Wish Upon A Dish: May 2012

May 10, 2012

Tuscan Grille Shrimp Scampi

Now that the bags are unpacked, the laundry is in the washer and the pictures are downloaded on my computer, I can get back to my standard routine. Why is it that people on vacation load up on foods they don't normally eat on a daily basis and then complain when their tummy acts up (or doesn't as in my case).

Yes, instead of eating granola and yogurt and fruit for breakfast, the first couple mornings I ate eggs and sausage and cheeses and cried all the way to the potty......not that I ate poorly, I ate differently and I paid for it dearly.

Dinner was different. Seafood, seafood and more seafood and every vegetable I could get my fork into. I actually maintained my weight and blood sugar the whole 15 days I was there and ate like a queen. If I splurged it was a lunch when tapas and pizzas where the diet on land but we walked 3 miles everyday and burned the bad off.

Nowadays cruise ships have gourmet restaurants on them, each with a theme, for those that want a more intimate dining experience. Yes, there is a separate charge for the experience but since this was our 30th Anniversary (and The Nudge's birthday), our friends thought we would enjoy a quiet anniversary dinner and gave us a certificate to dine at one of our choice.

First one we tried was the Tuscan Grille (no surprise there, huh?). We had a seat right by the window and watched the sunset while sipping a Negroni. Very nice indeed.

While I had the Grilled Barramundi The Nudge, as usual, made the better choice and ordered the Diver Scallops and Shrimp Scampi. The last time I made scampi he was traveling so I decided to surprise him with my rendition. No diver scallops here, just shrimp and I will serve them with fettuccine, instead of garlic mashed potatoes, but I loved what they did with the vegetables, so I will make them.

Their scampi was different, having a light tomato based sauce. The Nudge said it was divine with a ton of seafood, garlic flavor and a nice touch of heat. I have opted to make a seafood stock and include frozen fresh chopped clams for a bump in flavor. I have two heads of garlic about to sprout so they will get roasted and thrown in right before serving as will a few julienned carrots, zucchini and parsnips that managed to remain fresh in my crisper drawer. A final drizzle of this great olive oil I bought in Florence and dinner is served. This was so easy and had tons of flavor that I will never make scampi the old boring way again.

Tuscan Grille Scampi Diavolo
Makes 2 servings
* 1/2 pound USA colossal shrimp (about 8-9), sliced horizontally
* salt and pepper
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1/2 cup cornstarch
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
* 3/4 cup seafood stock (recipe to follow)
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
* 1/2 box dried fettuccine (or 2 portions fresh)
* 1/4 cup chopped clams (optional)
* zest and juice from half a lemon (save rind for stock)
* pinch red pepper flakes

1. Season shrimp with salt & pepper. Dredge in cornstarch. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Meanwhile heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a frying pan (no non-stick please) till it starts to smoke. Add shrimp and toss like crazy and it starts to turn pink and the edges brown lightly. Remove to bowl.
3. Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil into same pan on medium high heat. Saute sliced garlic until it starts to brown around the edges.
4. Add wine and stock to pan and stir to remove the browned bits. Simmer until it starts to thicken and coat the bottom of the pan. Drain cooked pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add pepper flakes, zest and lemon juice to sauce and simmer for 1 minute.
5. Add shrimp (and clams if using) to sauce along with the pasta and toss to combine. If pasta is dry, add enough pasta water to loosen sauce (it should be coated but not soaked). Toss in roasted garlic and drizzle with a good finishing olive oil. Serve immediately.

Seafood Stock
Makes about 1 cup
* 1 tablespoon good olive oil
* Shells from shrimp
* 1 cup chopped yellow onions (1 onion)
* 1 carrot, unpeeled and chopped
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/4 cup good white wine
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 5 sprigs fresh thyme, including stems

Warm the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells, onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add 3 cups of water, the white wine, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve, pressing the solids. You should have approximately 1 cup of stock. You can make up the difference with water or wine if you need to.

