Category Archives: Appetizer

Super Bowl Special: My Favorite Chicken Wings

Poster

Are you ready for some football? I’m excited about the post season and a little let down at the same time. Once again…the Dolphins made me cry! But, enough of the sniveling, how about some incredible chicken wings for your Super Bowl party?

I cannot make claim to this recipe as it is nearly word for word straight out of the Silver Palate Cookbook. Originally called Chicken Marbella, this wonderful recipe has been shared and talked about by many throughout the years. I however have made minimal changes to the recipe and cooking technique in order to make it “wing friendly”.

I made this batch after asking my daughter what she would like me to cook for her birthday to which she immediately answered “Oh my gosh how about those wings?” I knew exactly which recipe she was talking about! She likes them with a creamy Tzatziki sauce and celery sticks but I just gobble them down straight off the platter. Either way I can pretty much guarantee these wings will be the hit of the party and a new favorite in your recipe file!

Chicken Wings Marbella

10 Lbs – Chicken Wings, cut at the joints, tips removed
1 head of garlic, separated and peeled
1/4 cup dried Mexican oregano
1 Tsp Kosher salt
1/2 Tsp – freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup – red wine vinegar
1/4 cup – sherry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Place cut wings in a large bowl. Place garlic, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a blender or small food processor. Pulse until garlic is “just” pureed. Pour the garlic mixture over the wings, add the prunes, olives, capers, and bay leaves then toss gently to coat. (I used my hands to gently fold the marinade into the wings.)

Cover the bowl and marinate the wings overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread wings evenly on one or two large sheet pans. Sprinkle the wine evenly over and around the wings then sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar. Bake 25 minutes.

If using two pans, switch the pan locations in the oven moving the pan on the bottom oven rack to the top rack and vice-versa. Then bake 25 minutes more.

Raise the oven temp to 500 and bake 10 more minutes monitoring very closely for burning. (If using two pans I recommend cooking each pan one at a time for this final browning step.)

With a slotted spoon transfer the wings, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter or crock pot. Moisten with a few spoons full of pan juices and sprinkle generously with chopped parsley. Serve any extra pan juices in a sauce boat on the side.

Enjoy!

By Request: Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

Shrimp (Edit 2)

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

What? Shrimp again? Well, football season is now in full swing and I prepared these shrimp at our first Miami Dolphins tailgate party. They were such a hit that I had several requests for the recipe the very next day.

This recipe presents a perfect opportunity to mention “levels of flavor” once again as these shrimp benefit from the flavor boosts of the prosciutto and the rosemary. While they are very good without the prosciutto (and I have made them that way for friends that do not eat pork), the addition of the prosciutto, in all its salty, crispy, goodness, really does add another level of flavor that makes these shrimp a very special treat!

Add to that the fresh rosemary branches used as skewers and while you can certainly use bamboo or metal skewers, taking the extra step and using the rosemary adds a smoky, piney bite as the branches smolder on the grill and again another level of flavor that I think knocks these shrimp right over the top of the flavor scale.

As if those 2 levels of flavor were not enough, along comes the citric acidity of the lime juice and the kick of the horseradish in the Key Lime Cocktail Sauce to again take it to another level and a good dish suddenly becomes the hit of the party. Touchdown!

Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

1 – 12 Oz bottle Prepared Chili Sauce
2 Tbsp – Fresh or bottled Key Lime Juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s from Publix)
1 heaping tablespoon – Prepared horseradish
½ Tbsp – Fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch – Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix well, chill thoroughly before serving.

