Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

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By Alaina Sullivan

There’s no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Po’ Boy (a beer-battered one at that.) Not only does beer give the shrimp great flavor, but it is scientifically proven to make superior batter. As soon as the beer-battered shrimp hit the pan, CO2 bubbles begin to dance and foam up around the shrimp. A panko dredging assists the process, and, as a result, the shrimp are left trapped in a flavorful and lacy-light crust. Pile them high on bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, and you’ll have a happy Fat Tuesday indeed. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

Heat oil for frying. In a bowl, mix together one can of beer; one and one-half cups cornmeal (or panko) and pinches of salt, pepper; and paprika. Dip shrimp into batter and fry in batches until golden, about three minutes (flip once). Serve on split crusty Italian or French loaves with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise; lemon juice and hot sauce are also great here.

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Seared Scallops with Romaine

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By Alaina Sullivan

When it comes to preparing scallops, less is often more: Salt, pepper and a quick butter sear is all it takes. Allow each side to caramelize for just a few minutes in a hot skillet – any longer and you run the risk of the scallops turning rubbery. Simple garnishes — a kiss of lemon juice and fresh parsley — add the perfect amount of brightness without overpowering the mild flavor of the scallops. Greens make a reliable companion, too. Here, the fresh crunch of romaine brings balance to the scallops’ soft flesh. Grilling the romaine adds even more character to the dish – its smoky flavor is an excellent foil to the sweet, buttery scallops. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Seared Scallops with Romaine*

Season scallops with salt and pepper; then sear the scallops for a few minutes in butter, turning once, until just browned on both sides. Drizzle a bunch of romaine lettuce with some olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the scallops with a bit more freshly squeezed lemon juice (some zest is nice here too) and some chopped parsley, and serve over the dressed lettuce with the pan juices.

*For grilled romaine: Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the core intact,brush with the olive oil and some minced garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut-side down until the lettuce begins to brown and get some grill marks, but remains crisp – 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let it cool, and dress with the freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

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By Alaina Sullivan

Lima beans are notoriously unloved, but they’re starchy, buttery, and delicious. In this stew, half of the beans are pureed into a luxuriously creamy base, while the other half (left whole) are suspended in the thick broth. For some freshness, arugula is stirred in at the end, wilting as it folds into the broth. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Lima Bean Stew with Arugula

Cook a package of frozen lima beans in a cup of water with some salt, butter, and minced garlic. When the beans are tender, puree half of them with most of the cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth; add some cream, half-and-half, or broth to thin. Return the pureed bean mixture to the pan with the whole beans and season with salt and pepper.* Add a bunch of tender greens and continue cooking until the greens are wilted. Add more liquid if necessary and serve, with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil and crusty bread.

 *Alternatively, I presoaked 1 lb of dried lima beans and added half of them to a pot of chopped yellow onion and minced garlic (sautéing in olive oil). For the liquid I added 1 cup of water and 2 cups vegetable stock, seasoning the soup with 2 Tbsp fresh thyme and 2 sprigs rosemary. When the beans were tender I pureed the entire mixture with a hand blender and then folded in the reserved whole beans; adding splashes of stock as needed.

Leek, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

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By Alaina Sullivan

The frittata is an egg dish long-championed for its versatility and quick-to-fix prowess. Essentially scrambled eggs poured over a cast of fixings (think vegetables, meat, cheese), a frittata is an easy and complete meal—and a great way to use forlorn veggies in the back of your fridge. Unlike an omelet, it doesn’t require the dexterity of folding the mixture onto itself – it is content to lay flat and slowly immobilize its fillings (here, leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and an impromptu scattering of pumpkin seeds) as the eggs set around them. Transferring the skillet from stovetop to broiler in the final minutes of cooking creates a unique, puffy egg dish with a deliciously browned top. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

 

Leek, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

Cook the chopped white of two leeks with a handful of dried tomatoes (about 1 cup) in two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil); until softened; do not brown. Whisk together four eggs and some salt and pepper (and a splash of milk if you like) and pour over the leeks. Sprinkle with a handful of crumbled goat cheese (about 2-3 oz). Cover the pan and continue cooking until the eggs are set. Remove the pan from the heat, and put it under the broiler to brown for a minute before serving.

