Don’t Get Mad, Get Cooking

July 31st, 2012 · 29 Comments · Seafood

One day I’m going to write an in-depth post about our weekly shop — how we strategize, prepare, and, eventually attack our local Trader Joe’s like a bunch of Navy SEALs. But for now, all I’ll say is that we have it down to a pretty precise science, so when I open the fridge or pantry and can’t find what I’m looking for….well….I get mad. That’s what happened a few weeks ago when the girls were nice enough to suggest grilled shrimp tacos for dinner. (You know how much I love it when someone else dreams up the menu.) This meal is a classic go-to in our house because it’s so fast and also because the ingredients called for are all items we would never dream of leaving Trader Joe’s without: scallions, tomatoes, cilantro, limes, greens, sour cream, tortillas. All we have to do is stop by a fish market at some point to pick up some (preferably peeled) shrimp. On this particular occasion, however, I had fired up the grill, knocked back at least half my dark & stormy, whisked lime and sugar into sour cream, and skewered up the shrimp before realizing that we were all out of tortillas — in our house a crime punishable by I-thought-you-got-them-no-you-said-you-did. But I set aside the blame game for the moment in order to make some frontline decisions. I could easily abort mission and go with a southwesternish salad. Or I could channel my inner Alana Chernila and — get this — make my own tortillas from scratch. I know the last two words of that sentence strike fear into the hearts of many a new parent, and so of course, you should feel free to go ahead and click on the “Quick” category over there in the margin, while making a note to return to this page in 2019. (Please please come back!) But emboldened by my cocktail and a few willing little partners, this was the route I decided to take. And wow did our dinner taste good. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that “from scratch” can be as simple as mixing together flour and water. And also that it’s usually the simplest things that make all the difference.

Flour Tortilla Recipe
Adapted from something I found on squidoo. Makes about 6-8 eight-inch tortillas. (PS: No one is keeping score here. You should definitely skip the from-scratch version and just go with storebought if it’s going to be the thing that crushes you and your dinner spirit.)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for flouring the board)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water

Combine flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and mix lightly. Add the warm water and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a soft dough. Divide into equal pieces of 6-8 balls. Brush with a little vegetable oil and cover with a dish towel and let sit for 15 minutes.

Roll out each ball on a floured surface. Preheat an ungreased griddle or cast iron pan. Add tortilla and cook until it begins to puff with a few browning spots on the bottom. Flip and press down to release the air pockets. Cook for about 1 minute. Remove and keep warm on a platter under foil until ready to fill.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

About 20-25 pieces of medium shrimp, peeled
olive oil
2 teaspoons-ish chili powder
salt & pepper
tortillas (homemade, see above; or your favorite storebought ones prepared according to package directions)

Prepare grill. Thread your shrimp on skewers and place on a platter. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, then, using your fingers, rub chili powder all over shrimp, turning them on skewers as you go. Grill for about 3-4 minutes, flipping them along the way, until they are cooked through. (You could also saute the shrimp — un-skewered in a skillet.) Remove shrimp from skewers into a bowl. Place shrimp on the table with your tortillas and other fixings such as shredded cabbage, chopped tomatoes, chopped scallions, lime wedges, chopped cilantro. Have everyone assemble their own.

I serve these with my usual sauce: 1/2 cup sour cream whisked with 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. You could also just do sour cream.

 

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Summer Stew

July 18th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

I should probably be stripped of my food blogging rights for telling you to do anything with summer corn besides eat it on the cob with a little salt and butter, but you know I can’t resist the urge to share the discovery of a new deconstructible dinner. Last week was not the first time we’ve eaten this corn, chicken and sausage stew — not by a longshot, we ate a version of it almost every August weekend one summer in the 90s. But since then, we’ve had to think a bit more strategically about dinner, which, of course, is another way of saying, we’ve become parents. I was happy to discover last week, that the family classic joins the ranks of the tortilla soup, the salmon salad, and the other dinners on page 158-163 of my book that can be broken down into their individual components so that they can be more palatable to the kids, and less headache-inducing for the cook. It’s a goodie.

Summer Stew with Chicken, Corn, and Sausage
Adapted from Gourmet

3 links chorizo sausage (I used chicken), sliced into coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 or 7 boneless chicken thighs, salted and peppered
1/2 medium onion, chopped
red pepper flakes (optional)
2 to 3 cups corn, cut off the cob
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
basil, chopped

In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove.  Raise heat to medium-high and brown chicken (in batches if necessary) on both sides until mostly cooked through. Remove. Turn down heat to medium-low, add onion, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and a little more oil if necessary. Stir until slightly wilted. Add corn and tomatoes and stir until vegetables release their juices.

Nestle chicken and sausage back in the vegetables, cover and simmer another 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with basil and crusty bread in bowls, or separate into individual components for the kid who doesn’t like things “mixed” and serve on a plate.

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Top of the To-Do List: Lobster Rolls

June 29th, 2012 · 8 Comments · Quick, Rituals, Seafood

We’ve just wrapped up what you might call an “unstructured” week — other than a late-afternoon soccer clinic for the kids and other than one full day of meetings in the city for me, we had nothing on the schedule for the first few days of summer vacation. And now I’m wondering why we registered them for their upcoming organized activities at all. I could get used to a schedule where we get to sleep in and not once have to hear ourselves say tie your shoes immediately or you will miss the bus and please please please don’t make me ask you again! (Happiness is the laceless summer shoe.)

This is not to say that we were sitting around watching Nick Jr and bumming at the beach. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Without even realizing it, we began checking things off the List of Things We’ve Been Meaning to Do All Year. Monday: We finally saw that documentary First Position about the Grand Prix ballet competition and the girls loved it. Tuesday: We hit Shake Shack. (It’s hard to even admit this to myself as a parent, but my poor, deprived daughters had to live eight and ten years respectively before ever sinking their teeth into a Shack Burger.) We roadtripped to Ikea in search of a “swivel stool” for Abby’s new desk and wound up stuffed to the gills with Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. (You know, one of those nice light summer meals.) We visited a new Asian Supermarket across town which everyone keeps talking about and where we found all sorts of cool and crazy little things to try like quail eggs, mochi, and Korean melon. It was there, in the glisteningly clean seafood aisle where I spied a five-dollar cooked lobster ($5!) and remembered one other thing on the List: Make Lobster Roll! I came home from that trip, tossed the lobster meat with mayo, scallions, and the slightest sprinkling of paprika, and with one bite, officially initiated summer.

Lobster Roll
Makes one lobster roll. Recipe can be multiplied accordingly.

meat from a cooked 1-pound lobster (about 1/4 pound of cooked lobster meat), roughly chopped
1 scallion (light green and white parts only), chopped
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
squeeze fresh lemon juice
sprinkling of paprika
salt to taste
hot dog bun
butter

Add all ingredients (except bun and butter) in a mixing bowl. Fold together gently. Toast hot dog bun then spread with a thin layer of butter. Top with lobster salad.

Don’t forget about the Mega Giveaway: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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