Tag Archives: seafood

Roasted Shrimp & White Bean Salad

2 Aug

This is a fantastic light – but satisfying –  salad that we tried for the first time last night. J added some lemon juice to it to brighten the flavours of the dish, which I think was a great touch. I’m generally not a huge fan of watercress, but I really liked it in this dish. Great summer salad, but would be good year ’round.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
8 fresh sage leaves
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 – 14 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tb red wine vinegar
10 oz watercress
1 tb lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. On half of a foil-lined sheet, arrange the shrimp in a single layer. On the other half, place the bacon pieces. Drizzle everything with olive oil; season the shrimp with salt & pepper. Sprinkle the sage leaves over the entire sheet.
3. On a second baking sheet, place the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
4. Place both sheets in the oven. Cook the tomatoes until they burst, roughly 12 minutes. The shrimp and bacon will likely take a few minutes longer (roughly 15).
5. In a large bowl, place the watercress and beans. Add in the tomatoes and their accumulated juices and toss to mix. Then add the shrimp, bacon and any remaining liquids to the mix. (Use your judgement: you don’t want to add all the rendered fat back into the salad, but some of it.)
6. Add in the red wine vinegar, lemon juice and a little more olive oil. Toss to mix and serve!

Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce

22 Jul

I’ve had a hankering for seafood lately and decided this would be a good weekend to make an old classic (mango over soba noodles) and try out a new variation on a sauce for tasty, briny mussels. Normally, I opt for either Italian or Thai flavours with mussels but I came across a can of chipotles and decided I’d go Latin instead.

Fixin’s!

That’s the great thing about mussels: you can pretty much use anything that inspires you to make a delicious dinner!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

3 tb canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 c crushed tomatoes
2 chipotle peppers, diced
1 ts salt
1 ts black pepper
1 ts cumin
1 ts chili flakes
1/2 ts chili powder
1/2 ts oregano
2 lbs mussels, cleaned
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions

1. In a large (and wide, if you have it) pot, heat the oil to medium and add the onion and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes.
2. Add in the tomatoes, chiptoles, salt, pepper, cumin, chili flakes, chili powder and oregano. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add in 3/4 of the cilantro. Taste and adjust as necessary. Simmer another 15 minutes.

Simmering away

4. Turn up the heat to medium and add in the mussels. Cover and let the mussels steam for 7-9 minutes. Shake the pot a couple of times, ensuring the lid stays on so no steam escapes.
5. Plate the mussels and sauce, discarding any mussels that did not open. Top with remaining cilantro and serve with crusty bread.

Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Simple New England Clam Chowder

16 Apr

For my dad’s birthday this year, J and I decided to cook him up a birthday seafood feast. The first thing he requested was New England clam chowder. He threw out a few more ideas but I already had a pretty good idea that we’d make scallops as a main. He almost always orders scallops when we go out, I was pretty sure they would go over well. Okay then! To the cookbook shelf!

I ended up making a slightly modified version of Martha Stewart’s New England clam chowder. I went with beautiful pre-cooked clams from St. Lawrence Market and some clam juice instead of fresh clams. There was a fair bit of work to be done for dinner in a small kitchen and, quite frankly, I was able to add a ton of flavour- and clams – to the soup while being able to spend more time with my guests. I’ll try ’em one day, but not that day. The recipe below, however, uses fresh clams and has a few of my own adjustments.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

25 fresh clams
3 c water
2 oz pancetta, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 c heavy cream

Directions

1. Combine clams and water in a medium stockpot.Cover and bring to a boil. Cook until clams have opened, 5 to 6 minutes. Discard any that don’t open.
2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the clams. Strain the broth through a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter, which should result in about 4 cups of liquid. You can always add a little more if you need it. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from their shells and coarsely chop.
3. Clean the stockpot you used and put it back on the heat at medium. Add the pancetta and cook 3-4 minutes. Some fat should render out and coat the bottom of the pot. (If there isn’t enough, add a little bit of butter.) Toss in the onions and sweat them til translucent, another 3-4 minutes.

Potatoes & onions & pancetta! Oh my!

