shrimp with spicy green rice

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A Southeast Asian-flavored dish inspired by Venetian risi e bisi, an Italian rice with peas. To me, this dish is reminiscent of  khao tom, a Thai rice soup with meat or seafood, served with steamed rice in a broth. In Thai cooking, condiments are served on the side so you can make it as salty, sour, sweet or spicy as you like. Although this recipe recommends seasoning the dish in the kitchen, I have reserved some of the herb sauce for seasoning at the table. 

Shrimp with Spicy Green Rice (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 21 minutes

2-4 large cloves garlic
1-2 green Thai chilies, sliced with or without seeds, depending on your preference for heat
1 cup packed fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons fresh ginger (4-inch piece), minced
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup veg oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small leek, thinly sliced (2 cups)
3 cups chicken broth/stock preferably home made and low sodium
4 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup long-grain white rice (recommend: Thai jasmine rice)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
Salt

For serving:
Herb sauce
Cilantro, chopped
Basil, chopped
Lime wedges

Special equipment: a medium-sized Dutch pot with a lid

Prepare all ingredients.

In a food processor, pulse garlic until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons ginger, chili, basil, cilantro, fish sauce, and sugar. Process until finely chopped. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 3 tablespoons water and process finely. You should have about 2/3 cup of sauce. Set aside

In the pot without the lid, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil on medium-high heat. Add leeks and remaining 1 tablespoon ginger. Cook until leek is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Stir in rice and broth along with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer rice until it is very soft, 17-18 minutes. The texture will be soupy.

Add shrimp, simmer, stirring once or twice, until shrimp just turns pink, 1-2 minutes. Stir in peas and 2 tablespoons of the herb sauce. Taste for seasoning and heat. If you wish, add more sauce—it’s quite salty and you won’t need any additional salt. It’s better to be cautious and not add all the sauce to the pot, but reserve the remainder for spicing up individual plates at the table. Remove from heat and serve with more cilantro, basil, and lime wedges, as well as the remaining sauce. I found that the dish didn’t need any additional cilantro, basil, or lime so I left them out, and just served it with the remaining herb sauce.

dinner for two: baked chicken and rice

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This simple chicken dish is complete. All you have to do is make a salad to go with it. The method is quite straightforward: Season the chicken, brown it, season the rice then bake the chicken and rice together. The rice reminds me of my mother’s version of rice pilaf, cooked with onion in chicken broth. It’s so good!

Baked Chicken and Rice

4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 to 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup long grain rice (recommend: Thai jasmine rice)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock, preferably homemade
salt and pepper

Special equipment: medium oven-ready pot with a lid

Preheat oven to 375˚F/190˚C

Pat dry the trimmed chicken thighs and season with seasoning salt and dried parsley. Let stand 10-20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

In the pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. When it is hot, put the chicken thighs in the pot and fry, skin side down until it is browned, 5 minutes. Turn over the chicken and brown the other side for 5 more minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot. You should have about a tablespoon of oil and fat in the bottom of the pot. Remove any excess oil or add more oil if there isn’t enough.

Add the garlic and onion and cook them, stirring, over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Pour in the chicken broth/stock, stirring until well combined. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken back in the pot, skin-side up, and cover it.

Put the pot in the oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until the rice is fluffy and all the liquid is absorbed. Serve the chicken on a bed of rice.

broccoli-tomato and shrimp fritters

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Shrimp fritters are a Jamaican appetizer and snack. At home, we eat them with hot Scotch Bonnet peppers cooked in the batter. I’ve added broccoli and tomato to the recipe; the broccoli adds crunch and colour, and the tomato adds colour and moisture. Without the shrimp, this is a vegetarian treat. Just increase the broccoli to 6 cups.

Broccoli Tomato and Shrimp Fritters

Yield: 11-12 three-inch fritters

12 ounces fresh broccoli (3 cups chopped)
500 g frozen and thawed shrimp, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
1 medium tomato, chopped and seeded
2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or mix 1/3 Parmesan and 1/3 Romano cheeses), optional
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (use more or less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, optional, OR
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, finely chopped, with seeds for added heat or without seeds for less (optional)
1/4 cup cream or nonfat milk, more or less as needed to add cohesion to the batter
Vegetable oil for frying

To prepare the broccoli, cut the florets from the stems. With a vegetable peeler, peel off the tough outer coating of the stems. Chop stems roughly into 1/2 inch pieces. Separate the florets into 1 inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with about 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the water. Add the broccoli. Cook 5-6 minutes or until tender. The broccoli will be a bright green color. Drain the broccoli in a colander and rinse under cold water to set the color and stop the cooking process. Pulse the broccoli in a food processor 2-4 times. Broccoli should still be chunky and not too small.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the flour, tomato, cheese(s), garlic, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes or Scotch Bonnet pepper, if using. Add the broccoli. Use a large wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients together. Add the cream or milk if the batter doesn’t clump together when dropped from the spoon.

Cook’s Note: The tomato not only adds a pop of color but it also adds moisture to the fritter—a little trick I learned from my cousin Cathy!

