DIY: Salt and Pepper Shrimp

I have been telling myself I should eat more seafood and less meat. I have made the Cantonese dish Salt and Pepper Shrimp two times; and each time, it has been outstanding. I hope that by adding this recipe to my repertoire, it will only encourage me to eat more seafood.  
Ingredient list:

  • 1 pound large shrimp
  • 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, chopped, keep seeds from 1 pepper
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • vegetable oil 
  • salt and pepper mix*

*For this dish, the key flavor is salt and pepper and to get the robust flavor needed, I suggest using course sea salt, black and white peppercorns, and Sichuan peppercorns. Place the same amount of each ingredient into a mortar and pestle and grind them. You can always make more and save it for later use.   
I learned about Lucky Seafood on E. 12th Street in East Oakland from my family and it’s where I shop for fresh shrimp with heads on. It takes some work, but when buying the fresh shrimp with heads, you may need to clean them, cut off the sharp edge around the head, trim away the claws, and devein. 

Once you have the shrimp prepped, pat them dry as much as possible. Season the shrimp with some of the salt and pepper mix and coat with the cornstarch.  
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat and sauté the chopped garlic cloves, jalapeños, and scallions. Remove once it is browned, about five minutes.  
In the same pan, pour about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil for shallow frying on medium high heat. When hot, lay the shrimp down and cook for about one minute per side in batches. When the shrimp is orange and no longer translucent, remove them to a paper towel lined plate. While warm, you can season with additional salt and pepper mix.  Add additional oil to the pan as needed and repeat until all your shrimp is cooked. 
Wipe the pan clean using some additional paper towels. Return all the cooked shrimp as well as the garlic, jalapeño, and scallion mixture back in the pan and toss lightly to evenly distribute the spices. It’s ready to plate and enjoy!

Cooking Class at Sur la Table

It’s a brand new year and many of us have made new year’s resolutions. One of my resolutions is to cook more at home. Cooking at home usually allows for eating healthier. How can you get motivated to cook more? One way is to get a jump start and take a cooking class. Last Sunday, my friends and I took a hands-on cooking class called Flavors of Italy at Sur la Table which was a lot of fun.
  
Our instructor was Chef Corey. Our kitchen class was made up of four teams of four and we made a soup, a salad, an entree, and watched our instructor make dessert.  
 With most ingredients washed, measured, and prepped, we made a Ribollita Soup which is a Tuscan bean and vegetable soup thickened with rustic bread. Chef Corey gave us tips on knife safety before we started chopping which I appreciated. We also used a gadget to remove the tough kale stems and help separate herbs which I used for the first time. 
 We prepared a Winter Greens Salad with Walnuts and Gorgonzola. Grilling radicchio on a grill pan is actually something I’m excited to start doing. Cold salads in the winter is not always appealing, so this is a great alternative. 
 The entree we cooked was a Marsala Braised Chicken with Mushrooms. The fragrance that olive oil, butter, shallots, and mushrooms permeate is one of my favorite scents.   
 The Butterscotch Budino with Olive Oil and Sea Salt is a dessert that takes time to set, so there was a batch already prepared for us. We watched as Chef Corey showed us how to make this tasty dessert.  

 The class took about 2 1/2 hours. At the conclusion, we enjoyed a delicious four course meal.   

 Are you motivated to cook now? Some other ways I have motivated myself to cook is to buy cookbooks written by my favorite chefs and subscribe to the New York Times Cooking Newsletter. I’ll be doing more cooking, so you can subscribe to this food blog or follow me on Instagram. If baking is your thing, my favorite website to go to is King Arthur Flour.  
 

DIY: Easy, Fresh, Pita Bread

What if I told you that you could make pita bread easily? More than likely, you have everything you need to make it already in your pantry. Not only that, but to eat warm fresh pita bread tastes so much better than what you can buy at the store.  
I recently discovered this recipe from the website Half Baked Harvest and have already made it a few times. The results are wonderful.  
Minimal ingredients are:

