Salmon with Strawberry Salsa

Inspiration: Hurray for spring produce! The last time I was at the grocery store, I noticed the shift in produce variety that always comes with spring. Buh-bye butternut squash, hello strawberries! I have been saving this recipe since the end of last summer, and I just couldn’t wait to make it once I saw the huge batch of fresh, spring strawberries at the grocery store. What a lovely time of year.

What we Loved: As I hoped and expected, this dish really did taste just like spring. I truly felt the need to take my plate outside somewhere to enjoy the fresh sunshine and crack open a bottle of chardonnay, which I think would be the perfect pairing for this recipe. The strawberry salsa was so fresh and light, and we enjoyed the sweet and citrusy mixture of flavors. Atop a tender, buttery salmon filet fresh from the seafood counter and alongside some buttered snap peas, this really was such a unique and refreshing spring meal. And aren’t the colors gorgeous?

Helpful Hints: If I made this again, the only thing that I would change would be to use a sparing amount of sweet Vidalia onions or chives in place of the scallions. As it was, I thought they were just a touch overpowering, but I think Vidalias or chives would be just the right amount of that onion flavor.

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa
Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Good Things Catered

For the Salsa
1 cup strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and finely diced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, finely diced
2 scallions, white and light green portions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

For the Fish
2 salmon filets
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Butter and oil

1. Combine all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the salmon, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a good pat of butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the salmon, and cook until it flakes easily with a fork, about four minutes per side.

3. Serve the salmon topped with the salsa.

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Brazilian Shrimp Soup

Inspiration: A few years back, Brandon was lucky enough to go to Brazil with work, and he brought back some wonderful food experiences. He showed me how to make what is now my favorite summer time mixed drink, the caipirinha (Cachaca, limes, cane sugar, delicious), and he told me a story about getting to drink right out of a coconut at a bar. How fun is that? I don’t know how truly Brazilian this soup is (and I always hesitate to label things as a certain cuisine on my blog for that reason), but with the limes and the coconut and the overall tropical feel, this soup had me dreaming of the paradise that I imagine the beaches of Brazil to be. So I’ll leave the name as it is, and I’ll dream of summer time and sun and caipirinhas.

What we Loved: What a light and refreshing soup. Brandon simply adored it and labeled it as one of his favorite soups in a long time, and I have to agree. The broth is light and creamy with just an ever-so-sweet coconut flavor, which is complemented with bright and fresh flavors of cilantro, lime, and shrimp. It’s a very tropical combination of flavors, and it fits perfectly when you’re looking for a light supper or lunch. This will be going into our regular soup rotation for sure!

Helpful Hints: Our only qualm with this recipe is that since shrimp overcooks so easily, it’s very hard to keep the small shrimp pieces from overcooking while they are sitting in a pot of very hot soup. For the leftovers, the shrimp ended up being overcooked. Brandon suggested sauteeing the shrimp separately, then added them into each person’s soup bowls right at serving time, and that seemed like a great solution to me. That way, the shrimp never overcook. Or, another suggestion would be to replace the shrimp with chicken or even white beans – both seem like great options for this soup. And I don’t think that avocado slices on top would hurt, either!

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Food and Wine

Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1 14.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half horizontally
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
The juice from 1/2 freshly squeezed lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook for a minute more.

2. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, crushed tomatoes, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

3. Add the coconut milk, and return to a simmer.

4. Add the shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

5. Remove the pot from the heat. Stri in the pepper, lime juice, and cilantro, and serve.

Spicy Shrimp with Guacamole and Lime

Spicy Shrimp with Guacamole and Lime

Inspiration: We’ve been on a total shrimp kick lately for sure. Isn’t it funny how one ingredient randomly starts sounding so good all of the time? And we’re always on a Mexican kick. The last time that we had shrimp with blackening seasoning, Brandon immediately came up with this meal idea, and it immediately went on the menu :)

What we Loved: The two main flavors in this dish – hot, spicy shrimp and cool, refreshing guacamole – really play off of each other very well. The shrimp are coated in plenty of blackening seasoning for a very spicy crust, and the guacamole does a perfect job of providing a cooling contrast. Blackening seasoning is really packed with a ton of flavor, color, and spice, and I love how such a simple spice mix can add so much to a meal. We loved a good squeeze of fresh lime juice atop everything, too. Something about fresh lime juice atop a Mexican-flavored meal just adds a bright and refreshing touch that always works so well and brings out the other flavors in the dish. We’ve added this new recipe to our (ever-growing) list of favorite Mexican-inspired meals.

Helpful Hints: This is one easy-peasy recipe. However, I think it’s always good to keep in mind that shrimp cook very, very quickly. Just a few minutes in a hot pan is all you need. As soon as the shrimp are just opaque, they’re done!

