Shrimp with Chard & Orange Vinaigrette

by Lisa

It’s the season of getting things on the table quickly. It’s also the season of oranges. It’s also time to mix things up a little. This recipe, another from La Cucina Italiana, is another stealth meal: it comes together in minutes from ingredients you can count on one hand.  My kids loved it. It’s going into regular rotation here & if you’re feeling really pressed for time, you can use pre-cooked frozen shrimp. I actually have a hard time eating these, but my kids love them, so I sometimes keep them on hand.  I generally feel sort of guilty using them, since we can get really delicious shrimp from Pietro, but I don’t always have time to clean and prep them. So.

Shrimp with Chard and Orange Vinaigrette

adapted from La Cucina Italiana

  • 1 bunch swiss chard, leafy greens rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned (or equal amount frozen, pre-cooked shrimp)
  • 1-2 oranges
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (from fresh oranges &/or juice)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  1. Cut skin off orange, being careful not to leave any white pith behind.  Carefully section each orange so the fruit is removed from the membrane. Set aside. Squeeze any excess juice from the membrane and peel into a measuring cup. Add enough fresh or pre-squeezed juice to make 1/3 cup. Add one garlic clove, let rest for  few minutes, then add 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and mix.  You will have extra dressing. (Remove garlic clove before storing leftovers in the refrigerator.)
  2. Sautee chard in olive oil with  a pinch of salt.
  3. When chard is softened, remove it from the heat and quickly sautee shrimp in the same pan in a little olive oil with the second clove of garlic until pink or warmed through.(Alternately, if you have really good fresh shrimp, steam it, leaving out the garlic clove.)
  4. Separate chard onto four dishes. Top with orange sections, then shrimp. Drizzle vinaigrette over the top of everything.

Shitake Mushroom Dumplings

by Caroline

When Tony and I were dating, we used to eat pretty frequently at a nearby restaurant, Eos. It’s got a lovely Asian-influenced menu, with plenty of fish and vegetarian choices for us. We used to order broadly off the menu until we realized that we really love the shitake mushroom dumplings the best, and so pretty much just made our meal of salads (they do a really nice Thai herb chopped salad) and dumplings.

Fast forward a couple years, to when Ben was a baby, and he and I took off to Virginia to hang out with my sister and her family. Tony, left to his own devices for a week, made a project of trying to recreate the dumplings. He ate at Eos, and then made a dumpling attempt at home, and then ate there again another night before refining the recipe some more. The recipe he developed will never quite be as rich and buttery as what they serve at Eos, because that would take a pound more butter than we can put in one dish (this is one of the reasons we eat in restaurants, isn’t it? Because they will use all the butter and cream that we can’t bring ourselves to), but it’s still pretty delicious, and we don’t make it nearly often enough. But with family gathered for Christmas, and kids willing to pitch in to fill dumplings, we made a huge batch.

The recipe scales up or down easily depending on how much you want to make.

12-16 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms
1 bunch baby bok choy
2-3 shallots
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 small knob of fresh ginger (about a tablespoon, grated)
olive or vegetable oil
a dash of soy sauce
a dash of rice vinegar

Very finely dice the vegetables, shallots, and garlic, and saute with the ginger over medium-high heat with a good slug of oil. When the mixture is nicely browned, and the mushrooms have given off most of their juice, add a dash of soy sauce and a dash of rice vinegar. You can pause at this point and refrigerate the filling until you are ready to fill the dumplings.

Use whatever dumpling wrappers you can find at your grocery – we usually use the round gyoza wrappers rather than the square wonton wrappers, though it shouldn’t matter too much; we haven’t ever attempted making the wrappers ourselves.

Put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Moisten the edges with water and press shut, then crimp the edges a bit with your fingers. Keep the dumplings moist until you steam them by putting them on a plate or tray under a dish towel wrung out with cool water.

Steam the dumplings 3-4 minutes, until the wrappers go translucent, and then serve with the sauce.

For the sauce
2-3 cups vegetable stock
soy sauce
2 tablespoons butter

Bring the stock to a boil and cook until reduced to one cup. Add the soy sauce and sherry a tablespoon at a time, to taste. Stir in the butter until the sauce is smooth and velvety. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Okra. A Reminder.

This is not really a post about okra (though I do have a simple recipe below) but a reminder that when kids are involved in your meals, they should be involved in your meal planning. My husband and I know this, of course, and we do involve them to a certain extent — we ask whether they want pasta or rice; we let them vote on cooked spinach vs spinach salad; we bring them to the farmer’s market and let them pick things out. But lately we don’t often go to the grocery store with them, and that was site of this weekend’s revelation.

