Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cajun Shrimp with a Chunky Tomato Sauce and Homemade Strawberry-Balsamic Salad

Here was my hearty meal before driving to South Carolina the next morning! I wanted to do some sort of shrimp on bread with a sauce, and this is what I came up with.  After spending many nights trying to fall asleep, I developed this idea.

Cajun Shrimp
6 Medium-large size shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Cajun seasoning
1/5 of a lemon (juice and zest)
1 tbsp Soy bean oil (for sautéing shrimp)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup milk (for sauce)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
Parmesan cheese
Fresh bread (I used ciabatta), cut into rectangles and toasted

In a large sauté pan, heat cooking oil and then throw your shrimp in there.  Sprinkle liberally with cajun seasoning and allow the shrimp to cook.  When shrimp are almost done, sprinkle a little bit of lemon on the shrimp (but not all, because you want most of it for the sauce).  When shrimp are finished, set them on a plate and keep them in a warm oven.

In the same pan, add in olive oil and flour to make a roux.  You can add the salt and pepper in now or wait until the sauce starts.  Mix up the oil and flour until you get an off-white paste.  Allow that paste to bubble and then add in milk, about 2 tbsp at a time.  You may have to use a whisk to stir.  Once the sauce starts to thicken, add in more milk.  You don't want it too thin, so add a little at a time.  Once the sauce is to your desired consistency, add in the tomato paste, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir.  Allow the mixture to bubble a little once the ingredients are incorporated.  Then throw in your tomatoes and allow the mixture to bubble again, which will allow the tomatoes to cook.  Then add your oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.  It could even use a little fresh basil if you have some (I didn't add it, but it definitely could have used it!)

Once sauce is done, bring out shrimp and dice the shrimp into large pieces.  Place the shrimp on the bread slices and then spoon the sauce over the shrimp.  Top them with some yummy parmesan cheese and serve!

I served this with my mom's classic balsamic salad.  The dressing is sweet, tangy, garlicky, and is so yummy you could drink this stuff!  When my mom would ask me to make this (when I was being a little sous chef), I would cry and cry thinking I would mess it up. But you really can't mess up this dressing.  It's so simple!
My mom made this when I was growing up in a wooden bowl that would easily grind the mixture, but that bowl is long gone so I had to develop my own process of making the dressing.

Strawberry-Balsamic Salad
2 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp sugar free strawberry jam

In a mortar and pestel (or some sort of grinding apparatus), throw in your garlic, about 1/2 tsp of salt and about 10 grinds of fresh pepper and then mush the garlic. You are going to want a paste consistency, so you have to work at it.
Once you get a paste consistency, use a whisk and stir in about 2 tbsp of olive oil. (I do this next part by taste, so you can continue to taste until you get the right flavor).  Once the oil has been mixed well, continue to add about the same amount of balsamic vinegar.  Taste until the mixture tastes like balsamic, and not oil.  Then add in the strawberry jam and mix again. Yummm!! Drizzle over some salad and serve.

When I make salads, I generally use fresh spinach.  I put a number of toppings on it: strawberries, walnuts, cranberries, mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts... basically anything goes well.  The sweet and salty topping mix generally makes it amazing.  Sometimes I sauté some chicken or steak and throw it on there.

What kind of salad dressing do you make??

Friday, June 18, 2010

My (Not So) Gourmet, and (Very) Yummy Dining in Myrtle Beach

Growing up, my family traveled A LOT. We went to Florida to visit my paternal grandparents at least once a year, normally in the spring, and traveled to California at least twice a year to visit my maternal grandparents.  We always made an attempt to stay in a condo, rental home, or with family so we could cook.  We never ate out at giant seafood buffets or chain restaurants.  We would occasionally venture out to try local dives that I wouldn't remember if they hit me in the face.

So when I came to Myrtle Beach with a friend for a short get-away, I was called "un-American" and my parents are apparently crazy because we've never dined at a large seafood buffet.  Well let me tell ya! What an experience!

