NOT QUITE MOQUECA

Moqueca is one beloved dish in Brazilian cooking. Several ingredients are mandatory: coconut milk, dende oil, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. The main protein can be shrimp, fish, or both. It is spicy, luscious, quite filling, and always served over a simple white rice. I have already messed up with this classic before, but with this recipe I shall infuriate my fellow native Brazilians a second time.

MOQUECA-STYLE SHRIMP AND CHICKPEAS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1.5 pounds large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (14.5 oz)
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon harissa (or to taste)
1.5 cups crushed tomatoes with their juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
fresh cilantro to taste
juice of half lemon

Heat the oil on a large sauce pan. Add the fennel, shallot and bell pepper, saute everything together seasoning with salt and pepper until translucent and very fragrant.

Add the crushed tomatoes, harissa, and chickpeas, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the shrimp and  coconut milk, simmer gently until the shrimp is cooked, 5 minute or so. Add the cilantro, lemon juice and serve over white rice.  If you like, add some hot sauce on the plate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Moqueca originated in one of the hottest states of Brazil, Bahia. Even though it is a kind of stew, it is enjoyed the whole year, even at the height of the summer. I like to bring this up because those of us living in the Northern hemisphere are headed to very warm days. Don’t twist the nose to a nice serving of moqueca for that reason. This will please you no matter how hot it is outside.

I completely forgot to get fresh cilantro at the store, so I added a couple of Dorot frozen cilantro cubes together with the coconut milk/shrimp mixture. But don’t make this mistake, fresh cilantro not only looks great but it adds a lot more flavor, especially if added right before serving the meal.

I committed many sins with the recipe, but served it over white rice as any good Brazilian would. I hope this helps restore my reputation.

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Butternut Squash with Cashew Nuts

TWO YEARS AGO: Mississippi Roast and the Open Mind

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Star is Born!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

NINE YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

 

SEAFOOD GRATIN FOR A SPECIAL DINNER

Phil’s brother spent last weekend with us to play some golf and relax (forgive the oxymoron). I did not join them because I am a woman of principle and will not set foot on a golf course until the temperature reaches a comfortable level. For the record, that means above 80 F.  With no excessive wind because that messes my  accuracy with the driver, some irons, and the putter. What can I say? My game is one of exquisite precision. Instead of shivering and getting drenched on the course, I stayed in our kitchen preparing a special dinner for the gentlemen.  I chose a recipe from Ina Garten, which is a bit of an unusual move for me, I find most of her recipes overly rich.  This was no exception, but once in a blue moon it’s ok to indulge. Especially when  we have a wonderful guest to share it with!

Seafood Gratin

SEAFOOD GRATIN
(slightly modified from Ina Garten)

1 cup clam juice (I used homemade shrimp stock)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup plus 3 tbsp. white wine divided (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
3 tbsp. tomato puree
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8-ounces raw cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
16 oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts
1 cup peeled, shredded carrots
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the shrimp stock (or clam juice), cream, white wine and tomato puree in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and add the shrimp.  Let cook 1-2 minutes, until pink and opaque.  Remove to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon.  Add the pieces of cod to the stock mixture until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove to the same plate with the shrimp using a slotted spoon. Add the cooked lobster to the bowl.

Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 12 minutes.  Combine 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small bowl with the flour and mash together with a fork.  Whisk the butter-flour mixture with the salt and pepper into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of wine and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes more.

Add the cream sauce and cooked vegetables to the bowl with the seafood and toss to blend well.  Divide the mixture between individual gratin dishes.  If not baking right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When you are ready to bake the gratins, heat the oven to 375˚ F.  Place the filled gratin dishes on a baking sheet.  Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl.  Add the Panko, parmesan, parsley and garlic to the bowl and toss with a fork to combine.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared gratins.  Bake 20 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

mixture

Several pointers for success in this recipe: use jumbo or very large shrimp, and cook them briefly in the mixture of heavy cream and white wine.  They will bake later and you don’t want your seafood overcooked. Same is true for the fish, choose a fish with firm white flash, cod or halibut will both word well. If you can splurge, sea bass would be amazing, but when I saw the price of those, I could not bring myself to grab some.  Use any method you like for the lobster tails. I almost went with sous-vide, but in the end simmered them in a little lemony water.  The secret of cooking seafood is to never boil the liquid too hard. They are delicate creatures that will tighten on you and turn rubbery very easily.

