I shall be but a shrimp of an author.
~Thomas Gray, English poet

Shrimp are free swimming, decapod crustaceans with a thin exoskeleton classified in the infraorder Caridea. These bottom dwellers are widely dispersed throughout the world’s marine habitats. The current term “shrimp” originated around the 14th century with the Middle English shrimpe, akin to the Middle Low German schrempen, meaning “to contract or wrinkle.”

Much like meats and poultry with a bone in, shrimp grilled in the shells are more intensely and richly flavored. As an added benefit, leaving the shells on provides a buffer against overcooking, a malady that many shrimp grillers suffer. It should not be forgotten that these delicate shellfish continue to cook once removed from the grill. So, please keep that in mind as overcooked shrimp become mushy and tasteless.

Of course, seafood sustainability should be paramount when choosing shrimp. Currently, imported Black Tiger Shrimp, Tiger Prawn, White Shrimp, Ebi are market names to be avoided. Although shrimp propagate rapidly and are resistant to overfishing, both bottom drifting gillnets and trammel nets are used for shrimp fishing at sea, which can result in bycatch—unwanted fishes and mammals caught accidentally in fishing gear and discarded dead or dying overboard.

When purchasing, shrimp should have uniform color and feel firm to the touch and not limp.

The decision to devein (removing the intestinal tract of shrimp) is basically a matter of aesthetics and personal preference. The word vein is a misnomer as shrimp have an open circulatory system and no real veins. If you demand your shrimp deveined, you can still cook them in their shells. Without removing the shells, simply make a vertical slit with a sharp paring knife about 1/2 into the shrimp down the ridged back and remove the vein that runs down the center.

GRILLED SHRIMP WITH HERB & LEMON MARINADE WITH GRIBICHE OR TOMATO RELISH

18 jumbo shrimp, peeled (except for the tails) and deveined

Herb & Lemon Marinade:
2 T sea salt
2 T freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 T fresh tarragon or parsley leaves, stemmed and finely minced
1 T fresh thyme leaves, stemmed and finely minced
Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Place the salt, pepper, garlic, tarragon, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Let the shrimp marinate in a baking dish or large ziploc bag in the refrigerator, covered for at least 1 hour, turning so they are well coated. Soak wooden skewers in water during the marinating time.

Prepare the barbeque grill to medium high heat. In the meantime, place shrimp on skewers and return to the baking dish, allowing them to reach room temperature.

Place the shrimp on the grill and cook, turning once, until just pinkishly opaque and firm, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve with gribiche (June 2, 2009 post) or tomato relish.*

*Tomato Relish
2 medium ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
2 T yellow onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
2 T capers, drained
2 T parsley, chopped
1 t red pepper flakes
1/4 C red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 C olive oil

Whisk first 6 ingredients in a bowl and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking vigorously. Serve at room temperature.

GRILLED SHRIMP WTH LIMES, CHILIES & GARLIC

16 jumbo shrimp, in the shell

Place cumin seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, just a minute or two, until they are fragrant. Finely grind in a spice or coffee grinder.

Roast ancho and poblano chilies directly over a gas flame, over a charcoal fire or under the broiler on a baking sheet until the entire surface is blackened and blistered, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Place the roasted, blackened chilies in a plastic bag to steam some. Rub off the charred skin, stem and seed.

Marinade:
5 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
Juice of 3 limes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Paste:
4 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 ancho chilies, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 poblano chili, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 scallions or green onions, coarsely chopped
2 t cumin seeds, roasted and ground (see above)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least one hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk thyme, lime juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange the shrimp in a baking dish; cover them well with the lime mixture and marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 1 hour. Turn a couple of times to assure that the shrimp are well coated.

In the meantime in a food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapenos and roasted chilies, scallions, cumin, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, to make a coarse, but pourable paste. Add the cilantro and pulse some more. Set aside and reserve a small portion of the paste for serving over the shrimp. Place the marinating shrimp on skewers and return to the baking dish and spoon the remaining mixture over the shrimp. Coat shrimp well with the paste and allow to marinate for one hour, turning a couple of times.

Prepare the barbeque grill to medium high heat.

In the interim, bring the shrimp to room temperature. Grill the skewered shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn to the other side, cover, and grill another 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pinkish opaque and are slightly firm to the touch. Season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with reserved paste and serve.

