Tag Archives: recipe ideas

Recipe Idea: Prepping Roasted Veggies for Later

roasted veggies yum

Great way to spread out the goodness of great tasting veggies.

I know it’s July, but here in Los Angeles we have finally gotten what we lovingly call ‘June Gloom’.  It stays overcast all day and isn’t quite as hot as it’s going to get for summer.  That’s not to say it’s actually cool out but, because it’s ‘gloomy’ outside you sort of think that it is.  It was the perfect time to hit the market and prep some roasted vegetables for the week.

When you slowly roast fresh veggies (any combination that you love) with some aromatics you have the basis for any meal of the day.   I always make enough for a couple of days – that way I can use them for breakfast with my eggs, lunch over some baby spinach or as the perfect side for my favorite crispy skin salmon.  I have a few rules that hold true no matter which vegetables you choose.

Always buy organic when possible. But not everything ‘has’ to be organic so check the ever-changing list of the Dirty Dozen to see which ones must be organic and the Clean 15 to see which contain the least amount of pesticides.  You can always depend that a thick-skinned vegetable, like butternut squash, is fine if it’s not organic.

Start roasting with the vegetables that will take the longest to cook.  That way as you’re adding more vegetables to your roasting pan everything will end up cooked the right amount of time.  For this group of vegetables- baby potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, onions, garlic, asparagus, mushrooms- the potatoes will need to cook the longest.  Cut the vegetables so that they are basically the same size.

I’m a sucker for potatoes (in any form) so if you’re like me you will want some roasted potatoes in the mix.  I used the baby multi-colored (just because they look good) ones.  Whatever potato you decide to use- boil them in fairly salty water till just barely fork tender, drain and let cool slightly.  Smash them which will allow for more crispy edges and place on a sheet tray.  Drizzle with good extra virgin Olive Oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, some fresh ground pepper and any herbs you want to start with (I used some Italian Rosemary that I brought home from Sicily on my last trip).  Toss them so all sides of the potatoes are coated and start roasting at 450°.  Check the potatoes after about 15 minutes for crispiness.

In this group the onions and fresh garlic (smashed as well) went into the pan next. Add a drizzle of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and more kosher salt and pepper with each new add of vegetables.  I know it sounds like a lot of salt but you will need it for flavor.  Remember to use only kosher salt as regular salt is way too salty.

Toss the mixture together every time you add new vegetables and then spread evenly across the sheet pan to evenly roast.  Next, I added the asparagus (you can see I peeled the stems – check out my blog on asparagus for tips on the prep).

The zucchini and summer squash next and then finally the mushrooms.  Check every 7-8 minutes after you add a new group of vegetable to make sure you don’t overcook.

Be sure to taste with each new addition so you can adjust seasoning.  If you think you have enough oil in the mix – stop adding it.

Let the mixture cool and place in a sealed container in your refrigerator.  It will last 2-3 days unless you eat it all sooner!  I’m going to take some of these roasted vegetables tomorrow morning, reheat them in a skillet, add some chopped tomato, crack an egg in the middle and cover to cook the egg.

Breakfast!!!  I can’t wait.

Tips on How to Ripen that Rock-Hard Avocado

ripe-avocado

Can’t find a ripe avocado and you need one (or more) to make guacamole tomorrow?

You invited friends over tomorrow night for a viewing party of the finale of your favorite TV show and you want to make your famous guacamole.  You head to your local market for avocados and every single avocado they have is rock-hard!  What do you do besides scream at the produce manager or drive all over town hoping to find ripe avocados?  Here is my tip on how to solve your problem and have perfectly ripe avocados in time with no screaming.

First, you need to understand a little bit about avocados and how to pick them at the store.  Avocados don’t ripen or soften on the tree – this happens after harvest so depending on how those avocados were shipped and stored they might be ripening just in time or still be hard like baseballs.

A perfectly ripe avocado will be firm when held in the palm of your hand but will yield to gentle pressure.  Don’t be fooled by the skin color as different varieties are different colors – some are black and some will never get any darker than light green.  But, do avoid those with dark blemishes on the skin or have areas that are much softer than the rest of the fruit.  These ‘spots’ are likely bruises – pick a different avocado.

Avocados (and some other fruit) produce ethylene gas.  This gas causes the fruit to ripen and is normally released slowly.  But, what if you could only find unripe avocados in the store and you need that avocado to go from a rock-hard fruit that could hurt someone if thrown at them to a perfectly ripe item that will be transformed into your guacamole for your friends?  And you need that to happen in a day.

Here’s my tried and true tip that never fails:

You only need a brown paper bag, either bananas, kiwi or apples (these release ethylene gas at a much faster rate than avocados), hard avocados and about 24 hours.  Place the hard avocados into the brown paper bag, add at least one banana or kiwi or apple (the more fruit-the more gas is released-the faster the ripening), fold over the top of the bag and leave on your counter top for at least a day.  If you choose to add apples to the bag find either red or golden delicious varieties – these have not been bred to ripen slower (like a Gala apple) and will release more ethylene gas than some other types of apples.

