Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Shrimp with Orange and Tequila

Finally, the dish you had a nice sneak peek at last week. Holy crap this was good. What more can be said? Shrimp. One of the easiest foods on earth to cook. I've read a lot of discussions regarding the best way to cook it in terms of the shell. Tail on or off. Shell on or off. Me, I like easy. Take the tail off, especially when entertaining. There are a lot of people who don't like to get their fingers dirty. Some people bite the shrimp off at the tail and leave meat behind in the discarded tail. Ah, that actually upsets me. Shrimp is an expensive food. Don't waste it. As for shell on or off, again I like it off. If you look at Ramsey's picture of his shrimp, though, he left his shells on. Why? All the sauce sticks to the shells, so when you peel them, what are you left with? Unflavored cooked shrimp, that's what. Let the shrimp swim in all that glorious flavor. Otherwise, go buy yourself some shrimp cocktail.

Shrimp, an orange, a very large clove of garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and tequila.

Juice the orange.
Slice up your garlic. In this dish, the more the better!

Peel your shrimp. Yes, I left the tail on in this one. It was just the family, and I thought the boys would like to use the "natural handles."

Saute the shrimp and garlic together in a bit of oil.

Just before they are cooked all the way through, add the orange juice.

Let it come to a boil then reduce the heat and cook until the sauce just starts to thicken.
Add the tequila (watch out for any flames). Cook for about1 or 2 minutes more just until the sauce starts coating the shrimp or the back of you spoon. Give it a good mix and serve.

15 minutes. That's it. You couldn't really taste the alcohol, but you knew it added that something extra to the mix. It was sweet and garlicky, and frankly, I could have eaten the whole pound of shrimp myself.
"Shrimp with Orange and Tequila - Done."

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Minted Melon, Feta and Fennel Salad

I have a complaint with Ramsay's cookbook. I might as well state it here. He wrote this cookbook to get people (and if you watch his show, The F Word - specifically women) back into the kitchen and cooking for their families. I don't have a problem with that. It's very noble of him to take this project upon his own shoulders. Heck, it obviously worked. Here I am. My complaint is with the cookbook itself. I think a lot of people might disagree with me, but there are just too many "side dish" recipes. Side dishes, typically, are the easy part of the dinner. Usually in my household, it's a bag of microwavable steamed veggies or instant mashed potatoes (yes, I did say instant). So, if I were to be true to this cookbook project, my family would eat a side dish for dinner. There needs to be a lot pairing up. In some cases, some pairing came easily. This salad, for instance, paired wonderfully with the Orange Tequila Shrimp (stay tuned for entry). Some things, like the baked eggs Florentine; well, I'm just not sure what to put with that. He also has dessert recipes. But what to serve with it? Hence the problem.

I've tried to make some pairings where I could, but I found that it completely screws the time results. I've attempted to stick to his given menus (see the Mexican Flavors, or Light and Healthy entries). At least I know those foods work together. I'm just not a good menu maker, though.

So, a word to the reader -- I'm trying to highlight his individual recipes, as given in his Fast Food cookbook, but, oftentimes, I've combined, just because I didn't want to serve a poached egg and toast for dinner all by itself. Sure, I could serve a side dish with a simple grilled pork chop, but, eh, well, you know. Right?

So, here is a perfect example. Minted Melon, Feta and Fennel Salad. I paired it with one of Ramsay's shrimp dishes, which you will see later (however, you will get a sneak peek in the last photo of this entry).

Fennel. (The original recipe called for two bulbs of it. Frankly that would have been way too much. One was more than enough.) Cantaloupe, salad greens, lemon, mint, crumbled feta, salt, pepper, white wine vinegar and olive oil.

Slice the fennel thinly (if you have a mandolin, I suggest you use it).

Give your cut fennel a nice ice bath to prevent browning.
Slice your cantaloupe thinly and in bite size pieces.

Mix the olive oil with salt, pepper, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice.

