Shrimp and Grits – 16/67

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I’ve always said that I know I still love living in New York because when I get off the plane after a trip, I’m excited to be here. Well my friends, this past arrival is really throwing my brain for a loop. I just had the most magical weekend celebrating my friends’ marriage in Vail, Colorado. Vail is unfairly beautiful. I was there a few years ago for a ski day, but I don’t think the extent of the beauty hit me til this weekend. Snow covered mountains! In June! Trees in every shade of green that literally made me want to take up painting! Glorious aspens, framing a lake, framing a mountain! Adorable old-timey Main Streets. I mean, how is this fair?? NYC doesn’t have any of these things 😦

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Man, weddings are the best. It felt like a band trip or college reunion — all these people I love and who live across the country all of a sudden staying in the same hotel and having a bunch of meals together. Such a treat.

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Meg and Jonny put together a truly beautiful celebration, complete with their ring bearer pup and a rainbow gracing cocktail hour (that part was unplanned). Meg’s Gypsy Kings dance with her dad brought me to giddy tears. We all fell down attempting the lift in the Dirty Dancing song. We enjoyed the effects of open bar + altitude (well, until morning appeared, rudely and painfully). Daniel and I were so glad to bear witness to it all, and also happy we got to sneak in two hikes, some drone activity, an absolutely amazing lunch in town, a brewery visit, and a catch up with an (unrelated) friend while we were out there. Three days well spent. But I could’ve used an extra one or two before returning. It was too brief a flirtation to make me miss home.

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Meg made Daniel and me her version of shrimp and grits forever ago, when we all lived in New York. I remember loving them and being really impressed I didn’t get a stomach ache afterwards. Because usually shrimp and grits are a cream and butter bomb. But not Meg’s version! Hers is full of veggies, lemon juice, and garlic. There’s a little butter and a good handful of parm, which both go a long way, but won’t weigh you down for the rest of the night. And it’s so good, and so quick. I’m in love with this recipe. Apparently Meg’s family adapted it from their local favorite restaurant, Palm Valley Fish Camp, in Jacksonville, Florida. Thank you, Meg and family, for this gift! And for bringing us to the mountains for this joyful weekend. Happy, happy wedded life! 

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four years ago: kale caesar salad – one of my fav salads, which I crave about once a week. And it’s perfect for CSA season!
five years ago (squee! 5! I never even updated that silly background picture that was supposed to be a placeholder!): rhubarb, chickpea, and spinach stew with lemony yogurt sauce

Shrimp and Grits

From Meg, via her family, via Palm Valley Fish Camp

Serves at least 3

1 cup grits (the quick cooking kind)
2-3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup red onion, very finely diced (about half an onion)
⅓ cup red bell pepper, very finely diced (about half a pepper)
1 stalk celery, very finely diced
3 cloves garlic, very finely diced
1ish pound of jumbo shrimp, cleansed and shells removed (about 2 cups)
1 big tomato, seeded and very finely diced
2-3 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley + extra to garnish
Juice from 1 lemon
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and white pepper (Meg’s recipe called for Penzey’s White Sarawak Pepper, but I used the grocery store brand I had around, and use black pepper if that’s what you’ve got)
Hot sauce

Cook grits according to package directions. This should entail something like — bring a bunch of water to a boil. Add grits and a bit of salt, turn heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until water is absorbed and grits are creamy, about 5 minutes. Add a tablespoonish of butter and cover. (Meg’s recipe said to use smart balance, but I didn’t want to buy it for just this. Butter was, as you can guess, delicious.)

In a big pan (we used our Le Creuset braiser), melt 1 tablespoonish of butter with the olive oil. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook for 4-8 minutes, or until veggies have softened. Add shrimp, tomatoes, parsley, and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and cook until shrimp are done, about 4 minutes. Liquid should have evaporated a bit. Stir in lemon juice. Take pan off heat and stir in parmesan. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Spoon grits into a bowl, top with shrimp and sauce, and decorate with extra parsley and hot sauce. What a dinner.

