Try Our Spanish Paella – Meat and Seafood Recipe

Try Our Spanish Paella – Meat and Seafood Recipe

National Spanish Paella Day is March 27th, but you can make this amazing rice dish any day. There are many versions of paella recipes but what they all have in common is rice, meats, veggies and saffron spice, which turns the rice a beautiful golden color.

Spanish Paella originated in the Valencia region in eastern Spain. Classic paella usually is made with rabbit, chicken, snails, beans, and artichokes and seasoned with saffron and spices. Still hugely popular in Spain today, the recipe for paella has expanded over the years, and now many different varieties of paella are passed off as authentic. Paella is cooked over an open fire in a traditional paella pan. It is commonly made with rice, chicken, fish, seafood and any veggies you would like.

Today, Spanish Paella can be found all around the world. If you order paella outside of Spain you will likely get a rice dish with chicken and seafood.

My introduction to Spanish Paella came in October 2014 when my husband and I traveled with family to Madrid, Spain. It was October and the weather in Madrid was absolutely beautiful – ideal for strolling down the streets and eating at outdoor cafes. Here, we found an abundance of restaurants serving tapas and paella, family-style, in festive outdoor patios.

We fell in love with Spanish Paella so much that my husband came back and assembled this paella recipe with an assortment of Spanish meats and seafood. The beauty of paella is that you can make it your own, adding and subtracting ingredients as you wish. It is not difficult to make paella, but it is best to be organized ahead of time. Here are a few tips before you get started:

  • Tip 1– Prep and chop as much as you can in advance
  • Tip 2– Grill outside
  • Tip 3 – Invest in a real paella pan  – a large, flat, open pan that has handles on both sides for easy lifting. We recommend a pan 15” to 19” in diameter.

Ingredients:  We have organized our ingredients for this recipe by the different prep components, including the brine, broth, meats, veggies, seafood and garnish. 

BRINE (for chicken)
1-1/2 cups water
½ cup coarse salt
¼ cup sugar
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
Peel from a small orange
4  Star anise
¼ cup loose green tea

BROTH
6 cups very strong chicken broth (bouillon)
1/2 tsp saffron
4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1 small onion, peeled

Spanish Paella broth

MEATS
¼ lb Spanish Salame
¼ lb Spanish Ham diced (Jamon serrano ham)
1 ½ lbs Spanish Chorizo cut into ½” pieces
2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breast or Thighs cut into bite size pieces (approx. 1-1/2” square)

Spanish Paella meats

VEGGIES/RICE
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
4 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 fire roasted red peppers from jar, coarsely chopped
3 cups short grain Spanish rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra
5 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts (12 oz.)

SEAFOOD
18 clams and/or mussels, scrubbed, or 12 oz. Peeled shrimp or frozen langostino tails

GARNISH
Lemon wedges for garnish
Parsley for garnish  

Preparation: 

BRINE THE CHICKEN – Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure the salt and sugar have dissolved. Let cool to room temp. Strain out all of the herbs and discard, keeping the brine broth.
Add the cut-up chicken to the brine. Refrigerate for at least two hours or as long as overnight. Remove chicken from broth, drain well and pat dry with paper towel. 

COOK THE CHICKEN –  Coat the chicken with olive oil and sear it in a preheated pan on the stove for 3 minutes. Transfer the pan to a 350 degree oven and cook for about 10 minutes. Set the chicken aside for later.

BROTH – Heat the chicken broth with the saffron, paprika and the whole onion. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the onion and measure the broth — you need exactly 6 cups for later.

MEATS – In a paella pan over medium-high heat add the ½ cup of olive oil. Once hot, add in Spanish Salame & Spanish Ham. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the Chorizo to the pan and stir fry about 10 minutes.  (Do not add the chicken). 

Spanish Paella prep

VEGGIES – In the paella pan with the cooked meat, add the chopped onion, scallions, garlic, & roasted red peppers and sauté until the onion is wilted. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil. Sprinkle in the chopped parsley and the crumbled bay leaves.  Stir in the 6 cups of boiling hot broth. Add the wine and rice. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes. Add the cooked chicken and bury it in the rice.

