Tag Archive: artichoke


Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚

9.4.13

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Pre-Spring Revelry: Crab + Pasta

I know, two seafood posts in a row-I must be living closer to the ocean, right? Yes. Turns out this yummy genre of salty creatures are a pretty easy way to add protein to any meal I end up making. I’ve found all sorts of seafood treats dwell in the pasta_eaterfrozen section too, de-finned, de-veined, de-shelled, ready to cook and eat. And unlike some other meat, anything from shrimp to fish steaks cook through in maybe 3 or 4 minutes. And the (other) good thing about buying frozen seafood? Other than the cheaper part πŸ™‚ Food-borne illness and other nastiness like parasites can’t survive frost. So you can be assured it will not make you sick, which is nice to skip worrying about entirely. The main plus for me, being so proximately close to the source of all this seaness now, is the quality which is much improved…maybe everything is just better in KΓΈbenhavn πŸ˜€

I first came across this recipe way back when I still had my Tyler’s Ultimate cookbook. My initial impression after tasting (back when I didn’t like seafood all that much) was so wonderful that I remembered where I’d seen this recipe and looked it back up for this occasion. It’s always nice to make dishes you already know will taste amazing. Using frozen crab meat makes preparation super easy. I bought frozen leg/arms meat, already shelled so all you have to do is defrost and cook in some bubbling sauce (or wine:)) for three minutes or so before tossing with pasta. If you’re averse to using fresh Mint, I encourage you to make an exception with this dish, the herb compliments the crab so wonderfully you barely notice it’s “mintiness.” I managed to see some reviews of this recipe in my quest to find it online and I have to say, there were some serious crab-pasta haters 😦 Honestly, instead of blaming the recipe, blame the cook! Or at least the method of preparation crabs_meatthat made the food so unsuitable to your taste πŸ˜›

The star ingredient in this dish? Yes, it would have to be the crab, because it just ups the ante a bit on the recipe as a whole. And crab meat is subtly tasty. I love how red the flesh turns when it’s cooked πŸ™‚ All I can say is, it will not be another 6 months before I have crab again! And these are always such imposing little critters when you see them scuttling across the beach! I try not to think of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid as I visualize the rosy crustaceans simmering in a garlicky broth πŸ™‚ So many possibilities with crab too! Like: crab tacos, maybe? Crab lasagna πŸ™‚ or crab on toast, brilliant!

Fresh Mint & Peppered Pasta with Buttered Artichokes, Parmesan, and Crab

Ingredients

(for pasta)Artichoke_Botanicals

1 package fettuccine or linguine

water

sea salt

(for sauce)

8 oz frozen crab meat, defrosted & de-shelled

1 block of Parmesan (or other aged cheese), grated

1 bunch of fresh mint, minced

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup dry white wine

cracked black pepper

5 Tbs. butter

1/4 cup olive oil

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. While the pasta water readies, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. (2) Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the mixture thicken, about 5 minutes. (3) Add butter, white wine, and crab meat. Bring the heat to medium and simmer, covered until the crab meat is cooked, 3-4 minutes. (4) Lower the heat to low. Add artichoke, fresh mint, and 1/3 of the grated cheese, stirring until just combined. (5) Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt & pepper. crab_posterServe hot garnished with extra grated cheese, fresh mint sprigs , & cracked pepper if desired.

Serves 4

Mmm…briny, savory, herby richness (is there enough adverbs there? ;)) doesn’t seem to get old. What to make next? Watch out salty crustaceans, I’m just beginning…

My question: what is your favorite pasta dish involving seafood?

I’m wondering what the consensus is…

3.25.13

Killer Vodka Sauce }:)

Ahh, where has all my time gone? Once it was Fall and then that was gone, then it was the holidays and that was over before I knew it…now we’re in 2013 and I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?! It has been FAR too long since my last poster_pastapost but I can’t recall when I’ve been busier. For any fellow culinarians who actually reads this blog from time to time, I apologize for my absence, but I have been cooking in the meantime!

