Monthly Archives: December 2015

SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER…SEAFOOD HEAVEN

clamshrimpchowder 006

A big bowl of warm chowder…works on a dock overlooking the sea in the Summer and it works next to a roaring fireplace in the Winter.  It’s an all seasons food so enjoy this one all through the year.  New England Clam Chowder is just about one of the best things…EVER but this is a little different..it’s a creamy soup with potatoes, vegetables, fresh dill, Hungarian Paprika, Onions, Sherry, Butter, and SHRIMP AND CLAMS.  It’s an elegant dish.  Make it for a fancy dinner or it’s wonderfully casual to..jeans and T-shirt time infront of the TV.  A little bit about some of the ingredients.  If you’re not using dill in some of your cooking, let this start you off.  It’s not just for flavoring pickles.  The Paprika should be SWEET HUNGARIAN.  SZGED is a good brand to look for, most Supermarkets do sell it so I’m not promoting a ridiculously tough ingredient to find.  Why Hungarian?  It’s way more aromatic than the cheaper PAPRIKA that just says PAPRIKA on the label.  There’s also a hot Hungarian paprika, don’t use that one in this.  For the Shrimp, if you can, use Wild Caught U.S.Shrimp and the clams, fresh that are shucked and chopped, liquor reserved.  When these items are not available, find the freshest shrimp you can and use a good prechopped fresh clam or a good canned variety.  Doxsee is generally a safe canned variety.  So, into the kitchen we go to whip up a pot of SHRIMP AND CLAM CHOWDER….you are going to love this.

BTW, don’t think that this is an all day affair….you’re going to be shocked…in an hour you will be enjoying this.

clamshrimpchowder 008

SERVES: 4                TIME: 1 HOUR, about
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter
1 medium onion, fine dice

1 peeled and diced carrot

2 medium stalks of celery, fine dice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream is really nice in this!)
2 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth or an organic/fat free low sodium boxed broth
2 tbs. tomato paste

1 1/2 tbs. SWEET HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 tbs Tabasco Sauce or 1/8 tsp. ground cayenne or chiles
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, coarsely chopped
18  clams,steams,  shells discarded, clams chopped, liquor reserved or 1 cup chopped clams
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, organic is richest
2 tbs freshly chopped dill

In heavy sauce pan heat the butter.  Add the onions, carrots and celery, pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook this on medium till the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, careful not to let them brown. Simply lower the heat if you see any of that happening.clamshrimpchowder 001 Add the 1/2 the dill. Heat for 2 minutes.  Now sprinkle the flour over the softened vegetables.  Add the paprika.  Whisk gently and let this cook until a roux is formed around the vegetables.  Cook an additional 1 minute or so..then add the sherry.  Whisk till blended and bring to a boil.  The whole thing will begin to thicken up. Whisk in the tomato paste.  Then whisk in the tabasco and the chicken stock.  Make sure it’s ALL well blended.  NOW bring this to a boil for 2 minutes..then reduce to a simmer.Let this cook for 10 minutes.  Keep Stirring. Now add the potatoes and cook until they are fork tender, takes at least 10 minutes. Only when you’ve tested the potato and it’s done. then you will whisk in the cream and the paprika.  Add the shrimp and clams with their liquor and simmer this for 6 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.  Adjust.  clamshrimpchowder 003 When the soup is of “chowder” consistency you can shut it off.  Stir in the remaining dill.  Now let it sit for at least 1/2 hour..TIP..make the soup..put it to the back of the stove..serve it an hour after you are done.  Let those flavor marry each other, but certainly, you can eat it before you wait another hour…I like letting it “meld” first.  Another option is to serve each bowl with a small spoonful of sour cream in the middle…ahh very rich, but very delicious.

Serve this with nice soft dinner rolls or biscuits..with sweet butter.

clamshrimpchowder 005

 

 

Advertisements

POTATO LATKES, FOR HANUKKAH AND BEYOND

latkes 006

O Chanukah O Chanukah, Come light the menorah

Let’s have a party, we’ll all dance the hora

 

Gather round the table, we’ll give you a treat

Dreydels to play with and latkes to eat

 

And while we are playing,
the candles are burning low

 

One for each night, they shed a sweet light
to remind us of days long ago

Holidays, I love them and the foods they bring to us only for that day or season.  The anticipation of a food or foods that are eaten ONLY at that time of the year taste even better don’t you think?  One of the wonderful benefits of growing up in New York City and it’s 5  boroughs is the whole MELTING POT environment.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s before the harsh overreach of Politically correct took affect, Public schools in the City of New York allowed Christmas/Hanukkah songs to be sung at the Holiday time.  This was not cross indoctrination or promoting any religion, instead it was educational.  It taught this ItalianAmerican Roman Catholic all about some of the Holidays celebrated by others.  In 7th Grade we learned the song I posted at the top and we learned about Gelt (the gold foil chocolate coins, the latkes, the significance of the Menorah, the dreidel).  We had Jewish neighbors and friends who taught us their foods and cultures as being Jewish encompasses many nations and traditions.  Wonderful stuff.  I’ve never forgotten any of it and I appreciate the celebrations by those who follow that religion.  Latkes and Applesauce, the first homemade ones I had were made by Mrs. Miller, a friend’s very Yiddish mother.  She taught me what schmaltz is and how it’s made and used..the importance of onions..and dill..and here’s something about how EVERYONE of us cooks..we bring all those “things” we learned to our kitchen table whether we realize it or not.  When I created my LATKE (shredded potato pancakes that are a symbol of Hanukkah.  The lamp miraculously burned for 8 days and 8 nights on very little oil so foods FRIED in OIL are traditionally made at Hanukkah) recipe i added the onion and dill of Mrs. Miller’s kitchen.  Some do, some don’t, some add no flour, some add mashed potato..again, like with my usual Italian and ItalianAmerican cooking, this is home cooked recipe and it will differ from house to house.  Come, enter my kitchen with me and let’s make LATKES…good luck with having a full platter to serve though…they are incredible when they are still hot…ok, let them cool..enjoy them with a little Applesauce or Sour Cream!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

TIME: 1 hour                    YIELDS: about 35 Latkes

  • 3 1/2 pounds peeled baking potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose  unbleached flour
  • 2 organic large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill,  fresh..not dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • neutral oil for frying, like Vegetable, Canolalatkes 002Now it’s time to make Latkes!  Using a box GRATER, taking care not to grate your knuckles (cooking can  be such a dangerous sport!!), over a large stainless steel bowl grate the potatoes.  After you are done with them, grate the peeled onion into the mix.  Let me stop here…
    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Notice something?  Let’s see if you’re paying attention.  OK, hint..the potatoes in the ingredients list are PEELED.  In the picture, they are not.  I like the peel in them.  That’s a personal preference that’s not shared by everyone. I’ll say more like the fully peeled SO you decide for yourself.  Next…in a paper towel lined colander empty the potato and onion mix into the colander.  Let this drain for 15 minutes. Then, squeeze the mix until it’s quite dry but reserve 2 tbs.  You want to keep some of that natural potato starch.  Put the whole mix back into the stainless steel bowl including the 2 tbs of potato starch water. Add all the ingredients and mix till just blended.latkes 003 Let this sit for about 5 minutes.  While that’s “sitting” heat 1/4 inch of oil in a cast iron or heavy frying pan.  When you can feel the heat coming off the oil, takes about 4-5 minutes gently drop 2 tablespoons of the mix for each latke you will make.  Lightly press into the mound to flatten them a bit.  Fry for about 6 minutes per side.  latkes 007 Drain the latkes on paper towels and lightly salt them while they are draining.  DO NOT CROWD THE PAN…it will reduce the temperature greatly and cause your Latkes to be greasy.  Serve with Applesauce

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    or Sour Cream.  Or both..nice to give a choice.  They are so delicious.latkes 009  A delicious gift from the Jewish culture to our huge world of foods.  To reheat them, never use a microwave or heat them covered.  Into a hot oven, place them on brown paper bags on heavy baking sheets for 5-8 minutes.  Or heat them in a hot cast iron or heavy bottomed un-greased pan.  If making them ahead of time and refrigerating them, remove them a few hours before re-heating.  They will be better if brought to room temperature first. For those who love tradition..here’s the Hanukkah song in Yiddish:

  • Oy Chanukah oy Chanukah, a yontif a sheiner

    A lustiker a freylicher nito noch a zeyner

     

    Alle nacht in dreydlech shpiln mir

    Zudik hesse latkes essen mir

     

    Geshvinder tsindt kinder
    di Chanukah lichtelech on

     

    Zol yeder bazunder bazingen dem vunder
    un tantzen freylech in kohn

  • enjoy your Latke frying!!!  and Thanks to Miss Ericsson and Miss Vogt who taught the 7th grade orchestra and chorus the Hanukkah song at I.S. 51, Markham Junior High, Staten Island, NYC.  Some things we never forget..

 

ZUCCHINE CON PESTO…ZUCCHINI WITH BASIL PESTO

bakerco 001

Yeah I know, Summer is over, what’s this Zucchine con Pesto out of season nonsense…ahh..certainly this dish will be at it’s best in the peak of the Summer growing season..but Zucchini are in the markets all year long, possibly not as sweet as the local summer grown, but they are still delicious.  Old school types refuse to believe that there are good vegetables to be had through the winter…some better than others.  I’ve found that most Fall thru Spring Zucchini have been a breath of fresh air from the earthy flavors of the seasonal root and cruciferous vegetables.  Pesto, if you make it in the summer you can freeze it in various forms, or pack it into olive oil sealed containers, or buy a decent brand in a store, frozen or jarred.  Where did this recipe come from?  It came from necessity.  Opening the fridge one night after work and having to come up with dinner in a hurry meant slicing the zucchini in the fridge into disks.  It meant thinking, what to do that would be delicious yet quick?  Well, on the door of the fridge was a jar of CENTO PESTO, imported from Italy.  All season long i make my own pesto.  I won this jar and 7 others! in a contest on Instagram.  Yay me!!! I then thought…wow, that pesto is packed with flavor, made of good stuff..hmmm. i’ll pan saute’ the zucchini cut in rounds till they blister in olive oil…then. add some garlic to the pan, then some peperoncino…THEN when the zucchini is tender move off the flame and stir in the pesto..not much…it’s not tasty when it’s over done..Just enough to create a “sauce” and coat the cooked zucchini.  Here’s the thing…unless you’re going to add it to a soup or sauce at the end..Pesto should not be cooked.  So…off the flame the pan went and 5 minutes late i stirred a spoon of pesto into the pan. Perfection reached!!

TIME:  about 40 minutes      SERVES: 4

5 small to medium ZUCCHINI (not the big ones..too much seed, too big for this recipe)

3 tbs. OLIVE OIL

3 sliced CLOVES OF GARLIC

KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO (the Italian word for crushed dried hot red pepper/chile)

2 TBS. PESTO

 

Slice the zucchini in no more than 1/4 inch thick rounds.  Heat 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil in a wide pan and add as many slices as you can without them overlapping.  You may have to do them in two or three batches.  Leave the heat on medium or you will burn the exterior of the zucchini before the inside cooks.  I’d give them at least 8 minutes on one side.  Turn one over and if it’s blistered, you’re ready to turn them. Lightly salt them each time you add raw zucchini to the pan.  Let the other side blister as well, blistering meaning taking on nice color without burning.  Remove to a platter or dish and keep covered with foil as you finish the next batches.  Add more Olive Oil as necessary. Taste a zucchini, make sure it’s tender and seasoned. When you are done with the zucchini, in the pan you just cooked the zucchini in, add the garlic and peperoncino and let this  get fragrant, only takes about 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes..do not let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat.   Now add the pesto and blend well with the oil being careful not to splatter yourself or all over the stove.  Now gently add the zucchini back into the pan and coat all the rounds with the “sauce”. This is one of my examples of LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE, real Italian style…the sweet joy and bliss of doing nothing..meaning..lazily hanging around enjoying good company and good food.  A plate of this zucchini does not have to be PIPING HOT..it can stay out at room temperature and infact, I think it taste better at room temperature.  Have  a table set with lots of these types of dishes and you can enjoy your guests and family instead of running back and forth into the kitchen.  A family style platter of this on the table or side board is perfect. It can be part of an antipasto or a “contorno” or side dish for a full meal.  However you serve it do not fuss..bring that LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE into your home.  Cooking is only a job if you get paid for it.  When you are home..enjoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Imagine yourself along a canal off of the Venetian Lagoon…like this wonderful one in Burano outside of Venice…imagine a long table. lots of seafood and meats, vegetables, pasta and fruits…breads, antipasti..grilled…and  THAT is what I think of with a platter of this zucchini.  Did you notice I spelled it ZUCCHINE in the title?  That’s my inner Italian coming out…in Italian the word is ZUCCHINE (plural for ZUCCHINA, which means small squash, which is a ZUCCA, and they come in all shapes and sizes and colors.  In English we use the word ZUCCHINI) I’ve given you a vegetable dish AND a small Italian Grammar lesson.  Most importantly I’m giving you the permission to enjoy LA DOLCE FAR NIENTE..now go find it for yourself !! Happy Cooking!!