Shrimp Bruschetta

We were having some people over and I was grilling dinner by the pool so I thought some shrimp bruschetta would be a light start to the meal that goes very well with some white wine.
Before the guests came I had already cooked the shrimp in some water, flavored with lemon juice, peppercorns and white wine,  shocked them in some ice water and cut them in half the log way.
I had some pesto and some roasted red peppers left over from making dinner a few nights ago so I used them also.
I had picked up a nice baguette from the bakery sliced it, brushed on a little olive oil and toasted them on the grill. Spread a little pesto on the bread, laid some of the roasted peppers on top, topped that with the shrimp halves laid out nicely. Then topped the shrimp with a piece of the roasted red pepper again and some chopped basil for garnish. Finished everything with a light sprinkle of good extra virgin olive oil and some coarse salt & pepper.
I have to admit they didn’t last long and they were really good.
shrimp bruscetta
~ Enjoy ~

Blackened Corvina with Pineapple Relish

My dad came down to Florida to visit for a few days and I know he likes fish so I whipped this one up for him after getting him from the airport while he enjoyed the warm weather and the sunset.

Lightly oil a sheet pan and heavily season both sides of the fish with your favorite blackening seasoning.

blackened fish

Peel a nice ripe pineapple and cut into small pieces, toss into a mixing bowl add some finely diced red & green peppers and maybe ½ of a red onion, whole jalapeño finely diced, ½ cup of good olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, a bunch or so of cilantro (some people love it and others hate it, it is up to you) and some salt and pepper. Mix well and set in the fridge of about an hour.

pineapple relish

I had some zucchini in the fridge so I cut it up, rubbed it with some olive oil and dusted them with some seasoned salt. Headed out to the grill and fired it up on high.

zucchini with spice

Put the fish in the grill on the pan and close the lid.  Cook for about 10 minutes then flip over while you cook the zucchini on the other side of the grill maybe for another 10 minutes. You will know the fish is done when it flakes apart.

cooking fish

Take the pineapple relish out of the fridge before you head out to the grill so it comes to room temperature.

For dinner as you can see I served the blackened fish over some sweet potato mash with the pineapple relish and the grilled vegetables.

fish with pineapple relish

Herb Crusted Scallops

Rinse under cold water and pick the muscles off the scallops, season with salt and pepper

Take bread crumbs and add to them some Italian seasoning, fresh chopped basil, marjoram, parsley. Dip the scallops into the mixture covering just the tops and bottoms and set aside.

seasoning for scallops

seasoned scallops

In a large sauté pan heated to medium high add some good oil and cook a few of the scallops a few at a time for maybe a minute or two then carefully flip them over. You are looking for a nice sear and good color; however you don’t want to cook them all the way through.

scallops cooking

When done transfer to a plate and slide them into the fridge for about ten minutes, to stop the cooking process, while you make the sauce.

As for the sauce, wipe out the pan, add a tablespoon of oil and add 1/4 of a diced sweet onion. Sauté for about 7-8 minutes. While the pan is on medium-high heat deglaze with about 1/2 cup of your favorite white wine, let it reduce for another minute or two. Add the juice of a fresh lemon. Finish the sauce by adding 1/4 cup of heavy cream, bring to a boil then lower the heat to low.

Take the scallops out of the fridge and place into the hot sauce just until they heat through; be careful not to cook them too much, you don’t want to overcook them, they will get hard and rubbery.

scallops in sauce cooking

To be fancy, plate some rice down the center of a plate, place the scallops on top and then spoon some sauce over the rice. Serve right away and enjoy.

scallops on rice

fancy pic finished plat

Enjoy

Tomato Paste Trick

We all have faced this dilemma, need two teaspoons of tomato paste now what do you with the rest of the can? Here is what I do to save the rest and have it portioned for the next time.

canned tomato paste

Spread out some plastic wrap over the counter, as you can see in the picture I cut the regular sheet of plastic wrap in half, and then portion out the remaining amount of tomato paste in one teaspoon “drops” on the wrap.  As you can see in the picture, space them apart by about two inches.

portioned tomato paste

Fold the plastic wrap around the tomato paste and press the air out between each drop.  Then roll them up as in the video below:

Here is a side shot of the roll.

folded tomato paste

Place in the freezer until frozen solid.

frozen tomato paste

Now here is what to do with those one tablespoon portions:

  • Keep them in the freezer up to a year.
  • Just cut off how much you need and use in the recipe you are making.

Now that they are so handy, come up with more uses for tomato paste in your own creations.

Hope this helps you in the future.  Enjoy ~

Smoked Pork

Take a 7 pound pork shoulder or also known as Boston butt, score the top fat in a checkerboard fashion and rub some of your favorite rub, or the one below, all over the meat.  Wrap up very well with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator for 24 hours. This will allow the rub to penetrate deeply into the meat to give it good flavor when it comes time to cook it.

The rub for this meat: 1 cup of each white and brown sugar; 3/4 cup of paprika; 1/2 cup of each chili powder, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, 1/4 cup of ground cumin, granulated onion. Mix together and store in an air tight container.

seasoned pork

Set the smoker up for 225F and as a rule of thumb, it ends up being 2 hours per pound for this temp. If you need it done faster turn up smoker to 275F for about 1.5 hours per pound.

I also recommend having a digital meat thermometer with probe and cable, place it in the meat before starting to smoke it so you can track the internal temperature of the meat.

I started mine morning at 6 am with a mixture of apple wood and cherry wood chips that I soaked overnight. Went about my day cleaned the pool, went out shopping, needed potatoes to make potato salad to go with dinner, had lunch, hung out with my lovely wife, cut the grass, tended to the garden and then cooled off in the pool later that afternoon with a beer.

About 7:30 pm the meat thermometer started to ring. I set it to 195F. I open the door and what a beautiful sight and smells came racing out of the smoker! To make sure that it was truly cooked and soft I use the famous Stick a fork in it Method. Stab the meat with a fork and spin it around, if it spins freely then you really done because all meat has different thickness and densities. If the fork didn’t spin freely, it would go back in maybe for another half an hour or so until it would.

cooking pork

Now take the meat inside and cover it with aluminum foil for 1/2 hour to let the meat rest and the juices to absorb back into the meat.

cooked pork

After it rests take the bone out and with two forks shred the meat apart, but be careful it will be very hot!

pork pulled

Toast up some buns on the grill, get the potato salad out of the fridge along with your favorite BBQ sauce sit back and enjoy what you have smelt all day along with a beautiful sun set by the pool.

finished pulled pork plate

Enjoy

Spicy Shrimp and Polenta

My wife and I were discussing how much she likes grits for breakfast and I asked her if she ever has had polenta.  She said no, so I suggested that I make her some for dinner.  Dinner? As she looked at me funny, I said I bet you will like it, it would be my take on Southern shrimp and grits.  So this is what I did.

Start out with good polenta.  Make it to the directions on the package substituting one cup of water for one cup of heavy cream, add one stick of butter. Stir together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

polenta

cooking polenta

Pour off about half of the mixture into a buttered shallow pan if you have one. We are going to save that for another day. We will use this over the weekend for breakfast. Let it cool completely then cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Back to dinner now.

polenta in a pan

Take the shrimp you are having for dinner and marinate them in some olive oil, and whatever spices you like to make them spicy say some crushed red peppers, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper.

seasoned shrimp

With the rest of the polenta in the pot add about 2 cups of cheddar cheese and mix in until its smooth, if necessary loosen the mixture a little with some more heavy cream. You are looking for a consistency of very thick applesauce. Put the bowl off to the side over very low heat and cook the shrimp.

cooked shrimp

Heat a non stick pan to medium high, add the shrimp, and cook a few minutes a side just until done. Scoop some of the hot cheesy polenta into a bowl and top with the spicy shrimp. Serve with a nice cool glass of your favorite white wine. As for my wife she now likes polenta just as much as grits.

plated shrimp

Enjoy

Rolled Stuffed Burgers

The inspiration for this meal came from two things: One, the Super Bowl and Two, the Atlantic Bakery Co.’s Onion Sub Rolls. You will see them later in the background of one of the pictures. We are lucky enough to have a great bakery right down the road from us that sells wholesale to the public!

As you can see in the first picture, I have covered the counter and the rolling-pin with plastic wrap and placed two 8 oz burgers on it.

burger patties

The second picture not only shows the rolls I mentioned earlier, but one of the burgers rolled out a little longer than the buns. You want them to be about ½ inch in thickness when you are done.

rolled meat

In the third picture you can see the burger seasoned with salt & pepper and strips of pepper jack cheese cut into strips and laid across the bottom of the flattened burger.

burger w/ cheese

Now here comes the tricky part, using the plastic wrap as a third hand and starting from the cheese side, you want to roll up the burger into sausage like looking thing as seen in this picture.

rolled burger

Now in the fifth picture you will want to heat a large non stick pan to medium with some butter in it to toast the buns in preparation for the meat tubes of cheesy goodness that will shortly follow.  After taking the rolls out put the burgers in the pan and let them cook a few minutes on one side. Then carefully roll the beef over on its other side and let cook there for a few minutes. Keep rolling and cooking for about 8 minutes or so. Once you see the cheese start melting out one of the ends you would be close to a medium burger.

searing burger tube

Put the burger tube on your toasted bun and dress it the way you like.  Personally I just like ketchup on my cheese burgers.

burger w/ ketchup on bun

In the last picture you can see the bun, the meat-cooked medium and the cheese in the middle oozing out of the center. Serve them with some garden veggie straws that come from Costco or potato chips.

finished burger tube

Hope you like my new way of making burgers.  Enjoy ~

Italian Chicken Breast with Cheese Tortellini and Tomatoes

Once again my wife and I bought too many little cherry tomatoes and I was really tired of eating them on salad so this is how I finished them up in dinner a couple nights ago.

First off cook the tortellini according to the package minus one minute, drain in a colander, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set them aside, we will heat them up after cooking the chicken.

For the chicken, season with salt & pepper and sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the breasts. Just a quick note these were very large chicken breasts. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil, then put the chicken breasts in and cook for about five minutes then flip over for another four or five, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165 degrees. Take them out and set aside on a plate to rest for a minute while you make the sauce for the tortellini.

Turn the pan up to medium high and add one shallot sliced thinly to the oil left in the pan, cook it  until it becomes soft then add one tablespoon of chopped garlic, cook for a minute. Add ½ cup of extra dry vermouth to deglaze the pan. Toss in the tomatoes and the tortellini and stir around for a minute then turn heat off and add two tablespoons of butter. Let the butter melt and stir the sauce coat the tortellini. Make sure to check for seasoning. Serve right away next to the chicken breast. A salad and a glass of white wine goes nicely with dinner. Enjoy ~

baked chicken with tortellini

Honey BBQ Chicken Thighs with Mac-n-Cheese

As you might have figured out by now I just can’t cook for the two of us. So we had some chicken thighs left over from earlier in the week. They were just the thing I needed to make a quick dinner. My wife and I both had hard days and I knew this meal would make anyone in her family happy.

So here we go – turn the oven on to 275 degrees and let it preheat. Take a pan out and place some aluminum foil on it, this step will help greatly with clean up. Put the chicken on the pan and let them hang out for a minute. In a small bowl mix the following ingredients: tomato sauce, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, honey, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper. Play with the flavors that work best for you. You could even use premade honey BBQ sauce, if you do, I’d recommend adding extra honey. Carefully pour the mixture on the top of the chicken making sure to keep on the chicken. Put the pan in the middle of the oven and forget about it for about 30-45 minutes.

During the week sometimes you need some comfort food quickly. This time I reached up into the pantry and grabbed a couple of boxes of elbow noodles. I made a rue with butter and flour, then added about 2 cups of milk along with pepper and some chili powder. Stir on low heat for a couple minutes, then add in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese. We make mac-n-cheese often and will experiment with different spices and cheeses.

Carefully take the chicken off the pan, try not to pull up any of the aluminum foil, because it is going to be sticky. Give yourself a couple of big scoops of mac-n-cheese and take a few minutes to savor the flavor of your childhood and let the day’s troubles melt away.  Make a quick salad to round out the meal and for something healthy. Enjoy ~

bbq chix and mac n cheese

Blackened Scallops with Ginger & Garlic over Black Rice

My wife and I were shopping at Costco one evening and I noticed this new product- Black Rice. I have never seen it before and I thought it would be good to show off light colored foods. As we were driving home I told her that we will be having scallops for dinner with the new rice.

First off I had to defrost the scallops in some cold water. After that I had to pat them dry with some paper towels so the blackening seasoning sticks to the scallops, as you can see here.

dryed scallops

seasoned scallops

Before you heat the pan, sprinkle a few drops of oil and spread them around with your fingers so there is almost non-detectable layer of oil on the pan. Then heat the non stick pan to medium high and place the scallops in the pan. Important don’t touch the scallops while they are cooking or you won’t get that good blackening crust on them.  Let them cook on the first side for a minute or so, then carefully with a non stick spatula turn over and cook for another minute. Remove them from the pan for a moment. Wipe out the left over seasoning left in the pan and pour about 1/3 cup of good olive oil in and let that heat almost to a simmer.

Cut a good thumb sized piece of fresh ginger into super fine dice and the same with about two tablespoonfuls of fresh garlic.  Place them in the oil and let them cook together for about two minutes. You can see the little bubbles coming from the garlic and ginger in the picture.  Then squirt 3 or 4 shakes of soy sauce into the pan. Stir together and turn off the heat.

ginger fried

Cook the black rice how the package directs, lucky for us, we have a rice cooker and lay a strip of the rice on the plate, top the rice with the scallops and then carefully spoon the garlic ginger mixture over the scallops.  Sit back and enjoy something new and delicious.

plated scallops