Saturday, February 24, 2007

Quick Shrimp Salad Dinner

It's Friday night, and I'm stuck in traffic on the freeway on my way home. Mylo might beat me to my place, so I need to think of something quick, easy, and light for dinner. Hmmm... Aha! What about a shrimp salad? I could buy frozen, uncooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp. I've always got mixed greens in my fridge. And tomatoes and garlic in my window sill. I would just grab some crumbled goat cheese and already sliced mushrooms to add...and a bottle of white. My wine fridge is overtaken with my favorite reds. I'd need a milder white with shrimp, like a hearty Chardonnay, something that would stand up to the garlic and shrimp.

Trader Joe's is on my way home, so it wasn't difficult to stop in and quickly grab the shrimp, sliced mushrooms, some crumbled goat cheese, a bunch of basil (always good to have on hand) and a Rodney Shaw Chardonnay. I was on my way home and ready to start dinner.

Quick Shrimp Salad
1 bag of frozen, uncooked, peeled and deveined, shrimp
4 oz. sliced mushrooms, white or cremini
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 bag of mixed greens
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup of basil, julienned
1/4 cup of crumpled goat cheese
1-2 T. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Soak the bag of shrimp in room temperature water for 30 minutes or so (depending on how frozen the shrimp are). When they are thawed, heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Drop the shrimp in and salt and pepper. When the shrimp start to turn color, add the mushrooms and 4 T. of garlic, and season with more salt and pepper (season along the way). When the mushrooms start to release some moisture and the shrimp are opaque, remove from heat. Put the mixed greens in a bowl and toss in the basil and tomatoes. Salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and shrimp, juices and all, and the other 4 T. of garlic to the salad and toss gently. Sprinkle the goat cheese over top. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Valentine's Dinner

All opinions of Valentine's Day aside, it still provides a good excuse to cook a slightly nicer dinner. Mylo had his choice of menus for the evening. Beef, fish, or lamb. He chose fish, so I prepared a salmon stuffed with three kinds of mushrooms, wrapped and sauteed in rice paper, and served atop a bed of mixed greens that covered a small bunch of asparagus and a flattened mound of garlic fingerling mashed potatoes. I do not typically follow recipes (like my mother or her mother or her mother's mother, etc.), but I prefer to go by taste, usually my taste.

The stuffed fish is a variation on a dish that I learned at Hip Cooks (a fun, simple, and tasty cooking class offered near downtown Los Angeles by a fun, wacky, and affable teacher, Chef Monika; it focuses on fundamentals and easier recipes that are beginner-cook-friendly; I highly recommend Hip Cooks as a social outing among a group of girlfriends; The periphery (micro greens, asparagus, and mashed potatoes) I added myself.

Stuff Salmon with Three Kinds of Mushroom
4 individual serving salmon filets, skinned and boned
6 ozs. each of button, cremini, and oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, yellow or white, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 T. unsalted butter
4 T. olive oil, preferably extra virgin (EVOO)
4 large rice paper (spring roll) wrappers
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large sauce pan, saute the mushrooms, garlic, and onion with 2 T. each of the butter and oil, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cut the salmon filets length-wise, horizontally, to the middle. Soak the rice paper in hot water, one at a time, until soft. When the mushrooms are softened, spoon a large portion into the salmon filet. Put 2-3 chives on top of the stuffed salmon filet lengthwise (this is more decorative than for taste). Carefully wrap the stuffed filet with the softened rice paper, especially the stuffed portion of the filet. Saute all sides evenly in the remaining 2 T. of butter and oil (add more if you need to) until the salmon is no longer translucent, but a healthy thick pink.

From here, I laid the salmon on top of a bed of mixed (or micro) greens drizzled with EVOO and flavored with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Underneath the mixed greens, I placed a flattened portion of multi-colored fingerling mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus. Approximates below.

Sauteed Asparagus
1 bunch of asparagus
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. unsalted butter
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Either shave the asparagus stalks (using a vegetable peeler, remove the outer layer of the asparagus skin from the middle of the stalk to the bottom) or cut them (bend one of the stalks until it breaks; where it breaks, line up the rest of the bunch to this stalk, and cut the bunch to the same length). This ensures that you are using the tenderest part of the asparagus stalks. Heat a sauce pan with the butter and EVOO. Add the garlic and asparagus and saute until carmelization starts (e.g., it browns).

