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A Birthday Cooking Battle: The Shrimp Throwdown

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Kitchen challenges are the newest spectator sport and I got thrown in to the gladiator pit recently by my sister. She decided that for her birthday she wanted to pit two of her favorite people against one another in her very own Iron Chef style throwdown. Never shirking from competition, her husband, Shane, and I willing accepted the challenge of making two dishes each with the key ingredient, shrimp.

Shane and I often cook together during Sunday night dinners, and we have very different cooking styles which can be a little funny to watch – I’m a list maker; he likes to wing it. We decided that I would buy the shrimp from San Miguel Seafood at the Downtown Austin Farmers Market and then we’d buy our other ingredients separately so that our dishes were a secret.

I wanted my recipes to be locally sourced to show off to my sister’s friends what I could create with my weekly farmers market and CSA goodies. But what would I pair with the shrimp?

I headed to kitchen to dig through the fridge. As I took inventory, a plan started to form. I had just been given some delicious Rio Star Grapefruit from Texas Sweet that I wanted to incorporate. My CSA box that week contained several key limes, 2 avocados, spring onions and green garlic. I also had bacon from one of our charcuterie vendors and one Meyer lemon left from a previous market visit.
I was starting to see the dishes I wanted to make, but I needed one more key ingredient. I reviewed the list of market vendors for that week. I quickly determined that I could get sharp cheddar from Full Quiver.

Eureka! I had the perfect ingredients for a Shrimp & Grapefruit Ceviche and Shrimp & Grits.

31710_3I only had to supplement with four items from the grocery store: cilantro (I had a little bit in my garden, but not enough to garnish all the ceviche), jalapenos, grits and a bell pepper. I was pretty pleased with myself for coming up with two dishes that only needed a few non-local ingredients.

The day of the party, we prepped like crazy. I shelled and deveined all the shrimp. We chopped and sauteed, juiced and peeled. Rarely, has that kitchen seen such intense focus and concentration.

Shane made shrimp and lobster stuffed mushroom caps and a shrimp stuffed chile relleno. He also made some fried shrimp as a non-official entry. The ceviche and shrimp and grits were big hits. My sister’s friends were amazed that I was able to make such great dishes from almost all local ingredients.

Either because she loved everything or to keep the peace, my sister never officially voted. I’d say from all the clean plates though that we were both winners.

A few notes about the prep work: I don’t like to waste things and try to use what you might normally consider waste. When you peel the shrimp, save the shells in a freezer bag. You can use them for making a seafood broth for paella, risotto or soups. Also, you can save the grapefruit peels and make candied grapefruit.

Previously posted Shrimp & Grits recipe.
Shrimp & Grapefruit Ceviche

1 pound shrimp
4 grapefruit
5 key limes or 2 regular limes, juiced
1/2 cup onion, peeled and chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and diced
3 tbsps of chopped cilantro

Peel and devein the shrimp. Chop it into bite sized pieces and then set it aside.

Juice two of the grapefruits and set the juice aside. Cut the other two grapefruits in half. Carefully separate the fruit from the pith and peel with a sharp knife. Scoop each grapefruit slice into a bowl and set aside.

31710_5Combine the shrimp, grapefruit slices, onion, avocado, jalapeno and cilantro in a bowl. Add the grapefruit and lime juice and gently toss the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerate to marinate for one hour.

Serve with tostada chips.

Note: You can make the ceviche with raw shrimp, but if you or your guests don’t care for raw fish, then boil the shrimp for a few minutes before you make the ceviche. Cook them until they are just pink and be careful to not over cook them. You don’t want them to get mealy in the citrus juice. Only marinate the cooked shrimp for 30 minutes.

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Hatch Chile Obsessed: Hatch Chile Arancini

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MIS82814-144Every month or so, the Austin Food Bloggers get together for a potluck. I love catching up with the other bloggers and tasting their creations, but I get a little freaked out about what to make. After all, these people can cook. Oh the pressure.

This month, our potluck had a Hatch Chile theme and I immediately thought of risotto, but couldn’t figure out how to make and transport it without it becoming gummy; this simply would not do. Then, I went to the Hatch Chile Fest at Central Market and they had risotto cakes.

Genius, but I wanted to do something a little different (couldn’t have the bloggers think I bought my dish at Central Market after all). A friend suggested arancini, fried risotto balls with a cheese filling.

I decided on a Hatch chile risotto with a Hatch chile cheese filling. Central Market has a great Hatch chile jack cheese that would provide the perfect amount of heat and melt beautifully; a gooey center being key to good arancini.

Now, I know Hatch Chiles aren’t locally grown, but you can buy them at local farmers markets for the next few weeks. I consider them a rare and special treat to be enjoyed while available. If you are a true locavore, you might take issue with this and could substitute with another type of pepper. You could also substitute the cheese with a more traditional mozzarella or fontina cheese.

I had never made arancini before and found the process to be easier than I thought, if somewhat time intensive as there are several stages to be carried out. I roasted and peeled peppers on Friday evening, made the risotto on Saturday and assembled and fried the arancini on Sunday. You could pull it all off in one day, but you would need to start early.

Despite being fried, the arancini came out light with a deliciously melted cheesy center. The Hatch chiles added great flavor, but I used mild chiles so there was not much heat. Had I been making the dish to serve at home, I probably would have used hot chiles or a combination of the two in the risotto as I like a little heat in my food.

Hatch Chile Arancini
6 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken)
3 tbsps butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 3/4 cup arborio rice
about 12 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled and diced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives and flat-leaf parsley (could also use oregano or basil)
1 large egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 oz Hatch Chile jack cheese (could also use mozzarella or Fontina cheese)
2 large eggs whisked
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

To roast and peel the peppers:

Place hatch chiles under broiler or on the grill until they begin to blacken on one side. Turn the chiles until blackened on the other side. Remove the chiles and place in a plastic bag (I use a plastic shopping bag). Tie the top and let the chiles “sweat” in the bag.

Once the chiles are cool enough to handle, remove the tops, seeds and peel the chiles. If you have sensitive skin or wear contact lenses, you might consider wearing gloves to do this. Try to remove the seeds without rinsing the chiles as rinsing will remove the oils that give it flavor.

To make the risotto:

Heat the broth in a pot and leave on simmer while you make the risotto.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add the risotto until it is well-coated. Add the chiles and stir well into the risotto.

Scoop a cup of the broth into the risotto and stir until it is absorbed. Continue to add the broth about 1/2-3/4 cup at a time to the broth, stirring each time until it is absorbed. You want the risotto to have a creamy, but not soupy texture.

Remove the risotto from the heat and allow to cool. Place in the refrigerator to cool thoroughly for at least 3 hours.

To make the arancini:

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, cream, herbs, and egg yolk and stir until combined. Add the mixture to the risotto and season with salt and pepper.

Cut the cheese into small cubes. Scoop up a small handful of the risotto mixture, place a cube of cheese in the center and shape to to make a croquette. Repeat to form the other croquettes.

Place the croquettes on a cookie sheet covered in parchment or wax paper.

Place the egg wash and bread crumbs in separate wide-mouthed bowls. Dip the arancini in the egg wash then roll it in the bread crumbs.

Chill the arancini in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.Fill a tall pot or fryer with vegetable or canola oil so that it will cover the arancini; about 4-5 inches. (I used my stock pot and it worked great). Heat the oil over medium-high heat; you want it to register 375°F on a thermometer.

Deep-fry the arancini in small batches until they are evenly browned or 3-5 minutes. Don’t add to many arancini to the pot at once or they will crowd and stick. Also, allow a few minutes in between batches for the oil to come back up to temperature so the arancini don’t become soggy.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly. Serve hot.

For the potluck, I had to let the arancini sit to travel so I reheated at 425 degrees for 6-7 minutes to warm them through.

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Austin Farm to Camper?

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I didn’t make it to the farmers market this week because the family went to New Braunfels for Memorial Day weekend. Luckily I had some leftover veggies in the fridge from last week and I got fresh eggs from my colleague at work. I had just enough supplies to make my famous Antipasto Pasta Salad (one of Ginger’s favorites) and some deviled eggs. Yum!

Some of you have seen my Antipasto Pasta salad recipe before. I decided to make it a little healthier by adding some veggies to the mix so I did a rough chop on some asparagus, peeled carrots, and squash and blanched them for the last two minutes of boiling the pasta so that they would still be crunchy but not too crunchy.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and that you enjoy the AntiPasto Pasta Salad.

Gourmet, June 2004
Makes 6 main-course servings.

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb rotini (corkscrew pasta), freshly cooked to tender, rinsed under cold water, and drained – I used whole wheat penne and it was great
1 (12-oz) jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
1 (12-oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1/2 lb mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 lb thinly sliced sweet soppressata or salami, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 lb Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
**I added the chopped blanched vegetables here. I used about 4 spears of asparagus, 1 small squash and 2 peeled carrots. Did a rough chop and then threw them in with the pasta for the last two minutes of cooking the pasta. This blanched the veggies but kept them crunchy.

