Pickled Shrimp

Although sadly my Patriots did not make it to the Super Bowl this year, the Seahawks did and that’s definitely a great reason for a celebration! Looking for an easy appetizer for our Super Bowl celebration, I decided on Pickled Shrimp. Make it the night before, and quick to be on the table on game day. 🙂

I use 16/20 shrimp in this recipe, but you’re free to use whatever size you prefer. If you’re packing to someone else’s party, this would look great in a mason jar! Makes 1 quart.

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8 1/3 cups of water
Kosher salt
2 lbs 16/20 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup high quality olive oil
2 cups cider vinegar
8 bay leaves
3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped in large chunks
1 lemon, thinly sliced, remove seeds
1/3 cup capers in brine, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tsp celery seeds

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, and add 6 Tablespoons of kosher salt. Add the shrimp and boil for two minutes, until they are just pink. Drain the shrimp and let cool.

Combine all the remaining ingredients, including the 1/3 cup of water, in a large bowl. Stir and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Taste and add more salt as desired. Add the shrimp and stir, making sure all the shrimp are submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Enjoy! 🙂

Tuna au Poivre with Red Wine Sauce

Steak au Poivre used to be one of my favorites when I was still eating red meat. Now that I’m a pescatarian and eat only fish and seafood, I decided to try a twist on the original with yellowfin tuna. It turned out to be a fantastic dish that I’ll definitely go back to, nice presentation for company as well.

Instead of just the standard peppercorn crust, I also added some Chinese Five Spice. I love this spice, it’s a mixture of peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel; and covers five flavors – sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. The flavors pair very well with tuna, and I also use it when making Tuna Tataki.

I served the beautiful cut of yellowfin tuna with garlic mash and French greens as sides.


3/4 lb fresh tuna, cut into 2 steaks about 1-inch thick
Fresh Coarsely Ground Peppercorns
Chinese Five Spice
Olive oil

1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup red wine
1 cup vegetable broth

Season tuna steaks with salt. Sprinkle both sides with Chinese Five Spice and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and rub to coat evenly. Let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes; or refrigerate for up to 4 hours and bring to room temperature before cooking.

For the red wine sauce:
Melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add vegetable broth and reduce until 1 cup sauce remains, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, set aside and keep warm.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lay in steaks and sear for 2 minutes, until nicely browned. Flip and cook 1 minute more for rare, 2 minutes for medium rare. Serves 2.


Smoked Salmon Sunday Brunch Bagel

Not just any smoked salmon. Private Reserve Rope Hung Smoked Salmon. Oh my.

My fishmonger at Clean Catch, Bill, assured me I will never want any other smoked salmon after eating this. I decided to take on this challenge, as I’ve had a lot of smoked salmon and I love it. The Pacific Northwest seems to have to corner on this, and I admit that’s where I’ve had the best to date. When I travel to Seattle on business, every breakfast, and usually most dinners, revolve around the salmon.

So, about the Private Reserve Rope Hung Smoked Salmon. Did a bit of research, and it appears this is indeed special stuff. Fillets are hand-cured with pure sea salt and fresh herbs, and then hand hung by ropes in a brick kiln. This process dries the salmon out more than regular smoking, and it creates only the best of smoked salmon. There are very few companies in the world producing salmon in this manner due to the high degree of labor involved.

Is it expensive? Yes. Is it absolutely the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had? Absolutely. This salmon is beyond good; a heady smoke, and it literally melts in your mouth.


1 bagel, my favorite is an Everything bagel
1 egg
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced tomato
Softened cream cheese
3 slices of smoked salmon
Fresh Dill

Toast the bagel until golden brown.

In medium non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the scrambled egg until just done. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spread softened cream cheese over the bottom half of the toasted bagel. Top cream cheese with scrambled egg, sliced tomato, red onion, smoked salmon and dill. Top with top of toasted bagel.

Hello Sunday Brunch.


Fried Oysters

Two things happened this weekend to put the fried oyster idea into my head: Clean Catch received the first freshly shucked oysters of the year and in chatting with my fishmonger, he suggested frying them; and I refreshed my spice rack at Savory Spice Shop.