4. Add the liquid, potatoes, thyme and bay leaves into the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook til the potatoes are tender, roughly 8-10 minutes. (If you like a thicker chowder, you can mash some of the potatoes in the pot.)
5. Add in the clams and the cream: DO NOT BOIL. The cream will separate.  Cook for just another minute and season to taste.
6. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and serve immediately.

Chow-dah!

Belize 2012 – Day Six: Chocolate, Bacon & Rum

23 Mar

Day two in paradise. Awoke to blue skies, steady breezes and temperatures in the high 20’s. We made our way down to breakfast around 8:30 and found our little table set with coffee awaiting us: pretty much the only way that morning could’ve gotten better. We were greeted by the staff and were promptly brought out a bowl of fruit to start our breakfast. Renita introduced us to Seth, a 20-something recent journalism graduate who was taking a month off before plunging into a full-time job. We chatted about travel and Belize and about the camera equipment he took with him everywhere he went. In the meantime, plates with beans, scrambled eggs with cheese and Johnny cakes were placed before us. As we munched away, I mentioned to Renita that I had found a chocolate manufacturer via Twitter in San Pedro and that we’d love the chance to visit. “Oh! You mean Belize Chocolate. I have Chris’ number in my phone. Let me just call him up and see if I can arrange for a tour.” Just like that, we had a tour of an organic, fair trade, locally-grown chocolate factory.

Have I convinced you to go to San Pedro yet?

A few other guests joined us and we all headed down to the south end of the island, roughly three miles from the B&B. Orlando, our taxi driver, was very entertaining, pointing out local landmarks and describing the various foliage which could either heal or seriously harm, apparently. We arrived at the Belize Chocolate Company and were greeted by one half of the team, a British ex-pat named Chris Beaumont. (His partner, Jo, works there in the afternoon.) He took us right into his work space and explained the basic chocolate making process. It was all we could do not to dive in greedily as he showed us the raw cocoa beans, the various stages the beans must go through in order to become beautiful, silky chocolate, the just-picked oranges that would be incorporated into some of the chocolate…seriously. It was tough even at 10:30am.

They make a number of different chocolate bars on-site and we had a little taste of each: dark, ginger, orange, chili and sesame. They were all (predictably) wonderful, but J and I agreed that the significant heat of the chili and the creaminess of the sesame were our favourites. We bought some to bring back to his dad as a thank you gift for driving us to, from and around the mountains, though it was hard to part with it.

The raw product

Oil gets reincorporated back in for a shiny finish

I'll take them all, thank you.

A quick note about the grounds. Even though making chocolate for a living is most kids’ (and adults’) dream, if I worked there I don’t know how I’d ever spend any time inside. This is the view Chris & Jo enjoy:

Sure beats a pavement and cement intersection.

What does one do after a morning spent sampling chocolate? One finds lunch, obviously. We headed to George’s, a local spot recommended to us last year by Josimar, the always-charming Jack of all trades at the B&B. Located just a couple of blocks away, George’s is a great spot for local food cooked up by George himself. It’s not the sexiest spot for lunch but man, is it ever good! J went for the stewed fish lunch; I opted for the stewed chicken. Importantly, both came with plantains and not just any plantains: of all the ones we tried all over Belize, these were the best. The caramelization on these puppies was just perfect:

It came with 2 plantains...I ate 1 before remembering to take the picture.

We passed the afternoon reading, swimming at the pool next door and chatting with Renita. (Tough life, I tells ya.) She mentioned that Red Ginger, an affiliate restaurant to Blue Water Grill where we’d eaten the night before, had excellent food. A little more upscale than the other restaurants in Belize, their food had gotten excellent reviews of late and she had enjoyed it immensely as well. Sold. Later that evening, we moseyed north up the beach, past the centre of town where kids were enjoying the enormous play area while their parents caught up with friends and music played through giant loudspeakers.

