Tag Archives: broccoli

FAMILY CELEBRATION: CAROL’S SHRIMP AND MUSHROOMS WITH COUSCOUS

Our family birthday celebration was a multi-day affair with the culmination being dinner for all of the adults at Rich Table. In the meantime we had other meals together, and our other daughter, Carol, had volunteered to cook for children and adults on the night before the party.

Talk about bravery! Have you ever tried to cook for seven adults and five kids, all of whom have their own food hang-ups – “The sausage touched my scrambled egg, and I can taste the sausage!” “I don’t like pasta.” “The only thing I like is pasta.”

In spite of similar premonitions, Carol took on the challenge and prepared a wonderful meal that everyone enjoyed. There was nothing left.

Shortly before dinner time, Carol went shopping at the local farmers market and a grocery store. She brought home some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, home-made mozzarella in little balls, raw shrimp, and fresh mushrooms.

The first course was a sort of caprese salad made from the variously sized tomatoes, mozzarella balls, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

For the main meal, Carol cleaned and shelled the shrimp with a little help, cleaned and sliced the mushrooms, and began to cook. I forgot to mention she melted a half pound of butter. Then she guessed at the amount of couscous, erring on the high side since both pasta-lovers and pasta-haters averred to liking couscous. She served this with a side dish of broccoli roasted in butter, lemon, and garlic.

Things were cooked up in a flash, and before anyone could even think of complaining about being hungry, the meal was on the table.

There was enough food for seconds, and soon dinner was over, plates were clear, and the serving bowls were empty.

That’s what I call success.

RECIPES

Heirloom tomato caprese salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, various sizes
  • 2 packages (12 ounces each) marinate small mozzarella balls
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Wash and cut the tomatoes into large chunks. Leave cherry tomatoes whole.
  • Combine the prepared tomatoes and mozzarella balls
  • Chop the basil leaves coarsely and add to the mixture
  • Dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve

Shrimp and mushrooms with couscous

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds crimini or white button mushrooms
  • 3 pounds unshelled raw shrimp
  • ½ pound butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 branches fresh rosemary
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 packages couscous

Method

  • Clean and slice the mushrooms. Set aside.
  • Peel and clean the shrimp. Set aside.
  • In an oven pre-heated to 400°, melt the butter in a large casserole.
  • Add the minced garlic and  rosemary.
  • Add the mushrooms to the melted butter. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp to the mushrooms and bake, continuing to stir occasionally until the shrimp are pink and have lost their translucency, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the rosemary, stir in the fresh lemon juice, and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • In the meantime, prepare the couscous according to directions on the box.
  • Serve as a generous helping of couscous topped with the shrimp and mushroom mixture.
  • Serves 12

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MAC AND CHEESE/SHRIMP AND GRITS

Macaroni and cheese is as American as you can get. Some authorities attribute its invention to Thomas Jefferson, although that is probably apocryphal. Jefferson did bring pasta machines to the United States, but the first known published recipe came from a Philadelphia chef in the early 1800s. Whatever the real origin, the dish soon became popular in Virginia and the rest of the South. It appeared on the tables of many Southern homes as well as hotel and railroad diner menus for many decades extending into the twentieth century. Early recipes called for boiling the macaroni for an hour or longer until it fell apart. Then it was combined with cheese, covered with bread crumbs, and baked into what resembled a sort of pudding. Honestly, it sounds pretty disgusting regardless of its popularity.

The "gold standard" - boxed mac and cheese

The real event for mac and cheese, though, came in 1937 near the dawn of the prepared food rage that still engages America’s home cooks. Kraft brought out a boxed version complete with dried macaroni and a powdered cheese sauce  that was billed as cheap, fast, and easy. The original recipe on the box called for bread crumbs on top and baking, but these embellishments were soon abandoned in favor of speed.  Boxed mac and cheese was immediately popular and became more popular during the Second World War. After the war, when the whole style of home cooking was changing, it became a real favorite, especially with kids.

I remember loving mac and cheese as a child – pouring the macaroni out of the box into the boiling water, waiting for it to cook, draining it, and adding the powder from the little envelope along with some milk and butter. My grandkids still love that version, and when all else fails to please their finicky kid-type appetites, macaroni from the box is sure to appeal to them. For me during college days, boxed macaroni was a standby along with ramen noodles. Maybe that’s why and when it lost interest for my more grown-up tastes.

These days, restaurants including some very high-end places in our town are bringing out their fancy versions of this old-time favorite. You may find mac and cheese made with bleu cheese, green chiles, goat cheese, curly pastas, mushrooms, and even truffles.

Shrimp and artichoke mac and cheese coming out of the oven

Another favorite comfort food, especially if you are a Southerner or even if you have only visited the South, is shrimp and grits. This delicacy of Southern cooking has a lot in common with macaroni and cheese – a smooth creamy base of starch, oozing, gooey cheese, and maybe a little crust on the top to give it just a bit of bite.

Served with broccoli, broccoli puree and cornbread

A couple of weeks ago, I was wondering what I could do to liven up the mac and cheese that I was making for dinner. What I came up with is this riff on shrimp and grits. It is guaranteed to be gooey and loaded with cheesy flavor. The shrimp, bacon,  mushrooms, and artichokes make it a lot more substantial than the old-timey product made straight out of the box. I doubt that my grandkids would like this version, but I certainly did.

SHRIMP AND ARTICHOKE MACARONI AND CHEESE

You can use regular elbow macaroni for this dish, but it is more interesting to use different shapes or colors that you have been wanting to try. I have used foglie di carciofo, a flat, round pasta flavored with dried artichoke. It seems perfect for the dish,  but any other would do.

Ingredients

butter

panko

12 oz (3 cups) dried pasta

5 oz (4 strips) thick-sliced bacon

5 medium (4 oz) cremini mushrooms, sliced

14 oz (1 can) or fresh or frozen artichoke hearts, quartered

1 lb raw shrimp, peeled

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 Tablespoons flour

1½ Cups milk

½ Cup  cream

2 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated

2 ounces Monterey jack cheese, grated

4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

4 ounces sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

grated Parmesan cheese

melted butter

  1. Generously butter the inside of a two-quart baking dish. Coat the insides with panko and set aside. Reserve additional panko for the top.
  2. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and return to the boil. Cook the pasta for 12 minutes or until al dente, stirring frequently. Drain and return to the pot. Set aside.
  3. In a 9 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until not quite crisp. Remove the bacon and drain it on several thicknesses of paper towel. Chop coarsely and set aside.  Then add the mushrooms to the still hot skillet and sauté in the bacon fat until lightly browned. Add the artichoke hearts and shrimp and continue to sauté until the shrimp are pink – about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring constantly to make a light roux. Be careful not to brown. Add the milk and cream and stir constantly until thickened.  Add the grated cheeses and sour cream and continue to stir until the cheeses are completely melted.  Pour the mixture over the reserved pasta. Add the mushroom, artichoke, and shrimp mixture and stir gently to combine.  Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking dish, top with additional panko and  grated Parmesan cheese. Baste the top with melted butter.
  6. Bake in the top third of a preheated oven at 350° for about one hour or until the top is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for about 5 minutes and then serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 generously

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