Recipe Revival: Brazilian Fish Stew Plus MVK’s Like of the Week

This summer has been busy—and the last two weeks have been HOT! Dinners have consisted of fresh vegetables, cold cucumber soup, and cooking on the grill. But as I was thinking of what recipe I was going to bring you this week, I remembered this favorite of mine that I first wrote about in 2013 and thought it was perfect timing–you can celebrate the end of the Olympics this weekend with a rich, spicy fish stew!

While this recipe isn’t complicated, it does take a fair amount time, so I always make it on a weekend when I have extra. And I usually buy cod in place of the halibut or sea bass, but you can substitute with another white fish if you prefer. This is a dish that is special enough for guests or a marked occasion; you could serve a crisp white wine, a simple salad with vegetables from your garden or the farmer’s market, and maybe some fresh crusty bread to sop up the leftovers.

I haven’t watched the Olympics in years; I only know what’s going on by reading the news headlines. But make this Sunday evening to watch the finale, or do what I plan on doing; once the heat wave breaks, it will make a perfect fall meal!

fishstewuse

Brazilian Fish Stew
Originally published in the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

This recipe calls for sea bass or halibut, but I always substitute a light, white fish, usually cod. 

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 1/2-pound) sea bass or halibut fillet, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup minced green onions (about 1 bunch)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 large)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro, divided
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, and bay leaf; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato, and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cilantro, clam juice, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

3. Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour pureed vegetable mixture into pan. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture. Add coconut milk and red pepper to pureed vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 3 minutes. Add fish mixture; cook 3 minutes or until fish is done. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cilantro.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Tiny Changes to Lose Poundsscale
I, like many people, am always looking for tips on how to lose weight. And I don’t want the advice to be take a magic pill or to eat the latest fad Dr. Oz is peddling. These ten tips actually are helpful and logical!

Grilled Salmon with White Beans and Arugula Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I don’t have much to say about this recipe except it is absolutely perfect for this time of year! Salmon almost begs to be grilled and with a quick side salad, it’s fancy enough to serve to guests and is a superfast meal you can make in 20 minutes!

Since you already have some greens, you could serve some warmed bread as a side or some freshly sliced tomatoes with some torn fresh basil and a dribble of olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Dessert can be some fresh berries with cream.

Can you tell I love cooking and eating this time of year? 🙂

salmon

Grilled Salmon with White Beans and Arugula Salad
This recipe first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 tablespoon chopped capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
Cooking spray
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups loosely packed arugula
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1. Whisk together capers, rind, juice, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and red pepper in a bowl.

2. Place beans in a bowl; drizzle with 2 tablespoons caper mixture.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Coat salmon with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Add salmon to pan, skin side down; cook 6 minutes. Turn salmon over; cook 1 minute or until done. Keep warm.

4. Add arugula and onion to bowl with beans. Drizzle with remaining caper mixture; toss. Divide salad among 4 plates; top each serving with 1 fillet. Serve immediately.

peaches

(Photo by Andar Sawyers for the New York Times)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: When is Peach Season?
I read this recent article in the New York Times with interest. Peaches are one of my favorite summertime fruits, along with red raspberries and local strawberries, but often I find they are either mealy or just never ripen. A good peach is hard to find! The article discusses the fruit’s season with experts and clears up the mystery a little bit. (Psst, for those of us in the Northeast, buy and eat them after July 4th!)

 

It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!

Appetizers

Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!

Entrees

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil
Mmmmm…..

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Desserts

Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

Brownies
You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.

Cocktails

Mad Men Manhattan

Margaritas

Mocktails

sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

The Lazy, Shorter Days of Summer: Late Season Pesto Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Summertime and the living is easy!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy!

Vermont in August is one of my favorite times of the year. While the light has quickly diminished in both the morning and evening, the fields are now a bright yellow with goldenrod, a little bit quieter, and the gardens have reached their peaks. While the days can still be quite warm, nighttime is usually perfectly cool sleeping weather. Weekends are spent at the lake, soaking in the sun and making memories that (hopefully) will keep us warm in the winter.

