Archive for April, 2012

We love the shrimp guy.  At Costco.  Yup, Costco.  The warehouse store always has amazing fresh shrimp.  This is key in our house.  We’ll eat dried chicken and beef that’s been killed twice.  But mushy shrimp?  That’s a toughie.  We were at Costco last night so tonight was going to be shrimp night.

Fast, flavorful and figure-friendly.  This dish is also versatile: serve over rice, grits, or pasta, roll up in taco form or stuff in bread as a sandwich.  It can also be served warm or at room temperature as an appetizer.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp


2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or scallion


  1. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cayenne, if using, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons water, the lemon juice and parsley; stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve over rice, pasta or grits.

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After an unseasonably warm winter, the first broccoli of the season is finally ready to be harvested.  Tender and fresh, Rice Kernel has enjoyed a couple stalks raw from the garden.  Personally, though, I prefer them cooked.  This is a crowd-pleasing, quick dish to serve on a bed of whatever fresh greens you have on hand. 

Lighter Sesame Chicken with Garden Broccoli


3/4 cup brown rice
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced


  1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and toss to coat.
  4. Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

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Last year I posted the story about Rice Kernel and his encounter with spicy, spicy salsa.  Back then, he was a spice fiend.  That relationship waxed and waned for awhile, then finally dissolved.  For the past half year, he hasn’t been keen on spicy foods.  Even his beloved guacamole gets pushed out of his mouth if he detects a hint of spice. 
All that changed one day in early April.  My friend Rani prepared some Indian dishes for us and, to my surprise, Rice Kernel kept asking for more.  (Spicy lentils were what he was after.)  Soon after that, I made guacamole with a little kick.  He gobbled it up.  Then on a particularly hot day, I decided to spice up some cauliflower for dinner.  I made a separate batch of “plain” cauliflower and asked Rice Kernel which he preferred.  “I love the curry,” he said.  I had my doubts and spooned only a couple of pieces into his bowl, along with the rest of dinner.  Before long, he was reaching for more.  And more.  I finally had to put the brakes on the curry cauliflower binge so the boy would eat some meat and starch.  Needless to say, FHE and I are hopeful spice will re-enter our meals….
Here’s the cauliflower recipe from that evening.  Deliciously simple, maybe it’ll turn the monotonous eaters in your house.  Or just serve as a quick side to your meal.  Throw in some lentils or chickpeas and potatoes, serve over rice and you have a complete meal.
Stir-Fried Cauliflower with Green Peas & Ginger
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp ground coriander, preferably freshly ground
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 medium jalapeño (seeds and ribs removed if you prefer a milder flavor), finely chopped
2-1/2- to 3-lb. head cauliflower, cored and cut into medium florets 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide and 1-1/2 inches long (6 to 8 heaping cups)
2 cups (about 10 oz.) frozen green peas (do not thaw)
2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
1/4 tsp. homemade or store-bought garam masala (optional)
  1. Heat the oil with coriander and cumin seeds in a large wok or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cumin browns and becomes fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ginger and jalapeño and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent the ginger from burning, until the ginger is fragrant and sizzling, 30 seconds to 1 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat with the spices. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes and then stir in the frozen peas and salt. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender and the peas are very tender, 5 to 8 minutes more. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garam masala (if using) and, if necessary, cook until any remaining liquid in the pan evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Taste and add more salt if needed before serving.

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Yardlong Beans

I used to come across yardlong beans often at the Farmer’s Market.  They come in long bundles – typically at least 12″ to 24″ long – hence the nickname, “Yard Long Beans.”  They are also called Chinese Long Beans.   Similar to typical green beans, these are more chewy, but equally hearty, and can withstand instense spices.  My favorite preparations are 2 to 3″ segments stir-fried with garlic, salt, and pepper or shorter pieces sauteed with salty, broken-up pieces of bulk sausage, as here.  It’s a beautiful, tasty fusion of a popular Asian vegetable with salty, Western-style pork. (No precise recipe – add as much vegetable and meat as you desire.  Season simply with additional salt, pepper and garlic.)

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Bolognese, Take Two

There are probably as many versions of bolognese sauce as there are marinara sauces.  Last year, I posted a recipe for bolognese that we use.  It contains a bit of cream/milk, a mixture of meats, and a touch of red wine.  While at the gym, I saw Anne Burrell preparing her version of bolognese.  (Yes, I watch cooking shows while working out.)  For me, Anne can make most things look pretty darn tasty so I bookmarked the recipe for the next time we felt like ground beef.  

Anne’s version features one type of meat, no dairy, and plenty of red wine.  One of the keys to this recipe is pureeing the vegetables and allowing them to develop flavor and brown for some time.  The only changes I made were to drain some of the oil from the meat and add chopped vegetables (other than the ones pureed) into the sauce.  The result was flavorful and rich – and something different from our usual meat-and-red-sauce pasta dinner.

Recipe (with Anne’s directions) here.

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