We ate at two different seafood buffets and the first one was small and very good, but mainly fried, and the second one was a 900 seater! It was gigantic and the food, to my pleasant surprise, was pretty darn good! It was fresh, not all fried, and full of flavor. My favorite were the fried scallops, which were fresh and juicy and barely battered. I enjoyed myself very much!

Then tonight we ate at Joe's Crab Shack and it was a lot of fun! Noisy, but definitely fun! We both tried the steam pots and they were really yummy! And you got an awesome bib with it :) It was a great, exciting experience that we can't get from home. I'm glad that I got to go.

Tomorrow we're on our way back to Knoxville and my dad is coming to visit me for the weekend! I am going to hopefully make a couple of yummy dishes for him that I'll post on here.
Then I'll be off to California on Tuesday for a week! I probably won't have many posts coming that way, but my grandma is such an amazing cook I'm sure I'll have a lot to talk about when I get home :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chillin' Out at Chill Custom Creamery

I wanted to do a post about my workplace, Chill Custom Creamery, where we make ice cream with liquid nitrogen.  And I decided to make an ice cream and talk about it!
Chill Custom Creamery (Chill) is a locally owned, operated, and engineered ice cream store in Knoxville, TN.  The concept is a little different, and it is how we get our "Custom Creamery" part of our name. When you first come in, you get to choose a liquid base to start off with; currently we have: vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, soy base, dark chocolate frozen yogurt, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, or a pink lemonade sorbet.  After you choose a base, you get to choose if you'd like a flavor added to your ice cream. We have many different kinds of flavors to add in, some being: peanut butter, caramel, marshmallow cream, coconut, orange cream, pistachio, and almond.  Then you take your base and add in mix-ins, ranging from fruits to nuts to candy bars, we have almost anything you could think of. Then the fun really begins :)
The staff, also known as "Chillers," will take the mixture and freeze it on the spot! We freeze it with liquid nitrogen in kitchen aides, and the system is locally engineered! It's pretty awesome stuff.
When you get the ice cream, you will be surprised to find that it is a completely different texture than hardserve or soft-serve ice cream. And there's a reason.  Although it looks as if you're going to eat a gallon of liquid nitrogen, it isn't true!  When we add the liquid nitrogen, it boils at room temperature and it creates a creamier, thicker ice cream. It's so yummy.
What also adds to the experience is we make our own vanilla and chocolate ice cream in the store (nearly every day, a job that I have been happy to be in charge of every shift I come in).  The ice cream is rich, creamy, and full of flavor! As long as you don't over do it with your mix-ins and flavors, you will get to experience something new and taste some of the best ice cream you will ever have.

So today I wanted to make a strawberry-lemonade ice cream with a hint of coconut and it turned out okay.  I wasn't really impressed with the flavor of the lemon that we had (so I'm going to bring in my own lemon next time :D), but I was happy with the mixture of coconut, lemon, and strawberry! It should inspire me to make some sort of dessert at home, eh?? We'll see!!

I'm off to Myrtle Beach for the week and I am thinking about doing a "food review" of my trip. So we'll see what comes of it!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Easy Raspberry Chocolates with White Chocolate Drizzle

So after a failed attempt to make raspberry sorbet filled chocolate, I decided to just throw in the sorbet (literally)! I'm not a dessert person, so this is my sad attempt to make something sweet and yummy! Let's hope I develop my skills over the summer.

1/2 pint (8 oz) raspberry sorbet
2 packages (16 oz) semi-sweet baker's chocolate
2 oz white baker's chocolate

Have a cookie sheet wrapped with wax paper prepared. And make some space in the freezer!
Have a melon baller handy :)
Fill a large sauce pan with about 2 inches of water and place on the stove on medium heat. Find a large glass (or heat resistant) bowl to place over the water (where you will melt the chocolate). Chop the chocolate into smalle squares and add into the glass bowl. Continuously stir as the chocolate will begin to melt quickly. If the chocolate heats too quickly, turn the heat down. Once the chocolate has all melted, add in the sorbet, a little bit at a time, to melt into the chocolate. Don't add it too quickly!
Once all the sorbet is added, continuously stir as you "ball out" each serving of chocolate. I just formed small little circles with a small melon baller size. Stick them in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or until the chocolate is no longer liquid.
You can melt the 2 oz of white chocolate in the microwave according to directions; it took about 1 1/2 minutes in my microwave. With the same spoon you stir with, drizzle the white chocolate liberally over the circles. I moved the circles closer together so it would be easier to drizzle. I ate a couple on the way, and they are a soft consistency! Yummy, and not what I expected!

