Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quick and easy shrimp

A recent Christmas gift from my mom included a signed copy of Catherine Walthers' Raising the Salad Bar. I have to admit it's not a cookbook I've used frequently, but this next recipe is one that will make me give the book much more than another glance. The writer hails from Martha's Vineyard, one of my favorite spots. The photos are by a famous Vineyard photographer, Alison Shaw. The book really is beautiful. It combines fresh ingredients from local farms, and this recipe is no exception. In the foreword to the recipe, Walthers explains that she uses fresh produce from Morning Glory Farms. Having vacationed on MV for many years, this place really does have the best corn, among other things.

As I usually do, I made some modifications. This mixture of corn and shrimp can be served warm or cold. It's great as a main course or serve it with a hot grilled steak for something special. Oh, and it takes just about no time to prepare...

Cajun Shrimp and Corn Salad with Lime-Chile Dressing
adapted from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers

  • 1 1/4 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-3 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/8 tsp. Cayenne (more if you like it HOT!)
  • 3 cups of corn kernels
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh minced cilantro

For the dressing

  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. ancho Chile powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk.

Combine the shrimp and Cajun seasoning in a bowl. I prefer Pensey's Cajun seasoning, but use any kind you have on hand. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook until the shrimp are cooked through. Add the corn and allow to cook for a few minutes. (Fresh corn kernels would be best here, but I made this in the Spring so I used fresh frozen. I let is cook until the liquid cooked off but the corn wasn't mushy.

Stir in the red pepper and tomatoes and allow to warm though. Remove from heat, add the dressing and cilantro and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more lime juice if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a variation, consider basil or parsley in place of the cilantro. Fresh chopped red or green pepper could easily replace the roasted as well. Another thing I love about this recipe is its vibrant color. Yellow corn, red tomatoes, green herbs, and the pink shrimp make it very eye-catching. It'd be a great picnic dish or an easy side for company... It definitely raises the bar on salads. Hmmm, I wonder what else the book has to offer...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Restaurant review: Ginger Sushi

Sushi has not always been one of my favorite foods. In fact until I ventured out with my former roommates from college after we graduated, I wouldn't touch the stuff. Now, my husband and I are on a first name basis with the people at Ginger Sushi in Fanwood, NJ. It helps that this little spot is only about a minute from our house, but even if I lived farther away, I'd drive for this sushi.

Over the past two years, we've tried a number of menu items. They offer an extensive sushi menu as well as hot Japanese dishes from the kitchen. For starters, the avocado salad is a classic with the creamy ginger dressing. Their miso soup is also very good.

For the more adventurous, try the garlic storm. You'll smell it about a mile away. Thin slices of raw red snapper are arranged on a plate and then a brilliant mix of hot olive oil and garlic are poured over it. The hot oil cooks the fish just a tad and the garlic transforms it into something sublime. There's also a seared tuna appetizer with a special sauce that's amazing. The chef lightly sears the tuna and then smothers it with a sauce that has onion, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and some other goodies. I would eat the sauce with a spoon given the chance.

For sushi, we tend to stick with the rolls. They offer a number of different tiers - regular rolls are just that: a number of fish and veggie options. Simple things like spicy tuna and salmon avocado. Try the spicy shrimp. Yum!

The next level includes shrimp tempura rolls, Philadelphia rolls and other favorites.

But turn the page. This is what it's all about. The Ginger special rolls are 10 piece rolls and each is practically a meal in itself. Two of these and a couple of spicy shrimp rolls mean dinner for me and Jeff. Spice-fiends that we are, we almost always choose rolls with spicy something or other. The Spicy girl has spicy tuna and spicy salmon inside and fresh tuna and salmon on the outside. Delish! My favorite of late is the Spicy Crunchy Hamachi roll: inside is spicy yellowtail, avocado and cucumber and outside is fresh yellotail and crunch with a nice drizzle of spicy sauce. The Jumbo Spider roll is also always delicious - the softshell crab is always cooked to perfection. Another new favorite is the S.T. roll. This one is defined by a unique outside of lightly seared tuna - Chef Kim sears it with a blowtorch and then wraps it around the roll. Yum!

We're usually too full for dessert, but we do love the special citron tea they offer. It's a refreshing fruity drink that's as good as any dessert!

Ginger sushi is BYO (note well, if you have an extra sip of wine in your bottle, offer Chef Kim a glass!)If you live in the Fanwood area and like sushi - go see Mr. Kim at Ginger Sushi. It's always fresh and always delicious. And did I mention that they usually give you a sample of their signature fried California roll and the meal ends with a yummy moshi ice cream and fresh orange sections?

Ginger Sushi on Urbanspoon

If it's good enough for the princess of Thailand...'s definitely good enough for me and my husband (on a rainy Wednesday night). Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I once again turned to the culinary wonder that is the Bistro Laurent Tourondel cookbook. This book simply does not disappoint. (and how do the months go by without making a visit to one of Chef Tourondel's restaurants???) This time I opted for the Lemongrass Rock Shrimp Risotto. Why not? We love risotto, we love shrimp, and we love Thai food. This one had to be good... and it was!

