Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This and That

I love you guys for wanting an iced coffee recipe. It's, like, coffee? With, like, ice in it? No. I'm kidding. Because the truth is: I happen to have an excellent method. It involves my trusty Melita Coffee Cone--one of those plastic things a filter sits in, and then you stick it on top of a mug and pour boiling water into it. (Although now I just hurt my own feelings by looking it up on amazon and seeing that it comes in porcelain! Oh! Mine is cruddy old brown plastic. Sigh.) I put a lot of dark ground coffee in it and brew the coffee right into my to-go glass: strong and short, that's how I do it. An inch or so of nearly espresso-strength coffee. Then I fill the glass with ice cubes and then with milk. If I'm needing something sweet, then I add a dash of vanilla and a small spoon of agave syrup or sugar. Voila!

But I forgot to say that there's another to-go cup option you can use in a pinch, and it's this:

Can you see that? It's a mason jar, but instead of the metal lid insert, you screw a piece of wax paper under the ring, poke a hole in it, and insert a straw. Voila! It's not as leak-proof as the one below, but it has the added advantage (if you use a skinny jar) of fitting in a cup holder.

Okay, moving on from summer drinks. Wait--not yet. Okay, now. I have some recipes over at that I'd love for you to check out. One is meat on a stick, more graciously known as satay, that has actually inaugurated a crazy eating-everything-on-a-stick phase at our house (we actually did make that Greek salad on a stick, and it was awesome). And then there are homemade corn tortillas, which are a delight in every way. I'm going to post a related recipe soon for classic Mexican rice, but I keep trying to make it work with brown rice, because I've just completely lost any remaining shred of interest in white rice. So I've been trying to adapt my excellent white-rice Mexican-style pilaf, but with poor results--the brown rice seems so disinclined to cook. Thoughts? I'd appreciate any ideas you have on this front. {edited to add: the actual cooking of brown rice is not the problem--I do that in a rice cooker, which I love. It's the pilaf-style cooking of it with broth and tomato sauce that's not working so well: the rice persists in its rawness for an almost uncannily long time.}

And, finally, another book give-away! My friend Jennifer has just published her first book, and it's this:

and it's here and it's beautiful. It's a memoir about raising her two hearing-impaired daughters, who happen to be two of my favorite kids and also very good friends of Ben and Birdy, and it's moving and real and redemptive in all the best ways. She has given me a copy to give away here, so I'm going to do just that. Leave me a little comment if you would like the book. Don't worry if there are also comments about Mexican brown-rice pilaf or to-go cups. I will figure it all out.

xo Catherine

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Smoky Shrimp with Garlic and Olive Oil

This is a recipe was actually inspired by a dish I didn't make: "Portuguese-style pork and clams with chorizo and fried potatoes" from the exquisite Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook that I checked out of the library. It's a cookbook that really makes me understand the expression food porn: it's under my side of the bed, and before I go to sleep, I look at the photographs in a drooling stupor of fantasy, thinking about the actual dinner I've eaten the way maybe some people think about their regular old non-centerfold wives. Sigh.

And I could make that dish--I could. Clams are relatively inexpensive, and I love them. And Ben loves clams. And Birdy, well, Birdy is Birdy when it comes to any chicken-of-the-sea type of situation, so clams and shrimp--it's all the same yuck to her. But Michael is allergic to clams. Or was. Or is still kind of. And only because somebody so rudely mentioned that a recipe column may not be the best place to tell my endless stories about barf (What the?) will I spare you the details. Of the two incidents. One which involved Michael not singing his rightful half of a West Side Story duet in the car ("Honey, honey, this is you! Tonight, tonight. . .  Wait, are you okay?. . . . Oh. . . . yikes. . . . ") and the other which involved baby Birdy in the Bjorn. With Michael and his clam poisoning. Enough said.

So these shrimp were my response to all that clammy lukewarmness, and man--as compromises go, this is as good as it gets.  So good, in fact, that I ended up making them, and then making them again five days letter: both times we licked the platter clean. With the smoky paprika and the sherry vinegar, you'll feel like you're eating tapas on the coast of Spain (or so I imagine, having never eaten tapas on the coast of Spain). And you have to serve the shrimp with lots of crusty bread for mopping up all of the lovely, ruddy, garlicky oil (and so that crustacean-haters like Birdy can eat just the bread and oil for dinner: Hello, unbalanced meal! "Pretend the shrimp are sea monkeys!" I said. No, just kidding. I would never.) I could eat them again this second, and if shrimp weren't on the pricier end of our food budget, I would. (Alas, tonight's more of a lentil night. Not that I don't love lentils.)

But I actually think that this exact recipe would be really good with clams subbed in for the shrimp, and Michael swears he's ready to try again. I promise I won't tell you how it goes.

Smoky Shrimp with Garlic and Olive Oil
Serves 4 for dinner (as long as one of those four people is a child who won't eat it)
Active time: 10 minutes; total time: 25 minutes

I really, really recommend using the ingredients below. Sherry vinegar is just so incredibly smooth and deep--you will love it here, and on a salad with walnuts, and drizzled onto a dish of lentil soup. . . And the smoked paprika, well, you know how I feel about it. And the masses of garlic. Do take the time to salt the shrimp beforehand: it seasons them beautifully and also firms them up a bit, which I find a more appealing texture. Serve this with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (thaw frozen shrimp by running cold water over them in a colander for five or so minutes; I use frozen "Whole Catch" peeled, tail-on raw shrimp)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (5 or 6 large cloves)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (Vinegar! Not the same as sherry or cooking sherry!)
Chopped flat-leaf parsley

Sprinkle the shrimp with the salt and set aside for 10 or 15 minutes.

In a wide skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add all the shrimp to the pan in a single layer (more or less) and sprinkle the garlic over it. Cook for a minute, then sprinkle in the paprika and cook, stirring, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through--around three minutes altogether. Turn off the heat, stir in the sherry vinegar and sprinkle on the parsley, and serve. Sprinklingly.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Gift to You, for the Summer

Ready? It's this.

I have been making all my summer to-go drinks this way for years, and it just occurred to me to share it, because reusable to-go options can be so cheerless and/or toxic. Not this one, right? It's a large Luminarc glass with a lid, like these (if you don't want so many, look around: it looks like you can buy individual glasses, but the lids you have to get in packages of 6 I think) and a glass straw, like this. (Wow, there are now tons of glass straws online, I see. These were the cheapest I could find in a quick search, though there are some truly lovely ones. Also stainless steel straws. We've broken only two of our four glass straws in six years, which seems pretty good, considering that we have tile floors.) It's all machine-washable. No. That's not right. Dishwasher-safe. And eco-friendly and exciting to drink out of. The only problem is that they're too big to fit in a cup holder--but hey, if having too much iced coffee is a problem, I must love problems. Oh, wait, I almost forget: use an x-acto knife to make a small x in the middle of the lid to poke the straw through. It still manages to be amazingly leak-proof and durable: I've been using mine this way for years, and I can still use the lid for other things (needless to say, these glasses and lids are also a favorite way to store leftovers).

Meanwhile, incredible smoky, garlicky shrimp are here.

Have a wonderful week, and please do stay tuned: I'm going to be doing a massive board-games round-up soon! The fun is more or less nonstop.