The staff at Red Ginger was unfailingly charming and courteous during the several hours over which we dined. We started off with a round of Ginger Punches, an evil concoction of white, dark and coconut rum, pineapple and orange juices, Triple Sec, sweet and sour mix, a dash of bitters and tiny pieces of shaved ginger as a garnish. Those little pieces of ginger were a genius addition as they helped to balance out the sweetness of the rum and the juices. This cocktail will appear at our next party, that’s for sure.

For dinner, we ordered the grouper ceviche. Mixed with mango juice, ginger and cucumber, this was a lovely and refreshing appetizer served in a beautiful martini glass with a compartment for ice underneath to keep the ceviche properly chilled.

Next up: snapper fillet with Caribbean garlic-cilantro mojo, served with coconut rice and  wilted spinach and bacon-wrapped scallops with a maple cream sauce on a bed of pappardelle pasta and julienned zucchini and carrots Bacon-anything usually gets my vote as is, but wrapped around scallops and served over fresh pasta with a sweet maple cream? Oh my, yes. Really, this was a stellar meal in a beautiful restaurant. If we’d had room, certainly we’d have indulged in dessert but we were pretty full as it was. Shame, really, as the rum-glazed bananas and the trio of crème brulée looked fantastic.

We casually made our way back to the B&B through the buzzing streets of San Pedro, passing both locals and tourists out enjoying a Friday night on the caye. We were to leave the next afternoon for Caye Caulker, a full-on hippie paradise where life is even slower than in San Pedro. While I looked forward to it, I was saddened by the thought of having to leave a place that I could call home. Maybe one day…

Mussels in Tomato-Garlic Sauce

21 Mar

I count myself really lucky to have a great relationship with the seafood store in my ‘hood (Avenue Road Seafood). It doesn’t take much: just show up and ask a question or two and you’ll feel like you have a great friend in there who will never lead you astray. I popped in on Saturday and ordered two pounds of mussels. I got an enthusiastic, “No problem!” and a few minutes later had a bag of beautiful, already-cleaned mussels on ice. (I wasn’t going to cook them til the next day. It’s best to keep them on ice if you’re not cooking them right away. NOT in water.)

As always, if you find a mussel that’s open before you cook it, discard it. If you find a closed one after it’s been cooked, discard it.

I used a decent amount of chili flakes in my recipe, but feel free to cut back if that’s not your thing.

Serves 2.

Ingredients

3 tb canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tb parsley, chopped
2 c canned tomatoes w/ thick puree* (I actually used leftover tomato sauce that was in the fridge, but this will work!)
1 ts dried thyme
2 ts chili flakes or to taste
1/2 ts salt
1/2 ts black pepper
2 lbs mussels, cleaned

Directions

1. Heat the oil to medium heat in a large pot with a tightly-fitting lid. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft.
2. Add in the tomatoes/sauce, parsley, thyme, chili flakes,  salt and pepper. Stir together, reduce the heat and cover, simmering for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3. Turn up the heat a bit and add the  mussels. Cover the pot and let them cook for 7-9 minutes, shaking up the pot occasionally.
4. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the tasty liquid in the bowl – don’t let any of that go to waste!

foodNURD is Officially on Vacation!

18 Feb

Hey, all! I’m off on vacation for a couple of weeks, so foodNURD won’t have any updates for a while. J and I are off to Belize for the second time in two years. Spectacular country with amazing people and, importantly, delectable fresh food. Looking forward to getting my fill of fresh seafood: conch and shrimp ceviche, grouper, red snapper…it goes on. Not to mention excellent, homemade Latin American faves like panades, salbutes and garnachas! And let’s not forget the $2.50 Belikin beers…

I’ve posted a few pics below for you to feast your eyes on. Many more to come upon my return!

Review: Acadia Restaurant

3 Nov

I have been drooling at the prospect of going to Acadia for a few months now.  As more and more reviews from fellow food enthusiasts came pouring in, they made me want to drop everything and head over to Little Italy as quickly as I could. The opportunity arose to go this week and I made damn sure that my reservations were secure.

Nestled into a cozy space on Clinton St. just north of College, Acadia couldn’t be a more welcoming place. Exposed brick walls and beautiful hardwood floors make the space look modern, but not overly trendy.  We arrived at 7:30 to find the place bustling with the din of happy diners from various demographics: families, dates, friends, coworkers, young, middle-aged, older, men, women…you name them, they were probably there.

