This tasty appetizer was modified from Cooking Light’s version.  The cakes?  Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, delicious throughout.  The salsa?  Sweet and crunchy and salty and spicy and delectable.  One of my favorite foods ever, this salsa-cake combo would work well with lump crab meat or chicken, too, and if they fall apart too easily in a skillet, just bake or broil them.  They may not yield a super-crispy crust, but they’ll still taste fantastic.

Shrimp Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

Cakes:

  • 1 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, reduced-fat
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (at least)
  • 2-4 teaspoons hot sauce (Cholula is great)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups panko, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Salsa:

  • 1 cup corn, grilled and cut off the cob (or frozen and thawed, if necessary)
  • 2 avocados, only slightly ripe and peeled and diced (if too ripe, they won’t hold their pretty cube shape)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapenos, finely chopped (depending on heat preference)
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation

  1. To prepare cakes, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Sauté bell pepper about 3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute.
  4. Place mixture in a large bowl and set aside.
  5. Place shrimp in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped.
  6. Add shrimp to the pepper mixture.
  7. Add green onions through egg to the shrimp.  Stir well.
  8. Stir in cilantro and 1/4 cup panko.
  9. Divide shrimp mixture into about 10 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
  10. Dredge both sides of patties in remaining panko.
  11. Cover and freeze for at least an hour (they’ll fall apart too easily if this time is reduced, and they can be frozen for a month or two).
  12. To prepare salsa, combine corn and remaining ingredients; stir gently and set aside.
  13. Heat pan over medium-high heat and coat with canola oil.
  14. Add half of the cakes to pan; cook about 4 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.
  15. Remove cakes from pan; cover and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining cakes.
  16. Serve salsa with shrimp cakes.

Yields 10 cakes

Porchetta is utterly divine.  This version, slightly modified from Anne Burell‘s take, is tender, moist, redolent: a perfect pork.  The veggies can be easily changed according to number of guests and/or vegetable preferences, which makes this recipe fairly versatile.  The almost-better pork leftovers should be toasted/grilled with a fairly mild cheese like Gruyere or Fontina and dipped in the warmed juices.  Such a wonderful use of leftover food in the fridge that doesn’t even come close to resembling last night’s dinner…

The Veggie Bed

Garlic and Herb Filling

Bacon, Pork, and Twine

Polder Thermometers + 3-4 Short Hours...

Porchetta: Sliced, Juicy, Delicious

Leftovers: Porchetta Sandwich Au Jus

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (or so) fresh thyme, chopped
  • lots and lots of garlic cloves, thinly sliced (20+ is the minimum for me)
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pork shoulder, bone removed
  • 1 lb slab bacon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Vegetables:

  • 3 yellow onions, diced
  • 10-15 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut lengthwise
  • 2 pints Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 celery roots, diced
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 lb baby yellow carrots (cut lengthwise, if desired)
  • 2 parsnips, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 bottle decent dry white wine
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bundle fresh thyme
  • 10 bay leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (maybe 1 qt, maybe 3)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. To prepare the meat: Combine the rosemary, sage, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Mix with enough olive oil until a loose paste has formed.
  3. Butterfly the pork so it opens like a book (or ask the butcher to do so, like I did).
  4. Rub the oil and herb mixture all over the inside of the meat.
  5. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Roll the meat, jellyroll-style.
  6. Delicately lay the strips of bacon atop meat.
  7. Tightly tie the pork bundle with butcher’s twine.  Set aside.
  8. To prepare the vegetables: In a large roasting pan, combine all the vegetables and wine.
  9. Season with salt, to taste, and add the thyme and bay leaves. Tie the thyme and bay leaves in twine for easy removal when the meat and veggies are cooked.
  10. To cook the dish: Nestle the pork on the vegetables. Rub the top of the pork with oil and put in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the bacon starts to brown and becomes crispy.
  11. Brush the pork with the pan juices and chicken stock. Roast for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours, basting the meat occasionally and adding more chicken stock to keep pan moist. If the pork becomes too dark, tent with foil (but remove the foil during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, if possible).
  12. Cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
  13. Remove the pork from the pan and place on a cutting board.  Let rest for at least 15 minutes, then discard the twine.
  14. Slice the meat and serve atop vegetables from the pan, drenched in juices.

