Tag Archives: Seafood

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!

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Your menu for today is set…perhaps you are already placing the turkey in the oven or slicing the Brussels sprouts.  After today’s comfort foods of mashed potatoes, stuffing and candied sweet potatoes, you may be interested in a light meal for the weekend.

How about Nantucket Bay scallops? We enjoyed our first of the season earlier this week.   Consider sautéing these tiny, sugary scallops for just a few minutes in salted butter and tossing with Yudon noodles and Asian greens.

Nantucket Bays

Bon appétit today and always.

Inspiration – Fish Market

Fresh ingredients inspire me.  For example, a trip to the fish market…

Bouillabaisse? Cioppino? Paella?

Mullet

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

a. kitchen is the kitchen

a. kitchen is more than a kitchen.  It is a dining destination in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood where Chef Eli Kulp (also of Fork and High Street on Market) creates modern and elegant cuisine.  My husband and I recently enjoyed brunch, lunch and dinner (not all in one day, of course!) at a. kitchen.  All three meals were delicious.  The service was outstanding, and the setting is pleasant and cozy.  The open kitchen with a chef’s counter also provides for a unique dining experience.

For brunch, we started with a charcoal biscuit with house made butter.  The kitchen boasts a custom made grill using natural hardwood charcoal.  Nearly all of the dishes prepared in a. kitchen, including this tasty biscuit, reach the grill at some point.  For my main course, I ordered the grilled prawns with creamy grits paired with a salad of baby kale, basque pepper and radish.  The preparation of pepper and radish provided a nice kick.  My husband enjoyed the steak and eggs of American Wagyu, over easy eggs and blackened “frenched” onion.  The beef was grilled to a medium rare perfection.  We chose a light ending – the trio of ice cream and sorbet.   The current icy offerings are milk chocolate, caraway-rye and cranberry-apple.  Our favorite was the caraway-rye – a very creative flavor for a winter sorbet.

For dinner, we were encouraged to share several small plates followed by a main course.  We decided on the grilled, shelled quail eggs with pickled beets and onions.  The quail eggs had a soft yolk, and their richness balanced out the tanginess of the beets.  We also selected the hamachi crudo, which was served over crispy rice cakes and spicy mustard.  This dish showcased the Asian influences on the menu.  Another highlight was the Caputo Brothers burrata floating in a golden beet soup accented with dill and trout roe.  The roe provided a “pop” to the silken soup and rich cheese.

Our final small plate was the grilled octopus salad of spiced sweet potato, peanuts and winter greens.  The octopus was the tenderest that I have tasted, and the Asian spices were superb.  For the main course, we selected the special Dover sole with a side of grilled leeks with green chili romesco and smoked Marcona almonds.  This sole was grilled on a. kitchen’s centerpiece, providing it with a smoky flavor while still retaining its buttery taste and tender texture.

The wine list is impressive and includes some of my favorite French reds, including those from the Rhone.  We enjoyed a Bandol, which complemented the earthy spices.

For lunch, we enjoyed the deviled skate with sambal and grilled bok chou – another plate that demonstrates the kitchen’s talent with spices.  To balance out the seafood dishes enjoyed at a. kitchen, I decided to try the Creekstone Burger with cave-aged cheddar, mayo and pickles.  The burger proved that a. kitchen should be a destination for those in the mood for red meat as well.  As a finale, we enjoyed the sunchoke custard with black walnut brittle, hopped apples and maple.  This delicious savory sweet was the most creative use of a root vegetable that I have encountered.

Plan a visit to a. kitchen for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner and their new addition – an adjacent bar (a. bar) – which serves oysters and seafood specialties.  We will look forward to a lobster roll in the near future!

French Women Love Les Pâtes

Everyone knows that French women love wine and cheese, but did you know that they also love pasta?

French Women Pasta, a mother and daughter team based in Newark, Delaware, is a  local distributor for Pappardelle’s Pasta produced in Colorado.   You may have spotted French Women Pasta at local farmers’ markets during the summer months along with their over fifty flavors of pasta.  Although most farmers’ markets have ended for the year, French Women Pasta will participate in several fall and winter events as listed on their website at www.frenchwomenpasta.com (and will accept orders!)

My husband and I have tried several flavors, including the Lemon Chive Angel Hair, Orange Szechuan and Spicy Thai Linguine.  The pasta is packaged in eight ounce containers, ideal for serving three or four.

Pasta

The Lemon Chive Angel Hair had a subtle, fresh flavor – a perfect pairing for shrimp and scallops.  To prepare, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and stir.  While the pasta is cooking (which will only take a few minutes), heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add several tablespoons of butter.  Allow the butter to foam, and tilt the pan around so that the butter coats the bottom.  Place the shrimp and scallops in the pan, cooking for about two minutes per side until opaque.