We were shown to our table beside the open kitchen – a concept with which I am completely in love. Far from the insane, noisy, distracting clatter you  might anticipate, it was the exact opposite. Everyone in the kitchen was clearly in sync with each other with nary a raised voice or dropped implement. It makes for a fascinating floor show. We were offered several kinds of water – no, really – but opted for plain ol’ tap. (Hasn’t killed us yet.) We pored over the drink menu which is extensive, to say the least. The craft beer selection on draught is excellent and we opted for the Flying Monkey and Spearhead Hawaiian Style. Like everything else we’d try that night, we were pleasantly surprised at the quality.

Finally: down to the food. How to choose? Chef Matt Blondin’s menu is not a massive one, allowing the kitchen to focus on producing high quality dishes. We were under strict instructions to try the shrimp & grits, so that was already decided. It was a toss up between the halibut cheeks and the scallops (how often does one get to say that?) and eventually the latter won out. For our mains, we opted for the fish dishes:  yellow snapper with chanterelles mushrooms, bacon and Sea Island red peas and the Yarmouth albacore with blackened spices,  celery maque-choux, brown butter hollandaise and tarragon. We also got a side of farro “succotash” with wild mushrooms and truffle oil to share.

I began with the scallops while my husband dug into the shrimp and grits. The scallops were cooked to perfection. Beautifully seared on the outside, they were soft and unctuous on the inside. Paired with chicken crackling (chicken skin is one of those things I crave…), parmesan crisps and basil leaves, the whole dish was not only delicious, but complimentary. Each element played off the other: salt, sweetness, crunch, smoothness. I didn’t think another app could top it. Then I started on my half of the shrimp and grits. I…was wrong. THIS was spectacular. Served in a ham hock broth, the creamy grits are laced with a savoury pimento cheese. At the bottom of the dish, perfectly cooked shrimp make for a perfect comfort food bite. I seriously considered cancelling the rest of our order to order six more bowls of this.

Next to arrive was the albacore tuna. The plating itself was gorgeous with the pieces of fish arranged artfully on the plate that sat between us, dressed with a stellar brown butter hollandaise sauce. I don’t know how I could go back to regular hollandaise sauce now, it was that good. The fish was pink on the inside, just as it should be and the accompaniments served to enhance, rather than detract, from the fish. The yellow snapper was excellent as well, especially with the incredibly crispy double-smoked bacon, but I must say that I thought the albacore was the better of the two. I can’t imagine any diner being upset with either dish, though, and our scraped-clean plates told that story more clearly than anything else could.

But let us not forget the farro “succotash” that I’d say was more risotto-like than anything. In my opinion, that is a very, very good thing. It was the definition of earthy deliciousness: truffle, mushrooms and grain. I’m sure the cornbread and collard greens are great, but trust me on this one…get the farro. Maybe two.

Finally, we ended our meal with a couple of Blanche de Chambly’s and opted to split the poached Bartlett pear with a cake consisting of condensed milk as well as some pumpernickel crisps and creme fraiche ice cream.  It was a lovely way to end the meal: not too heavy and, once again, well-showcased ingredients that complimented each other in terms of flavour and texture.

Where many restaurants might be showing you the door once your meal is complete, we did not feel rushed at all. Overall, the service was very good: the wait staff was knowledgeable, friendly and invisible when it needed to be. There was a great buzz in the room from the beginning of our meal to the end roughly two hours later, and I have no doubt it continued right to closing. The food was top notch, the service excellent. I’m sorry I waited so long to go, but won’t be waiting that long to return.

*pictures above are not mine.
Acadia on Urbanspoon

Thai Red Curry Mussels

5 Jul

My new obsession in the kitchen: mussels. These are fast becoming addictive to both cook and eat! I love how simple and tasty they are, and how many different ways you can make them. I said I wanted to make a new kind every month and, two months in, I’m making good on my word. Next month, I want to try to replicate the beer-lime juice-tomato broth that I had at Dos Amigos on my first visit. But first up…

Serves 2.