Drain and pat dry the fennel and place in a bowl with the melon, feta cheese and a healthy handful of salad greens. Toss with the dressing and serve topped with chopped fresh mint leaves.

The result? Absolutely glorious. The fennel provided a nice peppery bite and crunch. The melon was smooth and juicy. The feta provided a wonderful crumbly earthiness along with the mint. The dressing? Light, luscious and summery. This recipe is a definite keeper. My children gobbled it up. Carlo and I finished off every bit of the salad. We even dipped bread into the dressing left over at the bottom of the bowl.
Quick! That was the best part. Cutting the fennel was the most tedious part. I don't have a mandolin, so I did my best with my knife and trying to keep my knuckles out of the way.
I'd say the whole thing took about 20 minutes. The only other timely part of making the salad was the draining and patting dry of the fennel. Make this one people. I promise you, you and your family won't be disappointed.
"Minted Melon, Feta and Fennel Salad -- Done."

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Perfect Weeknight Main Dish - Beef Stroganoff

Do you have that one go-to meal? It's relatively cheap, quick, you can make it without a recipe in front of you? This one is mine.

It's evolved a bit over the years. There have been many different variations. I used to make it as a slow-cooker meal with stew meat. Then it became a slow cooker meal when I had fresh venison. Venison stroganoff -- god, I wish I knew a hunter right now.

But now, this recipe has become a 30-minute meal. I use a better cut of beef since it isn't marinating or braising for any long period of time. On the nights I have more time, I barbecue the steak in the backyard. Grilled steak flavor in stroganoff is unequaled.

Steak. Butter. Onions. Mushrooms. Sour Cream. Nutmeg. Egg Noodles. Salt and Pepper. Doesn't that just scream "COMFORT FOOD"?

Saute the onions in butter until golden. I season them with salt and pepper to help extract the extra liquid. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.

Add more butter to the pan and saute the mushrooms. You don't want to over cook them. And do not add any salt to this stage. You want the mushrooms to stay plump and just starting to turn brown.
Add those mushrooms to the same bowl as the onions.

Take more butter. Hey, it's comfort food. Comfort food is NOT Low Fat, Low Calorie food!

Brown the sliced steak (I like to cut it into about 1 inch strips), and I cook it to about medium doneness. Season with salt and pepper/
Add the onions and mushrooms and saute it all together for about 2 minutes.

Add the sour cream. How much. That's up to you. I start with about 3/4 cup and then add more depending on how juicy the meat and veggies were. You certainly don't want a runny stronganoff. There have been times that I've had to add flour or arrowroot powder to help thicken it up.

Just as it thickens up, add a nice dash of nutmeg and stir.

In the meantime, I've made a big batch of hot buttered egg noodles. Yes -- more butter.

Heap the stroganoff on the noodles and I usually garnish with chopped parsley (but, I forgot this time). I can just taste it now. I'm thinking I have to stop at the grocery store tonight.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Pan-Roasted Vegetable Panini

My four year old son said something just the other day that makes me feel like this isn't for naught:

"Mommy, you're a really nice chef ... and a princess, too."

My heart felt so good. Can you imagine?

O.K. Another sandwich recipe from Ramsay. But, I'm not complaining about this one. This one hit a home run with me and Carlo. The twins, however, didn't like it. They're 4. It was full of vegetable. No peanut butter or jelly. Should I say more?

Zucchini, red and yellow bell pepper, red onion, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, pine nuts, basil pesto, fresh parmesan and "panini buns". O.k. I had no idea what Ramsay was talking about, so I bought some ciabatta rolls.

I don't think I've ever had such good ciabatta rolls before. In the past they've always been hard, tough, chewy. These were pillowy soft, doughy, floury, full of air. They were perfect.

I lightly toasted the pine nuts. (Yeah! I didn't burn them -- in fact, they could have been a little darker.)

Chop the veggies.

This pepper was so juicy it stained my fingernails. Note to self: buy some disposable rubber gloves for cooking.

I bought this onion at a farmers' market. It was perfect. How can a red onion be perfect? It smelled oniony. It seeped its oniony juice when I cut into it. It made my kitchen smell like I was a real cook.

Saute the onion with the thyme until just soft.

Add all the other veggies and saute about 10 minutes until everything is soft and reduced a bit in volume. You know when it's cooked enough when the veggies start emitting a wonderful roasted aroma. The edges were just starting to brown up a bit. You get to that point right where you begin to wonder if you leave it on for 5 more minutes, it would burn. You know that point, right?
Slather the pesto on the bread. I opted only one side, but Ramsay recommends covering both halves. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top (I crushed my just a bit.)

Shave the parmesan.

Cover the pesto and nuts (or to taste).

Heap the roasted veggies on top. Add more cheese if you want. In my book -- there is never too much cheese, especially the melty gooey kind.

I don't have an official panini grill, but my Foreman grill worked like a charm.
I'd say I grilled the sandwiches about 3 minutes each, putting slow but firm pressure on the lid to help compress the sandwich. This is were all those wonderful pockets of air in the ciabatta really worked their magic.

Yes. It looks great. It tasted even better. This sandwich was well-balanced in terms of taste and texture.

It inspired me, in thought only though, to think of other types of sandwiches:

A tex-mex version would be really good. Some spice mix, sauteed marinated strip steak, sauteed onions and peppers, loads of pepper-jack cheese. Create a dipping sauce for this one with ranch dressing and cumin (or taco seasonin).

Or a type of Philly Cheese Steak (with steak or chicken) where I'd saute or carmelize some onions with a little green pepper, mushrooms, melt some cheddar, spread bbq sauce on it.

Or even just use the pan-roasted veggies, add some diced left-over chicken and instead of the basil pesto, try it with an artichoke based pesto or spread.
Oh, my mouth is watering.
So --

How long? About 35 minutes. We have a winner.

"Pan-Roasted Vegetable Panini -- Done."

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Friday, September 18, 2009

My Homemade Salsa

Yes, I'm back. Man was August and the beginning of this month busy. First I was on vacation. Just in our backyard, except for a quick trip down to Dayton, Ohio -- Vacation Mecca of the world! Right. My son A ended up getting car sick and complained that I was "driving too much." Then he developed a fever that night at the hotel. The next day, though he was over whatever it was and really perked up.

So then I was back at work and trying to catch up on my work. Didn't get much done because of a huge issue which developed in one of our lawsuits. Then I was called to jury duty. Man -- that sucks. There's no other way to describe it. I wasn't even called to a voir dire. Luckily though, even though jury service lasts a minimum of 5 days, since my service covered Labor Day, the court actually counted the holiday as one day served (even though we didn't get paid our $20 for the day), so when I told my boss that I could come back to work a day early, he gratiously offered me the day off, so I was able to spend it with the kids at the Children's Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art. What a great day for the most part. But I am so completely backed up with my work. I'm toying with the idea of taking work home. I won't get paid for it, but I hate being so behind.

But, I'm back here, trying to get caught up on what I've been cooking. I'll start simple today, though. One of my own...

Something as simple as homemade salsa? Sure, I'll blog about it.
Why? Because this is my blog and I want to. That's why.

Besides, I had to get rid of those tomatoes -- "Green Bags" only keep them fresh so long.

So, tomatoes, fresh parsley (I wanted cilantro, but my plant petered out on me), canned mild diced chiles, cucumber, onion and salt and pepper.

Tomatoes -- Such a wonderful end-of-summer joy.

Well, you know what to do. Chop up everything. I took the seeds out of the cucumber.

Finely diced the onion.

Seeded the tomatoes. I don't know about you, but I love doing that. I just run my thumb through it and get my hands covered in the seeds and juice. Real hands-on cooking.

Mix together with salt and pepper to taste; then dig in with the corn chips. I also especially like making fresh salsa because I know my kids will eat it. They forget that it's made of vegetables. Four year olds and vegetables just don't mix, you know. I sneek it in when their not looking - even if it's in plain sight.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Menu - Indian Spice -- Shrimp Pilau -- Wilted Spinach with Mustard Seed -- Grilled Pineapple with Mint and Toasted Coconut

There are some foods that are not just a feast for your mouth, but also for your eyes, and nose. For example, I present this meal.