I had home-made shrimp stock frozen, and in my opinion that worked much better than bottled clam juice. Great that I remembered having that liquid gold in the freezer. And, what’s even better, it was properly labeled! HA!

This is a perfect dish to entertain, because you can assemble the whole thing in advance and do the final baking while you prepare any side dishes of your choice.  I served it with a bucatini in olive oil with lemon zest, very simple. And roasted asparagus. Dessert was a duo of sorbets, chocolate and raspberry, both recipes should be on the blog in the near future. Ok, near future is a relative term when it comes to my posts. But hang in there, patience will pay off.

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

TWO YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

FOUR YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

FIVE YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

INSPIRATIONS AND A BLOG AWARD!

Every once in a while events happen in beautiful harmony. Last week I got notification of a new blog post by Kelly over at Inspired Edibles.  She shared a recipe for cauliflower puree, and her post immediately made me crave some.  I even exchanged a couple of emails with her comparing notes, as I had a version in my blog, from a couple of years ago.   I made the puree on a Sunday to have it ready for our dinner next day.  To serve with it, I picked a simple recipe (Mondays are busy days for us):  Shrimp in Spicy Orange Sauce…    Right as my shrimp defrosted in the fridge next day, Kelly published a new post with a recipe for Spicy Orange Ginger Shrimp!   subliminal, virtual inspiration?   I like to think so…  😉

SHRIMP WITH SPICY ORANGE SAUCE
(from Cooking Light magazine, August 2007)

1 + 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp  soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chile paste
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup chopped green onions

Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch, toss well to
coat, and set aside.  Combine orange juice, soy, honey, vinegar, and chile paste in a small bowl.  Reserve.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet  over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger to the pan.  Stir fry for 15 seconds or until fragrant. Add shrimp mixture, stir fry for 3 minutes. Add the juice mixture and onions, cook for a couple of minutes or until the sauce thickens and the shrimp are done, stirring frequently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

So here is my delicious dinner, served!   Shrimp in a tasty and quick to prepare orange sauce,  over  cauliflower puree with a hint of apple.  A match I had never attempted, but is now classified as “made in heaven!”  Usually I would serve this type of dish with steamed rice, but I must say the cauli puree worked its magic here.  The meal was slightly more substantial, leaning into the comfort food zone,  great way to wrap up a Fall weeknight.

And, to go along in the inspired route,   Alaina from Flat Leaf Parsley   awarded me the  “Very Inspiring Blogger Award“.  Inspiring!  How wonderful is that?    The award requires that you say 7 things about yourself.  I’ve played this game before, and was tempted to just copy the same 7 facts here, but I thought that would be almost cheating.   So here you have seven “new” ones:

1. I’ve worn the same perfume for the past 30 years: a Brazilian cologne called Free.  Every year when I go to Brazil I stock up, and usually also get a couple of bottles from friends and family as gifts.  They know I would have a hard time without it!

2.  I have no sense of orientation whatsoever, and get in frequent trouble because of it.  I turn to the wrong side on the street and inside buildings. I get lost going from the bathroom to  my table in restaurants. It is pathetic and at times very embarrassing.

3. I am very good both at parallel and back -parking,  love the challenge of fitting our pick up truck in the tiniest spots.  And, I am obviously very modest!  😉

4. I used to drive a Porsche 944 Turbo.  Red. Gorgeous. Not a wise economical decision from a maintenance perspective  (it had over 100 thousand miles when I bought it), but I had a blast driving it!

5.  I studied Mandarin Chinese for a few years, wish one day I can find the energy and time to go back to it. Writing ideograms is an introspective and rewarding experience.

6.  Every day for the past 4 years, I send a picture of something beautiful (landscape, animals, flowers, sunsets) by email to a group of family members and friends. I call it “Beleza do Dia” (Beauty of the Day), and really enjoy doing it.

