LEMONY BARLEY WITH SHRIMP AND SPINACH

This recipe used to be a regular rotation in our kitchen then I totally forgot all about it. I was sure it was in the blog already, so I wanted to make it the other day and was shocked because… it has never been shared here. Shame. Shame. Shame. I will not walk through the streets of Manhattan in GoT fashion. Instead, I will quickly share it today, and hope to be forgiven.

LEMONY BARLEY WITH SHRIMP AND SPINACH
(inspired by a recipe from Fine Cooking)

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (save peels for stock)
1/2 large onion, skin on
1 lemon, cut in slices
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 cup + 1/3 cup quick-cooking barley
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup black olives, pitted, cut in pieces
zest of 1 lemon

Make a shrimp stock simmering the shells with the half onion and lemon slices. Season it lightly with salt and pepper. Reserve.  You will use about 2 cups of the stock to cook the barley.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the shrimp seasoned with a little salt until almost fully cooked. Remove and reserve, covered with foil. Add a little more oil if needed, and saute in the same pan the onion and celery  until fragrant, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.

 Add the barley and stir until coated with the oil and veggie pieces. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Pour in 2 cups of shrimp stock, 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender, 12 minutes.

Uncover the pan, add in the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in the reserved shrimp, black olives, and lemon zest.  Adjust seasoning if needed and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is truly delicious, and I am kicking myself for taking so long to bring this back to our table. It is quick to prepare, and if you like to make it even easier, use chicken stock, store-bought, which is actually part of the original recipe from Fine Cooking. I just feel that if you have the peels available, shrimp stock is ready so quickly, why not up the flavor of the dish with it?  Your kitchen, your decision.
.

 

SOUP SATURDAY: QUICK WEEKNIGHT SOUPS

Third Saturday of the month, which means it’s time for soup! I regret to admit I haven’t joined this fun event for the past 4 months. Too many trips and work commitments made it impossible. But I am back now, and thrilled to join their party. This month’s event is hosted by Amy, from  Amy’s Cooking Adventures.  She chose Quick Weeknight Soups as the theme.  My choice is so easy that I made it for lunch, from start to finish. On a working day. Are you absolutely amazed, mesmerized, intrigued, and anxious for the recipe? I thought so. I adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe that called for soba noodles. I zoodlelized it, and made a few other minor changes.

ZUCCHINI NOODLE SOUP WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH
(inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart)

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 large zucchini, spiralized
4 cups flat-leaf spinach, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 6 minutes.

Add broth and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Add zucchini noodles; reduce to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook just until tender, about 1 minute. Add lime juice and soy sauce. Serve very hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the easiest soups to make ever! It surprised me how much flavor it packed with so few and humble ingredients.  The soy and the lime juice added at the very end, right before serving, deliver a mixture of umami and brightness. Umami echoed by the mushrooms, brightness intensified by the ginger. Really delicious and so very light. I picked this soup as my lunch on a day we had a departmental seminar scheduled for the afternoon, so anything that is too heavy makes it a bit hard to stay awake. Unless, of course we are talking about a fantastic speaker on a subject that is very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, not always the case.

If you like, use soba noodles which will be perfect with the mushrooms and spinach. I actually love soba and have not had any in a long time. As to that seminar, it was not my area of research, but I lucked out, great speaker, wonderful talk! I could have loaded up on soba. Such is life… best laid plans…

Amy, thanks for hosting this month, I feel so bad for staying away from the group for so many months, but what matters most is to be back…

To see what other #Soupswappers are sharing,

visit Amy’s post with a click here

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PAALAK PANEER, A FAREWELL POST

the-end11Not sure even how to break this to my readers. This will be my last post with The Secret Recipe Club. Not because I am leaving, but because the club as a whole will be shutting down. It is sad, very sad, I’ve been a member for a long time. My first post was in October 2011. Five long yeas, and I enjoyed every single month of it. But, many members were quitting, not enough new members joining, so that is that, folks. We knew about this for over a month, and I’ve been dreading this post with the bitter taste of farewell. Farewell to a good thing. Anyway, my last assigned blog was My Hobbie Lobbie, hosted by Trisha and I can say it allowed me to close this blogging chapter with a golden key. I learned so much by stalking her site, Trisha cooks a lot of authentic Indian food, a cuisine I adore but find a bit intimidating.  I had a mile-long list of stuff bookmarked, will share a few of my choices to give you a taste (pun intended) of what her site is all about.  For starters, her take on Tiramisu…   But then, she tempted me with Homemade Samosas (sigh). Or Methi Namakpare, something you probably don’t know what to make of, but jump over there to start dreaming about it.  Her take on Chicken Tikka is another show-stopper. But the one that I really wanted to make and if life was a little less frantic I would have: Chicken Biryani, the very best according to Trisha. I even bought all the ingredients to make it, just never got to it. Not yet, that is…  Another heavy contender – a very unusual daal using black chickpeas. Guess what? I found those in our Oriental market, so stay tuned, it will be on the blog sometime soon. Anyway, you can see how much I adored getting her blog for my final assignment.  Final assignment. This is really sad.

