Monthly Archives: June 2021

Shrimp, Orzo and Zucchini with Ouzo and Mint

In this Mediterranean recipe, you will coax orzo pasta to a rich, creamy texture, as if making risotto. A fragrant broth* of brandy, aromatic vegetables and shrimp shells is the cooking liquid for the orzo, infusing the dish with richness and subtle sweetness.

The shrimp themselves are added only after the orzo is al dente so they remain plump and tender. This adaptation from Milk Street takes a simple approach to the cooking with fewer ingredients than the Greek original, but retains the delicious, bracing flavors.

Ouzo is a Greek anise-flavored spirit; it’s added at the very end of cooking to accentuate the licorice notes of the fennel seed. Milk Street suggests that you don’t choose large zucchini for this recipe. Look for small to medium squash (ones that weigh 6 to 8 ounces each), as they have fewer seeds to remove. Well our supermarket didn’t have any smaller ones so we got a large zucchini before reading this tip, and it worked out fine.

To seed the zucchini, use a small spoon to scrape along the center of each half. Also, if making the shrimp broth, when simmering, don’t allow it to boil or simmer vigorously or the liquid will evaporate too quickly and the finished volume will be too slight.

*Since we already had homemade shellfish stock on hand, there was no need to make the broth and thus omitted the red bell pepper, celery and onion, and started at Step 5 with seasoning the shrimp. We also used frozen shrimp without shells since we weren’t making broth. These two things saved a large amount of time in prepping and cooking. We did however add the brandy to our homemade stock and included the bay leaves in the cooking process.

Shrimp, Orzo and Zucchini with Ouzo and Mints

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined, shells reserved
  • 3 medium celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb. total), halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 lb. ripe plum or cocktail tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon ouzo
  • 1½ tsp. grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring just once or twice, until bright pink and dry, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, bay and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to release moisture, 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the brandy and scrape up any browned bits. Add 4 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Cool for about 10 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve set over a 1-quart liquid measuring cup or medium bowl; press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible (discard the solids). You should have about 3 cups strained broth.
  5. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; set aside. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the orzo and stir to coat.
  6. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes begin to release their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Add 1½ cups shrimp broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 6 minutes; reduce the heat as the mixture thickens.
  8. Add another 1 cup broth and cook, stirring vigorously and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the orzo is tender and the consistency is slightly soupy, 3 to 6 minutes.
  9. Add the shrimp and another ¼ cup broth, then cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.
  10. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the bay, then stir in the ouzo and lemon zest. If desired, thin the consistency by stirring in additional broth, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

This was an adaptation of a recipe by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Chicken

With a penchant toward bold flavors, this recipe from Milk Street appealed to us from the get-go. Typically, bone-in chicken thighs are also sold with the skin on. Simply remove it before cooking, and if you make homemade chicken stock, save it with your other body parts for the next time you throw some together.

In Vietnam, turmeric, garlic, chilies and fish sauce—staple ingredients in the Vietnamese kitchen—douse chicken with a riot of flavor and provide that gorgeous caramel coloring. The other main ingredient, lemongrass, is a grass of robust habit native to southern India and Ceylon that is grown in tropical regions for its lemon-scented foliage used as a seasoning and that is the source of an aromatic essential oil.

Luckily, instead of mincing fresh lemongrass, which requires a good amount of time and effort, simply bruise the stalks so they split open and release their essential oils into the braising liquid; then remove and discard the stalks when cooking is complete.

The soy sauce was an addition to the Milk Street recipe, a stand-in for the MSG and pork bouillon. The braising liquid is thickened with a little cornstarch to give the sauce just a little body. Serve the chicken with steamed jasmine rice.

Simply stated, 2 1⁄2 pounds of bone-in chicken is not enough for four adults. Plan on eight large thighs, no matter the weight. I went ahead and incorporated this change in the list of ingredients below.

Heads Up: Don’t leave the skin on the chicken. The bone adds flavor to the braise, but not the skin, which turns soggy with simmering and releases fat into the liquid. But bone-in thighs are almost always sold with skin, so simply pull it off before cooking.

Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Fresno or jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. ground turmeric
  • 3 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp. water, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed and discarded, patted dry
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • Ground black pepper
  • Cilantro and/or sliced scallions, to serve

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, chilies and turmeric, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the lemongrass, broth, soy sauce, sugar and 1 cup water, then bring to a simmer. Add the chicken skinned side down in even layer and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, transfer the chicken skinned side up to a serving bowl. Cook the braising liquid over medium until reduced by about half, about 12 minutes. Remove and discard the lemon grass.In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk the mixture into the braising liquid, return to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  4. Off heat, stir the lime juice and fish sauce into the braising liquid, then taste and season with pepper. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot, cover and let stand until heated through, about 5 minutes. Return the braise to the serving bowl and sprinkle with cilantro.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Recipe adapted by Diane Unger for Milk Street

Sagey White Bean Dip

What are the secrets to transforming a can of humble white beans into an elegant appetizer—especially if your guests follow a gluten-free and/or vegan diet? Creamy, nutritious and infused with sage, lemon and garlic, this Sagey White Bean Dip is so versatile! Amazing as a dip, yes, but also great on sandwiches!

Smelling the amazing aroma as the sage leaves sizzle is just the start—something magical happens when they fry—the flavor becomes more subdued and a bit toasty. Often, white bean dips appear as a chalky and bland alternative to hummus, typically why it’s not one of my favorite appetizers. But this riff definitely raises the bar.

Ours was served with gluten-free crackers, bell red pepper strips and carrot sticks, and guests went crazy over the dip! The final consistency is a little loose, however just decrease the amount of water to thicken the dip if desired.

Sagey White Bean Dip

  • Servings: Yields 1 1/4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 10 sage leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. When hot, add the sage leaves, chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring a few times.
  2. Add the drained cannellini beans and water. (if you want a thicker dip, use less water.) Warm through, about 2 minutes. Purée in a small food processor.
  3. Transfer into a small serving bowl and stir in the lemon juice and salt. Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover, drizzle with a little bit more olive oil, garnish with a sage leaf and serve with your choice of chips and/or veggies.
  5. You can make the dip up to 24 hours in advance, but wait to drizzle it with oil until right before serving.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas)

Recipe adapted from one found in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the traditional Italian dish Pasta e Piselli, like its better-known cousins pasta e fagioli and pasta e ceci, combines peas with small pasta to form a hearty soup; all of which come together in one pot. Always a plus for a weeknight meal.

The pasta is cooked in a broth flavored with sautéed onion and savory pancetta, simultaneously infusing the pasta with savoriness and thickening the rich, silky broth. As well as using homemade chicken stock, we doubled the pancetta to four ounces, both of which provided more depth of flavor.

At the end of the cooking process, frozen petite peas (sweeter and less starchy than fresh peas), are added—in our case it was 2 cups as opposed to 1 1⁄2 cups because that was the contents of the bag. Immediately afterward, the pot is taken off the heat to preserve their tenderness and bright green color.

A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano contributes richness and tangy depth. Last-minute additions of minced herbs and extra-virgin olive oil punch up the aroma and flavors of the dish. You can substitute small pasta such as tubetti, ditali, elbow macaroni, or small shells for the ditalini, but do so by weight, not by volume.

TIP: For a vegetarian version, omit the pancetta, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and add an extra 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Pecorino Romano adds a welcome sharpness. Cook’s Illustrated does not recommend substituting Parmesan in this recipe.

Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 2½ cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2½ cups water
  • 7½ oz. (1½ cups) ditalini
  • 1½ to 2 cups frozen petite peas
  • ⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, pancetta, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add broth and water and bring to boil over high heat. Stir in pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid returns to boil. Reduce heat to maintain simmer; cover; and cook until pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in peas and remove saucepan from heat. Stir in parsley, Pecorino, and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling with extra oil and passing extra Pecorino separately.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated

Grilled Beef Kebabs and Veggie Skewers with Aromatic Couscous

Here’s a typical meal for outdoor grilling with a couscous side dish made on the stovetop while the meat and vegetables are getting happy. If you are not a red meat eater, you can always switch out the beef for boneless, skinless chicken pieces. The dry-rub will work just as well on poultry.

The beef kebabs were 2″ cubes cut down from a 2-lb. top sirloin. The meat was tossed in a dry rub of ground up 1 Tbsp. mustard seed, 1 1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary and 1 tsp. kosher salt; then divided onto four metal skewers and put in the refrigerator, uncovered for eight hours.

It is best to use long metal skewers. If all you have are the wooden ones, make sure to soak them in water for an hour, and you may have to use several more because they are typically shorter than their metal counterparts.

Veggie skewers are a particular favorite of ours especially during the warmer months when we can grill outside. While the cocktail tomatoes (1 lb.) and mushroom caps (12 oz.) are left whole, the bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow) are cut into 2″ pieces, and the 2 red onions into 8 wedges each, with the root end intact. Make the marinade with 2⁄3 cup olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano snipped from the garden.

Place the tomatoes and mushrooms in one ziploc, the onion and bell pepper in another, and divide the oil mixture between the two bags. Let marinate at least one hour, up to eight hours, turning each bag a couple of times.

While the grill is warming up—direct heat on one side, indirect on the other—skewer the veggies. Alternate the cocktail tomatoes and mushroom caps on three skewers; then the bell pepper and red onion on another 3 skewers. If you have any random veggies leftover, slide them onto a final skewer.

Put on direct heat side of grill for about 20 minutes, flipping once to char both sides, keeping the lid closed in between. The tomato skewers will get done first so move them over to the indirect heat side of grill. When the onion skewers are nicely charred, pile them up with the tomato skewers and now place the meat skewers on the direct heat and close the lid. The meat is medium-rare when it registers 125° with an instant-read thermometer, about 10-12 minutes.

Originally from Cook’s Illustrated, the couscous recipe called for three tablespoons of raisins, which we omitted. But curry powder, lime juice, and mint lent depth and brightness to the dish. All said and done, it takes about 15 minutes to make.

Aromatic Couscous

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Aromatic Couscous

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 Tbsp.)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 tsp.)
  • ½ tsp. curry powder
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup plain or tri-colored couscous
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint, cilantro or parsley
  • 1 ½ tsp. fresh lime juice

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the couscous and remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Fold the mint (cilantro or parsley) and lime juice into the couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Couscous recipe adapted from one for Cook’s Illustrated

Lynn’s Twice-Baked Potatoes

These twice-baked potatoes have been a family favorite with my step children from the time they were little. Now, as young adults, the spuds are an oft-requested side dish, especially when steaks are the main entrée. I must confess, both their dad and I maintain a certain fondness for them too! They are pretty decadent, so we don’t serve them too often…

In all of these years, I just eyeballed the amount of each ingredient, adjusting as I saw fit. But I finally decided it was time to write down the recipe when an opportune time presented itself with the engagement of the youngest. When confronted with what they wanted as their celebratory dinner choice, David and his lovely fiancée Vikki, asked us if we would make steaks, twice-baked potatoes, asparagus and Tres Leche Cake for dessert. Game on!

Vikki and David toasting to their engagement.

It’s best—although not a deal-breaker—if you bring the butter, blue cheese crumbles, sour cream, and heavy cream to room temperature. When ingredients are different temperatures, they don’t necessarily “play” well together. Plus, when everything is approximately the same temp, they will cook more evenly in the oven.

If you have eight guests for dinner, or just want leftovers, a 13″ x 9″ baking dish will easily hold eight potato halves, so start with four russets instead of three. In this case however, you may want to increase all of the other ingredients by 25%. The potatoes can be assembled a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from fridge about an hour before they go into the oven at 350°F.

Purple chive blossoms are a flavorful, aromatic, and colorful edible flower that will appear at the end of chive stalks in late springtime. Even if you don’t plan on eating them, they make a nice garnish. You can substitute shredded sharp cheddar in place of the blue cheese if you or your guests abhor the latter.

About that Tres Leche Cake, David (mostly) and Vikki (some) had polished off the entire thing before we got up the next morning!

Lynn's Twice-Baked Potatoes

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 large Russet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into 3 pieces, room temperature
  • 5 oz. crumbled blue cheese, divided into thirds
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream or whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Chive blossoms for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork 4 or 5 times. Rub olive oil all over each potato.
  3. Cook potatoes in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Reduce oven heat to 325°F.
  5. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, and let the steam escape, another 2 minutes. Over a large bowl, carefully scoop out most of the flesh with a spoon, leaving about 1/8″ thickness against the skin.
  6. Add butter, heavy cream, sour cream, salt and pepper to the potatoes and smash with a potato masher until combined but still a bit lumpy. Next, turn in 2/3 of the cheese crumbles and chives, mixing all ingredients together with a large spoon.
  7. Arrange the six potato skins in a casserole/baking dish. Evenly spoon the mixture into the skins. Run an indentation along the center of each and top with the remaining 1/3 blue cheese crumbles.* Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until the tops are a light golden brown.
    *Make Ahead: Once the potatoes are assembled with the mixture and topped with blue cheese, cover with foil and refrigerate until one hour before placed in oven. Preheat oven to 350°F, and once the oven is ready, cook, still covered for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes or until the tops are a light golden brown.
  8. Garnish with a chive blossoms, if using. Serve immediately.

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