Spicy Shrimp with Guacamole and Lime
Source: Original Recipe to serve 2

1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
Kosher salt
Blackening seasoning
Extra virgin olive oil
1 batch guacamole
Lime and cilantro, to garnish

1. Toss the shrimp in a bowl with a good sprinkle of Kosher salt and plenty of blackening seasoning (enough to generously coat the shrimp and give them a nice orange color).

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the shrimp, and saute until cooked through, only about 3-5 minutes.

3. Serve the shrimp with guacamole and topped with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Shrimp in Jameson Cream Sauce

Inspiration: When Brandon and I lived in Cleveland several years back, there was this tiny little restaurant called Nighttown that I wish we had frequented more often. Being in college, we didn’t spend too many fancy nights out, but one night I had an English Department dinner at Nighttown that afforded us the opportunity to go there. Wonderful little images stick out in my head - a dark and cozy room, white table clothes, duck in orange sauce. When hunting around for a St. Patrick’s Day recipe for this year’s meals that was a little different than the standard fare that we always see here in America (though I love all of those dishes, too, as you can see from my previous posts), I was excited to run across a recipe from Nighttown for Dublin Lawyer, which is basically lobster in a butter, cream, and Irish whiskey sauce. Doesn’t that sound great? My wallet disagreed with me when I saw the lobster prices at the grocery store, though, so I decided that shrimp in a butter, cream, and whiskey sauce sounded pretty fabulous, too.

What we Loved: The flavors in this recipe are subtle but distinct. Fresh, succulent shrimp and a cream sauce that is both a touch sweet (from the whiskey) and a touch spicy (from the cayenne pepper). Before this meal, Brandon and I had never bought a bottle of Irish whiskey, and we were somewhat surprised with its sweet, creamy scent and flavor, which is very non-coincidentally reminiscent of the sweet and creamy alcohol flavor that is in a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. It was a very pleasant surprise and very different than other kinds of whiskey that we have tried. I always love the flavor of sweeter alcohols paired with seafood (such as sherry, marsala, or madeira), and this was another fine example of that pairing. With a good amount of cayenne and paprika in the sauce, too, there was also a great kick of heat that complimented the rest of the dish beautifully.

Helpful Hints: The only adjustment that I would make would be to add more butter (as was actually called for in the original recipe) and more Jameson. I think more butter would make the sauce slightly richer, which I think would be a good thing, and extra Jameson would make that sweet whiskey flavor just a little more pronounced. As it was, the flavors were great but a touch on the subtle side. I would maybe recommend 6-8 tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup Jameson.

Shrimp in Jameson Cream Sauce
Source: Adapted from Nighttown Restaurant in Cleveland via Rachel Ray

4 tablespoons butter, softened
Scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or less, to preference)
1 teaspoon paprika
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup diced onions
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup Jameson
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Combine the butter, cayenne, and paprika. Place into a saute pan, and melt over medium heat.

2. Add the mushrooms and onions, and cook until softened and slightly browned. Season well with salt and pepper.

3. Take the pan off of the heat, and add the Jameson. Return to the heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan for just a few seconds until the whiskey is nearly evaporated.

4. Add the cream, and cook until reduced by half and thickened.

5. Add the shrimp, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.

(Rice-Free) Jambalaya

Inspiration: I’ve always loved the flavors of jambalaya and consider it one of my favorite dishes (…I say that way too often, don’t I?). For the past several years at Mardi Gras time, I’ve been trying to concoct the perfect recipe for us – which isn’t a traditional one by any means. We always skip the celery and green peppers because we don’t prefer their flavors, and we skip the rice. But I’ve never quite gotten a version that we love just right – until now.

What we Loved: One of the reasons that I love jambalaya in any form is because there is so much going on. Bacon, chicken, sausage, shrimp – what a great variety. Another reason that I love it is because of the heat. This is a spicy dish that pairs well with a nice tall glass of ice water. This particular recipe had both of those components, and then some. After cooking for a few hours, the resulting sauce was amazing. It was rich and somewhat thick, with a perfect blend of seasonings (Cajun spices, peppers and onions that seemed to have melted away, bacon fat, salt, and the juices from all of the meats) that formed a solid backbone for the dish. And I also want to note how much we loved the chicken in this dish. It was the first thing that Brandon mentioned – that the chicken was ridiculously tender. As you can see in the photos, it started shredded apart all on its own. And the pieces themselves were some of the most tender pieces of chicken that I’ve ever tasted. We both truly adored everything about this meal.

Helpful Hints: This is a very spicy dish, so you might want to use less seasonings to suit your preferences if you don’t love really spicy foods. The serrano, cayenne, chili powder, and Cajun seasoning all lend quite a bit of heat, so you could leave some of these out if you’d like (though not the Cajun seasoning, because that flavor is pretty essential to the dish). 

