Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mediterranean Shrimp ~ One Dish Dinner

After you've made this the first time, you'll return to it often without using the recipe. The combination of flavors, the ease of preparation and the fact that just this dish and a few pieces of crusty bread make your entire meal, ensure this will become a favorite.

Julian's Mediterranean Shrimp
After having a similar dish where the Italian and French Riviera meet, I came home to attempt it myself. A quick online search found that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, had a similar recipe and I've adapted that over time. Fennel is typical in the dish, which is a crunchy and slightly sweet vegetable popular in Mediterranean cuisine. It's available autumn through early spring and when I can't get it I substitute Savoy cabbage, which has similar flavor properties and texture. Today I'm making it with the Savoy cabbage but you should feel free to use either. (See fennel photo at bottom if you are unfamiliar with the vegetable.)

Shrimp Ready for Topping
I like to serve one of these large ramekins (shown above) with six larger shrimp (21-25 count) per person if it will be the only item at the meal, which it easily can. You could use jumbo shrimp if you prefer. This dish really contains plenty of vegetables and protein, and with the bread for dipping, it really is a complete meal in one. However, if you are having other appetizers or more of a tapas or summer appetizer dinner, you could make smaller serving dishes, or serve one of the above for each couple. Ina notes she serves it right in the skillet that it is prepared in, which would work well too.

Simple Ingredients
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small head Savoy cabbage or
    large fennel, about 3-4 cups chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato or vegetable paste
3 tablespoons olive tapenade (optional)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 raw, peeled, cleaned shrimp tails on
       (21-25 count per pound)

Chopping the Savoy Cabbage 
For the Topping:
3-4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (see note)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Pinch of salt and fresh grind of pepper
Fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

Crusty bread for dipping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pinch of salt, and sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil (2 tablespoons) and the fennel or Savoy cabbage and sauté for 10 minutes, until tender and reduced. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, stir in and bring to a low boil. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato/vegetable paste, olive tapenade (optional), oregano, seasoned salt, and pepper . Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 10. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary, being careful not to make the dish to salty (remember the topping has feta cheese which is also quite salty.)

Tomato - Cabbage Mixture Ready to Transfer
Transfer the mixture to oven-safe ramekins. Arrange the shrimp, tails up as shown in the above photo, over the tomato mixture. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, bread crumbs, minced parsley, salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the shrimp.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot from the oven, with crusty bread cut into pieces suitable for scooping up the tomato mixture.


My Shrimp Selection


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fresh Apricot and Cherry Marzipan Tart

With apricots and cherries soon to be in season, I wanted to share this dessert which is perfect all summer long. Not too rich or heavy, yet ripe with the flavors of summer, your guests will find that it is the perfect combination of both tart and sweet.

Julian's Apricot Cherry Tart Ready for Marzipan Topping
So many desserts are just simply sweet, and very sweet. This one provides that great combination which isn't easy to find in desserts. I'm guessing you'll make it over and over again. This is a recipe I got from David Lebovitz, the New Yorker who moved to Paris to cook, eat and write. If you don't follow him, check out the blog and I think you'll be a convert.

Julian's Apricot and Cherry Marzipan Tart
He uses the term “marzipan” because pastries and candies made with almond paste use this term. You may recall that last summer I was in Toledo, Spain where Marzipan was reportedly invented by nuns with both a surplus of eggs and almonds. I brought back several boxes of the delicious confection and can attest to it's wonderful flavor and texture, which is represented nicely in this recipe.

The famous "Mazapan" of Toledo, Spain
This recipe uses almond paste in the topping, which I  list as option in my standard streusel topping for pies and muffins. You'll find almond paste in cans in your baking isle or sometimes in tubes. If your almond paste isn't particularly fragrant, add a few drops of pure almond extract.