SEAFOOD – Add the clams and the mussels (or other seafood) with the edge that will open facing up, pushing them into the rice mixture.

COOK MIXTURE – Scatter the paella with the artichoke pieces, then bake at 325 degrees F, uncovered, for 20 minutes. If using a grill outside, close the lid and grill for 20 minutes. 

GARNISH – Remove paella from the oven/grill and let sit, lightly covered with foil, for about 10 minutes. Before serving, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.

Spanish Paella

What does authentic Cuban Paella look like? My girlfriend Michele in Florida hosted a Paella party featuring Seafood Paella and Meat Paella. This looks spectacular!

Cuban Paella

 

 

California Wine Harvest Celebration

California Wine Harvest Celebration

As if the beautiful weather, colorful trees, and pumpkin recipes weren’t enough to make us love Fall, it is also wine harvest season! Claire gets in on the wine harvest celebration every year, and she’s here to tell us all about it. Grab a glass and join us as Claire takes us on a little wine tasting!

It can be difficult to remember sometimes that nearly everything on our tables comes from a farm somewhere. Most of us buy our groceries from supermarkets, far away from their farms of origin. In a post-agrarian culture like ours which mercifully makes hamburgers possible, but which disconnects us from the rhythm of growing seasons, we can sometimes forget that autumn is also the harvest season. The symbolic cornucopia that graces our Thanksgiving greeting cards has lost its significance for most of us, but for those few who still tend the field or the flock, this is one of the busiest times of year. Agriculture is California’s biggest industry, and though we are the country’s leading producer of fruits and vegetables, I am personally most fond of the vineyards.

Wine

I grew up in a family of alcohol-appreciators, especially when it came to wine.

My parents aren’t exactly snobs, but they’re not too far off. Wine I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco with my parents once when I was a kid, and they took us up the Sonoma Valley to taste at Ravenswood and Gundlach Bundschu. I was too young to drink, but I still remember the trip quite clearly. Fast forward something like 20 years, and naturally, the first time my mom came out to visit my home in California, my then-boyfriend and I took her wine tasting. At her request, we visited the Sextant Wines tasting room. An hour later, my boyfriend and I were slightly tipsy, packing up a case of wine and signing our first wine club membership. Being a wine club member affords us some privileges, like discounts on bottles and free tastings, and best of all, discounted tickets to winery events. We joined Sextant in the spring. That fall, we got married at city hall and we celebrated with our closest friends at the annual Sextant lobster boil. Since then, Pier and I have gone to the event for our anniversary dinner every year.

Every October, right in the middle of harvest, the hard working crew at Sextant changes pace for one week. They clean up their working area and turn it into a beautiful outdoor escape, lit with café lights and surrounded by working wine barrels. They invite their members to join in their harvest celebration with fresh lobster and prawns, and they open bottle after bottle of their fall releases to pour for us. We look forward to this event every year, and it never disappoints. I absolutely love lobster, but I love lobster and Chardonnay even more. And I love lobster and Cabernet Sauvignon the most!

We are indeed privileged to be so close to the Wine vineyards here and to have access to the incredible wines that are coming out of this region, but the world is getting smaller and smaller every day. Only 40 years ago, the rest of the world scoffed at the idea of Californians becoming vintners, but now the Sonoma and Napa Valleys are some of the most respected wine regions in the world. What I’m getting at here is that quality wines can come from anywhere, and anyone; even those of us who stock our wine racks at the supermarket can have access to really excellent bottles of wine at nearly any price point. There are hundreds of tasting guides out there, and though I am an enthusiastic drinker of wine, I don’t flatter myself that I can offer any fresh insights that the experts may have missed. All I need to know is that my meal is merrier with a bottle of wine on the table. So what do you look for in a bottle of wine?

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

There’s still a little time left for some summer fun! We’ve been compiling recipes and ideas for a few years now, and we figure it’s the perfect time to share the summer fun with you.