Rice-Free Jambalaya
Source: Adapted from Guilty Kitchen

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
6 slices bacon, diced
3 links Andouille sausage, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 serrano pepper, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Kosher salt, to taste
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil. Sprinkle the chicken well with Cajun seasoning, then add it to the pan. Cook until the chicken is just browned on the outsides. Remove and set aside.

2. Add the bacon to the pan, and saute until beginning to crisp. Add the andouille sausage and cook for a few minutes longer until the sausage begins to brown. Return the chicken to the pan.

3. Add the onions, red peppers, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until softened. Mix in all of the spices, stirring well to coat.

4. Pour in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook until thickened, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

5. Stir in the shrimp and cook until just barely cooked through, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Cajun Shrimp in Andouille Cream Sauce over Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Shrimp with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Andouille Cream

Inspiration: Though I’ve never been to New Orleans (I will make it there one day!), I’m somewhat fascinated by the culture of the city. The people, the food, the drinks, the celebration - it all holds a certain magnetic quality. That being said, when Mardi Gras season rolls around every year, I like to cook about a week’s worth of New Orleans-inspired food. There’s no better way to celebrate a culture from afar than to enjoy its food, right? I do the same for St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo….there sure are a whole lot of great cultures out there and a whole lot of great foods.

What we Loved: I obviously only share recipes on my blog that we both enjoyed (and boy it’s the worst when I get good photos of a meal that’s just not blog-worthy), but this is one of those recipes that stands out above the rest. A lot. If you know me, you’ll know that this is exactly the kind of food that I love best, so I knew that I would enjoy this recipe going into it. But still. The sweet potatoes have the perfect creamy texture, with a wonderfully sweet cinnamon flavor. The andouille cream is rich and complex, with notes of garlic and spicy sausage. And the shrimp are fresh and buttery, coated in a fantastic spicy seasoning mix that has just the right amount of heat. All together, these three components of the meal really play off of each other and create the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Not to overstate the case for how much we loved this, but we just might have to eat it every day from now on. :)

Helpful Hints: With blackening seasoning, you can get a nice black crust if you use very high heat, don’t flip the meat other than just once, and cook for just the right amount of time. Shrimp are so delicate and very easy to overcook, so I just coated them in the seasoning and sauteed them for a few minutes. Still delicious, and I won’t change that method the next time that I make this.

Shrimp with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Andouille Cream
Source: Adapted from Antony Field via Food Network

Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees until tender, about an hour.

2. Remove the skins from the potatoes. Place them in a small sauce pan, and then add the butter, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well to combine. Keep warm over low heat.

Andouille Cream
Extra virgin olive oil
3 slices onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 link andouille sausage, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon butter

1. Add a drizzle of olive oil to a sauce pan. Add the onions, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

2. Add the sausage and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.

3. Add the cream, and bring to a low simmer. Cook until reduced by half and thickened.

4. Add the cajun seasoning and butter. Keep warm over low heat.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
Cajun blackening seasoning
Kosher salt

1. Place the shrimp in a bowl, and coat completely in blackening seasoning. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the shrimp, and saute until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Serve the sweet potatoes topped with the cream and shrimp. 

Crab-Stuffed Salmon

Inspiration: How can this not sound good? For a couple of seafood lovers like us, this is really the perfect recipe. It’s one of our favorite kinds of fish stuffed with another of our favorite sea foods. Count us in!

What we Loved: This recipe really has a wonderful combination of flavors. The salmon is rich and tender, and the crab filling is wonderfully seasoned with dill and salt. There is also a really nice and slightly tart lemon flavor running throughout the filling. We really liked how the filling ended up so golden and just a bit crispy on top (which was probably the result of adding a couple of pats of butter before cooking) and almost creamy on the inside. What a wonderful seafood supper that is light and refreshing yet rich and indulgent at the same time.

Helpful Hints: I am so ecstatic about this way of making stuffed fish or chicken. Though I have always loved stuffed fish/chicken, cutting horizontal slits in the side of fish to make a pocket or flattening/rolling chicken breasts never quite worked out as neatly or as perfectly as I wanted. And to be frank, sometimes it was disasterous. This way is so simple, with gorgeous results! I don’t know why I never thought of it before, but I’d definitely suggest using it in place of the other ways to prepare stuffed fish or chicken - as long as you keep in mind that you will get a bit of a different texture on the top of the stuffing since it’s not completely enclosed.

Crab-Stuffed Salmon
Source: Adapted from The Food Lover’s Primal Palate

2 wild-caught salmon filets
4 oz crab meat
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh dill, minced
1/4 lemon
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

1. Combine the crab, garlic, dill, juice from 1/4 lemon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

2. Slice the salmon filets lengthwise down the center to create a space for stuffing.

3. Stuff the salmon filets with the crab. Top each with a few pats of butter, about a tablespoon a piece.

4. Bake for 18 minutes at 400 degrees.