Flashback Friday – Blind Date

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 3/16/09 at Exit 51

Blind Date

Recipe testing is the culinary equivalent of blind dating.  You hear about a hot new recipe and instantly know you are meant to be together.  You begin to doodle your initials  and “I Heart” on grocery lists and daydream how wonderful your life together will be.  You get lost thinking about how intoxicating he will smell and what it will be like when your lips finally meet.  Will you be able to control yourself?  Or will you just have to go back for more?

blind-date

Then, the day of the date, you get everything together just so and count down the minutes until the bell rings.  Finally, the moment has arrived.  You open the door with eager anticipation and there he is.  But it’s downhill from there.  You want to like him.  Really, you do.  But despite all the positive things you heard from other people, he’s not what you expected.  To put it another way, you’re just not that into him.

That describes my brief relationship with Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp.  I first came across the recipe at Orangette and it piqued my curiousity.  And then I bumped into it again at The Amateur Gourmet.   And in an ‘all roads lead back to Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp instant’, I decided that fate wanted us to be together.

Boy, did fate get that one wrong.  I can’t say there is  any one reason in particular why I don’t love this dish.  I know I should.  It took all of about five minutes to prep and in less time than it takes for Rachel Ray to drive me to find the remote, the entire meal is done.  So it’s quick.  And the ingredient list is about as minimal as you can get for a one dish meal…broccoli, meet shrimp…shrimp, meet broccoli.  The cooking technique could not get any easier…heat oven, open oven door, insert sheet pan…lather, rinse, repeat.

But seriously, I just am not that into it.  Maybe with some different spices, or more of them, I would have that lovin’ feeling.  Or maybe  it just wasn’t meant to be for me and Broccoli and Roasted Shrimp.  Perhaps the two of you would enjoy each other’s company?  Let me know how it goes, I love a good blind date story.

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp

thewednesdaychef.com

  • 2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

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Toffee Shortbread Bites

I find it somewhat ironic that for someone who has a hobby devoted to stringing together words into sentences and stories, I am sometimes completely unable to find the right words to express the thoughts in my head.  Usually, this bit of irony rears its head when I am trying to convey my gratitude to someone.  Too often the words “thank you” just don’t seem enough.  Thank you is what I say when someone holds a door open for me or tells me to have a nice day.  It’s what I say without even thinking.  90% of the time, it’s enough.  But there are moments, the other 10%, when it falls short.

Because expressing my gratitude, especially when someone’s kindness has touched me beyond words, is an affirmation. An affirmation that I am not alone.  An affirmation that I am worthy.  An affirmation that no matter what the challenge may be, there is grace and compassion in the world.  But Hallmark hasn’t come out with that line of cards yet.  So until they do, I fall back on a tried and true trick….I wrap my thanks in butter, sugar, and flour.

In my experience, the language of baked goods is universal.

Toffee Shortbread Bites

Adapted from Desserts 4 Today, Abby Dodge

BAH Note: These shortbready cookies have a crumbly dough that should come together in your hands.  If you go to form the dough and it will not hold together, add more butter 1 tablespoon at a time, until it will.  Because of this diversion from Abby Dodge’s ratio, and some smaller portioning on my part, I squeezed nearly 48 of these beauties out of what should have been a batch of 24 (below).

  • 10 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 8 ounces chocolate covered toffee candy bar, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a mini muffin pan with paper liners.

On low speed, beat together the butter and sugar in the workbowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for approximately 1 minute or until combined.

Add the flour and mix on low for another minute or just until all the flour is combined with the butter and sugar.  Stir in the chopped candy bar bits on low just until t hey are mixed into the dough.

Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place into the prepared pan.  Work quickly so that the buttery dough does not start to get soft and melty in your hands.  Bake for 15 – 19 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the cookies have puffed and the tops look cracked and just a little dry.

Cool on a rack completely before serving or storing in an airtight container.

{printable recipe}

Ruth’s Brownies

Let’s get the elephant out of the room and state the obvious…clearly this was not my finest moment.  All of my missteps turned incredible brownie possibility into a hot mess of reality.  Let’s review, shall we:

Misstep #1

I forgot to turn the temperature down when I put the pan in the oven.

Misstep #2

When I realized that I hadn’t lowered the temperature and tried to turn it down to 350, I neglected to hit the “start” button so the temp didn’t change and the batter continued to bake at 400 degrees.  In all I’d say it baked at too high a temp for a good 20 minutes which probably explains why the edges puffed up like a souffle.

Misstep #3

After 30 minutes a tester came out clean, despite Ruth’s comment that the normal toothpick test doesn’t really work for these brownies.  Worrying that I had overbaked them, I pulled them out of the oven early.

