BBQ Shrimp N’Awlins Style!

Hey everyone, hope you are enjoying some of the beautiful weather that we are having in New England after the miserable, cold wet winter we had this year! It is actually raining out now as I write this, but the last two days were a Godsend, to say the least. Last weekend, Eric and I made a dish that we enjoyed when we went to New Orleans in 2004. We were there the year before Katrina let loose her fury on the beautiful city the following year. What an awful thing, and as far as I understand it, the city is still impacted by that horrible storm. Such a shame, and it happened to the nicest people you would ever want to meet. So, that being said, make some plans to go on down – the city could use your commerce and you will not be able to find a crappy meal anywhere.

This dish is crazy easy, but fattening, so we only make it 2 times a year. We first had it in a little place called “Deanie’s” Eric had found the restaurant in the guide book and wanted to try it. We obviously didn’t know what we were getting into, but I guess the giant frosted glass of beer should have been our first clue. We ordered barbeque shrimp as an appetizer and then a giant fried food extravaganza – oysters, clams, soft shell crab, catfish, French fries…lovely, but I needed to be wheeled out of there in a wheelbarrow to get back to the room and have a nap. The Barbecue Shrimp was extraordinary!!! We liked them so much we went back again and ordered a larger order only for one of our last lunches there. I am not sure if the restaurant is still there, but if you go – and if it is – I would encourage you to try it out.

Unfortunately, we can’t get shrimp with the heads on like they serve them there, so we use regular old uncooked shrimp – unpeeled. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT PEEL THE SHELLS OFF BEFORE YOU COOK THEM….they are essential for flavor in the dish….

That being said, here we go…..Finished dish below….
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BBQ Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
sprigs of thyme, rosemary and oregano, fresh, tried together in a little bundle
2 bay leaves
cayenne pepper (start with 1/8 of a teaspoon and add more to your liking)
salt and pepper to taste
Paprika (1 teas. or more to taste – if you have smoked, even better)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup of chicken stock, or beer or clam juice – whatever one you like best – I usually just use chicken stock
1 loaf of crusty French bread for sopping up the juice.

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You definitely need a black cast iron pot or a large heavy frying pan for this one. You will serve it directly to the table in that pot.

Slowly melt butter in pan, add olive oil, herbs, bay leaves, garlic and onion and cook slowly until everything smells good. Add cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper. Then add shrimp, and add stock – between 1/2 c to a cup depending on how you like it.

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Cook until the shrimp just turn pink. That’s it. Honest.

Bring it to the table with a nice crusty French bread. When you eat these – and this is very important – put the whole shelled shrimp in your mouth and suck the juice out of it before you peel it. YUM. I served mine with some pan fried sugar snap peas with shallot and butter.

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Bring on the napkins, and an extra bowl for shells and enjoy!!! Talk to you all soon!!!!

Stuffed Full of Stuffies……

Ok, for some strange reason, I found myself feeling somewhat nostalgic over the weekend. Maybe it was all the snow we had on Saturday night which reminded me of the great blizzard of ’78. Who knows? On Sunday, I found myself at my favorite fish market in Westerly to pick up some shrimp for the jambalya I was making that evening and saw, much to my amazement, some huge quahogs. They looked just like the ones that my parents used to dig up from Narragansett Bay when I was a child. I suddenly got a hankerin’ for stuffies.

To the uninitiated, a “stuffie” is a stuffed clam in these parts. My mom had a really good recipe for them, which I unfortunately never got from her, so I was on my own to try to figure out a new version. I’ve had them several different ways, from the really dry and rubbery to the positively delicious, but none of ever held a candle to my mom’s. Although what I dreamed up, I must say, came out really good so she must have been on my shoulder guiding my every step. Both Eric and our friend, Ed, liked them.