Pour enough oil in 10-inch non-stick skillet to cover the bottom. Heat oil on medium heat until the pan sizzles when a drop of water is sprinkled in it. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, scoop up the broccoli batter and carefully drop it in the hot skillet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Continue scooping, flattening, and frying fritters, about 3 at a time. Leave about 2 inches between each fritter. Fry on one side 3-5 minutes or until golden brown, then flip, and fry 1-2 minutes on the second side. Add more oil as needed.

Cook’s Note: Dip the 1/4 cup measure in water to ensure the batter releases as you scoop the batter into the skillet.

Transfer fritters to a paper towel lined serving plate. If the fritters won’t be eaten right away, they can be kept in a low oven. Serve these fritters with tzatziki sauce, lemon-garlic yogurt, or Sriracha-pickle mayonnaise. To make lemon-garlic yogurt, to one cup of Greek style yogurt, add fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to taste. For a garlic flavor, add minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For Sriracha-pickle mayonnaise, put a 1/3 cup mayonnaise in a small bowl with about 2 teaspoons chopped pickle (more or less to taste). Add the Sriracha sauce to taste. If you haven’t got Sriracha sauce, use any red hot sauce like Tabasco.

cubanos (cuban sandwiches) just like in the Chef movie

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I’ve long been wanting to make these sandwiches ever since I saw this foodie movie. I finally found a recipe (Nagi|RecipeTin Eats)  that claims it is a recreation of the cubanos featured in the movie! It is delicious. I usually follow a recipe exactly and afterward tweak it, but this time I ignored that. And I recommend cooking the pork by the pound than by a block of time, as pork has a tendency to dry out during roasting.

This recipe has been adapted for a little over 1 pound of pork (646g), enough for two people, maybe four. I added the tamarind paste and the honey because tamarind is piquant as well as sour. The honey adds a balance of flavor: salty, sweet, sour, and savory.

Everything is made from scratch, including the pork roast, so this is a 2 day effort. One day to marinate the pork, and another day to roast it and assemble the sandwiches.

Cuban Mojo Roast Pork
Prep time: 25 minutes
Marinating time: 12-24 hours
Roasting time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Marinade
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro
Zest of one small orange
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2 small oranges)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (2 small limes)
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons mint leaves
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste

Pork
About 650 grams boneless and skinless pork shoulder

Mojo Sauce
Reserved marinade
Pan drippings
2 tablespoons lime juice, optional
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, optional
Honey, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the pork. One day before roasting, combine marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. Taste the marinade. I like it salty, sour, and with a hint of sweet.

Place the pork with the marinade poured over in a large zipper lock bag in a bowl, to catch any drips. Place in the fridge overnight. If you are concerned about plastic use, you can place the pork with the marinade in a 1 quart bowl with a glass lid. Turn the pork several times, or whenever you remember on opening the fridge.

Bake the pork in a slow oven. Take the pork out of the fridge and let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 150˚C/300˚F. Place the pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Spray pan with cooking oil for easy clean up. If you don’t have a rack, slice a couple of onions and put the pork on top of that. Roast, uncovered, 40 minutes per pound, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove dish from oven and place the pork on a baking tray lined with foil. Reserve the pan juices. Let the pork rest 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 475˚F/245˚C. Roast the pork 13-17 minutes, uncovered, for the meat to get brown and the fat to get crunchy. Carve and serve.

Make the mojo sauce. While the pork is resting or browning, combine the reserved marinade and the reserved roasting pan drippings into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then taste. The sauce should be salty tart and sweet. If you wish, you may want to add additional lime juice, orange juice, or even a touch of honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down and simmer 1 minute, then remove from the stove and set aside.

Serve pork with mojo sauce and rice and peas (Jamaican rice and beans) or coconut rice. Or slice the pork to make Cubanos. Save the mojo sauce and onions as dipping sauce for the Cubanos. This isn’t traditional, but it is delicious.

Cubanos for two
Cuban Mojo Roast Pork, sliced
French bread sliced into six inch buns
4 slices of ham
2-4 slices of Swiss cheese
Pickles*
Dijon mustard
Butter
*I’m not fond of pickles, so I sliced some fresh cucumbers and let them sit in white vinegar for a few minutes.

Split the French bread horizontally but leave a hinge. Butter both cut slices and toast the buttered sides on the grill. Lightly grill the ham slices. Spread mustard on one of the toasted sides. Layer pork generously on the other toasted side. Top pork with grilled ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Be generous with the fillings!

Butter the outside of both the top and bottom buns. Grill sandwich in a pannini press. If you haven’t got a pannini press, you can improvise with a griddle. Spread a sheet of parchment on top of the bread and press down on top with another heavy pan. Put a couple large unopened cans of food to weight down the pan. It’s quite safe and the pan will never get hot enough to build pressure inside the cans. If it concerns you, you can fill a small kettle of water halfway and use that instead. After 3 minutes, flip the sandwich over and grill 3 minutes on the second side. Of course, with a pannini press you won’t need to flip. The cheese should be melty and the bread golden and crispy.