Scampi Over Linguini, My Way

Whenever our local Stop & Shop has frozen easy-peel jumbo shrimp on sale, I snag a 2-lb bag for quick weeknight meals to be served either as an Asian stir-fry or an Italian scampi.  Tonight it’s scampi my way, with the addition of chopped grape tomatoes and shallots to the classic dish, and lobster broth in lieu of white wine.

In both cases, both Asian and Italian, the dishes come together quickly, so it’s a good idea to set up your mise en place instead of grabbing and measuring ingredients while cooking.  This will avoid the pitfall of overcooking your shrimp, and ensuring that it all comes out with taste and texture that are restaurant quality.

Peeling and refrigerating the shrimp early in the day is a time-saver as well, and I like to brine them for just 3-5 minutes in a solution of 2 cups water/1 tbsp salt, then rinse and pat dry before refrigerating.  I find this helps improve the texture, and does not impart any additional saltiness.

All that’s needed to round out this meal is a salad of mixed greens and olives and some crusty bread…or that focaccia I made two days ago.

SCAMPI OVER LINGUINI MY WAY

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Mise en place set to go, including my vintage Perrier Jouet bottle which I’ve used for EVOO since 1984

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and prepped as described above

2 tbsp each EVOO and unsalted butter

4 medium cloves garlic & 1 medium shallot minced

1 cup quartered grape tomatoes, gently squeezed to remove excess liquid and seeds

1/2 cup lobster broth (1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon brand dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water)

3/4 tsp kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley

Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1-1/2 tbsp

8 ounces good linguini, such as Dececco brand, cooked al dente

PREPARATION:

In a 12″ cast iron skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and shallots and sauté about 1 minute.  Add broth, salt, red pepper flakes generous grinding of black pepper, and tomatoes and simmer until broth is reduced by half.  Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes per side.  Stir in parsley and lemon juice and serve immediately over linguini.

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Corn and Red Pepper Bisque

Today’s chill in the air got me thinking once again about soup, and one of the favorites served as a first course over the years at our Thanksgiving dinners.  One thing I always try to avoid in a menu is redundancy.  If there’s butternut squash as a side, there’s no butternut squash soup to begin.  So whenever that’s the case, I’d prepare this gorgeously golden corn bisque with red bell pepper.

This recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit in 1998; I discovered it a few years later and have had it on our Thanksgiving menu several times.  It’s one of those simple dishes that’s short on effort and long on flavor – but only if you use the sweetest, most golden corn you can find.  Otherwise the result will not achieve greatness.  Trader Joe’s Supersweet Organic Corn beats all other in this regard, and I always make sure to buy mine well ahead of time because a few years ago they ran out…and my search for a substitute took forever combing the frozen vegetable aisles of half a dozen markets.Unknown

The soup can be prepared a day or two ahead, needing only to taken out of the fridge for about an hour and then reheated before serving.

CORN BISQUE WITH RED BELL PEPPER AND ROSEMARY

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tbsp)

2 cups chopped sweet onions

1/2 cup each diced carrot & celery

7-1/2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Supersweet Corn (about 42 ounces or 2-1/2 packages)

2 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this tiny bit adds a nice kick to the whole pot)

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup half & half

1 red bell pepper chopped

PREPARATION:

In a large heavy pot such as a 5-quart Dutch oven, melt 3 tbsp of the butter and sauté the onions, carrots and celery on medium high about 3 minutes.  Add 5-1/2 cups of the corn, the rosemary and cayenne and sauté another 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, pureé the soup in a blender (I originally did this step with an immersion blender, but the Vitamix works so much better).  Return soup to the pot, stir in the half & half and the remaining 2 cups of corn.  Season to taste with salt and pepper – it may not need any.

Melt the remaining  1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and sauté the red bell pepper until almost tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir into the soup.  Done!

This recipe makes about 3-1/2 quarts of soup, enough for at least 12-14 first-course servings, maybe with some leftovers.

Harvest Fruit Puff Pastry Strudel

Over twenty years ago I fell in love with a recipe in Gourmet for a Harvest Tart – a combination of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, butter, sweetener and liqueur – baked in a sweet pastry crust and topped with a lattice crust.  It was a sophisticated and popular dessert at our Thanksgiving table.  The thick, slightly chunky fruit & nut filling was remarkably similar to the filling my mother used for her strudel – a taste memory I was thrilled to replicate.

