Working Girl Dinners: So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde

RECIPE: So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde
Shrimp Quesadillas

Shrimp Quesadillas

Some nights (okay, many nights), I come home with this voracious need to devour.  This total and all-consuming drive to eat something overtly satisfying.  Not shy.  Not light.  Just hit-the-spot filling and delicious.

Could anything fit that description better than a quesadilla?  I think not.

Shrimp Quesadillas Zoom

These quesadillas are stuffed to the gills.  A crunchy flour tortilla is filled oozing melted Monterey Jack cheese, plump shrimp, and crunchy-delicious pablano pepper, green onions, and garlic.  The flavor comes from tangy-spicy salsa verde, which also doubles as an extra salsa.  And to serve it, I make the world’s easiest cheated guacamole.

I’ll tell you why these quesadillas are so easy: I take shortcuts, and use ingredients that I always have.  For instance, I absolutely always have tortillas and shrimp in my freezer.  I also love Pace’s Salsa Verde and usually have a jar of it in my fridge.  And instead of making guacamole from scratch, and buying extra salsa (one is time- and ingredient-consuming, the other sits in my fridge and takes up space), I make a short-cut guac from mashed avocados and store-bought fresh pico di gallo.  The whole thing adds up to a really easy, really filling, really delicious dinner.  And, it’s great for entertaining mid-week: just double the recipe to serve 4.

So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde
serves 2
recommended equipment: CuisinArt Griddler, George Foreman, or Panini Press

Shrimp QuesadillasINGREDIENTS

  • 1 Haas avocado
  • 1 cup (½ pound) Pico di Gallo (in the supermarket produce section)
  • 1 tablespoon oil, preferably canola
  • ¾ pound raw jumbo shrimp (11-15 count), peeled, and deveined
  • 4 scallions, sliced on an angle
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ⅓ cup salsa verde (recommended: Pace Salsa Verde)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, torn (optional)
  • 2 extra-large (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray

PROCEDURE

If using a Griddler, grill, or panini press, preheat the griddle to the highest heat (usually 425°F).

Make the avocado salsa.  Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and mash it in a bowl.  Stir in the Pico di Gallo, and season with salt.  Set aside.

Make sure you have all your ingredients prepped.  Make sure the shrimp have no tails, and use a small knife to slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  Chop the scallions and the poblano pepper, and grate the garlic.   Then, heat oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté the shrimp for 90 seconds, season with salt, and use a slotted spoon to place the shrimp in a bowl.  Add the scallions, pepper, and garlic to the same pan.  Sauté for 1 minute, stirring often, and season with salt.  Use the slotted spoon to remove the vegetables to the same bowl as the shrimp.  Toss the shrimp and vegetables with the salsa verde and cilantro.

Spray one side of each tortilla with nonstick cooking spray.  Then, flip the tortilla over, so the dry side is facing up.  On one half of the tortilla, sprinkle ¼ of the cheese.  Scatter half the shrimp and vegetable mixture over the cheese.  Top the shrimp and vegetables with another ¼ of the cheese, and fold the tortilla over, so you have a stuffed half-moon with cooking spray on the outside.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients on the second tortilla.

Place the quesadillas on the Griddler and cook until the tortilla is golden and crisp, and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.  If you don’t use the Griddler, clean out the sauté pan you used earlier, and make sure it is very dry.  Place the pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Then place the tortillas in the pan, and cook until the tortillas are crisp and golden, and the cheese is melted, turning once.  Use a big knife to cut each tortilla into thirds, and serve with the avocado salsa, and some leftover salsa verde, if you have any.

TIPS

You can just as easily make this with chicken, or make it vegetarian using black beans.

If you want to use chicken, cut up a chicken breast into strips, and sauté it just like the shrimp.  It may need longer to cook: it is fully cooked when you cut into the middle of a strip of chicken, and the chicken is opaque and white.

If using black beans, drain and rinse a can of black beans and toss with the vegetables and salsa verde.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

The Secret Ingredient (Saffron) Part III: Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

RECIPE: Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

When working with secret ingredients, I like to find perfect pairs. Jelly for peanut butter. Peas for carrots. The Juliet to their Romeo. Once you find their match, there are an unlimited number of iterations you can create using the dynamic duo.

Mussels pair perfectly with saffron. In cooking school, we made a creamy saffron-ed mussel soup. One of my favorite recipes is a creamy saffron and mussels pasta I created for French in a Flash. There is something about creamy saffron mussel anything that just works. I think there is an opposites-attract aspect to why the pair always comes off without a hitch. Saffron is very earthy to me, very pungent. And mussels are the opposite–extremely maritime and briny. I think the combination of cream and saffron prevents the mussels from tasting like they were just scraped off a dock. And I also love the irony of it: saffron, the most expensive spice on the market, and cream, always luxurious, with cheap, cheap mussels. It’s a great way to make an “expensive” dish of seafood and saffron with very little money.

