Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad

As I mentioned in my last entry, this recipe is part of the summer smorgasbord that I prepared for our friends when they came over for dinner last week. I couldn't decide on a specific cuisine so I went for whatever summery recipes struck my fancy. Olivia and I both love avocados, tomatoes, and shrimp so this recipe for Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad was an immediate winner.


1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 limes, juice of
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
fresh pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo peeled, cooked shrimp, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium avocado, chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeds removed, finely diced
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, combine red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let this sit for at least 5 minutes to mellow the red onion.

In a large bowl, combine chopped shrimp, tomato, avocado, and jalapeño. Add liquid mixture and cilantro to large bowl and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Although this recipe required some rinsing and chopping, it was pretty easy to prepare. The only element that took a bit of time was preparing the shrimp. I always make sure I rinse them well and remove the tail properly so nobody gets a surprise when they take a bite.

My main recommendation is that the shrimp, avocado, and tomatoes are chopped to roughly the same size. The original recipe called for diced tomatoes and avocados but a true dice is smaller than a chop so the shrimp would have been much bigger. I went with a similar chop size for each of the three main ingredients and it worked out well.

I also served the jalapeños on the side so the kiddos could eat the dish. The rest of us added plenty of jalapeños to our portions so the zesty part of the recipe could live up to its name. This recipe was a success and is now on my list of dishes to prepare for summer dinners on the deck. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:

Orzo Salad With Artichoke Hearts, Slivered Almonds, and Golden Raisins

Seattle has experienced an unprecedented amount of warm weather and sunshine this spring and early summer. The month of June shattered several Seattle warm weather records as detailed in this KOMOnews.com article. This weather has continued well into July and the forecast doesn't seem to be changing. We even tied the all time record for most consecutive 90+ degree days during this past month. It has been an amazing summer so far! Needless to say, when we invited our good friends, the Bettmans, over for dinner on the deck last week, it was necessary to come up with a menu that suited the heat wave. I couldn't pinpoint a particular cuisine so I decided to make a summer smorgasbord. My first recipe is featured below and my second recipe will follow in the next entry.

The first recipe I chose is Orzo Salad With Artichoke Hearts, Almonds, and Golden Raisins. Actually, the original recipe calls for pine nuts but I made a tweak. Since pine nuts are one of the softer nuts around, I immediately decided that I wanted to use a harder, crunchier nut for texture. I looked in my pantry and what do you know, I had plenty of slivered almonds on hand. I also had fresh basil and green onions from the garden so I went for it. 


1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb orzo pasta
olive oil
12 fresh baby artichokes or 2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed
1 lemon, halved
3/4 cup golden raisins 
1/3 cup almond slices, toasted
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned
3 green onions, including tender green tops, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the dressing, use a food processor to combine lemon juice, mustard, garlic, basil, and olive oil. Puree until smooth and emulsified. Transfer to small bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to boil over high heat. Add orzo and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Transfer to large bowl and toss lightly with a little bit of olive oil to prevent grains from sticking together. 

If using fresh artichokes, trim the stems, leaving about 1/2 inch. Cut 1/2 inch off tops. Peel away tough outer leaves until you reach the tender, pale green leaves. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into 6 wedges and rub them with the cut lemon halves. Bring a pot of three-fourths full of water to boil. Add artichokes and cook until tender, about 14 minutes. Drain and let cool to room temperature. If using canned artichokes, drain and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges. Toast the almonds by placing them in a sauté pan on medium-low heat. Make sure you stir them constantly and only toast them for a few minutes because they burn easily.

Add artichokes, raisins, toasted almonds, basil, and green onions to bowl of orzo. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 8. 

This recipe is absolutely delicious and I mean the kind of delicious that makes it the highlight of the meal. The raisins play beautifully with the basil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard. As I have often mentioned, I love the mix of sweet with savory. I also appreciate a dish with balanced acidity. These four ingredients were truly a perfect match. Keeping the orzo al dente and toasting the slivered almonds created the perfect amount of texture and crunch. I just can't say enough about how good this salad tasted! 

I must admit that I chose to use jarred artichoke hearts instead of preparing them fresh. The reason for this choice was simply that I am not familiar with preparing fresh artichokes and I had three dishes that I needed to get done in time for dinner. I love learning to work with a new product but I simply didn't have the time. I also don't mind artichoke hearts out of the jar so it was just fine with me to use them. Finally, this dish is super tasty the following day so don't be afraid to make enough to eat for dinner the first night, lunch the next day, and dinner again. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:
"Williams-Sonoma Outdoor Entertaining", page 134

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prosciutto Wrapped Cantaloupe

My brother, Nick, was the first person to introduce me to Prosciutto and Melon. It must have been fifteen years ago at one of my favorite restaurants in Eugene, Oregon called Beppe and Gianni's Trattoria. I remember taking the first juicy bite and experiencing the combination of salty and sweet on my tongue. I was hooked that night but for some ridiculous reason, I have only eaten this dish a handful of times since.

Brad and I agreed to host an evening event for first grade parents from Olivia's school and went about deciding what type of food and beverages to prepare. Once we decided to offer heavy hor d'oeuvres accompanied by a selection of microbrew beers and Northwest wines, I had the perfect opportunity to prepare Prosciutto and Melon.....with a twist.

1 small cantaloupe
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
white balsamic vinegar
basil (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Cut cantaloupe in half and use spoon to scoop out pulp and seeds. Cut each half into quarters and each quarter into 1/2" slices. If cantaloupe is large, cut slices in half to make canapé size pieces. Cut rind from each slice.

Cut prosciutto into 1/2" wide ribbons. Add a few drops of white balsamic to each slice of cantaloupe, then wrap each slice with a prosciutto ribbon. If desired, chiffonade several leaves of basil to adorn top of canapés. This is accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, and thinly slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll. As a fun side note, chiffonade in french literally means "in rags". I also chose to drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the finished product. The nutty, savory flavor of olive oil suits my taste buds so I tend to add a drizzle to all sorts of dishes that I prepare.

Serve chilled; serves 20. I chose a white rectangular plate with a slanted edge as my serving vessel. As you can see in the photo below, the simplicity of the plate was perfect for showcasing the beautiful colors of the melon, prosciutto, and basil.

As mentioned by the author of this recipe, the twist is the heavy acidity of white balsamic vinegar. I liked the vinegar in contrast to the brininess of the prosciutto and sweetness of the melon so much, that I ended up putting four or five drops on each slice instead of only a few. The three flavor profiles worked beautifully together and once the basil was added for extra color and freshness, I was hooked. This dish is absolutely delicious and it went over like gangbusters at our event. The only change I would make next time is to double the recipe so each person can enjoy two pieces.

I used organic cantaloupe and basil with specialty prosciutto from Metropolitan Market for this recipe.

Source: sheknow.com

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Olivia and I were walking through Metropolitan Market when we came across a tasting station that was serving Cauliflower Cheese Soup. Metropolitan Market is not only wonderful about having cheese and fruit samples available to customers, they also often prepare recipes for customers to try. I really appreciate this because not only can you taste the recipe, the market also provides a take-home flyer with the printed recipe to make at home. Olivia and I were both enamored with the soup and immediately decided to purchase the ingredients to make the recipe together. Anytime my butterfly wants to cook with me, I am in!

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
1 potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk (we used Lactose Free milk, which worked fine)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp mustard
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
warm crusty bread, optional

Heat butter and oil in large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook gently until soft. Add cauliflower, potato, stock, and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until cauliflower and potatoes are soft.

Blend soup in blender, in batches, until smooth.

Return to pan and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in mustard and cheese. Serve with warmed crusty bread.

This soup is just as tasty as I remember! The texture is creamy and the flavor of each ingredient is discernible without one ingredient taking over. Using potatoes in the recipe is a fabulous idea because it gives the soup more body and substance than cauliflower soups I have eaten in the past. I really liked the recipe as it was written, but I needed to make one change; I used 1/2 tablespoon mustard instead of two tablespoons. I love all types of mustard but Olivia asked me to use the ingredient sparingly. I also didn't season the soup with freshly ground pepper until it was in my own bowl. Olivia isn't a big fan of pepper so she asked me not to add it to the full pot of soup.

The magic in this recipe in my opinion, is the nutmeg. There is something special about a touch of freshly grated nutmeg in a dish. It adds a flavor profile that can't be accomplished any other way. It worked particularly well in this recipe because it cut through the richness of the cheese just enough by adding a touch of brightness. Pre-ground nutmeg doesn't provide the same flavor quality so I highly recommend purchasing whole nutmeg.

I served the soup with Grand Central Bakery's Rustic Baguette that I first baked for 10 minutes in the oven. Grand Central is a Seattle-based bakery that makes our very favorite bread called Como Bread. Now we can add Rustic Baguette to our list of favorites because it was delicious. It is pure coincidence that we have become friends with one of the owners (who also happens to be the Director of Operations) of Grand Central Bakery.  It was already our favorite local bakery long before we met her. She is the sweetest because every time her daughter comes over to play with Olivia, she brings us a loaf of fresh bread. Looks like our dedication to Grand Central has brought us good bread karma! Thank you, Gabby. :)

As a side note, the recipe originally called for either blending the soup in a blender or with a hand mixer. I first tried a hand mixer and as you can see in the photo below, it did not produce a smooth product. After this realization, I transferred the soup to my Oster blender and the texture turned out beautifully.

Recipe Source:
Metropolitan Market