Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shrimp Jalapeno Poppers

Shrimp Jalapeno Poppers
Serves: 8
Shrimp jalapeno poppers
This is another great appetizer.  It is surprisingly good – disappears quickly in my house and assuredly will in yours. I have two jalapeno plants in my garden this summer.  My mistake. I had no idea how very productive they were and needed to figure out some additional recipes featuring these relatively mild peppers. Removing the seeds and ribs not only makes room for the stuffing but also greatly decreased the heat.

A mature jalapeño fruit is 2–3½ inches long and is commonly picked and consumed while still green, but occasionally it is allowed to fully ripen and turn crimson red. Good-quality Jalapeno peppers should be firm, smooth-skinned and have solid green coloring. Dry lines are not a blemish. They are signs of a mature pepper and indicate hotness. 
Jalapenos in my garden. Ready to harvest!

Avoid product that is soft, bruised, has wrinkled skin or spots of mold. It is considered a moderately hot chili. However, chili peppers are an amazingly complex product. The region, climate, growing conditions, time of harvest all has an impact on the heat. The only real test is to taste one.
  • 15 jalapeno chilis
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz Gouda cheese, grated
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 C cooked bay shrimp

Wearing gloves, halve the 15 jalapeno chilies lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and ribs with a spoon. Set them aside. 
Scrape out the seeds. Do NOT rub your eyes afterwards.

Toast ½ tsp cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
Toasting cumin seeds
Transfer the toasted seeds to a food processor, add 8 oz softened cream cheese and 8 oz shredded Gouda cheese, and whirl to blend. Put cheese mixture into a bowl and stir in 3 thinly sliced green onions and 1 C cooked bay shrimp. If your jalapeno chilies are small, you might want to cut the shrimp in half horizontally so filling will more easily fit.
Bay shrimp
Spoon the cheese filling into chilies. You can bake this in the oven or heat on your grill.  If baking, line a baking sheet with foil, place each stuffed chili on the foil.  
Shrimp and cheese filling
Ready to cook
Once done, place in a 350 degree F oven. Cook until chilies are tender and cheese is melted and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, preheat your grill to medium (350 – 425 degree F).  Once heated, lay a sheet of greased foil on cooking grate. Set chilies, filling side up, on greased foil, cover the grill and cook until tender and cheese melted, about 15 minutes.
Let stuffed chilies cool slightly before serving. You and your guests will be surprised by how really good these are. Serve with beer, Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris and enjoy.

Bon Appetit!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Curried Chickpea, Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew

For comments, please post below or email to cookingwithlarue@gmail.com

Curried Chickpea, Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew

Soupe de Pois Chickes, Lentilles et Blettes

Serves: 8
Curried Chickpea, Lentil & Swiss Chard Stew
My Farmer’s Market Bag this week a beautiful bunch of Rainbow Swiss Chard. I needed to either admire it in a vase or eat it. Yes, it was that gorgeous. As soon as the weather turns a bit cool, I get into soup mode big-time. I love to make enough so we have leftovers for lunch or in the freezer for days when I do not have time to cook. This recipe is completely vegetarian – it is thick, healthy and tasty. You could add cut up sausages if you had an avowed meat-eater in the family. But, really, this is so tasty and filling, it really needs nothing but some bread and wine! 

In France, there are all matter of grains, rice and dried beans. Each package is usually labeled with year of harvest and a “use by” date, ensuring the freshest product for use. It appears to be a less prevalent practice in the US. When shopping for any dried grains, rice or beans, always go to a store that has good turnover and hope you get the freshest of the fresh. The rule is simple: the older the grains, rice, or beans, the longer they will take to cook and the duller the flavor.

This dish, more of a thick stew than a soup, bursts with fresh, spicy flavors and combines some of my favorite ingredients: chickpeas, chard and lentils. Swiss Chard is usually associated with cuisines from the Mediterranean. While the leaves are always green, chard stalks vary in color. It has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves at the expense of the root. It is a nutritional powerhouse, a superb source of calcium and potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and beta-carotene, as well as two carotenoids.  Chard is, in fact, considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables around and ranks first, tied with spinach, in total nutrient-richness.  If unavailable in your market, spinach would be a substitute – though the bite and taste would be a bit different.
Gorgeous rainbow Swiss Chard
Lentils, like other legumes, are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, but they have the added advantage of cooking quickly. They have a mild, often earthy flavor.  The best, most delicate lentils are the peppery French green lentils. These hold their shape well as you will witness in this stew.
 Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans (in Spanish cooking) or ceci beans (in Italian cooking), are another legume – rich in protein and fiber.  Actually a hefty portion is an insoluble fiber felt to be quite beneficial to colon health.  It is the main ingredient in hummus.
  • 1½ C dried French lentils, preferably lentilles du Puy, rinsed and drained.
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 4 sprigs of Parsley
  • 4 sprigs of Thyme
  • Celery leaves
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Qts Vegetable or Chicken stock
  • 2 tsp curry powder – prefer Madras
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, leaves only, coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
  • 2 C canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 C Greek-style plain yogurt for garnish
  • 2 tsp toasted cumin seeds for garnish
Place 1½ C dried French green lentils in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Set aside.

Encase the 4 sprigs of parsley, thyme and celery leaves in a wire mesh tea infuser or wrapped in tightly in cheesecloth to create a bouquet garni. In a large stockpot, combine 2 Tb olive oil, your bouquet garni, 1 thinly sliced halved onion, and 1 tsp sea salt. Sweat, cooking over a low heat, until soft but not browned, for about 3 minutes. Add 2 qts stock and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the lentils from the sieve, 2 tsp curry powder, and ½ tsp cayenne powder and stir. Simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add 12 C chard leaves and 2 C chickpeas and cook until the leaves are wilted, about 5 minutes more. Remove the bouquet garni and toss. Taste for seasoning.
Cut Swiss Chard
 While the stew is cooking, toast 2 tsp whole cumin by placing them in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Shake the pan regularly until the cumin seeds are fragrant and evenly toasted, about 2 minutes. Watch carefully as they easily burn. Set aside to cool.
Toasted Cumin
When ready to serve, divide the stew among warmed bowls. Garnish with a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of toasted cumin.  You and your family will not only love this stew – rich spicy flavor with crunch of chard and cool yogurt topping – but they will also love the healthy benefits you are providing - perhaps.

Wine pairing is fun with this meal. The cayenne pepper definitely gives it some spice – which I love – if you are in the mood for a white wine – try a Gewürztraminer or Riesling. A wonderful California Zinfandel or Syrah would also pair beautifully.  And, of course, beer – a cold Pilsner – would be great.

Bon Healthy Appetit!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo

For comments, please post below or email to cookingwithlarue@gmail.com

Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo
Serves: 4
Fried Egg with Squash and Tomatillo 
Tomatillos are also called "tomate verde" in Mexico (which means green tomato) and are considered a staple in Mexican cooking. Tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, related to tomatoes. It now grows everywhere in the Western Hemisphere. An inedible paper-like husk formed from the calyx surrounds the tomatillo fruit. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The freshness and greenness of the husk are key criteria for quality. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. To prepare, peel the husk by hand and wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove sticky residue from the surface. Fresh tomatillos can be used raw and cooked in recipes.
The taste explosion of this entrée comes as a surprise – the tangy tomatillo sauce creates the bed for the caramelized squash with the egg providing both a protein source and sauce to bathe the dish. The recipe is surprisingly simple, taking less than 40 minutes to prepare – add a green salad, some bread and you are done. It will serve 4 and provide an elegant entrée.
  • 1-2 jalapenos
  • ½ lb tomatillos
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 5 Tb olive oil (divided use)
  • 4½ C diced yellow and green squash (about 1½ lbs.)
  • 5 sprigs and 3 Tb chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large eggs

Turn on the broiler.  Place 1-2 jalapenos halved lengthwise, ½ lb tomatillos and 2 small peeled garlic cloves in an ovenproof dish and broil until the tomatillos are charred, about 7-10 minutes.
Broiled tomatillos
Swirl 2 Tb olive oil in a large skillet, heat. Add 4½ C one inch diced yellow and green squash.  Add squash in a single layer in skillet – if necessary do 2 batches. Salt and cook 4-5 minutes or until caramelized and tender. Remove from heat; stir in 3 Tb chopped fresh cilantro. Season, as needed, with additional salt. Cover to keep warm.
Squash before...and after (below)

Transfer tomatillo, jalapenos and garlic from broiler to blender with 5 sprigs of cilantro. Blend on high.  Slowly add 1½ Tb olive oil to blender until mixture smooth. Season to taste with salt and 2 tsp fresh lime juice.  Set aside, cover to keep warm.

Using a nonstick frying pan, add 1½ Tb olive oil and heat.  One at a time, crack 4 eggs into a small bowl. Tip the bowl gently, sliding one egg into the heated pan. Repeat with all 4 eggs.  Keep the heat low so you can control the cooking. Season with salt and fry 3-4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked and the yolks just begin to set (if you cook too long, you lose the “sauce” for the dish). It is sometimes useful to put a lid on the pan to encourage the whites to set up.

To serve, spoon 4-5 Tb warm tomatillo sauce in 4 shallow dishes. Mound roasted squash in center. Top with fried egg. Garnish with cilantro sprig and lime wedge and serve immediately. A wonderful light white wine would be perfect. The tomatillo sauce is a bit tangy so you would want to blend and not compete with that. I would serve with a Riesling or a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer a red wine – Syrah would be ideal. A beer would also be nice. Next, sit back and take in the praise.  Really.
The finished product, this time with the egg cut.
Bon Appetit!