Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shrimp Tostadas with Chipotle Yogurt and Pineapple Avocado Salsa

Maybe the long name sounds fancy, but these tostadas couldn't be easier. You could use all the same ingredients in whatever tortillas you have laying around and call it a taco as well. Or just throw it in a bowl and call it a salad. Delicious either way.

There are 3 components to this dish to make, then you just assemble it all on top of a crispy tostada. The first component being the Pineapple Avocado Salsa. The sweet, tropical flavor of the pineapple lends a nice balance to the creamy avocado and sharp onion. The salsa as a whole gives a great acidic balance to the entire dish.

Here's what you need:

2 large, ripe avocados
1/4 of a whole ripe pineapple
1/2 of a red onion
1 bunch of cilantro
2 cloves of fresh garlic
1-2 jalepenos, depending on how spicy you want to go
The juice of 1 lime

Chop up all your produce into uniform size pieces, mince the garlic and cilantro, and toss everything together with lime juice and salt to taste. Set aside.

Next, move on to the Chipotle Yogurt. I LOVE chipotle peppers. They lend an intense smokiness to any dish that is SO good. This sauce couldn't be easier.

What you need:

1/2 cup greek yogurt
1-2 chipotle peppers chopped finely
The juice of half a lime
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 teaspoon Cumin

Mix everything together, I add a little extra juice from the can of chipotle peppers for good measure. Add salt and pepper to taste. That's it!

Our final component is the shrimp. Again, couldn't be easier. I used Argentinian red shrimp, which are red when they are raw... so cooking is a little tricky. Usually your shrimp come blue and when they turn pink they are done! First, rinse your shrimp and remove the tail if needed. Heat up a pan with a little olive oil and add the shrimp. Toss with your favorite seasonings: I used chipotle, cumin, garlic and a little chili powder. Sautee for a few minutes on each side until shrimp are cooked through.

When you are ready to eat, assemble the tostadas. I layered the chipotle sauce first, topped with fresh salsa then piled on the shrimp. They can be a little messy to eat, but one of the best bites of your summer, guaranteed!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sushi Bowls

A couple months ago, I talked about how intimidated by polenta I was, until I tried it. Speaking of intimidating, here is a fast and easy spin on the most intimidating at home dish of all: sushi! My husband and I love to go out for sushi, it is usually our go to when we decide to eat out. While craving it one day, I thought how could I get these same flavors at home? It was actually very simple and there are endless variations to what you can do.

First: the rice. I honestly HATE cooking rice. I usually buy the frozen brown rice packages from Trader Joe's. However you like your rice, just start with that. Brown, white, leftover, premade, whatever. While the rice is warm add in a tablespoon of sugar, a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar and a little dash of salt. Stir this around to coat. It doesn't make sushi rice in it's truest form, but it makes a very similar taste with just a few ingredients hanging out in your pantry.

Once the rice is done and cooled, that will be your base. Then you can top your sushi bowl with whatever you like! I have two variations here, one I made for a fancier dinner in with my husband, and another I made packed into Tupperware for weekday lunches to bring to work.

Variation 1: I topped the "sushi" rice with sliced nori seaweed sheets (these have become so popular and you can find them anywhere), julienned (cut into matchstick size) cucumber, julienned carrots, avocado, toasted sesame seed, chopped scallion, krab (imitation crab used at most sushi restaurants for their California roll among others...find this in your seafood section), and premade ahi poke I found at my local Safeway. It was perfect! I served this with wasabi and soy sauce, of course, and topped with a little spicy mayo.

Variation 2: I packed Tupperware with "sushi" rice, nori, soy sauce, sesame, cucumber, scallion. Then I mixed imitation crab with a little mayo and a ton of sriracha for a take on a "spicy crab" salad. I added avocado once I was ready to eat. One of my favorite "to go" lunches to keep in the fridge! 

You can also add cooked shrimp, tofu, tempura, egg, any other veggies or your favorite sashimi. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs with Capers and Fried Shallots

This is a tasty and impressive appetizer to bring to a brunch, serve at a BBQ or make for girl's nights. While it seems so very fancy, it is incredibly easy to whip up.

First, hard boil 12 eggs. While there seems to be a differing of opinions on how to do this, the best way for me seems to boil the water first with a dash of salt and white vinegar. Add in the eggs gently, and continue to boil for exactly 11 minutes. Remove eggs and add to an ice bath to cool. Once cooled, peel under running water.

Now that our eggs are boiled, here's what else we need (remember, these are ballpark measurements, as always):

2 tablespoons or so of brined capers
1 shallot
2 ounces of smoked salmon, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 heaping tablespoons greek yogurt
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 teaspoons dried dill
Olive oil

Slice each egg in half. Remove yolks into a bowl and set egg whites in the fridge to keep chilled. Mash the egg yolks with a fork until creamy. Add in chopped salmon, mayo, Dijon, yogurt, capers, garlic powder and dill. Mix everything together and add salt to taste. While you're tasting, adjust measurements to your liking. Maybe you want a little more salmon or capers? Maybe you need more yogurt? Get it all the way you like before you move on. Spoon this mixture into a large ziplock bag and set inside the fridge to chill.

