Spicy Shrimp St. Louis

This is one of many shrimp recipes that I have found that I simply must make very soon.

Spicy Shrimp St. Louis
(Courtesy of Dale Pillow via Louisiana Cookin magazine)

Serves 4

2 pounds large Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
9 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
2 sticks unsalted butter
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp thyme
1/8 tsp dried rosemary
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 green onions, finely sliced
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ cups medium picante sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot cooked long grain rice, for serving
Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and Creole seasoning in a large bowl, and chill.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and next 13 ingredients and adjust heat to low. Mix well to make sure all ingredients are incorporated into sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Cover Dutch oven and bake at 350F for 1 hour. Add picante sauce and reserved shrimp, mixing thoroughly. Lower oven temperature to 300F and cook until shrimp are opaque, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with rice topped with shrimp and sauce. Add fresh parsley for a garnish.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

Seafood Salad-stuffed Tomatoes

If you liked The Big Salad you will really enjoy this light summer meal that is perfect for either lunch or dinner.

These Seafood Salad-stuffed Tomatoes can be stuffed with any combination of seafood including tuna, flaked whitefish or chopped shellfish. The recipe I am sharing is for a crab and shrimp and the ingredients are similar to a crab cake, minus the bread crumbs. You can even top the stuffed tomatoes with a Remoulade sauce.

Seafood Salad-stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

1/4 pound cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/4 pound jumbo lump crab meat
4 large tomatoes, cored and seeded
1/4 – 1/3 cup mayonaise (depending on desired consistency)
2 Tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp celery, finely chopped
2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp green onions, green parts only, finely chopped
1 medium avocado, pitted and sliced 1/4″ thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the seafood and season with salt and pepper. Add mayonnaise, red pepper, celery, and red onion and gently fold with the seafood. Re-season to taste.

Spoon equal amounts of the seafood salad into the cored tomatoes allowing remaining amount to sit atop each tomato. Garnish the green onions and serve immediately with Remoulade sauce on the side.

Remoulade Sauce

Emeril’s Remoulade

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Creole or whole-grained mustard
2 Tbsp ketchup
½ cup finely chopped green onions (green part only)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, letchup, green onions, parsley, celery, garlic, paprika, and hot sauce. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Best when used within 24 hours.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

The Big Salad

The Ample Bites clan enjoys using leftover meat or fish to supplement dress a mid-week Big Salad. The Big Salad is a green salad which is a meal when served with a few slices of bread and some fresh fruit.

Our Big Salad for today included leftover grilled shrimp, broiled salmon and flank steak. Each member of the Ample Bites family is free to add these proteins to a base salad of mixed greens and other fresh vegetables, cheese, and the salad dressing of choice, usually a homemade vinaigrette.

The Big Salad

Serves 4

1/4 to 1/2 pound grilled shrimp and/or
1/4 to 1/2 pound broiled or grilled salmon and/or
1/4 to 1/2 pound grilled flank steak
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1/2 head of Romaine lettuce
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar, Blue Cheese, Feta, or Asiago preferred)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Salad dressing of choice (homemade vinaigrette preferred)

Rinse and spin the lettuce dry. Chop lettuce coarsely and add to large salad serving bowl. Add red pepper, tomatoes and red onion. Toss ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

Divide the salad mix onto four plates. Add one sliced hardboiled egg. Top with your choice of meat or seafood. Add cheese, salad dressing, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh bread and a good extra-virgin olive oil for dipping.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

Ample Bites Farm Update

Phase two of the planting of the Ample Bites vegetable farm is nearly complete.

Plot ready for planting of tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and squash

The month-old plantings of onions, beets, lettuce, carrots and beans are coming along nicely. The potato plants have been in for a couple of days. Today we planted the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash. Seeing the plants in place is a joy and makes me think about the tastes of summer.

In order to plant every thing we need to re-till the soil by hand and shovel and pull out the weeds that have grown in the month since the plot was roto-tilled. After the plants were in the ground the areas between them was covered with a layer of newspaper and a topping of straw. The final step was watering the plants, and the newspaper and straw to keep it from blowing away in the strong winds.

Now we have our fingers crossed for a nice soaking rain that is predicted for the overnight hours. Rain water seems to bring nutrients that we just can’t get from the well-water available to us at the garden plot.

Now it time for Ample Bites to hit the shower to rinse the sunscreen and dirt and soothe some tired old muscles.

