Grilled Shrimp on a Stick with Mango and Avocado

This delightful recipe is brought to you by Cooking Light and probably the grill company Weber. I’m basing this on the fact there’s an ad for it right next to the recipe. I do recommend having a grill if you want to make this, but it can be done without.

I have proof. There are pictures. They are at the end. You have to read to the end. If you ignore me and scroll down a demon troll will steal your breath while you sleep.

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The real cause of sleep apnea!

What you’ll need.

  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated carrot
  • 1 tablespoon of thinly sliced serrano chile
  • 36 large shrimp (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 ripe unpeeled avocados, halved
  • 2 peeled mangoes, each cut into 6 wedges
  • 12 lime wedges
  • 6 large Bibb lettuce leaves
  • Cilantro (optional)

The fist step is making your marinating sauce. To do so, combine the first five ingredients in a bowl. Take out about 3/4 a cup of this mixture for a later use and add the carrot and chili into the remaining mixture.

Now we will prepare our shrimp. You can buy unpeeled shrimp or you can be lazy and get pre-cooked and peeled shrimp. I was lazy and got frozen peeled shrimp from Trader Joes and I regret nothing!

If you get unpeeled shrimp, after you peel you’ll want to butterfly the shrimp by cutting the backside of the shrimp so that it will flare out when cooked. Be careful when cutting. The goal isn’t to cut all the way through, but to let it air out so to speak. It’s like when you cook something in a pot and maybe you have the lid on, but you prop it up a little so it doesn’t overcook.

That’s the best way I can describe it in cooking terms.

The other term would be it’s like when you are a troll and are trying to steal little Drew Barrymore’s breath while she sleeps.  You don’t want to steal all of her breath, because than you’ll run out of oxygen supply. Just take a little and try to avoid that cat. He’s got his eye on you afterall.

Once these steps are complete, you’ll marinate the shrimp in the 3/4 cup juice mix for an hour in the fridge.

When the hour is up, remove the shrimp from the sauce but don’t throw the sauce out! That sauce is not ready to quit you just yet.

Prepare the grill for medium-high heat while you cook the sauce that won’t quit in a pan. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes.

You should now be ready to grill your shrimp! Do so by placing as many as you like on your skewers. The cookbook said three for a 12inch if you need rules, but I chose to ignore that.

Grill the shrimp for 2 1/2 minutes on each side. While they grill, bast frequently with the sauce that won’t quit, which will finally make it quit by the way.

You are now ready to grill the avocado and mango. The first step in doing so is to cut 3 avocado halves in half. Take one half for grilling and for the other, dice into cubes.

Before you know it, the sauce that won’t quit rises from the ashes and begs you to brush it all over your avocado and mango wedges. Comply and than grill with limes wedges for 2 minutes on each side.

We are now almost to the end! The end consists of placing one lettuce leaf on each serving plate. On top of the lettuce, place two mango slices, 2 lime wedges, one avocado wedge, and two skewers. Garnish with the diced avocado and cilantro.

The final step is to serve with the carrot sauce from the beginning and enjoy!

I was pleased with this recipe. I would make it again if I owned a grill. It’s too messy, hot, and frustrating to try to do in an oven.

The sauce is a refreshing crisp and citrus flavor. The avocado and mangoes are delicious and pair well with the shrimp.

I could just eat the diced avocado on it’s own though.

I recommend trying this in the summertime with a nice glass of white wine or if you are classy like I am, a lemon shandy. What is grilling without some kind of beer beverage anyway?

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Oyster Stew

This oyster stew comes from French Farmhouse Cookbook. If you’re a dumb American like me, you’re probably thinking it’s like a beef stew or like clam chowder only with oysters. It’s not. It’s simple in a bare minimum kind of way.

All it consists of is oysters in a crème fraîche and egg yolk mix.

This cookbook throws in some interesting history that is quite complicated unlike the stew.

For the history lesson, the author focuses on the region known as Brittany. The history of Brittany consists of a lot of unfortunate conquering starting with the Romans. The author notes that locals find roman artifacts from time to time. One artifact proved that the Romans enjoyed the oysters of Brittany just as much as modern people do.

