Seafood Pasta with Garlic and Oil

Seafood Pasta with Garlic and Oil

Cooking seafood can seem daunting at times, especially when a recipe calls for a mixture of sea critters. In practice, however, seafood dishes are easy to prepare and typically requires a short cooking time.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds mixed seafood
  • 1 pound of long pasta like spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • crushed red pepper

Steps:

  • Cook the noodles according to package directions and set aside. Reserve a cup of the pasta water for the sauce.
  • In a pan over medium/low heat, add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Let the mixture combine for about a minute.
  • Add in the mixed seafood, making sure there’s plenty of room in the pan so there’s no overlapping. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the shrimp is pink on both sides.
  • Combine the noodles with the sauce. Add more olive oil or water (i.e. the pasta water reserved above) if necessary to make a creamier sauce. This step can be done off the stove. The pan should still be warm; it’s best to control the heat element as much as possible to avoid overcooking the seafood.
  • Toss with parsley and serve.

Notes:

  • One of the harder parts about making a mixed seafood dish is that each type of seafood cooks at a different rate. It may be easier to cook each type separately if you’re not familiar with the indicators of readiness or not game to pick out the done pieces.

  • Some indicators of readiness are: shrimp turning from sickly grey when raw to a vibrant pink when ready; shellfish will open up; scallops will turn slightly opaque and feel more firm. In the recipe above, shrimp is used as the guide as this would take the longest to cook (and the assumption is that shrimp is included in the seafood mix).

Red Wine Braised Oxtail

Red Wine Braised Oxtail

Oxtail seems to be getting more love nowadays, even making an appearance in the refrigerated section of Costco. The meat of an oxtail bone is succulent when cooked correctly – meat falling off the bone tender. Braising is the best cooking method as it allows time for the oxtail to cook and become tender and infuse itself with whatever flavors your heart desires.

Ingredients:

  • 2 750 ml bottles dry red wine
  • 12 oxtail pieces (approximately 6 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter
  • 5 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch of parsley stems
  • 4 cups beef broth

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  • In a saucepan , boil the wine until reduced by about half.
  • Season the oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot that’s large enough to hold all the oxtail over high heat and brown the oxtail on all sides. Set the browned oxtail to the side.
  • Add the vegetables and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pot and still until softened.
  • Add the oxtails back into the pot and pour in the reduced wine, herbs, and enough broth to just cover the oxtails. Bring to a boil and braise the oxtails in the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours until meat is tender.
  • Remove oxtails with a slotted spoon on to a serving dish and keep warm.
  • Strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the solids. Boil the remaining liquid until thick and reduced. Stir in the remaining butter and use as a sauce.

Notes:

  • Most red wine recipes call for dry red wines such as  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc.
  • Though the recipe calls for a specific amount of oxtail, the goal here is to just cover the oxtail with the sauce base. Depending on the size of the oxtail, it may take more or less pieces.
  • I usually skip any parts of the recipe that call for additional work that wouldn’t compromise the final product. For example, the original recipe calls for roasting the oxtail in the oven prior to cooking it on the stove. This is a move that’s primarily seen in Europe an style cooking. The claim is that the heat extracts more flavor from the bones than just dumping it into a pot of boiling water, but my guesstimate is that the difference between the two method is subtle.
  • A problem with oxtail recipes is that the caveat of cook until done is more important than with most recipes. A perfect oxtail is one where the meat falls off the bone.

Fried Smelt

Fried Smelt

Not many meals linger in my mind post consumption. But the hype leading up to and actual experience of eating fried smelt for the first time was on par.  Unfortunately, smelt does not make the menu at most eateries because it’s considered cheap and doesn’t conjure up images of fine dining. Luckily, smelt is readily available for purchase is most supermarkets making it easy to prepare at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound smelt
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cooking oil for frying

Steps:

  • Set up a wire rack with paper towels underneath to place the fish after frying.
  • In a  large bowl, mix together the flour, garlic powder, and salt.
  • Coat the smelt with the flour mixture from above, making sure that each fish is fully covered.
  • Pour about 1/2 inch of oil into a pan, making sure there’s enough oil to cover the smelt while cooking. The oil is ready for frying when it reaches 350º.
  • Fry a few fish at a time, making sure there is enough room left in the pan so that the smelt don’t touch in the oil. Cook each batch for about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on the wire rack to drain the excess oil.

Notes:

  • Depending on where you shop, smelt can be found with or without the head. Because it’s a small fish, smelt can be eaten whole so this usually a matter of preference. However, a bitter after taste is a possibility if the innards aren’t removed. 
  • Unfortunately, this is based on personal experience. As you can see in the photo above, the head was kept on. Research on the subject says that smelt are plant eaters. This means that there’s not too much to worry about since there’s generally minimal toxins in their bodies. It’s the whole “you are what you eat” concept. However, if you want to be on the safe side, remove the head and innards.
  • Serve a dipping sauce on the side. It can be something as easy as a side of ranch, thousand island, or ketchup.

Spaghetti with Kale &Cream Sauce

Though not usually one for food fads, jumping onto a vegetable bandwagon seemed like a better option than most. While other varieties of kale family (like it’s Chinese cousin, gai-lan) have been unsuspectingly on my radar for some time, it’s the giant leafy green that’s currently having it’s moment.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 bunch kale, cut into thin length wise strips (think noodle size)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons  flour
  • 1/2 cup of milk (exact usage may vary depending on preference)
  • 2  ounces cheese of choice, shredded (I used a cheese called sottocerene al tartufo mitica, which is a cow’s milk cheese with truffles)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Steps:

  • Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Set aside.
  • Sauté the kale in a frying pan long enough to shrink down the leaves. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Make a roux using the butter and flour. First melt the butter in the pan, then add the flour, mixing until incorporated. Let it sit for a few seconds, and stir in regular intervals  for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in the milk, a little bit at a time, whisking continuously. The milk will thicken as the flour within the roux starts to disperse so be patient. However, if the sauce base does not appear thick enough after all the milk is gone, don’t worry.
  • Add in the shredded cheese and mix into the sauce until melted. This will cause the sauce to thicken further.
  • Once the sauce is complete, toss in the cooked spaghetti and kale into the mixure. Salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:

  • I liked how this experiment turned out, though the flavor factor may have benefited from the hint of truffles in the cheese. Regardless, it’s a good way of incorporating a healthy vegetable without really having to deal with kale’s inherent bitterness. The ingredients above can serve about 4.
  • The cheese was recommended to me by the kind folks at Whole Foods. I was looking for something light tasting as cream sauces are usually heavy.
  • Now some facts about kale! Kale is categorized in the super food category because of it’s high contents of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium.
  • The best way to cook it as to steam or a quick stir fry to retain the nutritional content. Boiling is not recommended.  You can read more about the reason why here.