I don’t recommend using the oven or the microwave to ‘ripen’ avocados.  These methods may indeed soften them but they don’t really ripen so they won’t have the same creamy, buttery texture and nutty flavor that a ripe avocado does.

My last tip: only put already ripe avocados into your refrigerator.  So, if you can only find fully ripe avocados at your market (lucky you!) and you don’t need them for a day or two then definitely refrigerate.  Now that you know how to ripen that avocado – have a party and make some guacamole for me!

How to make a perfect “starter” with a great Shrimp Cocktail!

An easy recipe for shrimp cocktail that’s tasty and lovely to look at.

I have never met a “starter” I didn’t love. There are so many great ways kick-off an evening of fun with your friends or family but, for me, there’s just something about a great shrimp cocktail before dinner that sounds perfect. It’s one of the reasons that you’ll find it on every appetizer menu for the big steak houses around the neighborhood. Some restaurants serve them simply prepared and some serve them fancier (like when they serve the shrimp on top of dry ice so that it comes to the table ‘smoking’) but in the end it’s all about the perfectly poached shrimp and the flavors of the sauces the shrimp are served with.

It’s actually much easier than you think to create the absolutely perfect shrimp cocktail every time.  One of the significant advantages of poached shrimp is that a typical serving isn’t over-filling. That makes them fabulous to have solo as a light lunch or snack on a late weekend afternoon just before you go out for dinner and a show.

Read: Two drink recipes that go well with shrimp!

After trying so many recipes in search of the perfect shrimp cocktail, I found this recipe on Bon Appetit last year and tried it out immediately. It’s so easy. It requires NO special equipment other than measuring cups and spoons. The most challenging part is preparing the shrimp for poaching. And, the cocktail sauce is a quick mix-up of six easy ingredients.

Ask at the fish counter or your fish market if the shrimp is fresh.  Very often what you will find at the fish counter is shrimp that was once frozen but that the market has already thawed.  But, if you can find fresh it’s the best option.  Some fish mongers will de-vein them for you but, even if your fish monger will de-vein your shrimp – check them again to make sure that all of the intestine (that dark line along the back of the shrimp) is gone before you cook them.  If you can’t find them fresh then IQF (individually quick frozen) can work.  Just be sure that you thaw them only ONCE and cook them immediately.  Do not refreeze thawed shrimp.

Ingredients for Shrimp

  • 8 cups of ice (keep it ready just before you start)
  • 1⁄4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp Morton’s kosher salt (Morton’s Kosher Salt is much ‘saltier’ than Diamond Crystal)
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar (I know it sounds strange – trust me)
  • 2 large lemons
  • 1 lb. jumbo shell-on shrimp, deveined

Ingredients for Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup chili sauce (preferably Heinz – saves you from having to add a whole bunch of additional spices)
  • 3⁄4 tsp finely grated lemon zest (just the yellow part, avoid the white as it will be bitter)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (this is about the juice of one medium lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3⁄4 tsp hot sauce (preferably Tabasco)

Prepare Shrimp

  1. Place the 8 cups of ice into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine salt, sugar, and 6 cups water in a large saucepan. Make sure the pan is large enough to hold the water, shrimp, plus the ice.
  3. Cut two lemons in half, squeeze the juice into the saucepan, then toss the lemon halves into the saucepan.
  4. Bring liquid to a boil – stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar fully. When everything is completely dissolved, remove saucepan from heat.
  5. Add shrimp and poach, uncovered, for 3-1/2 minutes. Set your timer so you don’t overcook!
  6. Immediately add the ice into the saucepan to rapidly chill the poaching liquid and stop the cooking. Let shrimp sit in the ice bath for about 10 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and peel, but leave the tails on. The tails are pretty and are perfect to pick up the shrimp with.  Pat them lightly dry again.  Place the shrimp in a dry bowl, cover, then let them chill in your refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
  7. You can poach and peel the shrimp a day ahead but be sure them keep it chilled.

Prepare Cocktail Sauce

  1. Mix the chili sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, horseradish, pepper, and hot sauce in a small bowl.
  2. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Serving Tips

You can also make the cocktail sauce a day ahead. Personally, I think it tastes better to let all the ingredients settle together in the refrigerator overnight. If you do it all a day ahead you will have the benefit of leaving yourself more time for your main course prep (if you’re having one) or time to just relax before your guests arrive.

Another tip: serve your poached shrimp ON ice. Don’t submerge cooked shrimp in ice water—that just makes them soggy, and soggy shrimp are definitely not appetizing. But, you absolutely want to keep the shrimp cool – therefore serve them on ice. And as a finishing service touch, cut a jumbo lemon into 1/8th wedges or 1/4” half rings and serve with your shrimp.

Watch my video to see the whole process in action.

Enjoy.