Lobster Paella

Wedding season is glorious.

I love getting dressed up.  I love drinking champagne.  I love rocking out way too hard on the dance floor with the Husband.  I love the many, multiple reasons to come home to Boston and see my friends.

And I love going to bridal showers hosted by my mom.

A little over a year ago, my mom called me in a panic.  She’d offered to do the bridal shower for her BFF’s daughter, but now she didn’t know what that actually entailed.  Food? Decor? Drinks? She was supposed to figure out GAMES!?!  She asked me if it’d be appropriate to call in sick, citing European-ness.  (According to my mom the German, Europeans just don’t DO showers.)  She made her delicious Beef Bourgouignon, and needless to say, the shower was amazing.

Last night, my mom hosted a shower for another friend’s daughter.  As we cleaned up the kitchen, she turned to me and said, “this is just the most wonderful tradition.”

Agreed, Mom.  Made all the more wonderful by this lobster paella.  That’s right.  Lobster paella.

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Lobster Paella (Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 chopped yellow onions
  • 2-3 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper (about a teaspoon each)
  • 1/3 cup Pernod or Ouzo
  • 1.5-2 pounds cooked lobster meat
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 pound kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • for serving: parsley, lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in large, ovenproof Dutch oven.  Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add bell peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Lower heat, add minced garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in rice, chicken stock, saffron, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover pot and place it in the oven.
  3. Cook in the oven for about 12 minutes, remove, stir rice gently, and return to the oven to bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes (or until rice is fully cooked).
  4. Remove from oven and transfer back to the stove top.  Add Ouzo or Pernod and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the heat; add lobster, shrimp, kielbasa, and peas.  Cover and allow to steam through, about 10 minutes, so all of the protein heats through.  Sprinkle with lemon and/or parsley and serve hot.

IMG_3379[1]The Verdict:

That was one happy bride-to-be.  And for an extra bonus round, we sent guests home with peppermint patties from Chequessett Chocolate and felt mighty pleased with ourselves.  (We kept the leftovers for us!)

The Only Pasta Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need.

I neglected to write a “planning” post this week – whoops!  I actually DID plan out our meals, too…though with only a couple of nights of cooking needed (we are headed to MIAMI! this weekend), I took a bit of the easy way out.  We did a lot of recycling and reusing chez nous, and we’re still dining on leftovers.  For example, this pasta salad, which I made to bring to a friend’s impromptu BBQ on Sunday evening (another reason to love spring: impromptu BBQs).

This “recipe” is an absolute go-to.  I remember making it for the first time with my mom probably ten years ago, and it’s become a staple at the yearly beachside bonfire we host with a bunch of family friends.  Of course, the first time she made this, my mom was just using up vegetables she had in her fridge – I don’t get my propensity to throw things together and call it dinner from nowhere, you see.  There are, however, two secrets to elevating this from grocery store pasta salad to the kind of pasta salad to end all other pasta salads.  See if you can spot them.

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The World’s (well, in my humble opinion, anyway) Best Pasta Salad

  • 1 box curly pasta – my favorite is Cavatappi
  • 1/2 jar sundried tomatoes, in oil – coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced (orange adds a nice pop of color!)
  • 1 can corn, drained, or ideally, 2-3 stalks of fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 small container cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • one bunch green onions, chopped
  • handful of spinach
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • a goodly amount of Parmesan cheese
  • fresh herbs: cilantro provides a gorgeous zing, but parsley and/or basil also good options
  • dressing:
    • a good squeeze of anchovy paste (*leave out if making a totally vegetarian version*)
    • salt, pepper, crushed reds
    • balsamic vinegar
    • olive oil
  1. Boil water for pasta; while you’re waiting, prepare/wash/chop all of your veggies, and place in a LARGE bowl, EXCEPT for your sundried tomatoes.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.  While the pasta is still warm, toss with the veggies – and then add your sundried tomatoes and a bit of the oil it comes in.  Give it a thorough toss.
  3. Whisk together your dressing and add to your pasta.  Finish off your salad with Parmesan and a generous dose of herbs.  Serve warm or chilled – it won’t last long either way.

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The Verdict:

This one’s a go-to for good reason.  I made an extra large batch on Sunday, taking most of it to the BBQ and leaving a bit behind for me and the Husband.  By Monday evening, I had (very generously) left him two (full!) strands of Cavatappi.  I am such a great partner, sometimes.

PS: You can obviously add olives to add brininess, and whatever else your little heart desires.  I have and enforce a strict no-olive policy chez nous.

Vegetable & Soba Noodle Salad

It is officially spring in Washington, DC: my Instragram feed is full of cherry blossoms and the car is dusted with pollen.  Life is good again (as long as the tourists stick to the right side of the Metro escalator.  Seriously, ok? Right. Side.).

Spring means more happy-looking vegetables, even at our local Safeway.  It also means that fresh, quick & easy is the best way to do dinner.

This “recipe” comes courtesy of my sister, and before that, one of her friends.  Really, though, there’s no plan to follow here – just use the vegetables in your refrigerator.  Although as my sister wisely said to me, “I know you wouldn’t do this, but obviously don’t skimp on the avocado.”  OBVIOUSLY NOT.