Carne Asada Tacos

The Carne Asada Taco is a simple and savory dish that is perfect for summer grilling season. The centerpiece of the Carne Asada Taco is flank steak or skirt steak, either of which is extremely flavorful. Flank steak is easier to find than skirt steak. The main difference between the two cuts of meat is that the skirt steak is thinner and tenderer. With proper marination, grilling technique, and cross-grain carving flank steak can be tenderized to a similar tenderness.

My favorite marinade is a combination of vegetables, a touch of soy sauce (as odd as that might sound for a Mexican dish), a touch of red wine vinegar, hot sauce and tequila. The flank steak can be marinated for a little as two or three hours but I get even better results by marinating overnight. The meat is tenderized by the acidity of the marinade.

The flank steak is best when grilled to medium-rare to medium. If the steak is too rare or overly well-done it will be slightly tougher but no less delicious. To grill to optimum meat temperature, use a grill on high (500F +), direct heat to sear the meat on both sides then reduce the heat to about 350F to cook to an internal temperature of about 145F. The searing process should leave a light char on the meat and it seals in the juices.

When and how the steak is carved is also critical to a successful outcome. After the steak is removed from the grill it must stand loosely covered with foil for between five and ten minutes before carving. This standing time allows the juices within the steak to redistribute themselves within the steak. When the steak is eventually carved use a technique where you cut across the grain and on a slight bias to yield slices of between 1/16″ and 1/8″. Using a very sharp carving knife will yield the best results.

Ample Bites serves the Cane Asada Taco in a whole-grain tortilla with pickled red onions (see earlier post for recipe), guacamole (see earlier post for recipe), cilantro, cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream and a couple of dashes hot sauce but the range of condiments and toppings is unlimited.

Carne Asada for Tacos or Burritos

Serves 6 – 8

1 1 ½ – 2 pound flank steak
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup tequila
1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts finely chopped
1 handful cilantro, coarsely chopped or hand shredded
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining ingredients and mix to combine. Immerse and cover the flank steak in the mixture. Refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours or overnight.

Prior to grilling remove the flank steak from the marinade. Discard the marinade mixture. Pat the flank steak dry and bring the meat up to room temperature. Immediately before grilling, use the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to coat both sides of the meat and then season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the grill to high (500F +).

Oil the grill grates and then sear one side of the meat for 2-3 minutes. Flip over and sear for another 2-3 minutes. Reduce the grill heat to medium (350F). Cook for 3-4 minutes, flip over one last time and cook until the meat reaches desired – medium-rare to medium (about 145F) is recommended.

Remove from the grill and cover loosely with foil. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before carving. Carve cross-grain and on a bias to between 1/16” and 1/8” and serve immediately.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

Black Olive Salsa

This black olive salsa provides a unique, salty-spicy condiment for Mexican dishes like Carne Asada Tacos and Tuna or Chicken Quesadillas.

Black Olive Salsa
(Recipe adapted from Matt Grondin, Comal, Berkeley, CA)

Yields 4 Servings

1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Champagne or Sherry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp finely chopped olive oil-packed anchovies
2 cups pitted and coarsely chopped black olives
¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 Serrano chiles – halved, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium lemon, finely zested and juiced
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
2 tsp Kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine the shallot and Champagne vinegar and set side for 10 minutes.

Using a mortar and pestle, or in a small bowl using a fork, mash the garlic and anchovies together until they form a paste.

Strain the shallots, reserving the vinegar. In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, anchovy-garlic paste, olives, capers, chiles, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and cilantro. Add the salt and season to taste with the reserved vinegar. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

Grilled Ratatouille

During grilling season Ample Bites likes to make a ratatouille that starts on the grill and is finished on the stove top. Ratatouille is a very healthy dish that combines fresh vegetables including summer squash, zucchini, eggplant and peppers.

Grilled Ratatouille

Serves 4 to 6

2 summer squash, halved and sliced into 3/4″ thick pieces
2 zucchini, halved and sliced into 3/4″ thick pieces
1 large eggplant, sliced 3/4″ thick and then quartered
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
1 red pepper, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 yellow pepper, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all of the chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, season with salt and pepper and then toss to thoroughly coat the vegetables.

Heat the grill to medium (between 350 – 400F). Place the vegetables onto a tight mesh grilling plate or skewer the vegetables an place them directly on the grill grate. Cook the vegetables until lightly charred and softened, about 30 minutes.

In a heavy skillet, combine the remaining olive oil and tomato paste. Add the vegetables and stir to coat with the tomato paste. Add the parsley to the vegetable mixture and re-season with salt and pepper. Simmer the ratatouille for an addition 10 minutes before serving.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

The Classic Hamburger

National Hamburger Month inspired Ample Bites to prepare the classic hamburger with blue cheese and caramelized red onions. This dish is so simple yet so delicious.