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Pizza Di Nuovo

April 20, 2009

The perfect lover is one who turns into a pizza at 4:00 a.m.
~Charles Pierce

CALZONE WITH PROSCUITTO, CHEESES & HERBS

4 ozs goat cheese, crumbled
8 ozs mozzarella, grated
3-4 slices proscuitto, about 1/8″ thick
2 T fresh chives, finely chopped
3 T fresh oregano, minced
3 sprigs thyme leaves, peeled off stem, chopped
2 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

Extra virgin olive oil

1 pizza dough, rolled out

Preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone inside for at least 30 minutes.

Cut proscuitto into 2″ long julienne strips. Combine goat cheese, mozzarella, proscuitto, chives, parsley, thyme and garlic cloves, making a thick paste. Arrange the filling on one half of the dough, leaving a 1″ margin on the edge. Fold the dough over to seal, pinching with fingers, much like closing the top and bottom crusts on a fruit pie.

Bake the calzone, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Calzones tend to take a few more minutes to cook than open pizza. Brush with olive oil immediately after removing from oven. Let rest before slicing.

GOAT CHEESE, ROASTED GARLICS & SUNDRIED TOMATOES

6+ plump, fresh roasted garlic cloves, peeled and sliced*
4 ozs goat cheese, crumbled
4 ozs mozzarella, shredded
10 sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil and cut into ribbons

Extra virgin olive oil
Parmigiano reggiano, grated
1 bunch basil, cut into ribbons

1 pizza dough, rolled out

Preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone inside for at least 30 minutes.

Lightly brush pizza with the garlic olive oil, using a pastry brush. Spread the pizza dough with mozzarella, leaving a 1″ border. Scatter crumbled goat cheese over mozzarella. Strew garlic cloves and sun dried tomatoes over cheeses.

Bake the pizza, until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. When cooked, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with grated parmigiano reggiano and basil.

*Roasted Garlic

Preheat oven to 400 F

Leaving skin on, cut 2 heads of garlic in half transversely. Place each half in a ramekin, cut side up. Cover with extra virgin olive oil and then foil. Place on a cooking sheet or baking dish and cook until slightly golden, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool. Keep garlic oil for cooking purposes, including brushing on pizzas or calzones in lieu of simple extra virgin olive oil.

TAPENADE, CAPERS & CITRUS ZEST

Tapenade
2 C brine-cured olives, such as Niçoise, pitted
2 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
2 T capers, drained and rinsed
2 high quality anchovy fillets
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t Dijon mustard
Dash of brandy or cognac
6 T olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

If the anchovies are salt packed, let them stand in a bowl of milk for 15 minutes to exude the salt. Then, drain thoroughly.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the drained anchovies, olives, capers, mustard, garlic, cognac and thyme. Process in bursts to form a thick paste.

With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it is thoroughly incorporated. Season with pepper, then allow the tapenade to stand for an hour or so to allow the flavors to marry.

Tapenade
8 ozs fresh mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil

Parmigiano reggiano, grated
2 T capers, well drained
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Zest from 1/2 orange

1 pizza dough, rolled out

Preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone inside for at least 30 minutes.

Lightly brush pizza with olive oil, using a pastry brush. Spread the pizza dough with tapenade, leaving a 1″ border. Strew mozzarella over the tapenade.

Bake the pizza, until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. When cooked, garnish with capers, citrus zest and then a grating of parmigiano reggiano.

SAUSAGE & CHILI PEPPERS

5-7 chili peppers of varying colors (poblanos, anaheims, jalapeños, serranos), stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
2 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/3 lb. fresh Italian sausage, out of casings and crumbled
8 ozs fresh mozzarella or serrano, shredded or thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Large pinch dried thyme

Extra virgin olive oil
Parmigiano reggiano, grated
Fresh thyme sprigs

1 pizza dough, rolled out

Preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone inside for at least 30 minutes.

In a large, heavy skillet, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and sauté chili peppers on medium high heat. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Remove and set aside, discarding garlic. Add sausage and cook until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.

Brush pizza dough with olive oil and cover with mozzarella, leaving a 1″ border. Arrange sausage and chili peppers atop the mozzarella.

Bake the pizza, until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. When cooked, garnish with a grating of parmigiano reggiano and a few fresh thyme sprigs.

PIZZA CON UOVO (EGG)

3 large fresh, organic, free range eggs
8 ozs fresh mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
3-4 slices proscuitto or serrano, very thinly sliced, and then sliced again lengthwise
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Parmigiano reggiano, grated
1-2 T fresh tarragon, chopped

1 pizza dough, rolled out

Preheat oven to 500 F with pizza stone inside for at least 30 minutes.

Brush pizza dough with olive oil and cover with mozzarella, leaving a 1″ border. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove pizza half way through cooking (about 5-6 minutes), arrange proscuitto on cheese and crack eggs on top in an equilateral triangle; sprinkle with pepper and return to the oven to cook through. Bake the pizza, until lightly browned, for a the remaining 5-6 minutes. When cooked, garnish liberally with a grating of parmigiano reggiano and chopped tarragon.

Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive.
~Pliny

Harissa is a hot chili sauce or paste that is commonly found in North African cuisine, added to a range of dishes, including couscous, soups, and grains.

MORROCAN OLIVES

1 1/2 C fine green olives and 1 1/2 C fine black olives (with pits), lightly smashed to crack open slightly

4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 t tomato paste
1/2 C harissa
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 lemon slices, thinly sliced

Cover olives with water in a small saucepan and briefly bring to a gentle boil, then drain and allow to dry.

In a heavy skillet, saute garlic in olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until garlic is light golden, about 2 minutes. Do not burn the garlic. Remove from pan and discard. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in harissa, thyme, and olives and simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened and coats olives, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon slices. Transfer to an airtight jar and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

HARISSA

1 lb small hot red chilies, roasted and peeled
2 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1 preserved lemon (see preserved lemons)
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 T ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t ground carraway
1 T sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Finely mince the chilies, roasted peppers, preserved lemons and garlic with a knife or food processor. Combine with the cilantro, cumin, and salt. Transfer to an airtight jar and cover with olive oil and place in the refrigerator until needed.

Pourboire: For a smokier more hedonistic version, grill the chilies, peppers and garlic over medium high hot coals on the barbeque.

Hae mul pa jun, hae mool pa jun, haemul pajun, hae mul pa jeon, haemool-pahjun, haemul jun. This scallion pancake is a flat delectable app and speaks to the Korean sea culture. I tend to make both dipping sauces, fine balances between sweet, spice and acid—as they can be used with other dishes, fishes, finger foods and keep fairly well in the fridge for a day or two.

HAE MUL PA JUN

2 C all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-2 T canola oil
1 1/2 C cold water

6 scallions, green parts only, cut into 3 inch lengths and sliced lengthwise
8 chopped scallions
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 small to medium zucchini, trimmed and grated
6 oz fresh squid, cleaned, rinsed and thinly chopped
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, rinsed and chopped

In a medium bowl, mix flour, eggs and oil with water until a smooth batter is formed. It should be a tad thinner than traditional buttermilk pancake batter. Stir chives, carrots, zucchini, shrimp and squid into batter.

Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then coat bottom with oil. Ladle in about a quarter of the batter and spread it out evenly into a circle; if first pancake is too thick to spread easily, add a little water to batter for remaining pancakes. Turn heat to medium and cook until bottom is browned, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

As each batch of pancakes finishes, remove and drain on paper towels.

Cut pancakes into triangular wedges and serve with dipping sauces.

RICE VINEGAR & SOY DIPPING SAUCE
1 T rice vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t sesame seeds

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

RED CURRY PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE

1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2 to 3 t Thai red curry paste
8 to 10 T water
2 t peanut or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 C finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then thin with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.

Holy Mole

February 9, 2009

Not the oft heard exclamation by the Captain Marvel characters of yore—rather the supremely complex gastronomic gem of Mexico. The depth, breadth, and height of the aromas, flavors and textures of that fine fusion called mole are nearly unsurpassed, almost religious.

Showing the patience and imagination of creating a superbly complex mole is what real lovers do on V Day. Due to the number of ingredients alone, it is crucial that all things be mise en place before you begin the mole ritual.

MOLE POBLANO WITH CHICKEN

6 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
4 dried anaheim chilies, stemmed and seeded
4 dried chipotle chilies, stemmed and seeded
1/4 C golden raisins (sultana)

1/4 C whole almonds
1/4 C sesame seeds
1 t whole black peppercorns
1 t coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
1 t dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves plump garlic, peeled and chopped
2 serrano peppers, stemmed and seeded
6 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded or 1 14 oz marzano peeled, canned tomatoes
2 ounces fine bittersweet chocolate (85% cocoa), chopped

1 organic, free range chicken, cut into 10 pieces
2 limes, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 C chicken stock
Sea salt

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 lime, juiced
Cilantro

Roughly cut the ancho, anaheim, and chipotle chiles into large pieces and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Put them into a bowl with the raisins and cover them with hot water. Soak until softened, about 30 minutes.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the almonds, coriander, sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, oregano, and thyme—one kind at a time. Toast for 2 minutes, grind in a spice grinder, and add the powder to a blender. In the same skillet over medium high heat add the olive oil, onions, garlic, and serrano. Cook until lightly browned, then add the tomatoes. Cook until all are softened, about 10 minutes, then add to the blender. Add the chocolate and the soaked chilies and raisins to the blender along with some of the chile soaking liquid. Purée, adding more of the soaking liquid as needed, to make a smooth sauce.

