Anaheim Shrimp Scampi

Inspiration: I’m so glad that I discovered spaghetti squash recently, because it’s one of those ingredients that is just so versatile. I was hunting around for something unique to make, when I found this recipe. Shrimp scampi with chunks of avocado and cheese? It was a strange combination that had me intrigued.

What we Loved: I adored this meal. Loved it. The shrimp were cooked in an amazingly rich scampi butter, then combined with creamy, cool avocado and nutty pieces of asiago cheese. It’s sounds like an odd combination, but everything went so well together! The cheese added such a sharp bite, which contrasted really well with the mild avocado and squash. But what really made this meal fantastic was the scampi sauce. The shrimp were saturated in the buttery flavor, and the extra sauce poured atop everything was really out of this world. I plan to make this meal again in the summer, with a nice bottle of chardonnay and some sunshine :)

Helpful Hints: I used chives in the scampi butter instead of parsley, but they browned up a bit and I don’t think that they added too much flavor, as far as herbs go. I would recommend adding some fresh cilantro on top of this after it’s plated, instead. Cilantro’s bright, fresh flavor would work really well and give this dish even more of a Southwestern spin.

Anaheim Shrimp Scampi
Source: George Stella, Food Network

I modified the recipe a touch. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

For the scampi butter
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Vidalia onion, minced
1 handful chives, minced
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Sprinkle of Kosher salt
Sprinkle of black pepper
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced

For the rest of the meal
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tail removed
3 oz Asiago cheese, cut into small chunks
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1 spaghetti squash

1. Poke the spaghetti squash all over with a fork. Place the squash in a baking dish, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour. Remove the squash from the oven, let cool, and then cut in half. Discard the seeds, and then scrape the spaghetti squash strands into a sauce pan or pot. Place the pan on the stove over very low heat to keep warm.

2. While the squash is cooking, make the scampi butter. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix to combine.

3. Place 2/3 of the scampi butter in a saute pan over high heat, and melt. Add the shrimp, and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining scampi butter.

5. Plate the spaghetti squash. Top with shrimp, avocado, and cheese. Pour the remaining scampi butter in the pan atop everything, and serve.

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Lime Butter Salmon with Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

Inspiration: I’ve mentioned before that I like to plan at least two seafood meals per week. I recently decided to make sure that one of those meals each week was a salmon meal,  so that means that I’m on the lookout for great salmon recipes! I have a few old favorites, like this seasoned salmon with dill, but I’ve found that I have many more whitefish recipes up my sleeve than I do salmon. So I’ve been hunting around and have a few new recipes in the queue.

What we Loved: Well, I can say right away that this salmon recipe was a huge success and will be added to our short list of favorites. It was just what I was looking for! The fish had a nice, crispy brown crust, and we absolutely adored the light and tart flavor of the lime combined with the richer flavor of the butter. The cauliflower rice was probably the best cauliflower rice I’ve made, and it was the absolute perfect compliment to the fish. It was incredibly light with the cilantro and lime flavors, and it soaked up the browned butter sauce from the fish so nicely. This entire meal tasted just like summer to me, and I mentioned to B that it would be perfect cooked on the grill and served up outside at our patio table alongside a caipirinha. Goodness. I’m counting down the days already.

Helpful Hints: This is a fantastically straightforward and simple weeknight dinner, so I really don’t have any advice other than to try out the cauliflower rice, if you haven’t! It’s incredibly light, healthy, and easy to make if you have a food processor, and I really prefer its delicate vegetable flavor to that of heavy white rice. Even if we were still eating carbohydrates, I think I’d use cauliflower rice instead, anyway!

Lime Butter Salmon with Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice
Source: Salmon recipe adapted from The Deen Brothers

For the Fish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small limes, + 1 small lime for serving
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 salmon filets

For the Rice
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1/2 small lime
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Add the butter and the juice of two small limes to a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until melted.

2. Add the cauliflower to a pot, and steam until just cooked, approximately 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm in the covered pan.

3. Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium heat. Season both sides of each salmon filet with salt and pepper. Gently pour some of the lime butter over each side of the salmon, patting with your fingers, and then place the salmon in the pan. Cook for approximately 4-5 minutes per side, until the fish is cooked through and crispy on the edges.

3. While the salmon is cooking, use your ricing attachment on your food processor to grate the cauliflower. Add the cilantro, the juice of 1/2 lime, and some salt and pepper to the rice. Stir to combine.

4. Serve the cauliflower rice topped with the salmon. Drizzle a bit of any remaining lime butter over the salmon. Serve each plate with 1/2 lime to squeeze over the entire meal, if desired. The extra lime juice is highly recommended, because it really takes the lime flavor in this meal over the top!

Mahi-Mahi alla Fiorentina

Inspiration: B and I are always looking for new fish recipes. We love seafood of any type, and it’s one of the healthiest things that you can eat. I always plan at least one fish recipe per week, though I try to make it two.

What we Loved: I was really pleasantly surprised by this meal. Marinara sauce doesn’t exactly seem like a very good compliment to fish, does it? But the recipe looked and sounded really good to me on a particular day, so I threw it on the menu. And I’m so glad that I did, because I’m sure that it will become one of my staple fish recipes. I loved it! Mahi-mahi is a fairly heavy fish, almost like chicken or a steak, so the rich marinara sauce wasn’t too overpowering but really complimented the fish well. Since the fish was cooked so simply, the sauce really added some necessary and great flavor. I mentioned to B that this meal tasted like something that you would get in an Italian restaurant. And it’s so incredibly simple to make! I served this with some broccolini that I steamed and then sauteed in butter, and it was really the perfect side dish. What a great Italian meal!

Helpful Hints: I used my own marinara sauce in this recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand, Giada provides a really simple sauce in the original recipe that I’m sure would work beautifully.

Mahi-mahi alla Fiorentina
Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 mahi-mahi filets
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup marinara sauce (I used leftover sauce that I had in the freezer from this recipe)
5-6 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and then add the fish. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side, until the fish is browned and cooked through.

2. While the fish is cooking, heat the marinara sauce in a small sauce pan.

3. Serve the fish over the marinara sauce and topped with the sliced basil leaves.

Seasoned Tilapia with Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto

Seasoned Tilapia with Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto

Inspiration: I really love tilapia. I know that a lot of people don’t really love this kind of fish, but I like it because it has a mild flavor and a flaky texture, and I like it because it’s cheap. I’d love to eat halibut and crab and lobster several times a week, but I really just can’t afford that. So I do love tilapia. And I’m always looking for new ways to cook it that I can add to my rotation.

What we Loved: I was drawn to this recipe because it has layers of flavor. The fish is coated in a rub that gives it a sweet and smoky flavor, and then it’s topped with a yellow pepper cilantro pesto that layers in a fresh, garlicy vegetable flavor. I really enjoyed the contrast between the two sets of flavor on the fish, and I always think that a healthy portion of cilantro adds a great freshness to a dish, too. This is a really good, healthy recipe for fish when you’re looking for something that’s a bit more than just a seasoned and baked filet. I served this with hearts of palm and some homemade refried beans for a super healthy supper.

Helpful Hints: While I did enjoy this a lot, I thought that the rub for the fish was a touch on the sweet side. Even though I’m always tempted by main course recipes that combine sweet and savory, especially in the fall time when I want to combine apples with pork or make cinnamon pan sauces, I know that I just really dislike any sweet and savory combinations when it comes to my main dish. I’m not sure what it is, but I just can’t handle a fruit sauce on my chicken, pineapple on my ham, or a maple glaze on my fish. So next time, I would leave the brown sugar completely out of the rub. That being said, if you enjoy sweet and savory main courses, then you would probably like to keep the brown sugar included. Also, when making pesto, I never use the large amount of oil that a recipe calls for. I only drizzle in just enough so that it’s creamy, which saves on a lot of calories.

