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Shrimp salad is cool, refreshing, perhaps a little well-to-do with its mild connotations of summering in Martha’s Vineyard or Chappaquidick Island. These days, it’s not exactly the kind of food that comes to mind as we brace ourselves against the Polar Vortex. And yet, I enjoy it. It’s tasty and pretty easy to make. You can serve it on a salad or a piece of toast. And for those of us who are busy or otherwise lazy in the kitchen, it requires very little ‘cooking.‘

This dish has a special place in my heart. In 2011, just after my wife and I were married, we flew to Montreal for our honeymoon. The city, though enormous, seemed somehow quaint and personable, a sort of mix of Midwestern friendliness and sophisticated french manners all at once. On our last day there, we happened upon a small restaurant where the guests dine in an enclosed courtyard. It was sunny and warm. Over a glass of a crisp and floral Rosé, we shared a salad of local rock shrimp and sweet lobster on a bed of local greens.IMG_6030

The emotions surrounding that day make the dish that much more legendary. While the food was undoubtedly delicious, it was the company that made the afternoon so graceful and memorable. Perhaps this dish will not evoke the deepest feelings of love and longing, but it will give your taste buds something to flirt with.

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In its most basic incarnation, a shrimp salad will have, well, shrimp, of course, celery, and a slightly citrusy sauce to hold it all together. But there’s much that can be done to dress this dish up. For starters, instead of using store-bought mayonnaise, this version uses a homemade aioli. If you’re not hip to aioli, it’s a rich and creamy emulsification made with an egg yolk, minced garlic, oil, and a bit of lemon juice. 

You can (and should!) add fresh herbs like chopped tarragon and snipped chives. While the salad you see above is creamy, crunchy, and herbaceous, it also has a pleasing citrusy sweetness thanks to wafer-thin slices of meyer lemon. Unlike a conventional lemon, meyer lemons have a much thinner skin, sweeter flesh, and a faint aroma of fresh thyme. Each slice adds an unexpected burst of cleansing citrus.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb bay shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 tbsp good  mayonnaise (or homemade aioli)

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1 meyer lemon, sliced paper-thin

Fresh chives

crushed red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste

Prep

Heat a sautée pan on medium high. Add 1/2 tsp of olive oil. Pour in the shrimp and let cook for about 1 minute or until just firm. Set shrimp aside to cool. Meanwhile, prep your celery and fresh chives by chopping them finely.

When the shrimp have cooled, add them to a medium bowl with the celery, mayonnaise (aioli, if using) and mustard. Mix until just combined, then add the chives and crushed red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the salad over crisp romaine hearts or atop a toasted croissant. Garnish with more chives and the sliced meyer lemon.

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When it comes to loving japanese food, I was something of a late bloomer. In our town, the only ‘asian’ place was sandwiched between a Food Lion and the New Creations Hair Salon. The General Tso’s, about as American as apple pie, was undoubtedly delicious. At the time, sushi was largely a novelty food. But when I finally ventured into the big city to try what everyone was talking about, I was not so beguiled by the raw fish or fermented soy. Instead, it was the technicolor green salad of seaweed that caught my attention and captured my taste buds. 

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Initially, I didn’t dare try to recreate asian food at home. The whole thing seemed in one sense completely alchemical. But in another, it seemed entirely dependent on the quality and availability of certain ingredients. There was no question as to why I wasn’t trying my hand at Tuna Tartare. At the time, there wasn’t a single grocery store within 200 miles of my home that offered a form of tuna that was not stuffed into a cylindrical metal puck, reeking like the ghost of lunch boxes past. And so, japanese food was something I never really experimented with.IMG_5979

Okay. If I’m being completely honest, there was one time when I tried to make homemade sushi for my then girlfriend (now wife). And now that I’m being fully transparent, I’ll tell you that the results were so disastrous that I question why she ever stayed with me. The rice, the component upon which all good sushi is based, was a culinary paradox: both mushy and crispy at the same time. The shrimp, forsaken and left to boil for nearly ten minutes, was so chewy that it seemed unfit for human consumption. The debacle quite literally left a bad taste in my mouth, and thus, I didn’t dare return to making asian food for the next five years that followed.

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While the wounds of that first experience with sushi thwarted any new ventures in exploring asian food, that didn’t stop me from using decidely asian ingredients here and there. Toasted sesame oil found its way into dressings and sauces, chicken was glazed with miso and green scallions, sriracha swaddled everything in its warm embrace. It was something of an accident when I pulled from the fridge two dense chunks of daikon radish and a bunch of green onions. The sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and shoyu were there for the taking. When I sat down to this very simple dish, the result was something very like that day I stepped into a sushi joint and had my first bite of seaweed salad: there was a moment of quiet pause, followed by a smile.