I’ve (somehow) managed to finish off this semester on the 10th of January and now I am preparing for a big move with my little family to Copenhagen! Yes, things are looking up, moving forward, and at a pace that is almost too fast for me to keep up but hey, I’ll keep trying πŸ™‚

In anticipation of moving to a new city, I have taken up the task of liquidating my pantry, which is just as complicated as it sounds πŸ˜‰ ah…the things you find in the freezer! In addition to making meals out of few (and fewer) ingredients, I have discovered that if you’re ever lacking in flavor, there are 2 things that will make up for it, no matter what: alcohol and cheese. Does it matter what alcohol, or what cheese? No, because as soon as you add it to any meal it suddenly goes up a notch in quality, taste, and appeal – but that may just be me πŸ˜›

I’m also on a whole-wheat kick I guess you could say, because it makes me feel a bit better about all the pasta I’m eating. Sure, it doesn’t taste the same but there’s (often empty) carbohydrate calories and then there’s whole grain carbohydrate calories!! Seriously do yourself a favor, if you don’t like whole-wheat stuff, get over it. I get it with bread because there’s a serious taste difference there but you’d be amazed what other whole wheat products you can substitute for your normal carbohdrate needs–tortillas, crackers, pasta, cereal, flour, rice–we were meant to be eating this stuff!vodka-shot

So, the star ingredient in this recipe, any guesses? Yes, it’s the vodka. And what better way to use hard liquor you have no desire of drinking yourself? I think in general, vodka sauce has been underrated and under-appreciated for quite some time. Now I love tomatoes, no doubt, but sometimes tomato sauce just needs a little something, something more than basil or cream πŸ˜€ If I were ever to make/write/publish a cookbook, some version of vodka sauce would be included because it’s just that awesome.

This recipe is as simple as it gets: pasta, tomato, onion, milk, butter, vodka – tadaa! Dinner is served. I looked the vodka sauce up online under the search criteria “easy vodka sauce” because I simply don’t have the time to mess around with different styles between packing boxes and making sure my baby doesn’t eat any more cardboard or masking tape.. I also ended up embellishing the pasta dish itself with some of my favorite veggies because we all need protein! So yes, vegetarian Italian cuisine begets me this week and what a splendid surprise it was to make and to taste. I will definitely cook this again, probably with more vodka next time πŸ˜‰

Whole-Wheat Chickpea & Artichoke Pasta with Homemade Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)pasta_wholewheat

whole-wheat fusilli (or any other curly pasta)

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

3-4 green onions, minced

(for the sauce)

1 can chopped/diced tomatoes (in juice)

1 onion, chopped

3 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 cup milk (or cream)

salt & cracked peppersauce_vodka

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) While waiting on the water, begin the sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter & onion. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened, about 4-5 minutes. (3) Add the tomatoes, sugar, and vodka. Lower the heat slightly and simmer everything until the sauce has thickened and been slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When the pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. (5) When the vodka sauce has thickened somewhat, add the milk and lower the heat so the sauce is no longer boiling. Let cook another 5 minutes or so until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. (6) Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add chickpeas, minced green onions, and artichoke hearts, mixing until combined. (7) When ready to eat, pour all of the vodka sauce over the pasta. Stir. Add Parmesan, reserving some for serving. Can be garnished with fresh parsley or more cracked pepper, if desired.

Serves 4copenhagen_poster

Eating warm Italian food almost makes me forget how cooold it is outside πŸ˜€

My next task, and most likely my next post, will be even more “economical” as I’ll be working with an even smaller budget and limited ingredients. Luckily I see this as a challenge so wish me luck!

Let’s see how fast I can become sick of canned tomatoes πŸ˜‰

My question: what is the yummiest sauce on pasta, in your opinion?

It can be hot or cold, and pesto totally counts..

1.20.2013

Dipping Madness }:-)

Lately, (in the wake of all this on-campus studying) I’ve been trying to think of a good type of snack food to bring along with me to school–something super low-maintenance that doesn’t need to be heated up (since microwaves are so few and far between) and has the potential to be both healthy and inexpensive. The answer? Dip.

I think the culinary concept of the “dip” gets a bad rap these days, often being portrayed as unhealthy or deceptively fattening but when looking at some of the classic dip recipes out there, I can see why. I’ve been flipping through some Taste of Home recipes for appetizers, which included a plethora of dips but very few that actually appealed to me. I suppose it’d be better if I got down to the basis of my complaints with these recipes: Okay first of all, there is never, ever any need to put mayonnaise in dip; just thinking about it gets me feeling gross; seriously, it’s mayonnaise, leave that goopy stuff to the sandwiches. If you’re looking for healthy (yet tasty) things to substitute, I got plenty of better recommendations like lite sour cream, cottage cheese, creme fraiche, and my favorite–Greek yogurt; now that kind of protein is actually good for you, so why not make a dip using yogurt as the base? That’s what I did and it’s cheap, nutritious, and delicious πŸ™‚

Second of all, many of the dip recipes I looked at called for seasoning packets. Well, seasoning packets are boring and far too uncreative if I may say so myself πŸ˜‰ Being in Denmark, I can’t make a lot of the dips in these recipes because they call for ‘Italian seasoning’ packets or ‘ranch dressing’ packets. Yeah, they’ll be no ranch seasonings over here. But why do we need seasoning packets anyway? Because it’s easy, too easy if you ask me (ha). But seasoning packets contain way too much salt anyway (ridiculous amounts, actually) and it’s better to get the hang of making your own spice or seasoning mixes–that way you can come up with unique, flavorful combinations yourself–all the while making use of the spice pantry.