Speaking of gardens, you’ll never see me turn down an offer of free vegetables or fruit from someone’s garden. Which was the reason I was cutting up cups and cups of late season rhubarb for pies a couple of weeks ago, and why I found myself in a friend’s garden one recent evening, pulling all of the basil that she didn’t want. While it was almost past its time, it was still salvageable and all I could see was green, and knew I could make mounds and mounds of pesto.

I can grow tired very quickly if I eat the same thing all the time–leftovers are a two-meal minimum for me–but I think I could eat pesto every day and be completely happy! There is something about the mixture of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil that is heaven on a plate. During the summer I make it just about every Monday night for dinner. Even during my detox I talked about a few weeks ago, I created a dairy-free pesto that was almost as good as the real thing, served over quinoa pasta! For my friend who graciously gave me the basil, I made a nut-free and dairy free version for her.

The word pesto comes from the Italian, pestare, which means “to pound or crush,” and I have certainly made it many times the authentic way with a mortar and pestle, but my blender is a lot quicker when making lots. For nuts, I’ve used almonds, walnuts, or the traditional pine nuts. Or I’ve left them out if I don’t have any on hand. Making batches ahead of time will be a way to bring some summer into the darkness of the cold, winter months!

It's a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

It’s a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

Late Season Pesto

I don’t measure when I make this. Ever. So these are my approximations of measurements. I go by taste, so as you’re mixing, keep tasting to see if it suits your palate. When freezing, I put a little piece of plastic wrap on the top of the pesto to keep it from drying out.

1 large garlic clove
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
A few parsley stalks (preferably flat-leafed parsley), about 2-3 tablespoons
About 3 tablespoons grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons whole almonds (or substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil, roughly ¼ cup (you can also use some hot water as a substitute for some of the oil)

With a blender, add the ingredients one at a time, ending with enough olive oil to make a paste. Serve over pasta, veggies, fish, or toasted bread.

movie posterMVK’s *Like of the Week: “That Sugar Film”
Are you like me and think the food you find in a health food store is good for you? Think again. Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has a movie out, based on the movie “Super Size Me,” where he eats only “health foods,” but which are actually filled with added sugar. For two months, he gave up his normal diet of fresh foods for one that contains 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. But he wasn’t eating the obvious sugary foods like ice cream, candy, and soda. He instead focused on those foods perceived as healthy, but which contain added sugars: juices, low-fat yogurt, healthy bars, cereals. The effect of the diet is shocking.

While I think the movie is a bit gimmicky to get his point across, maybe this will be added to the American dialogue we are having about food and how it can help, or in this case hurt, your body. You can read more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

stormI remember reading last winter that the powers that be who predict weather said it was going to be a cooler than normal summer for the Northeast. I tend to poo poo those predictions, but so far, they are correct. My lilacs weren’t as hardy as they’ve been in the past; I picked one blossom, which immediately started to wilt when I put it in water. I find myself wearing sweaters more than not and I haven’t had one alfresco dinner yet this year. I had planned one for the other evening, but see the above skies right before it was ready. But when I do get a nice evening, this will be the perfect meal to serve; greens, protein, healthy oils, and big, bold flavors all in one bowl.

This is a sort of deconstructed nicoise salad, which I love to make in the summer. This came together quickly; as the water boiled, I chopped the tomatoes and olives and let them steep in their juices. I had exactly six ounces of gluten-free penne in the cupboard, so I chose to use that up instead of opening a new box of cavatappi. This also is a perfect dish to make after a visit to the farmer’s market; fresh tomatoes, green beans, and lettuce, it will taste amazing! As I was cooking this, I thought of lots of ways to change things up; basil instead of oregano; chicken instead of tuna, or if a vegetarian, maybe some sautéed flavorful mushrooms; white beans in place of green beans; or another grain in place of the pasta. I also thought adding some freshly chopped cucumbers or other veggies would be tasty. Once you have an outline of a recipe, adding and substituting is really easy, go with what YOU like!

cavatappi saladCavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives

This recipe first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

6 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta

12 ounces green beans or yellow wax beans, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups tomato wedges

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

20 pitted kalamata olives, halved

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

5 ounces canned or jarred sustainable white tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes. Add beans; cook an additional 3 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender and pasta is done. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.

