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Seared Scallops with Peas, Mint, and Bacon (Prosciutto?)
Mar 8th, 2017 by

I served it with a side of rice, mixed with parmesan cheese and parsley.

I served it with a side of rice, mixed with parmesan cheese and parsley.

My friend Ray, who owns a fishing boat in Gloucester, gave me a bag full of scallops on Saturday that were caught that day. I got around to cooking them Tuesday night and they were still fresher than anything you could buy at a reputable fish market.

The pea/mint mixture is sweet.

My wife, who doesn’t ordinarily like scallops, ate them all up saying they were better than lobster. And I’m not a big pea fan, but combined with the mint, the green puree made this dish sublime.

This recipe was billed as easy, quick, and good enough to serve to company, according to the Epicurious website. I agree, although it does dirty a few pots and pans. The recipe said it would take 22 minutes to make (This is a good timeline but don’t use it while you cook as ingredients aren’t included) and it took me about 30.

I didn’t have any bacon, so I used imported prosciutto instead. But other than that, I didn’t change a thing. So here’s a link to the recipe.

Chickplantasagna is born
Aug 10th, 2016 by

Layered like lasagna, with eggplant, chicken, and zucchini, chick-plant-sagna was born out of necessity.

Layered like lasagna, with eggplant, chicken, and zucchini, chick-plant-asagna was born out of necessity.

We were hungry.

I had eggplant, zucchini, some leftover cheddar cheese and a new block of Parmesan Reggiano in the refrigerator. All day long I thought of those ingredients and asked myself what I could make for dinner. Around 4 p.m., the answer came to me.

I just needed chicken cutlets so I stopped at the supermarket on my way home and found some chicken tenders that looked better than the other cuts of chicken there. I brought them home and flattened them between two pieces of aluminum foil (I had nothing else). And that’s where our story (recipe) begins.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken tenders (About 9 or 10, flattened by pounding them with a rolling pin between two pieces of wax paper, parchment paper, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.)
  • Eggplant (1 dark, purple — firm, but not bruised — beauty).
  • Zuchinni (1)
  • Red pepper (1)
  • Cheddar cheese (about 1/4 cup shredded)
  • Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup, grated)
  • Fresh salsa (about 1 cup)
  • Tomato Paste, imported and from a tube (about 3 or 4 good squirts)
  • Red wine (about 1/3 cup), and a little water too.
  • Garlic (1 clove, torn open with your fingers)
  • Olive oil, regular, not extra-virgin (about 1/2 cup)
  • Lemon pepper

Here's what the dish looks like before putting it in the oven.

Here's what the dish looks like before putting it in the oven.

The Process:

Take the skin off the eggplant by peeling off strips of it using a vegetable peeler. The eggplant will look like it has stripes as some of the skin remains.

Cut thin (about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick) slices of the eggplant. Brush olive oil on one side of each slice. Brush olive oil on a cookie sheet and put eggplant, dry side down. Cook in a 450 degree oven, turning over once, until both sides are brown.

Cut thin slices of zuchhini (about 1/4-inch to 1/2 inch thick). Put oil on both sides. Cut long strips of red pepper (about 1/2 inch thick) and put oil on both sides. Cook zuchhini and red pepper on a baking sheet in a 450 degree oven until done.

Fry chicken cutlets in a little olive oil and the clove of garlic. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.

When chicken is done, heat frying pan again. Add the tomato paste and the wine and water and stir. Add salt and pepper. Let the wine and water evaporate a little bit. Stir scraping the bottom of the pan. Add about 1 tablespoon of butter and stir some more. Turn off heat.

Assemble the dish by putting a little olive oil on the bottom of a ceramic baking dish, along with a few tablespoons of the fresh salsa. Add half of the chicken cutlets. Pour over half of the tomato paste sauce. Add half of the cheeses. Top with half of the zuchhini, red peppers, and eggplant slices. And then repeat this with the remaining ingredients, ending with the rest of the cheese and some fresh salsa.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until cheese melts.

The dish was delicious but it still needed a name. I posted a photo of it on Facebook and asked for suggestions. My friend Katie M. suggested Chickplantasagna. It was the perfect name for a perfect dish.

The End

Find more recipes in the Food Section.

Short Ribs Provencale
May 2nd, 2016 by

There's a variety of complex flavors in this dish.

There's a variety of complex flavors in this dish.

This recipe is time consuming but it’s well worth the wait. I found it on Epicurious. Cookbook author Rick Rodgers said the editors of Bon Appétit magazine asked him to create the ultimate version of braised short ribs and this is what he came up with, based on elements of various short rib dishes he enjoyed at several restaurants.

I took it a step further by using short ribs I got at a local Massachusetts farm. I also had a pound of bacon and a chicken sausage I needed to cook, so I cooked them in the dutch oven before I cooked the short ribs. Before adding the ribs, I took out all of the oil left from the bacon and sausage except for about two tablespoons. I don’t think cooking bacon and sausage is necessary but I do believe it added even more depth to the wonderful flavors found in this dish.

I didn’t have any black olives so I used what I had on hand: olives stuffed with blue cheese. I also served the short ribs over mashed potatoes and covered it all in a blanket of the delicious sauce. Here’s the recipe. Bon appetite!

Find more recipes in the Food Section.

An Easy Recipe For Making English Muffins From Scratch
Apr 18th, 2016 by

These english muffins are much better than store bought and contain only a few natural ingredients: not a long laundry list of chemicals you can't pronounce.

These english muffins are much better than store bought and contain only a few natural ingredients: not a long laundry list of chemicals you can't pronounce.

I made english muffins from scratch for the first time this morning. And I’ll be making these again — maybe every week.

English muffins are relatively cheap and available at grocery stores so why would anyone want to make their own? Two reasons:

  1. Warm, with melted butter and strawberry jam, I'm going to make these on a regular basis.

    Warm, with melted butter and strawberry jam, I'm going to make these on a regular basis.

    Chemicals. Read the ingredients on any store-bought english muffin package and the list of ingredients is long, with names of things I do not recognize.

  2. Taste: I’ve been buying Thomas brand english muffins and the taste is good but it always seems synthetic to me, especially the corn-flavored muffins. Is it real corn flavor or is it a corn flavor that was invented in some lab? I’m not sure. But one thing I’m certain of is the taste of these homemade english muffins far surpasses the store-bought processed ones.

I found several recipes online but this one from the kitchn.com looked like the simplest and used basic ingredients I had in my pantry. You don’t have too, but it’s best if you make the starter and dough the night before and let the dough rise in your refrigerator overnight. One other tip. You cook these muffins in a skillet on top of the stove under very, very low heat (when I did it, you could barely see the flames beneath the pan).

Here’s the recipe:

You cook these muffins in a skillet over a very low flame. I suggest popping them into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes too.

You cook these muffins in a skillet over a very low flame. I suggest popping them into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes too.

Ingredients:

For the dough starter:

  • All-purpose flour or bread flour, 3/4 cup (3 1/3 ounces)
  • Water, 1/2 cup
  • Active dry or instant yeast, 1/2 teaspoon,  (or 2 tablespoons active sourdough starter)

For the English muffin dough:

  • Milk, whole or 2%, 1 cup
  • Active dry or instant yeast, 1 teaspoon
  • Sugar, 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter, melted, 2 tablespoons
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • All-purpose or bread flour, 3 to 3 1/4 cups (13 1/2 to 14 1/2 ounces)
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • Butter for the skillet

Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for two hours.

Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for two hours.

What do do:

  1. Make the dough starter: Mix the flour, water, and yeast for the starter in a small mixing bowl. Beat until the batter is smooth and glossy, about 100 strokes.
  2. Let the starter sit 1 to 12 hours: Cover the starter and place it out of the way for at least 1 or up to 12 hours. The starter will become increasingly bubbly the longer it sits and will double in bulk. The longer you can let the starter ferment, the better the flavor and structure of your finished English muffins. (I let mine sit for about 6 hours and the taste was tangy but mild.)
  3. Whisk together the milk, yeast, and starter: In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the milk and yeast for the dough. Scrape the starter into the bowl and use a whisk to break it up and dissolve it into the milk. It should become quite frothy.
  4. Mix the dough together: Add the sugar, butter, and salt to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3 cups of the flour and stir with a stiff spatula until you form a shaggy, floury dough.
  5. Knead the dough: With a dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth ball, 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, knead by hand against the counter. If the dough is very sticky like bubble gum, add extra flour as needed, but err on the side of caution. The dough is ready when it forms into a smooth ball and springs back when poked; it will feel slightly tacky to the touch, but shouldn’t stick to the bowl or your hands. (I kneaded mine by hand and within a few minutes, the dough was smooth and springy.)
  6. Let the dough rise overnight in the fridge: Transfer the dough to a large bowl lightly filmed with oil. Cover and place in the fridge overnight or for up to 3 days.
  7. Divide and shape the muffins: Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a pastry scraper to divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece gently against the counter to shape into smooth, round balls. (Don’t worry too much if each piece is the exact same size. Mine weren’t and yet I was pleased with the results.)
  8. Transfer the muffins to a baking sheet to rise: Scatter cornmeal generously over a baking sheet and arrange the balls on top, spaced a little apart. If you have muffin rings, place them around the balls at this point. Sprinkle the tops of the balls with more cornmeal.
  9. Let the muffins rise until puffy: For dough that was refrigerated, this will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours; for room temperature dough, this will take about 1 hour. Depending on the size of your muffin rings, the muffins may not totally fill the rings — that’s okay.
  10. Warm a skillet: When ready to cook the muffins, warm a large skillet over medium heat. Melt a small pat of butter — enough to just coat the bottom of the pan and prevent sticking.
  11. Cook the muffins 5 to 6 minutes on one side: Working in batches, transfer a few of the muffins to the skillet — allow an inch or so of space between muffins and do not crowd the pan. If using rings, transfer the muffins with their rings to the pan. Cook until the bottoms of the muffins are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. (I found that I had to keep the flame very low as the muffins cooked quickly and you really want to cook them slowly.)
  12. Flip and cook 5 to 6 minutes on the other side: Flip the muffins and cook the other side until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. If you prefer thinner, less puffy English muffins, you can gently press the tops with the spatula to prevent them from rising too much.
  13. Adjust the heat as needed: If your muffins seem to be browning too quickly on the bottoms (or not quickly enough), adjust the heat as needed. (If you find that your muffins are browning too quickly, throw them in the oven at 350°F to finish baking through.) (I found putting the muffins in the oven for a few minutes was a good idea to ensure the insides were cooked through.)
  14. Finish cooking all of the muffins: Transfer cooked muffins to a cooling rack. Continue working in batches until all the muffins have been cooked. Add a small pat of butter to the pan between batches to prevent sticking.
  15. Split and serve! Split the English muffins with a fork, spread with butter or jam (or both!), and eat. English muffins will keep for several days in an airtight container on the counter and are fantastic warmed in the toaster oven. Fresh English muffins can also be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and kept frozen for up to 3 months.

You can eat these english muffins a few minutes after frying them without toasting them, but I found putting them in a toaster for a minute, just to get a light crackle on them was best. Thanks to all who watched my cooking demonstration on Periscope. I hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself.

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant
Sep 20th, 2015 by

Spread a little of the caponata on Italian toast slices to make sweet and tart crostini.

Spread a little of the caponata on Italian toast slices to make sweet and tart crostini.

This recipe is one of the best I found in a very long time. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors with a mingling of soft and crunchy textures that melts in your mouth creating a desire for more and more. It is addictive.

The recipe, first printed in the 2005 edition of Gourmet Magazine, got the highest score on Epicurious.com: four forks, and the 18 people who reviewed it said they would make it again.

So what is caponata and what can you do with it? It’s a blend of bite-sized eggplant, tomatoes, celery, green olives, and red bell peppers that have been enhanced with some garlic, onion, parsley, basil, sugar and red wine vinegar.

It is delicious, by itself as a side dish, or when mixed with pasta. It also makes the best crostini when spread generously over toasted ciabatta slices. It’s very versatile and can be used imaginatively in a thousand different ways. I just put the last of it on some lavash bread, along with some goat cheese and arugula to create a roll-up sandwich. It was better than an eggplant (or chicken, or veal) parm sandwich on a braided roll.

This recipe takes a little work but it’s worth it. It makes a big batch that you can enjoy for several days or even a week.

Again, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!!

Find More Recipes in the RootsLiving Recipe Index

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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