Fresh Herb and Campanelle Ribbon Bake

Because food makes you feel better and cooking is the best therapy, a friend and I decided to mix the two together and have a cooking-fest. We wanted to make something italian, amazing, and fresh, and we came up with this awesome recipe!

Lots of olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 bottle of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic pasta sauce
1 package of campanelle pasta (serves 8)
1 8 oz package shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded parmesan romano blend
1 8 oz package ricotta
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (not packed)
1 tbsp fresh oregano and parsley

In a small bowl or mortar and pestel, crush garlic, oregano, parsley, and about 2 leaves of basil with 1/4 tsp of salt until it makes a thick paste. Set aside.
While cooking the pasta, pan fry the ground beef with 1/2 of the above mixture. Add about 1/2 tsp of salt in to the meat while cooking it.
Roll and slice the basil. You can chop it finer if you would rather have it that way. Add it in to a bowl with the ricotta cheese, about 1/4 cup of olive oil, the other 1/2 of herb mixture, and about 1 tbsp of the parmesan romano mixture. Set aside.
Once the pasta is finished, rinse it in cold water to stop cooking. Then mix the pasta, cooked beef, and half of the jar of pasta sauce in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large glass baking pan, spread 1/2 of the remaining pasta sauce in the bottom of the pan with about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add in half of the pasta mixture and spread evenly throughout the pan. Then spread the ricotta cheese mixture and on top, sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese bag.  Then add the other half of the pasta mixture.  Top with the rest of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of  parmesan romano mixture.
Cook for up to 30 minutes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pecan-Ginger Crusted Tilapia with a Honey-Balsamic Glaze

So I was feeling a little crazy today and decided to make something up. I had some tilapia in my freezer and some pecans in my pantry and decided to add a little spin on a classic dish. And it turned out fantastic! So here is the recipe:

2 Tilapia filets
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 inch chunk of ginger
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic - minced
Powdered ginger
1/4 cup of milk
Olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of honey

Puree/finely chop the ginger (I used a magic bullet) and combine with panko, pecans, and salt.  Set aside. In a separate bowl/plate, combine flour and powdered ginger. You only need enough to lightly coat each filet. Set aside.  Then pour your milk into another separate plate. Set aside.
While heating olive oil in a large sauté pan, you will dredge the filets in the following order: flour, milk, and pecan mixture. You lightly coat the fish, on both sides, in the flour and then put it in the milk and turn the filet so milk covers both sides as well. After you make the flour-milk paste, dip the fish in the pecan mixture, coating until you can't see any more white.  Then pan-fry the fish in the olive oil.
Allow the fish to completely brown on each side. As you can see in the picture, my fish was a dark-golden brown on both sides and was cooked perfectly. Set the finished fish on a plate and set in the oven while you make your glaze.
Do not remove any "crunchies" or oil from the pan before adding the vinegar. Remove your pan from the heat and let it cool for a minute or so before adding the balsamic vinegar. If you want a lighter garlic flavor, brown the garlic first. I didn't - I added the balsamic and garlic at the same time.  As soon as the balsamic is added into the pan, put it back on the heat and stir constantly.  Add in your honey and continue to stir. Add in a little salt and continue stirring.  The balsamic vinegar should be bubbling and steaming while it reduces - the more it reduces, the thicker it will be so you can decide when to stop reducing it.
Plate your fish and drizzle a little of the glaze on top and enjoy!! :)