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto

2 Lbs Fresh Shrimp – Peeled and deveined
½ Lb – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into ½ inch wide strips
Zest of 1 large (or 2 medium) fresh lemon, divided in half
2 cloves – Garlic, grated or minced very fine
2 Tbsp – Dry Sherry
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch – Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

4 to 8 – Fresh Rosemary branches, leaves removed (with 2-3 inches of leaves remaining at the tip).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine half of the lemon zest with the next 2 ingredients, add a pinch of kosher salt and several good grinds of black pepper (about ½ tsp) then roughly ¼ cup of olive oil. Whisk until the olive oil begins to emulsify (or thicken). Gently toss the shrimp in this mixture until well coated, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

While the grill is heating up, wrap each shrimp individually with a strip of the prosciutto. Using the rosemary branches as skewers, thread the shrimp evenly on 4 to 8 of the skewers (depending on the length of the branches). Drizzle the skewered shrimp with a little more olive oil, sprinkle them evenly with the remaining lemon zest and a few more grinds of black pepper.

Grilled directly over the flames, turning only once, until the prosciutto is crispy and the shrimp are browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side depending on how hot the grill is. Serve with Key Lime Cocktail sauce and…

Enjoy!

Randy

Mother’s Day Brunch – Tzatziki Chicken Mousse

This is the second in my Mother’s Day brunch series. Although it is not truly a mousse; the term does describe the airy and light consistency. Basically a whipped chicken salad, served with celery sticks or crackers, this is a nice savory “munchie” for in between courses. If you prefer, it would also make a nice tea sandwich or canapé garnished with capers or gherkins. Because of the whipped consistency this dish is best served right away, fresh out of the processor. (Note: This recipe came out quite good using the meat from a rotisserie chicken.)

Tzatziki Chicken Mousse

1 Cup – Cooked chicken meat, white & dark, cubed
1 – Small Shallot, chopped
1 – Celery stick, chopped
¼ Cup – Tzatziki Sauce
1 Tablespoon – Mayo
1/2 tsp – Dried Tarragon
1/2 tsp – fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Pulse the chicken in a food processor until crumbly and continue pulsing while adding the shallot and celery. Add the Tzatziki, mayo, tarragon, and lemon juice and process until quite smooth and fluffy. Check for seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately with celery sticks and crackers.

Enjoy,

Randy

Mother’s Day Brunch – Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

I have plans to spend Mothers Day with my mom this year but I won’t have the opportunity to cook for her. For those of you that will, and with Mothers Day a little more than a week away, I wanted to come up with a couple of recipes on a brunch theme with just the touch of class that moms so much deserve.

This simple but classy salad will be the first of several Mothers Day recipes and although it is intended as a salad course for a brunch menu…with a poached egg perched on top (and a warm crusty baguette) this salad made for an elegant yet light dinner entrée for my wife and I last night.

After first slicing the whole tips off of the asparagus spears, I used a vegetable peeler to “whittle” the rest of the stem into shavings. This was a little awkward at first but once I got the hang of it I breezed through the bunch almost before the pot of water even came to the boil. Don’t fuss too much with this step; the rusticity of the shavings add to the appeal of this dish.

I make it a point to mention not to over-dress the salad because last night, I pretty much did just that. I think our dish would have been perfect with a little less of the dressing. This too isn’t complicated, just add the dressing a little at a time until the asparagus is “just” coated. This is also why I emphasize getting the asparagus as dry as possible after blanching it. The point is simply; this salad is best if you don’t drench it with the dressing…use a gentle touch and all will be good!

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

1 Bunch – Asparagus (about 1 Lb.), tough bottoms trimmed away
1 – Med Shallot, diced small
¼ Cup – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into (roughly) 1/8” wide strips
¼ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of – 1 Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Sherry Vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Asiago Cheese, for garnish
Green Onion, green parts only, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil along with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Meanwhile, cutting at a sharp angle, slice the tips off of the asparagus then using a vegetable peeler, shave the remaining stems into roughly 1 to 2 inch pieces. Place all of the asparagus into a sieve or strainer (that will fit into the pot) and lower it into the boiling water to blanch for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and rinse under cold water for at least 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Discard the water.

