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!)

Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki

I’ve been waiting all week to post these bad boys.

This past weekend, Husband and I hosted my parents.  Normally, this is a good excuse to shuttle off to that restaurant we’ve been dying to try but can’t quite justify the expense…but since my parents were coming off a 3-day Civil War/college reunion tour, they wanted some home-cooked food. Enter sandman Deb Perelman.

Tip: next time your parents are coming off a 3-day Civil War tour (I’ll let you all ponder that in your heads.  Parental units hopping on and off a bus, checking out battlefields, dressed in orange and/or tiger stripes, chanting about Old Nassau.  My dad , the civil war buff, bopping about in his Abe Lincoln t-shirt.  My mom, the bewildered German, wondering when the part is when she gets to see her kids.  Makes me giggle.) make them this.

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Spicy Sesame Turkey Meatballs & Smashed Chickpeas with Tzatziki (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

for your meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey (use a mixture of lean and fatty meat, so it does not dry out)
  • about 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful cumin
  • small handful coriander
  • large pinch of salt & pepper
  • about a tablespoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (better if toasted quickly)

for your chickpeas

  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • small handful sumac
  • a big bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • a bit of lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch salt, pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
  • olive oil
  • optional: olives (blech) or anchovy paste (yum), to add brininess

for your tzatziki sauce

  • about two cups plain Greek yogurt
  • about 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon, plus a little grated zest
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • optional: fresh dill, 1 clove minced garlic (there’s lots of garlic in the rest of this recipe, so I omitted it, or I should say, Husband omitted it, since he’s in charge of tzatsiki in our house!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Comine all of your meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly, using your hands, but do not overwork the meat.  Shape the meat into little golf balls.
  3. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large saute pan and brown the meatballs.  Do not overcrowd the pan.
  4. On a large pan covered with aluminum foil (to make your cleanup easier!), bake the meatballs for about 10 – 13 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, get your smashed chickpea salad going.  Combine all of the chickpea ingredients in one bowl, minus olive oil.  Mash (a potato masher works well!) together – leave it a big chunky.  Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
  6. Finally, mix all of your tzatziki ingredients together in another bowl.  Season to taste.
  7. Serve everything together, all at once, and let the praise wash over you like a college fight song.

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The Verdict:

I know it LOOKS like a lot, but if you have the ingredients, this is easy-peasy and oh-so-good.  Mom, Dad & Husband all raved about this little combination, which we also served with salad and pita bread…tiding us all over until the next Civil War battlefield tour.

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Is this a recipe?  Probably not.  What this is is taking stock of your pantry and fridge, and figuring what you have on hand to make a meal.  Which is basically what happens chez nous, on the reg.

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Mediterranean Farro Salad

  • 1 cup quick-cooking farro
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • big handful spinach or arugula (about 1/2 bag)
  • half dozen small mozzarella balls, sliced &/or quartered
  • small carton grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • fresh herbs: basil, parsley, etc.
  • avocado, diced
  • olives, if you’re into that kind of thing
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: dressing –
    • Whisk together 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, cumin, a splash of lemon juice, mixed together
  1. Bring apple cider, vinegar, bay leaves and a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add farro, reduce heat, and cook according to directions, about 10-12 minutes (you may need to pour off a bit of excess liquid).
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your mozzarella and tomatoes, herbs and avocado.  Add to a large bowl and give it a toss with the arugula.
  3. Pour the hot farro over the salad mixture and give it a thorough mix – you want the farro to wilt the arugula a little bit.  Season with salt & pepper and serve with dressing, if you please.

The Verdict:

This is worth sharing for one small reason: cooking the farro in the apple cider vinegar and the bay leaves gives it a tart, wonderful flavor that only gets better the longer the salad sits.  If you make enough to last you into lunch the next day, you don’t need any dressing.  How’s that for healthy!?.

Baked Rigatoni with Ground Turkey

Right before we left for Miami last weekend, I had a conundrum.  We had nothing in the fridge.  We were leaving in the morning, so running to the grocery store didn’t seem practical.  I didn’t want to go out to dinner or order takeout – we were about to spend three days in a place known for $16 actually $24 cocktails (side note: who thought it would be appropriate to charge MORE than the price of a whole pizza for a little bit of rum in a plastic cup!?).

So I thought about it and scrounged around and made this.  And felt really pleased with myself when we had leftovers sitting in our fridge when we got home Sunday night. Varina: 1, bathing suit: 0.

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Baked Rigatoni with Ground Turkey

  • olive oil
  • one tablespoon of butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds, a little bit of oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar good tomato sauce (obviously, make your own if you have the ingredients on hand!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 box rigatoni
  • about half a bag of spinach
  • CHEESE, and lots of it.  I used a combination of grated mozzarella, parmesan, and gruyere.
  • fresh herbs – if you have them.  parsley & basil are lovely.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F & prepare a baking dish with a little bit of cooking spray.
  2. In a large, deep skillet heat a little bit of olive oil and butter together; melt the butter over medium heat.  Add onions, a bit of salt, pepper and some crushed reds and cook down, 4-7 minutes.  Add garlic and ground turkey and break it up in the pan, so all sides can brown.
  3. Get your pasta water boiling; cook pasta slightly less than al dente, so it returns some crunch once it’s out of the oven.
  4. Once the turkey has cooked though, add tomato paste, mix through, and then add tomato sauce.  Mix thoroughly.  Add cooked pasta and spinach; give the whole thing a good toss.  Add about half your cheese and mix again.  If you have herbs, you can add them to the mix, as well.
  5. Scoop the pasta and turkey mixture into your baking dish and top with cheese and a little bit more sauce.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

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The Verdict:

There is simply no way to mess this one up.  Add all the vegetables you have – mushrooms, shallots, peppers, whatever you please.  Make your own sauce.  Leave out the meat.  Use all the cheeses you have.  Get out your bathing suit and do a little happy dance, especially if you’re married to my husband, who doesn’t like the the crusty side parts as much as the middle, so you get all the best parts.

Pea & Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg

If you’re a regular reader around here (which, obviously I hope you are) you know I get a special thrill every time I bust out the immersion blender.  Now that it’s spring, though, that little wonder machine has been sitting in the back of the cabinet, awaiting fall, while I luxuriate in all things fresh and seasonal and NOT canned.  (Side note: I know people enjoy summer time soups.  I do not understand this.  Let’s be real: cold soup is just…cold.)

UNTIL – I happened to spot some beautiful fresh spring peas at Trader Joe’s the other week, and then happened to notice this recipe in Cooking Light.  This is a seriously delicious (and healthy!) soup..and a perfect excuse to use my trusty immersion blender once again.

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Pea & Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg

  • 1 or 2 pats unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups high quality chicken stock (use vegetable if you want a veggie preparation)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
  • salt, pepper, crushed reds
  • 10 oz fresh peas
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped
  • a big handful parsley, divided
  • optional: olive oil, green onions
  • for the eggs:
    • cold water
    • pinch salt
    • about a tablespoon white vinegar
    • 2 eggs (or however many you’re feeding)
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add sliced leeks and cook about 5 minutes, until nearly translucent.  Add stock, thyme, crushed reds, a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a low simmer.  Add asparagus, cover and cook about 3 minutes, and then add fresh peas.  Cook about a minute, then add parsley (you can include the stalks, which will give it an additional pop of green!).
  2. Blend soup until smooth with a traditional or an immersion blender.  Season to taste and then return to low heat while you prep your eggs.
  3. Bring about an inch of salted water to a boil in a small pot.  Reduce heat to a simmer, add vinegar, and slowly/carefully add your eggs.  Cook about 3-4 minutes, or until the white of the egg firms up around the yolk.
  4. Ladle your soup into bowls and (carefully) add your egg.  Top with parsley, additional cracked pepper, and if you like, some olive oil and/or green onions.  Break that yolk open and enjoy the bounty.

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The Verdict:

Husband, who is not a fan of eggs (I married him, but do not claim to understand him), gobbled this up and went for seconds.  Needless to say, we were both bummed when this only made enough for one more (lunch) meal.  Make this.  I promise you will not regret it.