Tony and Ben had snuck out secretly to get a Christmas tree while Eli and I were at a birthday party. Decorating a Christmas tree requires eggnog, of course, so the guys headed off to our local market, which you enter through the produce section. Ben spotted the okra and remembered he loves it. Years ago, a friend made an Indian-spiced fried okra dish that he devoured, and Ben still talks about it (I remember it simply as the first time I enjoyed okra). But okra doesn’t show up in our CSA box and I don’t seek it out at the farmer’s market. Frankly, I don’t love it, but that shouldn’t be the most important factor now that the kids are getting older, and especially not if we want them to try new things. Plus, it is incredibly easy to cook.

Tony gets the credit for this simple recipe, which was delicious and different and everybody enjoyed (except Eli, to whom I suggested he could learn to like it). It inspired an entire Indian feast, with a simple curry of potatoes and tofu, papadum, and lime-mango chutney. More than that, it inspired us all to think we might possibly be taking the first small steps away from the kids narrow food choices of the last couple years.

Simple Fried Okra
Wash and trim the okra, then slice it into 1/2″ rounds. Fry it in a bit of olive oil until it has started to brown and crisp around the edges, about 6-10 minutes. Sprinkle with a mixture of ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and a bit of salt.

image credit

Coconut Kale, Simplified

by Caroline

As I’ve probably mentioned before, my mom is an excellent clipping service, regularly sending me articles and recipes from the New York Times. Sometimes she makes the recipes first herself but more often, since she is cooking for two and I am cooking for four, she sends it to me to test and see if it’s worth her effort. Usually my sister is included in the recipe exchange, too, which was particularly helpful recently, when Mom found the recipe for grilled coconut kale, and Libby made it, but suggested stir frying might be just as good, and easier. I’m here to report it is.

Now kale is something that, like many greens, cycles in and out of favor with my kids. Right now, Ben likes it best raw in salad and Eli won’t touch it. But this, like Lisa’s recent braised celery, was a modified success, and I’m encouraged to keep it in the repertoire. You might find that even kids who insist they don’t like kale like it this way, tender and sweet with coconut milk. And come summer, maybe I’ll even grill it; but this time of year, I’ll stay out of the rain and make it on the stove top.

I’ll link to the original recipe, but I’m also typing it in as I did it, cut down to a more family-sized amount (1 bunch of kale rather than 3).

1 bunch kale

1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne

1/2 teaspoon mild paprika

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice.

1. Wash the kale thoroughly and cut out the stalks. Cut the wide leaves into strips the width of the small leaves.

2. In a large pot set over a low flame, heat the coconut milk until it is thoroughly mixed and just lukewarm. Transfer to a large, nonreactive bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir in the kale, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

3. Remove the kale from the refrigerator and stir to make sure the leaves are well covered in marinade. Toss in a saute pan and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes, then cover and lower the heat. Cook until tender, another 6-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Vij’s Restaurant, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Braised Celery with Olives

By Lisa

This is one of those things that I never thought I would make–how many of you cook celery regularly (as a base of soups or sauces doesn’ t count)? I don’t. Or didn’t.   But then I saw this on tv at just the right moment, and I’ve made it twice in 2 weeks. A more simple, economical, versatile dish is hard to find. A more comforting cold weather dish is hard to find. It pairs beautifully with braised meat; it’s delicious over penne.  My eight year old loved it. My six year old was luke warm, but not totally opposed. I told him he had to learn to like it. We’ll see how that goes.

The dish basically involves slow cooking celery with a lot of onions, garlic, and olives in a very simple tomato paste sauce. The celery, as my daughter remarks, transforms into something tender-crisp, and golden.  If you don’t have olives–as I didn’t the last time–leave them out. If you like anchovies (we do) toss a few in with the onions. You can’t really mess this up.

Braised Celery with (or without Olives)

(very slightly adapted from Lidia Bastianich)

  • olive oil
  • 1-2 onions (more is better), halved, then sliced (not too thin)
  • 1 bunch celery, chopped into 1-2 inch slices, including leaves
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 anchovies (optional)
  • cured black olives (you can get away w/o these, but it’s better with them)
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 2 cups hot water
  1. Sautee onion and garlic in about 1/4 cup olive oil until they begin to soften
  2. Add celery (and anchovy if using) and sautee until it begins to soften and turn golden brown.
  3. Dissolve tomato paste in hot water, and add to the pan along with the olives.
  4. Simmer over low heat until celery is tender but not too soft–about 30 minutes.
  5. Serve warm, as a side, or over pasta with cheese.