Usually I will buy fresh oysters at Clean Catch, shuck them myself and serve them on the half shell with mignonette and lemon wedges. I rarely eat anything fried anymore, but I decided to run with this fried oyster idea. I’ve had fried oysters before in an Oyster Po’ Boy and it was quite good. I found a great Emeril recipe for fried oysters and adapted it to my own taste.

I picked the Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning from Savory Spice Shop to flavor the oysters. This blend highlights dill as its featured flavor; and is a mix of Lemon Peel, Four Corners Peppercorn blend, red bell pepper, dill weed, cracked dill seed, onion and salt. I used it a couple of nights ago on broiled Alaskan Halibut and it was amazing. If you don’t have a Savory Spices near you, I’d suggest a similar spice blend from your local grocery.

Let’s cook!

1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning, plus 1 tablespoon
16 freshly shucked oysters, about 1 pint, drained
1/2 cup masa harina
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable oil, for frying

In a bowl, combine the buttermilk with 1 tablespoon of the Cherry Creek seasoning. Add the oysters and marinate for in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.

Combine the masa harina and flour with the remaining Cherry Creek seasoning in a shallow dish.

In a deep-fryer or a medium, heavy pot with high sides, heat the oil to 360 degrees F.

Dredge the oysters in the flour mixture and shake the pieces to remove any excess; place them on a sheet of wax paper until you’re ready to start cooking. Carefully add the oysters to the hot oil in batches, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides; approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the oysters with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and serve immediately.

I served them with lemon wedges, fresh ranch dressing, and LeRoy’s Fiery Green Olive hot sauce. Enjoy!


Thai Style Steamed Clams

This lovely Thai influenced steamed clam dish is infused with red curry, coconut milk, garlic, ginger and cilantro. Full of vibrant flavors and good as an appetizer or light meal.

I love Thai food. The delicate balance of bright, fresh flavors and exotic ingredients is aromatic and palate pleasing. There are four flavors in Thai cooking – salty, sour, spicy and sweet. In this recipe, these are represented by fish sauce, lime, curry, and coconut milk, respectively. My Thai style steamed clams are quick and easy to prepare, and the resulting broth with the clams is delicious with fresh French bread. Enjoy! 🙂

Curry, fish sauce and coconut milk are available at Asian markets, if you are unable to find them at your regular grocery.


Let’s cook! 🙂

2 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 tsp red curry paste
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 pounds littleneck clams, rinsed and cleaned
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime for juice
1 lime, in wedges for garnish

Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for two to three minutes until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the curry paste and fish sauce, stirring until the paste has thinned out with the butter mixture.

Pour the vegetable broth and coconut milk into the pot. Stir the broth mixture for a couple seconds until well mixed.

Carefully add the clams, cover and cook covered for five to seven minutes, until the clams have opened. Add the chopped cilantro and stir; make sure to stir gently so the clams don’t come out of the shells.

Use tongs to transfer the clams to a large serving bowl, and pour the broth over the clams. Squeeze half of a lime over the dish, and serve with lime wedges and crusty French bread on the side. Serves 2.

Tomato and Bread Soup – Pappa al Pomodoro

Lidia Bastianich is one of my favorite professional chefs, specializing in Italian and Italian-American cuisine; I’ve used a number of her recipes for inspiration. She’s the author of eight cookbooks, five of which are accompanied by a national series on Public Television. Her style of cooking is fresh, authentic Italian; based heavily on family traditions. In an interview, Lidia expressed her opinion on food and family:

‘Food for me was a connecting link to my grandmother, to my childhood, to my past. And what I found out is that for everybody, food is a connector to their roots, to their past in different ways. It gives you security; it gives you a profile of who you are, where you come from.’

The lovely dish I made today, Tomato and Bread Soup, is a bright summer meal; the tomatoes and basil bursting with flavor, and the bread adding a hearty texture. I made this with canned San Marzano tomatoes, but I will definitely try it later in the summer when tomatoes are at peak season. I also left the crusts on the Italian bread, as I like some of the bread to stay in small chunks. If you’d prefer the bread to completely disintegrate, remove the crusts before adding to the soup.


I adapted this recipe from ‘Lidia’s Favorite Recipes’. This is a great cookbook to start with if you don’t have one of her cookbooks and want to try some wonderful Italian dishes.

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced Vidalia onion
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
Three 28-oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
Five 1/2 inch thick slices of stale Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 fresh basil leaves, washed
Freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy pot. Add the diced onion and cook until it starts to wilt, approximately 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a large bowl, or with a food mill. If you’re crushing with your hands, be careful – some of them burst with juice when crushed.

Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Add the vegetable broth and bring everything to a boil, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes have boiled for 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Add the bread and basil leaves to the pot and bring it back to a boil. Drop the heat so the soup is still simmering, low to medium-low. Simmer uncovered, whisking occasionally to break up the pieces of bread. The soup will be silky and dense after about 40 minutes.

Season the soup to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve in warm bowls, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Provide grated parmigiana-reggiano on the side. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 quarts; serves 8.

Shrimp Tacos with a Citrus Twist

My favorite fish market, Clean Catch, had some amazing tiger shrimp in the case yesterday, so I picked up a pound (eight shrimp in this instance) and decided to try a different take on shrimp tacos. While a peppery, smoky spice shines in tacos, citrus also works very well. I use orange, lemon, and lime in this version; and a sour cream sauce with more of a kick. Also added some honey in the marinade for a slight kiss of sweet.

I did these in a skillet on medium-high heat, but the shrimp are definitely great for grilling. Unfortunately it’s raining tonight in Charlotte so grilling was out for me. 🙂


Spicy Citrus Shrimp Tacos
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
2 Tbsp chipotle-fused olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

Southwestern Cream Sauce
1/2 cup light sour cream (or fat-free greek yogurt)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

4 flour or corn tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Shredded Mexican cheese
Salsa or Pico de Gallo
Cilantro and quartered limes for garnish

Whisk together the orange, lemon and lime juices, olive oil, honey, spices and garlic for the marinade. Toss the shrimp in the marinade to coat, cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, but not more than 30. Any longer than 30 and the shrimp will start to ‘cook’ in the acid of the citrus juices.

Waiting for the shrimp to marinade, whisk together all the ingredients for the southwest cream sauce and refrigerate until ready to serve.

If grilling, thread the shrimp onto skewers, and grill 1-3 minutes per side, until opaque and cooked through. Use the grill to heat the tortillas as well. If cooking indoors, cook the shrimp in a skillet on medium-high heat for 1-3 minutes per side; warm the tortillas in the microwave.

Sprinkle shredded lettuce and cheese on the tortillas and divide the shrimp among the tortillas. Drizzle the cream sauce over the shrimp and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. Serve guacamole and salsa/pico on the side. Serves 2 (2 tacos each). Enjoy!


Summer Spicy Shrimp Tacos: Muy Delicioso!

Summer is the perfect time for spicy tacos with an ice cold Corona. Occasionally I like a crunchy taco shell, but most often prefer a soft flour or corn tortilla. I picked up some pico de gallo at Whole Foods, and whipped up some quick guacamole. Whole Foods usually has good store-made guacamole as well if you’d prefer to not make your own.

Olive oil, olive oil, olive oil! I use olive oil frequently in my cooking, and am crazy about the new stores opening in Charlotte that sell fused/infused oils and vinegars. I have two favorite stores – Pour Olive and New World Olive Oil. I’ve found I like New World’s fused oils and Pour Olive’s vinegars best, but they both offer top notch products. Fused means fresh ingredients are added at the time the olives are crushed, making it integral to the oil itself. Infused is flavoring added after the oil has been milled. Today’s recipe features New World’s Jalapeno-fused olive oil – it has a clean, bright peppery taste.

The combination of spices and jalapeno-fused olive oil make these shrimp tacos quite spicy. If you prefer a milder taste, use regular olive oil and omit the regular chili powder. The chipotle chili powder adds a smoky, spicy kick by itself and is an excellent compliment to the cumin, found in a lot of Mexican cooking.


Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Sour Cream
Serves 2

1 lb white shrimp (12 per pound), peeled and deveined
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Sprinkling of salt (I used Red Hawaiian)
1 tablespoon jalapeno-fused olive oil

Lime-Cilantro Sour Cream
¼ cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon cumin
Zest and juice from a lime
Sprinkling of salt

4 soft flour tortillas
Pico de Gallo
Shredded Mexican Cheese

Whisk the garlic, chili powders, cumin, salt and olive oil together in a bowl. Add the shrimp and toss well to make sure all are covered in marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Mix together all ingredients for the lime-cilantro sour cream. The sauce will be runny, which is good for drizzling over the tacos. Store in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the tacos.

Heat a medium-large skillet on medium heat and cook the shrimp until pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds. Place two on each plate, and sprinkle some shredded Mexican cheese across the center; add a couple dollops of guacamole. Put three shrimp on each taco; top with pico de gallo and drizzle some lime-cilantro sour cream across the top.

Garnish with limes wedges and cilantro sprigs. Enjoy! 🙂

It’s All About the Lobster!

Summertime is here, and to me that means the start of peak lobster time. The majority of lobsters are harvested between June and December. The warmer weather and increased tourism drive the demand for lobster higher during this timeframe. However, you can get high quality lobster any time of the year from the right fishmonger.

I picked up a pound of fresh cooked lobster meat from Clean Catch this week, craving the ultimate seafood sandwich – the lobster roll. A mixture of tail, claw and knuckle meat; this lobster was cooked perfectly and ready for any recipe. I used half of it to make my ‘Southern Lobster Rolls’, still deciding what to do with the other half. Two things make these a Southern variation – Duke’s mayonnaise and a shot of hot sauce; I choose a new hot sauce that I got at Pour OliveLeRoy’s Fiery Green Olive. Enjoy!

Southern Lobster Rolls

½ lb cooked lobster meat, chopped into nice size chunks
2 Tablespoons Duke’s Mayonnaise
Juice of ½ of a lime
1 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Hawaiian Red Salt to taste
2 whole wheat buns, lightly toasted and buttered

Mix all ingredients together except the lobster and buns; season to taste with salt and pepper. The lobster should be the star here, so let it shine through and don’t over season.

Add the mayonnaise mix to the lobster, and stir gently until the lobster is just coated. Be careful to not shred the lobster while mixing. Divide the lobster between the two buns, and dig in! A cool glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio is a wonderful accompaniment.


Adventures in Oyster Shucking

Finally got my nerve up this weekend, and shucked my first dozen oysters – Malpeques! Malpeques are cultivated in the pristine glacial depths of Malpeque Bay in Prince Edward Island, Canada. They are good sized oysters, still light-bodied and very clean on finish; an excellent balance of ocean brininess and sweetness. Malpeques are harvested by tongs from a dory, not dredged. They can’t even be hand-picked.

How to Shuck an Oyster

I found a great Curtis Stone video on oyster shucking, and headed out to pick up an oyster knife and the oysters. Oyster knives have a short, thick blade to withstand the pressure from prying open the shell. They’re not as sharp as a typical kitchen knife, but very good for cutting the muscle of the oyster. You can also use a heavy paring knife.

Oysters will keep in the fridge for a couple days, I prefer to use them the day I bring them home. If you need to keep them, put them in an uncovered bowl on top of damp paper towels so they can breathe. They should smell like the ocean, and their shells should be completely closed. Discard any that are open. Scrub the oysters under cold water to remove any loose shell or grit that is on them.

Prepare a serving plate with crushed ice. This will help keep the oysters good and cold while you are shucking, and makes a really nice presentation.

To shuck an oyster, start with the pointy end, or hinge, instead of the rounded end of the shell. Place a folded up heavy dishtowel over the oyster to protect your other hand; you can also invest in oyster shucking gloves. Hold the oyster with the flat side up, work the tip of the knife into the hinge and start to pry the oyster open until you feel the shells separate or hear the pop.


Oysters have a muscle that holds the top and bottom shell together, you will need to sever both sides. If you have any shell fragments on the knife, wipe it off. Slide the knife down the side of the top shell to sever the muscle, and then pry the top shell off. Slide the knife under the oyster in the rounded bottom shell, sever the other side of the muscle, and flip the oyster over making sure not to spill any of the liquor. Remove any shell fragments or grit in the oyster, and nestle the shell into the ice. You’ve shucked your first oyster!

When you’ve finished shucking, garnish your plate with lemon quarters, hot sauce if you like and a mignonette. I picked up a Bourbon Smoky Black Pepper Mignonette at Clean Catch, but here are several to try:

Happy slurping!