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Santana Is Pure Joy
Aug 19th, 2015 by

The late Tito Puente made a few bucks last night. But more importantly, he would have been proud when Carlos Santana and his 10-piece band played a booming version of his ode to rhythm, “Oye Como Va,” which means “Listen to how my rhythm goes,” when you add the line “mi ritmo” after it.

I saw Tito Puente and his band at the Charles Ballroom in Harvard Square about 15 years ago. During that show he made a speech before playing that song, explaining how Santana made his song a hit and how at first he was a little angry and jealous, especially when audience members would say to him after his show, “you play Santana music.”

He said he used to argue with them and explain that he wrote that song and that Santana was playing Tito Puente music. “Until the royalty checks started rolling in. Now I tell them, ‘That’s right. I play Santana music!’,” he said right before his keyboardist started pounding on the opening chords to that song.

Santana is now an old master, but his chops on the guitar are as good as ever. Pure joy flows from it and he accentuates his guitar solos by offering the audience little treats:  a few riffs of classic songs thrown into the mix.

Last night, those little treats included a few riffs from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “I’m With the In Crowd,” and “Layla.” He doled out many more and the audience, dancing in the aisles, ate them up.

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Some Easter Dinner Favorites
Apr 1st, 2015 by

The passing of the stuffed artichokes from Easter dinner 2010 in the RootsLiving dining room.

The passing of the stuffed artichokes from Easter dinner 2010 in the RootsLiving dining room.

These tried and true side dishes show up at the RootsLiving dinner table every Easter. If you’re looking for ideas to wow your guests this year, try these recipes. Nan’s Mashed Potatoes are rich, creamy and flavorful. And there’s no better way to make carrots than to follow French Chef Paul Bocuse’s recipe for carrots in cream.

Here is a list of Easter dinner favorite recipes:

And of course there’s plenty of ham, but ham needs no recipe. Just heat it up, and don’t forget the pineapple.
Find more recipes in the Food section.
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Baked Stuffed Shrimp
Mar 12th, 2015 by

A meal fit for a king (or a birthday boy).

A meal fit for a king (or a birthday boy).

Growing up, this was my favorite dish. My mother would make it for me every year on my birthday.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post the recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • Jumbo shrimp. If you’re buying frozen, get the 8-12  pack. Don’t buy the COOKED frozen shrimp as most are tasteless and won’t work with this recipe, anyway. You should plan on at least three shrimp per person. But four is even better.
  • Ritz Crackers, about two cups, crushed.
  • Butter. Unsalted is best. About one stick. Melted.
  • Lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon.
  • White vermouth or white wine. About two tablespoons.
  • Salt, about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon.
  • Pepper, a few shakes or twists of the grinder.
  • Garlic powder, just a couple of pinches. Remember, this is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Use caution.
  • Old Bay Seasoning, or paprika. About 1/2 teaspoon.

I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

Procedure:

Thaw shrimp overnight in refrigerator or put in a colander and run cool water over them until they thaw. Peel them, if necessary.

Slice shrimp down the curved back and remove vein if necessary. (Sometimes, the shrimps are already deveined, even in packages that say they are not. If you can’t find a vein, don’t worry about it. If you can’t see it before it’s cooked, you won’t see it after it’s cooked. Removing the vein is aesthetic, not mandatory.) Be sure to make a deep cut so the shrimp are butterflied.

Place on a cookie sheet. Line with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Brush shrimp with a little of the melted butter and bake at 325 for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven. They should not be cooked through yet.

Combine the Ritz Crackers, the melted butter, lemon juice, white wine or white vermouth, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Old Bay Seasoning to make the stuffing.

Spoon a round blob of stuffing over each shrimp and bake until done, about five to seven minutes. The shrimp will be a firm whitish/pink color with red stripes around the edges.

Serve with rice and your favorite greens. I served mine with a bok choy and raisins side dish.

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Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)
Mar 12th, 2015 by

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

This side dish is a definite keeper. I made it up yesterday, while trying to come up with a good green side dish to go with baked stuffed shrimp.

At first I was thinking of an arugula salad, but didn’t feel like driving three or four miles to a farm stand where I can get it at a good price: less than $2 for a good-size bag. And I wasn’t going to spend $6 or $7 for arugula at the Stop & Shop, just a few blocks from my home. So, I set my sites on the Asian supermarket, which is about a 1/4 mile from my house.

Super 88 doesn’t sell arugula, but they have an amazing selection of bok choy. And it’s cheap.

I thought about stir-frying it with some scallions and then a crazy idea hit me on how to offset the subtle bitterness of the greens with something sweet. Raisins! And just to keep things real, I decided to finish it off with a vinaigrette, a balsamic vinegar being a perfect match to bring out the flavor of the raisins.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Bok Choy. I used about 15 pieces of the baby bok choy and it was enough for three people. Washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces.
  • Scallions, about 6. Cut off with about 2-inches of green showing and then sliced into small wheels.
  • Peanut oil, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic, one clove, crushed.
  • Raisins, about 1/2 cup. I used regular raisins, but I think golden raisins may work even better.
  • A balsamic vinaigrette, about 2 tablespoons. You could also use Italian dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Procedure:

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, spreading it around to coat the sides.

Add the scallions and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and the bok choy and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the raisins. Stir everything occasionally and cook until greens are wilted but the white parts of the bok choy remain crisp.

Add the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Put lid on wok and cook on low heat for a minute. Then turn heat off.

Serve with your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, even eggs).

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

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A Classic Vinaigrette
Mar 12th, 2015 by

This salad dressing recipe is so easy and delicious, I stopped using store-bought dressings years ago. It takes less than five minutes to make. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil. Here’s where you use extra-virgin olive oil if you have it. About half a cup.
  • Vinegar. Balsamic or red wine vinegar can be used depending on what you feel like. A little more than an ounce. (Remember: a good ratio for vinaigrettes is about 3 parts oil to one part vinegar. Adjust to your liking.)
  • Garlic, one large clove.
  • Salt, preferably Kosher salt. About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.
  • Dijon mustard, about 1/2 teaspoon.

Procedure:

Put garlic in a bowl with the salt. Take a heavy fork and mash it good until it becomes a paste.

Add the olive oil and then the vinegar.

Add the mustard and whisk.

Pour it on your favorite salad and mix it up.

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

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Have A Therapeutic Moment This Saint Patrick’s Day
Mar 10th, 2015 by

Pull up a stool and watch Terry Nixon, a bartender at Mr. Dooley’s in Boston, pour a perfect glass of Guinness. It’s truly an art form and there’s no better artist than Terry.

You don’t drink Guinness immediately after it’s poured. You have to wait until the gentle bubbles, which look like golden foam, subside. This is what Terry calls a “therapeutic moment.”

So relax, take your time and enjoy the moment before your first sip. It’s been a long winter here in Boston but before you know it, it will be Saint Patrick’s Day. Make sure you get the therapy that you need.

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