Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post on "Opera Girl Cooks"

{Drunken Fig Jam with Rosemary, Port, and Lemon}
I'm delighted to have a guest post up on Opera Girl Cooks today. Click here for the full post!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pistachio & Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Tacos / Marquez Danzon No. 2

You'd be hard pressed to find a native Angeleno who is not completely addicted to Mexican food. We're also guilty of constantly tinkering with the very basics that we love so much. When I saw this original and refreshing twist on shrimp tacos in last month's issue of Sunset Magazine, I couldn't wait to give it a try - especially since it appeared so simple that even I, the slowest home chef west of the Rockies, guessed that I could probably get it done in 20 minutes or less. Amazingly, that turned out to be the case. While the shrimp were grilling, I threw together a light lemony slaw and warmed up some tortillas on the stove.

Pistachio and Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Skewers
(Adapted from Sunset Magazine)

1 cup lightly packed cilantro sprigs (yes, even the stems!)
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander 
1/2 cup toasted, unsalted pistachios 
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

Heat grill to high. 

In a food processor, combine the lime juice and zest, olive oil, and cilantro. Pulse a few times to combine. Add in the salt, coriander, and pistachios, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until your pesto is smooth.

Coat the shrimp evenly with the pesto, and skewer. (I use metal skewers, but wooden ones soaked in water for 30 minutes would be fine as well.) Grill for about two minutes per side, or until pink, being careful not to overcook them. 

Serve with cole slaw (my recipe below), warm tortillas, and extra lime wedges. (I'll be adding fresh cut corn and cotija cheese next time.)

{As my husband likes to say: "how can this be bad?"}

{We told our nut-allergic friend that this was "epi-pen worthy"}

{Shrimp, ready for the grill}
{Lemony Slaw - recipe below}
Light Lemony Slaw 

1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream or greek yogurt (anything goes here - full fat, non fat, etc)
1 tablespoon sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
One pound shredded cabbage, carrot, and/or broccoli mix
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh scallions
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl large enough for the finished amount of slaw, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream or greek yogurt, sugar, and lemon zest and juice. Add the cabbage mixture, parsley, and scallions and toss well. We like this with plenty of pepper.

{My patented tortilla-warming technique. Violin-calloused fingers come in handy here, but are not required}
For a musical pairing, enjoy Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra's vivacious performance of what has been affectionately dubbed the "Second National Anthem" of Mexico: Arturo Marquez's Danzon No. 2. It's zesty, fun, simple, and loaded with Latin flavor. I dare you not to dance while listening to it. (Another fun connection: Mexican-born Marquez spent his childhood here in Los Angeles before returning to Mexico for college.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Peach Raspberry Crisp / Appalachia Waltz

Apple Crisp was my grandmother's specialty. The buttery, shortbread-like topping was beloved by every member of our family, and legendary amongst our friends. Even my chocoholic husband came around after tasting it; over the years, crisps have become his "desert island" dessert.

As much as I'd like to think that crisp-making skills are heritable, I can't bring myself to try to replicate my grandma's version. Unfortunately for posterity, she never followed a written recipe. And naturally, I was too busy drooling over her shoulder in anticipation of the finished product to pay much attention to detail. All I can remember with certainty was that copious amounts of butter were involved. Whatever her secrets may have been, she would prepare crisp after crisp for any of our visits to New York. Her tireless baking was just one of the many ways she would tell us she loved us. I can't help but think of her whenever I make one.

{My Grandma & I circa 1982}
For a musical pairing, here is Mark O'Connor's moving Appalachia Waltz. It captures a sweetness and a sense of deep nostalgia that is utterly American, and profoundly comforting. I thought it would be especially appropriate given the tenth anniversary of September 11th. This version is performed by my partner Kevin and myself.

Peach Rasbperry Crisp
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

4 pounds firm, ripe peaches
1 orange, zested
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
1 pint raspberries
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 sticks (one half pound) cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If you'd like to go through the trouble of removing the skin from the peaches, you can immerse them in boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute, then shock them in ice water. The skins should slide right off when you pinch them. (Personally, I don't mind the skins. They have such a beautiful color; and because they literally hold the peach slices together, they prevent the filling from becoming a complete mush.) Cut the peaches into large wedges.

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour (this depends on how juicy your peaches are; the juicier they are, the more flour you will require to prevent the filling from becoming soupy), 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, the orange zest, and the vanilla. Add the raspberries and toss gently. Pour the filling into any dish that will fit it and the topping.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the butter, the remaining sugars, the salt, and the oats until the mixture crumbles into pea-sized bits. Spread evenly over the peach mixture. Bake for 1 hour and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

{Nothing beats rivulets of melted ice cream}

{Poochini, intrigued}