Adult or kid (or kid at heart!), there’s something for everyone in this summer fun roundup!

First and foremost, get a batch of Boozy Poptails in the freezer right away. These adults-only frozen pops will surely get you through the last few weeks of summer!

Poptails Done

If that booze gets you feeling nostalgic, come share your childhood summer fun memories with us here.

Doing any camping this summer? Or attending a bonfire? Sarah’s fire pies are a definite must!

Campfire Pies summer fun

Another fun way to eat outdoors is having a build-your-own kabob party! Everyone gets exactly what they want all grilled to perfection!

If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, Claire’s grilled salad brings the best of summer onto your plate.

Grilled Salad

Or if the heat is just too unbearable, stick with something delicious that you don’t even have to cook! Ceviche tacos make for the perfect dish on a hot day – no grill required!

The very best way to finish off summer is with the most refreshingly delicious dessert: homemade mint ice cream. Can you think of anything better? I sure can’t!

Mint Ice Cream

What are your go-to meals and activities for summer fun? Share with us!

 

 

Light and Tasty Shrimp Burgers

Light and Tasty Shrimp Burgers

Have you ever had a shrimp burger? The thought of making a shrimp burger would have never occurred to me, and I LOVE shrimp. But that’s why we keep Claire around, right? She’s always available to treat us to something delicious and unexpected! So let’s get to it. Claire, tell us why these shrimp burgers should be our new summer staple!

Something about summer makes me want to just start mainlining hamburgers. I’m a big supporter of letting my body decide what it wants to eat most of the time, but even I think there needs to be a limit, and 24-hour burgers is surely over that line. That said, I think a small increase in burger consumption is mostly harmless, and I’m willing to make some excuses to justify a few extra burgers. I’m not too worried about getting my body beach-ready – as far as I’m concerned, my beach bod is whatever bod I happen to take to the beach – but I do still like to keep my calorie consumption on a relatively even keel, and beef all day err day doesn’t exactly fit with that plan. For that reason, I have developed a work-around: Shrimp burgers!

Seafood is such an obvious choice for summer fare, and especially shrimp. It barely takes any heat to cook, and it goes equally well in a salad or cold pasta dish. Besides that, shrimp is almost always a great, sustainable choice. Its sticky texture makes it ideal for manipulating it into a patty, and just a tiny bit of panko is plenty of binder to help keep a great shape. If you’re lucky enough to live close to the ocean, you can usually find a fishmonger with a supply of fresh shrimp, but frozen raw shrimp will also work great.

These shrimp burgers are so magical, they actually feel decadent and light at the same time. They just take a few minutes to put together, and when I’m done eating, they don’t leave me feeling heavy and lethargic.

Like traditional beef burgers, there are basically endless ways to top your shrimp burgers, but I like to keep it pretty simple with a piece of crisp butter lettuce, maybe some onion slices, and some avocado. I also like a creamy dressing. My husband says he hates mayonnaise, but he goes nuts for aioli, so I just added a bunch of Old Bay seasoning and whole corn kernels to some mayo and called it aioli. He loved it, obviously, and it went perfectly with the shrimp burgers.

To make four patties, you will need:

  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped small
  • Small bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons panko
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Shrimp Burger prep
Pat the shrimp dry with some paper towel, and drop it into your food processor with the garlic and jalapeño. Pulse a few times until a lumpy paste starts to form. Add the shrimp together with the rest of the ingredients, and then divide the paste into four roughly even sections. Using your hands, form each section into a patty shape to fit the bun. I like to wear kitchen gloves for this section because the shrimp seems to stick to them a little less. Heat a grill or well-oiled griddle over medium heat. Cook the patties for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, and assemble your burgers.

shrimp burgers plated

 

I like to serve these with just a nice green salad on the side, though if you want to skip the bun, they are fabulous on top of a big salad. These shrimp burgers are also good cold, so wrap them up and get that hot bod to the beach!