And third (finally, right?), why are dips always served with carbohydrates? Chips, tortillas, bread–as if poor humans didn’t already have to feel bad about eating some of the lusciously fattening dips out there. The best ‘dippers’ are the obvious ones: vegetables! And there are so many to choose from–carrots, snow peas, celery, broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, bell peppers, jicama, endive, sugar snap peas, radishes–the list goes on and on πŸ™‚ Vegetables don’t have any of the fat or carbs that bread and chips do and in some instances they’re cheaper too (but always healthier so that’s good). I don’t see why a few whole-grain crackers now and then aren’t a good idea either. Ahhh, so now that I’ve listed my complaints with the dip concept I can get on to good stuff, namely the concoction I came up with }:-]

I made my dip mainly with Greek yogurt (1%) and added substance with a can of mashed beans (whatever is cheapest) and another can of artichoke hearts I chopped finely. The spice mix I used to season the dip with was New Orleans style, a blend that would normally be used in roasted chicken dishes (what can I say? I wanted to taste it!) I’ve delineated the exact measurements of the spices below to make this practical. If I had my spice cupboard with me, I’d have been even more creative but I am still quite satisfied with the result. As for dippers, I went for cheap and cheerful: carrots (they are exceptionally good in Denmark) and steamed broccoli for my veggies with a handful of crackers. The crackers I actually baked this week with a friend and, thanks to her marvelous expertise, they were surprisingly easy to make and included much healthier ingredients than those found in the crackers you’d buy at the supermarket. Our batch included rough oats, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; how’s that for fiber? They are flippin’ delicious too πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the garlic powder just because it packs so much flavor. Guaranteed this dip would not be so tasty without it. Not only is garlic powder incredibly flavorful, it packs its own health benefits too (like lowering cholesterol, the exact opposite of what using mayonnaise would do to this dip). Anyway, if you ever find yourself wanting more flavor–use garlic powder–it’s savory, salty, and best of all, garlicky!

Spicy Yogurt Dip with Artichoke Hearts, Green Onions, and Kidney Beans

Ingredients

(for the dipπŸ™‚

1 large tub 1% Greek Yogurt

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 can red kidney beans, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup milk

(for the seasoningπŸ™‚

3 Tbs. paprika

2 Tbs. chili powder

2 tsp. Cayenne pepper

3 Tbs. garlic powder

2 Tbs. onion powder

3 Tbs. black pepper

2 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. dried Thyme

2 Tbs. dried Oregano

2 Tbs. dried Basil

1 tsp. Nutmeg

(for the dippersπŸ™‚

1 head of broccoli

1 lb. carrots

1 bundle of crackers

(1) Wash the head of broccoli and cut florets into bite size pieces; peel the stem and coarsely chop. Steam the florets and stem pieces for 4-6 minutes until tender enough to be pierced easily with a fork (this is done by placing all the broccoli pieces in a metal/plastic strainer which is then put in a pot with 2 inches of boiling salted water at the bottom; use the pot lid to cover the veggies until they are cooked). When steamed, rinse the broccoli thoroughly with cold water and set aside. (2) In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt with all the spices (paprika through nutmeg) and stir well. (3) Put the kidney beans, green onions, broccoli stem pieces, and artichoke hearts into a blender, pulsing until smooth. (4) Add the blended mixture to the dip using a spatula. Next stir in the milk and olive oil, mixing everything together very well. (5) For the dippers, line a large plastic container with paper towels. Wash and peel the carrots, then halve them. Put the steamed broccoli florets and carrot pieces in the plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. (6) Let the dip chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes. Serve with veggies and/or crackers, garnishing the dip with a sprig of oregano or dash of pepper if desired.

Serves 6

I am happy to have this cooled treat to munch on in my many hours spent sitting in the library. It was a little bit of work prepping all the veggies, but absolutely worth it…now at least I don’t have to listen to the grumblings of my stomach all day. I think the dip’s so good I almost don’t need the dippers, would eat this stuff with a spoon }:-)

My question: what are your favorite vegetables to use as dippers in appetizer recipes?

I feel like I may be missing some awesome ones…

09.21.11