Monday, February 28, 2011

Steamed Mussels


This is a very easy recipe and it is so delicious. Whether you eat the mussels over top of pasta, or serve them in a bowl and dip the bread into the juice, you can't go wrong. The broth from this is not meant to be wasted. A little grated Asiago over top of the pasta melds well with the mussels. They are oh, so delicious!
  • 2 lbs. fresh mussels
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1½ Tbsp. chopped garlic from jar or 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 loaf crusty bread
Remove mussel beard and discard. Rinse mussels in cold water, discard any open or broken mussels.

In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet heat over medium heat add butter, wine and garlic. When it is melted and starts to boil add mussels and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mussels have opened.


Place skillet on table top on top of potholder and dish out right from the table. Make sure you dip the bread into the juice in the skillet. Enjoy!


I like to use a hearty, multi-grain bread, and Smart Balance margarine.

Variation: You may also omit bread and cook up some pasta serving mussels on top with some of the juice.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Artichokes

Artichokes are one of my all time favorites, I grew up eating them and I love them. Every time I make them I think of my Mom. My Stud Muffin never ate one until he met me. As a matter of fact there was a lot of real food he never was given the opportunity to eat. Why, he had never tasted roasted chestnuts, real Italian, Mexican or Chinese food. I cringe when he tells me that the big highlight on Sunday was eating Chef Boyardee pizza, made from the BOX. I'm telling you that would not fly in my house, nor my Mom's. Sorry MIL, but he was not very well rounded in the food category. I am lucky because he will try anything. He has gotten a tad bit spoiled through the years from my cooking. Back to the artichoke I think it is a misunderstood vegetable or should I say edible flower bud. I don't want to scare you away, but it is so tasty, and it is good for you, too. It is low in calories and high in fiber. It's unusual to look at and fun to eat. Please give it a try.


Artichokes

  • 4 artichokes
  • 1 fresh garlic bulb
  • crushed red pepper, optional
  • salt, optional
Choose nice firm artichokes that are not turning brown or shriveling. Cut off the stems even with the bottom of the artichokes. Turn artichoke cut stem side up and cover with hands overlapping to press down into counter. They are tough and you have to lean your weight into it. Work it around like that a little, it will spread out the leaves for seasoning and cooking.


Peel and slice thin one garlic clove (two if small cloves) per artichoke. To remove skin off of clove easily: Separate clove for garlic bulb and place on the cutting board. Press down on clove with a flat sandwich spreader or a wide knife (but be careful). When you hear a light pop the skin has separated and will easily peel away. Poke slices of garlic randomly between the leaves of the artichoke, pressing towards the heart. Be careful, there are pricklies on the ends of each leaf. You do not need to cut these off, once they are cooked it is tender. Trust me, I have never been injured by an artichoke. Add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper at this time if you wish.



Place all four artichokes into a large 8 qt. pot filled halfway with lightly salted water. Bring water to a boil then turn down heat so that the water remains at a low simmer. Cover pot and cook for 1 hour.


To test for tenderness pull out a leaf. If it comes away from the artichoke easily, they are ready to eat.



To eat artichokes, pull off individual leaves and scrape leaf between teeth to remove the soft pulp near the bottom of the leaf. I love this part, it may seem odd if you have never eaten one. Then discard the leaf. As you get near the center, the leaves become more tender and a greater portion of each leaf is edible. When you are near the center, remove any remaining leaves, and you'll see a fuzzy thing called a choke. It looks like little thin prickles. Do not eat this part it is not edible. Scrape it off with a knife or spoon and discard. Under the choke is the heart which is the best part of the artichoke, cut it into pieces and enjoy!



The big difference you will see in my recipe is that I cook them longer than most and it is not served with a dipping sauce. Mine are so tender they just fall apart, I hate a tough artichoke. There is no need to dip it, it is best left plain. With my recipe you will get what I call the bonus bite every so often. A little slice of garlic on the leave, make sure you eat the garlic too.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole

You can have your spaghetti, and eat it too. This is a perfect use of the winter squashes that are available right now. You can eat more garlic bread and not feel guilty when your spaghetti is made out of squash. I have had some very tough critics enjoy this one.
  • 1 large spaghetti squash, about 3lbs.
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion diced
  • 2 cups white mushrooms sliced thin, or 2 cans sliced mushrooms dr. wt. 4oz., drained
  • Pam olive oil spray
  • 1 package 1.25 lbs. Shady Brook Farms Italian turkey sausage, hot or sweet
  • 1 jar Muir Glen Organic sauce, Garlic Roasted Garlic flavor 25.5 oz.
  • 1 can Furmano's pizza sauce, 15 oz. (optional)
  • 2 cups grated 4 Italian cheese, reduced fat
  • Parmesan, for garnish
To pick a nice spaghetti squash, the yellowist is the best, make sure it does not have any moldy or soft spots.