As you can see from my actual, didn’t add or delete any elements, photo above, the brownies were only about 3/4 set.  It was absolutely impossible to cut them into anything resembling a square.  However….if I would have had a bowl of vanilla ice cream, the partly set/partly molten chocolate lava would have been the perfect topping to spoon in.  Sadly, there was no ice cream to save these brownies from their fate of being tipped into the rubbish bin.

The saddest part of all this is that when I scraped the batter into the pan and then stole a lick or two from the spatula, this was hands down the best brownie batter I had ever tasted.  Don’t let my failure to turn the perfect batter into the perfect brownies keep you from giving this a try.  Learn from my missteps….or at least have a pint of vanilla ice cream ready to go in the freezer just in case.

Ruth’s Brownies

Adapted from Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone

BAH Note:  When I need to melt butter and chocolate, I usually do it in the microwave.  I tend to either work in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, or setting the cook time for 2-3 minutes on 20% power and stirring every 30-45 seconds, repeating as necessary.

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (not cocoa powder)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sifted flour

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave or on top of the stove in a double boiler.  When they have completely melted, stir in the vanilla and set the bowl aside.

Beat the eggs and salt in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the sugar and beat for 3-5 minutes on medium until the mixture becomes almost white in color.

Reduce the mixer to low and stir in the melted chocolate until it is just combined.  Add the flour and continue to mix on low just until there are no white steaks of flour remaining.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.  Place the pan on a baking sheet and put it in the oven.

IMMEDIATELY REDUCE THE OVEN TO 350 DEGREES.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan half way through the cooking time.

Let the brownies cool completely before cutting into 12 servings.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Cooking Light

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 3/11/09 at Exit 51.

Cooking Light

As I’ve mentioned, I used to subscribe to Cooking Light.  But the sheer volume of recipes they fit into a single magazine overwhelmed me.  Instead of tackling the challenge head on, I ignored it and hoped it would go away.  But it didn’t.  That is why, years later, I’m still pulling pages torn from CL out of my test recipe folder.  I only wish they printed the date or the issue on the pages so I could know exactly how long these things have been waiting to see the light of day.

Saucy

Because to be honest, some of these deserve not only the light of day, but a spot light.  Like the Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce.  This was a recipe sent in by a reader.  Kudos to Alix McLearen of Wesley Chapel, Florida because I think your recipe may have just nudged the Barefoot Contessa’s Mustard Roasted Fish out of my binder.  As much as I like Ina’s Mustard Fish, I like this one even better.  The sauce has a more balanced flavor without relying so heavily on the dairy portion of the food pyramid. And the addition of the mushrooms brings a bit of earthiness to the dish.

It’s funny that I ended up pairing this fish with the same side as I used with Ina’s.  Either fish and asparagus really do go together or I’m incredibly predictable. Either way, I think you should definitely put this recipe on your to-do list.  And we can discuss my predictability over a plate of Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce.

Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce

Cooking Light Magazine, Courtesy of Alix McLearen

According to the author’s notes, orange roughy or chicken can be substituted for the tilapia, and tomatoes or spinach can be subbed for the mushrooms.  I wanted a slightly thicker sauce so I let the chicken broth reduce a bit after the fish was removed, as well as kept the sauce on the heat longer after the mustard and cream were added.  I recommend adding the fish back to the pan for a few moments before serving.

  • 4 tilapia filets (6 oz. each) (I used orange roughy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (I used dried, probably about half as much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 chicken broth
  • 1 ounce portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream (I used half and half)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sprinkle fish with thyme, pepper, and salt.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fish; cook 1 minute on each side.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook, uncovered, 1 minute until mushrooms are tender.  Remove fish from pan; keep warm.

Add cream and mustard to pan.  Stir with a whisk until combined.  Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.  Serve sauce over fish.

Sharing

tuesdays were reserved for sharing recipes {image by lisa kaser}

Once upon a time I was a tiny bit obsessed with this space.  I would plot and plan what recipe to make next.  I would sometimes delay getting the food on the table so that I could take the perfect photo to convey the deliciousness of the meal at hand.  Fortunately, The Mistah is accommodating to this quirk.  Then I would spend hours at the computer processing photos and trying to come up with new and interesting stories to share.  Admittedly, it’s been a few months since I’ve eagerly picked up the camera.  And it’s been about the same amount of time since I’ve sat down and tried to connect a story to a meal.  And that bothers me.  I feel like something is out of whack.

But at the same time, I keep waiting for someone to throw a switch and for me to be back to my old self.  The reality is that my old self and my current self will probably never inhabit the same space.  They might wave to each other across a crowded room but they won’t be settling in together on the couch for drinks and small talk.  That’s the thing about change, it doesn’t wait for you…it just keeps rolling along.  And at some point, life will change things up again so that my current self will become yet another version of my old self.  It makes my head hurt just to think about that.

My point is that I’ve been waiting around these last few months for someone to take charge and tell me to get on living my life.  And in the absence of that, I have relied on excuses for why I’m not doing the things that I enjoy doing.  The rational part of me knows that there’s no magic switch or even if there were, the only person who could turn it on is me.  So where does that leave my current self when rational me knows the reality of the situation and the rest of me chooses to ignore it?  I’ll tell you where that leaves me…stuck in neutral.

That’s where I’ve been lately.  And then unexpectedly I received a reminder about why the things I’ve let languish were so important to me.  It came wrapped in Christmas paper from a coworker.  When I opened the box and pulled the tissue paper aside, revealing the drawing above, those words were a wake up call.  “tuesdays were reserved for sharing recipes”  For me, there are two more words implied in that sentence.  In my mind, I added “with friends”.  And that’s what’s been missing…feeling like I’m creating opportunities to get together with friends and share recipes.

In a million years I don’t think my coworker can ever know how much I needed that reminder.  And the woman who drew that illustration certainly didn’t create it with me in mind.  But The Universe saw to it that those words, on that illustration, made their way to me.

I said I was waiting for someone to take charge and tell me to get moving.  Guess it’s time that I listen to The Universe and get to getting.

Thai Chicken Stew

Please excuse the above word play.  If I waited until I actually had a picture of what came out of my crock pot, it could be a while before I shared this recipe with you.  And that would be a shame.  So yes TIE + CHICKEN + (STOOP – P) = THAI CHICKEN STEW.

For those of you wondering what the hell a stoop is, here in Baltimore many of the rowhouses don’t have a front porch.  They have a set of steps, or a stoop as we like to call it.  My apologies if that colloquialism left anyone at a disadvantage in deciphering my  pictogram.  But hey, you learned something new about Baltimore AND you’re getting a recipe.  That’s a total win.

I need to come clean right now and say that this recipe came from an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.  I’m still not subscribing to Cook’s Illustrated, and never will again, but during a recent trip to the bookstore, I saw that ATK had a brand new crock pot cookbook out.  I know that my crock pot is good for more than overnight oatmeal and butter braised onions, I just didn’t have a wealth of crock pot recipes I was interested in making to get more out of it.  So I swallowed my indignation and handed over $26.95 plus tax to buy the damn book.

So far, the results have been pretty good.  Thai Chicken Stew was a hit.  Beef Pot Pie (minus the crust) was superb.  Mole Chicken Chili was too spicy, but full of promise.  The biggest beef I have with the recipes, specifically the chicken ones, is that ATK developed them to cook for approximately four to six hours on low.  That’s great if I want to free up time on a weekend for things besides cooking.  But it really doesn’t help me one bit during the week.  I’m gone for at least ten hours on a work day; I can’t work a four to six hour cook time into that schedule.  So until I mange to confound the laws of space and time, ATK and their crock pot recipes will only be put into the weekend line up.

But that’s not to say that the leftovers won’t find their way into the rotation on a Monday or Wednesday.

Thai Chicken Stew

Adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution

BAH Tip:  I have started to keep my Thai chiles in the freezer.  Instead of trying to stem, seed, and dice the buggers, I use my microplane to grate them directly into my bowl.

BAH Note:  The recipe can be prepared through the end of cooking the chicken, transferred to a dutch oven, and then refrigerated.  When you’re ready to finish, simply transfer the dutch oven to the stove top, reheat, and continue with the recipe.  I used this method and found that the chicken fell off the bone with the mere stir of a wooden spoon.  IF the leftovers had survived for longer than a day, I would have added some more chicken broth and dropped some cooked egg noodles in for the most luxurious chicken soup.

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 Thai or jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced (See Tip above)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, bruised
  • 1/4 cup Minute tapioca
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, bone in or boneless, skins removed
  • 1 cup frozen butternut squash cubes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine the carrots, onions, chiles, ginger, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl and microwave for approximately 10 minutes until the vegetables soften.  Transfer the vegetable mixture to your slow cooker.

While the vegetables microwave, season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside.

After the vegetables have been transferred to the crock pot, stir in the broth and tapioca and add the lemongrass.  Place the chicken in the crock pot, cover, and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours until the chicken is done.  About 30 minutes before the chicken is done, add the frozen cubed squash to the slow cooker.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and once it has cooled slightly, shred it into pieces.

Allow the liquid in the crock pot to settle then skim any fat from the surface and remove the lemongrass.

Pour the coconut milk into a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is hot.  Stir the lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar into the hot coconut milk and then add it to the crock pot.  Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

{printable recipe}