Ingredients:

daikon radish, matchstick slices (about 3 cups)

1/2 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Prep

Slice off the outer layer of the daikon radish until the inner white flesh appears. In order to slice the daikon into matchsticks, I begin by standing the daikon up and making long thin downward slices. I then lay these thin slices flat and cut them into long, impossibly thin sticks.

After preparing the daikon, transfer it to a medium bowl and season it with a pinch of coarse salt. Let this sit for 3-5 minutes to allow the salt to pull some moisture out of the radish. Then, with clean hands, firmly press the daikon and drain any excess moisture. The more dry the radish, the better.

To the radish, add the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil and mix well. Then, add the chopped green onion and the red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

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It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? A little more than two months ago, my profession (as it often does) took over my life in a way that all but caused me to ditch my efforts at food blogging entirely. Deadlines piled up, inboxes filled, parents called me late in the evening to ask how their children could be saved from failing my course. And, as a child’s development is more important than, say, a great recipe for french fries or the perfect two ingredient cocktail, this here food blog was left dormant for too long.

But I’m back, I promise. This thing won’t happen again (at least not to the extent that it did). There might be a dry spell here or there, but I intend to post at least monthly. So, without further ado, let’s talk scones.IMG_5779

Over the holidays, I had the chance to experience once again the charms of rustic living. There, in the sprawling and weathered house built by the sweat and toil of my dear father’s hands, I spent my days and nights. Evenings seemed to fall quickly and without warning, the sun hightailing it to the southern hemisphere. But nursed by a glass of bourbon aged no more than a few miles down the road and entranced by the chattering of the woodstove, we didn’t seem to mind.IMG_5807

On Christmas Day, I roamed the house without a thing to do. Not surprisingly, food was on my mind. My father’s wife, Mary, an amazing cook and food blogger herself, and I were discussing recent food projects when scones came up. With a well-stocked pantry, I figured I would try my hand at this beloved tender/flaky/salty/sweet pastry.IMG_5800

Before I set foot into the kitchen, these scones and the recipe I was devising were “theoretical.” I figured that what I really wanted in a scone was the tender, flaky, buttery crumb of a biscuit with a higher sugar content and some type of fruit. Blueberries and lemon, always a satisfying combination, were both on hand. And thus, this recipe was born.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups ap flour

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon fine salt

1 tbsp baking powder

8 tbsps butter, cubed and well-chilled

1 1/8 cup heavy cream, well-chilled

zest of one lemon

1/2 cup blueberries, frozen

Prep

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cube the butter into 1/4 inch pieces and let cool in the freezer for 15 minutes. Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture, until the bits of butter are about the size of lentils. Mix in the lemon zest. Add the heavy cream a little at a time and mix with a spoon. The dough should be shaggy and will just come together.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it together with a rolling pin or your hands. You want it to be about half an inch thick. At this point, you want to scatter the frozen berries on top of the dough. Mix the berries into the dough by folding the dough onto itself once or twice. This will be a very messy process, so don’t get all angry about it. Take care not to apply too much pressure to the berries, as they will be smashed.

Shape the dough into a 5” by 10” inch rectangle. Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut the dough into triangles. If you are worried about the scones holding together, you can cut them into a sturdy rectangle.

Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dust with a fine layer of sugar and place in the oven. Let them bake anywhere from 13-17 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown.

IMG_5232Raw meat!!! Aaaahhhh!!! Run fast for your lives!!! Consuming raw or uncooked meats may increase your risk of foodborne illness!!!

And yet, here I sit, having eaten the great majority of the portion I made, alive and well. If you don’t feel that there is any chance of convincing you, well then, I’m sorry for you.

I had my first “tartare” experience in the spring of 2011 on a trip to Aix-en-Provence. In the following week, my blood iron level soared (I’m sure). I sampled various renditions at a handful of brasseries in and around the south of France. I felt full of vitality, full of joy, but mostly full of beef. 

I had never considered making steak tartare at home; I figured it better to leave it to the experts. But when I purchased Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook and saw a recipe for it, I knew it was time. The proportions in this recipe are more of an estimate or a friendly suggestion. It’s by no means an exact science, as every brasserie/bistro puts their own spin on steak tartare

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From Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 egg yolks

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 tsp ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Tabasco sauce

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 small onion, freshly and finely chopped

2 ounces capers, rinsed

2 ounces cornichons, finely chopped

4 sprigs of flat leaf parsley

1 1/4lb fresh sirloin, finely chopped (get this from a decent butcher, not Wal-Mart)

Place the egg yolks in a large stainless-steel bowl and add the mustard and anchovies. Mix well, then add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and pepper and mix well again. Slowly whisk in the oil and mix once more. Fold in the onion, capers, cornichons, and parsley. Add the chopped meat to the bowl and mix well.

Serve with sliced and toasted baguette, French fries, and a cold lager.