You can substitute berries for the cherries if you prefer, or you can simply make an all apricot tart. Remember however that apricots are more tart when cooked, so if not using sweet cherries or berries, increase the sugar by a tablespoon or two. I give David's recipe for the streusel topping, although you can use your own, or my standard recipe which I've posted many times on this blog. If you do not use the below recipe, consider adding the almond paste to your standard streusel recipe.

Ingredients (makes one 9-inch tart), eight servings

For the fruit:
12 ripe apricots
15 cherries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar

One 9-inch pre-baked French tart shell
(See last week's posting for the recipe)

For the marzipan topping:
1/2 cup flour, plus a little more as needed
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup almond paste
1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)
1-2 drops pure almond extract
4 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Pit and halve the apricots and slice them into 1/2-inch slices. Stem and pit the cherries, and halve them. Toss the apricots and cherries in a bowl with the cornstarch and granulated sugar, and spread the fruit into the baked tart shell.

Make the topping by mixing the flour, brown sugar, almond paste, sliced almonds, almond extract, and butter with a pastry knife, until the pieces of almond paste and butter are the size of kernels of corn. If after using the 1/2 cup flour you fin the topping is to wet and sticky, add a little more flour as needed, 1-3 tablespoons. This seems to be dependent on the moisture content of the almond paste.

Sprinkle the marzipan topping over the fruit and bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before serving.

Julian's Cut Fruit Tart
The tart can be served as is, warm or at room temperature. We prefer it with ice cream. The tart will keep for up to three days at room temperature however the crisp topping will soften considerably by the second day, which is fine for leftovers, but it ideally should be served the day it is made.

Delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

French Pastry Tart Shells ~ Pate Brisee

Making pastry dough, what the French call 'pate brisee' is a necessity for a lovely summer fruit tart, but getting the dough just right in a warm summer kitchen is tricky.

Julian's French Pastry Dough
They say the secret is working very quick and very cold, and includes steps to chill your hands under cold water as you are working the mixture. It's for this reason I rarely make a classic tart shell, opting instead for a Graham cracker crust. So when food blogger David Lebovitz presented Paule Caillat's hot oven technique, I jumped at the chance to try it. Paule gives cooking classes to Americans in France, so if you are thinking of Europe this summer, consider a class with Promenades Gourmandes. If this recipe is any indication, you won't be sorry. It's now the only way I make a pastry tart crust.

As you can see from the photo, this recipe has nothing to do with cold and all to do with hot. It requires you put a dish of butter in a hot oven and then work with the hot dough. I wear my oven gloves when working on this recipe. I use the pictured Pyrex measuring cup in the oven, and because of the handle you will be tempted to pick it up. Be very careful as it will stay hot for over an hour and you will be inclined to grab it with your bare hands, as I have done.

This dough is simple and comes out light and flaky every time. I weigh the ingredients as indicated for precision in most baking is required for a perfect result. This works great for any fruit tart including those with pastry cream on the bottom and fresh uncooked glazed fruit on the top. I've also used it for a chocolate ganache, which came out well.

Ingredients (makes one 9" tart shell)
3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5oz (or 1 slightly-rounded cup) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F.

In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges. When done, remove the bowl from oven and pour in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Take care in that the butter can sputter and splash when the flour is added.)

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with your hand and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.

Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them. Pinch off a small amount of the reserved dough, roll it gently between your fingers to soften it, then wedge it into the cracks, smoothing it gently with your finger.

Let the shell cool before filling.

Julian's French Pastry Tart Crust

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Pasta Salad with Shrimp

This is a great summer salad; cool, refreshing and not too heavy so I'm publishing it now so you can use it all summer long. Make it 24 hours in advance so it has time to absorb the sauce. It's easy to make as it uses a bottled salad dressing, and you purchase the seafood already cleaned and cooked. So nothing could make an easier summer luncheon dish on your patio.

Pasta Salad with Langostinos

1 16 ounce box, medium shells or other pasta
14 ounces (usually 2 jars) marinated artichoke hearts
1 (8-12 ounce) bottle Caesar salad dressing
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
2 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1 pound cooked small shrimp or langostino, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well.

In a large bowl, stir together pasta and all ingredients except the seafood. Reserve some of the Caesar dressing if it seems too wet. Cover and refrigerate over night.

Just prior to serving, taste and correct seasoning. If the pasta seems to dry add the remaining Caesar dressing. Gently stir in the seafood and the fresh parsley. Serve chilled.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Altanta Briskett

This was my first time preparing a fresh beef brisket, usually deferring to it's corned beef brisket cousin made each March. This version is a barbecued beef brisket, with a local twist which I discuss below.

Julian's Atlanta Brisket
Like corned beef brisket, this is a flat cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef. These muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing cattle, resulting in a meat that must be cooked correctly to tenderize it. You might be inferring that the process of 'corning' or preserving the beef makes it more tender, but if you are you would be wrong. You have likely forgotten that my corned beef recipe requires a long, slow boil before the roasting process, which is what tenderizes the meat. So today we'll be doing the same long, slow cooking for the fresh (not preserved) beef brisket but instead of boil, we'll be mostly following the Cooks Country recipe which provides for a long slow roast after pan browning, classically known as a braise.

The beef brisket and ingredients. A simple list.
This recipe comes to me from my friend Phil, who tried it out instead of corned beef and pronounced it a winner. He's made it several times since and says it's "Phil Proof" and by that I guess he means it comes out right every time so long as you follow the directions.

Classic Atlanta brisket is a braised dish from the home of Coco-Cola featuring boxed onion soup mix, ketchup, and of course Coca-Cola. In this Cooks Country rendition, they've replaced the artificial-tasting soup mix with sauteed onions, onion and garlic powder, brown sugar, and dried thyme to improve flavor.

You can use the 9 x 12" baking dish the recipe suggests sealing with it foil, but then do ensure you use the parchment paper which provides a nonreactive barrier between the cola-based braising liquid and the aluminum foil. Alternatively you can use a large roasting pan with a lid or a Dutch oven, or even a slow cooker (Crockpot). The determining factor is can you fit the large rectangular brisket into the dish without disfiguring the shape. If so, by all means use the vessel.

Ingredients (Serves 6)
1 (3 1/2-pound) beef brisket, flat cut, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
Salt and pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound onions, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups Coca-Cola
1 1/2 cups ketchup
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1  teaspoon garlic powder
1  teaspoon dried thyme

1. Using fork, poke holes all over brisket. Rub entire surface of brisket with 1 tablespoon salt. Wrap brisket in plastic wrap and refrigerate  for at least 6 or up to 24 hours.

Keeping the brisket flat during browning.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat brisket dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place brisket fat side down in skillet; weigh down brisket with heavy Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. Remove Dutch oven, flip brisket, and replace Dutch oven on top of brisket; cook on second side until well browned, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer brisket to plate.

Saute the onions in the drippings. 
3. Heat remaining  2 teaspoons oil in now-empty  skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until  soft and golden  brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer  onions  to 13 by 9-inch  baking dish and spread into even layer.

Covered in sauce with parchment paper on top. Ready for foil.
4. Combine  cola, ketchup, onion powder, sugar, garlic  powder, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper  in bowl. Place brisket fat side up on top of onions  and pour cola mixture over brisket. Place parchment paper over brisket and cover dish tightly with  aluminum foil.

5. Bake until fork tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check at the 3 hour mark and add a cup of water to the sauce if it is becoming too dry.  Let brisket rest in liquid, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

6. Transfer  brisket to carving board. Skim any fat from top of sauce with  large spoon. Slice brisket against  grain  into 1/4-inch thick slices and return to baking  dish. I prefer to use an electric knife for this to get a good clean cut. Serve brisket with  some extra sauce.

TO MAKE AHEAD: Follow recipe  through step 5. Allow brisket to cool in sauce, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.  To serve, slice brisket, return to sauce, and cover  with parchment paper.  Cover baking  dish with aluminum foil and cook in 350-degree oven until  heated through, about 1 hour.