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Maple Sesame Salmon – 11/67

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My little sister is officially more educated than I am. I mean, she was always on the fast track to becoming an adult before me. She had a job with a regular paycheck (and benefits) way before I did. She’s been a vegetarian since before it was cool. She actually knows how to (and enjoys) exercise. She sets her sights on what she wants to do and does it! Multiple half-marathons, check. Wants to go on vacation in a year? Buys her tickets healthily in advance and plans a sensible itinerary. MSW? Check. Sigh. I’ve officially worn matching socks without holes in them all week, so that’s a thing.

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My parents hosted a little gathering to celebrate her achievement with close family and her grad school friends. A lovely bunch of pesca-vega-tarians. Toasts were made. The grads’ altruism and friendships were rightly lauded. We went on a still unnamed boat and ate lots of good food. The sun showed up after a long morning of rain. And then I watched my first ever game of thrones episode, the series finale. (Probably not the right time to start watching.)

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I happily helped prep food the afternoon leading up to the party and was happy to learn my mom was planning to make one of the salmon recipes from my book. Alright sure I’ll check a recipe off the list! This fish was so easy to make, and it received rounds of compliments at the table. Paired really nicely with an orzo salad and grilled vegetables. A perfect first outside meal of the season. A perfect way to tip a hat to hard work and new beginnings.

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Such a beautiful place to cook. And eat.

two years ago: garlicky tomato zoodles
(nothing of note in years one, three, or four)

Maple Sesame Salmon

thanks Mom! Note – this exact same recipe works really well with sweet potatoes replacing the salmon. Click here for details of this revelation!

2 lbs salmon cut into serving size pieces (my mom says “skin removed if you remember to ask at the fish counter”)
⅓ cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ cup sesame seeds (I did a mix of white and black)
Chopped scallions to serve (optional)

Combine maple syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. Pour over fish fillets. We did this in a shallow baking dish; a ziplock bag would also work. Let marinate in the fridge for at least ten minutes, or up to 8-9 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F. (Update! My mom says she always does 425F, even though the recipe says otherwise.) 

Take fillets out of marinade, drip dry, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (keep the marinade!). Then, sprinkle fish all over with sesame seeds, pressing them in a bit to help stick. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a small saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Serve salmon with thickened maple sauce and sprinkle of scallions.

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Tapado: Caribbean Coconut Fish and Plantain Soup

 

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Somehow we ended up with a table-full of green plantains last night, which it turns out are NOT the ones you make yummy sweet fried plantains with. Is that common knowledge? I felt totally uninformed and unworthy of my food blogger status. Well, now I know (and so do you!).

The internet told me I could deep fry them, tostones style, or make a dough out of them and stuff them with meat or whatever, bolo style. All options sounded fine, but in a eureka moment, I remembered cooking with green plantains once (I think they were green bananas then, but I believe they can be used fairly interchangeably), at a very steamy cooking class in Livingston, Guatemala.

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I got out my journal, go me for being obsessive about notebooking, and immediately found the recipe I jotted down after the class. It was a very simple affair, made of what was local and available, namely lots of coconuts and fresh fish, with very little else.

Livingston, Guatemala is totally different from the rest of the country. It’s a Garífuna enclave on the Carribean coast, where it is steamy, humid, and damn tropical. Almost all food has to be brought in by boat and is hence pretty pricey. Its budding tourism industry is one of the prime sources of income for the area, but there’s not much to do in the oppressive heat — despite being on the coast, the only nice beach is accessible only by boat and the hostel options are all of the dreaded “party” variety, where invariably some huge Australian dude has slept all day and now has 40s of beer taped to his hands and is challenging other dudes into pull-up contests. #yolo #traveltolearnaboutothercultures #ohmy.