Printer-friendly recipe: Shrimp Burgers

Chef’s Recipe – Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Chef’s Recipe – Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail is one of my most favorite appetizers, and I am fortunate enough to have easy access to the best one I’ve ever eaten. My younger brother, Garrison Whiting, is the supremely talented chef at Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale, AZ. The menu at CI changes up every few months with the start of a new “episode.” The current episode is “Agua Caliente Racetrack,” which pulls inspiration from the famed horse racing track that opened in Tijuana in 1929 when drinking and gambling were still illegal in the states. The track catered to celebrities, and the spectacular menu at Counter Intuitive reflects that opulence in both food and drink.

Back to the shrimp cocktail. Chef Garrison has concocted a delicious variation on a classic, and I would eat it every day if I could (I have almost two quarts of it in my fridge at the moment, so I will be living that dream for the next several days). This isn’t your standard “dip shrimp in sauce” shrimp cocktail; this is more of the Mexican style that you eat with a spoon. Crunchy bites of cucumber and onion combine with the richness of avocado and bits of shrimp, all brought together by a spiced tomato cocktail reminiscent of a Bloody Mary.

This Shrimp Cocktail is the best I’ve ever had, and you should definitely add it to your no-cook meal recipe arsenal.

We’ve been talking about no-cook Shrimp Cocktail meals this week on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and this shrimp cocktail fits the bill if you use pre-cooked shrimp; even if you use fresh, though, it only takes a minute (literally) to cook them. The recipe below is in restaurant quantity (about 16 servings), but it is easily halved or even quartered if you’re not serving a crowd. I cut it in half and ended up with about two quarts. I always have shrimp in the freezer, so I’ve just been boiling up a handful every day and adding them into my individual serving in order to keep things fresh (I’m weird about seafood, okay?).

Chef Garrison’s Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

  • 1 64 oz. bottle original Clamato
  • 1 6 oz. can El Pato tomato sauce
  • 2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz. honey (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1-2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1 Tbs extra hot horseradish
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups medium-diced Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups medium-diced red onion
  • 2 cups medium-diced English cucumber
  • 2 cups medium-diced avocado
  • 2 lbs. large raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp (or pre-cooked)

Makes approximately one gallon/16 servings

Shrimp Cocktail

Stir together all liquids and spices, then add veggies and let sit refrigerated overnight.

In a large sauce pot bring 5-6 qts. of water to a boil with a handful of salt and a splash of white vinegar. Remove from heat and add the shrimp until they are just cooked (about 1 minute). Pour the shrimp into a colander and immediately transfer to a sheet pan to cool. Do not use an ice bath to cool the shrimp.

To serve, cut up about 3/4ths of the shrimp into halves or thirds and place portions into large margarita/martini glasses. Ladle the cocktail sauce over the pieces and garnish with diced avocado, a lime wedge, and 1 whole shrimp. Serve with Saltine crackers.

Printer-friendly recipe: Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Lighten Up with Grilled Salad

Lighten Up with Grilled Salad

This grilled salad is killing me. I want to eat it right now, exactly as Claire has made it. I can’t even come up with words for how perfect this looks, so I’m just going to pass the tongs to Claire now so that you all can join me in drooling. Fire it up, Claire!

Like most people, I love cooking out on the grill. I don’t have a great grill, but I do have a little fire table with a grilling surface, and it does the job just fine for my postage-stamp of a back yard. Right now, my town is experiencing prime grilling weather. It’s summery enough that I’ve been thinking a lot about hamburgers lately, but it’s not so hot yet that I’m sweating through my shirt as soon as I step outside. I’ve been smelling BBQ smells in the neighborhood, and it’s got me primed. I’m pretty excited for this summer’s inaugural meal off the grill, but I think I’d like to keep it on the lighter side. My husband has been a little sick, so I’ve been ladling chicken soup down his throat for the last five days, and it seems a little extreme to go right from broth to burgers. Besides, I really need some roughage in my diet after soup week, if you know what I mean. Anyhoo…

A couple of years ago, my best friend took me out to dinner at this super swanky restaurant for my birthday. There were so many things on the menu we wanted to try, we decided to just order them all and split them, tapas style. We must have tried a dozen different things, but try as I might, I can’t recall a single one of them except the grilled salad. It was a full romaine heart, halved lengthwise and grilled. They topped it with some kind of balsamic and little crunchy things. We were so surprised by the grilled lettuce; it seemed so novel to us! In retrospect, it seems so obvious. I mean, grilled veggies are sort of notorious for being awesome. So are grilled fruits, and grilled everything else, for that matter, which brings me to this week’s recipe.

