Category Archives: Seafood

Conchiglie con Langostinos un Pomodori Secchi Salsa di Mornay

Last evening as I wondered what to make for dinner, I decided to head to the local market for some inspiration.  I was so very pleased to find that our local fish monger had gotten some langostinos in from Chile.  My mind began humming.  How would I choose to prepare these tonight?  There are some favorite answers for those familiar with langostinos:  scampi, “mock lobster” casserole or bisque, little appetizers.  However, I was feeling the need for comfort food since the weather was cold and rainy, and well on its way to stormy.  I decided to cook what is essentially a very tasty gourmet mac n’ cheese.

“But, Lady Eva, first things first.  What are langostinos?”

Langostinos are commonly referred to as ‘langostino lobsters’, but in reality are not actually lobsters at all.  Also called squat lobsters (the mind wanders thinking about the classic B-52s song rewritten as Squat Lobster, but I digress), these tasty creatures are actually crustaceans of the families Galatheidae, Chirostylidae and Kiwaidae and are most closely related to crabs.

Langostinos - rinsed and thawed

And now the recipe (admittedly, I merely added things to taste so not everything has measurements for you):

Ingredients:

For the saute

  • 8 ounces frozen (or fresh) langostinos, rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • pignoli
  • fresh basil

For the Mornay Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup heated milk
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar
  • Worcestershire sauce

~ 12 oz conchiglie (fresh or dried)

conchiglie pasta

Directions:

  1. Prepare the conchiglie according to package directions and set aside with a drizzle of oil to coat.

Meanwhile prepare the Mornay Sauce

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and stir until mixture is well blended.
  3. Gradually stir in hot milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil and thickens.
  4. Simmer, stirring frequently, over very low heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in white cheddar cheese, and continue to stir over low heat until cheese is melted
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste

For the langostino saute

  1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat
  2. Once oil is hot, saute the sliced garlic for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add langostinos and cook for ~3 minutes
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Stir-in sun-dried tomatoes until flavors are incorporated
  6. In a separate bowl stir the conchiglie and the Mornay sauce together

To plate, top the conchilglie with the langostino mixture.  Finish with toasted pignoli and fresh basil.

Buon Appetito!!

Eva

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Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Seafood

Simple Things II: Pan-Seared Tuna

I feel quite certain that Rowan and I are not alone in having busy evenings which are not at all conducive to making meals requiring more than 30 minutes to prepare.  Does this mean that our food should [always] be pre-packaged or pre-prepared?  No indeed!

What I share with you now is a favorite preparation of fresh yellowfin tuna.  Freshness is the first key to gastronomic success in all cases, but most especially when working with seafood.

Let’s start with the fish.  Selecting your tuna (or any other type of fish for that matter) steak or fillet:

Look for vibrant flesh. All fish fade as they age.  Should you select a cut with skin remaining, look for shiny, metallic skin.

Smell it. The smell test is especially important with fillets. They should have no pungent aromas.

Is there liquid on the meat? If so, that liquid should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a fillet is indicative of decay.

If the fishmonger lets you, press the meat with your finger. It should be resilient enough so your indentation disappears. If your fingerprint remains, move on.

Ingredients:

  • Tuna steaks
  • black sesame seeds
  • mustard seeds (either brown or white)
  • cracked black pepper
  • dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • NOTE – Do experiment with spices that make you happy.  I generally vary the spices each time I prepare this dish.

Method:

  • rinse fish lightly in cold water and pat dry
  • combine mustard seeds, pepper, garlic, and finely chopped tomatoes & cilantro
  • rim the outer edges of the tuna with the spice combination
  • place a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat; the pan is ready for the oil when a hand hovering over the pan (about 1 or 2 inches) feels warm
  • add the black sesame seeds to one side of the steak along with the kosher salt
  • place enough olive oil in the pan to coat it and allow to heat;  your pan is ready for your fish when a hand hover over the pan feels so hot that it is uncomfortable.  Note: Be mindful of olive oil’s low smoking point. You will want to watch the pan carefully once the oil is placed.

Place fish with sesame seeds down in the hot pan.  WATCH closely!  The goal is to sear the tuna without cooking through.  As it cooks you will see the pink flesh begin to turn brown.

    Once you have achieved the searing level you desire, turn the fish and sear the other side briefly.  Ensure that a line of pink remains visible to you on the side in order to achieve a nice rare-medium rare preparation.

      Last night, I served the tuna with a long grain brown rice, some cilantro puree, and a simple arugula salad (lightly dressed with D.O.P Monti Iblei olive oil and celtic fleur de sel)

      As Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett might have said of this meal:

      Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

      ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
      And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

      ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
      When true simplicity is gain’d,

      To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
      To turn, turn will be our delight,

      Till by turning, turning we come round right.