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Some enterprising folks at Rasta Mesa started a cooking class to teach us bumblers how to make the traditional and ubiquitous soup of the region, tapado. It was a laid-back, steamy afternoon, with children running around and intermittently (and impressively) playing drums. “Class” was in the loosest sense of the word — I got the feeling the instructors were just making themselves dinner and we were around to help chop some vegetables and maybe babysit. Which was totally fine with me. The experience was only tainted by the one hostelbro who decided to get over his hangover, leave the hostel for the first time, accompany us to class, and flirt with all the women present. Despite his presence, it was a tranquil and delicious afternoon that I’m glad has come back to me.

tapado-4Note on recipe: When we made this in Guatemala, we used small white fish, hacked into thirds, with their bones and eyeballs still intact. The versions I saw around town had all sorts of seafood; I decided to use just shrimp but use whatever you prefer. For a vegan meal, you could use roasted sweet potatoes or green pepper chunks instead of fish. If you don’t have access to green plantains, don’t use bananas or yellow plantains, they’re too sweet and soft. The green variety is not sweet at all — it’s very starchy. Try subbing potatoes or yuca.

one year ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing and unstuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
two years ago: kale Caesar salad and black bean mango corn salad
three years ago: easy rhubarb cake and roasted beets + greens with mint yogurt sauce

more Guatemalan food: rellenitos de plátano (for when you need to get rid of yellow plantains) and quichon de verduras (Mayan veggie stew) 

Tapado

adapted from cooking class at Rasta Mesa

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound raw shrimp (mine were tail-free but either way is fine)
Pinch each of: garlic powder, granulated onion powder, cayenne
Salt
1 onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (save the juices)
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cans full fat coconut milk
Small handful fresh basil leaves
2 green plantains, peeled and in bite-sized chunks
Juice from ½ a lime
Chopped basil and/or cilantro, to serve (optional, but nice)
Cooked white rice, to serve

Heat a big saute pan (for which you have a lid) over a high heat. Toss shrimp in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and salt. Add to very hot pan and cook on each side for just 2-3 minutes, or until they just turn pink. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same pan. Lower to medium heat. Add onion and a bit of salt, and scrape up any bits left by the shrimp. Cook onion for 3-4 minutes, or until it’s just turning translucent. Add tomatoes and their juices and jalapeño. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the onion and tomato have broken down and become somewhat jammy.

Add both cans of coconut milk, one can’s-worth of water, small handful whole basil leaves, the green plantains, and bunch of salt. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until plantains are totally cooked. Partially mash some of the plantains with the back of a wooden spoon to thicken the soup. Add lime juice and shrimp — cook for another 2 minutes or so until shrimp are reheated.

To serve, ladle into a bowl, add a spoonful of white rice, and sprinkle with fresh basil and cilantro.

 

Mizuna Miso Soup

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I made this soup while listening to the 2003 All American Reject’s self-titled album (“Swing, Swing“, anyone?). Man, if there were ever an album to bring me back to a specific time, this is it. I remember choosing it for myself at a CD store, not knowing who they were but wanting to find an “indie” band that none of my friends liked yet so I could be cool. (Was indie a word in 2003?) My 8th grade bestie sat next to me on our field trip to Montreal, me listening to my beloved All American Rejects and her listening to Simple Plan. We both thought ours was the way better option. I was devastated when their next album came out, a total pop-y cop-out in my mind; why oh why did beautiful Oklahoman blue-eyed bassist/lead singer Ty have to get so mainstream? Ugh.

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The album popped into my head today because of a wily connect-the-dot narrative. Last night some friends and I went to see the brilliant ‘70s movie Dune (please read: not-so-brilliant) at the actually brilliant bar Syndicated in Bushwick, where they show old movies in a beautiful space for just $3 and you can order food and drinks while you watch) (this time I do actually mean brilliant). And “syndicated” rhymes with “vindicated” which leads me to that Dashboard Confessional song, which was a pretty big deal during freshman year student council, so obviously I had to listen to it to remind myself of the words (all I could remember was “I am, vindicated, I am la di da di dahhhhh,” which Daniel got fairly tired of hearing on repeat), and so one thing led to the next and voila, All American Rejects-underscored soup-making.