Flash forward several years later to a few days after our Passover Seder, when I had an abundance of leftover “charoses”  Charoses (also spelled haroseth) is often just a forgettable mixture of chopped apples, walnuts and sweet wine, but the version I make is from an outstanding recipe in the NYT Passover Cookbook, incorporating a palette of ingredients very much like the filling for the above-referenced tart.  Rather than toss it or use it as a semi-chutney side dish, I experimented with turning it into a strudel like my mother’s, but baked in store-bought Pepperidge Farm puff pastry.  It worked!  And it tasted so much like my mother’s wonderfully complex fruit strudel that I did shed some tears of joy.

Now skip ahead to 2017, when all my instincts tell me that the Harvest Tart filling, when baked in Trader Joe’s wildly superior all-butter puff pastry, will yield a strudel worthy of center stage on your dinner-party dessert menu – especially for Thanksgiving.

Being under no time constraints to prepare this, I made the fruit filling yesterday and have let it chill in fridge before assembling and baking today.  This could actually be done a few days in advance of assembly and baking.  So let’s review the filling, because all that’s left after that is a package of TJ’s puff pastry thawed for 2 hours, rolled out to be filled and brushed with an egg wash, and baked:

HARVEST FRUIT PUFF PASTRY STRUDEL

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FILLING:

1 tart, crisp apple such as Empire or Granny Smith and 1 firm-ripe pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, both peeled & coarsely chopped

8  ounces pitted prunes

6 ounces dried Calmyrna figs, stem tips removed

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots

1-2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

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PASTRY:

1 package Trader Joe’s all-butter Puff Pastry (2 sheets weighing 18.3 ounces) defrosted for 2 hours and each rolled on a floured board to a 12 x 10″ rectangle

(NOTE: You could use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry if TJ’s is not available, but it’s made with shortening instead of butter.  The TJ’s is all-butter, from France, just like Dufour, but at $3.99/box it’s about 1/3 the price of a 14-ounce box of Dufour)

EGG WASH:

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine all fresh and dried fruits and orange rind in a large saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until softened – about 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve or colander, and return to the pot with the butter, sugar and nuts, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Coarsely chop the mixture in two batches in food processor with a few quick pulses, and remove to a covered container for storage in refrigerator.
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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Gently roll out each sheet of puff pastry to about 10 x 12″  – they are almost that size to begin with – and spread 1/2 of the fruit filling on each, starting about 1″ from the bottom of one end, to cover about 2/3 of the sheet, leaving a 1/2″ margin on left and right edge.  Fold the bottom edge up over the filling and fold the other two edges in as well.   Then roll each into a log, making sure ends are tucked in.  Carefully move them to the parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly brush with egg wash, and make 5 or 6 shallow diagonal knife slashes across the top.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.  With a long spatula, carefully move to a rack to cool completely.  Cut on the diagonal into sections about 1 – 1-1/2 inches wide for serving.  Store in air-tight container.

NOTE:  If you seem to have more fruit filling than needed, reserve some as a delightful spread for toast or English muffins.

 

 

 

High-Rise Caramelized Onion Focaccia

 

HIGH RISE CARAMELIZED ONION FOCACCIA

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This was one of my first posts on bread about three years ago, when I determined to replicate the Iggy’s focaccia that Whole Foods sells for about $8 for a loaf-sized hunk.   It was a beautiful bread for sandwiches.  I first tried this easy, no-knead recipe in a 3″ deep roasting pan.  That was a pretty good first effort, producing the taste and texture I wanted, it was excellent as a bread alongside dinner, but not high enough to give me sandwich-sized slices.  Next effort was in a large loaf pan, and the result?   Focaccia for a pittance, minimal effort, maximal results.  This is topped with sautéed onions and rosemary, but you can simply add a bit of olive oil and salt if you prefer to leave out the topping.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups lukewarm water

7 grams SAF instant yeast, or other fast-rising yeast

4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 medium sweet onion halved and sliced thinly

Salt & pepper to taste

PREPARATION:

In large mixing bowl, stir the yeast in the water to dissolve. Stir in 2 cups flour and 2 tsp salt and stir briskly until smooth, about 2 minutes. With sturdy wooden spoon or silicone spatula, stir in remaining 2 cups flour for another 2 minutes, until dough pulls aways from sides of bowl and flour is incorporated. Dough will be fairly wet and tacky, but when it pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a loose ball, it has been stirred sufficiently.

Cover bowl with plastic and let rise in warm place for one hour.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion and rosemary in one tbsp olive oil, with salt & pepper to taste, until onion is just beginning to turn golden.

Preheat oven to 500.