      Cail Bruich!

      Eva

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      Filed under Quick, Seafood

      Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot-and-Sour Shrimp Soup)

      One of the first things one discovers when getting into a food-geek conversation with me is that I am a huge fan of Asian cuisines. I’m not quite sure how it happened, as I have never (yet) lived anywhere in Asia. But I did grow up in the suburbs of New York City, the proverbial cultural melting pot, and the cuisines of all those cultures made a huge impression on me. Since then I have lived in a number of other US cities with a variety of Asian emigre communities, including Boston, Seattle, and now San Diego. With the aid of cookbooks, patient friends both online and real-life, and innumerable visits to shops and restaurants, I have taught myself a few things about cooking in these delightful food traditions. And one of my favorite learnings is how to make a good authentic tom yum goong.

      There are two ingredients that really “make” this soup: the head-on shell-on shrimp and the nam prik pao (one of the many varieties of Thai seasoning pastes). It is undeniably labor-intensive to remove the heads and shells from all those shrimp, but one taste of the heavenly broth you make from the heads and shells and you’ll know it was worth it. Do make sure you get the absolutely freshest shrimp you can, preferably buying them the same day you will be making the soup and storing them on a well-drained bed of ice in the fridge until you’re ready to prep them.

      The challenge with the nam prik pao is for non-readers of  Thai to identify it in their local Asian grocery store. You will find jars labeled something like “Tom Yum Paste” — that’s not what you want, however, but a short-cut “instant” soup base. Alas, what you do want is a little harder to identify, because the English labeling will say something insufficiently clear, like “roasted chilli paste.” Fortunately, I discovered that Pantainorasingh makes a popular and very tasty version of the stuff, and their label is easy to pick out–it has a long dragon boat on it, plus the English text “chili paste with soya bean oil” (picture here). The Pantainorasingh brand actually has only a mild chile kick–mostly it’s super-savory, and a bit sweet, and incredibly addictive (yes, I have gleefully eaten it by the spoonful).

      One other ingredient note: palm sugar typically comes in rock-hard lozenges about 2 inches in diameter. Use whatever method you can come up with to break up the lozenges. I’ve resorted to putting a few inside a clean pillowcase and pounding them with a hammer till pulverized. You can substitute brown cane sugar if you prefer not to be whacking at your ingredients, but the palm sugar has a distinctive tang that I think really adds something to the final product.

      Servings: 8 as the soup course of a full dinner, or 4 as a main entree

      Ingredients:

      • 1-1/2 lb large shrimp with heads and shells intact
      • 2 stalks lemongrass
      • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
      • 1 chunk ginger or galangal root the size of your thumb
      • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves
      • The juice of 4 limes
      • Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, to taste
      • palm sugar, to taste (approx. 2 to 3 tbs; )
      • fresh Thai red chilies, to taste (caution, extremely hot–as few as 1 or 2 might do unless you’re a chile freak)
      • nam prik pao, to taste (approx 2 to 4 tbs)
      • 2 15 oz. cans straw mushrooms
      • Extra chicken, fish, or vegetable broth as needed
      • 1 big handful cilantro leaves (removed from stems)

      Special equipment:

      A small sharp pointed scissors is very helpful in shelling and deveining the shrimp a little more quickly.

      Directions:

      1. Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp: Work over a bowl to catch the juices, taking care not to get your hands stabbed by the sharp points on the shrimps’ heads and tails. To remove the head, grasp the shrimp’s body in one hand, the head in the other, and just snap or pull the head off. To shell and devein in one step, insert one blade of the scissors right at the point where the vein peeks out from the body and snip right through the shrimp’s back, shell and all, the full length of the shrimp; then pull the meat free from the shell and tail.  The vein is left exposed for easy removal; pull it free with the tip of the scissors and discard. Rinse the cleaned shrimp briefly in cool water, pat dry, and return to the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Reserve the heads and shells, as well as the juices you caught in the workbowl.

      2. Put the heads, shells, and shrimp juices in a stockpot with water to cover. Add one stalk of lemongrass, sliced (discard the straw-like top part); 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed; and a chunk of fresh ginger or galangal root the size of your thumb, sliced (don’t bother to peel this). Bring to a boil, back it down to a low simmer, cover, and let simmer for a good hour or so, stirring occasionally. Strain the broth through a fine sieve, smooshing the shells and heads a bit to get at least some of the remaining liquid out. Discard the shells and other detritus.

      3. Measure the resulting broth, and add some of your backup broth as needed to bring the total volume of broth up to about 8 cups. Drain the straw mushrooms; discard the liquid, as it will probably be too tinny-tasting to use in the soup. Halve the bigger shrooms lengthwise so they better match the smaller ones; add them to the soup. Also add 4 to 8 kaffir lime leaves, depending on size, and the second stalk of lemongrass, sliced up, dry top discarded. Bring up to simmering temperature, cover, and let cook together for awhile till the lemongrass and lime leaves have had a chance to release their flavors.

