Kept Handy

Friday, February 4, 2011

Shrimp, Peas and Mushrooms

Shrimp, peas and mushrooms are the tri-fecta of ingredients for my boyfriend. Not necessarily his three favorite ingredients...but three of his favorites.

Like most of my meals, it's borne out of wanting to serve him something he'd enjoy...and also something that would be easy to prepare (generally speaking, this means ingredients that I already have in the kitchen and don't need to run out and buy at the supermarket).

Get started...

1) Prepare the rice.

I like to serve this meal over rice so, since the meal itself is very easy to cook, the first thing to do is start the rice. I prefer brown or long-grain rice. You'll choose whichever you prefer although the brown/long-grain rices have a "nuttier" flavor and crunchier texture that go well with this dish.

The Shrimp...

1) I prefer pre-cleaned shrimp and anyone who eats shrimp knows what I mean. I'm not interested in mucking about and de-veining these fellas. While fresh shrimp are delicious, I buy them cleaned and sometimes even pre-cooked so that all I have to do is rinse them, toss them in the skillet (or wherever) and let them heat up and soak up whatever flavors I've paired them with.

The Veggies...

1) Clean 'em, slice the mushrooms and you can trim off the stringy ends of the peas if you want.

Place the shrimp and the vegetables into a skillet. I use a dash of lemon pepper can use straight olive oil (or whichever oil you prefer to cook with). This won't take long -- 5 minutes tops -- so make sure you're close to done with regards to cooking the rice.

Constantly move the food around in the skillet so that nothing soaks up too much oil and that everything is evenly coated. As the food cooks, the colors become more vibrant. This is how you'll know the food is almost prepared. Once the colors stand out, let the food heat up a bit more...add about a teaspoon of freshly chopped parsley (or a dash or two of dried parsley). Keep tossing the food around in the skillet, just don't scorch it.

Turn the rice out onto a serving plate and dish the shrimp & vegetables over the rice.

Add a slice of lemon to the plate for added flavor and an extra pop of color. Dig in!

This is another favorite of my guy's...but also one of the frustrating meals I had been serving him. The vegetables would change depending on what was in my kitchen at the time but this is the combination of ingredients he likes the best...and so do I.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nutty Banana Muffins

It's been a tough winter. Plenty of snow...plenty of days spent indoors (when I'm not outside shoveling)...and plenty of time to think about "days gone by."

My friends and I spent plenty of weekends at brunch in the city. Who hasn't? It's a great way to relax and share some laughs and just enjoy life. One of our favorite places was Good Enough to Eat. The food was fresh...the atmosphere was fun...and even in the winter, it felt sunny there.

So, naturally, I bought their cookbook and everything lives up to their name. Last week, after another 6 inches of snow and the threat of more, I was in the need of some "sun" and this recipe did the trick.

Fortunately, my boyfriend had some leftover bananas that he wasn't going to eat because they'd become tooooo ripe. Perfect! I took them home to make these tasty muffins. Simple, right? Not quite. Many banana muffin recipes require bran, which -- sorry -- I just don't have on hand. But the "Good Enough to Eat" recipe doesn't. What's goes one step further on my list of favorites because it includes maple syrup. Now that's sunshine in a muffin cup.

Here's what you'll need:
6 tbs butter -- melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ripe medium size bananas
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking poder
1/2 cup walnuts -- chopped

1) Combine all liquid ingredients in a bowl
2) Mash bananas in a separate bowl and add to liquid ingredients
3) Combine all dry ingredients well in another bowl...add the walnuts
4) Pour liquid contents into dry. Fold until just combined
5) Fill muffin cups (using a non-stick pan or else use paper liners)
6) Sprinkle top of muffins w/additional nuts (or chocolate chips)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes*

Yes...there's an asterisk there. Unfortunately, my oven seems to be running hot. I let these cook for 12 and they were DONE. OK...maybe even a little dry but that's the beauty of this recipe. They still tasted great. You'll see.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Picking the Perfect Peach

I wait all year for peach season. Donut peaches, golden or white peaches...there's nothing sweeter or more "summery" than a good peach (although farm fresh corn on the cob or a garden tomato rank pretty high on the list as well). However, my search for a truly tasty peach is often met with frustration...which may now be completely solved. Read on...
It's been a while since I've been able to write and it seems only fitting that I would return with a peach of an entry. (see...bad puns...a sure sign that I've been away too long)

My day began with a surprise discovery of fresh peaches, tomatoes & peppers left at my door by a neighbor and friend of mine. Sweet. Suffice to say, it's been a rough summer but this is a delightful way to end it. I brought in the bundle of goodies and, as usual, did my mental battle with how/where to store the peaches and a slight pause as to why it's so difficult to find good peaches even in the heart of peach season.