Lightly brush bottom and sides of a large loaf pan, at least 9 x 5″  (I use a very large Dansk Kobenstyle) with a bit of olive oil, and line it with a parchment paper sling.  Pour the dough into the pan and with wet fingertips, gently press it out to the sides.  Spread the onion mixture over the dough, lightly sprinkle with a bit more sea salt, and gently poke all over with one finger to form shallow depressions. Cover and allow to rise another 30 minutes.

Place bread on center rack in preheated oven and reduce heat to 400. Bake 35 minutes until nicely browned, then remove the loaf in its sling, discard the parchment paper and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

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Can’t Stop Baking No-Knead Artisan Bread

 

fullsizeoutput_9e3Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I continue to be amazed at how simple it is for a home cook to turn out a bread like this.   Anyone who’s never tried bread baking for fear of failure or of time-consuming hands-on work should just set all that aside and jump on this bandwagon of no-knead artisan baking.

Do you have an oven?  Check.  Do you have a cast iron Dutch oven with 4-6 quart capacity?  Check.  Now all you need is a few readily available ingredients and a bit of planning for the 10 hours it will take your dough to work its magic before you touch it again a half hour before baking.

The quality of your flour and yeast is essential for success.  I’ve been baking bread on and off for over 25 years with various bread flours and with all-purpose flour enhanced with vital wheat gluten.  I have never worked with anything that comes close to Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour for outstanding results.

The package has your basic recipe, to which I’ve added the technique of using a parchment sling, the dusting of flour and the slashes across the top for that genuine artisan look.  And for this latest loaf, I tried something that worked to both amp up the leavening and a bit of sourdough taste – two tablespoons of plain yogurt mixed in with the warm water.  With or without the yogurt, when this bread comes out of your oven you’ll be patting yourself on the back and making excuses to do it again and again.

BASIC NO-KNEAD ARTISAN BREAD

(ADAPTED FROM BOB’S RED MILL)

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour, plus more for dusting later

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp SAF instant yeast (or other high quality instant yeast)

2 tbsp plain yogurt (I used goat milk yogurt) plus enough lukewarm water to measure 1-1/2 cups; or simply 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water

PREPARATION:

Plan to start this either early in the morning so you can bake right before dinner, or late at night to be baked the next morning.  In a 5-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast.  In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, stir together the yogurt and lukewarm water.  If not using yogurt, just use 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water.

With a sturdy silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir the liquid into dry ingredients until it all looks like a soft, ragged dough.  Make sure to get all the bits of dry flour that might cling to your bowl.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap – not touching the dough – and set it aside for 10 hours.  I stash mine in the microwave overnight to protect it from mischievous cats.

Meanwhile, go about whatever activities you normally do, including possibly sleep, and come back to this 10 hours later.  This is what you should see:

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Amazing, huh?  Yes, it’s alive.  Now, place your Dutch oven on the middle rack of your oven and turn the temperature to 450º.  Set a timer for 30 minutes.  Scrape your dough onto a generously floured work surface or bread board and, with floured hands, coax it into a round shape.  Rinse out your bowl, line it with a large sheet of parchment, and gently move your dough into the bowl.  Cover it loosely with plastic.

When your 30-minute timer goes off, sprinkle a bit of flour across the top of your dough, cut three vertical slashes across the top, take your screaming hot Dutch oven out with your best oven mitts, move it to a heat-proof surface, and lower your dough into it in its parchment sling.  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.  This is where more magic happens, as the dough releases steam inside the pot, and rises again to become bread.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking uncovered for another 12 minutes.

That’s it.  All you need now is the patience to let it cool on a rack for at least an hour before slicing.  I really want to hear from you after you’ve tried this for the first time.

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Big Banana Nut Muffins

Today’s the day I finally decided to use that Ziploc baggy of three mashed ripe bananas that have been waiting patiently in the freezer next to my growing bag of Bell & Evans chicken livers.  A short tangent that has nothing to do with this recipe, if you’ll indulge me…

The livers I save until there’s enough – at least 10 ounces – to make a chopped liver paté.  Sadly, today’s whole chicken did not have the usual bag of gizzards which I fully expected to add to my collection.  There was a time when I’d be upset that they were there, since I had no need for them and resented paying for chicken parts that just went down the disposal.  But now that I’ve wised up about saving the livers, I called B&E to inquire.  Had a lovely chat with a woman in customer service who explained that at this time of year, with so many people needing chicken livers for something or other, they don’t always stuff them back into the birds, but package them for sale in tubs.  We shared a chuckle about this, and now I feel a bit better about getting my whole chicken’s worth of dinner for tonight.