Fingerling Mashed Potatoes
(I used a mixed array of colored potatoes, but the mashed potatoes looked too much like Play-Do, so stick with one color of potatoes)
1 bag of fingerling potatoes (they usually come in small bags)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 T. unsalted butter
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot of cold water (make sure they are all covered in the water). Bring the water to a boil with the potatoes in the pot. When they are fork-tender, remove them from the water, and mash them (skins and all) with the garlic, EVOO, and unsalted butter. Add oil, butter, salt and/or pepper as needed (remember to taste along the way).

Plating the Dish
Place a healthy portion of the mashed potatoes in the center of a plate (preferably a white plate) and flatten. Place 4 of the asparagus stalks on top of the potatoes. Put a bunch of mixed greens on top and drizzle with EVOO, adding salt and pepper to taste. Place the salmon (chives side up) on top of the mixed greens. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sunday Night Dinner - A Variatian on the Philippines

I am not intending for this blog to focus on food, but I had to write about my Sunday Night Dinner experience this past weekend. We had decided to have a Filipino Food Night where I would do the cooking. I, of course, had to borrow from my mother's heritage. She is not Filipino, mind you, but Samoan, and Samoans seem to have their own variation on many Filipino dishes. So these are my variations, rather my mother's variations. They are all approximations; my mother's dishes (and her mother's dishes, and so on) have never been created in measurements, but rather in taste. I chose two Filipino dishes: chicken adobo and pansit. Usually the chicken adobo has bay leaves. I did not. The pansit (also spelled pancit) usually calls for pork, sometimes chicken, and rice thread noodles. I opted for shrimp and bean curd noodles.

Chicken Adobo
1 cup of water
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 green onions, trimmed and cut in 2 inch stalks
1/3 cup soy sauce (my mother uses La Choy)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
5 chicken drumsticks, with bones and skin
5 chicken thighs, with bones and skin
salt and pepper to taste

Cut each chicken piece in two. You will need a meat cleaver. I did not have one, so I used one of my heavier, less expensive knives and, armed with a small pan as a mallet, I was able to cut through the bone (make sure to wear an apron and wrap everything on the counter around your cutting board with cling wrap). Lightly salt and pepper the pieces, and steam them in the water in a large pot on medium high for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Mix until the sugar thickens the sauce (it will never completely dissolve). Add the sauce and garlic to the chicken at the 10-minute mark, and stir well. Let the chicken continue to steam, every now and again mixing the chicken in the sauce, for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until done. Add the green onions and gently stir. Serve over white rice (I used Botan Calrose white rice in a rice cooker, 4 cups of rice to 5 cups of water, rinsing only once).

Shrimp Pansit
2 celery stalks, cut on a 2" bias
2 carrot sticks, cut on a 2" bias
4 ozs. mushrooms, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 handles of baby bok choy, cleaned and cut in fours
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 green onions, cut on a 2" bias
3 T. oyster sauce
3 T. Canola oil
3 T. soy sauce
1 lb. peeled, raw shrimp
1 package bean curd noodles, vermicelli-sized

In a wok or large sauce pan, add 2 T. of the Canola oil, oyster sauce, and soy sauce each to medium heat. Saute the celery and carrots (I covered the pan to help speed up the cooking without burning them). Add the mushrooms and bell peppers when the celery and carrots and softened some. In another pan, saute the shrimp in the remaining T. each of the Canola oil, oyster sauce, and soy sauce, over medium to medium-high heat. To the vegetable pan, add the baby bok choy, garlic, and green onions. When the shrimp is no longer translucent, add to the vegetable saute pan.

For the noodles, pour hot water (almost boiling) in a heat-proof bowl. Soak the noodles in the bowl for 5 minutes. With kitchen shears, cut the noodles up a little so they're not so long. Then fork them out of the water, letting as much of the liquid drain off, and add them to the vegetable saute pan, and toss. Add more soy sauce or oyster sauce to taste and as needed.