Note added after publication. For this final adventure in SRC, my blog was assigned to Sawsan, from Chef in Disguise. I woke up today to read her post that shall stay with me forever.  I am touched beyond words. If you’d like to see what she cooked from my blog (it’s a great bread!), visit her wonderful site.

paneer

 

PALAAK PANEER
(slightly modified from My Hobbie Lobbie)

750 g spinach, washed and drained
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 green chile, whole
2 tsp coriander powder
250g Paneer cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 – 1 tsp garam masala powder
6 tbsp whole milk
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt, to taste

Blanch the spinach in hot water till wilted. This should take about 3 minutes.

Drain using a colander and run under some cold water till it cools down. This will help maintain its lovely color and will prevent it from cooking any further. Blend it to a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan. Add the cumin and fry till it is fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add the shallot and let it fry on low heat till it turns soft. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Add the ginger  and chile and cook for another minute.
Add the coriander powder and salt and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the spinach puree and a tiny splash of water if necessary. The puree should be loose, but not watery.  Bring this to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the garam masala powder, paneer cubes and milk. Stir and cook for a few minutes till the spinach is nice and creamy. Add lemon juice to taste. Serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I’ve had Paalak paneer in Indian restaurants quite often. Love the stuff. The creaminess, the spices, but I never attempted to make it at home. Like sushi, palaak paneer is something I reserved for dining out. Once I got this assignment and spotted the recipe on Trisha’s site, I could not quite get it out of my mind. Plus, our Oriental market carries paneer cheese, so the trickiest ingredient involved did not pose a problem. My only advice is, get a lot of spinach. A LOT. I did not bother weighing, but I just got a lot more than I thought I needed, and that was a wise decision. I intended to  make some of her Jeera rice, but ended up serving it with normal, plain Basmati. My favorite rice in the whole wide world.

served

After we enjoyed it at dinner, there was a little bit of Paalak left. Not enough to stand on its own as a side dish. I considered adding to a frittata or omelette for my lunch next day, but then it hit me: why not use it as the flavoring base for a soufflé? At first I tried to fight that idea. The spices seemed wrong and out-of-place. But shouldn’t we try to open our horizons instead of accepting preconceptions?  I went ahead with it. Used my basic Julia Child’s method, and… one word for you: WOW!

indiansoufflee
We devoured this soufflé with abandon… it was spectacular. So, yes, I recommend that you not only make the Paalak paneer, but then save a little bit of it to use in this quite successful fusion cuisine experiment.  It was creamy, tasty, the spices made it absolutely special.

creamyDinner is served: Paalak Soufflé with grilled flank steak and mushrooms… 
Life is good!

goodnight

Well, folks this is it for the Secret Recipe Club. It was great while it lasted, that’s for sure.
Like the beautiful full moon that was shinning the night we enjoyed the Paalak Paneer…

A big thank you to the organizers, moderators, members,
that kept such great atmosphere in the background.
I had a blast with all of you.

palaak-paneer-souffle-from-bewitching-kitchen

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TURKEY STIR-FRY WITH ALMOND BUTTER

I was not going to blog on this recipe, since it was one of those improvised things, quickly assembled for lunch on a weekday. But I tasted a spoonful straight from the saute pan, and the “Must-Blog-This” alarm went off, loud and persistent. I quickly transferred some to a serving bowl  to be immortalized on camera. The almond butter takes this simple stir-fry to a higher level of deliciousness. Amounts for the recipe are pretty flexible, I was just using stuff that I had in the fridge so you can go with the flow and add a bit more of this, a bit less of that.  If you care about this type of info, this concoction would be low-carb and also Paleo-friendly. But what I really care about is that it is mighty tasty.

 

gary

TURKEY STIR-FRY WITH ALMOND BUTTER
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 pound ground turkey (preferably not super lean)
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons almond butter (a must!)
5 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper, saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the ground meat, Aleppo pepper, a little more salt and regular pepper, cook moving it around every once in a while, until the meat is golden brown.  Add the almond butter, incorporate well, keeping the pan in medium-heat.

Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Right before serving, squirt some lemon juice all over the meat. Adjust seasoning if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served
Comments: I’ve mentioned many times I was a picky eater as a child. Very. One of my favorite things to eat was ground beef and rice, which Mom called “picadinho.” Ground beef and rice. I know, so exciting, right? One summer we were all in my Grandma’s home in São Sebastião, a beach town between São Paulo and Rio, and my Aunt Sônia was getting ready to feed her three very spoiled Siamese cats.  She cooked a big batch of ground beef and rice for them, and I was fascinated! Those cats were very lucky to get my favorite food on a daily basis.  From then on, whenever Mom would make me “picadinho“, both me and my Dad would call it “comida de gato” (Portuguese for cat’s food). I was actually complimenting her cooking, I suppose Dad was more in his usual teasing mode. Good times. Decades passed by, but ground meat (chicken, pork, beef) is still something I resort to often for my lunch, although usually with additions that would make my younger self leave the table screaming in horror. When I make some, I always ask Phil  “would you like some comida de gato?”  It is blatantly clear that I am a lovely wife…

Wanna say it like a native? Click

Turkey Stir-fry with Almond Butter, from Bewitching Kitchen

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CREAMY ZUCCHINI MUSHROOM SOUP

Soup weather is here to stay. I should not complain, actually, so far things have progressed more or less smoothly. Anytime December catches me in my neck of the woods going for a morning run with no gloves, no hat, no growling, and wearing only a light long-sleeved shirt, I am a happy camper. Actually, happy jogger is more like it. But, let’s face it, things will get nasty soon enough and diving into a creamy bowl of soup feels like the right thing to do. I improvised this one using stuff I had in the fridge, not sure how it would turn out, but it was so delicious I had to share. The combination of zucchini with mushrooms might be a bit unusual, but worked very well… If you care to know, the soup is Paleo-friendly, low in carbs, and high in deliciousness.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup

CREAMY ZUCCHINI & MUSHROOM SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper (I recommend using a heavy hand for the black pepper)
za’tar (optional)
3/4 pound white mushrooms, sliced thick
3 medium zucchini
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups water
fresh thyme
2 handfuls spinach
1/2 cup coconut milk
toasted coconut flakes for topping (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onion, season lightly with salt, pepper, and a little za’tar, if using.  Saute until onion is translucent, add the mushrooms, and cook them in medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. If the pan gets too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.  When the mushrooms are starting to get soft, add the zucchini, cook for a couple of minutes then add chicken stock and water. Mix well, cover the pan and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.

Turn the heat off, add thyme and spinach. Mix, transfer the contents to a blender.  Blend very well, being careful (hot stuff in a blender can be dangerous, do it in batches if necessary). Return the blended soup to the pan, add the coconut milk, warm it up in low-heat, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with toasted coconut flakes or any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments
: I am very fond of zucchini soup, and also love a nice creamy mushroom soup. Never thought of marrying both ingredients. When mixing zucchini with mushrooms you’ll enter a twilight zone of unappealing color that can be tricky to deal with. After all, part of the charm of zucchini soup is its beautiful green, but the mushrooms mess that up. That’s when the fresh spinach enters the scene. I use this trick often when I want to perk up the green color of a soup. The secret is to add it right before you blend the soup, and don’t add too much. You won’t be able to tell there is spinach in it because the zucchini and mushroom flavor is prominent. Use a nice blender, if you have a Vitamix put it to work for at least a couple of minutes.  You will have a gorgeous green soup, creamy, soothing, flavorful. It will be light but keep you satisfied, thanks in part to the fat from the coconut milk.  I had a bowl of this soup on a Saturday after running and felt like a million bucks after.  Two Aleve pills as a side dish probably did not hurt either.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup2
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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO

When I was 13 years old I could not WAIT to turn 18. It took forever, but as you may have noticed, I made it. Now that I feel like setting the brakes on time, days pass flying by, turn into weeks, months, so here we are at the end of May, and I find myself with quite a few years added to those eighteen. Unreal. Anyway, the last Monday of May brings with it the formidable joy of Reveal Day from The Secret Recipe Club.  If you don’t already know about it, a food blogger is paired with another one in secret, has about a month to pick a recipe and cook from it, then the whole group blogs about their chosen dish at the exact same time.  Nothing is cooler than this, you must admit. I was paired this month with Life on Food, hosted by Emily, a 31-year-old woman with stunning blue eyes and a food blog that is a stalker’s dream! She’s been blogging since 2008, and her index of recipes is quite extensive. At first I decided to make something sweet, and almost settled on her Blackberry Oat  Muffins.  But then, I flirted with Carrot Cake Pancakes and with Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.  Not sure what happened to my sweet tooth, but the outcome was nevertheless perfect:  a fantastic dish of juicy meatballs laying on top of toasted orzo. Life on Food means life is good!

