Screaming Shrimp Cooled by Creamy Avocado & Tomato

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Shrimp; sure their name might denote that they are small in size, but they are big in versatility.  As Bubba so notably recited, "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That, that’s about it.”  Well, that's where I disagree with Bubba. There are a thousand ways to prepare a shrimp.  Which makes them a perfect non meat dish to serve for a dinner party or crowd. Plus most people love shrimp. (Minus those poor souls with that horrible allergic reaction in the form of swelling, non breathing and other awful symptoms. So sorry for that group.)  

Shrimp, in any form, on a big platter equals party pleaser.  I have found this out the hard way.  Early on in our entertaining days, since I'm a pescatarian, we would make shrimp for me when meat was the main course.  But soon found out that everyone else loved them so much that they would eat up the small amount we made.  We realized that we often didn't make enough for everyone to partake.  Rookie move...that we remedied that quite quickly.  Now, if shrimp is on the menu, it's in quantities that can feed the entire crowd, not just selfish me.

If we get larger size shrimp (does that mean they aren't really shrimp?) then we often leave the shells on. It exudes a ton of flavor.  Marinate and cook them fully cloaked so that all that flavor from the shell cooks into the shrimp meat.   Then suck on the shell before peeling it off.  Don't groan and tell me that's gross.  It's delicious.  For this recipe you can peel the shell first or leave it on.  Your choice.  Either way this dish is about the play off the heat of the spicy shrimp cooled by the creaminess of the avocado and fresh cool tomato that makes it so satisfying.  I like this dish for a summer outdoor party or a late Saturday afternoon lunch. 

The setup.

The setup.

Ingredients

1.5 lb. large shrimp
2 avocados, cut into chunks
scrapings of avocado from the skin
2-3 medium (heirloom) tomatoes, thick slices
3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 T jalapeño pepper, finely minced*
1/2 - 1 T Chili oil, or 1-2 t crushed red pepper flakes* 
1.5 -2 T ginger, grated*
1.5 T cilantro, chopped
1/2 c red onion, sliced
1 t salt
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c white wine to deglaze pan
2 c basmati rice
1/4 c scallions, sliced
1/3 c cilantro
1 lemon, quartered
* These ingredients bring the heat. Adjust the amount according to how hot you like your food.

Dressing

avocado scrapings from the inside of the shell
2 T fresh lemon juice
salt, pepper
1/2 c Olive oil
Whisk together all above ingredients
1 T cilantro, minced for garnish
1 T scallions, sliced for garnish

 

Instructions

In a bowl, combine garlic, jalapeño, chili oil, cilantro, ginger, scallions, red onion, salt and oil.  Mix together with shrimp ensuring all are coated.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour to marinate.  

Make it sing with spice!

Make it sing with spice!

Combine it all in non reactive bowl. I like glass

Combine it all in non reactive bowl. I like glass

Let those shrimps get cozy with heat.

Let those shrimps get cozy with heat.

While the shrimp are marinating, cook the rice.  I use 1.5 times water to rice ratio, bringing the water to a boil then adding rice.  I add a touch of salt to the water, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.   Let it cook around 15-18 minutes until light and fluffy.

Nothing better than fluffy rice. It's begging for some accents, like scallions and cilantro.

Nothing better than fluffy rice. It's begging for some accents, like scallions and cilantro.

Cut the tomatoes and avocado and assemble your plates so that you only have to add the shrimp and serve.  Make the dressing by scraping out the odds and ends from the avocado shell.  Add them to all the dressing ingredients an whisk together, and set aside. 

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You can create a family style platter. Or you can individually plate them using the avocado shells to hold the rice.   

Then sauté the shrimp in a cast iron pan over medium high heat.  You want to get a nice sear on both sides. Shrimp do not take but 2-3  minutes to cook.  Keep in mind that they will continue to cook once removed from the heat. 

Get some good color and crust on them. Yum!

Get some good color and crust on them. Yum!