Since RI is home to many people of Portuguese descent, oftentimes you will find chourico or linguica in the stuffing which is really great. The fondness of the Portuguese for pork and clams is pretty well known, I first had this dish in a restaurant in Montreal. The flavor of pork marries perfectly with the clams and whoever came up with that combination had to be truly inspired. As I am French Canadian (mostly) I decided to give a nod to my south Louisiana brethren, the Cajuns, and I used Andouille sausage instead. Gaspar’s is a Fall River, MA company that makes chourico and linguica, and they make a really good Andouille which you can usually find at your local Stop & Shop. Give it a try, it is really good. Here is the end result:018

So if you are interested here is the recipe………

Griswold’s Stuffies

You will need:

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2 Extra Large quahogs

1 Pint of chopped clams

4 Slices of Italian bread, toasted – I used Calise’s sliced round

1 Rib of Celery, chopped finely

1 Small Red Bell Pepper, chopped finely

1/2 Medium Onion, chopped finely

3 Cloves of Garlic – use a press

1 Link of Andouille Sausage, chopped finely

2 Tblsp. Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

Juice of 1/2 of Lemon

1/2-1/3 Cup of White Wine

3 Tblsp. Butter

Olive oil

Saute veggies and sausage in olive oil with cracked black pepper and salt ( don’t use too much if your clams are salty, taste the brine first and you will know) until soft.

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Next add chopped clams, wine, lemon and butter to pan. Keep on low heat until the butter melts. Take off the heat.010

Toast bread, crumble into semi small pieces.006 Add to cooled mixture and toss until liquid is absorbed. Add some olive oil until it is sufficiently moist. Or you can add some of the clam juice if it is not too salty.

Meanwhile, scrub clams and place on a broiler sheet and broil at 450 degrees, when they start to open, pull them out, let them cool and then open them. This can be difficult because they are old and strong, slide a sharp knife inside and cut all around the meat and tendons. If this meat is not too tough, chop it up and add it to the stuffing.

012   Scrub shells thoroughly, scraping off and cutting the membrane.

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and…..014 Aren’t they pretty? Native Americans used them for currency – Wampum.

Taste the stuffing, if it needs salt, add it now. The clams and sausage are usually salty enough. Stuff shells generously and sprinkle with a good dose of paprika. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Let them cool slightly and eat with a good dose of your favorite hot sauce – I like Siracha!

Yum!016On a side note – You might want to use some aluminum foil wadded up underneath them, to make them sit evenly on the pan. I didn’t do this and some of the stuffing slid out of the shell. Hope you try this, it really is worth the extra work!

Until next time…………

Popeye the Sailor man…..

Winter, not my favorite season, but at least with it so cold and snowy out I have an excuse to be slobbing around my house in sweatpants and eating my favorite things(Ha, Ha, like I need an excuse to do that!). Anyway, decided that I would make one of my old standbys, Spinach and Broccoli Pie.

As you are aware of my peculiar affinity for any greens: spinach, kale, collards, bok choy, chard…(you name it, I’ll eat it) I’m sure this will not surprise you. Actually, I started eating these when I was young and living in an area that was blessed with a fair number of lovely Italian bakeries. They were inexpensive, filling and redolent with delicious olive oil. Some of them had little nuggets of olives, or pepperoni, too. When I moved to South County, there were less of these bakeries and I had to make my own if I needed a fix.

At any rate, I have developed a recipe that I am fond of, although it is by no means ‘figure friendly’ if you know what I mean. I use store bought dough, frozen chopped spinach and frozen chopped broccoli, and sliced cheese so it really does not take that long to do. Here is what it ends up looking like:
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So, if your interested, here is the recipe:

Spinach and Broccoli Pie

1 pound of store bought dough
1/2 a bag of frozen, chopped Spinach
1/2 bag of frozen, chopped Broccoli
5 slices of provolone cheese *
5 slices of mozzarella cheese *
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can of sliced olives (yes, I love these horribly retro, uncool things!)
1/3 cup, or more, of chopped pepperoni slices
olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and red chili flakes
* Feta cheese is also really good in this…

Roll out your dough onto pan that has been treated with olive oil.
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Let it rest if it is too springy, and you can stretch it a little more once it has rested. It does not have to have a perfect shape. Just do your best.

Then sauté the onions, garlic, spinach and broccoli in a pan with a good shot of olive oil until the veggies are tender. Take off the burner and add olives, pepperoni, salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder and red pepper flakes and mix thoroughly. Add as much or as little of the seasoning that you like. Let cool.
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When cool, put some of the mixture in the middle of your rolled out dough. Add cheese slices, and then add the rest of the mixture.018 Fold the sides of the dough over the top of the mixture, and roll up ends. Flip the pie over so the seam and rolled up ends are on the bottom, against the pan. Since the pan was coated with olive oil, the pie should be well oiled. If not, add more oil which will help with the browning.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned nicely. Don’t worry f it leaks a little…it will still be delicious.
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Let it cool and enjoy a piece. Really good with soup as well.