A grilled salad is the perfect transition into summer fare.

Grilled Salad

The best thing about grilling out is that the food gets so much flavor from the grill, there is barely any prep involved. The flip side of that is, because you’re not doing much to dress it up, the quality of the food you start with will be reflected in the meal you end with, so start with the good stuff. When I got to the store, I already knew I wanted to do a grilled salad, but I believe in letting the groceries direct the meal, so I also got some shrimp and apricots. It’s still a little early for stone fruit, but I caught a whiff of these as I was walking past the display, and they just really called to me.

Grilled Salad

For the salad’s base, simply slice the lettuce lengthwise, drizzle or brush a little olive oil on the sliced side, and place them on the grill. Repeat with the apricots, slicing from top to bottom and removing the pits. With the produce, you’re not trying to cook the food through. You just want to get a light char and imbue it with that good smoky flavor.

Grilled Salad For the shrimp, skewer them, drizzle them with olive oil, and then give them a good hit of salt and pepper. Don’t put too many shrimp on a single skewer, and don’t crowd them, or they won’t cook evenly. With a high heat cooking source like an open grill, they will cook quickly, so probably no more than 30 seconds per side. You want them just barely opaque.

Grilled Salad

To dress your grilled salad, you can go premade, but I like to pull out my food processor and whip something up. In this case, I’m going with basically an eggless Caesar dressing. A spoonful of Dijon mustard, a generous pour of sherry, a couple glugs of extra virgin olive oil, two or three cloves of garlic, the juice of one lemon, a good heap of Parmesan, a few grinds of pepper, and five anchovy fillets. Whir it all together until it’s smooth, lightly dress the lettuce, and top with your favorite salad fixings. Serve it with a good bottle of chilled white wine, and dig in. This grilled salad is a joyful herald of a season of good eating and I can’t wait to get down to it!

Grilled Salad

Fall Soup – Cozying Up with Clam Chowder

Fall Soup – Cozying Up with Clam Chowder

There is just nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup on a cold day, and clam chowder is easily in my top three favorites. Oddly enough, I have never made it! Clam chowder has always seemed like one of those soups that will take a ton of time to make; it’s a restaurant meal, not an at-home dish. Well, as usual, Claire Hoenke is blowing my mind. Turns out clam chowder is actually not hard to make at all. I’ll give it a try if you will, too. Claire, teach us your chowdery ways.

Last month, I told you all about my undying love for autumn. For part two of my love song, I have set my sights on dinner. By now, the weather around here has actually started to turn ever so slightly cool. I have switched my air conditioning off, and in the mornings, I wake up and pull my blankets tighter around my chin against the cold night air. By the time I’m ready to leave the house for work, I’m already thinking about soul-warming comfort foods.

But it’s a work day! There’s no time to braise short ribs or a brisket. I need to come up with something I can make inside of an hour; over the course of the morning, my mind has zeroed in on soup. Stews, chowders, and broths start rippling through my brain, and already the thought of a steaming bowl of soup has my mouth watering. I run a mental checklist of recipe components against my pantry’s current inventory, and after work, I make a brief stop at the grocery store.

It’s going to be clam chowder tonight, and I could not be happier.

My clam chowder is adapted from the Culinary Institute of America’s recipe, and both my husband and I count it among our favorite things to eat; at this point I have made it so many times, I can basically do it in my sleep. I also have a tendency to keep bottles of clam juice in the house, just in case of a clam chowder emergency, and tonight is just such an emergency! I pick up some bread and cream and rush home to pull out the rest of my ingredients. Less than an hour later, I am sitting down at the table with my husband and a hot bowl of soup, and we both float off on a chowdery cloud. This recipe is so easy, and so luxuriously comforting, I have decided that I just have to share it.