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Which is all a way to say, this soup is easy. Really easy. You can make it while floating down memory lane and singing song lyrics you haven’t encountered in over a decade (shudder). This sort of soup been a go-to around here lately, with me throwing in any veggie odds and ends that I find in the fridge. The only necessary bits are the miso, something green, and some sort of noodles (although I think the tofu really makes it and would never miss an opportunity to add toasted sesame oil to my food).

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one year ago: that time I made a wedding cake (also) tomatillo peach salsa
two years ago: spicy micheladas

Mizuna Miso Soup

Inspired by justhungry
Makes a very hearty lunch for 2, but probably should be closer to 3-4 servings.

5 cups water
2 packets dashi stock  (or try with a simple veggie broth)
1 carrot, peeled and ribboned with your peeler
1 scallion, minced
¼ c firm or extra firm tofu in small cubes
80 g soba noodles (one bundle)
½ bunch mizuna, chopped into thirds, abt 2-3 cups, divided (or another tender green)
2 tablespoons miso
Soy sauce, a drizzle

Optional toppings
½ a sheet of nori, torn into strips
Lime wedges
Sesame seeds
Toasted sesame oil
Sriracha

Bring water to a boil in a medium-large soup pot. Add dashi stock powder and stir until it dissolves. Lower heat to medium-high. Add carrot and scallion. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add tofu and soba noodles and cook for another 4 minutes. Add most of your mizuna and immediately bring heat to low.

Put miso in a small bowl and add about a tablespoon of broth from the soup pot. Mix with a spoon or chopsticks until an even paste forms (no clumps!). Pour miso into soup pot and stir to disperse. Heat for another 2 minutes on medium-low heat. Don’t let soup come to a boil once you add miso or it will kill all its beautiful health qualities. Give soup a try — depending on your miso it may be plenty salty. If not, pour in a healthy glug of soy sauce.

Spoon soup into a bowl and top with nori, lime, sesame seeds, and reserved mizuna, chopped small. If you’d like, drizzle in sriracha or a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil.

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Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

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One of my favorite parts about living in New York City is strolling the streets, iced tea in hand, scanning new restaurant menus, popping into little stores, and debating if I should actually buy something this time around. I especially love little delis and specialty grocery stores that cater to another country’s staples. Every time I’m around St. Marks Place in Alphabet City, I have to pick up a bag of my beloved Bamba (peanut butter cheetoh-like snacks!) at the Israeli store Holyland Market (and then force whoever I’m with to share). And when on 1st Ave, I without-fail pick up a bag of the deep-fried curly-q cumin seed crackers I fell in love with in Delhi at the little store underneath the two competing Christmas light Indian restaurants (y’all New Yorkers know what I’m talking about, right?).

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Another favorite is a stroll thru Sunrise Mart, although I don’t yet have a go-to snack in this Japanese wonderland. Usually I get cheap noodles, a rice ball, or something mochi-related. This time around, I was curious about the instant dashi soup mixes. Dashi is soup base, made from simmering kombu (a thick kind of seaweed) with bonito fish flakes. I’ve never made my own, but I’ve long thought it a great option for my pescatarian lifestyle.

So I bought this!

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A google search once I was home told me I got the no MSG brand (sweet!) and that everyone disagreed about how much soup powder you’re supposed to use per cup of boiling water. I ended up using almost one of the pouches, which was about a  teaspoon and a half, with my two cups of boiling water. The powder, or really it was more like tiny pellets, dissolved immediately. A little fishy but fairly subtle. I deem this a nice (and cheap!) flavorful base for soups or simmered veggies like this.

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Also, I am obviously no expert on Japanese food — my recipe was based on reading about 12 similar ones online. My squash definitely fell apart more than I had hoped for but we loved the flavor and scarfed it down regardless. It can be served warm or cold, but I greatly prefer the warmed up version. (And I’ll update you all in a couple months about what this dish is really like in Japan after my trip in November!)