While the shrimp are cooking, toss the scallions and cilantro into the rice.  You can plate it by using the avocado shells, or simply plate alongside the tomato and avocado. Be creative, and make a pretty plate.

Fill the shell as a rice holder.

Fill the shell as a rice holder.

Or just lay the rice up against the tomatoes.

Or just lay the rice up against the tomatoes.

After all the shrimp are cooked, sauté the marinade in the pan, then add a splash of white wine. 

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Pour over the shrimp and place them on the platter, garnishing with the lemon pieces.  Drizzle the avocado dressing over the tomatoes and avocado. You can sprinkle more cilantro over the shrimp with a squeeze of lemon, too. Serve immediately. 

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I love all the textures of this dish.  Fluffy, soft rice. Crisp, sweet but spicy shrimp. Creamy Avocado and Cool, sweet tomatoes.  What's not to love?  Let your shrimp scream.

Butter Lettuce with Orange, Blueberries & Crunch

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It's funny how some ingredients gravitate towards one another. Or maybe it's me that gravitates towards them. Either way, it's nice to meet up with refreshing ingredients. 

Such as Butter lettuce. I enjoy its soft, delicate taste.  And even though it is mild, it's not too precious that it can't handle some zing and crunch.

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Which is why I paired it with orange segments for the zing and seeds for the crunch, and blueberries just because.  Well, not just because. Everything should have a purpose, and these certainly do.  They provide yet another flavor level, adding the tart/sweet level to be exact.  I've made this salad a bunch of time (using nuts)  but the blueberries are a recent addition, as this salad hit the big time, this go around.

Straight up sunflower seeds

Straight up sunflower seeds

Bursting with a tart bite blueberries

Bursting with a tart bite blueberries

This is not a complicated salad, yet it is complex in flavors and textures that all mingle beautifully with a variety of proteins for the main meal. Such as steaks, grilled or roasted fish, pork or chicken.  Its flavors are mild enough so as not to compete, but bold enough to say 'I'm crisp and refreshing, so don't pass me up."  What more can you want from a simple salad? I, dare say, not much. 

So, when during my recent internship at a prep kitchen in Miami I was tasked with making a salad for family meal (that's when the entire staff eats lunch together), I thought this salad might fit the bill. I've always enjoyed it, and was hoping that my new found friends would like it, too.  What I didn't expect was that head Chef MJ liked it so much she decided to offer it at the café for a lunch special the following week.  If you could see my face you would see joy and pride, and a sense of ultimate validation. I guess this little salad of bold flavors and subtle notes from a delicate lettuce got its star on the big screen stage of eateries. 

The line up.

The line up.

Ingredients
 

(Serves 6 as main or 8-10 as a side salad)

2 heads Butter, Bibb or Boston lettuce
3 oranges, segmented
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup pecans, roasted, chopped or sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced
 

 

Dressing

5 t orange juice
4 t lemon juice
4 t lime juice
2/3 c olive oil
2 T cilantro, minced
1 T ginger, grated
2-3 crushed garlic clove
salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

Wash and completely dry the lettuce. Gently tear it into bite size pieces.  If you are using pecans, place them in a 300 degree oven for 5-8 minutes to lightly toast.  Or you can toast them in a pan on the stove.  If you are using seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin, you can toast them or not.  Segment the oranges over a bowl so you can catch all the juices and use for the dressing. Toss together the lettuce, scallions, onions, ⅔ of the orange segments, ⅔ of the pecans or seeds reserving the remainder to decorate the top of the salad.  Whisk together all the ingredients and lovingly pour over the salad and mix well.  Do not over dress the salad.  You just want it all lightly coated.  Then using the rest of the oranges and nuts decorate the top.

You may notice some radicchio in this closeup shot. At the last minute, I added some to bulk up the salad because we had another person joining for lunch.

You may notice some radicchio in this closeup shot. At the last minute, I added some to bulk up the salad because we had another person joining for lunch.