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the hot water and yeast together in a large bowl and stir so that the yeast can dissolve. 
  Add the flour, salt, and olive oil to the bowl and mix together well with a wooden spoon.   
 Once it is well blended, turn the dough onto a floured work surface.   
 Knead the dough with your hands until it smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Add a small amount of olive oil to a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl and turn it in order to coat the dough in its entirety.   
 Wrap the bowl with Saran Wrap and let it rest for about an hour. The dough will rise and become springy.   
 Place the dough onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into eight even pieces and then put them back into the covered bowl. 
 One at a time, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch in thickness. If the dough gets sticky, add more flour as needed.   
 Heat up a flat griddle or an iron skillet to a medium high heat. Brush some olive oil on the heated pan. Place one of the rolled out pieces of dough onto the pan. If you have a large enough griddle, you can cook two at a time. Watch for bubbles to form on the dough, about thirty seconds and then flip over.   
 Grill for about a minute. Shortly after the edges of the pita bread begins rising off the pan, it will have created toasted spots and is ready to flip over again.   
 Grill for a final minute. The pita bread will puff up and you will know it’s ready. Repeat the process to make 8 pita bread.
 You will be amazed at the deliciousness of the pita bread as well as the nice chewy texture. I bought three different types of hummus from Trader Joe’s to dip the pita bread in. Of the garlic hummus, the beet hummus, and the tomato basil hummus, I enjoyed the latter one best.   
 

DIY: Vegetarian Risotto with Brussels Sprouts and Browned Butter 

 I bookmarked a recipe for Risotto with Brussels Sprouts and Browned Butter that the Pioneer Woman originally posted about a month ago. It was a vibrant dish that looked and sounded so good. I decided to make it for our monthly cooking party which was themed vegetarian. Funny thing is that I go buy all the ingredients for the dish and bring it to the house and then realize it is not a vegetarian dish. I was emptying out my grocery bag onto the kitchen counter and pulled out chicken broth. I had failed. The hostess luckily saved me because she had vegetable broth. So this version of the Pioneer Woman’s dish is indeed vegetarian.
Ingredients:  

  • 4 oz of unsalted European butter
  • Half a stalk of Brussels sprouts or about 40 sprouts cut in half
  • 1 finely diced onion
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh thyme
  • Shaved parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Once melted, it will begin to gently foam. Keep your eye and nose on it as you are looking for the butter to turn a golden brown and give off a nutty aroma. Remove the skillet from the heat and scoop out about half the liquid to be used later.

Increase the skillet to medium heat and add the Brussels sprouts. Sauté the vegetables until tender and golden brown, about eight minutes. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the skillet and set aside. 

 
Now add the onions, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the browned butter to the skillet and sauté until tender.    

Add the arborio rice and combine it well with the onions and garlic.    
Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth and continue to stir until the broth becomes absorbed. Repeat this process until you’ve used up the broth.  
The cooking of the rice should take about 25 minutes and result in an al dente rice. This is where you should taste for texture to know when the rice is ready.   

Add the Brussels sprouts, thyme, salt, pepper, and the remaining browned butter and mix well.  
Plate the risotto and add shaved parmesan cheese.  
This was scrumptious as a vegetarian dish, but I think it would have tasted a notch better with chicken broth!

 

IFBC: Field Trip to Miele

I have been writing my food blog for over five years and decided it was about time that I attend the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) which was held this weekend in Seattle, Washington. I committed to write three blog posts having to do with the conference in order to save some money on the registration fees.  

This post is about my very first activity at the conference. It was an optional excursion that was sponsored by Miele. My first choice of excursions was actually sold out and I chose Miele because they are the makers of my prized vacuum cleaner that I love.   Twenty-one of us hopped on a bus and was taken to the beautiful Miele showroom in Bellevue. There we were greeted with smiles and champagne. We were divided into five groups to cook five different recipes using the hi-tech Miele appliances.
Here were the dishes we made:

Greek Salad

 Pasta Fagioli
 Sliders
 BBQ Pork Buns
 Paella
 It was really fun to cook and then eat with others that have a similar passion for food. In hindsight, I realized that the attendees that I networked with the most by the end of the weekend were at this excursion. It was this interactive event which was the ice breaker. I was glad I signed up for this pre-conference event.  

DIY: Cooking Copper River Salmon

My first experience with Copper River Salmon was about three years ago at a sushi restaurant. This very seasonal salmon is filled with Omega 3’s and is very tasty. My understanding is that the adult Sockeye Salmon are ready to spawn and head to the fresh waters of the Copper River in Alaska and fatten up during the upstream swim. This bright orange, almost red salmon is delicious.