This ten-minute, one-pot dish goes down like a house on fire. And anyone can make it. Sop up the soup with crusty baguette, or boil plain pearl couscous and put that at the bottom of your bowl to eat with the strands of saffron and just-burst sweet tomatoes.

Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
serves 4

Mussels with Saffron and TomatoesINGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds mussels
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock, dry white wine, or water
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE

Put the mussels in a large bowl full of water, a large handful of ice, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.  Allow to mussels to sit in the liquid for 1 hour, to disgorge any sand.

In a wide braising pan with high sides, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the stock, wine, or water, and the saffron.  Rinse off the mussels, and add them and the tomatoes to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, raise the head to medium-high, and cook until all the mussels are wide open, 5 to 7 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat, and stir in the cream.  Serve with warm crusty baguette, or even over plain pearl couscous.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

Franglais: Whole-Apple Pies

RECIPE: Whole-Apple Pies
Whole-Apple Pies

Whole-Apple Pies

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

There’s nothing as American as apple pie.  And nothing so French as apple tart.  And that’s what food is about: finding the common ground, and bringing people together.  Because we all have to eat.  And it’s so much more fun when there’s someone besides the television sitting across the table.

I love those strings that seem to run through the entire cloth of humanity.  Like when a word sounds the same in so many languages.  Or how the humble apple is the basis of so many comfort desserts.  We think of the apple as being so American.   But apple tarts are so iconically French.  I’ve never seen so much apple juice as when I was in Argentina.  And I first discovered the Pink Lady while in England.  Let’s face it.  The apple isn’t ours.  It’s everyone’s.  Because it’s great. Continue reading

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Fruit, Pastry, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Moroccan Baked Scallops

RECIPE: Moroccan Baked Scallops
Moroccan Baked Scallops

Moroccan Baked Scallops

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Is this weird?  I often think about how there’s not much left to be discovered.  I remember thinking in high school math class, how hard could it be to figure out that a squared plus b squared equals c squared?  If I were alive in 500 BC, would it have be called the Saretsky theorem?

So, I was really excited a few weeks ago when I discovered something that I didn’t know: how beautifully ras-el-hanout pairs with shellfish.  Okay, it may not be the Pythagorean theorem, but I was pretty excited.  My jar of ras-el-hanout says it goes great with chicken, lamb, rice, and veggies.  And my grandmother never uses it on seafood.  Was this a new thing?  Had I made a kitchen discovery? Continue reading

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NEW SERIES! French Food Mags: Le Gâteau Porte-Bonheur

RECIPE: Le Gâteau Porte-Bonheur

Le Gâteau Porte-Bonheur

Le Gâteau Porte-Bonheur

I spend too much money subscribing to French magazines.  But I can’t help it.  I love that they help keep me up to date with my French, sure.  But every time they show up in my mailbox, I rip the plastic off, and turn right to the recipes.  They’re even in the back of the fashion magazines.  How can I describe these recipes?  Effortless, and beautiful.  And inventive.  I spend a lot of my time re-doing French classics.  But here, in these magazines, the French culinary sensibility is alive and well focusing on, often, everything but traditional French food.  I loved the article about American whoopie pies, and how they were a cross between the American cupcake and the French macaron.  Brilliant.  These magazines show how the French really let their hair down in cuisine, but as with all things, they let their hair down with elegance.

The magazines that are devoted to recipes are like a holiday for me.  I retire to my bed, and lie over the covers, reading nothing, just looking at the pictures.  Pictures of hachis parmentier with a purple potato top.  And pot de crèmes in old jam jars.  Or leaf-shaped bites of puff pastry tossed on top of a salad instead of croutons.  It’s my special heaven.

Gâteau Porte Bonheur Closeup

Since these magazines are hard to get your hands on, I thought it would be fun to recreate some of the most enticing recipes from my favorite French food mags.  Which, to be honest, is something I rarely do.  It was fun to finally get in the kitchen with this Gâteau Porte-Bonheur, and test a recipe.  Usually I just stare blindly at them with adulation.