Whisk together red-wine vinegar and olive oil in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and
toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Deviled Eggs
There isn’t anything special about this recipe other than using fresh farm eggs. Farm eggs taste so much better than grocery eggs; it’s completely worth the extra money.

10 hard boiled eggs
dry hot mustard

Boil, peel and cut the eggs in half. Scoop the yolks out into a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Mix in mayonnaise, mustard, a little dry hot mustard, a little cayenne and salt to taste. I don’t measure – I just add a little and taste, add a little and taste until I feel like it’s right. Spoon the yolk filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle a little paprika over the top.

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Ginger’s Birthday Dinner – Lime Shrimp, Cilantro Rice & Strawberry Chocolate Angel Food Cake

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Sunday was my sister’s birthday, so in her honor, I made a special dinner. We decided we wanted shrimp to be the main course so I built a Mexican theme around the entree – lime shrimp.

I modified a few recipes to better match our current awareness of eating lower fat. Instead of a cheesy wild mushroom quesadilla, I made a wild mushroom crostini with all the same flavors, but a lot less fat. I was able to buy almost the entire meal from the market. I bought the rice, lemons, limes, asparagus and the chocolate angel food cake at Central Market.

We had a great time celebrating G’s birthday. I hope you enjoy the food as much as we did.

Wild Mushroom Crostini
Tossed green salad
Lime Shrimp
Cilantro Rice
Grilled Asparagus
Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Macerated Strawberry sauce

Wild Mushroom Crostini
One of my favorite recipes is a great Wild Mushroom Quesadilla from Cafe Annie in Houston I found the recipe eons ago in Elle magazine.  I adapted this crostini from the recipe to better fit a lower fat diet – much less cheese and a whole wheat crostini rather than a flour tortilla.

1 lb mushrooms, rinsed, patted and chopped
1 tbsp butter (you could also use olive oil, but butter has a better flavor)
1/2 a baguette (I used a whole wheat baguette from Texas French Bread), sliced for crostini
1/4 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper

In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushroom and saute until softened. Add the jalapeno, thyme, pepper and salt to blend flavors.

Preheat boiler. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and top with Monterrey Jack cheese. Place the bread and cheese under the broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove the crostini from the oven and top with mushroom mixture. Serve while warm.

Lime Shrimp
Adapted from  Great Good Food by Julee Russo

1 pound large shrimp – I bought the Colossal sized shrimp from the vendor at the farmers market. They were 12 to a pound, tender and delicious.
Juice and zest of 3 limes
4 garlic cloves – finely minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Additional limes cut into wedges

In a shallow glass dish, place the shrimp, juice, zest, garlic, olive oil and pepper. Baste the shrimp and marinate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare the grill.

Thread the shrimp on skewers. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 10 minutes, turning and basting once or until pink.

Cilantro Rice
Adapted from Cooking with Cafe Pasqual’s

2 3/4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onion, green part only
2 tbsps freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
1 tsp olive oil

Put the water and salt into a heavy-bottomed, lidded 3-qt saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add the rice, cover and lower the heat to very low. The rice should be ready in 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, keep covered and let it rest for 5 more minutes.

In the container of a blender or food processor, put in the cilantro, white onion, green onion, lime juice, jalapeno and olive oil. Whirl all the ingredients until incorporated, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to get a better consistency, if needed.

Using a fork, stir the cilantro mixture into the rice. Serve immediately.

Grilled Asparagus
I like a really easy grilled asparagus recipe. Clean the asparagus and put it in a shallow glass dish. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and squeeze lemon over it. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and then grill to desired doneness. After you pull off the grill, squeeze a little more lemon juice over it. Easy, simple, yummy.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Sauce
I hate to bake so I bought a chocolate angel food cake from Central Market, but I did make the strawberry sauce.

2 pints of strawberries, rinsed, stemmed and cut into halves or quarters depending on how big they are
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
lemon zest

Place the strawberries in a non-reactive (glass or plastic) bowl. Mix the sugar and water together to make a simple syrup. Pour the syrup over the strawberries, add some lemon zest and stir. Let the strawberry mixture sit until the strawberries are macerated – softened and their sugars have combined with the simple syrup to make a sweet sauce. I let mine sit for about an hour.

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