On a cutting board, with a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise, you will need strong arms for this part. I use a big stainless steel cooking spoon to scoop out the seeds, then discard. It is a slippery mess! Place squash into a large pyrex dish cut side down and fill with hot water until about 1 ½ inches deep (about 2 cups water). Cover with plastic wrap. Total microwave cooking time is on high for 15-20 minutes. If you can not get both halves to lay completely flat, microwave for 10 minutes until it is soft enough to force down. It is done when a fork inserted into it is tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop out squash strands and place into a colander to drain.

Meanwhile you may grill the sausage links or sear them in a skillet, they do not need to be cooked all the way through. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute green pepper, onion and mushrooms in a large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray for about 5 minutes, add Muir Glenn sauce to skillet mixture and mix well.
Then add spaghetti squash to this mixture and stir until well blended.

In a 9 x 13 inck pyrex dish sprayed with olive oil add squash mixture. Add sausage links on outer edges, two on each side and one link at each end on the outer edges. If mixture seems dry, add optional pizza sauce at this time over the top. Cover with grated cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes and cut into like lasagna and serve placing a sausage link on the plate as well. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crab Imperial Stuffed Lobster Tails

Happy Valentine's Day!!! All of you lovebirds old and new deserve a special dinner, and here is a perfect one for this special occasion. Personally, I would rather have a root canal than to go out there and fight the Valentine's Day crowds. Serve this with a baked potato and tossed salad and you will be sure to win his/her heart. If you are looking for that special dessert as well, serve Chocolate Covered Strawberries, a recipe I featured here on June 22, 2010.


Crab Imperial

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (½ lemon)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ tsp. sweet sherry, optional
  • 1 lb. pasteurized lump crabmeat
  • paprika (for sprinkling)

In medium size pan, melt butter and mix in flour. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to keep mixture free from lumps. Cook, stirring over medium heat until mixture comes to boil and thickens. Mix in onion, Worcestershire sauce. Set aside and cool. Fold in mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.


In another pan, melt butter. Add crabmeat and toss. Combine with cooked sauce mixture. Pour into 4 individual ramekins prepared with cooking spray. Sprinkle tops with paprika. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes.


You may make these hours in advance and chill in refrigerator until ready to bake. I like to use pasteurized crab meat because you do not need to pick any cartilage out and it has a much longer expiration date. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!



Crab Imperial Stuffed Lobster Tails
  • 4 - 8 lobster tails, about 10 oz. each
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • 1 stick butter
  • white wine
  • Raclette cheese, 4-8 oz., swiss variety, optional

For testing purposes I started with 10 oz. frozen tails. If you have access to fresh go for it. About 24 - 36 hours in advance place tails on a platter in refrigerator to thaw. You may prep this meal several hours in advance (I love that). Remove lobster from wrapping and using sharp kitchen scissors cut through the shell on the back right down to the tail fins. Be careful shell can be sharp. Then pull apart shell and detach meat from shell and place on top of shell tucking shell underneath and closing shut. The lobster should balance on top of shell, make sure you spread the tail fins out for stability. Then you will need to butterfly the lobster meat. You do this by cutting into the meat to spread it open but not cutting through all of the way.


Preheat oven to 450 degrees, unless you are preparing in advance for later. Place tails in a 9 x 13 inch pyrex dish, spread out evenly with the tails spread out to stabilize. Pour in enough white wine until it is about ½ inch full. Lighty sprinkle tops of lobster meat with garlic powder. Add little bits of butter pieces, about a ½ tsp. per tail. Add 1/3 cup of Crab Imperial on top, centering it on the crab meat and making it an oblong mound. Lighty sprinkle the top of the Imperial with garlic powder and paprika. Place in oven to bake for 30 minutes, but remove lobsters from oven the last 5 minutes of cooking time and place about 1 oz of Raclette cheese on top of crab imperial. The Raclette is optional, but I highly recommend it. Finish baking for the remaining 5 minutes.

There is enough Crab Imperial to make 8 tails. Or you can make 4 tails tonight and you will have enough Crab Imperial left over for 2 servings of Crab imperial the next evening. I place about 2/3 cup of Crab Imperial in a ramekin (7 oz. capacity) to bake.