Tag Archives: Jim Hastings

TOMATO-CLAM COCKTAIL ASPIC WITH SHRIMP

The other day my wife and I had a conversation about foods from the 50s. So many of them were essentials, and they now have fallen off the radar. I guess we were thinking of wedge salad. You know, a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with thousand island dressing. I haven’t seen that in a restaurant for years, but every single place in Shreveport had its own version on the menu.

Probably more ubiquitous in those ancient days were gelled salads. I am certain they were inspired not only by the public information officers of the Jello company, but also by early editions of The Joy of Cooking which included them in its long list of open-a-can recipes. There are several recipes in our family cook book including my mother-in-law’s lime Jello and cottage cheese, my mother’s strawberry Jello with canned fruit cocktail, and the festive holiday special, wild cherry Jello with Coca Cola, cream cheese, and pecans. Unfortunately, tomato aspic was lumped in this category of salads, and it also fell out of flavor.

Inspired by the conversation, I decided that a tomato aspic was just the thing for a hot summer evening. Then it occurred to me that variation might be better. A few weeks ago, one of my El Paso friends and fellow blogger (Jim Hastings, The Gringo Gourmet) had written about a Border classic,  Mexican shrimp cóctel, made with tiny shrimp, other seafood, crunchy vegetables, and tomato-clam juice.

If you have ever lived on the US-Mexico Border you know that there are two sure-fire cures for hangover, menudo and tomato-clam juice, so some of the popularity of the cóctel might be explained by its restorative powers. Whatever, it seemed like a good jumping-off place for a refreshing summer aspic.  You can make the aspic as festive as you would like. If you are really feeling up to it, you can set it into a party centerpiece. Gel the mixture in an ornate mold or individual molds to be unmolded and ceremoniously brought to the table. I chose the more pedestrian approach of letting it gel in the bowl I used to mix it in. Also, you can decorate it with avocado or greens, and top it with mayonnaise or aioli. Honestly, I like it just plain with a little avocado on the side.

Here’s the recipe.

 RECIPE

Tomato-Clam Cocktail Aspic with Shrimp

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • about 4 cups tomato-clam cocktail juice (Clamato is a popular brand)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • (1 teaspoon Chalulu or other hot sauce, more or less to taste – optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ pound peeled and cooked salad shrimp (350-500/pound. Sold as “Oregon shrimp” at our market)
  • ½ medium red onion, diced
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup celery, diced (about 1 rib)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup thinly sliced radishes (Use a mandolin if you have one)
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • avocado
  • cilantro leaves
  • lettuce leaves
  • mayonnaise

Method

  1. Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin onto the surface of the water and allow it to “bloom” for about 5 minutes. It will not fully soften with a shorter time, and it becomes hard to dissolve with alonger time.
  2. Meanwhile heat 2 cups of the tomato-clam cocktail juice to boiling.
  3. When the gelatin is fully bloomed, pour in the hot juice and stir continuously until the gelatin is completely dissolved. This is a critical step because if the gelatin is not completely dissolved it will form tough lumps in your finished aspic.
  4. Add the lime juice to a 2-cup measuring cup and add enough tomato-clam juice to make two cups. Stir this into the gelatin-juice mixture until it is completely incorporated. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes on the counter top. Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. In about 1 to 1½ hours, the mixture will begin to set up. It should have the consistency of thick cream. It should be thick enough that the foods you add will not float to the top, but not so thick that you cannot incorporate them evenly into the mixture.
  5. Stir in the shrimp and vegetables, making certain that they are evenly distributed. Cover again with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator. Chill for at least another 2-3 hours.
  6. If you have decided on the fancy approach, remove from the refrigerator when you are ready to unmold. Place the mold or molds in a sink of hot water for no more than 15 seconds, being careful not to get water on the surface of the aspic. Have a plate or plates ready for the unmolding.
  7. Place the plate on top of the aspic mold and invert everything, mold, plate, and all. The aspic should fall gracefully onto the awaiting plate. If not, heat the mold for another few seconds and try again
  8. Serve with cilantro leaves and sliced avocado or on a bed of lettuce. Add a dollop of mayonnaise if you like.