Yields about 10 servings

Corn, Green Onion, & Jalapeno Prep

Corn, Green Onion, & Jalapeno* Prep

Scallops with Corn Relish

Scallops with Corn Relish

We first made this in late August with farmers market corn.  The relish, which could be used with tacos, chicken, even pork, is best with fresh corn, but it’s doable with high quality frozen extra sweet niblets (or, if you can find some, out-of-season corn on the cob).  Simply char the thawed corn in a skillet over medium-high heat, or use Trader Joe’s Fire-Roasted Corn, a tasty alternative.  We’re addicted to scallops, so we’ll eat them with with any kind of corn–especially when we’re longing for summer on chilly days like today…

Ingredients

  • 2 green onions, trimmed
  • 3 ears of corn, in husks (but with some of the outer layers removed)
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced lengthwise
  • 1  tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound large sea scallops
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Roast onions, corn, and jalapeño for 15 minutes, or until onions and jalapeño are slightly (or even mostly, if desired) charred, turning/rotating at least once, on a baking sheet.
  3. Let corn rest on the sheet for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Husk the corn and prepare a grill (a grill pan on medium high heat works just fine).
  5. Grill the corn just until it’s charred in some spots–about 3-5 minutes, turning often.
  6. Cut the corn off the cob.  Using a knife and large bowl is my preferred method, but electric knives or corn strippers do the trick, too.  Put corn in a medium bowl.
  7. Finely chop the green onions and jalapeños.  Add to the corn.
  8. Carefully toss corn mixture with tomato through pepper.  Add additional salt and pepper as necessary.  Set aside.
  9. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  10. Pat scallops with paper towels to be sure they are as dry as possible.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  11. Sear until nicely browned (about 2 minutes per side, turning ONLY once).
  12. Serve scallops atop the corn relish.

Yields about 4 entrée servings; about double if served as a first course

*While using all of these jalapeños would have been wonderful, one, with pith and seeds, was enough–even for our spicy palates.

Rainbow Chard

Some foods that are good for you taste simply divine.  Swiss chard is most certainly one of them.  However it’s cooked, bring it on.  I’ll eat it.

We made this gratin with a combination of chard and spinach, though it could be easily made with all chard, kale (!), or any leafy green.  For no reason other than laziness, I pitched the chard stems and didn’t take the time to cook them and add them to the dish; however, they’d be a nice addition, and I bet I use them next time.  The Mornay sauce, while not exactly healthy and not exactly true to its name without parmesan, added a creamy texture and savory filling to the greens, and the panko added a perfectly crunchy topping.  The leftovers the next day were just as delicious as the night before.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch chard (Swiss, red, or rainbow) leaves, chopped
  • 9 oz. baby spinach, any tough stems removed
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, divided
  • 2-3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and sauté the chard, spinach, and garlic in 2 or 3 batches.
  3. Place cooked leaves in a medium-sized gratin dish covered in cooking spray.
  4. For the Mornay sauce, in a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  5. When the butter is slightly bubbly, whisk in the flour until well combined.  Add the milk and whisk constantly until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  6. Whisk in 1/4 cup cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour the Mornay over the leaves as evenly as possible.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and the panko over the Mornay.  Spray top with cooking spray or olive oil so it browns nicely.
  9. Bake about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.

Yields about 4 servings

Want to make something super-simple?  Want it to be super-healthy?  Make Tuscan Kale Chips.  Go now.  Run, don’t walk.  They’re calling your name.  (Just be sure to check a mirror after consuming as your teeth will be a bit green–the only downfall to this snack.  I promise.)

Kale: Pre-Cooked

Deliciousness in a Glass

Bon Appétit published this recipe about a year ago, and when I received the issue, we made them.  They’re salty and crispy and seem so very, very bad for you, like greasy potato chips.  We love them so much.  We made two batches of the chips, and they were nearly all gone just an hour later.  They’re too irresistible to not devour.

Still not convinced enough to make them?  Whole Food’s CEO says that their employees “obsess” over kale as it has “more nutrients per calorie than any other food.”  I dare anyone to not like this treat.

Ingredients

  • Tuscan kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed (one bunch is about all that will fit in our oven at one time)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (less than a tablespoon should do the trick)
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Spray kale with oil (or toss in a large bowl with the oil).
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake until crisp, about 32 minutes (longer for crispier leaves).
  5. Transfer leaves to rack to cool.
  6. Enjoy.  Really, enjoy.

Yields 2 servings (if you’re at all like us)

Chicken Osso Buco

Chicken Osso Buco

Recently, we found some organic chicken thighs on sale (which never happens), and in searching for a fun way to serve them, I came across CL’s Osso Buco-Style Chicken Thighs.  Only one word can describe the outcome: YUM.  We modified it a little, and the complex flavors of the fresh gremolata (an absolute must in this dish) with the super creamy polenta and the spicy stew-like veggies worked so very well with basic chicken.  Everything came together much faster than expected, though there is some wait time with the tomato mixture–simply to let the flavors meld together.  We had a bit of leftover sauce, so I pureed it.  It reminds me of a cross between a bolognese base minus the meat and a vodka sauce minus the booze.  Since we froze it, I’m not sure if we’ll serve the sauce as is or transform it into something different.  Regardless, we loved the osso buco and the leftover pasta sauce.