When the Roman empire died out, the British moved in. In fact that’s why it’s called Brittany. Little Britain was used as a meeting grounds in the decades and decades of fighting between France and Britain. It’s funny that in present day we think of Britain and France as being weak compared to the US and Russia, but back in the day Britain and France were the equivalent of that comparison.

Their bitter rivalry is partly how the United States won the Revolutionary War.France and Britain were the most formidable armies at the time. Both wanted to conquer North America and Britain had just won some colonies in Canada. So when France caught wind that the U.S. was unhappy and wanted independence they were more than glad to help. They did so at first, by supplying the U.S. weapons underhand. Once the U.S. gained some ground, than France joined the fight openly.

This history was not mentioned in the cookbook, but I wanted to mention it because I’m an American and it fascinates me how power dynamics can change. It’s kind of comforting to me that every nation could have it’s due, so to speak. I wish that we could learn from other countries mistakes, though. The infinite pissing contest of who  gets the power is exhausting and futile in the end.

As far as the history of oysters go, Brittany has had some hard times in that area as well. The author spoke to an Oyster fisherman, who told her about how one year many of the oysters became diseased and the farmers of Brittany had to turn to Japan for help. It worked, but the supply of oysters changed. The main staple of Brittany oysters are now a French-Japanese variety.

Then she speaks of a farmer who grows his oysters on an estuary in Breton. These oysters are highly valued, due to the difficulty to raise them without becoming diseased. There is a lot of meticulous factors that I find difficult to explain in regards to cultivating the right food, temperature, and more when growing oysters.

I had no idea oyster farming was so difficult. Thankfully this recipe isn’t.

Here’s what you need

  • 3/4 of oyster liquor
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cups of crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 24 medium oysters, shucked
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Before you begin, I should note that I ended up going to a Korean grocery store and was able to find bottled oysters. This makes the shucking and liquor process a million times easier.

Whichever way you get your oysters the first step in making this stew is to cook the liquor and water in a saucepan over medium heat. You’ll want to bring this into a simmer and then whisk in the eggs and the  crème fraîche. I used heavy whipping cream but I do recommend using crème fraîche if you can. It’s delicious.

As you whisk everything together, reduce the heat to medium-low. Whisk away some more until it thickens. This can take about 4 minutes.

The next step is to add the oysters. Stir them until their mantles furl a little. The mantles are the outer edges of the oyster. This process should take 2-3 minutes.

Once those oysters are cooked, you are ready to serve! Do so by placing them in a shallow bowl and sprinkling the chives on top.

I thought mine turned out well. I would have loved to have tried it with crème fraîche though. I’m still not into oysters either. I think they might be too juicy for me. I love mussels and I feel like mussels are similar. Mussels are also smaller so maybe that’s why? I’m not sure, but as I’ve said with other recipes, if you like this kind of thing then you’ll probably like the recipe.

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Despite the fact that I used whipping cream, this was still quite fresh.

They say Tortalacchi, You say Tortellini, I say Italian Sombreros

My latest recipe comes from my hometown’s cookbook, Little Italy Festival Town and is from an Italian lady named Antonia Tomei.

I sent out a facebook blast last time I wrote about these recipes, but the only person who responded was one girl and all she did was like my post and share it. I appreciated that, but I was hoping someone would have something to say because I enjoy history and getting to know tidbits about people.

I didn’t ask anyone this time around.

I thought about asking my mother again, but I feel like she doesn’t know most of these ladies either. I think her friend’s mother has a recipe in here and I will be asking my mom about her for sure. So don’t fret!

I know nothing about Mrs. Tomei and I had never heard of tortalacchi before. I know all about tortallini, but what is tortalacchi? I found some info from the Italian chain Maggiano’s though. If you are too lazy to read it, one factoid I’ll tell you is that Tortalacchi is a Roman dish.

Half of my Italian heritage is from a town about an hour and a half south of Rome. So I pretty much consider my Italian heritage half Roman and half Sicilian.

It shocked me that this being a Roman dish, was one I hadn’t heard of. Then I realized that tortalacchi is just a giant version of tortellini.  Tortellini soup was my chicken soup when I was sick as a kid.