Spread the asparagus on a paper towel lined cookie sheet and pat dry then move the asparagus to another paper towel lined cookie sheet to make sure excess water is removed. Allow to air dry 10 to 15 minutes before placing it in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and when hot add the olive oil. Stir in the prosciutto strips and cook until dark (but not too dark), 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the prosciutto, reserving the oil. Spread the prosciutto on a paper towel to crisp and return the oil to the pan.

Sauté the shallots about 1 minute, until they just begin to turn transparent, then add a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the lemon juice. Boil and reduce until the lemon juice begins to turn syrupy, about one minute more. Add the vinegar, return to a boil while stirring, then remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon remove most of the shallots from the pan and transfer these to the bowl of asparagus. Set aside some of the prosciutto for garnish then stir the rest into the asparagus. Toss gently to mix the ingredients while adding just enough of the pan juices to moisten the asparagus throughout…do not over dress! (You should have just enough dressing to coat the asparagus but not enough to pool in the bottom of the bowl.)

To serve plate the salad, topped with a poached egg if desired. Garnish with shaved Asiago cheese, some of the crispy prosciutto and green onion tops sliced lengthwise into approximately 1-1/2 X 1/8 inch strips.

Enjoy,

Randy

Scallops Two Ways: Pan-Seared with Grand Marnier Reduction Sauce and Pan-Fried Crusted with Panko and Orange

We decided to stay in last night and being that it was Saturday night I was in the mood for something a little special. After futzing around the house all day, the afternoon kind of snuck by and before I knew it, once again, it was too late to cook any long-cooking recipes. Seafood is a favorite when I don’t have a lot of time and scallops seemed like just the ticket for a nice dinner for two.

It is nearly impossible here in South Florida to find fresh sea scallops. Even when you find them at the fishmongers, scallops are often previously frozen or, even worse, wet-packed! I know I have written about this before but it bears mentioning again. Wet packed and even some frozen scallops (and shrimp) are soaked in a chemical solution called Sodium triphosphate or STP that ruins the flavor and texture. Take my word for it…you do not want to feed STP to your loved-ones! I always recommend IQF or “Individually Quick Frozen” scallops.

Thankfully, any time seafood is treated with STP it must be stated on the packaging and/or included in the ingredients. I visited our local BJ’s and picked up a nice two pound bag of IQF Sea Scallops. I’ve bought these here before but I always check the label and was pleased to find “Ingredients: Scallops” on this one. The two pound package should last Kat and I two, possibly three meals. So while scallops are a special treat for us, I don’t really consider them a splurge.

One of my favorite things to do when cooking shrimp or scallops is to prepare them 2, sometimes even 3 different ways, usually with a common thread tying the flavors together. I do this because, for me anyway, it makes the dinner seem especially nice…like something you might have at a restaurant. My common thread ingredient for this dinner was oranges. I have been on something of an orange kick lately and it’s a flavor that I think really compliments scallops. I am including both recipes here, either one would be a fine entrée (or appetizer) on its own.

I served these with leeks braised in white wine with orange rind and simple Old Bay seasoned and roasted Yukon potato medallions.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Grand Marnier Reduction Sauce

Recipe notes: This sauce is super concentrated and intensely flavorful. I would have preferred a little less sauce on the scallops pictured above. Plan on 3 scallops per person for an appetizer or a “Two Ways” entrée; use 6 per person if this will be your entrée.

3 to 6 – Medium scallops per person
¼ Cup – Grand Marnier
½ Cup – Fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. – Butter, cubed into 8 pieces and kept very cold
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Fresh Orange zest to garnish
Olive Oil

Prepare scallops by removing the tough adductor muscle from the side of the larger adductor muscle ( “see here” ) then pat them very dry using a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt & ground pepper.

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. When oil is shimmering and just beginning to smoke carefully, one at a time, set the scallops into the pan. Sear the scallops without touching them until some browning becomes apparent around the edges, about two minutes. Turn them gently over and sear two minutes more or until scallops are cooked nearly through. (If you cut into one the center should still be a little translucent). Remove the scallops to a plate and cover to keep warm.