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with lime juice. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet and brown the chicken on all sides; remove the browned chicken to a plate leaving the oil in the pan.

Pour 2 cups of the mole sauce into the hot skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and return the chicken pieces to the pan. Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the onion and radish slices into a bowl. Add the lime juice and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt. Mix well and serve with the chicken.

Serve over cooked white rice. Garnish with cilantro.

A Cupboard Not Bare

January 19, 2009

Even the most resourceful housewife cannot create miracles from a riceless pantry.
~Chinese proverb

Before traipsing into the kitchen or addressing the grill, some thought needs to be given to the provisions on hand. Not only would it be unrealistic to expect all ingredients to be locally fresh throughout the year, but the time constraints of daily life often demand an impromptu table. Having a well supplied (and periodically restocked) pantry is simply essential for home cooks to produce remarkable meals without a last minute forage at the neighborhood market. Some cupboard items can even prove superior to the fresh versions in certain seasons or preparations while others only come in pantry form.

The list below is not exhaustive, but is intended to be fairly comprehensive for the lay cook. Of course, you will tailor your pantry to suit your palate and home cuisine. However, before you reject this list due to storage size restrictions alone, please keep in mind that almost all of these items are carefully housed in the cabinets of our minimalist urban kitchen with a small frig.

Oils –- extra virgin olive, canola, peanut, grapeseed, vegetable, white truffle, avocado, walnut, sesame

Vinegars — red wine, balsamic, champagne, apple cider, sherry, port, rice wine

Spices & Herbs — black peppercorns, white pepper, green peppercorns, pink peppercorns, mixed peppercorns, cayenne pepper, salt (sea, gray, kosher), herbes de provence, fine herbes, ras el hanout, za’atar, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, tarragon, fennel seeds, fennel pollen, savory, celery seed, mustard, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, pimentón, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, curry powder (homemade) & curry paste, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, caraway seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon (sticks/ground), chipotle chile powder, ancho chile powder, star anise, sesame seeds (black, white), allspice, anise seeds, saffron threads, wasabi powder, rubs (i.e., asian, ancho chili, dried mushroom, rosemary & pepper, tandoori, basic barbeque), local hot sauce(s), barbeque (preferably near home) sauces

Grains & Pastas — rice (white long grained, wild, brown, jasmine, basmati), polenta, risotto, pastas (potentials: taglilatelle, linguini, spaghetti, penne, lasagne, orzo, tortellini, orcchietta, capellini, farfalle, capaletti, cavatappi, cavatelli, fusilli, gnocchi, macaroni, papparadelle, ravioli, vermicelli), couscous, Israeli couscous, rice (cellophane) noodles (vermicelli–bun & sticks–banh pho)

Asian –- soy sauce, shoyu, white shoyu, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce/paste, sriracha, nuoc mam nhi(fish sauce), nuoc mam chay pha san, hoisin sauce, red, yellow & green curry pastes, mirin, sake, coconut milk, miso pastes (white, red), oyster sauce, wasabi paste/powder, five spice, tamarind paste, mirin, rice flour, panko bread crumbs, kochujang, gochu garu, konbu

Garlic, shallots, ginger, potatoes, yellow & red onions, dried chiles

Mustards, chutneys, capers, sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, tomato paste, harissa, tahini, creme fraiche, pickles

Canned tomatoes (san marzano + homemade), stock (homemade/canned)

Legumes –- lentils (several colors + lentils du puy), garbanzos, cannellinis, white beans, black beans, navy beans

Booze — red & white wine, cognac (brandy), port wine, Madeira, sherry, eau de vie

Baking — flour, sugars (white granulated, raw cane, light brown, confectioner’s), baking powder, cornstarch, cornmeal, yeast, cocoa, dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa)

Flavorings –- almond extract, vanilla beans, vanilla extract, Tabasco, Worcestershire

Dried fruits — currants, apricots, figs, prunes, currants

Nuts –- pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, unsalted peanuts

Honeys (local, raw, unprocessed), mi-figue mi-raisin, raspberry and strawberry preserves, apricot jam, pure maple syrup, peanut butter

Dairy –- whole milk, unsalted butter, eggs, buttermilk, heavy whipping cream

Fruits –- lemons, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, heirloom tomatoes

Cheeses –- parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, gruyère, marscarpone, roquefort or gorgonzola, feta, fontina, manchego

Meats proscuitto, serrano

Spreads tapenades, caponata, hummus