I’m sure none of you guys care, but it made me feel better about my Italian heritage to figure this out.

Let’s move on to the recipe.

What you’ll need for the filling

  • 1 can of spinach, 15 oz
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of grated cheese
  • 2 cups of cracker crumbs
  • 1 pt. milk

For the dough:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 4 eggs

Your first step is to make the filling and to do so you will beat two eggs in a sauce pan and then add a little bit of cheese and crackers. Let me give you a tip about the crackers. I recommend putting them in a plastic ziplock bag and then go to town on them. This can be achieved by punching it, throwing it around your home, or even sitting on it. The possibilities are endless and it can be a cathartic experience.

When these items are mixed, you will gradually add in the milk until it starts to thicken up like cottage cheese. I forgot to mention that you’ll want the stove to be under a low setting while doing this. The next step is to add the spinach and more cheese and crackers until the filling is is thick enough to not water down your dough.

Speaking of the dough, that will be the next step! For the dough, you beat four eggs and then gradually add the flour and some water. Dough moistness has to be in the middle somewhere which is why you need to be careful about the water. It can’t be too dry or too wet. In other words, you want it to be a little damp.

Once the dough is mixed, roll it out until it is thick as a dime and then cut into 2 1/2 inch strips. Place filling one inch apart on the strip and then take a bare strip and place it on top. Cut those into squares and then fold two ends together to make a hat.

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I took some liberty on the whole “hat” thing

Once you’ve made all of your Italian sombreros, you will allow them to dry for two hours. The cookbook says to also place them on a wooden board. I’m not sure if that is necessary, but I wouldn’t question an old Italian lady. They are kind of scary and might hex you.

When the two hours are up, you treat your homemade tortalacchis like any other pasta by boiling them in boiling water.  Hopefully you know the drill on that.

Now you have some options as far as serving your sombreros. You can do what I did and pour those puppies with some marinara sauce or you can butter them up with melted butter and parm.

I love red sauces but this would be good with a butter sauce as well. So it’s really up to your personal preference. You could also get fancy and make a butternut sauce of some sort.

My experience was good except I had a whole lot of leftover filling. I ended up eating it as a spinach dip and it wasn’t too bad. If you do that though, you might as well add the dreaded artichokes to it and/or the appropriate cheese for such dip.

I did not add anything to it, but it was still good. Cream cheese and mozzarella probably would have made it better.

As far as the cooking process goes, this recipe was somewhat difficult and grueling. The filling is easy, it’s making the tortalacchi that can be time consuming and tiring.

Despite this, it is a rewarding experience and I recommend trying it for fun.

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Tortalacchi!

My Cinematic Valentine

Valentine’s Day. Whoohoo, right?

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. This year I’m single, but even when I’m not single I’m not a fan of this day. I feel it is a holiday glorified by corporate America to get us to consume, buy, marry and reproduce.

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I refuse to submit!

Some people might think it’s odd I have a disdain for this day, because I’m a romantic. Albeit a bitter one, but a romantic nevertheless. I guess I find it to be a day of false affection and that’s offensive to my romantic sensibilities.

Despite my bitterness about this holiday, I’m not too bitter this year because this year is Pris from Blade Runner’s incept date!

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No man will ever surpass my love of Blade Runner. I love this movie and have been in love with it my whole life.

One of my earliest memories as a child was when my father bought surround sound speakers. We watched two movies that night. Top Gun and Blade Runner. I remember sitting on the living room floor and feeling the floor shake and my body jolt because the opening shot of Blade Runner is a BOOM followed by credits. This wonderful feeling of excitement and anticipation increased when the screen shifts to an opening shot of an alternate Los Angeles and again Bum Bah Bah! The music soars, these pipes are blasting out fire, and then I see a closeup of Harrison Ford’s eye. It was love at first sight for me.

After that initial viewing, I asked my mom so many questions about it. What’s with those pipe things? Why are there so many fake animals? Why did you close my eyes during that one part? What happened during that? Why did they hurt that eye guy? He seemed nice. Can you play the Blade Runner soundtrack again Mom?

Then there’s the somewhat narcissistic question. Did you name me after Rachael Mom?