To the same pan add the orange juice and boil until the juice becomes syrupy and reduces to about three tablespoons. Remove the pan from heat, add the Grand Marnier and place back on heat. Cook, stirring or swirling occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about 4 tablespoons. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time. Continue stirring, adding more cubes as the butter melts and becomes incorporated until all butter has been added. The sauce should now be the right consistency for serving.

To serve place the scallops on your serving plates and drizzle a tiny bit of the sauce over each. Garnish each scallop with a pinch of orange zest and serve.

Pan-Fried Scallops Crusted with Panko and Orange Zest

Recipe Notes: The orange zest in the crust caramelizes quickly and turns a deep brown. Don’t worry! As long as you do not over-brown the crust it does not burn. Actually, I really liked the deep orangey flavor the caramelized zest gives the crust. The Grand Marnier sauce from the above recipe was good on these…just don’t use too much! Plan on 3 scallops per person for an appetizer or a “Two Ways” entrée; use 6 per person if this will be your entrée.

3 to 6 – Medium scallops per person
1-1/2 Cups – Panko crumbs
½ Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Egg – Lightly beaten with 2 Tbsp. of water
Zest of one large orange (about 2 Tbsp.)
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Canola and Olive Oil

Prepare scallops by removing the tough adductor muscle from the side of the larger adductor muscle ( “see here” ) then pat them very dry using a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt & ground pepper.

In a small bowl combine the panko crumbs and orange zest, tossing to mix. Mix egg wash in another small bowl and place the flour in another. Dust the scallops first in the flour, then dredge in the egg wash, then toss them in the crumb mixture. Set crusted scallops on a plate and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Warm about 1/4 inch deep of 2 parts canola oil to one part olive oil in a med pan over medium heat. Allow oil to heat thoroughly before cooking the scallops. (Oil should measure 350 to 375 with a probe thermometer. When ready, a bread cube dropped into the pan should “boil” immediately and begin browning in about 1 minute.)

When your oil is hot, carefully place scallops, one by one, into the pan. Cook about two minutes, or until browning can be seen around the edges, turn and cook two minutes more. When golden brown (orange zest will be darker) remove the scallops from the pan to a paper towel or food rack to rest for about a minute.

Serve immediately with a little of the Grand Marnier reduction on the side.

Enjoy,

Randy

Zucchini & Mushrooms Stuffed with Ground Turkey and Quinoa


Do I seem to be on a quinoa binge lately? Honestly, I am not obsessed with the stuff, although I will admit we have been eating a lot of it, and why not? The more I read about this Miracle Grain the more benefits they seem to discover; everything from it being a complete protein to being heart healthy. Consider that and the fact that it tastes pretty good and it’s not really a stretch to go with the quinoa over the rice or the mashed potatoes.

Add versatility and value (a cup or two of quinoa goes far!) to the mix and I’m sold. Just recently I have eaten quinoa as a side dish (yep, like rice or mashed potatoes), in casseroles, and even in salads, the latter of which was a favorite that I plan to explore even more in days to come. I have “heard” of quinoa in bars, like granola, in flakes like cereal, and even cooked like a risotto which frankly I do have my doubts about. Some things, such as a velvety, creamy risotto, are indeed sacred!

Nevertheless, tonight I was pondering how to use some plain quinoa I had left over from a previous dinner along with a package of ground turkey. I didn’t want to cook another casserole and meatloaf with quinoa just sounded a bit too farfetched so I thought…how about a stuffing? Yeah, a stuffing sounded good, especially a sausage stuffing with a little kick and maybe some nice gooey melted cheese.

This recipe made such a large batch that I only used about half to stuff enough zucchini and mushrooms for Kathy and I with leftovers for lunch. The rest will freeze well for a another meal which definitely makes the recipe a great way to stretch those dinner dollars! Pre-cooked brown rice, barley, or even bulgur would all work very well in place of the quinoa.

Quinoa and Ground Turkey Stuffed Zucchini & Mushrooms

For the stuffing…

8 oz – Medium Mushrooms (I used 8 baby bellas)
8 oz – Medium Zucchini (3 whole)
1 Package – Ground Turkey (about 1.2 Lbs)
1 – Medium Onion, chopped
1 – 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
1- 9 oz Bag of pre-washed Baby Spinach
2 Cups – Quinoa, pre-cooked
½ Cup – Dry White Wine, divided
¼ Cup – Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup – Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Cloves – Garlic, minced
1 Tsp. – Fennel Seed, crushed
About 1 Tsp. – From McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Clean the mushrooms, removing and reserving the stems. Wash the zucchini well, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers to form a cup for the stuffing. Reserve the centers and chop them along with the mushroom stems.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, stir in the chopped mushroom and zucchini stems & pieces. Add the garlic and about 1 tsp. from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the onion and cook, stirring until the onion is translucent. Stir in the ground turkey along with the fennel seed and cook using a spatula to break up the turkey. Continue stirring and cooking until the turkey appears mostly cooked.

Add ¼ cup of wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until most of the wine has evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes then fold in the spinach and cook 5 minutes more.

Fold in the quinoa and 1/4 cup of wine and continue folding gently to incorporate. Remove from heat and fold in the parsley and parmesan cheese just before using.

To prepare the Zucchini and Mushrooms…

Cleaned Mushrooms & Zucchini (from above)
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Sharp Provolone Cheese slices

Pre-heat the oven to 425 Degrees. Place the Zucchini and Mushrooms on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil then season with the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder. Bake 10 minutes and remove mushrooms, bake the zucchini 5 minutes more. Drain any juices from the mushrooms into the stuffing and mix well.

Mound stuffing onto the mushrooms and zucchini. Drape with enough Provolone Cheese to cover and bake 10 minutes more.

Enjoy,

Randy

Mmmm…Bruschetta!

After seeing the photo in my blog header, my friend Jackie really wanted my bruschetta recipe. I told her this was only one of about a million ways that bruschetta is made and explained how I prepared it on this particular day.  She still insisted that I share the recipe so Jackie…this one is for you!

The word bruschetta actually refers to the bread that is usually grilled or toasted, drizzled with good olive oil, then rubbed with a fresh cut clove of garlic. The “bruschetta” is then often topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. A quick search of bruschetta on Google actually returns over 7,150,000 results, many of which are delicious recipes and the common denominator in nearly every one is the bread, the most important ingredient.

Traditionally bruschetta was a use for old bread that was or about to become stale. This was the good, crusty stuff that mom baked in her kitchen or picked up from the local bakery. So in keeping with tradition, when I make bruschetta, I always look to start with a good loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette. And, for the best taste and texture, I always try to serve my bruschetta while it is still warm.

To make bruschetta place a whole loaf of good crusty bread on your cutting board so that the right end is pointing towards the lower right corner of the cutting board, and the left end is pointing towards the upper left corner or roughly a 45 degree angle. Now cut ½ inch thick slices with your knife blade parallel to the sides of the cutting board. This should give you nice oval shaped slices of bread. Now lightly toast the slices on a grill or under a broiler until they are crisp but not overly browned. (I toasted mine on a dry cookie sheet placed 6 inches under the broiler just until they were golden.) Once toasted, lightly brush each slice of bread with a little extra virgin olive oil then rub gently with the cut side of a freshly cut in half garlic clove.  Now you are ready to make bruschetta magic!

On the day the photo was taken, I wanted to make my bruschetta in the style of an Insalada Caprese. So after toasting and following the steps above, I drizzled each piece with a little balsamic vinegar; probably no more than ¼ teaspoon on each. Then I topped each bruschetta with a slice of soft fresh mozzarella, a slice of super ripe fresh tomato, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and a few ribbons of fresh basil chiffonade.

I hope you enjoy this bruschetta and be sure read through a few million of the other recipes on Google <wink!> or use your imagination to come up with your own yummy topping combination!

Randy