7. My motto: everything in moderation, except exercise…  😉    I have more than 30 fitness-related DVDs to provide enough “muscle confusion”, although P90X is my favorite.

Thank you so much, Alaina, for passing me this award!

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

TWO YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH A SEAFOOD CURRY

I honestly could not remember when was the last time I made a special midweek dinner for us. It seemed like ages, so I browsed the blog and there it was:  May 3rd.  Four  months ago.  Four hectic months.  Slowly we begin to adjust to a new routine, but there’s no doubt that my cooking suffered quite a bit.  Lack of energy, the feeling of being always short on time and exhausted, it all took a toll on me.  But, it’s about time to shake things up a little. This was simple enough to prepare after work, and delivered all that I expected to make that evening – a prisoner in the middle of a busy week – feel very special!

THAI SEAFOOD CURRY
(adapted from Bon Appetit Everyday Meals)

3 large limes
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut in small dice
1 + 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste
1 can (about 14 oz) light unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
10 ounces cod fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
12 peeled large shrimp
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

Finely grate enough peel from 2 limes to measure 1 + 1/2 teaspoons. Squeeze enough juice from 2 limes to measure 2 tablespoons. Cut third lime into wedges, and reserve for serving.

Heat vegetable oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the  shallots, bell pepper, and minced ginger; sauté until shallots and peppers soften up slightly, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Stir in curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce,  lime peel, and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Simmer gently, for a few minutes. Sprinkle fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Add fish and shrimp to curry sauce. Return to very gentle simmer and cook just until fish and shrimp are opaque in center, 5 to 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cilantro and basil; serve with lime wedges, over steamed white rice.  Prepare to receive high praise.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  The original recipe used halibut, but I substituted cod because our grocery store had gorgeous looking cod that day, whereas the halibut seemed a bit sad (or, to quote a favorite French expression of mine: pas fameux ;-)).  My other modification was to use green curry paste instead of red, because that’s what I had in my pantry.  As to coconut milk, I almost always use light because it works well for this type of recipe. It is slightly less dense, but feels rich and flavorful enough, with the added bonus of lower fat content.

ONE YEAR AGOPost-workout Breakfast

TWO YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

THREE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

GAMBERETTI CON RUCOLA E POMODORI

Nope, this recipe didn’t come from an Italian cookbook.  I hope Martha Stewart won’t mind that I took some liberties with the title for her creation,   but it just sounds too lovely in the language of Dante: “… Gamberetti… Rucola… Pomodori,”  …just beautiful!

This year I insist on “quick and easy dinners,” because life is awfully busy for us here in LA.  It’s now our final month at UCLA, so this type of recipe is a life-saver.  Cook some pasta (we used cappellini, that’s ready in five minutes),  grab some lettuce for a simple salad, and all of a sudden you’ll have a meal from a trattoria by the Mediterranean Sea.

SAUTEED SHRIMP WITH ARUGULA AND TOMATOES
(adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, June 2010)

1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
1 pound large shrimp
4 cups baby arugula leaves
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and sautee for a couple of minutes in gentle heat, until it gets fragrant and starts to develop some color.  Remove the garlic and discard it.  Add the tomatoes, season with a little salt and pepper, increase the heat, and cook, stirring often, until they blister and release some liquid.

Add the shrimp and cook until opaque, not more than 4 minutes. Add the arugula leaves, a little more salt, and toss until wilted.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the pan, and toss to combine.   Adjust seasoning, and serve over pasta or white rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  My preference for arugula or spinach is always changing.  Sometimes I settle on spinach, for its mellowness and delicate taste.   Then, my mood switches and I grab bag after bag of arugula at the store and bring it home.  Its leaves are sturdier, it wilts with dignity.  😉 And the peppery bite, no spinach can match it.  As you might guess, I’m going through the arugula phase right now.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Grissini