The answer was yes. I’ll admit that this is part of the reason I love the movie. When I watch it, I can’t help but get this image of my mother sitting on our couch pregnant as my father puts in a VHS copy of Blade Runner. I see them sitting next to each other, holding hands. When Rachael is introduced, I see my mother turning to my father and saying. “Rachael, that’s a pretty name, maybe we should name our baby Rachel if it’s a girl.”

My Dad smiles and says, “Yes that is a pretty name. I think we should.”

And so they did. They spelled it differently, but they still named me Rachel.

When my mother first visited me in LA the first thing I wanted to do was see The Bradbury. I still haven’t topped my level of getting geeked out as I did that day. My mother was calmly admiring the place and I was like. “Oh my god Mom! Oh my god! This is amazing! Look at the ceiling! Oh my god, that elevator! Can we go up to the top? Can we use the elevator? We can’t! Man! I want to go up to the top! Do these people know how lucky they are to work here?! I’m so jealous of them! I gotta get rich and famous so I can buy a loft at the top. It’s gotta happen Mom.”

I watched Blade Runner in a theater recently. No matter how often I’ve seen this film I still have the same feelings I had as a child when I see it. I can feel my heart soar and burst with love. I know it’s odd. I just love this movie.

I mean I almost cried during the opening shots this time around too. I had to cover my face similar to my profile picture on here because I was surrounded by strangers and didn’t want to freak anyone out with my level of geekdom and passion.

So here’s to you Blade Runner! When I’m down, out, and lonely I’ll always have you. You are the love of my life and I’m ok with it.

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Dolmas Dolmados of the Grapes

Dolmas are not something I’m too keen of. They look like a green version of a cat puke hairball to me. I know they aren’t hairy and fuzzy, it’s the shape that makes me feel that way.

As I’ve said many a time, I have problems and that’s my best explanation of how my mind works.

Before writing this entry, I admittedly thought dolmas were a Greek dish, but they actually originate from Turkey. I can’t help but wonder if that’s kind of awkward for Turks to know that most people associate dolmas as a Greek dish given all their past conflict or is it revenge for the Greeks to take on the dolmas of the world? These are deep questions that I’d like to discuss.

We will have to put that discussion on hold though because now we need to focus on how the people of Tastes of Monroe County make their dolmas.

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups of basmati rice
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dried dill weed
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of currants
  • 1 8oz jar of grape leaves,
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of bay leaves
  • 1 whole lime

The first step is to cook your rice. I prefer the rice cooker method, but if you don’t have one just follow the instructions in your packaging. Whatever method you use, you’ll want the rice to cool so don’t leave it on the burner.

As your rice cooks and cools, you will saute the onion in some olive oil until the onion softens. Once softened add the dill, cardamom, nutmeg, salt and currants. Provided that your rice has cooled, mix this mixture with your rice.

I suppose  you could do it before the rice cools though. It’s not going to affect your dolma rolling.

Now get out your grape leaves.

I have to mention that I had trouble finding grape leaves that weren’t already stuffed. In LA, I found them at Gelson’s and I think I spotted some at Trader Joe’s after the fact, but I’m not sure. I often find an ingredient I was searching for at Trader Joe’s after the fact. This tells me that I should always ask first, just in case.

Anyway, you must drain and rinse your leaves before you start filling them up. Hygiene is important even in the vegetable world. To fill, you just pile a fair heap of rice mixture on your grape leaf and then roll it into a pouch.

Once that’s done, you prepare the dolmas for baking by placing them in an oiled dish with slices of lemon and bay leaves on top.

Then, for dressing, you will squeeze your lime into a cup and add an equal amount of olive oil. In other words, if you squeezed half a cup of lime juice, then you will add half a cup of olive oil.

This mixture will be poured on top of the dolmas and then they will be baked for 45 minutes at 350.

When the time is up, all you have to do next is chill. I’m talking about the dolmas, but you can chill while they are cooking and after too.

The final result wasn’t bad. I liked it ok, which I feel is saying a lot, because I don’t like dolmas. I discovered that my problem with dolmas is the grape leaves. I think grape leaves are gross. An ex of mine would say they are trash. I admittedly like that term so I’m stealing it. Grape leaves are trash leaves when it comes to eating them.