Until next time!

Ahoy Mates, Long time no see….

Hi folks, It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and a couple of people have asked when I was going to post again. Sorry for the delay. There have been a lot of changes around here since I last posted. I began a new job in September, and sadly, my lovely Mother-In-Law has passed in November.

My hope going forward is that I will begin to post somewhat regularly. I hope you all are well and have been busy cooking away. Still looking forward to comments and ideas, so feel free!

Talk to you soon! Oh, and here is a pic of my crazy cat from this morning – know it is not travel or cooking related, but I thought he was cute:

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Of Tacos and Nieces….

Taco night at the Griswold's

Taco night at the Griswold’s

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Oh so long ago… this meal has many happy memories associated with it. When Eric and I were dating and were shuffling around the supermarket after a long shift at the residential program we were both working for at the time, he got the bright idea that he would like to make some tacos. As I had only had “Taco Bell” at this point, I really couldn’t fathom why on earth he, of all people, would want to make such a thing – not to mention that I couldn’t picture him eating iceberg lettuce or ground beef, to boot. But, he prevailed, and we found a taco dinner in the health food section of the market. I think they were called “Bearitos” and it came with 10 shells and a packet of all natural meat seasoning. Truthfully, I am not even sure that they make this brand anymore. (If anyone has seen it, let me know…)He suggested we use ground chicken, and maybe cook up some onions and peppers to have with it instead of the ‘dreaded iceberg lettuce’ which, according to him, had no nutritional value. Never one to opt out of something new, I agreed to it.

As it so happens, they turned out really great and we have been making them ever since. They have evolved a great deal, I’ll admit, but they always turn up every few months and we remember how much we enjoy them.

Especially fun when three of our four nieces – Krista, Celeste and Renee (Michelle missed out, unfortunately) – were graciously volunteered from their parents during the summer from time to time to spend a weekend with us. There are stories that float around about how Celeste ate Uncle Eric under the table (she had 9 or 10, I believe) and Krista, after being warned by Renee, put an enormous amount of raw jalapeno peppers on hers and turned several shades of purplish/red after taking a big bite. I give Renee credit that was kind enough to refrain from saying “I told you so” (at least, that is how I remember it happening. She actually may have said it – but hopefully they will grant their old aunt a bit of poetic license). We usually followed it up with a caramelized cinnamon banana sundae, which had vanilla ice cream, cocoanut, whipped cream and either caramel or chocolate sauce. More on that at a later date.

How time flies, doesn’t it? Now all four of our nieces have grown into really remarkable and wonderful young women. We love them all very much. So, as promised, (don’t be thrown by the number of ingredients – I’ve whittled them down quite a bit from my elaborate first one – or honestly, try to find a good packaged one if this seems to be too much) recipe:

Griswold’s Taco Recipe

You can put anything you like on them: shredded cheese, sautéed onion and peppers, tomatoes, green onion, lettuce, purple cabbage, chopped cilantro, lime, olives, sour cream and salsa are usually in our rotation. Use what you like, if it is just lettuce and tomato, so be it.

Taco Meat Filling
1 pkg. of ground chicken
2-3 tblsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped *optional
6-8 oz. chicken stock
1 to 2 tsp. of flour
Spice Mixture – 2 bay leaves, 1 1/2 tblsp. cumin, 1 tblsp. ground oregano, 1 tblsp. ground coriander, 2 tblsp. paprika (smoked is nice if you have it, if not, bump up the chili powder), 1 teas. chili powder,1/2 teas. cayenne pepper (*optional), 1 teas. celery seed, 1 teas. sugar, 1 teas. onion powder, 1 teas. garlic powder, 1 package of “Goya Sazon con Culantro Y Achiote” (you can find at any supermarket in the Latin section – orange box), salt and pepper to taste. Please note ALL MEASUREMENTS ARE APPROXIMATE – YOU MAY NEED MORE. You can also use about a 1 teas. of tomato paste, too.