While composing this dish, we started talking about our favorite composers and the piano and how it’s a perfect instrument, thus leading to watching piano concerts on YouTube.  Little did we know that we were about to come across one of the most talented pianists we’ve ever seen.  Valentina Lisitsa, who crazily plans to record all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas (something that typically takes a lifetime and, according to Valentina, something that more individuals have gone into space than actually done, of course), is stunning, was born with speedier fingers than anyone on Earth, and has so much strength in her hands she could quickly crush yours when shaking it.  Should you ever encounter this blonde, be careful.  Additionally, Valentina, a Ukrainian-born genius, in her spare time, maintains an organic garden in her North Carolina countryside home and loves cooking Italian food–something I learned after making osso buco, fittingly.  I know who I’ll be listening to when I next cook.

Ingredients

Chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), skinned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large or 2 small red onions, chopped
  • 3-4 medium carrots, chopped (cubed, for a more accurate version of osso buco)
  • 2-3 medium celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2-28 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Polenta:

  • 2 cups non-fat milk
  • 1-1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked polenta
  • 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Gremolata:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

Preparation

  1. To prepare chicken, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Add chicken to pan and cook about 4 minutes on each side or until nicely browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  4. Add a little more oil to the pan, over medium-high heat.
  5. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.  Sauté about 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned tasty bits.
  7. Add the tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and even a dash of salt; bring to a boil.
  8. Begin to break down the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
  9. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 20 minutes.
  10. Return chicken to pan. Cover and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is done.
  11. Uncover and cook 5 minutes or until tomato mixture thickens.
  12. To prepare polenta, combine milk and broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.
  13. Lower the heat; gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  14. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until thick and well combined, about 15 minutes (use the package’s advice).
  15. Remove from heat; stir in cheeses and salt.
  16. To prepare gremolata, combine parsley, rind, and garlic.
  17. Serve chicken mixture over polenta; sprinkle with gremolata.

Yields about 4-6 servings

Chili-Glazed Tofu with Soba Noodles*

Tofu with Peanut Hoisin Sauce

Shiitake mushrooms got us into this mess, I think.  We had some firm tofu, broccoli, carrots, and a few pantry staples on hand, so these recipes came together easily.  It started with miso soup (but just the generic add-a-tablespoon-or-two-to-water variety–which is still decent in my book) with tofu and shiitakes.  The soup led us to pan fried tofu in sesame oil with a hoisin-peanut sauce.  (Sure, no shiitakes, at least it had a tofu/Asian theme.)  Finally, we assembled a broccoli, shiitake, carrot, soba noodle, chili-glazed tofu dish that was so spicy we each downed about a gallon on water with the meal. Delicious.

For the Appetizer (modified from epi’s version):

Tofu Triangles

  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 package extrafirm tofu, drained well and cut into triangles
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 tablespoon toasted white and/or black sesame seeds

The Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped

Preparation

  1. For the tofu, In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Salt and pepper the tofu.  Add the triangles to the skillet and cook until browned, just a few minutes per side.  Set aside.
  3. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
  4. For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Serve tofu with the peanut-hoisin sauce.

For the Entree:

Chili-Glazed Tofu (slightly modified from CL’s version)

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 package extrafirm tofu, drained well and cut lengthwise about 6 pieces
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soba Noodles

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
  • 1 3-4 oz. package of shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, grated, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, divided
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 package soba noodles, cooked

Preparation

  1. For the tofu, combine sugar through Sriracha in a small bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Sprinkle tofu with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
  4. Add tofu to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.
  5. Add sauce mixture to pan; cook a little less than aminute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  6. For the noodles, cook the mushrooms and broccoli in the same fashion, but separately:
  7. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or a wok over medium-high heat.
  8. Add mushrooms/broccoli.
  9. Cook, stirring occasionally, a few minutes, just until tender.
  10. Add garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper, and cook until fragrant. (Repeat for mushrooms/shiitakes.)
  11. Add both vegetables, cooked soba noodles, carrots, and broth to the pan.
  12. Cook until heated.
  13. Serve noodles topped with tofu; drizzle remaining glaze over noodles.

Yields 4 servings for the triangles, 2 (maybe 3) for the noodles

*Yep.  Still looking/saving up for an SLR camera.  We’ll have one soon (I keep telling myself).