Cioppino with a Twist

I would like to call this recipe a cioppino. Cioppino is a fish stew with a San Francisco pedigree reaching back to the 1800’s. The name is derived from the Italian term ciuppin, which means “to chop.”  It’s believed that the Italian and Portuguese fisherman would chop up leftovers from their daily catch to make this robust and flavorful soup. The reason why I hesitate slightly about labeling it a cioppino is that I have taken a liberty with this recipe that is neither Italian nor Portuguese at all. It’s French.

Wine is a key ingredient in the cioppino stock, and recipes gamely call for white or red, depending on the source. I usually use red wine, however in this recipe I tried white. The result was a lighter, more acidic broth that I felt needed a little oomph. Additional salt and extra pepper helped, as did a spoonful of sugar (which often works wonders in tomato-based stocks and sauces.) Still, something was missing. I looked no further than the fennel I had sautéed with the onion as a base for the stock, and I reached for the Pernod, an anise liqueur, in the back of the pantry. It was a perfect shot. The Pernod coaxed out the licorice flavor of the fennel, adding depth and roundness with subtle anise notes. So here you have it: Cioppino with a French twist.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup Ouzo or Pernod
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
18 littleneck clams
18 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 large sea scallops, about 3/4 pound
2 cooked crabs, legs cracked, flesh removed from bodies
1 pound firm fleshed white fish such as halibut or sea bass, cut in 2 inch chunks

Fresh Italian parsley

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft and onion is translucent without coloring, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste to combine, and then add the tomatoes, wine, chicken stock, Pernod, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If necessary add a spoonful of sugar. Add clams. Cook, stirring, until they open. (Discard any clams that do not open.) Add shrimp, sea scallops and white fish. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until all of the fish is cooked through. Add crab legs and meat. Simmer to heat through. Serve hot in bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Shrimp and Feta Salad

~ Mixed Greens, Shrimp, Feta, Tomatoes, Cured Olives ~

Shrimp and feta cheese make a perfect couple. The sharp salty cheese is a perfect complement to the briny sweet shrimp. I like to combine these two friends in rice or orzo dishes. I also enjoy baking them in a gratin with tomatoes and olives, drizzled with ouzo – which was my original intention for dinner tonight. However, time got the best of me, and for a super quick fix I tossed the shrimp in this salad instead. What would have been a simple green salad graciously accommodated sautéed shrimp and chunks of feta, transforming itself into a light and fresh main course. As for the ouzo, it was hardly bypassed, but turned into an apertif to launch our dinner. A very acceptable compromise, indeed.

Shrimp and Feta Salad

I also added red corn kernels to the salad, because I had them – and they looked so pretty with the shrimp. Serves 4.

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk all of the ingredients except the oil together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Set aside.

For the salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 medium shrimp, shelled with tails in tact, deveined
8 cups mixed greens, such as red oak, bibb, arugula
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1/2 red pepper, seeded, membranes removed, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
16 black olives (brine cured or kalamata)
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in one layer, without overcrowding the pan. Cook, turning once, until bright pink on both sides, about 1 minute each side. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Cool.
Combine the greens, tomatoes, red pepper and onion together in a large bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup vinaigrette over the greens and toss to coat. Divide among plates. Scatter olives and feta over the salad. Arrange shrimp on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette to taste. Garnish with parsley. Serve with bread or pita.

Coconut Shrimp Curry

Coconut Shrimp Curry

It’s that time of year again: the holidays have passed, the reality of winter sets in, and I have a bout of  culinary wanderlust. Over-sated with the goodies of Christmas-past, it’s now time for comfort and heat. I crave stews and spice, at once hearty and exotic. The warmth of soup soothes the soul on a wintry night, while aromatic spices titillate the senses, hinting of sunny far flung destinations. Heady and satisfying, I can’t think of a better way to embrace the cold, grey January weather.

Coconut Shrimp Curry

This recipe may be easily prepared in 20 minutes – just enough time to cook the rice. Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup cilantro/coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in deep skillet or soup pot. Add onion and sauté until soft but not brown, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno, ginger and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add curry powder and continue sautéing, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, salt and pepper; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook until they turn pink and are just cooked through. Stir in cilantro. Taste to adjust seasoning. Serve immediately in bowls with basmati rice.

Holiday Timeout: Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich

Holiday Timeout: Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich

Are you suffering from a food hangover? No worries. You’ve made it this far, cruising through Thanksgiving, holiday parties, and now Christmas. Just a few more days to go before the New Year, and then you can look forward to a diet respite. In the meantime, here is a quick fix: a Danish-inspired open-face sandwich. Clean, fresh and minimal, this is Danish design on a plate. It’s a perfect antidote to holiday excess, yet sufficiently decorative and pretty to look at during the festive season.

Not only is this open-face sandwich healthy and low in fat, it’s seasonally appropriate. The Danes are famous for smørrebrød, or open-face sandwiches. Eaten year round, smørrebrød makes a special appearance at the Danish holiday table, where they are an important first course in the culinary marathon otherwise known as the Christmas Lunch. Christmas Lunch is a bit of a misnomer, as it applies to multiple days preceding and following Christmas Day and may happen at lunch or dinner. Whenever it may fall, rest assured there will be numerous courses accompanied by beer and shnapps and no room for any more food that day.

Now, don’t be afraid. While the Danes view smørrebrød as one course of many, for our  sake, I present you with  a Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich as a light and refreshing dietary interlude. Enjoy this for lunch or as light dinner while you pace yourselves to the New Year. And if you must accompany it with a jigger of akavit, go ahead. After all, it’s the holidays.

Shrimp and Dill Open-Face Sandwich

Bay shrimp are a good substitution for the tiny fjord shrimp typically used for this recipe in Denmark.   Makes 2 smørrebrød.

2 slices french loaf bread, 1/2 inch thick
Lightly salted European-style butter
2 large Boston lettuce or romaine lettuce leaves
1/4 pound bay shrimp
4 tablespoons creme fraiche or Greek style whole milk yogurt
Dill sprigs
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges

Spread each bread slice with butter. Cover with a lettuce leaf. Arrange shrimp in rows on lettuce. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons yogurt over shrimp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with dill sprigs and serve with a lemon wedge.

Oven Roasted Colossal Shrimp

Shrimp tf

I went to the store today to buy salmon and came home with colossal shrimp. It was impossible to resist them. They looked pristine and, well, colossal, artfully arranged on ice in the fish case – and they were on sale. How could they be ignored? I didn’t know how I would prepare them and was open to suggestions. The man who sold me the shrimp recommended shaking them in a plastic bag with oil and a spice mix from Emeril Lagasse. I posed the question to my foodie facebook friends and received an answer which made me laugh, since it called for stuffing the shrimp with crab, but due to a typo, it read “with crap”, which fleetingly caused me to reflect upon the importance of deveining the shrimp. Meanwhile, the afternoon was nearing its end; I didn’t have any fancy spice mixes or, unfortunately, any fresh crab on hand. So, this is what I came up with, and the results were delicious.

Oven Roasted Colossal Shrimp
serves 4

16 colossal shrimp
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime

3 scallions, ends and tips discarded, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Carefully loosen the shrimp bodies from their shells without disconnecting the tail and devein the shrimp with a paring knife. Return the shrimp to the shell (this allows the marinade to permeate all around the shrimp) and place in a bowl. Combine the olive oil, lemon, and lime juice in another bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the oil and stir to combine. Pour the marinade over the shrimp, and with your hands, gently coat the shrimp with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to one hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the shrimp from the marinade and discard the marinade. Arrange the shrimp in one layer in a baking dish. Roast the shrimp in the oven until the shells brighten in color and the shrimp are just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve the shrimp with rice.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

Shrimp Pasta

Light, fresh and bright, this dish sings spring. Shrimp, broccolini and plum tomatoes have a turn in a skillet with a little olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. All the ingredients are united in a bowl with spaghetti and fresh basil leaves, then tumbled with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I am thinking of Italy – are you?

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
extra-vrigin olive oil
crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, drained
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup whole basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain and return to pot.  While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes in a skillet. Add shrimp in one layer. Cook until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Add one tablespoon olive oil to same skillet. Add broccolini and sprinkle with one teaspoon salt and  a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté until crisp tender. Transfer broccolini to another plate. Add one tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Return shrimp and broccoli to skillet and toss to combine. Remove from heat. Add to spaghetti. Add cheese and basil and toss to combine. Serve with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Fiesta Shrimp Salsa

Shrimp Salsa

Post holidays, I crave bright and spicy food with an exotic flare.  Asian or Mexican inspired dishes flavored and spiced which cilantro and chile or ginger and citrus are a great way to jazz up the palate, waking it from its winter slumber.  Here is a recipe that is quick, easy and a crowd pleaser.  Sautéed shrimp marinate in a homemade citrus-y salsa and are served with tortilla chips.  It’s a confetti of color and an explosion of tastes and textures. Light and festive with a bite, this salsa is a guaranteed pick-me-up and a perfect way to ring in the New Year.

Fiesta Shrimp Salsa

Fiesta Shrimp Salsa

Serve in a bowl with chips on the side as an appetizer, or arrange on a bed of greens and serve as a salad.

Serves 6-8

1 lb. (500 grams) medium shrimp, deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, seeded, diced
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, minced
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves for garnish
Tortilla chips

Remove shells from shrimp, leaving tails intact on 6 shrimp for garnish.  Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Sauté shrimp in batches in one layer in skillet.  Cook turning once, until pink and cooked through, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining shrimp. Set shrimp aside to cool.  Slice shrimp in half lengthwise down the middle of the back, except for the 6 with tails intact.

Combine tomatoes, serrano chile, jalapeno, red onion, garlic, lime and lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil.  Add shrimp halves, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate up to 3 hours before serving.

Before serving, add chopped parsley and cilantro, stirring to combine.  Serve in a bowl or on greens on a platter. Arrange whole shrimp with tails on top. Garnish with additional parsley and cilantro leaves. Serve with tortilla chips.

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino

Shrimp and Pea Puree

English peas are nature’s superior answer to fast food.  Sweet and crisp, they taste best popped straight from the shell into the mouth; no need to bother with cooking.  At this time of year peas are abundant, and when I go to the farmers’ market I find myself using up all of my spare money on brown bags overflowing with peas.  Today was no different:  I came home from the market with several pounds of peas, cascading out of their overstuffed bags, mingling with bunches of fresh mint, chives, and edible kale flowers. Once home, I quickly confiscated a singular bag to stash away and later transform into a pea puree while the rest of the family and visiting friends grabbed handfuls of peas as they passed through the kitchen.

The pea puree is delicious as is, but my favorite way to serve it is with shellfish.  The briny sweetness of shrimp, scallops or lobster is a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the peas, while the pearly coral colors of the shellfish contrast beautifully with the vivid green pea color.  I like to present the following recipe  in small glasses or demi-tasse cups with the shellfish perched on top.

English Peas

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino
Serves 8 as an appetizer

2 cups shelled English peas
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 large garlic clove, minced
16 large shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
2 tablespoons dry white wine

Pecorino Romano shavings
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Fresh chives for garnish
Kale flowers (optional)

Prepare Pea Purée:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the peas. Reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender. Remove from heat; drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Combine peas and 1/4 cup cooking liquid in food processor and purée until smooth. Add more water to desired consistency. Transfer to bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, Pecorino and fresh mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Prepare Shrimp:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic and chili flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp in one layer and cook, turning once, until pink on the outside and opaque in the center, about 1 minute per side. Add wine and cook 30 seconds to allow alcohol to evaporate. Remove from heat. Divide warm pea purée among 8 demi-tasse cups or martini glasses. Arrange 2 shrimp over purée. Top with Pecorino shavings, freshly ground black pepper and drizzle olive oil over. Garnish with chives and edible flowers.

Kale Flowers

Spring Rolls in Copenhagen

Spring Rolls in Copenhagen


Rule of thumb: When traveling to far flung destinations, eat as the locals do.

This has merit for several reasons.  First – and clearly stating the obvious – if you are in France, for goodness’ sake, eat French.  This is, after all, where you will find the authentic real deal.  Second, when far off the beaten path (for instance, the garden route along the south coast of South Africa circa mid-90’s) steer clear of restaurant establishments that offer such delicacies as Authentic Tex-Mex! or Authentic Japanese Sushi! Same principal yet the inverse: this is far from authentic and far from the real deal.  And, if you do find yourself far from home, hungry and homesick for a taste of your favorite neighborhood cuisine and succumb to the temptation, beware that, most likely, you will be supremely disappointed.

This raises an interesting challenge of living abroad.  Some of the wonderful aspects of the expatriate lifestyle are living in another culture, tasting the local food, celebrating the different traditions.  For all the experiences and pleasures, however, there can be moments when you simply crave the ribs from Redbones, the tacos from Olé Grill or the dim sum from China Pearl – your old favorite haunts, thousands of miles away and sadly ignorant of your self-imposed exile.  As an American growing up in Boston, I had the privilege of instant access to delicious, authentic ethnic cuisines.  When I moved to Europe in the early 90’s, the prospect of finding fresh sushi or authentic Mexican food in Geneva or Copenhagen was daunting and disappointing.  I quickly learned that the best way to get the results I craved was to make it myself (there has been a steep learning curve.)

Here is a recipe for Rice Paper Spring Rolls that I learned to make to satisfy my craving for fresh, light, Asian-inspired food.  I included in it in a menu for one of my cooking classes in Copenhagen, and it was a hit, partly because it was different. Remember that the key to a good roll is to have a balance of sweet, savory, heat and salt in the ingredients and to combine a variety of textures for a satisfying bite.  Be sure to prepare all the ingredients in advance, so that when you are ready to assemble the rolls, everything is in place.

Spring Rolls

Rice Paper Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Chili Peanut Sauce
Makes 8

3 oz. vermicelli rice noodles
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 (eight inch) rice paper rounds
4 Boston lettuce leaves, ribs removed, halved
1 cup shredded carrot
1 bunch coriander leaves, about 1 cup
1 bunch mint leaves, about 1 cup
1 english cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut in matchsticks
4 scallions, cut length-wise in julienne strips
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, cut in julienne
15 medium cooked shrimp, peeled, halved horizontally

Chili Peanut Sauce for dipping

Place noodles in a wide bowl.  Pour hot water over to cover. Let stand 15 minutes.  Drain well in a colander.  Toss with rice vinegar, sugar and salt.
While the noodles are soaking, prepare all of the ingredients, so that the spring rolls are ready to assemble.
Pour warm water into a shallow pan.  Immerse one rice paper round in water until pliable, about 30 seconds.  Remove and spread on a plastic cutting board.  Blot dry with a towel.
Arrange a lettuce leaf half over the bottom half of the rice paper round, taking care to leave a 1″ border along the edge.
Top lettuce with 1/4 cup rice noodles, arranging them horizontally over.
Top noodles with a line of shredded carrot, coriander and mint leaves, cucumber, scallions and chile.
Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and begin to roll up tightly.  At halfway point arrange 3 shrimp halves horizontally over the crease, then fold in the ends and continue rolling.
Transfer roll, seam-side down to a plate and cover with damp towel.  Repeat with remaining rolls.  (Adjust ingredient amounts to taste and to ensure the roll is plump and full, while still allowing it to be folded in and sealed.)
Spring rolls can be made 4 hours in advance.  Cover with damp paper towels and plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Serve with Chili Peanut Sauce.

Chili Peanut Sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Set aside.  Can be made one day in advance.

Tip: If you have left over filling ingredients and sauce, try tossing them together in a bowl for a light Asian Rice Noodle Salad with Chili Peanut Dressing.  It works!