Back to the bananas.  Several years ago I posted my banana bread recipe on the Epicurious website – Roni’s Banana Bread – and decided to modify that for some mega muffins.  The banana bread itself is huge, so I cut back volume by about 1/2 to satisfy the needs of 6 giant muffin tins.  High hopes here for…

 BIG BANANA NUT MUFFINS

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INGREDIENTS (what I used plus suggestions for substitutions):

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (or regular whole wheat flour)

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats, processed in blender to a flour texture (or any rolled oats, but not quick-cooking)

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (optional)

3 large ripe bananas mashed

2 large eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp sour cream (or plain yogurt)

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted briefly in microwave just to a liquid state (or use vegetable oil, walnut oil, or melted butter)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

(or use 3/4 cup light brown sugar in lieu of two different sugars – I would have, but I was out of stock)

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º and line muffin tins with parchment paper cups, or grease them.

In a medium bowl combine ingredients 1 though 8.  In another bowl whisk together remaining ingredients.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and fill muffin cups  – they’ll take about 2/3 cup of batter each.

Bake about 30 minutes, until toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean.  Cool on rack until your able to handle them and ease them out of the muffin tin to cool completely on the rack.  (If using paper liners, this can be done immediately).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revised! Caraway Rye the Way I Remember It

11/4/17 – After baking this bread a couple of times, I altered the ratio of rye/bread flour and am happier with the results – lighter texture, even more like the deli rye I remember:

When I grew up in Boston’s Jewish enclaves of Dorchester and Mattapan, there was a bakery thriving about every 1/4 mile down the stretch of Blue Hill Avenue, the main thoroughfare that was also populated with dress shops, candy stores, delicatessens, butcher shops, and corner drug stores.

Although my mother was an accomplished baker, she restricted her repertoire to pastries – often made with raised dough – and so our semiweekly purchases at the bakery were entirely breads, bagels and rolls.  Her personal favorite and mine was the caraway rye, heavily seeded, and sometimes baked in a loaf pan which afforded us uniform slices for our corned beef or salami sandwiches, sometimes boule-shaped (a shape we simply called ’round’)  for slices we’d slather with sweet butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.

I’d often eat a slice of the hearty, chewy bread just by itself, going first for all the middle parts, leaving that crisp, crusty framework for the end.  And if the slice I got had that little paper sticker on it from the Bakers’ Union, all the better to have one last little thing to chew on.  I was a kid, that’s what we did.

Those bakeries, like most of the little shops of my youth, live only in memory now.    “When Pigs Fly” Bakery makes a toothsome rye in their extensive array of breads, sold at local supemarkets and in their few retail shops, but I find theirs a bit on the dry side, and shaped with slices too long and narrow to fashion a good sandwich.

After combing the internet for months and practicing the technique of no-knead Dutch oven bread, I think I’ve discovered a bread that unlocks the past for me.  This is a very slow-rising bread that should be started the day before you want to bake it – a full 18 hours to allow the flavor and texture to develop.  I started this dough at 1:30 yesterday afternoon and was ready to bake by 8am this morning, after preheating the oven for 30 minutes:

CARAWAY RYE THE WAY I REMEMBER IT

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makes 1 2-lb loaf

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/4 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Rye Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Rye Flour

2-3/4  cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek) or kefir, OR 1/4 cup buttermilk (can mix 1/2 tbsp buttermilk powder with enough water to measure 1/4 cup)

2 tbsp + 2 tsp caraway seeds

2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

2 tsp lightly crushed kosher salt

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water

2 tsp sugar

3/8 tsp SAF instant yeast, or other similar instant yeast

1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine the flours, buttermilk, 2 tbsp of caraway seeds, the vital wheat gluten and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl.  Combine lukewarm water sugar and yeast in small bowl and let sit about 5 minutes until foam begins to form.

Stir yeast mixture into flour mixture until well combined, and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Leave it alone for the next 18 hours.

When ready to bake, place your Dutch oven on center rack of oven and preheat to 450º.  Meanwhile, transfer dough to a floured work surface and shape into a boule by turning and tucking ends under.  Place that on a large sheet of parchment, wash out your large mixing bowl, and move the shaped dough in its parchment sling into the the bowl.  Brush lightly all over with your egg wash, make three shallow slashes across the top, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp caraway seeds.  Cover with plastic and let rest 15 minutes while oven heats up.

Remove hot Dutch oven to a heat-safe surface, carefully place the dough in its sling inside, cover and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake another 16 minutes or so, until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 200-205º in the center.  Remove to a rack to cool at least an hour before slicing.

Enjoying the first slice now, and exactly as I remembered!  Chewy, crusty, moist.  Now all I need is some brisket corned beef.