Clam Chowder

  • 1 to 1 ½ pound canned or frozen baby clams, juices reserved
  • 2 8oz. bottles clam juice
  • 2 or 3 bacon slices, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons dry sherry, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce (such as Tabasco), to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  • Optional loaf of bread or soup crackers

Start out by draining the juices from the clams. In my case, I did have one 10 oz can of clams, but that’s not really enough, so I also pulled a bag of Trader Joe’s cooked frozen langostino tails out of my freezer and let them thaw in the sink for a few minutes. Really, any seafood will do in a pinch, and if you’re lucky enough to live close to a Trader Joe’s, you can usually find some fun options in their frozen section. Add the bottled clam juice together with the drained juices, and it should equal at least 3 cups. Mince the clams and set them aside for now. At this point in the cooking process in my house, the cats have moved into the kitchen with me and are swirling around my ankles begging for bits of whatever is producing that delightful smell. I do not give in to their demands.

Fall Soup Clam Chowder

Chop up the raw bacon and throw it into a 6 or 8 quart soup pot set over medium heat. You want to let the bacon bits render slowly, for about 8 minutes until they are almost crispy. While the bacon is cooking, chop up the onion. When the bacon is ready, add the onion and cook it, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent. Add in the flour and turn the heat down to low, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Then, slowly add in the clam juice. Use your spoon or a whisk to get all the crispy bits up off the bottom of the pan, and then cook the juice at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

While the juices simmer and thicken, peel and dice your potatoes. I like my soup to be super chunky, so I use 4 medium to large sized Yukon golds. When the clam juice is about the thickness of heavy cream, add the potatoes to your pot, along with the chopped thyme and the bay leaf. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, which should be about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your dice.

Fall Soup Clam Chowder

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine the cream with the minced clams and simmer them together for about 5 minutes to cook the clams. If you have bread to go with the soup, this is the time to put it into the oven to warm up in time for dinner. If you are using any pre-cooked seafood items, chop them to bite size and add them to the soup pot in the last minute or so of the clams’ cooking time.

When the potatoes are tender and the clams are cooked, add the cream mixture to the soup pot and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the sherry, and season to taste with Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and a good couple shakes of your favorite hot sauce. Take the bread out of the oven and get ready to feast. I guess a side salad would be good here, if only to round out the meal, but I just can’t be fussed to bother with it on soup night. Luckily, this recipe yields about 2 quarts, so there is enough for seconds!

Fall Soup Clam Chowder

I think it’s pretty important to have a couple of can’t-fail recipes in your back pocket, and this is one of my favorites. It combines all good things into an even better thing, and it cooks up quickly without much fuss. It’s perfect for a chilly evening, and we’re fixing to get quite a few of those in the near future. Do yourself a favor and just add clam juice and canned clams to your next grocery list and you’ll be a believer too!

Printer friendly recipe: Clam Chowder

Summer Seafood – Ceviche Tacos

Summer Seafood – Ceviche Tacos

Summer seafood dishes are pretty much the saving grace of this dreadful time of year. Because I am landlocked, I just don’t have the access to fresh fish that I would prefer, but I do have lovely friends on both coasts who are happy to indulge me when I visit. I told you I’ll be heading up to visit Claire soon and I cannot even begin to describe to you how excited I am to let her stuff my face with seafood, particularly the dish she is sharing with us today (also breakfast, becasue holy cow, Claire is a breakfast goddess). Claire lives in a place that allows her to take summer seafood seriously and these ceviche tacos are just what I need to help me make it through to the cooler days ahead. Claire, give our readers a little taste!

Man, it is hot out. It is so hot, I cannot for a second entertain the idea of standing in front of a hot stove, and let’s not even joke about standing outside in the heat and cooking over a grill. The summer issues of all of my favorite food magazines have been making their way to my mailbox, and I’ve been surprised to learn this simple truth: Magazine summer dinner recipes are like the “natural look” makeover; it seems like they’re going to be totally easy to pull off, but it turns out that it takes a lot of work to look so low-maintenance. After one too many nights of throwing my hands up and settling for a salad, I started to ask myself in exasperation, “Can’t I just cook some meat for dinner without working up a sweat?”

Luckily, this is not a new problem. Since the invention of cooking meat over a fire, I assume, people have been trying to figure out how to have meat without cooking it over a fire. Creative methods come from all over the world, but I think it makes the most sense to look to the tropics for a good summer seafood meal. My favorite method to beat the heat comes from Peru, and it’s a double-whammy, for reasons I’ll get into in a minute.

Ceviche is arguably one of the easiest summer seafood dishes to make in the whole world, but done properly, it can also be one of the most impressive things to come out of your kitchen.

Summer Seafood Ceviche

If you’re not familiar, ceviche is slices or pieces of fish cooked by the application of an acidic marinade, usually citrus juices. The citric acid from the juice causes the proteins in the meat to denature, which gives it the opaque look and texture of fish cooked with heat. Because you are not using heat, the fish you use for this dish must be exceedingly fresh. The best way to get really fresh fish is to catch it yourself, of course, but the next best option is a reputable, dedicated fishmonger. You want a clean and busy place where the staff can tell you when and where every fish in their shop was caught and by what method, as well as the name of the boat and fisherman who brought it in. The fish in the shop should be stored on top of ice at temperatures just above freezing. The flesh should be firm, bouncing back from a good poke rather than being left with a dent, and it should have no fishy smell. In most cases, you can tell you’re in the right place if the fishmonger’s shop is removed from the touristy part of town and buried among the fishing boats. I’m lucky enough to live just a 15-minute drive from the Pacific coast, so I can make the side trip into Morro Bay and visit my fishmonger there.

Summer Seafood Ceviche Semi-firm white ocean fish is traditional for ceviche, but virtually any fish will work, and even some shellfish, so your choice should depend more on quality and sustainability, rather than tradition. Your best bet is to head to the fish market with an open mind, and opt for whatever is freshest. A responsible fishmonger will stock only sustainably caught product, but I think it’s a good idea to double check anyway. I like to use The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s free Seafood Watch smartphone app because it’s always up-to-date and it’s a simple and effective guide to making the most informed choices. I chose seabass for my ceviche, and I asked the clerk to skin it and pack it on ice for me for the drive home.

I decided to keep my recipe traditional and simple, which brings me back to that thing I said about ceviche being a beat-the-heat double-whammy. Obviously, the first whammy is the no-heat cooking method, but what is that second whammy? Ironically, it is heat! We want to go hot, not in temperature, but in flavor. There are real, scientific reasons that traditionally spicy foods come from the hottest climates. One of those reasons is that spicy foods raise the body’s internal temperature to match the temperature outside, diminishing the perceived extreme difference in temperatures. As blood circulation increases, it also causes facial perspiration, which in turn produces a cooling effect as it evaporates. Hot weather is also a natural appetite suppressant, and spicy foods naturally stimulate appetite and digestion, so without further ado, let’s get to the grub!

Spicy Ceviche Tacos

  • 1 pound of fresh fish Summer Seafood Ceviche
  • 1 small red onion or half of a large one, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, divided
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • ½ cup fresh citrus juice
  • 1 avocado
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Small corn or flour tortillas
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Keep your fish on ice while you do the rest of your prep. The colder and fresher you can keep your fish, the better!

Start by juicing your fruit into a non-reactive bowl; I used all limes, but you can also add in sour orange, lemon, or passionfruit juice for a fun variation on tradition. Add your sliced red onions to the bowl. Pick the leaves off of about a third of your cilantro and set those aside to top your tacos. Coarsely chop the rest of the stems and leaves, and add them to the marinade. Mince the peppers and add them to the marinade. Most of their heat resides in the seeds and the ribs, so for less heat, remove them.

