a san francisco treat

A long long time ago, like practically right around the time I started writing this little blog, I posted a recipe about meatballs and a story about music, and how those things tie Chris and I together pretty succinctly. Coincidentally enough, I wrote that post right before we were about to head to California to do a little wine tasting, which is pretty much where we meet in the middle.

He usually picks the music, I pick the food, and we both pick the wine. Love it like that.

But a weekend or so ago, all we had to do was worry about the wine, which was easy because, well, we have a lot of it.

It’s one of those ideas that felt like it should have been something we thought of on our own, but we just aren’t the entrepreneurial type, as it turns out. We are certainly glad someone did. A San Francisco-based couple has a blog they call “Turntable Kitchen” where they pair food with music, and eventually they decided to take it another step and sell a monthly subscription to a dinner with music pairings. They send a record with a couple of songs, a link to a mixed CD they’ve made, and three recipes with a featured ingredient as well.

It’s genius. And again, why didn’t we think of the damn thing?!

For our first month’s dinner, we picked our ingredients on the way home from a hike around Mt Tam. It had been a nice, sunny day and we were ready for taking it easy. We grabbed our goods, grabbed showers, grabbed a bottle of wine from the cooler, and got our music listening/cook on.

For those of you who didn’t know, cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco. It has a subtle fennel flavor, and is loaded with tomatoes and practically overflowing with any kind of seafood you can imagine and truthfully, you can put whatever you damn well please into it.

It’s the perfect dish for taking it easy – you dump all of the sauce ingredients into the pot and let it simmer, you add your seafood, and you slurp it up over a nice glass or two of white wine. Meanwhile you can have some melt-in-your-mouth burrata on crostini and prepare the components for your dessert. Cioppino night is a laid-back, California type of night.

And the best part? you do it all while hanging out with the one you love – a day spent in the sun and amidst nature, and a night spent together in the kitchen, checking out some California tunes, which if I remember correctly, was a band called “NO”. But again, the music’s his deal, remember?

Cioppino
Adapted from Turntable Kitchen & Bon Appetit, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes (45 active)

printable version

ingredients
3 T olive oil
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 1/2 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with juices
1 15 oz can of fish stock
1 c white wine (we adore Vermentino)
2 bay leaves
1 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh thyme
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (start with 1/2 t each and adjust as you see fit)
12 littleneck clams
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
1/2 lb halibut, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 lb bay scallops
1 lb large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
sourdough bread, for serving

instructions
Heat oil in a large heavy pot (Dutch oven, if you have it) over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add diced tomatoes and juice, fish stock, wine, and spices (through salt). Mix together, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
After the stew has simmered for about 45 minutes, add in the scallops, halibut, and shrimp. Once these start to turn opaque (3 minutes or so), stir in the clams and cover. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mussels. Cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove and discard of any clams/mussels that haven’t opened up at that point. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Ladle into 4 bowls and serve with nice crusty sourdough bread to carry that San Francisco treat all the way home.
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Avocados in Paradise

Wherever Paradise is located, I’d love to go there someday. I think I could get used to lying on the beach, traversing mountains whenever I please, and climbing trees to knock down coconuts. I think I could be really happy watching the sun set from a warm pier with a cute little poodle or two at my side and a nice glass of really old Spanish wine in my hand.

I’m not sure if I’d really need a computer. Or a phone. And maybe I could even do without pork if I had endless coconuts, and seafood, and pretty pretty things to look at. Of course, there are tons of versions of Paradise, but that’s the one I have in mind today.

I’d have to make sure I’d have regular access to these two things: avocado and grapefruit. If grapefruits weren’t so dang messy, I’d delve into one at my desk every single day. But since they are, I settle for home-eating of said fruit. I used to eat these things like they were going outta style in the 80’s. My mom would cut them in half, give me and my brother each one half in a bowl, and sprinkle some sugar on top. Many of you might not have a clue about what a “grapefruit spoon” looks like, but we had a handful in my house – they’re like regular spoons, but somewhat pointy and serrated, so you can easily scoop out the fruit – genius! Sure, the juice always dripped into the bowl, but that was the best part – sugary grapefruit juice. Hells yes.

We didn’t consume avocado in my house. I was probably 25+ when I realized the awesomeness of guacamole, and avocado soup, and all sorts of other avocadocontaining lovelies. I don’t think they’d be very good with sugar on top, but otherwise I can imagine I’d eat an avocado most any way – even ice cream. And maybe plain while sitting at my desk.

If I did have both of those things in Paradise, I’m guessing I’d be alright eating this salad pretty much every day for the rest of my life. Okay, not every day, but at least a few times a week. Avocados are always tasty out West, and grapefruits are making their winter debut as we speak type. And when they’re both tossed around in, get this, more grapefruit (juice! vinaigrette!) it is really, really something.

The shrimp certainly don’t hurt the cause, either.

Of course, maybe your Paradise doesn’t have these things. Maybe your Paradise has chocolate and butter and bacon. Or cheeseburgers?! And cell phones and the internets. Yeah, those things are all good, too. For this month at least, this is what I crave. Next month is a whole other story.

Shrimp, Avocado, & Grapefruit Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~45 minutes

ingredients
2 1/2 T olive oil, divided
1 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/2 t salt, divided
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 grapefruit
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
2 t brown sugar
1 t chopped shallots
6 c chopped romaine lettuce
1 peeled avocado, cut into 12 wedges

instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 t oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Peel and section grapefruit over a bowl, reserving 3 tablespoons juice. Combine grapefruit juice, remaining 2 T oil, remaining 1/4 t salt, remaining 1/8 t pepper, tarragon, brown sugar, and shallots in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add lettuce; toss. Arrange 2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 3 avocado wedges; divide shrimp and grapefruit sections evenly among servings.

Fair and Square

One of our favorite types of food these days is ramen. No, not the 10/$1.00 packs that come in all sorts of flavors, like chicken, oriental, and beef, but the actual kind that you are given in a restaurant, in a gigantic bowl filled to the brim with steaming hot broth, ramen noodles, pork (or fried chicken. fried chicken!), and all sorts of other ingredients that have me salivating right this second.

We’ve tried a handful of spots in the city over the past few months, and every time I’m feeling the need for some warm comfort food my mind goes straight to ramen. I can’t get enough of it.

Of course, while waiting for said ramen to make its appearance at the table, it’s never a bad idea to have an appetizer or three. Many of these ramen joints make killer meat skewers, but often times all I want is a freakin’ potsticker. Something about a little sheet of dough enveloping a bite of meat and veggies, and then steamed and served alongside some sort of amazing dipping sauce makes me so amazingly happy. So happy that I could likely eat a couple orders of them and call it a night, if it weren’t for the ramen making its way to the table.

But when you’re home, that’s another story. I’ve eaten potstickers only quite a few times.

Potstickers are those little treats that look so damn hard to make, but are in all reality, probably one of the easiest dishes to throw together, minus the time. You toss the filling into a food processor, which means your initial chopping skills really don’t matter all that much, as long as things are similarly butchered to smithereens. You put the filling onto pre-made wrappers. You fold them (which is what people think is so dang hard. It isn’t.), and then you steam them. The sauce is nothing but a handful of ingredients whisked together (and for that, there are thousands of choices, but I’m a fan of a spicy peanut sauce, I am). Then you’re ready to chow down.

Sure, they look intricate. And sure, it might take some precision and a little patience, but there isn’t much that can go wrong, even if the wonton shapes aren’t winning beauty pageants. Either way, what results are little pockets of delightful goodness that you, I promise, won’t be able to resist.

You can even take them to a potluck if you want. And when that potluck gets canceled without your knowledge, you can smile a little on the inside, because they just turned into lunch, which means you can eat like, 10 of them, instead of 2. That’s what I call winning – fair and square.

Shrimp & Ginger Potstickers w/ Spicy Peanut Sauce
makes 24 potstickers – 4 servings as a meal, 12 as an appetizer

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
potstickers
3/4 c Napa cabbage, shredded
1/3 c scallions, chopped (+ more for garnish, optional)
1/4 c carrots, julienned
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 T low sodium soy sauce
2 t fresh ginger, minced
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked
sriracha, optional but totally not optional
24 small wonton wrappers
2 T cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 T canola oil, divided
1 c water, divided

sauce
1/4 c water
1/4 c reduced fat peanut butter
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 1/2 T chile paste w/ garlic (sambal oelek)
1/2 t sugar

instructions
combine 1st 10 ingredients (sriracha to your liking) into food processor and pulse ~4 times, or until coarsely chopped and mixed together.

working with 1 wrapper at a time, spoon 1 1/2 t of filling into the center. wet the edges of the wonton with a small brush and bring opposite corners together, pinching to seal. place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch/arrowroot powder.

heat 1 1/2 t canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 potstickers to pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. slowly add 1/2 c water, cover and cook for 4 minutes. uncover and cook 3 more minutes, until the liquid evaporates. Repeat again with remaining oil, potstickers, and water.

prepare sauce by combining all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisking until mixed.

serve potstickers with peanut sauce, garnishing with green onions, if desired.

Kiss My Grits

As it turns out, my pops was going green long before any of us were toting our own recyclable bags to the grocery store or biking to work. When we were wee little tikes, he had a job requiring a commute of about an hour or two (yes, even in the rural South), and he and one of his best friends, ‘Mr. Donald’, carpooled. Come summertime, my brother and I would hop, sluggishly, into the cab seats of pops’ 1985 Nissan pickup promptly at 6 am, and off to gramma’s we went for the day. Getting up with the roosters’ crows was not something I looked forward to, but going to gramma’s certainly was.

The commute wasn’t bad, either. My pops let me get coffee from the corner store on most days, but every so often we’d skip the corner store and stop further along, near Skinners Bypass, to get a hot breakfast. To this day, I can’t remember what I used to get (probably a cheese biscuit, or maybe some pancakes if I wanted to push my luck with making a mess…), but my brother, he always got grits.

He loved grits so much that Mr. Donald stopped calling him Matt, and early on in our commuting days he began calling him Grits. “Guh mornin’, Heather n’ Grits”. “Goin’ to gramma Maggie’s today?”. Man, those were the days. I don’t think my bro minded the nickname one bit though, as long as he could continue getting grits on the regular.

Me though? I was never a fan of the grainy, mushy, corn. The way I was schooled, you were either in the grits camp, or the oatmeal camp. Matt & I were polar opposites on the matter, and in that pickup truck, I was most certainly the odd man out. To this day, I’d choose oats over grits, and quite honestly, the grits and I are still not on the best of terms.

But with my sis and niece in town last weekend, I’d promised to cook one night. I’d sorta planned a homemade ravioli dish, but I could be easily coerced into something else, I figured. Early on in their visit, my sister made one of her random comments (she gets that from my mom):

“do yuuuu know whut theyyy stopped servin’ baaack home? shrimp n’ griyts. i caaayn’t fin’ ’em anywhayre. i suuure wood luv to git sum shrimp n’ griyts.”

Irony of coming from the South to the Midwest for shrimp and grits aside, rather than taking a trip for sushi away from my niece, I quickly decided that I’d save the ravioli, and conquer this dish once and for all. Sure, I could have submitted an exotic Indian dish for this challenge, or perhaps made crepes, but I was challenged here, not because of the cuisine itself, but for other reasons: I was making a Southern/Cajun dish for someone who is a ‘grit’ herself, and I was making a component I tend to stray away from. I wanted to prove myself wrong about grits and their textural shortcomings, and I wanted to show my sis that you don’t have to live in the South to make Southern food, and you don’t have to rely on a restaurant to provide for ya.

While I rarely admit fault (ask the hubs), I will happily do so here. I could have eaten this dish for the rest of the week, and instantly regretted having to share this meal with visitors because that meant the leftovers would be scarce. The grits were mushy, which is to be expected since they are in fact, grits, but the texture was offset by the shrimp and peppers. Heat? Whoa Nelly – that sauce is the meal ticket, and I happily doused more than my fair share into my bowl. My sis? I think she said less during the course of that meal than she typically says in a minute – a true sign that she was satisfied, hankering cured.

I’m still not sure if I’ll ever find myself ordering grits at 6 am like my bro used to, heck – I hope to not order much of anything at 6 am, but for the time being, oatmeal can certainly kiss my grits.

Cajun Shrimp & Grits
Adapted from The Boathouse in Charleston, SC via Epicurious.com; serves 6

this is a great recipe even if you aren’t in the grits camp, but you have to enjoy a lil’ spice in your life! alternatively, you could omit the hot sauce on top, but to me, that’s the best part :).

printable version

ingredients
hot pepper cream sauce
1/3 c hot sauce (preferably Frank’s)
1/4 c dry white wine
1 shallot, chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T rice vinegar
1 c half & half (divided, half is for grits)

grits
5 c water
3 c 2% milk
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 c corn grits (not ‘quick cooking’ grits)

everything else
1/4 c olive oil
8 oz smoked andouille sausage*, casings removed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c minced onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
30 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 t Cajun seasoning
2 t Old Bay seasoning
chives, minced, for garnish

instructions
Combine hot pepper sauce, wine, shallot, lemon juice and vinegar in heavy medium saucepan. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 c, about 15 minutes. Stir in 1/2 c half & half. Cover and refrigerate (can make in advance).

Bring 1/2 c half & half, 5 cups water, milk and butter to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Simmer until grits are very soft and thickened, stirring frequently, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add sausage, both bell peppers, onion and garlic; sauté until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add shrimp, tomatoes, Cajun seasoning and Old Bay seasoning and sauté until shrimp are opaque in center, about 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring hot pepper-cream sauce to simmer. Spoon grits onto 6 plates, dividing equally. Spoon shrimp mixture over grits. Drizzle hot pepper-cream sauce over and serve.

*andouille sausage is is spicy, smoked pork & beef sausage. I get mine from the sausage case @ Whole Foods, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute any other spicy sausage and either slice it thinly or remove the casings and use it ground.

Club Soba

Part of having a food blog means you talk about the foods you ate (or didn’t eat) as a child. Generally, that implies a certain amount of discussions involving your favorite dishes, a secret recipe, or in some cases, those dishes you still can’t seem to stomach even after almost 30 years of watching family members eat it – collards would be that dish for me, as I’ve mentioned recently, although I just might have to give them a try again, thanks to a reader’s suggestion.

Might would be the key word there…

Sometimes, I forget about all the little things I used to eat growing up, and occasionally dishes creep ever so sneakily back into existence. Dishes such as fried onions, which are not to be confused with onion rings. You see, I think of onion rings as battered and deep fried, eaten with a generous dollop of ketchup or some fat-laden dipping sauce, and they’re especially yummy with a juicy steak cooked ‘on the barbie’, if you catch my drift. Onion rings are outta this world; don’t get me wrong.

But here, I’m referring to the unbattered version. The thinly-sliced, slightly caramelized, and pan-fried in just a tad of oil type of circular onions, or shallots actually. Even better when they’re fried to a crisp, mostly black and crunchy, still sweet and juicy in the middle.

Now, growing up these onions were not served over a bed of Asian-flavored soba noodles and centered between lime-marinated shrimp. But hence my point – the onions were what really did it for me in this dish, and for the longest time I couldn’t put my finger on why, but then it hit me. I remembered those slippery caramelized onions, some soft and some crispy, that my dad used to make to serve alongside dinner. Remember – he doesn’t like green veggies, so he slides in potatoes and onions when he can. I don’t complain.

And while I’m certain these onions would be nothing short of remarkable without the accompaniments, the shrimps and noodles aren’t half bad either. Soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour (which is gluten-free and has nothing to do with wheat), have a taste distinct from traditional pasta in that they’re nutty and earthy. They’re high in protein and fiber, and they love to be mixed in a bowl of soy sauce and other Asian flavors and topped with these crunchy shallots and garlic, not to mention the shrimpies.

Ever tried soba noodles? Have a favorite soba dish? Share away :)!

Soba Noodles w/ Shrimp & Crispy Shallots
Adapted, from Food & Wine, March 2010; serves 4

a perfectly healthy dish for a weeknight dinner that utilizes a sometimes-forgotten noodle and those scrumptious fried shallots and crisp garlic.

printable version 

ingredients
6 ounces soba noodles (Eden Organic, preferably)
1/4 c sunflower oil (or canola)
3 T low-sodium soy sauce*
3 T tamari*
1 t agave syrup
2 large shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 lime, juiced and zested
1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 t crushed red pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

instructions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the soy sauce, tamari and agave syrup. Add the noodles and toss.

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until golden and crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the paper towels.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt. Grill the shrimp over high heat, turning once, until glazed and just white throughout, 3 minutes. {to save dish-washing, you can also saute these in the skillet you used above}

Arrange the noodles on a large platter. Sprinkle with the scallions, cilantro, crushed red pepper and the fried shallots and garlic. Arrange the shrimp on top and serve with lime wedges alongside.

*gluten-free available

Hypercolor Flashback: Purple Asparagus

purple asparagus pieces
I went to one of Chicago’s local farmer’s markets last weekend, where the asparagus was piled on the tables in a matter resembling fresh-cut lumber. There were stacks of green and purple, yes purple, asparagus. And while I’d heard of it before, I’d never cooked with or eaten it. It has a higher sugar content than its green buddy and is more tender. The cool part is that, when you cook them thoroughly, they turn green on the outside, just like the inside. Maybe you aren’t so wowed by this, but the first thought that came into my mind was this: hypercolor. And I was mystified.

purple asparagus


Do ya’ll remember the hypercolor t-shirts? If not, well – first I am very sad about that, but second – I’ll give you a refresher. The hypercolor fad occurred in the late 80’s/early 90’s amidst a number of clothing faux pas, such as puffy skirts, legwarmers, and fingerless gloves (wait..I must have missed something when those came back into circulation in 2008…). Hypercolor shirts were not fashion faux pas; in fact they’re scientifically fascinating. The amazing magical t-shirts changed colors when exposed to heat, which was accomplished by using thermochromic dye that, at high temperatures, resulted in a chemical reaction that subsequently altered the color of the t-shirt in the area where the heat was applied.

Me? I sported a pink hypercolor shirt that changed to white. My show-stopping outfit was completed with jeans, holes ripped in the knees, a t-shirt clip, Reebok Pumps, and an NKOTB pin that was the size of my head. Well, not that big, but you get the point. Let’s not forget the hair-do: side ponytail with poofed up bangs, probably perfected by Kris. It was something.

making risotto

I used my little purple hypercolor market treasures to make a shrimp risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make, as you have a basic ‘no whammies’ technique and an end result that can be altered by adding any other ingredients you wish. Like ice cream, in a way. The worst part, to some, about making risotto is the time spent standing in front of the stovetop, stirring in the liquid. One thinks of all the other chores that could generally be accomplished while cooking – washing the prep dishes, getting the table set, watching a portion of a tv show, reading, etc. These things can’t be done while making risotto.


making risotto



You see, making top-notch risotto is accomplished by cooking your rice slowly by adding small amounts of liquid and stirring, thus releasing the starch molecules from the rice into the liquid. For this to happen, the rice must first get cooked briefly in fat, typically butter or olive oil. Once the rice is al dente, it’s removed from heat at which time you’re free. Free from the reigns of the stovetop, for one, but second, free to add whatever your heart desires – or whatever you’ve got lying around in need of being eaten. On the other hand, if you’re adding something like shrimp, you can cook the shrimp in the risotto, but you’ve got to hang around that stovetop a tad longer. Trust me, for this dish, it’s worth it.


shrimp and asparagus risotto

This particular recipe is one of my favorite risottos so far. You can’t really go wrong by adding shrimp, but the addition of light, bright Greek flavors such as feta and dill is what really does it for me. And to believe I used to hate dill – now I can’t see how one could not adore such a fresh, feathery, aromatic herb. An herb that, while having quite the affinity for salmon, surely doesn’t dislike shrimp in the least. And I’m sure regular ol’ asparagus would work if you can’t locate the purple variety.


So for you? What’s your favorite risotto recipe, or are you a stranger to this Italian delicacy? If so, this recipe will be a perfect first step – so try it out and let me know whatcha think!


Greek Shrimp & Purple Asparagus Risotto
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2009; serves 4



ingredients
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
2 t olive oil
2 vidalia onions, small dice
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz purple asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 lb peeled & deveined shrimp
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 T fresh dill, chopped finely
2 T lemon juice
salt & pepper

instructions

  1. Bring broth & water to simmer over medium heat in medium saucepan; keep warm-hot but not boiling
  2. Heat oil in large saucepan (or Dutch oven) over med-hi. Add onion and saute 5 min. Stir in rice and garlic, saute 1 min. Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (~30 minutes total)
  3. Stir in asparagus and shrimp; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp is done, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and remaining ingredients

Building Mussels without Breakin’ a Sweat

thai green curry ingredients


We took our cats in for their annual vet visit a couple of weeks ago. And although my cat has always been on the larger side, she’s never been officially classified as fat. Well, not until this visit. We’d tried portioning out their food for the past year to avoid the inevitable weight gain, but we began to notice that my cat would eat not only her portion, but also the portion of her smaller, more timid sister. Two things wrong with that picture: my cat continues to eat too much, and the other cat doesn’t eat at all. Both will lead to poor outcomes…



So anyway, after pondering various ideas, we came to a solution that will avoid both of the former scenarios. We’d feed the “non-fat” cat on the counter, since she can jump up with ease and the “fat” cat can’t, and we’d switch my cat to canned food to easily portion it out and guarantee that the other cat won’t eat it, since she refuses canned food. In trying out various brands of canned food, I’ve realized a thing or two. Some of them are true delicacies, especially for a cat! One kind I bought her was called “Savory salmon w/ lentils & ginger”. I mean, c’mon. It’s no wonder she didn’t like it. And after trying 5 different brands, I’ve come to the conclusion that she, like me, has turned into a Whole Foods snob! Their brand was the only one she ate every flavor of, and the only one she ate with pure excitement. Some, despite her normal tendency to eat all things in sight, were left untouched – overnight. Who would have thought a cat would be able to pick out organic cat food. Fortunately, their foods, unlike human food, are not too much more expensive than the brands at Petsmart.

tange & sasha

And so, in my attempt to find tasty, nutritious, balanced food for my cat, I also went on a mission to find ingredients for my weekend meals. Once I got over the fact that my cat and I now shop at the same store, I was then faced with the frustration of the WF move. The WF I normally buy groceries from is expanding and jumping a block south next month, so finding all ingredients I need at one store was like finding pizza in Chinatown. But no worries, because Dirk’s Seafood was just around the corner, and I knew they’d have the final ingredient on my list, mussels. Oh, I do love mussels.

And, I love curry, and Thai food in general, so a Thai version of clam chowder with mussels instead of clams was right on par with something I’d cook.


mussels in curry broth



The last dish I made with curry is one of my very favorites. Plus, I’d been on a break from coconut since early April, and I was ready to bring it back into my life.

I did make some changes to the original recipe. I’d gone to an Asian grocery a while back and stocked up on some hard-to-find ingredients, so I had Kaffir lime leaves and thai chiles in the freezer. I still added more lime flavor. I’m sure if you can’t find Kaffir lime leaves you could leave them out, but they do add a lot of Thai-ness to the dish. Actual kaffir limes look a lot like regular limes but are sort of bumpy, and they’re smaller. The leaves look like two leaves stuck together. And thai chilies can be bought in little bags with tons in one bag. They both freeze well and last a long time. The ones I had in the freezer are over a year old and are just as fragrant as when I bought them. Also, the recipe called for scallops, and that didn’t seem as good as more shrimp to me. So I doubled the shrimp and took out the scallops. And last, the recipe had no ginger! So I added some.


seafood with thai green curry


I tell you, straight up, this is one of the easiest dishes I’ve made in a long time. It’s full of veggies, seafood, and exotic, complex flavors. It’s actually healthy, although it looks too creamy to be low-fat. But it is. People get real excited about mussels, and the fact of the matter is that they really are a piece of cake to prepare. You literally dump them in a pot and close the lid. Voila. That being said, this recipe would be a true crowd-pleaser and a sure thing for company. And for those with dietary issues – gluten & dairy-free. Need I say more?

green curry broth

Thai Green Curry w/ Seafood
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2009; Serves 4


printable recipe

ingredients
2 T unrefined peanut oil (could use standard refined but will not be as robust)
5 green onions, chopped, dark green parts separated from white and pale green parts
3 T minced fresh cilantro, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 T Thai green curry paste
1 1/4 cups water
1 can coconut milk (light works just fine)
2 red Thai chilies (or 1 red jalepeno chile)
2 kaffir lime leaves (or 2 T lime juice + 1 t zest)
zest of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1 t fresh grated ginger
1 T fish sauce (Thai kitchen brand is gluten free)
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly cut diagonally
4 cups thinly sliced bok choy
1 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 lb green or black mussels, scrubbed, debearded
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 cups cooked white arborio rice

instructions

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add white & pale green onion parts, 1 T cilantro, and garlic; saute until tender, about 2 minutes.


2. Add curry paste; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add water, coconut milk, chiles, lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, and fish sauce. Bring to simmer. Add carrot; cover and cook until carrot is just tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Layer bok choy, shrimp & mussels in pan. Cover & simmer until mussels open and shrimp & bok choy are cooked, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in dark green parts of onions, 2 T remaining cilantro, and basil.

5. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Ladle curry mixture over rice & serve.