Shrimp, chicken stock, onion, basmati rice, curry powder, garlic, olive oil, cardamom pods, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Believe me, people. This recipe was a real treat for your sense of smell.

Diced garlic and onion.

Create the spice blend of fresh thyme, cumin, coriander, and cardamom seeds.

Start sweating the onions and garlic in a Dutch Oven.
Mix in the spice blend. At this point, your nose will be directly in your pan inhaling deeply. Please be careful. It is hot.
At the raw basmati rice and brown with the spiced onions.

At the stock and shrimp. (Yes, put the shrimp in raw - I forgot to take a picture of this step.) Cover the Dutch oven with a parchment tent and bake.
Try not to open the oven too much, but I understand it if you want to keep putting your nose in the pan.

Remove from the oven and try not to grab handfuls of this dish directly from the pan. I promise you will be tempted.
Meanwhile, while the shrimp is in the oven, make the wilted spinach.

Spinach, onion, garam masala, ginger, salt and pepper, canola oil, and mustard seed (whole or coarsley crushed).

Start by sauteing the sliced onion with the spices.

Until they're just about golden.

Add the spinach, in batches if necessary. It's amazing how quickly they reduce down when cooked.
It's that easy. Plate it up and dive in.

I will give you this warning. As great as the shrimp and rice tasted straight out of the oven - it didn't make great left-overs. Usually things taste even better the next day after all the flavors meld together -- this one didn't. The spices lost their impact and actually tasted bland. So be prepared to finish all the shrimp.

I wasn't too crazy about the spinach. Cooked spinach just isn't my thing. Don't get me wrong - I could see someone who likes spinach adoring this side dish, but not me. It was the perfect side for the shrimp, though. Ramsay certainly knows about pairing his food.

Something else he knows? Dessert.
Word to the wise: You might want to start this earlier in the afternoon, though.
A very ripe pineapple. My poor boys kept saying that we were going to eat Spongebob's house. Shredded coconut, mint, and sugar.

Cook the water and sugar to create a simple syrup infused with fresh mint leaves. Set aside to cool.
Toast the coconut. Set aside.

Cut your pineapple into about 16ths, and place on a well-greased grill.

Keep an eye on them and watch them take forever to brown.

Seriously - it took forever. I think Ramsay said it would take about 8 minutes -- I was outside for 25 minutes and I had the flame about medium-high.
But finally, they did brown and start oozing their juices.

Place in a bowl and mix with the mint syrup. Ramsay recommends, if you have time, to make this dessert up to and including this step the night before so that the pineapple can "marinate" overnight. That would have been a good idea. The syrup just didn't pack enough mint kick. But, I put it in the fridge for the rest of the afternoon (about 3 hours).

But that didn't stop us from creating a completely awesome dessert.

So, I added one extra ingredient to the pineapple -- coconut cream pie flavored ice cream. Oh My God. What else to say?
Yes, the cold grilled pineapple was wonderful, but it lost some of its grilled goodness when chilled. I think perhaps it would have been more satisfying (if we didn't add ice cream to it) if it were served fresh off the grill with the syrup dizzled over it, or even instead of a syrup, maybe make a minty sugar icing to dot the serving plate. -- By the way, we had some left over ice cream and pineapple, and it made an awesome milkshake.

How long? 2 HOURS! Entirely of preparation and cooking. This does not include the refrigeration time for the pineapple. That was very disappointing considering how wonderful the rest of the meal was (spinach excluded). I was exhausted on my feet by the time I served dinner. Then because so many pans, bowls, grills were used, there was about another 35 to 40 minutes of clean up.
So, dear readers - beware. This is NOT Fast Food.
"Shrimp Pilau with Wilted Spinach with Mustard Seed, and Grilled Pineapple with Mint and Toasted Coconut ... Done."

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