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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shrimp Scampi - in 15 minutes!

This is as easy as it gets. An Italian restaurant in your own kitchen. So go out and buy 1 lb of shrimp at the grocery store and make yourself a very easy meal.

4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (less if you don't want the spice)
1 lb shrimp (tails on or off)
1/2 cup dry white wine (or whatever you have in the fridge)
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup parsley
salt and pepper to taste
pasta - spaghetti or rotini or whatever you like.

*Pasta will take about 8-10 minutes or more, so start this before the shrimp.

1. In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat.

2. Add shallots and red pepper.

3. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and drop in skillet. Cook until pink (be careful not to overcook!!). Remove shrimp from heat.

4. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet and bring to boil.

5. Add 2 tbsp butter and olive oil.

6. When butter's melted, return shrimp to pan with parsley.

7. Drain pasta. Serve with shrimp and sauce.

Sausage Stuffed Cabbage

I know, I know. The last thing you all think you want to eat is stuffed cabbage. Is it just me or does it conjure images of the little boys slopping goo in their mouths in "A Christmas Story"? Wait, don't go to another recipe! This is one you really want to try. The cabbage is just a casing for a very tasty sausage filling and if you combine it with my red sauce - it's sure to please. Really, try it. Never bought cabbage before? Neither had I. Stick with savoy cabbage, it's a little lighter and thinner.

2 cups water (or amount of water in tabouli box directions)
1/2 cup mushrooms - finely chopped
1 1/4 cups bulger or tabouli (can be found in a box in Mediterranean section of grocery store)
2 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground italian sausage (or sausage links removed from casings)
12 savoy cabbage leaves

* Heat tomato sauce in a large pot or Dutch oven. (Use tomato sauce recipe in my blog!)

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stir in bulger/tabouli (if you buy tabouli in a box, follow directions on box). Let stand for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic. Saute until soft and lightly browned.

3. Add sauteed veggies to bulgar/tabouli mixture and cool slightly. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add uncooked sausage (removed from casings) to mixture and mix well.

5. Add water to a large pot or Dutch oven. If you have a vegetable steamer, drop the cabbage leaves in and let steam for 5-7 minutes. If you don't have a steamer, bring water to a boil, turn off heat, drop cabbage in water and leave in until soft.

6. Working with one piece of cabbage at a time, place 1/2 cup of bulgar/tabouli and sausage mixture in the center of the leaf. Fold the edges in and roll up like a burrito. Repeat for the rest of the cabbage and sausage mixture.

7. Either place the cabbage packages back in the steamer, covered, with water boiling, for about 30 minutes. OR, pour an inch or two of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a Dutch oven and place the cabbage packages in one layer and cook for 20-30 minutes.

8. Serve with lots of tomato sauce.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Grilled Noodle Bowls

Paddy and I went to lunch at this great Vietnamese restaurant in Harvard Square not too long ago. We had fresh spring rolls that had small pieces of BBQed pork and they were delicious. We also had two very large bowls of Pho, which I think is one of the most comforting soups there is. It has lots and lots of noodles. I usually order it with chicken. But when I recreated it at home a couple of weeks ago, I grilled a pork tenderloin and used that in the soup instead. It was unreal. The great thing about this soup is that you can add lots of fresh ingredients, and make it really spicy. You can make it with chicken, shrimp, pork, or no meat. If you use chicken, small pieces pulled from a roast chicken work best (good use of leftovers), if you use shrimp pop them right into the soup at the end and let them cook in the broth. If you use pork, this really is worth it...you can use the other half of the tenderloin a couple days later in something else.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
~ 1 - 1.5 lb pork tenderloin
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 qts chicken broth
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup bok choy, sliced into 1/4 pieces (1 medium with greens included)
1/4 onion sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 handful of thin, round chinese egg noodles (you can also use angel hair pasta...if you have to!)
* eye the amount according to how much broth you have and the noodle ratio that you prefer
1 cup bean sprouts
1 large bunch of basil, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chili paste - at least

1. In a small bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well to dissolve the brown sugar a bit.

2. Place the tenderloin in a large plastic bag an pour in the marinade. Marinate the meat for 15-20 minutes.

3. Grill the tenderloin for 8 minutes, flip it and do the other side for another 8 minutes. When it's finished, take it off the grill and let it sit.

4. Heat the oil on medium or a little under in a large pot. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger and let their flavors infuse into the oil - you don't want them to burn.

5. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

6. Turn the heat down to medium high and add the mushrooms, bok choy, and onion and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to get tender.

7. Add the noodles straight to the soup. Bring the broth back to a simmer so that the noodles cook in the broth.

8. Cut the tenderloin in half (you won't need all of it). It may be very slightly pink in the middle, that's ok, it will finish cooking in the soup. Cut the meat so that you have 1/4 x 3 inch strips.

9. When the noodles are soft, add the meat to the soup and turn the heat down to medium.

10. Just before serving, add the beansprouts and basil (the more basil the better). Serve with chili paste on the side - again, the more the better!

Meatballs

I worked at a restaurant in Ann Arbor that had a creative and pricey menu. It always sort of made me laugh that among a bunch of other fairly fancy dishes they offered spaghetti and meatballs...and it was one of their most popular meals. Considering the price I couldn't understand why anyone would actually order it. Until I tried the meatballs. They were incredible. I've tried several times to make meatballs as good as theirs and I've never come close. BUT, I made these the other night - and they might be my new favorite. The key - a gooey smoked mozzarella middle. You can make them without the cheese of course, or with reguular mozzarella but they're pretty good the way they are. The other best part about them is that they only take 15 minutes and they're BAKED, so no messy pans to clean up after.

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
* you could also third the beef and pork and do a 1/3 ground veal to make them even better
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (use fresh if you can - soooo much better than the other stuff)
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 egg
2 tbsp ketchup
3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 oz smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (no larger!)


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the parsley, parmesan, bread crumbs, herbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

3. Add the beef and pork. Use your hands to mix it all together gently.

4. Form the meat into balls a tiny bit larger than the size of a golf ball and place on the cookie sheet about an inch apart. You should end up with 15-17ish.

5. Poke your finger into the top of each but be careful not to go all the way through. Put a cube of cheese in each and then close the meatball over them. Make sure the cheese is well covered to avoid a gooey mess.

6. Place the meatballs in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through. The cheese may bubble on a few, but they'll stay in tact.

* When they're finished, I like to add the ones I'm going to eat that night right into the sauce on the stove to make them extra moist and to give the sauce a little extra flavor. I let the rest cool a bit and then put them in a plastic bag in the freezer.