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MISO-GRILLED SHRIMP

A simple recipe loaded with flavor!   This was the main dish for one of our dinners last week, but it would be excellent as an appetizer course, or as part of a cocktail party.   The original recipe, from Food and Wine magazine, suffered some adaptations to accommodate what we had available in the nano-kitchen. Our day had been so busy we could not conceive of the idea of stopping at the grocery store on our way home.  No ginger?  Use cilantro instead… 😉

MISO-GRILLED SHRIMP
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

1 pound of large shrimp, peeled
3 T lime juice
2 T yellow miso paste
2 T olive oil
1 cube frozen cilantro leaves (Dorot, or use 1 T fresh minced leaves)
1 + 1/2 tsp brown sugar

for dipping sauce (optional)
sour cream
Sriracha sauce

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade to make a thick paste.  Thread the shrimp onto wooden or metal skewers,  place in a tray with the marinade spread all over to coat them well.   Let it stand for 10 minutes while you heat the grill.

Remove the shrimp from the marinade, add to the hot grill, cook for 5 minutes total, flipping them around midway through.

Mix sour cream with Sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce of your preference); make it as hot as you like, and drizzle over the shrimp or use it as a dipping sauce.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Even though we’ve been in Los Angeles for almost 4 months, I still try to find stuff in a drawer, only to realize the item in question is 1,200 miles away.   That is precisely what happened while attempting to make this recipe – my nice set of metal skewers did not make it to LA.  Plan B was quickly put to work: I spread the shrimp all over the grill, working as quickly as possible.   Voila‘: success!

The frozen cilantro thing… The first time I bought Dorot frozen cubes, I only did it because the tray of ginger looked impossibly cute, AND the store did not have fresh ginger for sale. I used it, and loved it.  Later I tried the basil. Loved it too. Now, cilantro joined the party.  I don’t like to cut too many corners in cooking, but these products are excellent.

Miso & Sriracha sauce…  Don’t think you should only use miso for soups:  it  is also great in marinades, sauces, even salad dressings.  I am always searching for new ways to use it, because I love its complex, funky-chic flavor.  The dipping sauce with Sriracha – the best hot pepper sauce in the known universe – adds a fiery tone to the juicy shrimp.  Adjust the amount of Sriracha to your liking.  I confess to drizzling pure Sriracha on my shrimp – proving the point that, indeed, some like it hot...  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Pain Poilane (the King of Breads…)

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receita em portugues na pagina seguinte

A TWIST ON PESTO

Even though I know that the word “pesto” refers to pounding ingredients into a paste (preferably using a mortar and pestle), I tend to associate it with basil – the classic pesto Genovese. So, this recipe using cilantro as the main herb perked my interest. I found it in the latest issue of Bon Appetit, and it seemed perfect for this time of the year, in which the temperature approaches 100 F every day, with no rain in the horizon.   Not that there’s anything wrong with it… 😉

LINGUINE WITH CILANTRO-LIME PESTO & SHRIMP
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound linguine
1 + 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup green onion, cut in large pieces
1/2 serrano pepper, seeded, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbs lime juice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbs tequila
cotija cheese to taste, grated (or crumbled feta)

To make the cilantro pesto:
Place the cilantro leaves in the bowl of a food processor and process it for a few seconds. Add the green onion, jalapeno pepper, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, and process for 30 seconds. With the machine on, pour the olive oil until a thick paste forms – you may need a little more or a little less olive oil. (I usually opt for a lot less than recipes call for).

Cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta cooks, heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet, add the shrimp and cook until it just starts to get opaque. Remove from heat, add the tequila, bring back to the stove and cook for about 30 seconds, until the tequila achieves a syrupy consistency. Add the pesto to it, cook a few seconds to warm it up. Add the cooked pasta and mix everything together until shrimp, sauce and pasta are well blended. Grate some cotija cheese on top and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Cilantro haters will have to forgive me, but this pesto rocks! At first I thought this recipe could end as a major gastronomic disaster, due to cilantro overload, but its taste mellowed down in the final sauce. I had never tried cotija cheese, and did not particularly cared for its texture, but grated over the pasta it worked very well. Many people dislike adding cheese to seafood dishes, but I don’t have a problem with it: it definitely embellished this pasta.

One year ago: WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU CHARD…

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