2. While pasta water comes to a boil, combine oil, juice, pepper, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add tomato, oregano, and olives; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in pasta mixture and lettuce. Divide among 4 plates; top evenly with tuna.

Serves 4 (serving size: about 2 1/2 cups pasta salad and 1/4 cup tuna)

MVK’s Like of the Week: To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising
We’ve all heard the adage, if you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. But a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times examines how eating less (and healthy) may actually be more important for your waistline than just relying on exercise. While I won’t throw out my Fitbit any time soon, I always read these sorts of articles with a wary eye. Of course, exercise has its health benefits and just because you’re exercising doesn’t give you free rein to eat whatever you want (trust me, I know!). I can say for myself, cooking at home, walking, and really watching what I eat away from home are three tips that have worked well for me through the years. But it’s always a challenge, especially the older you get.

And while I read this cautiously, I found it interesting, whether or not you believe it. You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising.

Roasted Salmon with Dill, Capers, and Horseradish

Buying fish is so hard these days; you’re bombarded with talk in the news of mercury, farm raised versus wild, frozen versus fresh, I usually leave the fish counter confused and not buying anything. But sometimes I get a craving for salmon. I love it and it’s good for you, lots of Omega 3s. So I’ll throw out all the talk and get a nice piece of fish for dinner.

If you are looking for something to make for a special springtime meal, this is it. ­And it’s perfect for a dinner party, because you do all the prep the day before—or in my case, the morning before. Dinner was going to be late, so I prepped the salmon while my coffee was brewing thus it had a solid ten-plus hours in the fridge. The homemade crème fraîche was easy to mix up the night before, add the dill in the morning, and refrigerate all day.

I think I’ve seen fresh horseradish in the produce section, but I decided to cheat and use jarred horseradish sauce that was minimally processed. And my piece of salmon was just over a pound and I made it for two, so I have sauce left over for another meal. I served this for Easter dinner with last week’s springtime salad and potato salad. Delicious!

salmon
Roasted Salmon with Dill, Capers, and Horseradish
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

We couldn’t get over how delicious and silky-rich this salmon is, or how foolproof the recipe is. Don’t be thrown off by the total time it requires: Think of it instead as a great make-ahead dish, where all you have to do the night of the gathering is pop the fish in the oven for a short time. What you’re doing in step 1 is making homemade crème fraîche. It’s easy to do; it just takes some time. We love the creamy texture and luscious tang of homemade, but you can substitute purchased crème fraîche or full-fat sour cream. Look for a 3-pound side of salmon with even thickness. Avoid the thin tail end and buy two thicker (1 1/2-pound) pieces if you need to. The dill sauce will keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Yield: Serves 8 (serving size: about 4 ounces salmon and about 2 teaspoons sauce)

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup finely grated fresh horseradish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil 1 (3-pound) salmon fillet

1. Combine cream, buttermilk, and vinegar in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 8 hours. Stir in dill, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1 teaspoon pepper, horseradish, and next 4 ingredients (through oil) in a small bowl. Spread horseradish mixture evenly over salmon. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 450°.

4. Place fish, skin side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 13 minutes. Remove from oven.

5. Preheat broiler to high.

6. Broil fish 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Cut fish into 8 equal portions; top fish with dill sauce.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Salmon…

salmon nytCookbook author and New York Times contributor, Melissa Clark, is one of my favorite food writers. Her two cookbooks, Cook This Now and In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite are fantastic if you’re ever in need of a new cookbook. Similar to Mark Bittman, she can make a simple dish seem elegant. I came across this video for Salmon with Anchovy Butter the other day. It looks so good! Another salmon recipe to try!  

A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!

Summertime and the Cooking is Easy

morningWith all due respect to George Gershwin, Vermont this summer has seen waves of hot, hot, hot weather; so humid and sticky that all I want to do is sit in the river. On days like these, I find my appetite isn’t normal, so I try to make salads that are light, yet protein-filled enough so I don’t walk away hungry.

True Nicoise salad has tomatoes, olives, fava beans, and even anchovies. Mine is a bit different, adding some boiled potatoes, radishes that I had on hand, and a salmon salad I made which is just canned salmon, lemon juice, and some capers. I love salads that have a little bit of this and that, so you, too, can create your own riff on the salad, adding your own favorite vegetables and protein. If you’re a vegetarian, you can make a white bean salad in place of the salmon. The vinaigrette recipe will probably make more dressing than you need, but it will keep for at least a week if not longer in a cool spot in your kitchen or in the fridge.

misenplaceI created this salad to take on my annual trek to Lake George with friends a few weeks ago for a simple and delicious lunch. And it is one that is easy to tote if you’re going to the beach or for a picnic. See? >>>

Of course, soon after I wrote this recipe, the temperatures turned and I could finally turn on the oven again. So in the meantime, I’ll tuck this away for the next time we take a trip to the lake or the heat comes back–whichever comes first.

salad
MVK’s Nicoise Salad
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1-2 cups green beans, steamed
4 small red potatoes, boiled and cubed
4 radishes, sliced into fourths
3 hard-boiled eggs

Salmon or tuna salad: tossed with fresh lemon juice and capers (optional)

Vegetarian option: One can of white beans, toss with a little bit of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped herbs.

Vinaigrette: 2/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or a vinegar of your choice), 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ½ shallot (a couple teaspoons), finely chopped (optional). Whisk together.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Summertime. . . 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

The title sounds like an infomercial, but seven years ago, when Mark Bittman was still working for the Dining section of the New York Times, he produced this masterpiece; 101 super simple recipes for summer. This has been a savior ever since for those nights I’m not sure what to make, it’s too hot, or I need some creativity.

The recipes run the gamut: meat, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan. And they are all so simple, that the 10 minutes is true. Cook up some bratwurst with apples and serve with coleslaw (#59) or saute shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta. (#45) Or Bittman’s own version of Nicoise Salad (#34) Lightly steam haricot verts, green beans, or asparagus. Arrange on a plate with chickpeas, good canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs, a green salad, sliced cucumber and tomato. Dress with oil and vinegar.

You can find the article here, 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

Photo8J4Z47TN
When cell phones came out, I was the last one on the block to finally get one. And 11 years later, I finally got my own smart phone–the last one on the block again. Since March, I’ve been checking out these sites I’ve only heard about, Instagram being one of them. With Instagram, I can follow friends and celebrities by the photos of their lives. One of the people I follow is Amanda Hesser, former New York Times food writer who, with Merrill Stubbs, is the cofounder and CEO of Food52. A few weeks ago, she posted a photo of her first al fresco dinner, pasta with shrimp, lemon, garlic, and asparagus, with rose wine on ice. I had to make this! It looked delicious and what better way to welcome the warmer weather!

This recipe can almost fit into my Week Night Dinner Series and in fact, I did make it on a weeknight! Fresh shrimp sautéed with garlic and lemon, crunchy asparagus, a topping of freshly grated cheese, it was heaven in a bowl, and I had to resist taking a second helping. (The Eater of the House, on the other hand, obviously loved it. He finished it off—no leftovers for lunch!)

A delicious dinner was had that evening, alas indoors. This time of year, pop up rain showers and storms come along and can cancel all outdoor plans you may have for the evening. But no matter, it was still delicious and that’s what really counts. There is nary a raindrop on the forecast for tonight, so maybe I’ll make it again!

pasta pic
Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

For those gluten-intolerant, substitute white beans for the pasta. For those with shellfish allergies or vegetarians who don’t eat seafood, substitute white beans for the shrimp!

A couple teaspoons of olive oil and butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
¾ pound shrimp, fresh or frozen fresh (I used jumbo)
A couple splashes of dry white wine or vermouth (optional)
Crushed red pepper for heat (if desired)
3+ cups asparagus, chopped into about 2 inch pieces
½ pound (half a box) gemelli or penne pasta (you can really use whatever type of pasta you like)
The juice of one-half lemon
Slivered fresh basil
Grated cheese

1. In a medium-sized skillet, heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil and butter and melt gently. Add the garlic and shallot and cook just a minute or two, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink. Add a little bit of wine and crushed red pepper, if using.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Set the timer and cook for about eight minutes. When there are two minutes left, add the asparagus and cook for the remaining two minutes. Drain well.