The Gâteau Porte-Bonheur, in a holiday article about how to cook with kids, caught my eye not only because it was so beautiful, and dainty, and delicate.  But also because it was made with Petit Beurre cookies.  Maman RAISED me on Petit Beurre cookies.  They are single-handedly responsible for my height and stature, and my continued desperate affinity for all butter cookies.  When I was little, we used to tuck into her bed and watch Eighties classics like The Cosby Show and Wheel of Fortune nibbling on the scalloped edges of Petits Beurres, so much that I would find myself sprinkled with cookie crumb detritus, and maman would have to fetch the dustbuster before she went to sleep. Continue reading

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Desserts, Easy, Eat, French Food Mags, Pastry, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Saffron) Part II: Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts

RECIPE: Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts
Saffron Rice Pilaf

Saffron Rice Pilaf

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I know that when someone calls you yellow, you’re a coward.  But as far as spices go, I think the yellowest, saffron, is very brave.  It is subtle, floral, aromatic, almost bitter–and extremely bold.  It makes its presence known, shouts it from the rooftops, dying everything it comes into contact with a bright marigold hue.  And something that tastes of saffron, well, it only tastes of saffron.  It’s a force to be reckoned with.

I first starting mixing orange and saffron in bouillabaisse.  It works so well together, the aromatic bitterness of saffron with the bright sweetness of orange.  This is a very simple rice, based on my favorite yellow rice that I get in Spanish and Mexican restaurants, that is glammed up with some ritzy ingredients.  I toast orzo and shallots and add white rice, and then cook it with saffron-infused stock for color and a deep, heady flavor.  Stud it with toasted pine nuts and orange zest at the last minute, and you have a very simple-to-make side that is very elegant and impressive.  I would serve this with roasted bone-in chicken, or jumbo shell-on prawns.
Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts
serves 4

Saffron Rice PilafINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup orzo
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • Zest of 1/4 orange
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

PROCEDURE

In a medium saucepot, heat the water and stock with the saffron over medium heat.

In a large saucepot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the orzo, and toast until golden brown, about 90 seconds.  Add the shallot, and season with salt.  Sauté on low heat until the shallot is translucent, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Add the rice, and stir to coat in the butter.  Add the water, stock, and saffron, and raise the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.  Fluff with a fork, and stir in orange zest, pine nuts, and pepper.  Serve hot or at room temperature, especially alongside a juicy roast chicken or jumbo roast shrimp.

 

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

Working Girl Dinners: The Easiest Thai Green Shrimp Curry

RECIPE: Thai Green Shrimp Curry
Thai Green Shrimp Curry

Thai Green Shrimp Curry

It was great to be back in London last week with all my friends, and Mr. English.  My best girlfriends took me to the best Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to: Patara, on Beauchamp Place.  The pad Thai was just shrimp, which is how I like it.  We had beef slow cooked in coconut milk.  Prawns seared with lemongrass and chili.  And a chicken curry.  And coconut ice cream.  And glutinous rice–seriously, that’s what it was called on the menu.  It was so good.

When I’m home, I order Thai delivery a lot.  Too often.  And frankly, my empty pad Thai tin always looks a little greasy.  And for one person, I can wind up spending $15.  No thank you!  We can Working Girl this issue.  This week, we are making Thai shrimp curry in 10 minutes, with 4 ingredients, and 1 pot.

It’s so simple.  I poach zucchini and shrimp in a broth made from coconut milk and Thai green curry paste.  You can get coconut milk and curry paste at regular grocery stores these days, and if you have leftover curry paste, lucky you.  It keeps for a good while in the fridge, and you will be making all kinds of varieties of this curry once you see how easy it is.  Broccoli and chicken, squash and salmon.  You name it.

The coconut milk is creamy and exotic.  The curry paste is spicy and fragrant and potent.  I pour the curry over rice or mai fun noodles to soak it all up.  It’s so easy, and so good, that you’ll make it again tomorrow.  Promise.

Thai Green Shrimp Curry
serves 2

Thai Green Shrimp CurryINGREDIENTS

  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
  • 2 small to medium zucchini or summer squash (or 1 of each), cut into chunks
  • 1 pound 11-15 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lime, quartered

Optional Toppings

  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 long green chili, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

PROCEDURE

In a large saucepot, combine the coconut milk and curry paste over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a bubble, and add the zucchini and squash.  Cook 7 minutes, then add the shrimp, and cook another 4 minutes, until the shrimp are pink, opaque, and curled.  The curry is done!

Put some rice or cellophane noodles in the bottom of a bowl, and top with the curry.  To gild the lily, add lime wedges, chopped fresh cilantro, and sliced chili on top of the curry.

On the Side

Cook ½ cup parboiled rice in ¾ cup boiling water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of canola or vegetable oil.  Bring to a boil on high heat, stir once, then cover, and cook on the lowest heat for 16 to 18 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork.

Or, pour boiling water to cover 3 ounces Maifun (rice sticks or thin rice noodles) in a large metal bowl, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Drain.

Tips

I always keep raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp in my freezer.  I buy them at Costco.  I defrost them quickly in a bowl of room temperature water.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners