Category Archives: fast

Brussels Sprouts: love at first bite

Crispy little cabbage critters
Crispy little cabbage critters

When you really love something, sometimes it’s best to treat it simply. I really love Brussels sprouts. This recipe I call Korean because I met it back when I had my offices on the river in Georgetown, DC. The closest place to get a carry-out lunch was a hot and cold food bar owned by Koreans, and this was for me the best thing on it.
Do not be fooled into thinking I cooked 20 cabbages. The plate is a salad plate which makes it look like my lunch is bigger than it is. They are really tiny cavoletti di Bruxelles.

Trim and clean Brussels sprouts (I get 300 gram punnets here) and cut in half.
Bring abundant salted water to a boil. Toss in the sprouts.
Bring back to a simmer and cook 3 minutes.
While they are cooking, mince a small clove of garlic, julienne a small piece of ginger, squeeze about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over them in a bowl. A pinch of salt, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil goes in and stir.
By now your sprouts should have reached 3 minutes. Remove them from the heat, drain and then shock them with cold water. Drain well and toss into the bowl on the dressing. Turn gently. Taste and correct for salt. Let them come to room temperature, then turn them again before serving.
They will be fine in the refrigerator for days, but bring them to room temp before eating.

Asparagus and Scallion Packet (Borsa degli asparagi e cipollotti)

This is the last one, folks. If you can’t make picnics with at least two of these tarts, you are doomed to eat inside all summer.

: Asparagus and Scallion Packets

: Life should always taste this good.

  1. 4 sheets of filo dough
  2. extra virgin olive oil
  3. 8-10 stalks of asparagus blanched in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes
  4. 3-4 scallions (green or spring onions) cleaned and split lengthwise
  5. 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  6. 2-3 tablespoons pesto Genovese
  7. 2 slices American cheese (sotillette)
  8. Scarce sprinkling of crushed chili pepper

  1. You can prepare the vegetables as far in advance as suits you, but they should be at room temperature when you assemble and bake the tart.
  2. Lay out 2 sheets of filo and drizzle some of the oil on them. Spread it around with a pastry brush or your hands. Add two more sheets and do the same thing with the oil again.
  3. Lay the asparagus on the filo about 6″ (15cm) from one end and leaving about 2″ (5 cm) clear on each side. Alternate the stalks so that all the tips aren’t at one end. Add the scallions.
  4. Scatter the grated cheese evenly, then dot with pesto, then add torn strips of the cheese slices and last sprinkle sparingly with the bits of chili pepper. (Italian ones are very hot, hotter than most, so adjust to suit what you have and what you like.)
  5. Fold the 6″ piece over the vegetable mixture, then fold up and in the sides you left free. Proceed to fold over and over the resulting packet until completely closed.
  6. Slide into a 400°F (200°C) oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F (165°C) for another 10 minutes or until it is golden brown and crispy.
  7. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

Use other vegetables when asparagus isn’t in season, just be sure to precook them enough so that they will be done when the tart is cooked.

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: Italian

I have filed these as supper recipes because they were invented for such an occasion, but I would serve these as an elaborate antipasto, as lunch or dinner and certainly for brunch.

Thai Scallop Salad: a New York recommendation

Scallop Salad

The night I arrived in New York, Susan took me to a small restaurant that was recommended by foodie friends. I second the motion. Everything we shared was double-dog delicious and two things were so memorable I resolved to copy them at home as soon as I had a kitchen to work in. The above photo was made in Jane’s Chevy Chase kitchen. We liked this so much we had it again the next day. As a confirmed variety hound, that says something about this dish. If I say there was another one even better, but that I couldn’t make it because we couldn’t get oysters, you’ll know you have something splendid in store.

The restaurant is Kin Shop on 6th Avenue between 11th and 12th. They told us to just show up and we’d get a table, because otherwise they had no reservations open until 9:30. We were seated instantly. Can’t argue with that.

This was served as an appetizer, and appropriately so, but when I made it for the family, they really just wanted more of this and didn’t feel like moving to another dish. American families just don’t do appetizers very much. It makes a light meal for sure, although you could use more scallops and less greens, but then it could get very expensive. In Italy using more than three per serving could require a mortgage.