Roasted Garlic
* 2 heads garlic, very top lopped off to expose each clove
* olive oil
* sprig fresh thyme or large pinch dried leaves
* freshly ground pepper
* sea salt

1. Make a bowl out of foil and place the heads in the bottom, cut side up. Season with the thyme sprig, the pepper and sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Twist the top tightly and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes. let cool and remove the cloves from their skin into a bowl. Reserve.

May 5, 2012

Pasta alla Siciliana

What exactly is Pasta alla Siciliana?

It's a dish cooked in the style of Sicily. Still confused? I understand. You will never see "alla Anything" in Italy, it is strictly an Italian American term. Allow me to explain.

Regional cooking in Italy is lots like regional cooking here, in the USA.

When the immigrants invaded America they cooked with ingredients that they found familiar to them and when they could not find a vegetable or cheese they knew they started substituting similar American ingredients they could find.
Restaurant chefs named these dishes after where they came from......so alla Siciliana would be a dish created by a Sicilian cook.

Sicily is the southernmost area of Italy, invaded by many conquering countries and like our southern states, has a very temperate climate. Their food reflects these influences. Plenty of pickled and dried fruits and vegetables, spicy peppers and olive oil dominate, and sheep and goats provide cheese and milk.

My last meal before vacation was literally a combination of what I had left in my fridge and as I chopped and sauteed my ingredients, I dropped the last remnants into the garbage. Very efficient.

This was a very light but tasty pasta dish, perfect for hot weather, buffets and people looking to eat healthy.
Also a good dish to use extra zucchini you might have.

Pasta alla Siciliana
makes 4 servings
 * 1/2 pound medium-sized pasta
* Olive oil
* 1 small zucchini or half a large one, cut into 1/4" half moons
* 1/2 sweet onion, 1" slices
* 3 cloves garlic, sliced
* Lemon zest from a 1/4 lemon
* 12 black pitted olives, Kalamata or Gaeta, sliced in half lengthwise
* 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
* 1/3 cup dry vermouth
* 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
* salt & pepper to taste
* A healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup diced fresh mozzarella

1. In a large saute pan, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, zucchini moons and garlic. Saute on high heat until the zucchini starts to take on some color. Remove and reserve.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions.
3.Add vermouth to saute pan to deglaze the bottom and then add the tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon zest and pepper flakes. Simmer while the pasta cooks.
4. Once the pasta is al dente, add that and the zucchini mixture into the sauce and stir to combine. Shut off the heat and pour pasta into a large bowl. Top with the mozzarella. It will melt with the residual heat.

Don't be afraid of the olives, capers and lemon zest. Used in the correct amounts, they added an overall complex but not over powering flavor. Even The Nudge who does not like olives, cleaned his plate and admitted the olives were a nice touch. This is definitely a good dish to introduce your kids to olives.

Pin It

May 2, 2012

Bruschetta My Way

Every late Spring when we know a 70+ degree Saturday is forecasted, I buy my ingredients for bruschetta (pronounced bruise-ketta not bru-shet-ta please).

Traditional is chopped tomatoes and onions served on grilled bread rubbed with a clove of garlic. Sometimes it is also done with cannelloni beans.

Mine is a chopped caprese salad on grilled bread.

First I roast a head of garlic and make a paste with it. That is spread on the grilled bread first. Then a few spoonfuls of a mixture of even-sized diced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, red onions, fresh garlic and roasted peppers.

That is drizzled with a glorious extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt.

We open a really yummy Chardonnay and make a toast to the coming summer. A toast for a toast!!

We have been doing this for over 15 years now and I only make this on that day.

makes 2 cups

* 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
* 1 medium ball fresh mozzarella, chopped
* 1/4 red onion, chopped
* 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
* 4 sliced of Prosciutto De Parma, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* olive oil to moisten
* 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze
* salt & pepper to taste
* 1/2 loaf of good Italian bread, sliced 1/4" on the diagonal, grilled

Next time you need a really good appetizer for a party, make this and see what people say. I guarantee you will be asked to make this many times.

Pin It