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tiger-prawn

 

Shopping at the Chelsea Market I stopped to check out the selection at The Lobster Place, my favorite fish market. I saw these huge shrimp called tiger prawns and just had to buy them for Steve, my lovely husband, who could dine on shrimp every night. I googled them when I got home and found that they are native to Southeast Asia, but are farmed all over the world. Apparently during one of our recent hurricanes, some of these big guys escaped from the farm and ended up procreating in the Gulf of Mexico where they are thriving – much to the dismay of local shrimpers who fear that they will over-take the native species because they are so big and aggressive.  Now the quandary, do we buy them wild or only buy those that are farmed. Being environmentally correct sure does take work. Got any ideas?

Since I had bought them, I had to cook them and this is what I did.

2 pounds tiger prawns

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

½ cup olive oil

1 hot red or green chile, stemmed and cut, crosswise, into thin slices

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1 small bunch broccolini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Combine the prawns with the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, chile, and shallot in a roasting pan.   Cover with plastic film and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

Uncover, toss in the broccolini, and season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to the preheated oven and roast, turning occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until the prawns are bright pink and the broccolini is barely cooked.

Remove from the oven and stir in the butter and parsley.  Serve immediately with some warm crusty bread to sop up the juices.

Radish_DSC_4312

 

Sunday morning at our local green market I saw a bunch of teeny, tiny French breakfast radishes coated in dirt.  Since the dirt told me that they had not been long out of the earth I had to bring them home even though I had no plan to have a second breakfast.  So later in the day I washed them, dipped one at a time into some sea salt, and popped them into my mouth as I made dinner.  I have no idea why they are called French breakfast radishes as I have never known a French breakfast to consist of much more than coffee and a baguette, but there must be a reason.  If you know, would you clue me in?

Obviously I have been on an Asian adventure what with egg rolls and dumplings and dipping sauces.  There’s been a lot of stir-frying, also, but since I mostly just throw whatever is on hand into the wok, I can’t really share those recipes.  You can make these dumplings with chicken, turkey, beef, or vegetables, alone.  Finely chopped kale and/or other greens make terrific dumplings.  You will need a bamboo steamer or a saucepan with a steamer basket to make these.

½ pound minced lean pork
½ cup finely diced water chestnuts
3 tablespoons finely diced bell pepper, either red, orange, or yellow or a mix of
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 large egg whites, separated
1 teaspoon sherry wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 package wonton wrappers
A few large iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves

Ginger Dipping Sauce:  Combine 1 cup rice wine vinegar with 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon lime juice, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Add ¼ cup finely diced hot house cucumber, 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves, 1 teaspoon grated ginger root and however much finely diced hot chile you like.

Combine the pork, water chestnuts, bell pepper, cilantro, and shallots in a medium mixing bowl, stirring to blend completely.
Heat the canola oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat.  Add the pork mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or just until the pork is almost cooked.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the 1 of the egg whites with the sherry, sesame oil, and soy sauce.  When blended, add to the cooled chicken mixture, stirring to combine completely.
Using a biscuit cutter, cut the wonton wrappers into 3-inch circles.  As cut, stack and cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out.
Place the remaining egg white in a small bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of cold water and, using a whisk, beat until slightly frothy.  Set aside.
Working with one wrapper at a time, place it on a clean, dry work surface.  Place a teaspoon or so of the pork mixture in the center.  Using your fingertip, rub a bit of the egg white wash around the edges of the wrapper.  Then, fold one half over the filling and, using your fingertips, pleat the edge of the dumpling around the filling.  Set aside as you continue to make dumplings.  Don’t let the finished dumplings sit around too long or they will get too wet and won’t hold together.  I make a few and cook them up quickly so we can nosh as I continue to make more dumplings.
Fill a saucepan large enough to hold a bamboo steamer or a steamer basket with about 2-inches of water.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
Line the bamboo steamer or steamer basket with lettuce leaves and add dumplings, as many as can fit into the basket without touching.  Place over the simmering water, cover, and steam for about 6 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through.
Lift the dumplings from the steamer and continue making dumplings.  The lettuce will have to be replaced after a couple of steams.
Serve hot with dipping sauce.

 

Dumplings-1

EggRoll_3649

 

I’ve been trying to make our meals a bit more interesting so everytime I go to the market I purchase an ingredient I don’t always have in the pantry.  Lately it has been Asian products which lead to egg rolls, stir-fries, dumplings, and so on.  Some fillings for egg rolls are pre-cooked and you could certainly give this mix a quick stir-fry, but I think it is fine to have some crunchy vegetables in the fried roll.  Steve just likes to doctor his up with spicy mustard, but I like a pungent dipping sauce.

½ pound shredded cooked chicken meat
5 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut, on the bias, into thin strips
1 large carrot, peeled, trimmed, and cut into thin strips about 1¼ inches long
Handful of snow peas, trimmed and cut, on the bias, into thin strips
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 package egg roll wrappers
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1½ tablespoons cold water
2 to 4 cups oil for deep-frying

Combine the chicken with the mushrooms, carrot, and snow peas in a medium mixing bowl, tossing to combine.
Stir the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and orange juice together in a small bowl.  When blended, add to the chicken mixture, tossing to coat.
Working with one piece at a time, lay an egg roll wrapper out on a clean, flat work surface so that one corner is facing you.  Place about 1 ½ tablespoons of the filling in the center of the wrapper, pushing it out slightly without getting near the edge.  
Using your fingertip, spread a bit of the cornstarch mixture around the 3 edges not facing you.  Fold the point of the edge facing you up and over the filling and then fold the 2 opposite sides in and over; then, roll up the wrapper to totally enclose the filling.
When you have made the number of egg rolls you want to fry, preheat the oil to 360°F on a candy thermometer.
Using a slotted spatula, carefully transfer the egg rolls, a few at a time, into the hot oil.  Deep-fry for about 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Using tongs, transfer the egg rolls to a double layer of paper towel to drain.
Serve hot with Spicy Dipping Sauce.
Spicy Dipping Sauce
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce 
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce
3 scallions with some green part, trimmed and cut, crosswise, into thin circles
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
½ hot green chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced or to taste

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, orange and lime juices, sesame oil, and fish sauce in a small mixing bowl.  Stir in the scallions, garlic, and chile.
Serve with egg rolls or dumplings.

 

EggRolls-1

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Dipping Sauce_3641

Making Ricotta

Recently I’ve been trying my hand at making ricotta.  For sure it isn’t difficult, but it does take a bit of patience as you wait for the whey to separate from the curds (And don’t you just immediately think of Little Miss Muffet when you hear those words?).  After making a number of types I have settled on the following combo:
2 cups pasteurized but not homogenized whole milk (I use Ronnybrook)
1 cup heavy cream (ditto Ronnybrook)
1½ tablespoons white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt (this is optional)
First line a strainer with 3 layers of moist cheesecloth and set the strainer over a large glass bowl.  Then, combine the milk, cream, and salt in a in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Cook at a full boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar.  Allow the mixture to rest for about 1 minute or just until it separates into visible curds and whey.  Using slotted spoon, transfer the curds to the cheesecloth-lined strainer, cover with plastic film, and set aside to drain for about 25 minutes or until the desired consistency is reached.  The longer you allow the mixture to drain, the denser the finished cheese.  I’ve found that about 1 hour and 15 minutes gets the soft, creamy result that I’m looking for.  Transfer to a nonreactive container and store, covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
When I reached the mix I liked I shared it with some Italian friends.  The Northern Italians didn’t like the salt and the Southern Italians said a bit more salt.  I was happy that they both said it was a pretty good facsimile of ricotta from home.  Obviously I’m spoiled with my local Ronnybrook products, but I’ll bet you can find a version of delicious non-homogenized milks near your home.
About Ronnybrook Farms products (www.ronnybrook.com):  Their milk is pasteurized but not homogenized, so the cream floats to the top. The cream can be spooned off or shaken for the full flavor and benefits of whole milk. I shake for ricotta-making.   Ronnybrook heavy cream is 40% cream with flavor like cream bottled by small European dairies.  It is not ultra-pasteurized.

 

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first-spring-dinner-801

The only real spring product in this dinner was the asparagus, but it was, at long last, local.  This has been such a long winter that any sign of spring has been welcomed with enthusiasm.  Very slowly, spring omens have appeared – first thin stalks of asparagus, just the past week ramps have shown their bright green leaves at the farmers market, but I think that they are being picked far too young as you barely see the white stalks as they are so thin and not scallion-like or bulbed at all.
I sautéed the asparagus with some parmacotto ham that I had leftover from a little pre-wedding cocktail gathering we had for friends.  I seasoned it with a touch of sherry vinegar and that was it.  The sweet potatoes were the last touch of winter and the chicken breast is my year-round go-to for a quick dinner.

 

first-spring-dinner-806

Harissa_3060182

 

I had some dried chilies on hand so decided to make harissa. We all love spicy food and a little dab of harissa can turn even the dullest dish into a hot tamale. Should you have some extra dried red chiles on hand, here is my recipe. Don’t remember where I got it, but it certainly does the job up right.

½ pound dried red hot chiles, stemmed and seeded
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon toasted mustard seeds
½ to ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl with boiling water to cover by 1-inch. Set aside to soak for 2 hours, or until the chiles are very soft. Drain well and pat dry.
Place the soaked chiles in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the garlic and mustard seeds and, with the motor running, slowly add ½ cup of the olive oil. When well blended, add the salt and process to incorporate. If very thick, add the remaining olive oil to thin.
Transfer the harissa to a nonreactive container and store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 month.

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