This is a wonderfully, refreshing summer salad.  Or anytime salad.  I think it will brighten any BBQ.  Pair it with spicy ribs.  Pair it with grilled meats or sausages.  Pair it with whole roasted fish.  Go ahead, pair it with anything.  

Roasted & Spiced Cabbage Slabs

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Sometimes plain. Sometimes not.
Sometimes spiced, making it hot.

This little rhyme reminded me of an old commercial for chocolate bars. 
'Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't.' 

I realized it's exactly the same when adding spices. Sometimes you feel like spicing things up a bit while others times not.  It got me thinking about the last few recipes I posted.  In the category of 'sometimes plain', my recent post for a quick, pull together stir fry didn't utilize any spices. That recipe was all about letting the vegetables do the talking.  In the 'sometimes not' category, my recipe for cauliflower was all about zinging up the veg and making them sing.

Although I'm not feeling like a nut, I am definitely yearning more spice lately.  It could just be 2018, as many things are being spiced up for me this year. My 2017 was a bit bland, but 2018 is shaping up to be banging.

So with that, here's another spiced up idea for slabs of vegetables.  Given the recent slabbing of cauliflower and dousing with spices, the heads of cabbage were destined to meet the same fate.

Normally, my first 3 thoughts for using cabbage are:

  1. Slaw
  2. Soup
  3. Stir fry

On first viewing, I see cabbage and think of slaw. Hence being at the top of the list.  Then soup, then stir fry.  Since slaw is usually cold food/warm weather food- scratch that.  Number two on the list is soup and that completely fits the cold weather/warm food criteria, and was actually my intention when I bought them.  However, I just wasn't feeling soupy. And third on the list was stir fry.  And as you know, of the three cabbages I bought, the Savoy cabbage actually did make it into the stir fry recipe. But now I had two other heads staring back at me.  My need for variety coupled with my recent desire for spice was screaming at me, 'You can't make stir fry again!'   

Which forced me to add #4 to my hit list...

Roast it, baby!

Hey, this is not such a far fetched idea.  I roast everything.  Much like the cauliflower, it was time to heat things up both in temperature and flavor.

Once again, not wanting a big fuss because I had no idea how this would turn out or what I would serve this with, I kept the prep fairly simple.

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Ingredients

1 small purple cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 small green cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 rounded t each of cayenne, turmeric, paprika
1 t salt
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 heaping T freshly grated ginger
1 heaping T grated garlic
4-5 T olive oil

Instructions

Cut the cabbage in thick slabs and place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T oil.

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In small bowl, mix the cayenne, turmeric and paprika. Then sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the cabbage slabs.

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In another small bowl, grate the ginger and garlic, add the red pepper flakes, salt and oil.  Mix and then brush on each slab.

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Roast in a 425 degree oven until soft in the middle and a little crisp on the edges, turning them to ensure they are well roasted on both sides. 

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Once they were done I will admit I wasn't sure what I would do with big spicy slabs.  Certainly, they could be served as a side dish with jasmine rice and grilled chicken or fish.  This would be great with Tikka Chicken and a cucumber yogurt sauce. But I didn't have any of that made, so I packed them up and stored them in the fridge.  As the next day dawned, these spiced cabbages solved a lunch dilemma.  I decided they would be the feature in Indian inspired tacos.  I sautéd some spinach and warmed the cabbage. Grilled corn tortillas melting some cheese on them. Then filled them with the vegetables and topping it with sour cream.  Quite the tasty bite.

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Last Minute Stir Fry - Everything You Have

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Oh the panic!  What to make?  I know that doesn't sound like the me who is the cheerleader for 'don't worry, 'just throw something together.' Yet that was the overwhelming feeling I had last week when I got entrenched in work, looked up at the clock, realized it was 7pm and I hadn't started dinner.  Not only was nothing prepped or cooking at that hour but I really had no clue what I was going to make. And, tick tock, my sister was due to arrive. 
It's time like these when one really needs to rely on the Houdini skill set of making something appear out of nowhere.  Sure, I had produce in the fridge.  Some of which were destined for future recipe ideas for the blog, but, oh boy, did these seem like random items.  Fear not, as nothing is ever random or can't party together.  You just need to ruminate on what unites them.  (I venture to say that that is true in all aspects of life.)

Upon grabbing every produce item I could find, I sectioned off what I thought would work.  As I stared at them, pondering their destiny, I wondered what common thread would weave this tale... 

Rice Sticks.  The perfect item to string them together.  Let the chopping, stirring and combining begin.

From the top left: Enoki mushrooms, spinach, Cremini mushrooms, scallions, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, parsley, onion, red cabbage (which at the last minute I opted not to include), and savory cabbage which seemed to be camera shy and slipped out of the shot.

From the top left: Enoki mushrooms, spinach, Cremini mushrooms, scallions, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, parsley, onion, red cabbage (which at the last minute I opted not to include), and savory cabbage which seemed to be camera shy and slipped out of the shot.

Ingredients

Vegetable Stir Fry (These were the amounts that I grabbed.  It was enough for 2 servings.  Increase for your needs.  Also, you can add more of any items that suits your fancy but these proportions created a good blend of flavors.)

3-4 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
6-7 Shitake mushrooms, sliced
8-10 Cremini mushrooms, rough chop
1 - 7oz package of Enoki mushrooms
1.5 c snow peas, cut on diagonal
2 c Savory cabbage, chopped
3 c baby spinach, rough chop
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 c parsley, rough chop
salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated ginger (optional)

Rice Noodle Stir Fry
1/2 pkg Rice Stick Noodles (you can also use a wider rice noodle, or rags)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
1/3 heaping c chives, fine chop
2 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil

Whenever I have a lot of ingredients that don't need to be cooked all at the same time instead of the usual mise en place ( prepping everything first), I opt to chop what needs to be cooked first. Then while those are cooking, I continue to prep the remaining ingredients.  Ah, multitasking. It's a glorious thing.  To help make this recipe easier, I listed the ingredients above in the order they should be prepped and cooked. 

Instructions

Let the rice stick noodles soak in warm water until softened.  Do not cook these, just soak them first.

Rice Noodle sticks.  You can use whatever style you prefer.  A wider noodle would also work well.

Rice Noodle sticks.  You can use whatever style you prefer.  A wider noodle would also work well.

In a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive and sesame oils until translucent. Add the Shitake and Cremini mushrooms, allowing them to get a nice sear before adding the Enoki mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper. If you are adding the freshly grated ginger, add that at this time. 

An earthy mix that starts the flavor base.

An earthy mix that starts the flavor base.

While the mushrooms are cooking, in a separate sauté pan, add oils, onions, garlic and chives and cook until softened.  Add the rice stick noodles and stir until all the noodles are coated with the oil.  You might need to add some of the soaking liquid to avoid them clumping together.  Season with salt.

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Once the mushrooms have a good sear, then add the snow peas and allow to soften but still have crunch.  Next add the cabbage and spinach and stir until just wilted. Then add the scallions and parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust according.

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To serve, you can combine the noodles and vegetables together. We opted for noodles on the bottom and stir fry on the top.  I didn't use grated ginger because Jill isn't a fan. (What!!?? I know, it's a crime.  Even though I didn't add it for our dinner, I am absolutely sure it would be a great addition to the dish.)

So sure, this is another easy, something from nothing, pull it out the air kind of dish, but here is the funny part.  I realize that I always say this or that recipe is easy.  And I truly mean it. So when my sister, Jill, enjoyed this meal so much she went back for seconds, a very rare occasion since she eats the amount of tiny bird, I told her it was easy, she could totally make it. Her response, "You say that about everything you make. It's easy for YOU."  But when I recounted what I did she said, "Well, I guess that IS easy."  So there you have it.  From the mouth of my muse, if she thinks it's easy, so will you.