      4. You’re now going to do a flavor-balancing act with the fish sauce, limes, palm sugar, nam prik pao, and chiles, adding and tasting till you like the combo of  salty/sour/sweet/spicy. My suggestion would be to start with a big spoonful of the nam prik pao–make sure it’s well dissolved into the simmering soup–and maybe one or two chiles, sliced and deseeded. (Wear gloves when cutting up the chiles–and if you’re a chile-head, by all means add more than one or two to start!) Then a couple tablespoons of the fish sauce. Then alternate lime juice and sugar, a little at a time, tasting as you go till you can taste both sweet and sour. Then readjust the savory and hot seasonings as needed. Repeat till you’re happy with the result.

      (Many recipes say to wait to add the nam prik pao until the soup is served, putting a spoonful in the bottom of the bowl and ladling the soup on top to dissolve it. I find it easier to get the flavors balanced if I add the nam prik pao at the same time at the same time as the other seasonings. You can always offer the nam prik pao, and other condiments, at table for anyone who wants to adjust their soup further.)

      5. Maybe ten minutes before serving the soup, bring it just up to a boil and drop in the shrimp. Bring it back up to a lively simmer, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through–don’t overcook! Pour into a tureen, drop in the handful of cilantro leaves, and serve. (Make sure your guests know that the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass are not meant to be eaten!)

      –posted by Denny Kozlov

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      Filed under Asian, Difficulty - Sous Chef, Long but worth it!, Seafood, Soup, Thai

      Shrimp and Grits: a variation on a homey southern supper

       

      as prepared by author

      Having lived several years of my life in the American south, I discovered the pleasure of eating grits.  Admittedly grits are not something that everyone considers a gastronomic pleasure. In reality, this coarsely ground corn of Native American origin, is generally just a vehicle for the other seasonings around and in it. Most often one finds grits on the breakfast table or buffet; however, based on the growing number of times grits are listed in dinner entree recipes now, it appears that they are becoming nearly as popular as their sister, thick, maize-based porridges from around the world like polenta and farina.

      Those who have lived in the south have no doubt heard many praises for this homely starch.  The state assemblies of both Georgia and South Carolina have made proclaimations about the southern staple. As well,  an article in the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier proclaimed in 1952, “An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.”(1)

      I have often needed to defend the joys of eating grits as others wrinkle their faces at the mere mention of the ingredient.  I contend that those who have protested so much have yet to taste well-prepared grits.  So now, I challenge you, regardless of your geographic location, to try this delicious seafood and grits meal.  Its hardiness is simply perfect on a cool fall or cold winter day, and yet, it is just as appropriate for al fresco service on a spring or summer night, given the bright notes & acidity from the lemon juice, parsley, and scallions.

      This recipe will serve 4 and takes approximately 15 minutes preparation time and 25 minutes cooking time.

      Ingredients
      •    4 cups water
      •    Salt and pepper
      •    1 cup stone-ground grits (not instant or quick cooking)
      •    3 tablespoons butter
      •    2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
      •    1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
      •    6 slices bacon, chopped
      •    4 teaspoons lemon juice *
      •    2 tablespoons chopped parsley *
      •    1 cup thinly sliced scallions
      •    1 large clove garlic, minced
      Directions
      Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
      Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In (some of the) grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
      Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.

      *Sometimes I will use lime juice and cilantro instead of the lemon and parsley to very good effect.  I like serving maragitas on the rocks in salt-rimmed glasses with this variation on the recipe.

       

      Served with pears drizzled with Academia Barilla D.O.P. Riviera Ligure extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and manchego cheese

      Wine Pairing Possibilities:

      My particular favorite with this dish is Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay. The winery describes this variety as “soft and creamy with apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and spice”, which I find spot-on.  The smoothness is a lovely complement to the dish when using the theory of a full-bodied wine with a full-bodied meal.

      If you’d like your wine to cut through the fattiness of the bacon, you may wish to serve this along with a Pinot Grigio or even a Prosecco.  The Prosecco is particularly a good choice if you are making this for small-bites prior to seating at a dinner party.  (The recipe would make more than 20 appetizer portions looking particularly stunning in an Asian soup spoon plating.

      If you prefer a red wine, which I often do, a dry fino sherry, sangiovese, or grenache may provide a nice synergy to the flavors of the meal.

      Enjoy!!

      Eva

      (1) South Carolina General Assembly 113th Session, 1999-2000, Bill Number: 4806

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      Filed under Dinner, Grains, Seafood, Southern