 

Sesame Shrimp Toasts

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By Alaina Sullivan

Departing slightly from the traditional dim sum version, this shrimp toast is made up of thick shrimp paste baked (not fried) on top of crusty bread. Scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil provide the classic Chinese flavors (I added some garlic and ginger for good measure.) Sesame seeds, scattered over the top, toast in the hot oven until fragrant and crunchy.

The moisture from the shrimp paste will inevitably leech into the bread as it cooks, so it is important that you pre-toast the bread initially to avoid an overly soggy middle. However, part of the magic of the dish is how some of the juices seep through, forming a delicious glue that fuses the shrimp and the toast into one perfect bite. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.  

Sesame Shrimp Toasts

Heat the oven to 475 degrees F. Slice a baguette in half lengthwise, put the halves face up on a baking sheet, and set them in the oven while it heats. Put shrimp (about 20) in a food processor with some butter, scallions, soy sauce (about 2 tsp), a few drops of sesame oil (about 1/2 tsp), and a pinch each of sugar and salt. Pulse until the mixture forms a chunky paste. Smear the shrimp past all over the bread and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until the shrimp paste is pink and cooked through and the bread is crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Cool a bit, then cut up and serve with a salad.

 

Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

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By Alaina Sullivan

Broiling Brussels sprouts evades the risk of turning them mushy by quickly rendering the sprouts crisp and charred. Simply dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper, it takes less than five minutes under the intense direct heat for the sprouts’ edges to crisp up (keep a close eye so they don’t burn). The high heat heightens the spicy-pungent flavor of the sprouts and makes for caramelized leaves that are slightly sweet. 

Brussels sprouts have an inherent nutty quality as well, which makes chopped nuts a natural pairing. Hazelnuts work beautifully (in this batch I used walnuts). If you fancy a meaty component, fry some type of fatty pork – bacon, chorizo, pancetta, prosciutto – chop it up and toss with the nuts and sprouts in the final minutes of broiling. You’ll get an intensely savory melding of flavors, at once nutty, meaty, smoky and brightened at the very end with fresh lemon juice and parsley. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

Heat the broiler. Trim about a pound of Brussels sprouts and pulse in a food processor—or use a knife—to chop them up a bit. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss. Broil the sprouts for about five minutes, until browning on the edges. Meanwhile pulse a handful of hazelnuts (or chop them). Shake the pan to flip the sprouts, add the nuts and broil for another three minutes. Sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and plenty of fresh parsley.

 

Pumpkin Crème Brûlee

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By Alaina Sullivan

All it really takes is some mascarpone and a quick whisk to transform pumpkin puree into a rich crème brûlee. Brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and allspice are folded into the smooth mixture, giving it a flavor somewhere in between grandma’s brown sugar sweet potatoes and crustless pumpkin pie.

Dividing the mixture into small ramekins is recommended (this stuff is rich!); then sprinkle each with a thick layer of brown sugar. After a few minutes under the broiler the tops emerge bubbling, with that delicious scent of burnt sugar. If you wait a few minutes, the surface will harden slightly, allowing for the best part of crème brûlee: cracking the crust. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlee

Turn on the broiler and put the rack about four inches from the heat. With an electrix mixer or whisk, beat together a small can of pumpkin, eight ounces mascarpone, and a quarter cup of brown sugar; add a half teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger and a pinch each of allspice and salt. Spread evenly into an ovenproof baking dish or ramekins and sprinkle the top with a thick layer of brown sugar. Broil for a few minutes, until the sugar melts, forming a crust. Serve immediately.