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OAK-SMOKED SHRIMP WITH TRUMPET MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Our local farmers market stays open all year, but only now have the growers occupied their open-air stalls. There is still wind and cold weather, so about the only things available are greens and a few root vegetables. One exception to that is the beautiful trumpet mushrooms available from the  “mushroom man”. If you are like me, you wind up buying way more from the vendors than you can possibly use. I try to plan daily menus in my mind as I walk down the aisles. Invariably, my eyes and appetite fail me so that when the end of the week and a new farmers market arrives, there are things still in the vegetable crisper. The trumpet mushrooms fell into that category this week, so when I looked in the pantry and saw a container of Arborio rice, I immediately thought of risotto. I also wanted to try a new brand of boxed fish stock as well as Better Than Bouillon fish stock base suggested by my friend, Jim Hastings. It seemed like a perfect excuse for shrimp risotto. On top of all that, the stove top smoker was still sitting on the kitchen counter after my effort at smoked new potatoes, so the stars just seemed to come together for smoked shrimp with mushroom risotto.

RECIPES

Oak-Smoked Shrimp

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup smoking chips
  • 6 large (10-15/pound) per person
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare stove top smoker by heaping special wood chips in the middle of the smoking pan. Cover the tray with aluminum foil to make cleanup easier and insert, along with rack in the smoker.
  2. Skewer 6 shrimp. Sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper. Place on the smoker rack, and close the top, leaving an opening of about 3 inches.
  3. Place the smoker over two burners of the kitchen range, both set to medium flame.
  4. When smoke begins to come out of the lid opening, close tightly and smoke for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the smoker from the stove, open the lid, and remove the shrimp.If they do not appear to be done, replace the smoker lid and place over the flame for another 5 minutes.

Trumpet Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup shallot finely chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 quarts seafood stock made by dissolving 2 teaspoons Better than Bouillon fish stock base in 2 quarts water (or use canned fish stock or your own home-made fish stock diluted 1:4 with water)
  • 1 pint container of trumpet mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a medium sauce pan with lid, heat the oil over a medium-low flame. Add the shallots and sweat, covered, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice, and raise the flame to medium, stirring constantly until the rice becomes opaque but does not brown.
  3. In the meantime, bring the fish stock to the simmer over another flame.
  4. Add one ladleful of stock to the shallot-rice mixture and raise the heat to bring to the boil.
  5. Stir frequently (constantly) until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Then add another ladleful of the stock and again stir until nearly evaporated. Repeat the process until the fish stock is used up or the rice is creamy and tender, about 30 – 40 minutes  . If you need more liquid to finish cooking the rice, use water.
  6. In the meantime, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  7. When you are ready to serve, stir the mushrooms into the risotto. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Top with the smoked shrimp and serve. There should be enough risotto for 2 to 4 persons, depending upon hunger.

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NOPALES – WHO WANTS TO EAT CACTUS?

Unless you are from Mexico or the American Southwest, you may have thought that cactus, the big paddles with long razor-sharp stickers were just a sign that you are in the desert. I’m talking about prickly pear with the  regional name, nopal (singular), nopales (plural), or nopalitos (diminutive), and the scientific name, Opuntia sp. (There are lots of different species.) If that’s the case, you will be surprised to learn that prickly pear with its various parts is popular not only as food but also as drink. The cactus can be eaten raw, but most recipes call for cooking. Cooked prickly pear is said by many to taste like okra. That may be a good or bad thing.  Some people eat large quantities of Opuntia because of supposed healing powers for all sorts of illnesses. There is some evidence that eating cactus can lower the blood sugar, but the effect is not strong enough to serve as a treatment for diabetes.

Prickly pear in bloom

Prickly pear in bloom

After flowering in mid- to late-summer, prickly pear sets on fruits on the edges of the paddles. These fruits are also called tunas and are so highly prized that night-time harvesters will strip them from plants growing in the median of streets of many towns and cities. Peeled and eaten without chewing (the seeds can easily break a tooth), tunas substitute for candy because of their sweetness. They can be mashed into pulp and juice for drinks, cocktails (cactus margaritas are popular in some Border bars), syrup, or even dessert.

The key to success in turning the cactus into something you can eat is to get rid of the spines. Sometimes hungry  cattle in dry climates will turn to cactus for food if there is nothing else to eat. The spines can damage bovine intestinal tracts or even blind a cow that gets the spines impaled on a cornea. Those spines can do the same thing to humans. To avoid this, some cooks use a blowtorch to burn off the spines. This approach has the disadvantage of potentially burning the paddles. Others use very sharp knives (along with sturdy gloves to protect hands) to cut off the spines and the thin outer layer of the pad. The easiest way to deal with the problem is to buy prepared nopales in the grocery store.