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one year ago (okay fine, last August): maple blueberry beets with balsamic and mint
two years ago: 
roasted radish, blistered pepper, and olive pizza

Soy-Dashi Simmered Kabocha Squash (Kabocha No Nimono)

Adapted primarily from pickled plum 

½ a kabocha squash (abt 1.25 lbs)
2 c dashi (2 cups water plus 1 packet seasoning) (or sub veg broth)
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (though I believe you can substitute sake)

First, prep your squash. Peel some of the skin off (with a paring knife or powerful peeler). It’s fine to eat it, but peeling just some gives a nice texture change. Cut squash into roughly 1-inch cubes (more or less bite-sized).

Next, get out a heavy saucepan you have a lid for. If making dashi, bring water to a boil; add seasoning packet and stir to dissolve. Add squash pieces and return to a boil. If not making dashi, bring veg broth and squash to a boil.  Turn temperature to a slow simmer and cover pan halfway. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, soy sauce, and mirin and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, uncovered. At this point, squash should be very tender, but hopefully not falling apart. If you’d like a more syrupy sauce, remove squash pieces and continue simmering dashi mixture until it thickens, 3-5 more minutes.

Serve with rice or as a side to any Japanese-style dish. (We ate it with an udon-miso-tofu-mushroom soupy situation. Yum!)

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Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce and Garlic Oil

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Three years ago I returned from Israel on the Fourth of July. I was flying down the East Coast just as it became dark. My return to the US was celebrated with hundreds of different fireworks displays out the window, dotting the horizon as we hurried from Toronto towards JFK. Every suburb along the route outshined its neighbors with their colorful luminescent displays. After a month of touristy activities and solitary explorations (and amazing hummus), I was elated to be above this spectacular opening of America’s arms, witnessing this celebration of her might.

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Then last year I experienced my first “ribBQ”–a rib and meat-filled event of Texan proportions. Very celebratory, very America, very memorable. (More on that, plus very un-Texas tacos, here.)

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This year, as July 4th loomed closer and no plans to escape the city materialized, we decided to embrace the opportunity to make our own event. A grill grate and coolers and folding chairs were purchased, and now you can officially invite me to a suburban soccer game because I own One of Those Chairs That Folds Into Its Own Bag. So does Daniel. They were $8 (yay Home Depot!).

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We dressed in red, white, and blue and ate delicious food with lovely people in our inviting backyard. We made elotes, grilled veggies, and burgers aplenty, gorged on salads and grilled peeps (yes you read that right–it was time for the Easter candy to go), and giggled over a drunken bout of Cards Against Humanity. Although not condensable to a single moment or story, it was a total success! Memories made.

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and oh! These greens? Definitely didn’t make an appearance at our joyous Americana evening. The recipe’s simplicity and promise of “just like dim sum!” were enough to give it a go the next day, after all the dishes were washed, the yard was cleaned, and a nap was had. I super recommend it: easy, filling, light, and delicious. Mustard greens, til we meet again (probably in tomorrow’s CSA basket…)!

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one year ago: Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint YogurtSimple Rhubarb Cake, and epic Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches 

Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce & Garlic Oil

from Rasa Malaysia 

1 bunch mustard greens, rinsed well and roughly chopped, big stems removed
2 drops canola oil

Garlic Oil:
3 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T oil (olive, canola, whatever)

Sauce:
2 t oil
1.5 T oyster sauce
1.5 T water
½-¾ t sugar
2-3 dashes white pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. When it’s boiling, add the two drops of canola oil. Add mustard greens and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the structure starts to breakdown and both leaves and stems are soft. As soon as this happens, use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer greens into a colander. Rinse with cool water. Dry well, either with towels or a salad spinner.

For Garlic Oil: Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When shimmering, add garlic and cook until oil is fragrant and garlic is browned. This happens very quickly! Could be as short as 10 seconds, depending on how finely you mince the garlic. Pour oil and fried garlic bits into a small bowl and set aside.

For Sauce: Return empty garlic oil pan to medium heat and add oil. Add next 4 ingredients, being very careful. Pan may sizzle! Cook together for about 15 seconds, until ingredients are cohesive and viscous.

Arrange greens on a serving platter. Top with sauce and garlic oil. Delicious served with brown rice.