3. Add the pasta and asparagus to a serving dish, add the shrimp and toss gently. Add the juice of a half lemon and top with freshly grated cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

provenceProvence 1970 by Luke Barr
Ah, to spend just a few hours in the company of M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Richard Olney in Provence, cooking and talking about food. And Luke Barr takes us there.

It’s not all bread and roses for these four stalwarts of the cooking world, as each were at their own personal turning point in their lives. Child and Beck are at odds, coming to a point in their professional relationship that they must sever the ties, while neither one wants to make the first move. Beard is nearby at a health spa, trying desperately to lose the weight that is impeding his health. And M.F.K. Fisher is at crossroads in her life; live in France or return to her beloved California.

It took me a while to get into this. I found in the beginning Barr’s voice was too loud, a somewhat pretentious writer (this probably has everything to do with the fact I listened to an interview with him a while back). But soon, I got lost in the story of these writers and cooks and enjoyed being at the dinner table, as well as enjoying the occasional visits from Judith Jones and Elizabeth David: Beard and Child’s renowned cookbook editor and the grande dame of English cooking. When the dining editor of the New York Times left, it was interesting to see all the speculation of who would take over the position. Talk about a who’s who of gossip!

To read books like this, with a deep look at the past with a nod to the future, always fascinates me. Child was just beginning her cooking show, and was at the start of her immense popularity. Beard, while ill for many years due to his health, lived for at least 15 more, continued to write cookbooks, many of them quite famous. Fisher continued to write and publish memoirs and cookbooks, as did Olney. But looking back on December, 1970, in Provence, the world was still open and free, with endless possibilities.

Crab Cakes with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

It's finally GREEN outside!

It’s finally GREEN outside!

No more talk about cold weather, it is finally spring! The crabapple trees are flowering, the lilacs are in bloom, I’ve been hiking, and the lawn has been mowed twice!

I made these crab cakes a couple of weeks ago, and I think they are restaurant quality–or at least guest quality! So, a story. I was excited to find a pound of crabmeat in the fish section of the supermarket for $10. And it wasn’t until I looked at the label, and noticed it was claw meat, not lump crabmeat. That container was another $10. I’d definitely splurge if serving guests, but if it’s just dinner for the family, the claw meat is a good, less expensive substitute. Perhaps not as flavorful, but it was still delicious.

So being springtime, before it gets too warm, make a batch of these and have an al fresco evening with crab cakes atop fresh lettuce and a crisp glass of white wine. You won’t be sorry!

clamcakes
Crab Cakes with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 2 crab cakes and 2 tablespoons dressing)

Crab cakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Dressing
1/3 cup whole buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, divided
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill, divided
Bibb lettuce leaves

Preparation

1. To prepare crab cakes, combine first 6 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in panko. Add crabmeat; stir gently to combine. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes.

2. Divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions; gently shape each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 4 patties to pan; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove patties from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and remaining 4 patties.

3. To prepare dressing, combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients (through garlic), stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, 3/4 teaspoon parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon dill. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter; top with crab cakes. Spoon dressing over crab cakes; sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, remaining 3/4 teaspoon parsley, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon dill.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
phototjs
I feel as if I’m the last person in the country who has never been to a Trader Joe’s grocery store—until last weekend! For months, I’ve been waiting with excitement for the first Trader Joe’s to open in Vermont. Crazy me, because my day plans had changed, I went up on Day Two at 1 p.m., prime lunch hour! And thought I would do a week’s worth of grocery shopping! It was incredibly busy, with people more window shopping than food shopping, but I made it through the aisles and wasn’t disappointed. Prices were extremely fair and I ended up getting most everything on my list! I also like that there isn’t a lot of variety; even though I love food and love to cook, sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the choices for just one product in the grocery store. The location is away from my regular route, but I have a feeling I’ll be taking the long way home and stopping by after work during the week to get groceries!