Saute onion, garlic and jalapeno in a frying pan with olive oil adding salt and pepper to taste. Add meat and seasonings ( use your judgment here – if you don’t like something omit, reduce it, or add more if it doesn’t seem right to you. I think I use WAY more of each of these things because I don’t measure – I just follow my nose – so don’t be shy). When cooked fully, sprinkle flour over, mix and cook for a few more minutes. Add just enough stock to thicken slightly. Take off of burner to cool a little.

Meanwhile prepare toppings. I am thinking I pretty much don’t need to tell you how to cook peppers and onions, right? When you are ready, heat the oven to 350 degrees, fill the bottom half of the shells with the meat mixture and shredded cheese and bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Put it all on the table and go to town!

Talk to you soon….

Steamers and other things….

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Hi Everybody! Long time no contact!! I was stunned to realize that I haven’t written in over 2 months…my oh my, time does fly doesn’t it? Something about the warm weather makes me lazier than I usually am, so sorry about the delay….

Eric and I LOOOVVVEE shellfish as you probably have figured out at some point. We made these in June, using a method that I learned from (of all things) an ex-boyfriend’s father who was brought up in Martha’s Vineyard. He was of Portuguese descent. Basically you add hot chorizo, onion, garlic, black peppercorns and celery with about 2 inches of water. Cover the pan and steam until the shells just open. It is a pretty forgiving recipe – you could change the sausage to something else and maybe add a little white wine or beer and it would be just as good. Takes all of 5-10 minutes.

The best thing is to wait until you have a nice sunny day and eat them at a picnic table or porch – heck, even a lawn chair would do! Serve with some melted butter (I add raw garlic to my butter, as well). Open shells, peel off the “turtleneck”, give it a wash in the broth and a dip in butter and you are in for a treat. I also save the broth, strained, and freeze it. It makes a nice stock for clam chowda’ if you are so inclined.

This method also works well with mussels. We tried it when our local fishmonger ran out of steamers one weekend. They were tremendous! See below:

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So enjoy the summer everyone! Will write again soon and look forward to any other stuff you would like to share…

My friend Rich and Pork Chops

Hi Folks! My friend Rich posted a recipe in the comment section that I thought everyone would be interested in. It concerns moist pork chops which I know that I certainly need help with ( I almost NEVER cook them as he is right – dry as a bone!)…..I am thinking it could also be used for a loin or roast cut?

Thanks, Rich! This is exactly as I had hoped …. a place to share recipes!!!!! Here is what he wrote:

“Joy — I am not sure how or if it is possible to start a new thread so i will put this here. – After years of dry pork chops — no matter what I did, I found the attached and made it last night — and –oh my God — Pork Nirvana — moist and tasty — i am in love.. Give this a try if doing pork chops… http://www.davevanderwekke.com/cooking/how-to-brine-store-bought-pork-chops”

Burgers

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Hi – it has been awhile, but with all the sad news in Boston last week I felt as if a lighthearted blog about food would have been somewhat inappropriate. That, along with some computer battery problems, has held me up a bit. What you are looking at is a picture of a “TK Burger” from a place called Oak Street B&B in Westerly, RI, that Eric and I found on “Yelp!” (we are eternally grateful to our niece, Celeste, for telling us about this app- Hi Honey!). If you are ever in the Westerly area and would like a good place to go I would encourage you to do so…it is worth seeking out. It is just a small joint, only 9 tables or so, and you can see into the kitchen. You have to order off the board at the cash register but don’t let that deter you. Every burger comes with homemade potato chips that you can get seasoned with salt and pepper, or cajun style, etc. It is very clear that the owner really loves what he does because you can see the care with which he makes these burgers – always perfectly cooked (medium, of course you can ask for medium rare) and the way each burger is perfectly seasoned so it is savory, just the right amount of saltiness, and a mild sweetness from the sweet roll, the onions that the burger is sauteed on, and their own homemade secret sauce. Positively addicting.

The top burger was Eric’s choice today. It had bacon, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg on top. Sounds crazy, but he inhaled it. Mine was a standard “American Burger” which is a classic cheeseburger. The second picture is only of half of it as the other half was already in my big maw. I just disgust myself sometimes, honestly.

It is no wonder to me why we Americians love a burger. It is deeply satisfying. We even eat the really crappy fast food ones and enjoy them. But best of all are the ones that are made to order, and will drip down your arms and chin with all that juice. Wow. Really nothing like it.

Oh, did I start this blog on the premise of finding healthy, no additive food? Well, I didn’t mean that this was a health food blog. I firmly believe that life is short and you should partake of wonderful things while you are here. As we sat down Eric said to me “Did you ever think years ago that you could have dragged me out for burgers?” To which I said “No, but I would rather die a few years earlier and enjoy myself rather than live to be 100 eating twigs and nuts. Where is the fun in that?” So, I say, eat, drink, laugh and be merry. Life is short. And thank God for Lipitor.

How Do You Like Me Now??

AHHHH Oysters!

AHHHH Oysters!

Oh my word! If you really look close and squint your eyes a bit you can almost see the bluebirds chirping, and swirling, around my head (along with the butterflies) to the sound of Handel’s Messiah sung by the Angels! But yes, I am waxing a bit poetic… Could not BE any happier on this cold, March day. It took everything to stop myself from diving into this plate of oysters on the half shell while Eric took the picture.  Eric found out that our favorite restaurant and oyster bar was having a month -long March promotion of $1 oysters so we made our way down.  Ordered 20 and felt a little embarrassed by our gluttony.  I think we finished this plate in about three minutes. I love these any way they are made, but particularly when they are raw.  There is really nothing like it – sweet, salty, fresh, and brimming with the brine of the sea. Most certainly would be my last meal if I were to have a choice. To those who think ‘gross’ – you should try them just one time.  They may not look pretty but they are delicious.  Don’t think about it, just shoot them down with one bite. My hope is that you will not regret it. Really. Just once.

The Kale Bandwagon

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Have you noticed that kale seems to be everywhere lately? or is it just me? I have always loved this vegetable (actually anything green and leafy for that matter – I even liked canned spinach when I was a kid) in soups and sauteed with a little garlic.  I never thought to eat it raw until we were in Sedona, Arizona and decided to take a night off from restaurant food.  Fortunately, our room had a small – but well appointed – kitchen. We ended up finding an all natural market and bought some fish and saw this salad in the take out case.  It was really great!! their version had parsnip in it – mine does not. It is ridiculously easy to make and holds up really, really well. Actually this whole meal was really easy and only took about 30 minutes total to get on the table last night.

If you ever get a chance to go to Sedona, by all means go!!! It is a really beautiful and spiritual place.  The red rock formations are incredible and depending on the time of day, look different due to the changing light. If you allow yourself some time and quiet you can almost see images of Native American faces in the rock, which I found very comforting.  The area is noted for a series of vortexes – places where they say the energy is very strong and healing. I can’t speak to that, but I did find it peaceful.

Bell Rock Vortex

Bell Rock Vortex

Ok enough of that, on to the recipes:

Kale Salad

1  bag of chopped kale or I bunch washed, stemmed and chopped

3 carrots, shredded

5 radishes, shredded

1 cup of finely chopped purple cabbage

Strongly flavored Salad dressing – Stop & Shop sells a good Italian that is all natural/organic called Nature’s Promise, or you can make your own or use your favorite – Kraft Zesty Italian is also good….

Combine all ingredients at least a half hour before eating and make sure the veggies are well coated with dressing. Allow it to marinate – the longer the better. That’s it. Really.

Seared Scallops with Seasoned Oil

Large sea scallops (from a reputable fishmonger or a store that moves volumes of fish to ensure freshness – remember fish should have NO SMELL)

Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

canola oil

(Seasoned Oil – 3 tblspoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove of chopped garlic, 1 tsp. of smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper combine and let marinate)

Heat oil in a large skillet – cast iron is the best for this. Make sure the pan is screaming hot and slightly smoking. Salt and pepper the scallops and be generous with the pepper. Sear scallops for 1-2 mintes on each side, or until they begin to have a brown crust.  Do not overcook these delicate morsels or they will be tough. Let them sit for about 10 minutes before serving, them place them on plate and top with the seasoned oil. Do not worry about undercooking…if they are very fresh you can eat them raw without any difficulty.

Serve with a grain ( we used quinoa – you can find this anywhere and follow the directions).

Enjoy!!!