Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cioppino (Seafood Soup)

Cioppino is an Italian seafood soup that originated in San Francisco. I love to eat it but had never prepared the meal myself – until this past weekend.

I wish I hadn't waited so long. The dish is easy to cook and you can vary the fish and shellfish based on your preferences or what's fresh (or on special).

I fell in love with this soup about eight years ago, after trying it through a meal service. Even though I grew up Italian, I'd never had it before. Fast forward to 2017. With my parents visiting on a Friday in Lent, it was the perfect recipe to try out.

The timing was good, too. What could be better than a steaming bowl of fragrant soup and a hunk of crusty bread on a blustery, snow-flurry-filled March day?

Mangia! Mangia!

Adapted from this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large shallots, diced
1 large fennel bulb, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
1 1/2 cups Chardonnay
5 cups fish stock
2 bays leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 pound mussels, scrubbed to remove sand
1 pound clams, scrubbed to remove sand
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound halibut, skin removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound salmon, skin removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Fresh parsley, chopped

*A note about choosing your fish/shellfish: Vary the fish and shellfish as you like. For example, if your kids love shrimp, add more and leave out the salmon. Grocer only sell mussels in 2-pound bags? Go for it! Prefer crab over shrimp? Make a swap!

Heat the oil in the largest pot you own over medium-high heat. Add the onion, shallots, fennel and salt and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are translucent.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and tomato paste and stir a few times while cooking another 2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and juice, the wine, fish stock and bay leaves.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and add the clams and mussels. Let them cook until some of the shells start to open, between 5 and 10 minutes. Stir the soup, then add the shrimp and fish. Cook until the shrimp are pink and the fish is firm. Gently stir the soup again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Discard any clams and mussels that did not open.

Serve soup in large bowls and sprinkle with fresh parsley and shaved Parmesan (optional). Be sure to have plenty of crusty French or Italian bread on hand to sop up the fragrant broth. A glass of Pinot Noir is perfect with this dinner, too!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Garlic Shrimp & Lemon Spiral Zucchini

We try to eat seafood once a week at my house, and while it doesn't always happen, we most often turn to shrimp because it cooks up so quickly.

I made this dinner from a recent Williams Sonoma mailer. Since I knew my boys would not even try  a lemon cream sauce, I used zucchini noodles instead of pasta. The husband and I are trying to cut back on the carbs. (My boys ate the shrimp with pasta and jarred tomato sauce.)

The end result was very tasty -- but you do need to eat this right away, as it will get a bit soggy as the zucchini sits.

Mangia! Mangia!

Garlic Shrimp & Lemon Spiral Zucchini
Inspired by Williams Sonoma

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium zucchini, spiraled, or thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler or mandolin
1 bell pepper julienned
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, minced
1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons white wine
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon, plus more to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh basil leaves, sliced, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss shrimp, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Refrigerate while you make the sauce and cook the zucchini.

Use a spiralizer, mandolin or a vegetable peeler to turn your zucchini into noodles. Set aside, along with sliced pepper.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add shallots and saute about 5 minutes. Add wine, lemon zest and juice, remaining butter and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and add cream. Reduce heat to low and cook until fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Keep warm.

Place shrimp on a baking sheet and cook in oven until pink, between 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook zucchini noodles and pepper strips in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to colander and drain well. Gently squeeze excess water from zucchini.

Add zucchini and peppers to lemon cream sauce, gently toss to coat. Top with shrimp and basil. Season with more lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 6, 2017

White Wine Mussels

Have you ever put off making a dish that you love, because you think it will be a big pain, and then you finally do, and it was super easy? For me that dish: mussels.

We love mussels. We being hubby Jeff, daughter #2 Penny and me. In fact, Penny, 8, ordered mussels for her Groundhog Day birthday dinner last month. Come Valentine's Day I decided to finally cook mussels.

People, mussels are like the quickest, easiest thing ever. I'm no wondering how often I can get away with make them. I'm going to change it up, using other ingredients like beer, curry and coconut milk.

The moral of the story is, don't put off cooking your favorite dishes. Get in the kitchen, and make it happen!


PS: How many mussels do you need to feed your crew? From my online research, I found that three pounds — along with some crusty bread — will generally serve as the main course for four people. You can stretch that further if serving mussels as an appetizer. Two pounds was plenty for dinner for me, Jeff and Penny. 

White Wine Mussels
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon, zested
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cups white wine
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded (You have to pull away beard-like hairs from where the shell is closed.)
Large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add garlic and let sizzle until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add red pepper flakes, lemon zest and shallots, stirring for about 45 seconds.

Pour in the wine and season with black pepper. Bring broth to a boil, stir in mussels, and cover immediately. Shake pot and let boil for 1 minute.

Stir mussels, replace cover, and let boil for 2 more minutes. The shells will begin to open. Stir in parsley, cover pot and cook until all the shells are open, about 1 to 3 minutes. Do not overcook!