A few weeks ago, I was noticing one of my colleagues heating up her lunch. I commented on what a nice lunch she had. She said it was Copper River Salmon she picked up from Costco. It took me a a few seconds before I recognized the variety.  

I was cooking a lot last week and decided I wanted to get a hold of the Copper River Salmon from Costco. My colleague told me she got it from the San Leandro store. I called to make sure it was still available and the representative assured me they were carrying it. I don’t have a Costco card, so I convinced a friend to take me.

 I picked some of the reasonably priced salmon for $10.99 per pound. My only question now was how to prepare this delightful fish. I wanted a simple recipe so I could really taste the fish. After reviewing various online recipes, I ended up listening to my friend who said olive oil, salt, pepper, orange juice, and orange rind.  

  Mind you, I haven’t cooked salmon in awhile. I wanted to make sure to get the results of a tender, medium rare cook with a crispy salmon skin. After careful thought, I decided on using my cast iron skillet in order to get the pan really hot and enough oil so the skin would not stick. My intuition was correct. Let’s say I succeeded and was thrilled with my accomplishment.  

Here’s my instructions on how to cook the perfect salmon:

  • Salmon filet (preferably Copper River)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, additional 2 tbsp olive oil for cooking
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp orange rind

Marinate the salmon with all the ingredients above for a few hours. Can also marinate overnight.  Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Heat enough olive oil to cover the pan, approximately 2 tbsp. When hot, place your salmon, skin side down in pan. 

  After a couple of minutes, use a spatula and ensure your salmon is not sticking to the pan. If it does, add additional oil. Let salmon sear for about 4-5 minutes. Turn the pan down to medium heat and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove from pan and serve.  

  The fish was tender and flavorful and I ate all of the crispy salmon skin. This was the best salmon I have ever cooked and a lot better than most salmon I have eaten at restaurants. After this experience, I feel much more comfortable cooking fish. If you like salmon, it’s time to run to the Costco in San Leandro and pick up the Copper River Salmon before it runs out.  

Mastering Peruvian 101

Last weekend was another brilliant themed cooking dinner party! To tell the truth, when the theme of Peruvian food first came up, I was a bit skeptical because I was unfamiliar with the cuisine. As I looked online for recipes to make, I saw a lot of seafood recipes. I love seafood, but I don’t have a lot of experience with it. When the website piscotrail.com was shared with the group, it opened up a new world. The writer, Nico is a Peruvian native who resides in San Francisco. Peruvian food consists of a fusion of various cultures including Inca, Spanish, African, and Chinese. I had no idea that pisco, the alcohol used in many cocktails originated in Peru.  

So when the Italians immigrated to Peru, they brought a dish called Tallarin con Pollo (chicken and pasta) and this is Nico’s grandma’s recipe and the one I chose to make last weekend.
Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs skin and bone in
  • 16 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped red pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • bay leaf
  • cinnamon stick
  • salt, pepper, cumin, oregano
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb angel hair pasta

Instructions

Season the chicken thighs thoroughly with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When heated, place the chicken skin side down until golden brown for about 5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. Remove the chicken onto a plate.   

Using the same pan, sauté the onion and garlic. Season with salt (1/2 tsp) , pepper (1/4 tsp), cumin (1/4 tsp), and oregano (1/2 tsp). Add the chopped carrot, red pepper, and celery, and continue to sauté until it begins to brown. Remove from heat. 

In a blender, puree a 16 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes. Add the sautéed vegetables and blend until smooth.   

Dump the purée back into the pan with 3 cups of chicken stock. Heat until it boils and place the chicken back in to pan with a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick.   

Cover the pan and reduce to a slow simmer and cook for thirty minutes. During the last ten minutes, cook the pasta. In a separate pot, boil enough water to cook the pasta. Angel hair pasta only takes five minutes cooking time. Drain the pasta.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan. Mix in the parmesan cheese to the sauce to thicken it and remove from heat. Blend the cooked pasta to the sauce. Plate the pasta and the chicken on top and garnish with more parmesan cheese.

I enjoyed my dish because the sauce was light and flavorful, the chicken was tender, and overall comforting and easy enough of a dish to cook again. The hardest part was all the chopping prep beforehand. It was also a good balance with all the other dishes that evening. My fellow cooks did an amazing job and here’s a look at some of the wonderful Peruvian dishes we gorged on. Many of the recipes can be found at piscotrail.com.