Blue Cheese Burger with Caramelized Onions

Serves 4

1 pound of lean ground beef
2 eggs, yolk only
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Whole-wheat hamburger buns
4 large slices of blue cheese
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium-sized bowl combine the beef, egg yolks and bread crumbs. Combine thoroughly and then form the mixture into four patties of equal size. Place the patties on a baking sheet, season both sides of each patty with salt and pepper. Allow the beef patties to reach room temperature before grilling.

In a heavy skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Place the sliced onions into the skillet and soften over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for another 30 minutes, until the onions are browned.

While the onions are cooking, heat the grill to high (at least 500F). Place the hamburger patties over the direct high heat and close the grill top. Cook for 4 minutes. Flip the burgers over and place a slice of blue cheese on each patty. Grill for another 3 minutes. Remove the patties from the grill, place on a bun and top with onions. Garnish with your favorite condiments and serve immediately.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

160 Pounds of Homemade Sausage

Ample Bites, family and friends gathered yesterday to turn 170+ pounds of pork shoulder into sausage. The finished product included, primarily, Italian sausage. Some Polish sausage and a small amount of breakfast sausage were also produced.

The eight hour long process started with the pork shoulders being trimmed of excess fat and cut into roughly baseball-sized pieces. The pork was then ground using The Chief’s 80-year old grinder. While the grinding took place the Italian sausage seasoning was mixed for 24 pound batches by Cheryl, the “Spice Girl”.

Seasoning the sausage is messy-fun work. The sausage is weighed and then spread out by hand on an enormous Corian cutting board. The seasoning sprinkled over the meat and then it is all folded together by hand until thoroughly mixed.

The next step is everyone’s favorite. Patties of the sausage must be pan-fried for tasting in order to make sure the seasoning blend is right. There is of course an accompanying spread of French bread, cheeses, olives, sauteed green peppers and onions, and gardiniera. Beverages required for this step include red wine and cold beer. This “quality control” step is, of course, repeated several times during the course of the day.

The tried and true seasoning recipe was perfect so we began casing the sausage using natural casings (aka pig intestines) purchased from a local butcher shop. Preparing the casings is an interesting and time-consuming process. Sandy sorted and rinsed the excess salt out of the casings under the tutelage of family friend, Ray. Once rinsed and sorted the casings are placed in a bowl of water to keep them moist until they are used.

For stuffing the sausage, the same old grinder is fitted with a nozzle over which the casings are placed. The ground meat is then forced through the top of the grinder with some manpower and the motor of the grinder. Feeding the meat into the casings requires a certain touch so that just the right amount of meat fills the casing. Sandy, Millie, Slick, Sparky, Ray and the Chief all took turns at the grinder and with the casings and the quality of the finished product never wavered.

Each casing is between five and ten feet long. The meat is fed into each casing until it is full and then the sausage is coiled into wheels of between two and three pounds, then they are vacuum-sealed.

After eight hours of work and laughs and tasting, the cooler is full of some of the finest Italian sausage you will taste. The seasoning is just right, the quality of the pork is excellent, and production is a labor of love.

Grilled Salmon and Polenta

Salmon and polenta are two of my favorite ingredients to cook with. Usually I serve the polenta in creamed form. This dish allows the polenta to firm-up and it is then grilled, yielding a slightly sweet flavor.

Grilled Salmon with Whole-grain Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

¼ cup whole-grain mustard
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp minced chives
4 8-ounce salmon fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the grill to medium-high heat (about 400F).

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, oil and chives.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and place them skin side down on a baking sheet. Spread the mustard mixture over the tops of the fillets. Grill the fish for about 6 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Broil the salmon 6 inches from the heat for about 4 minutes, until the mustard sauce is browned and the salmon is cooked through.

Serve immediately.

Grilled Polenta with Spinach and Provolone

Serves 4

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 cup instant polenta
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound baby spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ pound provolone cheese, cut into 8 slices, at room temperature

Lightly oil a 9 inch round glass baking dish. In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the polenta is thick, about 5 minutes. Pour the hot polenta into the baking dish and cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Let stand until firm, about 25 minutes.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium high and add the spinach, stirring to wilt it. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the spinach warm.

Heat the grill to medium and oil the grates. Cut the polenta into 8 wedges and grill over medium-high heat until crisp and lightly charred, about five minutes per side. Place 2 wedges on each plate: top each with two slices of provolone cheese. Spoon the warm spinach on top and serve immediately.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012