Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque

Over the weekend Brady and I celebrated our two year anniversary. I wanted to make us a nice restaurant-style dinner and thought a bisque appetizer and steaks would be fun. It also gave me the the perfect opportunity to make the below recipe that I had been wanting to try for months. We both absolutely loved this soup. It was creamy but not heavy and the pumpkin paired great with the shrimp. The sage gremolata added a ton of flavor and  texture so definitely don't skip this step! This is a super easy soup recipe and while great as an appetizer, it would be also work well paired with a salad or just some crusty bread for a delicious week night meal.

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque
** adapted from Closet Cooking

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes

1/2 - 3/4 pound shrimp (peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock (may need to add a little extra)
1 pinch saffron
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs sage
1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 batch sage gremolata (see recipe below)

In a large soup pot, bring the white wine to a simmer. Add the broth, saffron, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, and sage, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Strain the solids from the stock with a fine metal sieve or colander and return the stock to the sauce pan.

Mix in the pumpkin puree, half and half and cayenne and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. If the soup seems too thick add a little more chicken stock or half and half until the soup reaches desired consistency.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan. Add the shrimp and saute at medium heat until cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Divide the shrimp between 4 bowls, pour the bisque over them and garnish with the sage gremolata.

Sage Gremolata
1/4 cup sage, chopped
1/2 lemon (zest only)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon pine nuts (toasted)

Mix all ingredients and set aside.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sonoran Shrimp Scampi

So here's a spooky story. Last Friday I was heading home from work and talked to Brady on the way about our dinner options. He had found a chicken soup recipe but because it's Lent I suggested something with fish or seafood. I told Brady that I had a good shrimp pasta recipe at my apartment that I had made years ago but since we were going to cook at his place he said that he would just look for recipe on the internet. So low and behold, I get to Brady's and guess what recipe he bought ingredients for??? You guessed it, the recipe that I had in mind! So weird but I was happy that Brady came across this recipe because I forgot how good it is!

Picture from Epicurious
Sonoran Shrimp Scampi
** from Epicurious

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

2 poblano chiles
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeds removed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups whole wheat farfalle, cooked
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large pot of water, boil the pasta according to directions 

Place chiles directly over the burners of a gas stove and roast over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until skin is charred and chiles soften, about 10 minutes. Or broil in the oven until skin is charred and chiles soften, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a paper bag or ziplock bag. Let steam for 10 minutes and then remove peel and seeds. Slice thinly; set aside.

Sprinkle shrimp with half the salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pan over high heat. Cook shrimp, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook about 1 minute. Stir in poblano chiles, red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, lime zest and lime juice. Cook until liquid reduces by half and shrimp are no longer translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and reduce until slightly syrupy. Stir in pasta. Top with cilantro and serve.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

South Beach Getaway

Ah vacation... such a wonderful thing. Brady and I returned last week from a long weekend getaway down on South Beach, Miami. The trip was just what we both needed. Relaxing on the beach, sitting on the hotel balcony with cocktails, and dining at fun restaurants was the perfect cure for the February blahs.

I blogged about our first trip to South Beach last April but we tried some new restaurants (and revisited some favorites from last time) so I thought I would share my latest recommendations. We stayed at the Hilton Bently Hotel again which we love. See my review of the Hilton Bentley Hotel here.


OLA Miami
OLA Miami is a fun Latin American restaurant located adjacent to the Sanctuary Hotel. I have always been under the impression that I wasn't a fan of ceviche but OLA Miami made discover my love of ceviche. We ordered the Mixto Ceviche which consisted of shrimp, octopus, and cobia in lime and orange juice, with jalapeno pepper, cilantro and kalamata olives. The ceviche was served with a little side of fried yucca which made for an interesting and incredibly tasty appetizer! I ordered a chicken dish that to be honest I didn't love. I should have known better then to order chicken at a restaurant, especially one in Miami with so many great seafood options, but I ordered the chicken and wasn't wowed. Brady had duck served with crispy rice with edamame, raisins and pine nuts. Brady liked the duck and we both loved the rice side dish. While my chicken was just so-so, I would definitely recommend the restaurant. The ceviche was awesome and there were numerous dishes that I wish I had ordered!

Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante
When you think of South Beach you typically think seafood and Latin food. It turns out you can find really great Italian food as well. Brady and I always love a good Italian restaurant so we decided to try Sardinia which was voted one of the best restaurants in South Beach. We loved our meal at Sardinia. They had a great wine list, they are known for their extensive wine selection, and a charming atmosphere. Brady ordered Orecchiette with wild boar sausage and rapini pesto. I have no idea where I would find wild boar but I'd love to make this at home, I'm going to have to do some research. I ordered Pappardelle with homemade ricotta, tomatoes and black olives which was light and simple but had great flavor. Another perk of Sardinia was it's proximity to Purdy Lounge, a fun lounge we visited for after dinner drinks next door!

Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar
Lolita is a new restaurant that recently opened near the Hilton Bentley. We walked by the restaurant a few evenings and thought it had a fun atmosphere so we made last minute reservations. Lolita opened within the last couple months so the service wasn't perfect but the food and fun atmosphere made up for it. Since I am now a fan of ceviche, we ordered the Tres Ceviches which included three different types of ceviche and was the perfect way to get my ceviche fix before leaving town. I ordered the Mercado Verde, two wild mushroom, sweet potato and zucchini enchiladas with a green and red sauce. I loved the combo of veggies and will definitely be making my own version of this soon. Brady ordered Carne de Vaca, two short rib enchiladas in a mole sauce that was AMAZING. This will also be a dish that I will be recreating. You can never go wrong with short ribs but then add the rich mole sauce and you have a real winner!

We also went back to Prime One Twelve, definitely one of our South Beach favorites. We had another amazing meal and had a great time people watching. Prime One Twelve is the place to see and be seen and you never know what celebrity might walk through the door. To see my review from last year click here. We also revisited La Sandwicherie, a sandwich spot that it's a must when visiting South Beach. If it's not apparent by this long blog post, we ate and drank very well!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Salmon Baked in Foil with Mediterranean Orzo

I have been awful about blogging this month. We've been cooking, I just haven't gotten around to posting what we've been making.  I tell myself that I am going to post some recipes and well, it just doesn't happen. I have a few recipes that we've recently made that I will eventually post but I wanted to start off with a dish that we had earlier this week. Brady made the below salmon and orzo recipe for us. I loved how simple the salmon was and cooking it in the foil really kept it moist and flavorful. Cooking fish in foil or parchment paper is a great way to keep your fish from drying out. The Mediterranean Orzo complimented the salmon perfectly but you could easily make the orzo on it's own as a main dish or serve it with grilled chicken.

I have no idea why the tomatoes look orange...
 Salmon Baked in Foil with Mediterranean Orzo
** Salmon recipe serves 2 and orzo serves 4

For the Salmon:
2 salmon fillets
1 T. olive oil plus 1 tsp.
salt and pepper
2 small Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
lemon, juiced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400.

Drizzle salmon with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, shallots, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and 1 tsp olive oil.

Place a salmon fillet, skin side down, atop a sheet of foil. Spoon the tomato mixture over the salmon and fold up the foil, covering completely. Repeat with the other salmon fillet. Place the foil packets on a baking sheet. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the salmon and tomato mixture to a plate to serve.

For the Mediterranean Orzo:

1 box orzo, cooked according to directions
8 large asparagus spears, blanched and cut into 1/2 in. pieces**
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
2 T. Italian parsley, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cook the orzo according to directions, drain and run under cold water. Once orzo is cool, mix all ingredients in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

** To blanch the asparagus, boil a small saucepan of water. When the water is boiling, add the asparagus and simmer for about 4 minutes. Drain the water and run cold water over asparagus.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chilam Balam

This past weekend, Brady and I went to Chilam Balam, a Mexican restaurant in Lakeview. I have been wanting to try Chilam since it opened a couple of years ago and now I am kicking myself for waiting so long to try it. We both thought the restaurant was terrific- excellent food, casual and inviting atmosphere and great service. Plus the restaurant is BYOB which is a huge bonus!

I love that this isn't your typical Mexican restaurant. You aren't going to find tacos with a side of rice and beans anywhere on the menu. The menu consists of small plates meant to be shared and the restaurant prides itself on using local and sustainable ingredients. The menu changes monthly, a few dishes are always on the menu but the specials change to reflect the season and what's available from the ranchers and purveyors that they buy from.

Brady and I ordered 5 small plates as suggested by our server. Here is a rundown of what we ordered:
  • Chunky guacamole with pickled radishes, served with crispy tostadas
  • Shiitake Mushroom Empanada with grilled vegetables, Wisconsin jack cheese, and salsa verda- This was our least favorite dish. I thought that it could have used something else in it, maybe black beans and a different sauce.
  • Seared Barramundi with grilled frisee, pineapple, bacon and sunchokes- So good! The fish was served with a side of corn tortillas so you could wrap the fish up like a taco or to use it to soak up the sauce. 
  • Duck leg Enchiladas with tomatilla sauce, baked jack cheese, and watercress- These were beyond good. I would have been happy with just a bigger helping of these enchiladas. 
  • Chorizo Meatloaf with pickled jalapenos and mashed potatoes- Another amazing dish. I loved the combination of the meatloaf and picked jalapenos plus who doesn't love mashed potatoes?
I'm already looking forward to our next visit to Chilam Balam. All of the dishes on the menu sounded fantastic. It was incredibly hard to narrow our selections down to five but I think for our first visit we made great choices and we both left happy with our new restaurant find! 

** Top Chef fans might recognize the chef of Chilam Balam from the current season of Top Chef Texas. Unfortunately, he didn't make it too far in the competition but I guess that means he is back in the kitchen making good food at the restaurant!