Posts tagged Recipes

Shrimp and the Future

The BP oil spill has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for about a month now, with no end in sight. As oil and chemicals drift towards the Louisiana coast, it’s easy to imagine the destruction being inflicted on these fishing grounds and the people who make their livings from them. This article from the New York Times addresses the issues straight-on, explaining how the majority of our domestic seafood comes from either Louisiana or Alaska, and how this spill will likely cause seafood shortages from the Gulf. It makes me wonder, between E-coli laced meat and toxic seafood, what will be left for us to eat?

One of the many reasons why I feel so sad about the BP situation is because in the past few years, I had recently renewed my love for shrimp. It all started with my first trip to Disneyworld as a child—whenever I think about it, I don’t remember the exhilarating curves and dips of Space Mountain or the sentimental sweetness of the It’s a Small World ride. No, my most vivid memory is of sitting at a white-clothed table with my parents and younger sister in front of a tall, narrow glass filled with my first shrimp cocktail. After my initial bites of those cold boiled shrimp dipped in their deliciously zesty tarter sauce, I couldn’t get enough, and I think I had a shrimp cocktail every night for the rest of that week. Mickey Mouse and Goofy just couldn’t compete.

But something changed in my early twenties, and for a long while I couldn’t stand the sight of shrimp. It had something to do with the texture, and I didn’t touch them for years. But in an effort to partake of their health benefits, I started eating and enjoying them again a few years ago. Their mild flavor works well in a variety of recipes, from Italian to Asian and everything else in between.

Currently my favorite shrimp dish is this recipe from the New York Times, published over a year ago. From the moment it appeared, these roasted, lemon-infused shrimp and smoky, cumin- and coriander-accented broccoli took the blogging world by storm, and with good reason. Served with brown or white rice, they form an easy and healthy meal, packed with a unique and addictive combination of flavors. I’ve been making it at least once a month for the past year, and I haven’t tired of it yet.

Jim and I recently tried a Thai-inspired recipe from Food & Wine as well, an intriguing mix of grilled shrimp, garlic, cilantro, shallots, red pepper, and soba noodles, mixed with various Asian seasonings. Jim loved the spicy combination of flavors with the buckwheat noodles, and I expect this recipe to enter our regular dinner rotation as well. We slurped up every bite in one sitting.

I don’t mean to minimize the oil spill in the Gulf with petty talk about my favorite shrimp recipes; there are so many huge ramifications of this catastrophic event that it depresses me just to read about them. But talking about the impact of this spill on my daily life in Brooklyn, miles away from where it is actually happening, reminds me that I’m really not so distant from it at all. These disasters, both natural and man-made, impact us all in one way or another. Shrimp dinners are just the beginning.

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Meal Planning

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Take a look at my refrigerator doors. Sure, I’ve attached all sorts of clutter to them—photos of friends and family, invitations to future events, gym schedules, goofy magnets—but I’ve also made a simple, recent addition that has changed my life. Can you see it? I’ll give you a hint: It’s in the lower left corner.

Let me back up a bit. Before the beginning of this year, I’d often run out of dinner ideas during the work week. If I hadn’t planned ahead, by Wednesday I’d be struggling for inspiration and probably preparing something I’d made a million times before. Then, once the weekend rolled around and I’d had time to peruse my cookbooks and magazines, I’d come across new recipes I wanted to try, older recipes I’d been holding onto for years and never prepared, and favorite recipes I’d forgotten about and wanted to make again.

Because I didn’t have a system in place, this cycle of finding recipes and then forgetting about them occurred more often than not. Putting flags in my cookbooks and folding pages over in magazines didn’t work for me either, as I always failed to remember them as well. So back in January I decided to adopt a different approach. I spent a few hours paging through my books and magazines, and I compiled a list of winter dishes I wanted to make this year. When I was done I attached the list to my refrigerator door. I even added a nerdy little box next to each item, so that I could check off the meal once I had prepared it. I’ve always enjoyed checking finished items off of lists—I used to organize my homework in high school and college with this method—and I still feel a small twinge of satisfaction when I complete an item on my meal planning list.

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As you can see, I am a total dork. But since I’ve adopted this system, not only have Jim and I enjoyed several new recipes, but we’re adding more variety to our diets as I don’t make the same dishes repeatedly. We’re also cooking with more enthusiasm, as almost every meal is a new adventure and something we haven’t tried before. If you look closely at my list, you’ll even see some recipes from my recent blog posts, such as my sweet potato and butternut squash soup and those pork and ricotta meatballs.  That delicious swiss chard, bean, and barley soup? The recipe had been languishing in my recipe binder for years before I added it to my informal kitchen memo. I recently wrote Food & Wine’s green chicken masala on the list, and I am looking forward to making it later in the week.

So, if you are anything like me and need some help organizing your daily meals, I highly recommend my newfound method. I plan on compiling a similar list once spring and summer start. Or, if you don’t have any problems planning your dinners, I hope I’ve given you a good laugh at my food-related nerdiness.

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Too Many Meatballs

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A few years ago, restaurants in New York City couldn’t open without meatballs. From the Little Owl’s adorable sliders and Apizz’s ricotta-enhanced monsters in Manhattan, to over the Brooklyn Bridge for Sicilian-style spheres at Frankie’s 457 Spuntino, the city’s restaurants were offering all meatballs, all the time.

A look through my own recipe archive shows that I’ve also done some experimenting with the little guys. For our annual holiday party I’ve made both the pork-and-veal and beef-and-pork versions of Mark Bittman’s polpetti, otherwise known as tiny meatballs. They were so popular they disappeared as soon as they hit the table. And I never told you about Mario Batali’s turkey meatballs, which I made last year: The rosemary was so overpowering that I couldn’t bring myself to write about them. (Actually, I just looked for the recipe online. In contrast to the page I originally printed out, the current version online is completely different and does not mention rosemary at all. Hmm, very suspicious.) So far, my go-to meatball recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated’s America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. It combines both ground beef and pork with breadcrumbs, parmesan, egg, and a touch of yogurt, creating rich, soft versions of this favorite comfort food.

But last week I tried another recipe, this one inspired by Luisa over at the Wednesday Chef. She had written a post about some marvelous pork and ricotta meatballs that she tried at a restaurant called A16 in San Francisco. (I guess that meatball trend also stretched out to the West Coast.) After reading about Luisa’s desire to replicate the meatballs at home, I decided I needed to try them too and searched for the recipe published in a recent issue of Food & Wine.

This recipe calls for ground pork, plus pancetta, ricotta, and other traditional elements such as parsley, breadcrumbs, and oregano. The meatballs are baked, not fried, in sea of crushed peeled tomatoes for 2 hours. When they finally emerged from the oven they weren’t as browned as we expected, but oh were they cushiony and rich, bursting with pork flavors from both the ground pork and pancetta. Light and soft, swimming in a thick sauce, they were the perfect food for yet another snowy evening at home.

Jim and I didn’t adjust the recipe at all, meaning that we wound up with enough meatballs for a family of six. We ate some leftovers with spaghetti later in the week and froze the rest for a weekend lunch in the near future. But it wasn’t a problem. I think most people, whether eating at home or in a restaurant, would agree: You can never have too many meatballs.

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