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Spice up your night.

I subscribe to quite a few cooking magazines, as I am always looking for new ideas and forms of inspiration. One of my favorites is Cooking Light. I know some people out there don’t like the magazine as much as they used to and I do admit I was getting a little tired of it myself while reading the past few issues. Well, I received my September issue a week or two ago and I was surprised to see that they have given the magazine somewhat of a face lift. I have to say, I am really liking it. The last few issues prior to this one seemed to be lacking in the recipe and food department. I really hope they keep up this new format because it has so much information on ingredients, nutrition and a huge variety of recipes.

Okay, so why did I give that shout out to Cooking Light? No, I am not getting paid to endorse the magazine. Like I mentioned, this issue had a great variety of recipes. So, of course I made one. I love one pot dishes, so anytime I come across a great one pot dish, I am all over it. This particular recipe was for a Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew. This dish was really tasty and will be perfect for the cool days to come. Well, the cool days to come for my friends to the north. I most likely won’t be seeing a cool day at least until December or January. This recipe is also a great base recipe for switching things up. You can pretty much use it to clean out your refrigerator if you have some veggies to use up. You can also make it as spicy or tame as you like; I used the spicy Rotel and it gave it quite a kick.  We ate it over brown rice and it made for the perfect meal.

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Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew

Adapted from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced turkey or chicken sausage (about 6 ounces)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained (such as Rotel)
8 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 (15-ounce) can of white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bell pepper, onion, carrot and celery to pan; saute on medium-high heat about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sausage to the pan; sauté 3 minutes or until the veggies are tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in shrimp and beans; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with parsley.

Yields 4 servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to Spark Recipe)
Serving size: about 1 cup
Calories: 298.2
Total Fat: 6.3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.1 g
Cholesterol: 117.1 mg
Sodium: 863.8 mg
Carbohydrates: 32.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.9 g
Protein: 27.2 g
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Light but Satisfying

I really feel like I should have been born Italian. I just love the culture and food. I mean their ingredients alone are enough to make me drool. Italian food is my absolute favorite thing to cook by far. With that said, of course Giada De Laurentiis is one of my favorite chefs. Her recipes are very inspiring and open doors for you to explore many options.

Recently I was looking for a lighter pasta dish. I didn’t want a heavy sauce, just something refreshing. While looking through Giada’s Family Dinners I found a recipe for Fusilli with Shrimp and Arugula. It sounded great, but I wanted to put my own twist on it. In the end it turned out fabulous and is now a favorite of mine and Greg’s. We have also made it without the shrimp as a simple side dish.

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Spaghetti with Shrimp and Basil

adapted from Giada’s Family Dinners
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (or yellow onion)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1 lb. large shrimp, peel and deveined
1 cup petite diced tomatoes
salt
fresh ground black pepper
12 ounces dried thin spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
about 6 leaves of fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes; saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine.  Simmer until the wine reduces by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, just until they are pink; about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite; about 8 minutes.  Drain.

Add the spaghetti and the basil (torn into pieces) to the skillet with the shrimp.  Toss to combine.  Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Yields about 4 servings.

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Not your ordinary fish n’ chips

Have you ever come across a recipe and when you read the name you think to yourself, “I’m not so sure about this one?”  Well that is exactly what I was thinking when I found Cod-and-Shrimp Stoup with Salt-and-Vinegar Mashed Potatoes in the November 2008 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray.  It just did not sound that appealing; the first thing that came to mind were potato chips!

Of course anything that sounds odd is also intriguing, so I decided to read through the recipe anyway.  As I skimmed through it actually began to sound quite yummy.  Okay, so now I am convinced that I may actually try this one out but the next obstacle is my husband.  He isn’t exactly a picky eater, but he tends to like things a bit more on the simple side.  With that said, I was shocked when he told me to go ahead and try out the recipe.

To our surprise (no offense Rachael), the dish was delicious!  It is also a great one for cooler days, not that we see many of those here in south Florida.  It would be great for a cold winter night in the north though.  I recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a bit of comfort food but without too much guilt (as it is a fairly light recipe).