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Soba Noodle Salad

  • 1 package soba or buckwheat noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 head purple or green cabbage, shredded
  • handful sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • a big handful cilantro, chopped
  • other optional toppings: feta cheese, shredded/cooked chicken, pan fried tofu, peanuts
  • dressing:
    • 1 part olive oil
    • 1 part rice vinegar
    • 1 part soy sauce
    • 1/2 part toasted sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon or so honey, plus more as needed
    • juice from 1/2 lime
    • healthy dose sriracha
    • freshly grated ginger
    • s&p to taste
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook soba noodles until just before al dente, about 5-6 minutes.  Rinse immediately with cold water.
  2. Combine all of your chopped veggies (from bell pepper through cabbage) in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk your dressing together; continually taste and adjust to your liking.
  3. Add noodles to veggies; top with sesame seeds & dressing.  Give the bowl a thorough mix with tongs and add avocado and cilantro.  Serve warm or cold.

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The Verdict:

Husband hasn’t passed the verdict yet, so you can be the judge…d’accord?

Very Veggie Not-Quite-Tart

Last week, I had epic plans to make Ottolenghi’s Very Full Tart.

Which I did, sort of.  There were (obviously, because why can’t I just follow a recipe, why why why) some tweaks.  (I guess because when recipes call for things like zucchini, which I hate, you know there have to be some adjustments…& one adjustment, leads to another, and another…)

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if only i could follow directions…

Very Veggie Not-Quite-Tart

  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 smallish eggplant, diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (or 2 medium onions)
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • leaves from about 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/3 cup ricotta (full fat works best)
  • about 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • a handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 eggs
  • about a cup heavy cream or milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper, place in ovenproof dish, drizzle a bit of olive oil over it and stick in the oven.
  2. Toss the diced eggplant with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of crushed reds on a large baking dish; stick in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potato to the eggplant pan and roast another 20 minutes.  In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil and saute the onions with bay leaves and a pinch of salt for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove all the vegetables (including the pepper) from the oven.  Reduce the temperature to about 325 degrees F.  Cover the pepper with foil and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, peel and chop into smaller slices.
  5. Grease the bottom of a pie or tart pan.  Spread out the panko bread crumbs on the bottom and halfway up the sides.
  6. Scatter the onion over the panko, cover with roasted vegetables (eggplant, sweet potato, bell pepper), and top with about half the thyme leaves.  Dot the veggies with both types of cheeses.  Scatter the halved tomatoes about the top.
  7. Whisk the eggs and cream in a small bowl with salt, pepper and some crushed red peppers.  Carefully pour the mix over the veggies and top with the remaining thyme leaves.
  8. Bake the tart for about 40 minutes or until the filling sets.  Admire your handiwork and serve with a small salad, (topped with any roasted vegetables that didn’t fit into your tart).
layers of veggie flavor
layers of veggie flavor

The Verdict:

This came out deliciously, and was great for a number of tasty, subsequent lunches. However, it won’t become a staple around here anytime soon, given that it took 2+ hours to make.  This is more of a snow day kind of meal.  Which, speaking of, where IS my snow day?!

It’s Mexican Night: Make Your Own Tacos

Is this a recipe?  Probably not.  But this is a go-to around here, and is perfect for those nights when 1. you need to feed more than two people; 2. you have no time to cook; and 3. you just want people to be happy (note: avocados + sour cream + cheese + tortillas + chicken = happiness).

crucial topping: avocado
crucial topping: avocado

Make Your Own (Slow-Cooked) Tacos:

for the chicken –

  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 jar salsa, your choice of spiciness
  • splash of chicken broth (if you don’t have that much salsa, which we didn’t)
  • spices galore: crushed red pepper, salt + pepper, chili powder, cumin, adobo seasoning, anything your heart desires
  • optional: 1-2 cloves crushed garlic

and your toppings –

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2-3 bell peppers (green, red, orange), sliced
  • salt, pepper, other seasonings
  • additional: tortillas, taco chips, avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, quartered cherry tomatoes, spinach, beans, cilantro, salsa, rice, etc.
  1. Arrange the sliced onion at the bottom of the crockpot.  Season the chicken liberally – salt, pepper, chili powder, crushed reds, and then place on top of the onion.  Pour a bit of the salsa all around and finish with a splash of chicken broth, if needed.  Add more seasonings – seriously, you probably can’t use enough.  Add the garlic, if using.  Cover and set on low; cook for 8 hours or so.
  2. When you get home from work and are so hungry you might just tear into your cupboards instead, get your onions sizzling in a saute pan in a little olive oil.  Cook down a minute or two and then add the bell peppers.  Season as you wish.
  3. Shred the chicken in the crockpot, plate all of your toppings, and serve in a warm tortilla.  Happiness ensues.
i like to overstuff the taco/burrito. it's more delicious that way.
i like to overstuff the taco (maybe this is better called a burrito). i’m pretty sure it’s more delicious that way.

The Verdict:

Even if you don’t have a Mexican restaurant near you (Barbara, this one is for you!), you can bring the Mexican restaurant to you.  And if you have leftovers, this is seriously even better served over a bed of spinach as a salad.