One of my friends, Jim Hastings, has developed an interest in Southwest native foods and foods prepared from native plants. This has led him to develop a number of his own recipes and to conduct cooking classes on preparing an entire meal from cactus.

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to attend one of Jim’s classes. For that session his menu included Bean Soup with Nopales, Jicama and Nopalito Salad, Nopales and Green Chile Tart and Cheese Cake with Prickly Pear Dessert Topping. The dessert topping can go on cheesecake, as Jim demonstrated, ice cream, pound cake, or whatever you fancy.

The dessert topping requires prickly pear jelly and optional prickly pear syrup. You can order those online from Cheri’s Desert Harvest

In this post, the recipes are Jim’s; the images are mine. If you want to contact Jim Hastings for more information, his internet address is: jimhastings@elp.rr.com

 

RECIPES

Bean Soup with Nopales

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 strips thick sliced bacon cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
  • Additional vegetable oil and butter if needed
  • ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups nopales, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bean soup with nopales

Bean soup with nopales

Sautéing nopalitos

Sautéing nopalitos

Method

  1. In a large pot, soak the beans overnight in the water. Set aside.
  2. In another large pot set over medium heat, render the bacon to release the fat but do not crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot.
  3. If needed, add oil and butter to the bacon drippings in the cooking pot and heat over medium flame. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Add the garlic, and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add the reserved beans and water. Bring to the boil. Then reduce to the simmer and cook until the beans are tender. Add chicken broth and keep warm
  5. In the meantime, melt oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Add the nopales and sauté until the moisture is completely gone. Be careful not to burn the nopales
  6. Add the nopales to the beans, stir in chopped cilantro, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve in bowls with salsa or pico de gallo if desired.

Jicama and Nopalito Salad

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups nopalitos cut into 3/8 inch dice
  • ½ pound jicama, peeled and cut into 3/8 inch dice
  • 2 red jalapeños chopped into fine dice. Remove seeds and ribs for milder flavor
  • 1 yellow bell pepper seeded and cut into 3/8 inch dice
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/8 inch dice
  • ¼ cup chives finely chopped
  • ¼ cup mint leaves finely chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • raspberry vinaigrette, commercial or homemade

 

Method

  1. Bring to small pots of water to the boil. Add nopalitos to one of the pots, return to the boil, and boil for 30-45 seconds or until the water starts to thicken. Drain the nopalitos and add to the second pot of water, repeating the process. Drain and rinse with cold water. Do not overcook
  2. In a large bowl, combine the nopalitos, jicama, jalapeños, bell pepper, cucumber, chives, mint, and cilantro.
  3. Toss with raspberry vinaigrette.
  4. Serve on fresh greens.

Nopalito and Green Chile Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup nopales cut in ¼ inch dice
  • 1 cup roasted, peeled, and seeded green chiles cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 12 ounces whipped cream cheese
  • 1½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, finely crumbled
  • ½ cup roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped red bell pepper or pimento

 

Method

  1. Thaw puff pastry according to package instructions. There should be two sheets.
  2. In a small frying pan, heat the olive oil until it is barely shimmering. Add the diced nopales and sauté until olive-green and any slime has evaporated. Remove from the heat and cool.
  3. Stir together the nopales, green chiles, and garlic.
  4. Unfold the two sheets of puff pastry in a 17 x 11 1 inch jelly roll or sheet cake pan. Moisten the seam between the two sheets with a little water and press together to sea. Trim dough to fill the pan using any scraps to fill the sides.  Score the dough lightly around the edge of the pan, about ¼ inch from the edge of the pan
  5. Stir the crumbled oregano into the sour cream Then spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough within the score line.
  6. Spread the nopales, chile, and garlic mixture over the cheese. Then sprinkle with the red peppers
  7. Bake at 400° F (204 ° C) for 10-12 minutes or until the crust puffs and is a golden brown, Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Cut into 2 inch squares and serve.

Cheesecake with Prickly Pear Topping

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 4 ounces prickly pear jelly
  • prickly pear syrup (optional)
  • 1 cheesecake, homemade or purchased

 

Method

  1. Stir together the sour cream and prickly pear jelly until smooth and evenly blended.
  2. Spread on top of cheesecake
  3. Drizzle with syrup if desired.
  4. Serve

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