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Cod-and-Shrimp Stoup 
with Salt-and-Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

courtesy of Everyday with Rachael Ray
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
salt
3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 to 4 ribs celery from the heart, with leafy greens, chopped
1 large bay leaf
2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, chopped (I used dry thyme*)
zest and juice from 1 lemon
pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced or stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds thick cod fillets, cut into chunks (I used haddock)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tbs. butter

In a deep pot, add the potatoes and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain

In a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the extra-virgin olive oil, about 3 turns of the pan,  over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the onions are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.  Pour in the wine and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth and the tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer.  Add the cod in a single layer, cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Gently stir in the shrimp, season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook until the cod and shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice; discard the bay leaf.

Mash the potatoes with the remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth, the vinegar and butter; season with salt.

To serve, mound the potatoes into shallow bowls.  Ladle the stoup around the potatoes.

Note:  This recipe can easily be cut in half for 2 servings.

*when using dried herbs remember to reduce the amount the recipe calls for.

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Hearty, Healthy and Colorful

I found this recipe while flipping through the October 2008 edition of Cooking Light.  It sounded almost too decadent to be considered a “light” recipe…what more could you ask for?  I decided to try it out while my mom came to stay with us for a weekend.  Of course it is a risotto so it was a bit time consuming, but in the end it was worth the time spent.  It sounded decadent and it was decadent, but without the guilt of the high calories of course.  I also usually adapt recipes to mine or my husbands liking, but this one was great just the way it was.

If you aren’t in a hurry and you are looking for a recipe that looks like it was a lot harder to make than it actually was, then I would definitely recommend this seafood risotto.  It also doesn’t hurt that it is very colorful and pleasing to the eye.

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Seafood Risotto

courtesy of cooking light
2 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1 (8 oz) bottle of clam juice
2 tsp. butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/8 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces bay scallops
2 tbs. whipping cream
chopped fresh parsley

Bring broth and clam juice to a simmer in a medium sauce pan (do not boil).  Keep warm over low-heat.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallots to pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Add rice and saffron to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add lemon juice to pan; cook 15 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in 1/2 cup hot broth mixture; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.  Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 18 minutes total).

Stir in tomatoes; cook for 1 minute.  Stir in shrimp and scallops, cook 4 minutes or until shrimp and scallops are done; stirring occasionally.   Remove from heat; stir in cream.  Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Yields 2 servings.

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My First Barefoot Contessa Recipe

I started watching the food network on a regular basis about five years ago and I have to admit that I was not a fan of Barefoot Contessa. I think it may have had to do with the fact that I was a poor college kid through most of that period and her recipes didn’t appeal to my style of cooking at the time or my pocketbook for that matter. About a month ago, on a Saturday morning, I found myself sucked into a Barefoot Contessa marathon. Before I knew it I was very much attracted to her recipes. One in particular stood out to my husband and I both…..the Scallops Provencal with Herbed Basmati Rice. It looked so fancy and decadent but yet simple at the same time. Not too long after this my husband had to go out of town for a whole week so I decided to cook him and extra special dinner upon his return. He had been subjected to sub-par restaurant food during his trip so I knew he wouldn’t object. I figured this would be the perfect time to try the recipe we had been eyeing.

After picking up the ingredients I went to work on my romantic dinner. It was surprisingly easy for as pretty as it looks when complete. The only issue I ran into was it took a while for my scallops to brown up since I was using a non-stick pan. Note to self: next investment is a good stainless steel pan for browning.

In the end it was SO good and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Mission accomplished!

scallops

Scallops Provencal

courtesy of Barefoot Contessa/The Food Network
1 pound fresh bay or sea scallops (I used sea scallops)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in 1/2

If you’re using bay scallops, keep them whole. If you’re using sea scallops, cut each 1 in half horizontally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.

In a very large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in 1 layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, total. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic, and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine, cook for 1 minute and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.
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Herbed Basmati Rice

courtesy of Barefoot Contessa/The Food Network
1 cup uncooked long-grain (white) basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh curly parsley leaves (I used flat leaf parsley)
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves (I left the dill out)
1 tablespoon minced fresh scallions, white and green parts
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Combine the rice, 1 3/4 cups water, the salt and butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low, stir once and simmer, covered tightly, for 15 minutes. (You may need to pull the pot half off the burner to keep it from boiling over.) Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for 5 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, scallions, and pepper. Fluff with a fork, and serve warm.

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