Slice your fish on a 45° angle into approximately quarter-inch-thick slices. Add the fish into the bowl with salt and pepper and allow it to marinate for at least 5 minutes, gently folding occasionally to make sure all of the slices are getting equal exposure to the juice. At this point, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your fish. Let it go too long, and the meat will completely break down, leaving you with dry, overcooked fish. For my taste, somewhere around the 10- to 12-minute mark is ideal, but it’s going to depend on how you sliced it. You want it nicely firm on the outside, but tender and translucent on the inside.

Summer Seafood Ceviche

While the fish is marinating, you can prep your taco toppings. Cut up the avocado and tomato, and coarsely chop the cilantro leaves you set aside earlier. When the fish is ready, assemble your tacos, using some of the onions from the marinade to round out your taco toppings, and serve them with your favorite refreshing beverages. Toast to the sea for providing you with the ultimate best summer seafood dinner.

Summer Seafood Ceviche

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. And like any celebration it is best with food! Are you ready to celebrate? Head out for some authentic Mexican fare or stay home and whip some up yourself. We’ve got you covered in the food and drink department!

Chow down on this fantastic Shrimp Cocktail while sipping a Simple Margarita.

shrimp

Or, if you’re feeling a little fancy, this Hibiscus Margarita is a real winner!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Hibiscus Margarita

Here we have a lovely little salsa that makes a great appetizer. Football Food

What’s your favorite dish to make for Cinco de Mayo?

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Celebrating Sustainable Seafood – Shrimp & Chorizo on Grits

Celebrating Sustainable Seafood – Shrimp & Chorizo on Grits

There is nothing quite like seafood in the summer — it’s so light and fresh, it just makes the heat a little more bearable! Chef J has some wise words on using sustainable seafood, and is also willing to share a wonderful recipe with us. As always — thanks, Chef J!

If you would like to jump into a contentious issue, as I always do, investigate the ins and outs of sustainable seafood. The effects of fishing have far-reaching implications, and unfortunately, here in my neck of the woods they are often neglected or unknown. My neck of the woods happens to be in the middle of the desert — so the only bodies of water out here are over-chlorinated swimming pools and smelly canals… But that’s no excuse for not knowing where one’s food comes from!

The results of over-fishing can be felt all over the world; with prices skyrocketing, supplies dwindling, and ecosystems crumbling,  there has never been a more urgent time to look into ways to sustainably provide food while taking into account the fragility of the resources we use.

In other words: look before you eat. Just like with any kind of food, you should be aware of where it comes from and what it took to produce it. If you like tuna, pay attention to how it gets to you — because realistically, you probably won’t be eating it in 10 to 15 years.

There is a loud debate over farm raised versus wild caught aquatic cuisine; it’s not black and white, there is no unifying theory, and people can’t or won’t agree on a lot of the details. Such is life. But, you can look a bit deeper into the food that you purchase and consume, and that’s always a good thing. Here in Arizona we have access to lots of seafood; some good, more bad — but the options for eating sustainable seafood are available. I won’t go into details that I can’t properly explain and that you probably don’t want to hear, but if you care about the earth and stuff, you should take a look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

For this simple recipe, we are using farmed, U.S. shrimps.

Shrimp & Chorizo on Grits

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup coarsely ground grits (white or yellow- whatever floats your boat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese

Bring the milk to a simmer.
Stir in the grits and spices.
Let it cook until it’s done. That sounds vague, but depending on how coarse the grits are it could take anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. Go with the instructions on the bag.
When the grits are soft, remove them from the heat and stir in the butter, then cheese.
Season to taste.

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 6 oz. raw chorizo sausage, loose
  • 1 lb. raw shrimp
  • 6 scallions, sliced- separate the greens and whites
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the chorizo and white part of scallions.
Cook for 5-6 minutes until the chorizo is done.
Add the shrimp and spices, cook for 2 minutes.
Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Stir vigorously to emulsify.
Pour the shrimp and chorizo over the grits and top with green scallions and cilantro.

Printer friendly recipe: Celebrating Sustainable Seafood