Serve with crusty bread, which is perfect for dipping in the yummy broth. BTW, don't try to eat any mussels that didn't open.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Citrus Salad with Lime Tarragon Dressing

When I was child, "orange salad" was a special dish served at Christmas time at my grandparent's house. It was simple – orange slices, black olives and some olive oil – but it seemed so exotic to me back then.

For the most part, my relationship with oranges is routine. I usually just eat them on their own, or mix mandarin oranges into a fruit salad. Oh, but oranges are capable of so much more.

When I traveled to Italy in my early 20s I discovered blood oranges. You've never smelled air as sweet as that near the groves along the rail line somewhere between Rome and Sicily.

Travel to other orange growing areas – Florida, California – and you'll meet new varieties and be introduced to new ways to use oranges.

This winter, I've been trying to broaden my orange-eating horizons. I now love using citrus in dressings, like Garlic Orange Shrimp Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.

When I happened on a Mark Bittman recipe for Winter Citrus Salad, I had to try it.

My oldest boy loves blood oranges and my husband and youngest son enjoy grapefruit, so a side dish that combines them is a ready-made hit at my house. Bonus: this dressing is wonderful on a green salad, too.

What's your favorite way to use oranges? I'd love to know!

Mangia! Mangia!

Citrus Salad with Lime Tarragon Dressing

To make the salad:
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into wheels
2 Cara Cara oranges, peeled and sliced into wheels
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and sliced into wheels

Combine sliced citrus in a bowl and sprinkle the salt. Set aside.

To make the dressing:
1medium shallot, minced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 small to medium lime
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar. Cover tightly with lid and shake until well combined.

Drizzle about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dressing over citrus. Refrigerate remaining dressing and use throughout the week.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach

For dinner in the winter, I'm satisfied with a warm bowl of beans. Growing up we'd often have beans and cornbread. Not fancy beans — just thrown in the crockpot with water or broth, a diced up onion,  that "ham" flavoring packet and maybe a leftover ham bone. And it was good. This is better, healthier even thanks to the spinach. In fact, I've made these beans twice in recent weeks and am officially declaring it my official, go-to, wintertime bean recipe.

The recipe is adapted from a favorite line of cookbooks: America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. I made a few tweaks. For starters, I omitted the mushrooms (just sounds unappealing to me to cook mushrooms and beans together for 9 or so hours). I increased the amount of sausage from 8 ounces to 9-12 ounces (for easier math) as sausage typically comes in 12-ounce, 4-link packs. Likewise, I upped the spinach by an ounce, because the baby spinach I buy comes in a 5-ounce clamshell container. Lastly, the second time I made it, I used a 4-ounce container of chicken broth and the 2 cups of vegetable broth leftover in my fridge. Why open another container of chicken broth?

Anyhow, if you are craving an easy dinner that takes the edge off the winter chill, try this out. Tweak it; make it your own.


PS: A great thing to serve with this: my Family Cornbread.

Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach
Adapted from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

9-12 ounces (3-4 links) hot or sweet Italian chicken sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounce bag of 15-bean soup mix, flavoring packet(s) discarded
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
Black pepper to taste
5 ounces (5 cups) baby spinach

Microwave sausage, onion, garlic, thyme and pepper flakes in bowl until onion is softened (about 5 minutes), stirring halfway through. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in broth, water, beans, bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add black pepper — to taste — now or later, if desired. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender — 9 to 11 hours on low or 6 to 8 hours on high.

Discard bay leaves. Stir in spinach and let sit until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Indian-Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Onions

I'm making up for lost time using my one and only Indian cookbook. See last week's post on Chicken Tikka Skewers.

With those Chicken Tikka Skewers, I made the roasted Brussels sprouts also in Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking but with some tweaks. I added onions, because we love to roast onions with our Brussels sprouts, and upped the spices.


Indian-Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Onions
Adapted from Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 large sweet onion, cut into large pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil and all of the spices and salt. Add Brussels sprouts and onion chunks and toss until coated with spice mix. Place vegetables on a baking dish (lightly sprayed with vegetable oil). Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over vegetables and roast until nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Molly's Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches

This dish is slow cooker gold, my friends. And I can't thank fellow mom Molly enough for sharing it with me. (Molly is also the genius behind Half-Day Chili Sauce.)

Molly's a mother of two boys like me, and we're always running our kids to some activity or another after school. Her creation is the new go-to meal at our house, especially since my son Sam declared, "This chicken is so good! Thank you for making it Mommy!"

When he asked me to pack it for his lunch, I knew we were on to something.

This recipe makes enough for a few meals (dinner and lunch!) which is especially nice.

Mangia! Mangia!

Molly's Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (I used Penzy's Italian Dressing Base)
1 cup sliced, mild banana peppers
1/2 cup juice from banana pepper jar
1 cup chicken stock
Hoagie buns
Provolone cheese slices
Extra banana pepper slices for serving

Place chicken breasts in bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Top with banana peppers. Pour banana pepper juice and chicken stock over everything.

Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. Remove chicken to a plate. Shred chicken. Return meat to slow cooker and stir to combine with sauce.

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.

Scoop chicken and banana pepper mixture into buns. Top with provolone cheese.  Put sandwiches on a cookie sheet and place in oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve with a side of banana peppers.