When the pasta is ready, drain the water and add the pasta to the sauté pan of seafood. Using a wooden spoon, blend the pasta and seafood and coat the pasta with the butter and oil.  You will likely need to add additional butter.  Plate the shrimp and scallops atop the pasta and season with freshly squeezed lemon juice, ground pepper and sea salt.  If you would like additional heat, try a dried red pepper!

Pasta and Seafood

Look for French Women Pasta and their unique flavors this fall…from Lavender to Porcini Mushroom to Lime Cilantro.

Junto Restaurant and BYOB

Junto

Junto Restaurant and BYOB is a new dining treasure in the Brandywine Valley.  Chef MacGregor Mann, who worked with Iron Chef Jose Garces, opened this cozy restaurant in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in May of this year.  The menu showcases local ingredients as well as seafood from the Atlantic as far north as the Hudson River down to the Chesapeake Bay.

Last week at Sbraga’s third anniversary celebration (a fabulous seven course dinner!), some fellow foodies recommended Junto as their go-to BYOB.  This weekend, my husband, friend and I tried it for the first time, and our experience proved to be the best dinner out in this neighborhood in quite a while.  The restaurant offers a chef’s tasting; however, we decided to order from the variety of dishes on the menu.

We started with three very distinctive starters: “The Roots” salad, which was a mosaic of pickled kohlrabi, sunchokes, radishes and beets along with green chickpea hummus and goat kefir ranch sauce; the wild mushrooms served in a pea consommé with Crowder peas and goat cheese toast; and, the slow cooked beef cheek with lima beans, heirloom tomato, sorrel and saffron potato chips.  The salad was light, refreshing and colorful, while the mushrooms were savory and comforting.  The beef cheek melted in my mouth, and the fresh lima beans balanced out the dish with a crunchy texture.

For a pasta course, we decided to share the egg yolk ravioli served over crispy smoked pork, sassafras pork jus, red kale, peaches and shaved walnut.  As we cut into the ravioli, the egg yolk melted into the pork jus, creating the perfect blend of flavors.  The peach added a sweet note and made for a pleasant transition from a summer to fall menu.

Our main courses were the “Forager’s Pasta” of black garlic fettuccine, summer market vegetables, foraged herbs and tomato water emulsion; the black bass with baby fennel barigoule, pasta neck clams, grilled scallion and lovage; and, the grilled sturgeon, which was alder wood smoked with wax beans, fermented Crowder pea, watercress and a lemon verbena emulsion.  All were cooked to perfection and attractively plated.  The most striking of the main courses was the sturgeon for its mild smoky flavor and creative presentation on the alder wood board.

We could not resist a cheese plate of Farm Fromage Cloth Bound Cheddar, Tomme Delicious and Galens Good Old Gouda – all from Pennsylvania and served with raw honey, spiced walnuts and raspberry butter.

For a sweet ending, we chose the Shoofly profiteroles to keep up the Pennsylvania theme to the very end.  The chocolate molasses sauce was the ideal, not too sweet, ending to the superb meal.

The service was excellent, and, the fact that Junto is a BYOB makes the already reasonable prices even more appealing.  With an average cost of fifty dollars per person for all of the above courses, this elegant meal would be impossible to beat in the Brandywine Valley/ Delaware area.

Sardines – The Tastiest of Small Fish

Sardines are underrated.  Not only are these tiny fish packed full of nutrients, including Vitamin D and protein, but they are also tasty and meaty.  Whenever I see them in a fish market, I buy them.  Although I have scaled and gutted them myself, my preference is to have the fishmonger do it for me.

My favorite preparation is an easy one.  Simply rinse the sardines under cold water and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.  Grill them whole – this should only take a few minutes per side, depending on their size.  To serve, top with freshly squeezed lemon juice and season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  For a light appetizer, garnish with fresh herbs or serve over shaved fennel.

Sardine

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

 

Whole Fish for Dinner

One of my favorite dinners to prepare as the weather gets warmer is whole fish on the grill.  Most recently, I purchased two different fish – a branzino (the fish featured on most Italian restaurant menus these days) and a daurade (I prefer to use the French name for what those in the U.S. call sea bream).  I ask the fishmonger to scale and gut the fish but to leave the head and tail.  My husband and I prefer leaving the head and tail on as they help to make a nice fish stock later.

To prepare the fish, make a pocket using aluminum foil and season the fish with sea salt and fresh ground pepper along with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Also add freshly squeezed lemon juice and place several slices of lemon and herbs in the cavity.  After seasoning the fish, close the pocket of foil tightly to prevent any steam from escaping and drying out the fish.  Fish the size of the branzino and daurade should take about 12 – 15 minutes to cook on medium heat on a gas grill.

Branzino

For a sweet starch to accompany the fish, I sliced and sautéed a ripe plantain in extra virgin olive oil until the slices turned golden brown on each side.  And, for a peppery green on the plate, I added fresh watercress tossed with a hot pepper oil and sea salt.

Plaintains

The next time you see a whole fish at the fish market – whether a branzino, red snapper or Spanish mackerel – consider this simple but tasty preparation.

Cooked Fish