The jar of leaves I got was huge so I tried to cook my leftovers as a side dish. I used a similar recipe to collared greens, which is something I do like but you can’t always make trash pretty. I tried. I really did. I stuffed down a few bites, but it made me gag so I put that trash in the trash.

Life is too short to eat something you don’t like. If you do like dolmas, though, I think this is a solid recipe to try out. If not, hopefully this was entertaining because otherwise I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. Tell me I’m pretty and funny!!!

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2 little dolmas sitting on a dish, hanging out, being eaten and stuff

 

 

 

Maple Ginger Pumpkin Pie

Life has been way too busy. The only reason I have time to write this right now is because I felt sick to my stomach and decided to stay home. I usually have acting class on Wednesday nights.

Naturally the best way to cure an upset stomach is to stay home and write about food right?

I’m exhausted. I’ve been working another 9-5 temp gig and I’ve had to be somewhere right after work for the last week and a half. Most of those events were auditions. In fact,I had to go to Culver City for an audition today. For those of you who are not familiar, Culver City is on the west side and I work/live close to downtown. This means an hour long drive to go only ten miles. Having a chance to audition is worth it, but I need a break from driving and being to places on time.

Why couldn’t I have a slew of auditions when I was in-between temp jobs and doing nothing? I’m getting tired of your games universe! Can we dial it back to easy mode now?

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Hurt me plenty seems to be the setting I have for relationships too

Thankfully Maple Ginger Pumpkin Pie has a setting of “Hey, not too rough.”

In other words it’s easy to make.

The recipe is from Week Night Menus and I actually made it for Thanksgiving. I waited this long to write about it because I have an OCD setting level of “Hey, not too rough”. My OCD level is ok with making the recipe out of my constructed order, but only if I keep the writing order in tact.

I have problems. That’s my best explanation.

A specific crust recipe is included in this pie recipe, but it isn’t necessary to make. Grocery stores carry frozen crusts that you can add to, but I do feel it’s worth making this crust and as long as you don’t get all Martha Stewart about it, it’s not too difficult.

I have a couple of aunts that make perfect looking crust. They’ll admit it took some time to perfect, so don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle.

What you’ll need for the crust

  • 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of hazelnut meal or ground nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons of softened butter
  • 6 tablespoons of cold orange juice or water
  • Super secret bonus option of 1 tablespoon of date sugar

For the Filing

  • 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup of molasses
  • 1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of evaporated fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of finely grated and peeled gingerroot

The first step is to whip out your food processor and pulse the flour, nut meal, spices, and butter. The consistency should be a little crumbly. Pour that mixture into a bowl and slowly add the OJ in.

This process will form your dough and when you mix and pound that dough into a nice shape you will then spread it onto a 9 inch pie pan. Be sure to spray PAM on your pan first. PAM. On. Your. Pan. I like it.

Once you spread your dough on your PAM pan the recipe says, “if desired, sprinkle with date sugar”. You will desire it, so I recommend you just do it. Why deny yourself of your date passions?

Bake your crust sprinkled with or without desire at 325 for 8 to 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, go ahead and make the filing by combining all the ingredients except the flour and gingeroot in a bowl. Mix this mixture until it blends evenly and then add your remaining two ingredients.

Your filling is now ready to be added to your crust. Marry those two together and send them off on their hot 375 degree honeymoon for 55-60 minutes.

Once time is up all you’ve got to do next is cool the happy couple off until they are ready to be served.

I was pleased with my final result. This was the second pie I ever made and the first time I ever made pie crust. It wasn’t a perfect pie, but it was appetizing. The best way I can describe the taste, is that it is just like Pumpkin pie with an added kick of ginger.

Admittedly the ginger could be a bit overpowering. I’d dial that back a little next time, but the maple flavor was delicious. My crust came out a little crumbly too, which I’m not sure was supposed to happen. It’s not your typical crust recipe and it reminded me of the crust for cheesecake. Whether it’s supposed to be crumbly or not, it tasted delectable and that’s what matters most for me.

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The Pie