The intro for the recipe explains that Chef Tourondel first prepared it for the Princess of Thailand while he was working at the Four Seasons Bangkok. Not bad! It was a bit involved so I made the sauce a day ahead, right to the point of straining it, then I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. I didn't have rock shrimp so I used jumbo shrimp. The combination of flavors and textures were simply delightful. Madras curry powder, green curry paste, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, Thai Basil. YUM! You can find the complete recipe online: Lemongrass Rock Shrimp Risotto. Don't be intimidated - you might have to swing by an Asian market for a few ingredients, but it's well worth the trip.

I did make a few modifications. I cut the sauce in half. And instead of 2 cups of Arborio, I used 1 1/2. I also stirred the chopped Thai basil into the risotto to bring out the flavor a bit more. To serve, I scooped the risotto into the middle of the plate and then ladled the sauce around it.

This makes 9 recipes I've made from this cookbook and we have loved everyone. Who told Chef Tourondel exactly what we like??? Or maybe it was just my mother-in-law who had a keen sense for that - after all she gave me the book for Christmas.

Now I'm off to give the book another flip through to find my next adventure. In the meantime, tomorrow at our house, leftover risotto!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Last Supper #15: Tetsuya Wakuda

Chef Tetsuya Wakuda of Sydney's famed Tetsuya's had a simple wish for his last supper: tuna, many ways. In my world, many became 3. I made 3 courses using super fresh sashimi grade tuna that I found at Whole Foods.

Course #1: homemade sushi. I made tune rolls with avocado and cucumber. I made a little spicy sauce with some mayo and sriracha. These were good, but I think I'll keep going to Ginger for my sushi. Mr. Kim just does it better.

Course#2: Tetsuya's own recipe for tuna with goat cheese. Sounds weird, but it was pretty tasty. Jeff enjoyed it more than I did. The presentation was very pretty.

Course#3: Tyler's ultimate tuna. I saw the episode on the Food Network and I had to make this dish. The tuna steaks were grilled rare and served with oven roasted vine tomatoes, a white bean puree, olive tapenade and arugula. So many of my favorite things coming together on one plate, but I have to say it fell a little flat. Maybe it was me, but something just wasn't working for me. (Maybe preparing 3 tuna courses just got to be a bit much that night!!!)

All in all this was a good meal but not really one I'd repeat. It does mark #15 on Project Last Supper. 25 more to go. Up next: Jonathan Waxman and some spring lamb!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Calcots: Scallions attain perfection

When we were in Barcelona last Spring we were lucky enough to be there at just the right time to try Calcots - grilled spring onions with Romesco. I had nearly forgotten how good they tasted until last week when Jeff and I had lunch at Casa Mono - the Mario Batali-owned tapas restaurant near Union Square. At Casa Mono, they used simple scallions served with Romesco. Two things are for sure: 1) scallions taste amazing grilled and 2) Mario Batali can do no wrong. If you ever get the chance, try this restaurant. Adorable and the food is fantastic. But back to the scallions...

We enjoyed them so much I was determined to make them at home. I flipped thru numerous cookbooks and found several recipes for Romesco. The Barbecue Bible even had one for grilled spring onions with Romesco. I followed Steven Raichlen's method for grilling the scallions, but for the Romesco, I turned to another of our favorites: Neil Perry. I made a few modifications, so here's my version. (Oh, by the way, this makes a lot of sauce so either make it for a crowd, have it a few times, or cut the recipe down...)

Grilled Scallions with Romesco
  • Scallions (figure one good sized bunch per person. they cook down quite a bit)
  • A little olive oil
  • Sea salt or kosher salt

For the Romesco:
  • 6 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 of a fresh red chili (about 4 inches in length) or use a few small ones, split and seeds removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1 slice Italian style bread, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
  • sea slat and freshly ground pepper

To peel the tomatoes, cut a cross in the flat end of each and cut out the woody core. Dunk them for 10 seconds in boiling water and then immerse in an ice bath. This makes the skins peel easily. Then cut them open and remove the seeds.

You can use prepared orasted red peppers or make your own. I make them by sticking a pepper on a skewer and setting them over the flame of my gas stove and turning it until the skin is black all over. Use the same method on a grill. Once the skin is black, drop them into a brown paper bag and roll the top down. Allow to steam until cooled, them wipe away the black skin and discard the stem and seeds.

To make the sauce, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chilli, garlic, bread and almonds and cook until the bread and almonds are golden. Cool slightly then procees the mixture in a food processor with the red pepper and tomatoes. I pulsed it a few times to keep the sauce a little chunky. Wth the motor running, drizzle in the remaining olive oil. Stir in the vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the scallions, trim the end of the scallions slightly. Brush them all over with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Grill, turning them often until they have just a few grill marks. You want a little char but not a lot! And these little guys can burn quick so watch them carefully!

Remove them from the grill and wrap them in a triple layer of paper towels. Let them steam for about 8-10 minutes in the paper towels. (I stuck them in a warm oven to keep them from cooling). To serve, discard the paper towels and serve them on a platter with the Romesco on the side. The Romesco should be served room temperature.
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