Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In the Bread Basket: Zucchini-Parmesan Foccacia

I really love focaccia. It's one of the easier breads to make because it requires very little kneading and bakes quickly. When Justin and I were in Chicago this past winter celebrating our 10th anniversary (of dating, that is), we went to Riccardo's Trattoria. They had the most amazing zucchini focaccia, and I thought I'd recreate it at home with a little more zip added from some lemon and Parmesan.

For the topping:
1/2 zucchini
1 shallot
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil

For the bread:
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast
3-4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil

1. Mix the water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl or measuring cup. Let it sit in a warm area until the yeast has bubbled, about 10 minutes.

2. Mix 1 cup of the flour with the yeast mixture, salt and olive oil. Add in the remaining flour a little bit at a time (either by hand or in a stand mixer) until the flour has absorbed and you can't add any more.

3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes (again, you can just let the stand mixer do the work if you have one). When the dough is soft and supple with the flour fully incorporated, rub it with some olive oil and place it in a bowl. Cover it with a damp dishcloth and let it sit in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in bulk (you can put it in the fridge overnight too).

4. Meanwhile, thinly slice the zucchini and shallot. Marinate them in the juice/zest of half a lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, and some salt and pepper while the bread proofs.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll the dough into a rectangle that fits your baking dish. Cover it again with the dishcloth and let it proof for another 15 minutes.

6. When the dough is ready, give it a little poke every few inches to give it that focaccia-dimpled look. Sprinkle on the zucchini and shallots, then shake some Parmesan on top. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and crunchy.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Shrimp and Cheddar Croquettes

When Justin and I went to Spain, we ate an inhuman amount of croquettes. Fried potato balls with various flavors like ham and cheese, salt cod, and … well, that was it, actually. Both amazing flavors.

I've made salt cod croquettes while back home — which was successful — and ham/cheese croquettes — which was not so successful. This time, I decided to make an Americana version of this Spanish delicacy: Shrimp and cheddar fried mashed potatoes.

They're crunchy, they're cheesy, they're succulent. Everything you'd want out of a fried ball of mashed potatoes, really.

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large russet potato
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp seasoning mix (use your favorite -- I use Soulard Grill mix)
1 lemon, zest and juice

1. Very lightly saute the shrimp in a bit of olive oil. I mean light. Just barely get the outside pink, then take it off the heat. You don't want to cook the shrimp all the way through - it will continue cooking when we fry the croquettes.

See how the center of the shrimp is still translucent? That's what you want.

2. Chop the shrimp roughly.
3. Peel and chop the potato and boil until fork-tender. Run the potato through a ricer in a big bowl to get it nice and smooth.
4. Mix the potato, spices, lemon juice and zest, and potato flakes until thoroughly combined.
5. Toss in the cheese and shrimp.

6. Mix in the egg.

7. Put the mixture in the fridge to firm up for an hour. Then, roll the mixture into little football-shaped croquettes. Lastly, roll the croquettes in some seasoned bread crumbs (no egg wash needed).

8. Pop the croquettes in the freezer/fridge until you're ready to fry.
9. Fry the croquettes for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.

Caution: The delicious babies might burn your mouth when you shamelessly stuff them down your throat.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grandpa's Chili

My grandpa was a down-home, no-frills kind of cook. His style of cooking was simple and cheap with an astonishingly measly amount of vegetables -- he was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I remember the most common snacks at my grandparents' condo was bologna and mustard sandwiches, boiled potatoes with butter, and beef noodles. 

One of the more regular meals he would make me and my cousins was his chili - which in my opinion, is the best chili on the planet. And the best part is, it has only 4 ingredients. The catch is, you have to use the exact brands of these ingredients to make a true Richard Meier chili. 

Usually I'm not so persnickety about ingredients. But sometimes you just can't mess with tradition.

1 lb ground beef, chicken or turkey
1 1-lb can Brook's Chili Beans (It MUST be Brooks)
1 1-lb can crushed tomatoes
1 packet Chili Man chili seasoning

1. Brown the meat in a large pot with a little oil.

2. Pour in the packet of seasoning.

3. Give it a stir. Add in the tomatoes and beans. Let this simmer all together for an hour.

4. Serve with buttered noodles, potatoes, grits, or all on its own. To take it really over the top, serve it on top of macaroni and cheese for a chili-cheese combo.

Thanks again, Grandpa ;)


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