How are you? I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in almost two months – yikes! I’ve missed everyone but have to say that the time away has been relaxing. Or at least as relaxing as anything in 2020 can be. What have I been doing? Hmmm. That’s a good question.
This past summer was suprisingly better than originally expected. Despite the pandemic that has engulfed our lives, we were able to enjoy many of the things we normally do, see some family and spend time with friends, although mostly outdoors. I really don’t have many complaints and count my blessings. Hey, I even made a few new girlfriends over the summer which is always a nice surprise at this point in life.
As for cooking, there was lots of that as well. Yes, there were some meals that I thought might be blog worthy, a question I always ask my husband as he is just trying to get through dinner without having to give me a review! And yet, I felt a little flat – don’t we all feel that way a little bit – and so I didn’t share a lot unless you saw my posts on Instagram stories.
If I’m not inspired it shows up in my writing and who needs that? We all want a little escape right now and I know for many of you, The Kitchen Scout is just that. Yay! I will do my best to keep you entertained on Friday mornings, I promise!
So as our chicks have started the process of leaving the coop once again, my husband and I are free to enjoy meals that suit our nearly identical palates. For a cook, this is a bit of a dream as cooking had become quite functional over the past six months and a bit of the joy had been replaced with drudgery. Judging from conversations with friends, many can relate.
But, I am now actively looking at recipes through a new lense. I am craving food that is colorful, fun to make and delicious. Healthy with a little bit of decadence because let’s face it, we all need something to look forward to at meal time on occasion. This has led to some interesting meals including a homemade chicken schwarma that I built using skewers insered into an onion to mimic it’s rotisserie shape. Don’t ask – I saw it on Tic Tock. It was silly and fun and entertained me in the kitchen! And it was quite tasty 🙂
Now, if you follow Yotam Ottolenghi, you probably know that most of his recipes are amazing. I’ve posted two of them here on the blog including Mango & Coconut Rice Salad and Coconut, Almond & Blueberry Cake. If you haven’t tried that cake, please do. It is so, so good. When I think of his recipes, I think of bright fresh vegetables, big salads, lots of spices and herbs. The recipe for falafel in the book, Jerusalem which my friend Dale gave me as a gift 8 years ago is still one of my absolute favorites.
So it might strike you as funny but in his most recent article for The Guardian, Ottolenghi wrote about the use of frozen vegetables in cookery (I love that term) and when I laid my eyes on these creamed corn stuffed red peppers, the colors drew me in and it was print, shop and get in the kitchen. I had most of the ingredients, just needing to secure 4 cubanelle peppers which was easy enough to do at my favorite, Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA. Ottolenghi says if you can’t find them, regular red peppers will do just fine.
We enjoyed them along with some wild shrimp, also from Wilson’s that I sauteed in my cast iron pan with just some oil, salt and pepper. Oh, and I have a new trick for you on preparing shrimp that I just learned on a zoom class that was offered through my college – more on that later. But the peppers could be equally satisfying with just a simple green salad. The recipe was written in metrics so I did my best to weigh everything and rewrite the recipe for use here in the States. Which makes me recall – remember when they said we were going to convert to the metric system here in the states and everyone was freaking out?
To make the peppers, you start by adding some frozen corn, heavy cream and some polenta in a food processor with some garlic and an egg. Pulse until it’s mixed together but still has some texture. Add to that a mix of mozzarella and sharp cheddar. Stuff the mixture into 4 peppers and lay them atop some sliced onions and thyme in a Dutch oven. Pour in a bit of water and bake until tender. While they are baking, you can make some quick pickled jalapeno’s (or do as we did and use jarred ones that we always have around) and also a little cilantro oil for drizzling over the top. Yum. The cooking time was perfect. The peppers were tender and the creamed corn has a little crisp on the top while being almost souffle like in the center. I will definitely make these again as they got high marks from you know who. I may double the cilantro oil just to drive home the herby flavor. You can switch up the cheeses (try gruyere and/or parmesan to give it a more intense flavor) or swap out the cilantro with basil to give it a late summer vibe.
And just a quick note – the recipe called for quick-cook polenta which I could not find. I had a bag of Bob’s Red Mill polenta and used that which worked fine. It gets blitzed up in the food processor and ensconced in liquid so it cooked through.
Also, if the pandemic didn’t encourage you to get comfy with frozen vegetables I hope you give them a fair shake. I think they are one of the best things to keep on hand to be added to all kinds of dishes, or just sauteed up with some olive oil, salt and pepper. During the height of distanced and infrequent shopping, I loved having bags of frozen peppers, string beans and mushrooms on hand.
Back to the shrimp. The Zoom class I attended was taught by a fellow Bowdoin alum, Chris Toy who recently published a cookbook on Easy Chinese cooking with an emphasis on restaurant favorites made simple. He was really informative and I enjoyed it immensely. Now, I always devein my shrimp and hope you know how to do that. What I never have done is gone the extra step of making a deeper cut along the back of the shrimp (without cutting them in half) which allows them to almost curl if you can picture how your favorite shrimp dish at a Chinese restaurant might appear. What I found is that the shrimp cooked quickly, evenly and were more tender opened up this way. Here’s a picture so you can kind of get the idea…
Well, that’s it for today. I hope you are doing well, and able to enjoy doing the things you love to do with those who mean the most.
Until next time…