Seasoned Tilapia with Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto
Source: Ezra Pound Cake, originally from Bobby Flay

I cut the original rub recipe in half to serve two. I made the entire batch of pesto, and I froze the leftovers in an ice cube tray for later. I also adapted this recipe to be cooked inside, rather than to be grilled. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

For the Rub:
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1/2 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chile de arbol powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto:
2 yellow bell peppers, roasated, peeled, and seeded
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For the fish:
2 tilapia filets
Extra virgin olive oil
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Combine all of the rub ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.

2. Place the peppers, garlic, pine nuts, cilantro, and cheese in a food processor, and process until combined. Drizzle in as much olive oil as necessary to make the pesto as creamy as you’d like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Rub each filet with the seasoning mixture. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, enough to lightly coat the bottom. Saute until the fish flakes easily with a fork, approximately 5 minutes per side.

4. Top each filet with some of the pesto, and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Cumin-Crusted Scallops over Pepperjack Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Cumin-Crusted Scallops over Pepperjack Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Inspiration: Whenever I’m out eating somewhere, I always take note of things that I love. At a restaurant here in town a few months back, I ordered scallops that were coated in cumin and blackened, and I really enjoyed them. While in Austria, one of my dishes came with a side of tiny cubes of roasted zucchini and peppers, and B and I both thought that the vegetables tasted amazing. One of my favorite new ways to cook is to store up little odds and ends that I enjoy from other places, and then throw them into my own meals at home.

What we Loved: I thought that the flavors and textures of this dish all combined really well. I loved the mixture of the creamy, pepperjack polenta with the crispy roasted flavor of the vegetables and the soft cumin scallops. The vegetables added a surprising amount of flavor to the meal, which I was really happy about. All together, this meal was really great for a healthy summer evening.

Helpful Hints: I always think that the most important thing about cooking scallops is to make sure that you don’t overcook them. If they’re overcooked, they end up getting really stiff and rubbery, and to me, it ruins the meal. When searing the scallops for this dish, they only need about 2 minutes per side. My biggest piece of advice is to take the scallops off of the heat just when you’re starting to question if they’re done yet. They will be!

Cumin-Crusted Scallops over Pepperjack Polenta with Roasted Vegetables
Source: Original Recipe

For the scallops
8 sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For the polenta
1 cup polenta
3 cups water
2-3 oz cubed pepperjack cheese

For the Vegetables
1 small zucchini, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the zucchini and red pepper on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, spreading the vegetables in an even layer. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until browned, flipping the vegetables a few times for even cooking.

2. Meanwhile, add the water to a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan often. When the polenta is done, add the pepperjack cheese, stir to combine, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep warm until serving.

3. Mix together the flour, cumin, chili powder, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Dip each side of the scallops into the mixture. Heat a stainless steel saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Wait until the oil starts to smoke, then add the scallops. To allow the crust to form, do not move the scallops once you’ve placed them in the pan. Using a pair of kitchen tongs, flip the scallops after approximately 2 minutes. The scallops should release from the pan when they are ready to be flipped. Cook for an additional 2 minutes on the other side.

4. Serve the vegetables and the scallops atop the polenta.

Shrimp and Vegetable Skewers

Shrimp and Vegetable Skewers

*updated June 2011 with some new pictures.

Inspiration: Our Memorial Day weekend was filled with fabulous weather, and there’s no better time to start grilling than on Memorial Day. B and I took a nice bike ride in the afternoon, and it seemed like the whole city smelled like grilled food. It was fabulous.

What we Loved:  This was easily the best meal that we’ve had in months. B grilled everything just perfectly, and I couldn’t believe the flavor. Neither B nor I have ever had grilled shrimp before, and because shrimp cooks so quickly, I wasn’t expecting it to taste that much different than shrimp cooked inside. But the grilled, charred flavor of the shrimp was just amazing, and we couldn’t get over how great it was. It was like the shrimp soaked up the entire essence and flavor of the grill in the few short minutes that they were cooking. The vegetables were just as good, with my favorite being the slightly crisp and blackened onions. I coated all of the vegetables and shrimp with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, cilantro, and plenty of garlic before cooking, so everything also had a nice, garlicy flavor. We enjoyed these skewers with some Belgian Training Wheels beer from Original Gravity Brewing Company for a lovely summer evening dinner.

Helpful Hints: The shrimp will cook much more quickly than the vegetables, so be sure to skewer the shrimp on their own skewers, so you can start grilling the vegetables first.

Shrimp and Vegetable Kabobs
Source: Original Recipe to serve 2

14 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small zucchini, cut into thick chunks
8 baby portabella mushrooms
1/2 red pepper, cut into thick slices
1/2 vidalia onion, cut into thick wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lime
A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Place 8-10 wooden skewers in a dish of water to soak for 30 minutes.

2. Place the vegetables in a bowl, and place the the shrimp in a second bowl. To each bowl, add a liberal drizzle of olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lime. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, black pepper, cilantro, and minced garlic. Mix to combine.

3. When you’re ready to grill, skewer the vegetables and the shrimp, making sure to keep them on different skewers because the shrimp will cook much more quickly than the vegetables.

4. Grill the vegetable skewers first, for approximately 7-10 minutes per side. Pour any extra marinade that has accumulated in the bowl over the skewers after you place them on the grill. When the vegetable skewers are just about finished, grill the shrimp skewers for approximately 1-2 minutes per side.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia with Roasted Red Pepper Polenta

Inspiration: I love cooking with fish. During the week, I feel great when we eat really healthy meals, and preparing supper with fish is one of the easiest ways to do that. We usually eat seafood at least twice per week, and one of my new cooking goals is to experiment more with creating my own recipes. This meal is a result of that effort.

What we Loved: I loved the overall flavor of this dish. I simply mixed some roasted red pepper spread into my polenta, and it created a really strong red pepper flavor and a gorgeous color. I couldn’t get over how pretty the polenta looked on the plate! The simple corn salsa that I threw together also complimented both the polenta and the fish really well, and I particularly liked the added flavor and crunch of the red onions, which I would be more liberal with next time.

Helpful Hints: Any whitefish that you prefer would work great in this recipe, though I really like the flaky quality of tilapia.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia with Roasted Red Pepper Polenta
Source: Original Recipe to serve 2

Tilapia filets (I used four small)
1/8 cup cornmeal
Salt and pepper
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup polenta
1/3 cup Trader Joe’s roasted red pepper spread with garlic and eggplant, or something similar
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/3 can chopped green chiles
1 slice red onion, diced

1. In a small bowl, combine the corn, green chiles, and red onion. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Add two cups of water to a sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Slowly pour the polenta into the pan, stirring to ensure that it doesn’t clump. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thickened. Add the red pepper spread and mix to incorporate. 

3. While the polenta is cooking, mix the cornmeal and a sprinkling of salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and coriander in a shallow bowl. Dredge the fish filets in the mixture and set aside. Heat a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan, and when it is hot, add the fish and cook for approximately 5 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

4. Serve the fish atop the polenta, topped with the corn salsa.

Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole

In an effort to make my blog a little different and a little more interesting to write, I’m experimenting with some changes to the format.

Inspiration: I haven’t done much experimenting yet, but judging from the few creole dishes that I’ve tried, creole cuisine is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  The stew-like dishes that are traditionally prepared each have a fantastic heat to them, and every dish that I’ve tried so far has had layers of spices and flavor. There’s something incredibly comforting about a spicy pot of shrimp creole or jambalaya simmering on the stove, and the flavors never disappoint. Over the last few months, I’ve found a new love in spicy and comforting creole food, and I always look forward to trying a new recipe.

What we Loved: The sauce in this dish is really rich in tomato flavor, with just an edge of smokiness from the addition of worcestershire sauce. The spice level that comes from the cayenne pepper and hot sauce is perfect, having quite a kick but not leaving you reaching for your water glass after every bite. I love that this dish is served over a bed of white rice, instead of mixing the rice into the pot, because you can mix the rice into your own dish as much or as little as you’d like while you’re eating.