LambMeatballs

LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO
(slightly modified from Life on Food)

1 quart chicken stock
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Milk, for soaking
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, plus 2 tsp zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup orzo
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oven to 400 degrees . In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over low heat; keep warm. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and egg. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread and crumble the bread into the meat. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, onion, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Drizzle with olive oil; mix. Roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and arrange on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a few ladles of the warm stock and allow it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding stock a little at a time and cook until the orzo is al dente.

Stir in the spinach to heat through in the last-minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and feta. Serve the orzo in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining 1/4 cup parsley.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: In the opening paragraph of her post on this recipe, Emily says… I plan my meals, snacks, grocery lists days in advance.  I don’t want to be unprepared. Currently I have only about 2 cups worth of flour. I want to make muffins that require 3 cups. I am stressed.  That gave me such a big smile, because I am exactly the same way. With the added quirk of often forgetting what I have hidden deep inside in the pantry, so I “think” I have only a cup of flour, but two unopened bags will be found when I bring yet another from the store. I never fail to amaze myself.

This was a great meal, my main change was to use a gluten-free bread which I had in the freezer begging to be used up. The bread was made with almond flour and some ground nuts, I thought it would go nicely with the lamb meatballs, and indeed it worked well.  The toasted orzo was super creamy, more like a risotto with all the starch of the pasta as part of the sauce.  It did not take that long to cook, we like our orzo very al dente. 

Emily, I hope you had a great time with your assignment!  And, as usual, I invite my readers to go poke a blue frog. Said frog will take you to a collection of goodies made by my fellow friends on The Secret Recipe Club for today’s reveal day…

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SPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED PORK TENDERLOIN

The pi day last week made me realize that for a blog that is almost 6 years old, I have very few pies to share. Not the type of stuff we make that often, and of course, it reflects on their limited presence in the site. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have pork tenderloin, by far one of the types of meat I make the most. This version is a little more dressed-up than usual, and perfect for a weekend dinner. The recipe comes from Fine Cooking magazine, and for those who care to know nutritional details, it is Paleo-friendly (if you omit the cream sauce) and low-carb. It is also elegant, and flavorful, which is what really matters 😉

StuffedPorkTenderloinSPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED PORK TENDERLOIN
(slightly modified from Fine Cooking)

5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3-1/2 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. baby spinach (5 lightly packed cups)
1 large pork tenderloin (about 1-1/4 lb.)
zest of one large lemon
2 tsp of lemon juice
1 large shallot, finely diced
3/4 cup low-salt canned chicken broth
2-1/2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. heavy cream

Set a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a heavy, ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until browned and tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, and cook, tossing well with tongs, until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a colander and set the skillet aside.

Butterfly the tenderloin by making a horizontal slice lengthwise through the meat almost all the way to the other side. Open the meat flat, like a book. Cover with plastic wrap, and using a meat mallet, a small, heavy skillet, or the heel of your hand, lightly pound the pork so that it’s 1/4 inch thick. Rub the pork all over with 1 Tbs. of the oil, the lemon juice, and sprinkle all over the zest of the lemon and about 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

Squeeze any excess liquid from the spinach and mushrooms. Spread over the pork, leaving bare a 2-inch border along one long edge. Starting with the long side that’s covered with filling, roll the stuffed tenderloin toward the bare-border side so that it forms a cylinder, and tie it with kitchen twine.

Wipe the skillet clean if necessary. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Sear the pork on all three non-seam sides until well browned, about 6 minutes total. Flip onto the seam side, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 140ºF, 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a clean cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat (be careful; the skillet’s handle will be hot). Add the shallots, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until the shallots soften and brown, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, sherry vinegar, and simmer briskly until the mixture reduces by a bit more than half, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the sauce.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: The only problem when cooking pork tenderloin is the delicate nature of this meat, and its tendency to dry during roasting because it has such low-fat content. By filling it with the sautéed mixture of veggies, you won’t run such risk.  I prepared the filling, rolled the meat, wrapped it in plastic and left it in the fridge for several hours, then finished it all up for our dinner on a Saturday evening, back in January.

You can serve it with any type of starchy side you’d like, pasta, rice, mashed root veggies, but in this particular dinner I went with a much lighter option, and enjoyed it with a side of grated carrots lightly seasoned with lemon juice & olive oil.  I like to keep it in the fridge for an hour or so, then add salt and pepper right before serving. It is amazing what a touch of lemon juice can do to grated carrots.  I first read about it on Leite’s Culinaria, after a tip from our friend Cindy. Try it sometime, nothing could be simpler, but you’ll find yourself making it again and again.

served11

 

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