Apple Crisp Salad

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I am one of those writers who loves journals.  I have a million but that doesn't stop me from buying more when I see one.  I am drawn to them like bees to honey.  I love the texture. I love holding them in my hand. I love all the styles, designs and colors. I see one, and like some fiend that has been implanted with a chip that orders me to buy every time I see one, I do so willing, happily, adding to my ever growing collection.  And because I have so many journals I write in different ones at different times.  Sometimes it depends on my mood; does the cover and feel of the journal match how I'm feeling?  Sometimes it's the contents; is what I'm about to write similar to what has already been written in that journal.  Other times it's simply about the weight of the journal.  If I am traveling, I choose the lightest, thinnest one.  While other times I could be in one location but still slightly traveling slowly side to side on the hammock. For those times, I choose a weightier journal than the one intended for trains, planes and automobiles.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But aren't they all so pretty. Wouldn't you buy them, too?!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But aren't they all so pretty. Wouldn't you buy them, too?!

Scribbles with no amounts. The green notes are from me recreating it for this blog, so I could give you measurements.

Scribbles with no amounts. The green notes are from me recreating it for this blog, so I could give you measurements.

The happy result of having started but not finishing
a journal is that I happen upon poems, writings, rantings, recipes and ideas from moments past.  There is a certain excitement upon discovering these nuggets. I can relive times in my life and feel a sense of journey and accomplishment. They also seem new and fresh to me, usually bringing me joy.  This occurs particularly when I'm thumbing through and unearth a recipe I want to try again. I can't tell you how happy I am that a few years back I started writing recipes down.  I've always written my thoughts and feelings
in journals but not recipes. So being able to recreate dishes that I made once and almost forgot is a real treat.  Like this Apple Crisp Salad.  I remember it now, and would have totally slipped my mind and fallen into the vast past of recipes lost had I not jotted it down.

It is exactly how I named it.  A salad featuring apples where the crispness comes from the way they are cut.  I believe I have mentioned this before but the cut of food, especially fruits and vegetables can make all the difference in world.  It can either enhance or overwhelm a dish.   In this recipe, the apples are cut like matchsticks, allowing them to mingle themselves throughout the entire salad providing a crisp crunch with every bite.

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ingredients

(4 Lunch or 6 dinner servings)
4+ c apples, sliced into matchsticks               10 c Boston, Romaine lettuce        
1 c parsley leaves
1 c cilantro leaves
1/3 c scallions, sliced
1/4 c heaping red onion, thinly sliced

 

Dressing
2 T lemon juice
2 T lime juice
1 t dijon mustard
1/4 t fresh ginger, grated
1/2 t garlic, crushed
salt, pepper to taste
1/3 c olive Oil

Instructions

Prepare all the ingredients as directed above, leaving the apples to the very last so they don't turn brown.  You can also squeeze lemon juice on them to keep them from turning.  For both the parsley and cilantro, pick the individual leaves off the stems and leave whole.  This adds so much flavor.

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Arrange the lettuces on a platter or big bowl. Then mix in all the other ingredients.

Cut 1/8" slices of the apple.

Cut 1/8" slices of the apple.

Then cut them lengthwise to create matchstick pieces.

Then cut them lengthwise to create matchstick pieces.

Using a mandolin, I also like to thinly slice some of the apple for garnish.  

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Add it to the top of the salad in various places.

Add it to the top of the salad in various places.

 

Make the dressing and then pour over the salad right before serving.  Toss until coated.  

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This dressing has a nice kick provided by the dijon grain mustard, the fresh grated ginger and garlic.

This dressing has a nice kick provided by the dijon grain mustard, the fresh grated ginger and garlic.

This is a perfect salad for this time of year as apple picking is in season.  Go pick a few then make this salad to accompany my Apple Butter/Spicy Sausage Sandwich.  Since the weather is still warm the salad is a great sub in for the roasted tomato soup that I originally made with that sandwich.  Either way...

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An apple a day...