Ingredients

2 lbs mussels, cleaned (discarding any mussels that are open)
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 yellow/green pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/3 c white wine
1 13oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 tb garlic, minced
1 1/2 tb  red curry paste
1 tb fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 tb sugar
1 small handful cilantro, chopped

Directions

1. In a large pot (the wider, the better), heat to a boil the white wine, coconut milk, garlic, curry paste, fish sauce and lime juice, stirring to incorporate all the ingredients.
2. Add the  peppers, onions and mussels into the broth.
3.  Put a lid on the pot and let everything steam for 5 – 7 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally.
4. Serve with crusty, warm bread.
IMPORTANT: Discard any mussels that do not open after they have been steamed.

Mussel-y Goodness!

Eating Vancouver: Monday & Tuesday

12 Jan

This week, I’m out on the beautiful west coast. I haven’t been out here since I was 15 and while I have fond memories of my first trip, I definitely didn’t appreciate it the way I do now. This applies to the stunning mountains, the rolling waves of the Pacific and the friendly, relaxed vibe of Vancouverites; however, this is exponentially true of the food. As soon as I found out that I’d be coming out here, I started making dinner plans. I want to eat and I want to eat well, dammit.

First stop: a night out with my cousin on Monday. We met at the downtown hotel where I’m staying and wandered around til we found somewhere that struck our fancy. And where was this place? A little Japanese spot that look enticing. First up? Bring us a Sapporo and some warm sake, my good man!

Once that important decision had been made, it was on to the food. You just know the seafood is going to be incredibly fresh which automatically gives it a leg up. We order a variety of yummy things: salmon, tuna, shrimp, crab, California rolls….and they quickly disappear. Friendly atmosphere, great sushi, even better company: the makings of a great night.

Next, on to lunch at our hotel. Generally, I’m kinda “meh” about hotel food; however, this place does it up really, really well.  Lunch is done tapas-style, but we were absolutely ravenous by time we ate so no sharing for us.  Instead, we ordered sides and a “main.” Asparagus with melted parmiggiano reggiano was ordered by everyone at the table and my companions opted for the flatiron steak with sauteed wild mushrooms and caramelized onion aioli while I opted for the caramelized black cod in a ginger-carrot broth with bok choy and taro chips. De-freaking-lish. The fish was cooked beautifully, flaky and tender, and the broth was bright and warming. A great lunch option as it was filling without making me pine for my comfy hotel bed just a few floors away.

Finally, on to dinner this evening at Lift, a cozy restaurant overlooking the water that was recommend to me by a friend who was on the west coast late last year. Greeted warmly at the door by yet another unfailingly friendly Vancouverite, we were ushered to a great corner table. After ordering a glass of Malbec, I spent a long, long time perusing the menu. I. Wanted. Everything. I finally settled on the duck confit salad with
mango, pine nuts, wild greens and a raspberry dressing as my app…and probably could’ve stopped there. My dinner companions ordered the sea scallops with truffle mashed potatoes and lobster sauce and baked wild mushrooms on polenta, respectively, and we all had a little of each other’s dishes. Wow. Big flavours, each dish cooked exactly as it should be and interesting combinations to boot.

For a main, I had the braised veal cheeks (I swear they’re great, despite the fact they’re, well, face) with side stripe shrimp ravioli, shiitake tempura and spinach. Whoa. Three surprisingly massive pieces of veal arrived in front me and I gasped a little. Wasn’t quite expecting that! But the meat was incredibly tender, falling apart with each forkful. When asked by the server if we’d like to see a dessert menu, a great groan arose from the table, “Uhhhhhh…..noooooooooooo. Fulllllllll.”

Two days in, two days to go. Wednesday night holds dinner out with some friends I haven’t seen in quite a while at what looks like a great Japanese place called Miku and Thursday night is to be dinner with my boss and coworker at a place just outside of Vancouver proper. Can’t wait, but am so very glad that I have access to a treadmill this week. More to come soon!

%d bloggers like this: