Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Study in Green – Arugula and Endamame Crostini

I think it was subconscious when my sister arranged these verdant appetizer toasts on a minty green platter. She tends to go monochromatic. (I tend towards alliteration. Similarities?)

But what a feast for the eyes! And an even better treat for the taste buds. It was a pesto, all right, but the peppery tang of the arugula blended with the creaminess of the endamame, all binded by freshly-grated Parmgiano-Reggiano made it unique and irresistible. The touch of fresh mint added one more layer of flavor . . . and one more shade of green.

If I hadn’t seen  . . . and smelled . . . the pork tenderloin being readied for the main course, I could have easily made of meal of these crostini. They were that good.

The notion that they looked like a school of fish swimming in a green pool just added to my amused enjoyment.

The original recipe calls for fava beans. But they aren’t too easy to find. If I ever do, I’m going to scarf them up as faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Fortunately, the recipe creator, in a 2009 issue of Gourmet, suggests endamame as a great substitute. But they don’t have those too often at the general store down the road, so I’ll be putting that on my next “go to town” shopping list. Just like Mrs. Ingalls.

These crostini were just one of the appetizers we had when my sister hosted the family for our indoor (wishing we had the rain now that threatened that day!) alfresco dinner party, the one that the semifreddo topped off. The main course, that terrific tenderloin, is next. Obviously, I’m not doing a whole lot of cooking during this heat wave.

Off to do the rain dance!

Arugula and Fava-Bean Crostini
Gourmet, May 2009
by Kay Chun
Makes 8 servings (not if I'm around)

  • 1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (1 1/4 pounds in pods) or shelled fresh or frozen edamame (soybeans; 3/4 pounds in pods)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups packed baby arugula (1 1/2 ounces), divided
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Toscano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
  • 16 mint leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook fava beans in boiling water, uncovered, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain and transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Gently peel off skins (if using edamame, don't peel).

Pulse fava beans in a food processor until very coarsely chopped, then transfer half of mixture to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup arugula, cheese, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to favas in processor and purée until smooth. Add to bowl. Coarsely chop remaining cup arugula and gently fold into fava-bean mixture.

Cut 16 diagonal slices (1/3 inch thick) from baguette and put in a 4-sided sheet pan. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Bake until pale golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Rub with cut side of garlic.

Spoon fava-bean mixture onto baguette toasts, then drizzle with oil and top with mint.

Cooks' notes:
•Topping, without chopped arugula, can be made 8 hours ahead and chilled. Fold in arugula before using.
•Toasts can be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

The cheese platter was pretty tasty, too.  I went for the Dubliner first, then the brie, then back to the crostini.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shrimp "On a Stick!" -- from Matt Armendariz

There really is something that’s just plain ol’ fun about eating food on a stick. I just loved eating cotton candy and caramel apples as kid when we went to the county fair. But now that I’m (very) grown-up, I can enjoy the adult treats that Matt Armendariz shares in his book “On a Stick!” The sub-title of the book is “80 Party-Perfect Recipes.” He’s right: This recipe collection just screams party.

I often take a cookbook to bed with me to read, and that’s what I did with my review copy. I was hard pressed to pick the first one wanted to try for my party for two with Mr. Rosemary. Was it going to be the Lamb Souvlaki? The Coconut Shrimp? Fish Balls? Deep Fried Ravioli? Molotes? Crispy Orange Beef Skewers? Tough choice. And tougher to get to sleep that night thinking about which one I’d make.

My first pick was Pinchos de Gambas, sweetly spicy grilled shrimp. And the main reason I chose it was because I did have all the ingredients on hand, even the smoked paprika.  Do not substitute; the smoked paprika is a necessity. And I’d just been to the store and had a bag of fresh limes, too. So I was ready.

A lot of paprika and cumin gives the shrimp a smoky, spicy flavor and a rich mahogany color. Although the recipe calls for a lot of spice, it’s not overpowering. I love shrimp, always have, and usually like it plain and simply grilled. (So does Mr. Rosemary.) But this spicy version just may become the favored alternate here. It was scrumptious. I served it with coconut rice and steamed broccoli. A great party for two. Matt suggests, appropriately, having a glass of Spanish red with the shrimp. but I had to stick with the New York white we had.

The book is a treat to read and look at. The photographs are superb and make you salivate. And make up a guest list.

The recipes range from savory to sweet, and from the more traditional, like Chicken Satay and Caprese Sticks and Corn Dogs to the unusual like Spaghetti and Meatballs (yes, on a stick) and Son-in-Law Eggs and Pizza Skewers. There’s breakfast on a stick – pancake batter dipped sausages, deep fried, and dipped in syrup, and Cake Pops, and Deep Fried Candy Bars and the dessert I’m going to have at my next party – Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake.

What I really want to make is Suppli, deep-fried balls of rice wrapped around mozzarella.  Next.

The book is a showcase for Matt’s creativity. He also includes recipes for a variety of dips and sauces for your stick food. It’s a delightful book and party-inspiring. There are a lot of deep fried recipes, so I might just choose one of them if I was hosting a party for more than two, and some of the ingredients might be a little difficult for someone who lives in the sticks (bad pun, I know) to find, but when you’re having a party you make the effort.

These shrimps, though were pretty effortless . . . and highly recommended.

Pinchos de Gambas
From On a Stick! by Matt Armendariz
Photo and Recipe used with permission
Serves 4

8 bamboo skewers
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
½ tablespoon cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound tiger shrimp, cleaned and peeled, with tails intact

Soak skewers in water 30 minutes.

Whisk smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, and 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and gently toss. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat grill or grill pan to medium high and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Thread 3 shrimp per skewer and grill 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or just until shrimp has cooked through. (Be careful not to overcook.) Serve hot.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Here’s One Unusual Appetizer: Turtle Balls!

“Hey, Rosie, honey, sweetie pie. You’re the best cook I know, except for my wife, of course.”

Our neighbor Mike was laying it on pretty thick. He must really want something.

“D’ya think you could work your magic on this turtle meat?”

“I thought you were going to make turtle soup,” I said.

“It’s going to be 88 degrees on Saturday. No one will want to eat soup,” he reasoned. Correctly, I’m guessing.

But since he had been talking since winter about trapping a turtle at my brother-in-law’s pond, I was a little surprised at this turn of events. Mike’s plan was to make turtle soup, which he has done before, and taking it to our brother-in-law’s (same one with the pond) annual 4th of July picnic bash. I knew he’d made several trips to the pond, set his traps, tried different hooks, different bait, stronger line, had several misses. And, finally, success! He’d worked hard for this darn turtle! Why was he chickening out, I wondered.

“Anyhow,” he continued, “the wife’s away and . . . . . “

Say no more, Mike.

I love a challenge, especially a cooking challenge, but turtle meat? Really . . . what else do you do with turtle besides make soup?

Mike himself suggested breading and frying the meat. Good idea, Mike. Turtle tenders. Could be a market trend setter.

But one look at the bowl of meat he’d carefully cleaned from the turtle and I could see there really weren’t that many “tender” size pieces. There were some, but there were also lots of shreds, too. I thought about patties, like salmon patties, or crab cakes. But what if even the more adventurous only wanted a taste of turtle? I needed something bite-size.

After nosing around a little on the internet -- none of my cook books had anything about turtle -- I learned that people do indeed bread and fry turtle meat. Some folks make kind of a chicken a la king, meat in a creamy sauce over rice or noodles. Not exactly picnic fare.

Eventually, I landed on sauerkraut balls. Usually sauerkraut balls are deep fried, but I didn’t want to mess with that either on a hazy, hot humid day, even in air conditioning. So I meshed the method I once used for baking egg rolls with a couple different appetizer recipes and gave it a go. I have to say they turned out pretty well.

I’m sure you want to know what turtle tastes like. Well, it doesn’t taste like chicken. People usually say that when describing a different meat, like frog legs, even snake, or groundhog. “Tastes like chicken.” Well, no, it doesn’t.

First of all the meat is a mix of light and dark and has lots of different textures, too. And in the bowl, before I did any doctoring, it had a faint seafood aroma. I thought it tasted more like veal. Except for the rubbery texture. Some pieces were tough to chew. Like some calamari.

Before I made the sauerkraut balls, I decided to marinate the turtle. (Actually, that was Mr. Rosemary. “I’d marinate the heck out of that if I were you,” said he.) I just used a bottle of Italian salad dressing, saved in the pantry for just such emergency occasions.

After marinating a day, I fried up the meat, which Mike had already cleaned well and boiled. I added a chopped onion and then whirled the whole mess in the food processor, pulsing several times, until it looked like tuna salad. Then I added the drained and finely chopped sauerkraut and mixed in a softened block of cream cheese.

Then into the fridge for a couple hours to make rolling into balls a little easier, since it is a pretty monotonous task. Then dipping in egg and rolling in bread crumbs. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes and you have turtle balls. I made two batches. The first didn’t brown real well, so I sprayed the second sheet of balls with vegetable spray and that helped give a richer color.

I made a simple tartar sauce to go with – mayonnaise, drained sweet relish, couple dashes of sriracha hot sauce.

It might have been just the novelty of the things, or the fact that were made from a turtle that came from that pond right over there, but the turtle balls went over much better than I expected. The really outdoorsy, macho men really liked them – including Mr. Rosemary, who claims he ate a dozen. And most of the women, some of the kids, tried them and at least smiled indulgently. “Really? Turtle? Not bad.”

But if Mike ever comes to the door again with anything he wants me to cook, oh, something like a bear, please tell him I’m not home.

Here’s the recipe for sauerkraut balls, sans turtle meat. I suggest you just use sausage.

Sauerkraut Balls
1 pound hot ground pork sausage
1 onion finely chopped
1 16-ounce can sauerkraut, rinsed, drained well and finely chopped
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

Cook the sausage and onion in a large deep skillet until sausage is evenly browned and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Mix sauerkraut and cream cheese with the sausage mixture.Cover and chill in the fridge about 2 hours.

When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place beaten egg in a shallow bowl and seasoned bread crumbs in another shallow bowl or pie plate.Roll the chilled sausage mixture into about one inch balls. Place the balls one at a time in the egg, then the bread crumbs.

Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Spraying with vegetable oil spray helps the little balls to brown and mimics deep frying, the more common way to make sauerkraut balls.
photo from canstock