Spicy Seafood Stew

J is away for the week, which is a good opportunity to eat the foods that she won’t eat. Last night, we went out for Indian food. The night before, we had chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and ricotta, a dish that L has been asking me to make for a while.

Tonight, we had additional foods that J dislikes: shell fish. I got the idea to make something with mussels from a new cookbook that a friend gave me. But, I didn’t feel like following a recipe. When I went to the market the mussels looked good, and they also had cleaned squid. I had some frozen, jumbo shrimp at home, along with some small dutch fingerling potatoes. Olive oil, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, saffron, vermouth and white wine, salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper flakes.

Big, big success that L declared to be one of my best dishes ever. I served it with a simple salad and a baguette.

I didn’t use any measuring cups, so the amounts are approximate. Here is how I made it:

Spicy Seafood Stew

serves 4

Next time, I would probably add about 1/2 bulb of fennel, chopped. I tried to this time, but there was no fennel at the market. Too bad. On the other hand, this really was a keeper as is.

1 1/2 lbs. mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1/2 lb. cleaned squid, cut into rings, squiggly parts left in tact
12 jumbo shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
3/4 cup dry vermouth
3/4 cup white wine
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large (12 in.) deep frying pan over medium heat and saute leeks until soft and beginning to barely brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Add the vermouth, wine, and saffron. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the liquid has reduced a bit. Add potatoes and about 3/4 cup water, enough so that there is enough liquid to cook the potatoes. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the cover and add the chopped tomatoes, thyme, dried red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes longer, if the mixture gets dry, add additional wine. Add the seafood, and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout and the mussels have opened, approximately 3-5 more minutes.


Jellyfish & Seahorses

Have you ever eaten jellyfish? I have. It doesn’t taste like chicken.

In fact, it doesn’t even taste like much of anything. Jellyfish is sort of crunchy and chewy, but not as chewy as overcooked squid. It takes on the taste of the sauce in which it is served or cooked. It is something that I really don’t plan to eat again, but if I do, I’ll try not to think of the long stinging tentacles.

I won’t ever eat a seahorse. At least, I don’t think I will. Never say never.

The absolute coolest thing we saw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the new sea horse exhibit. The leafy sea dragon was quite simply amazing. I can’t imagine seeing one in the wild. It is so cleverly camouflaged. Seahorses look like they are not actually real. But, they are. And, they are in danger.


Here is what I’ve learned this staycation: we are killing our oceans. Aquariums can be many things: fascinating, exciting, beautiful. And, depressing. Scary, scary stuff. I may only have recipes for Alaskan wild salmon, Alaskan halibut, farmed tilapia, farmed rainbow trout and farmed mussels/clams/oysters, in the future. I’ll be checking the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website before I buy seafood to find it if is on the “watch list”. And, I’ll ask for origins, too.


The Never Ending Paella

It serves me right for not using my usual Paella recipe. I figured that I’d wing it with no problem. Didn’t even look at the timing or the quantities, if only for reference purposes.

That is why we didn’t sit down to dinner tonight with Grandma and WG until 7:30. More than an hour after I’d started cooking. I thought for sure we’d be at the table by 7:00 at the latest.

The darn seafood just wouldn’t cook. I think there were a couple of problems. (1) Too much liquid and (2) too much seafood. It just didn’t get hot enough in the pan and by the time I thought to put the Paella in the oven, the oven had to pre-heat. Ugh.


It did finally get cooked (with the aide of a little last minute nuking of the clams and mussels – which worked remarkably well).

Not my best Paella, not my worst. And, while I missed those crusty brown crunchy bits of rice that are typical of a well cooked Paella, the lack of them meant that the pan was easier to clean. So, there’s a silver lining. I also made too much, which isn’t usually a problem. However, since it is the first night of spring break, and since we start our “stay-cation” tomorrow, we have plans for most of our meals for the next few days. Thus, Grandma and WG have a nice dinner (plus plenty of cake) for tomorrow or Sunday night. I’ll save the post of my Paella recipe until I make it according to what is written (and have success with that)!

Chocolate Cake

The cake, on the other hand, turned out much better than expected. I tried out a new recipe yesterday, when I was in full cooking mode (bake sale “healthy chocolate muffins” batch #2, matzo toffee crunch, and WG’s birthday cake). I was going to make a recipe from a 6 month old issue of Bon Appetit: Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Filling. The picture of this cake was incredible and luscious. And, the sound of the title was so decadent. I had briefly read through the recipe, but hadn’t paid any attention to the ingredients or their quantities. When I did my second read-through to see if I had all the ingredients at home, I practically had a full blown coronary and diabetic shock just by glancing at the list. A whopping 3 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1 1/2 sticks butter, 1 1/2 pounds chocolate, and 3 cups sugar. That is for a cake that serves 12. I’m guessing that I won’t be making the cake for the next school bake sale, given the 35% max of calories from fat.
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2-4 Dinner

Little Shrimp Casserole with Broccoli
While S and J are away skiing, I thought that I’d make some of L’s favorites for dinner. Tonight we had a dish that both of us would rank high on a “Best of Mom’s Meals” list. I served it with broccoli, which would not be at the top of either L or J’s lists, but is very healthy (and I think delish).

Little Shrimp Casseroles is a recipe that I found in Jacques Pepin’s “Fast Food My Way”. The recipe can also be found on the Food & Wine web-site (linked above). I love Jacques Pepin. I could watch him cook all day. How does he slice an onion so quickly? I also have a cookbook of Jacques Pepin & Julia Child cooking together, I think based on a PBS series. It too has fantastic home recipes.

This shrimp dish is very buttery and rich, if you use all of the butter in M. Pepin’s recipe. I use about half the butter. I also add about twice the amount of mushrooms. Today, I found that I had no scallions when I got home from the market, so I substituted shallots. L thought that it wouldn’t be as good without the scallions, but it was still wonderful and she recanted her skepticism. The dish did want for a little green – if I’d had parsley in the house, that would have been a good addition. I like quite a bit more bread crumbs than the recipe calls for, so I generally use about 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices of bread) – tonight I only used one cup, since it was just 2 of us. I also usually add some lemon juice on top with about 1/2 of the white wine indicated. Since the dish is for four, I simply halved it tonight for the two of us. Whenever I’ve made this recipe, it has taken substantially longer to cook than the time identified. It could be that the shrimp that I use are larger, but if you decide to make it, check to see if the shrimp are done before serving!

It is very nice to have some time alone with L. We have some great weekend plans that are mother-daughter oriented and don’t require too much crutching around.

Down to my last jar…

I made a pasta sauce with my second to last jar of early girl tomatoes that I canned with my friends over the summer. It was so good, you could eat it alone – and I mean all alone, as in from the pot, with no one in the kitchen, using a dishtowel to wipe your chin. But, I didn’t. I shared.

I took out some of the sauce before cooking the shrimp in it, because J doesn’t like shrimp. L, on the other hand, loves it and was quite happy with her dinner. As were S & me.
tomato saucespicy shrimp tomato pasta

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Jumbo Shrimp

1 onion, sliced thinly
1 carrot, shredded on the large holes of a grater
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 28 oz. jar italian plum tomatoes, with basil, preferably organic
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed in your palm
1/2 tsp. dried basil, crushed in your palm
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Saute onion, carrot and garlic in olive oil, in a large saute pan, until translucent and beginning to color. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your fingers as you add them to the pan. Stir and then add the seasonings. Simmer, uncovered, over low/medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes.

Add shrimp to the pan and continue to simmer, turning shrimp after about 3 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through (a total of 5-6 minutes, or so, depending on the size of the shrimp). The shrimp will be pink and fully opaque. Do not over cook.

Serve over spaghetti.