I consciously altered this recipe to include ingredients one can buy in Italy or that would be normal in an American kitchen. If you live in Asia, this is probably in your grocery sack everyday.

Recipe: Thai Scallop Salad

Summary: A Thai appetizer salad made my tongue smile

Ingredients

  • Fresh or thawed sea scallops, 3 per person
  • Finely sliced salad leaves
  • Fresh sprouts, such as radish
  • Finely chopped peanuts
  • Minced fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup or 125 ml peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • Cold water as needed

Instructions

  1. Bring the scallops to room temperature and dry them before meal time. Mine took about 30 minutes to get there.
  2. Make the sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients together, finishing with just enough cold water to make it the consistency of heavy cream. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your tongue.
  3. Cut the salad leaves into almost threads. There should be about 1.5 cups of greens and sprouts per person.
  4. Just before serving, heat a tiny bit of oil in a frying pan and fry the scallops about 5 minutes total time. I just flipped them around so they cooked on all sides, but they need to be barely done to be good.
  5. On a pretty serving platter put the scallops, drizzle a little sauce over them, then cover them with the greens, and drizzle the rest of the sauce over the greens. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and surround with minced cilantro, if you like it. Using a spoon and a fork, lift the salad onto each diner’s plate.

Quick Notes

Easy, fast and doesn’t use impossible to find ingredients. It isn’t hot, but does need the hot sauce to bring out the flavors.

Cooking time (duration): 15

Diet type: Pescatarian

Diet (other): Low calorie, Reduced carbohydrate, Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 4

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Thai

My rating: 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Making friends at the deli counter

Grilled shrimp salad

When an expatriate wants bacon, she must approach a deli clerk who seems to have a willing look about her. The only thing in Italy that’s going to work is pancetta affumicata, but not just any pancetta affumicata. It has to be flat and not rolled. It has to be a bit fatty and not lean. It has to be sliced a bit thick instead of the whisper thin slice they usually make. Not every deli clerk wants to listen, let alone comply.

I am sold on the smoked pancetta at my Eurospin ever since I made coucroute garni in October. I boiled a whole one in place of smoked ham hocks and it was absolutely delicious, so when I thought I’d like to make shrimps grilled in bacon, that’s where I went.

One rule of getting what you want is not to ask for anything strange when there is a real press of business at the counter. I walked in and saw the deli empty. As soon as the clerk came along I asked her to see the pancetta affumicata that they had that day, explaining that I needed a specific type. As she brought them out to me, another woman came along and stood beside me. I checked the pancettas over and picked one.

I started to explain how thick I needed the slices to be, and another woman joined us. The deli clerk made a couple of experimental cuts, and two more women came along.

I chose a thickness that was a bit thicker than regular bacon but would, I thought, be acceptable, and she went to a slicer to cut 200 grams of it for me.

“What, please, are you going to do with that?” asked the first woman who came along.

“I am going to grill shrimps in it,” I responded.

“How?” she continued.

“Wait, don’t answer until I’m done,” said the deli clerk as the other women edged in closer.

When we were at last all at our leisure, I started to explain wrapping the shrimps, broiling the shrimps, and how I would eat them variously as a canapè/antipasto, a main course or a meal salad. Various breaths were sucked in as Umbrians contemplated eating smoky things and decided it sounded pretty good.

Smoke flavored foods are not as popular here as they are in the northern Alpine parts of Italy. There are some supermarkets that don’t carry any smoked foods other than a shrink-wrapped piece of speck or grilling cheese. But somehow, the idea of applying a bit of it to a shrimp and dazzling your family appealed that day, and everybody appeared to be buying a bit of pancetta affumicata. It was only two steps to the right to the fish counter.

It was good. I hoped they liked it too, but you can’t tell. Unusual flavors are sometimes hard to love. Curiosity and a willingness to try are not Umbrian hallmarks, but that was a gutsy crowd. The salad was great. Promise. Easy and great.

Weap the shrimps in smoky bacon and broil one side at a time until just golden, so as not to overcook the shrimps. Arrange on leaves and add a lemony vinaigrette. Diet food ought always to be this good.

Autumn Tomatoes

There aren’t so many of them now. They come more slowly, ripen unreliably and soon, one gelid night, they’ll be over for another year. It’s time to enjoy them for themselves, for what they are, as pure as you can make it. This is an old recipe from my area of Italy, central Italy, where oil rules, but butter happens and no one gets all bent out of shape about it. Well, most people don’t anyway.

start
Heat butter in a heavy frying pan. Fry the tomato halves slowly over low heat.

Butter Tomato Sauce

fresh whole tomatoes of any kind you have
butter
salt
basil
freshly grated hard cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino or Grana Padano.

Why no quantities? Because they don’t matter. If you have 3 tomatoes, use them. If you have 13, use them. Up the butter, salt and basil. Cook more pasta or freeze the leftover sauce.

Wash and cut in half the tomatoes. Proceed according to the photo legends. Comic book cookery, eh?

cooked
When the tomatoes are cooked, lift off the skins, mash them a bit and add fresh basil pieces. Taste for salt and correct.

add pasta
Toss in the steaming hot al dente pasta and cook another minute. The pasta shown is called calimari, and that’s as close as I get to eating octopus, friends.

cheesed off
Add freshly grated cheese and toss about. Serve immediately.

I’ve made some version of this three times in the past week. It’s never wrong, because it is simply good. I’m going to share this with Presto Pasta Night, but I don’t know who’s the next host yet, so check back.

Smoked Salmon Pasta alla Paola Boriosi

Paolas pasta

This is an extremely fast pasta dish, so best to have all its parts ready to go until just before you wish to serve it. It won’t hold and should be eaten immediately. Toss leftovers because they won’t reheat.

Tagliolini al salmone
For 4 servings
340 g tagliolini dried or enough fresh to serve 4

Extra virgin olive oil
About 1 medium onion, chopped fine
One good-sized zucchine, prepared as below
pinch of cayenne pepper
A couple of branches of parsley, minced very fine
170 g or 6 oz. smoked salmon prepared as below, and off cuts will do fine
Heavy cream to taste

*Start the water to cook the pasta and don’t start cooking the sauce until you have thrown the pasta into the boiling salted water.

Cut smoked salmon sliced into rectancles about 1- ½ ” X ¾” or 4 cm X 2 cm. Cut zucchine slices the long way and then make matching rectangles of the slices.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in large frying pan then sautè the onion and the zucchine. Add the hot pepper and the parsley and then add the salmon bits.

When the pasta is almost ready to come off the heat, add about ½ cup or a ladleful of the pasta water into the salmon pan. Add about 4 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir it in. You can use more if you wish so that there’s something liquid left to coat the pasta. Drain the pasta and put it into the frying pan, tossing to coat all of it well. This step will cook it a bit more, so be sure not to overcook it the first go-round.

I think Paola is ready to go international with this great pasta, so I’m sending it off to Amy at Very Culinary, who is this week’s host for Presto Pasta Nights.

Hoisin Zucchine

This is making a silk purse from a sow’s ear. It’s not that I don’t like zucchine, tomatoes, spring onions and garlic, it’s that by the middle of August there have been a lot of them, of all of them. It’s like your distant cousin came to stay over a weekend and never left.

Hoisin zucchini

I came home late from a morning of errands and I was starving. These ingredients were what there was. The dish was delicious!

Hoisin Zucchine

lunch for one or side dish for two

2 zucchine, sliced into thin vertical slices if possible
2 plum tomatoes cut into chunks
1 spring onion cut into spears
2 cloves garlic, sliced
salt
oil for frying
1 heaping or 2 level tablespoons of Hoisin sauce

Cut all the vegetables ahead of time. Heat about 1 tablespoon of seed oil in a wok or very large frying pan. Toss in the garlic and onion, stirring to coat them with oil, and then the zucchine pieces. Stir fry until the zucchine starts to warm and cook. It begins to have a translucency to my eye. Salt slightly, then stir in the Hoisin sauce. Turn off the heat and eat with chopsticks.