Helpful Hints: The original recipe calls for seafood stock, but I had some extra chicken stock in the pantry and used that instead. This is a good idea if you want the final dish to have a less “fishy” flavor, although you’re sacrificing some authenticity. What I find most important about this dish is to add the shrimp to the pot just a minute or two before serving. As soon as the shrimp turn pink, it’s safe to turn off the heat and serve. Shrimp only take a few minutes to cook, and overcooked shrimp will have a very tough texture. It’s best to stop cooking even before you think they’re quite done. There’s nothing like fresh, tender shrimp!

Shrimp Creole
Source: Food Network

I changed the amounts of several ingredients and omitted a few ingredients. Here is the recipe as I made it.

Extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
Dash worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb large shrimp, shelled, deveined, and tails removed

1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil, and saute the onions for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Stir in the cayenne, and let carmelize.

2. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes,Worcestershire, hot sauce, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, and crush the tomatoes with the back of a spoon as much as you can. After cooking, the tomatoes will become more tender, and you can crush them further then.

3. Simmer for 35 minutes, or until the sauce is as thickened as you would like. You can crush the tomatoes more at this point.

4. Add the shrimp to the pot, and cook until just pink and opaque. Serve immediately.

Mahi-Mahi Tacos

Mahi-Mahi Tacos

I adore fish tacos. They’re so fresh, healthy, and delicious, and along with chickpea tacos, they’re probably the kind of taco that I make the most frequently. I like to marinate the fish (I used mahi-mahi this time, but I usually use tilapia, and any white fish will work) in a cilantro marinade before sauteeing it until it’s nice and brown in olive oil. Often, I cook fish this way and serve it as is (like in my cilantro tilapia dish), but when I’m making tacos I shred the fish and top it in the taco shells with shredded cheese  and a simple pico de gallo. Yum! I just love the contast in textures between the soft fish and the crunchy taco shells, and the flavor of the fish that has been marinated and browned is just fantastic, especially if you’re a huge fan of cilantro like B and I are. Tacos served this way taste just like a healthy summer day.

Mahi-Mahi Tacos
Source: Marinade adapted from Jason Cooks

2 mahi-mahi fillets, or whatever white fish you’d like
1 handful of cilantro, about a cup
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil

Pico de Gallo
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 handful cilantro, finely minced
Juice from 1/2 lime
Black pepper

1/2 cup cheese, shredded (Whatever kind you like. I used chihuahua cheese, but I often use cheddar.)

1. Combine the cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and juice from 1 lime in a food processor, and puree.

2. Coat the fish in the marinade, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

3. While the fish is sitting, combine the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, juice from 1/2 lime, and black pepper in a bowl, and mix.

4. Heat a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan. Add the fish and cook until the it is browned and flakes easily with a fork, approximatel 7-8 minutes.

5. Shred the fish with two forks, and serve in crunchy taco shells with the shredded cheese and pico de gallo.

Lemon Pesto Swordfish

Mmmm. This was the best fish that I’ve made in quite some time. And it was so easy! I had a busy shopping night last night, so it was nice to have something that I could whip together so quickly. The swordfish is sauteed, topped with pesto mixed with fresh lemon juice, and then sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. The light and fresh flavor of the lemon goes so well with both the fish and the pesto, and I love the really hearty flavor and texture of the swordfish in this meal. If you haven’t had swordfish before, it has a surprising heartiness, more like a steak than a fish. This was really a delicious main course – Giada’s recipes never disappoint :)

Lemon Pesto Swordfish
Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

I had some prepared pesto in the freezer, so rather than making Giada’s citrus pesto as listed in the recipe, I simply thawed 3 tablespoons of my pesto and added some lemon juice. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

2 swordfish steaks
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons pesto
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
1/8 cup pine nuts

1.  Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the swordfish steaks with salt and pepper, and saute the fish for 4-5 minutes on each side.

2. While the fish is cooking, pour the pine nuts in a small sauce pan, and heat them over medium heat. Cook until the pine nuts are lightly toasted and browned, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Mix the lemon juice into the pesto.

5. Plate the swordfish. Top each steak with some of the lemon pesto, and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts.