Key Lime & Coconut

My adventures in the world of food & wine

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shrimp 'n Beans

This dish doesn't exactly have the most sophisticated name, does it? I suppose you could jazz it up by calling it Gamberetti e Fagioli alla Toscana, since evidently this is a classic Tuscan meal. People dig Tuscany -- it's trendy, you know.

Anyway, it's really important to make this dish with dried beans. You can't just start off with canned beans, even though it would cut the cooking time. The reason is that the fresh sage infuses the water that cooks the beans so that the beans themselves taste like sage. Remember to buy U.S. farmed shrimp, not wild-caught or imported. Bottom trawls used to catch most wild shrimp damage sea floor habitat and unintentionally kill unwanted fish and sea turtles. U.S. fisheries are generally well regulated to prevent this kind of damage.

Tuscan Shrimp and Beans
serves 4
  • 2 cups dried white beans (cannellini, navy, pea, Great Northern)
  • 20 fresh sage leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pound shrimp, rinsed, dried, cut into 3-4 pieces each
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Place the beans in a large, deep pot with water to cover. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Skim the foam if necessary. Turn the heat down so the beans simmer. Add the sage and pepper and cover loosely. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans begin to soften, about 30 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and some more pepper. Continue to cook until the beans are very tender, usually at least 1 hour. Add additional water if necessary. Drain the cooking liquid if necessary, then add the garlic, additional salt to taste, and shrimp. Cook over low heat until the shrimp turn pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Drizzle with the olive oil and serve.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Open Sesame

So it's been one of those Mondays. I woke up this morning and there was over 6 inches of snow on the ground, with the flurries still coming down hard. I trudged my way to class but listened to very little of what went on. Then tonight I went all the way back down to Harvard Square for my first French class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, only to find that it was cancelled because of the blizzard. Figures.

Fortunately, dinner was quick, easy, and healthy. I'm still doing the whole diet thing, especially after my Friday night involved beer and stolen bites of other people's desserts. This stir-fry isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but it did help make me feel a bit better about my weekend indiscretions.

Tofu, Broccolini and Sesame Stir-Fry
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced, divided
  • 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, minced, divided
  • 1 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large bunch broccolini, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp arrowroot
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • brown rice, if desired
Put the tofu in a bowl. Combine the soy sauce, sherry, 1/2 Tbsp ginger and 1/2 Tbsp garlic. Pour over the tofu and set aside. Over medium-high heat, warm the oil, then add the rest of the ginger and garlic. Cook for a few seconds and then add the onions and broccolini. Cook for a few minutes until they start to become tender. Remove the tofu from the marinade and combine the marinade with the arrowroot. Mix into the onion and broccolini and stir to thicken sauce. Lower the heat to a simmer and add tofu. Cook a few more minutes until the tofu is warmed through. Serve over rice (if desired), and top with sesame seeds.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I'm in Love With a Salad

It's not often that I make a recipe that's so incredibly awesome that it instantaneously gets added to my arsenal of go-to meals, but this Spinach Salad with Warm Feta Dressing was one of them. My mom and I made it for Christmas dinner this year, and I think it was the biggest hit of the night, my special honey-and-lavender duck included. A few days later, I flew out to Arizona to meet my boyfriend's family, and I volunteered to make this salad as my contribution to their New Year's Eve dinner. Huge hit there, too. Since then, I've made it twice, and my boyfriend's family has made it at least four more times.

The thing is, it's incredibly quick and easy, and it's
so delicious. The red onions add sweetness, and the creamy feta just kind of coats the spinach leaves, and the sherry vinegar gives the whole thing a lightly acidic but nutty flavor. Sherry vinegar can be hard to find (Williams Sonoma sells it, but it's not cheap), so if you can't find any, you can just use equal parts white wine or red wine vinegar and real sherry.

Spinach Salad with Warm Feta Dressing
Serves 4
  • one bag fresh spinach leaves
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • one small, or 1/2 large, red onion, sliced thinly
  • one 8-oz package feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2-3 Tbsp sherry vinegar (or vinegar + sherry)
Put all of the spinach leaves in a large bowl. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, then add the sliced red onion and cook until the onion is soft and translucent and lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes. Dump the onion out of the skillet onto the spinach. With the skillet off of the heat but still warm, add the feta cheese and the sherry vinegar (plus a little extra olive oil if the skillet is too dry). Stir until the cheese is softened and slightly melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Add to the spinach and onions, toss, and serve.

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Catching Up...Again

Sorry, people. I don't know what it is these days, but I am having a hard time staying on top of my blogging duties. I'm back at school (class started up again on January 2 - how cruel is that?) and doing the requisite post-holiday diet. I don't need to shed a ton of weight, so I'm kind of playing fast and loose with the South Beach rules. Here are a couple things I've made this week.

I made this
Lentil Chili with Cumin and Green Onions last night. As it was cooking, I kept tasting it and feeling unsatisfied with it. It was fine, but not great. Things improved after I salted it well. But the flavors really came together and popped when I stirred in the green onions at the end. Not something I'd make again, but it was healthy, and I enjoyed eating it. I'm not going to bother with the recipe, but it's in the February 2008 edition of Bon Appetit. I'd link you to it, but I guess the February recipes aren't on the website yet. Sorry :(

My mom gave me a cookbook called
The Gourmet Slow Cooker for Christmas, and a few days ago I tried the recipe for the Indian-style Chicken in Saffron-Tomato Cream Sauce. I was pretty disappointed with it, but I think my slow cooker technique is just lacking. Actually, I'd love some advice on this, if you've got any. My problem is that I put the skinned, cut-up chicken into the cooker with only a small bit of liquid, and a couple of hours later, it's floating in a bubbling bath of its own fat. So, the chicken ends up tasting really greasy, and the "cream sauce" is non-existent because I try to avoid eating as much of the liquid chicken fat concoction as possible. What am I doing wrong? Was the chicken too fatty? Should I periodically dump the grease out of the cooker? Inquiring minds want to know. Oh, and here's a picture of the finished dish.

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