Friday, July 31, 2009

The Entree

Shrimp in a Lemon Herb Butter Sauce and Angel Hair Pasta

After piddling around with tiny potatoes, soup shooters and a little salad, on came the entree- shrimp with pasta.

After having the fishmonger at Whole Foods carefully select 35 large, fresh Gulf shrimp, I deveined and peeled them and soaked them in half and half overnight to plump them up and remove any hint of fish aroma.
Then I breaded them in Japanese bread crumbs (Panko) and let them dry thoroughly to make sure the Panko was even.

Once they were ready, I sauteed them in extra virgin olive oil and put them in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm as I made the sauce, which consisted of unsalted butter, egg yolk, crushed garlic, minced parsley and chives, and a liberal portion of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Ask and I'll send you the complete recipe.
To go with it, I selected a micro-thin cappelini (or angel hair) pasta and tossed it with olive oil, sauteed pancetta (Italian bacon) grated Parmesan, fresh peas and sea salt.
We selected two styles of ciabatta to sop up the sauce, a lovely salt crusted loaf and a rosemary garlic loaf.
The shrimp dish was originally called Shrimp Paesano, the signature dish of a great Italian restaurant in San Antonio, but I changed the recipe substantially enough to make it my own.
You like?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Instant Appetizer

No Need to Fuss

Sometimes you just need something simple for early arrivers to nibble on while you await the arrival of stragglers and/or divas.
In this case, we selected a fragrant lemon goat cheese, some interesting seedy crackers in three shapes and a little garnish of lemon slices and fresh dill. Let the goat cheese warm to room temperature for easy spreading.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Amazing Soup Shooter

When a Whole Bowl Is Too Much

(left) The Famous Bettie Naylor* (right) MidSis the birthday for larger)

BigSis loves to make soup, but we knew with this dinner we'd have to go easy on the starters because the entree was so good.
So, BigSis came up with a classic soup shooter, a delicious cold soup recipe consisting of fresh zucchini, leeks, potato, white onion, garlic, scallions, chicken stock and spices.

BigSis's Amazing Zucchini Soup Shooters

2 T. Olive oil
1 T. Butter
2 Leeks, white part only, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 Med. Onion, thinly sliced
4 Scallions, both white and green parts, cut into 1/2″ slices
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
5 Zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 1/2″ slices
4 Small White Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices (about 2 cups)
4-5 cups Chicken Stock
1 T.Lemon juice
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 tsp each marjoram, thyme, rosemary and savory
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Whipping cream, or more as needed
2 T. Chopped chives for garnish

Heat olive oil and butter in a 4 to 5 quart saucepan
and saute' leeks, onion, scallions, garlic, zucchini
and potatoes until slightly softened, 5 to 10 minutes,
stirring frequently. Add chicken stock and lemon juice
and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper and herbs.
Simmer until vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes.
puree soup in blender or processor in several batches.
Stir in Worcestershire sauce and cream. (if soup is
too thick, add more cream.) Allow to cool, then
refrigerate at least two hours.
Can be made the day before.

Pour cold soup into pitcher for pouring.
Pour into 4-6 oz. shot glasses. Be sure any splashes are wiped off. Garnish with fresh dill.
Add wide straws if desired.

There should be enough for a dozen shooters, with enough leftover for a meal afterwards.

* Famed gay activist and co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign, America's largest GLBT lobby

Do Not Make Boring Salads

Rethinking the Dreaded Salad Course

It never fails.
You sit down to dinner at someone's house and out comes the salad; a plate filled with mixed field greens, cherry tomatoes, sliced cukes and other boring ingredients.
I like salad, but with a great meal I don't want too much because I don't want to waste valuable stomach space with a bunch of greens.
I reduced this salad in volume so it would give the impression of being smaller.
I made this for Mid Sis's birthday feast on Saturday.

Spinach Salad with Fresh Basil, Toasted Pine Nuts, Turkish Apricots and Shaved Peccorino with Sherry Vinaigrette

1 package organic baby spinach
20 fresh basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade
12 small dried apricots, cut into thin strips
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
1/4 lb. peccorino or other hard cheese, shaved
sherry vinaigrette to taste

Put spinach in mixing bowl
Take basil leaves and nestle them on top of each other in descending size. Roll into a tight bunch, like a cigar. Slice into thin ribbons from end to end.
Add to spinach and mix in well. Too much basil or basil in too large a piece stings the mouth, hence the thin ribbons.
Add dressing and mix well. Taste it.
Return to refrigerator for at least two hours so the spinach and basil absorb the dressing and reduce in volume.
Place a mound of the spinach mix in the middle of a salad plate. Adorn with apricots, pine nuts and cheese.
No need for salt or pepper, unless you must.

The Amusing Amuse Bouche

Infant Twice-Baked Potatoes

Nothing pleases me more than a perfect amuse bouche (aMOOZE Boosh).
It's a one-bite delicacy that really thrills the palate if you put enough work into it. The trick is to include a lot of components so the taster is dumbfounded that something so tiny can pack such a flavor punch.
As you can see, this amuse bouche started with the smallest potatoes I could find. These were tiny Yukon Golds, but you can also use red potatoes.
After boiling them until they were easily pierced with a toothpick, I cut them in half and very carefully scooped out the meat with a small melon baller and put it in a small bowl. If you haven't got a small enough melon baller, fashion a paper clip into a shape you can scoop with. Leave about 1/8 inch of potato so the little spuds keep their shapes.

6 tiny potatoes, boiled and cut in half
2 tsp unsalted butter
1 tsp finely chopped fresh chives
1 tsp micro-grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp sour cream
1 slice crisp Applewood smoked bacon, finely minced
sea salt to taste

Mash the potatoes in the bowl with a fork until fairly smooth.
Add remaining ingredients and mash together until well blended.
Using your (clean) hands, carefully stuff mixture back into potatoes and sprinkle with a few cheese threads and chives.
Bake in a 300 degree oven until cheese melts--watch carefully.

I served these in Chinese porcelain spoons, very commonly used to present amuse bouche. You can find them at any Asian store or upscale grocery store.