Call it what you will, but on the way home from work, this story ran on WNYC and I knew it was time to get back to work. So, enjoy the link. Go out and get some peaches while you can. I've got some fresh ideas for peach recipes I'll be testing out on everyone. In the meantime, happy Labor Day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sweet for my...

Cooking for yourself is one thing. Cooking for someone you love (aside from yourself) is something entirely different. Every ingredient is chosen just for him or her. In fact, the entire dish should be a reflection of that person's favorite flavors.

That's what this dish is about. My sweetheart loves sweet potatoes...and correctly points out that this is one of nature's most nutritious foods. Now, while this dish still has plenty of "sweet potato value" also has plenty of other yummy ingredients that I know he loves as well. So, tonight, after our long day in the Catskills and the bumper-to-bumper traffic we endured all the way home, I thought I'd surprise him with this tasty dish from a cookbook that came with my cookware.

It's easy to pull together, uses basic ingredients you probably have on hand, and cooks quickly.

Sweet Potato Pecan Crumbles

What you need:
2 1/4lbs sweet potatoes
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spices
1/2 stick sweet butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
2 oz pecans
1/4 cup maple syrup

What you do:
Preheat over to 350 degrees
Lightly butter 4 mini cocottes (or a 9" pie dish)
In medium sized bowl, combine sugar, spice and flour. With finger tips, swiftly work the cold butter into the dry ingredients. It should look like corn meal. (Work quickly...if ingredients become too warm, put the bowl into the refrigerator for 15 minutes until all is very well chilled and begin again.)

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them diagonally into 1/4 inch slices. Divide these between the 4 mini cocottes, sprinkle each container w/half of the "crumble," add the balance of the sweet potatoes, finish with the remaining "crumble." Then, top with pecans and drizzle with maple syrup.

Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. I also like to place these onto a cookie sheet before setting into the oven...just to be safe. Bake for 45 minutes. Goes great w/chicken, roast and...of course...turkey.

It's a joy to cook for my sweetheart. He seems to enjoy whatever I serve. His biggest complaint isn't about my cooking, just that there isn't enough food -- now that's the way to a chef's heart!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Summer of Peaches

Every year when the peaches first come out, I am reminded of a special summer that started simply and became one of my fondest memories.

I was living at home still and neighbors who lived down the street had a peach tree in their backyard (which happened to be adjacent to ours). That year, the tree produced an abundance of peaches. So many, that our neighbor invited us to take as many peaches as we wanted because they would otherwise go to waste.

My mother knew how much I loved peaches so she went down to the yard one morning, picked a few from the tree, brought them home and sliced them up. Placing the slices in a bowl, she then poured a splash of milk over them and called me for breakfast.

It was heaven. Fresh, light, juicy and that sweet fragrance that is -- for me -- the scent of summer.

To my delight, my mother repeated this ritual every morning that summer. She never needed to ask if I wanted them...she just quietly did it. In a family of six, this kind of attention was rare, making this breakfast that much sweeter.

Today, just the sight of peaches at a Farmers Market...or word from Produce Pete that peaches are in season...reminds me of those wonderful 2 lazy summer months when a bowl of the freshest, sweetest fruit was lovingly prepared for me by my mother. No meal will ever top it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dinner Conversation -- #1

"Dinner Conversations" are weekly posts about food, food preparation, the history of food or random thoughts about food or food trends... Wow. Could be dull. Hope there's more spice to this than the description lets on.

There I mentioned at the start of this blog...a competitiveness that's sweeping kitchens. I believe it's fueled by a number of things, including the competition shows on television. They can be fun to watch (to a point) but I don't consider this to be the nurturing spirit that "cooking for others" is all about. For me, cooking is about preparing food for someone else, creating something for that person to truly enjoy, not about preparing something to show off. I don't think cooking is as much about the "cook" as it is about the "cook-ee"...

I was thinking about this when I heard this program and thought I'd share it. Maybe this feels like "
community building" to some, but to me it just seems unnecessarily stressful...even, dare I say it, OK...selfish. Pick a chef (or two) and call it a day. Doesn't anyone remember the ol' adage, "too many chefs..."?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tomato Season!

This is one of my favorite times of the year...fresh tomato season! Not those mealy, sickly, mushy things you pay extra for when you order a deluxe hamburger. They should be ashamed! The tomatoes I'm talking about are fresh, sweet, juicy, red, get where I'm going with this.

Eat them for breakfast, sliced and arranged on a piece of Italian bread that's lightly toasted. Add some cream cheese and some sliced radishes with cracked pepper and you have a meal. Pour a cup of hot coffee and go sit on the porch before the neighbors start mowing their lawns.