)

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

The ideal pan to prepare paella is a paellera – a large, round pan with two handles.  The pan is also very shallow to enable the rice to cook uniformly.  If you do not have a paellera, you may use any pan that will cook the rice evenly, such as a roasting pan.

I prefer to cook paella on the grill rather than the stove as the grill will accommodate the size of the paellera.  The grill also retains the heat so that the rice forms a crunchy ring around the outer edge of the pan.

Heat the grill to medium-high.  When the grill is heated, place the paellera on the grill and pour the oil in the paellera.  Once the oil is hot, place the chicken thighs in the paellera and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken on both sides.  As you are cooking the paella, rotate the paellera periodically so that the ingredients cook uniformly.

After the chicken is browned, add the chorizo and peppers and cook until the chorizo is lightly browned and the peppers soften.  Stir in the rice so that the rice is coated with the oil.  Pour in enough clam juice and chicken stock to cover the rice by about ¼ inch.  You may need to adjust the amounts of juice and stock listed above.  Stir in the sofrito.  Turn the heat to high and let cook until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed by the rice and the rice is tender.

Turn the heat down to medium and nestle the shellfish into the rice.  First add the shrimp, then the clams/mussels.  The shrimp are cooked when they are white and no longer translucent.  This will take just a few minutes.  The clams/mussels are cooked when their shells open.  Discard any clams/mussels that do not open.

While the shellfish are cooking, scatter the peas over the paella.  The rice around the perimeter of the paellera should be browning and crisping during the cooking process.  When everything is cooked, add the squid.  The squid is added at the very end as it will only take about 2 minutes to cook.  In order for squid to be tender, it must be cooked very quickly.  When the squid turns white, test it to make sure that it is cooked.  Remove the paellera from the grill and serve immediately at the table.  Enjoy!

Final Paella

Heat Up the Kitchen with a Shrimp Fra Diavolo

If you’re in the mood for a seafood dish with a kick, I recommend a Shrimp Fra Diavolo.  It is a simple preparation yet an interesting alternative to a regular marinara sauce.

Begin by heading to your local seafood market for jumbo shrimp (I suggest four per person).  Then select your pasta.  This weekend I found an excellent egg pasta made in Italy by Bartolini called “Cirioline All’Uovo”.  The package contains eight nests of long squared pasta, adding more surface area for the sauce to adhere, and two nests per person seems to be the perfect amount to allow for seconds.

After you clean the shrimp, prepare what I refer to as a “fast sauce”.  This involves slicing three cloves of garlic and sautéing the garlic in olive oil.  Do this in a sauté pan that has a lid, and then add a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes.  Add salt to taste and stir.

The “Fra Diavolo” begins by adding several dashes of red paper flakes as well as a dried chili pepper.  Also include fresh herbs, such as basil and/or oregano.  (I am growing a hot and spicy oregano plant, which was an ideal pairing!)  When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover.

Sauce

While preparing the sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  As the water comes to a boil, add a pinch of salt and then the pasta.  Stir the pasta periodically.  When about six minutes remain to cook the pasta, add the cleaned shrimp to the sauce.  Adjust the heat to medium and cover.  Turn the shrimp once while cooking so that each side becomes opaque.  This will take about three minutes per side.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan, tossing it with the shrimp and sauce.  Serve the Shrimp Fra Diavolo in pasta bowls…with extra red pepper on the side.

Final Sauce

 

Egg Drop Soup

I have finally gotten over my cold with the help of some soup.  Not chicken soup, but egg drop soup.  Below is my husband’s recipe – a variation on the traditional Chinese soup.

In a saucepan, bring the desired number of cups of chicken stock to a boil.  While the stock is coming to a boil, beat the eggs, using one egg for every two cups of stock.  Then add a drizzle of sesame oil to the stock and stir.  Pour the beaten eggs into the stock in a steady stream and whisk in a back and forth motion so that the eggs form flakes.  Add black or white pepper to taste and remove the pan from the heat.

You could top with chopped scallions, but for extra heat (and color) my husband added his own twist – a pickled chili pepper.

Egg Soup