Cover the bottom of a small pan with about a half inch of olive oil, heat on medium heat. Peel and VERY thinly slice your shallot. Working in batches depending on the size of your pan, fry the shallots in the olive oil until crispy and brown. Set on a paper towel to cool and dry.

Good news: this can all be done ahead of time! Now go do your makeup and your hair and come back when you're ready for your party.

Now that you're ready, get out a serving platter, the egg whites, egg yolk mixture and shallots. Squeeze the egg yolk mixture to a corner of the ziplock bag and snip the end. Ta-dah! You have your very own piping bag. Pipe the mixture to fill each egg white. Top with a little more dill for color, a sprinkling of paprika and the fried shallots. Arrange on the platter and watch them disappear!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Crostini with Lemon Herb Ricotta and Heirloom Tomato Salad

I was incredibly proud of this appetizer I made for Easter. It is SO light, full of flavor and the PERFECT bite for spring. Everyone loved it. I will definitely make this again, many times!

What you need:

1  thin loaf of Italian bread (or your favorite kind)
1 16oz tub of Ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Dried herbs - all your favorites
Garlic powder
About 1.5 cups chopped heirloom tomatoes (or your favorite kind)
A few sprigs of fresh basil, chopped
Balsamic Glaze
Olive Oil
Two cloves garlic, chopped.

First, add the garlic to a couple tablespoons of olive oil and set aside.

Next, mix the lemon zest, herbs and salt to taste into the Ricotta cheese with about a teaspoon of garlic powder. I used dried parsley, mint, oregano, marjoram, thyme and basil. Set this mixture in the fridge to chill.

Then, slice your bread into about 3/4-1 inch slices. Brush olive oil mixture on both sides of the bread, leaving most of the garlic in the bowl. Place on a hot grill for a minute or two on each side, just long enough to crisp the bread and get a couple grill marks. This lends a smoky heartiness to an otherwise very light dish.

While your bread is cooling, mix the chopped tomatoes with the chopped basil, a dash of salt, and the rest of the garlic left over in olive oil. Add 2 tablespoons or so of the balsamic glaze. Balsamic glaze is easy to find, but if you can't find it, you can make your own very easily. Just simmer a cup of balsamic vinegar until it reduces by half and thickens, then let cool. Toss your tomato salad, and now you are ready to assemble!

I smeared a spoonful of ricotta on each slice of bread then topped with a heap of the tomato salad, a little extra balsamic and garnish of basil. Lay out on your prettiest serving tray and don't forget the chilled wine. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Stuffed Flank Steak

Got some people coming over for dinner that you want to impress? Maybe a special occasion for a special person? Or just want to feel like a badass in the kitchen with minimal effort? This is the recipe you will want to keep on hand. Play with the stuffing and marinade to match your tastes or what's in season. I guarantee everyone at your dining room table will fall a little more in love with you after you make this!

What you will need:
Flank steak
Soy sauce
Balsamic Vinegar
Brown Sugar
Sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
Green onions
Cooked bacon bits
Frozen spinach - thawed and drained
Feta cheese

Flank steak can be kind of hard to find. It's usually rolled up in a package and oftentimes pre-marinated. I can't stand pre-marinated meat because it can be incredibly salty, so I have included a marinade here, but feel free to do whatever you want!

First, preheat the oven to 400. Unroll the flank steak from the package and lay flat on a cutting board. Pound the flank steak out with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until it is even in thickness. Marinate in soy sauce, balsamic, worcestshire, brown sugar, salt and pepper (go heavy on the brown sugar and balsamic, it is a great balance to the rich stuffing inside).  You will have great flavor after just a couple hours of marinating, but feel free to go even longer.

Meanwhile, mix together chopped bacon bits, cooked chopped AND DRAINED spinach (I use frozen that has been thawed), chopped green onions, sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese with a dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Use a ratio of these ingredients that makes sense to you. I used about a cup of spinach, 1/4 cup feta, a couple tablespoons each of the onions, tomatoes and bacon. It is SO important that you have squeezed all of the liquid out of your spinach so you don't end up with a soupy mess.

Next, remove the steak from the marinade and place on a flat work surface. Add the filling down the middle of the length of the steak. Roll the steak lengthwise (not up from the bottom, basically more like hot dog style... If you remember that from grade school) and secure with twine or large tooth picks pre soaked in water. How you roll is important, because when this is all done you want to be able to cut the steak against the grain, as shown in the picture. Sear the stuffed steak on all sides in a hot pan, then transfer to the oven at 400 and bake for about 25 min or until internal temp is 160, a little longer if you like it well done (which I personally think is a crime). Let rest before removing twine and slicing.