Green Goddess-ish Dressing

On an binge of the Food Network one day, I got sucked into an episode of Barefoot Contessa. One of the recipes on the show was Green Goddess dressing, and it really piqued my interest, so I decided to try it.

Like all great recipes, there is a historical backstory to the creation of the dish. The chef of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco created it as a tribute to the hit play of the same name. The more I read about the recipe, it was clear that it was an adaptation of the classic French “green sauce”, or sauce verte au pain.

Enough of the history lesson. My version of the recipe stems from a lack of a list when grocery shopping. Ina’s recipe can be found on her site, if you want to go with her version. But, based on my wife’s reaction, my concoction is a crowd pleaser. To date, we’ve had it on salads, shrimp, chicken, and used it as a veggie dip for a small get together. Versatility!

Ingredients

Green Goddess Dressing - Ingredients1 cup rough cup basil leaves
1 cup rough cup green onions
1 cup good mayo
2-3 cloves of garlic (smashed)
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt & Pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (as needed)

Directions

Using a good blender or food processor, add all the ingredients and start pulsing.

Depending on the mix of the mayo and lemon juice, I will sometimes add in olive oil to loosen the mixture of the dressing. Sometimes it can be rather thick, or the lemon juice can provide too much tartness acidity, and the olive oil helps to balance everything.

Add to salad, fish, chicken, or serve as a side.

My wife loves the dressing on a salad bibb lettuce and juicy cherry tomatoes, with pan seared shrimp.

Green Goddess Dressing Recipe - Salad with Shirmp

Sidedish: Cilantro-Lime Rice

It always seems my downfall in menu planning is the side dish. I’ll take amazing efforts to develop a recipe for the entree, but pay little attention to the supporting cast members. This is really too bad, because it’s often the other items on the plate that make the main dish shine.

Cilantro Lime Rice

I feel like this issue comes from the fact that I like to keep my grocery bill small, and am lazy when it comes to preparation and clean-up. So, I love it when I can pull together a side that really elevates a meal, is cheap, and is super easy to clean-up.

This dish is adapted from Ree Drumond’s recipe for Garlic Cilantro Lime Rice. As I mentioned my laziness above, I removed the garlic from the recipe for super-easy prep, especially since I’m using instant rice from the microwave.

Easy Cilantro Lime Rice

2 cups of cooked white rice (I like the Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice – throw in the microwave for  90 seconds)
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (protip: zest BEFORE juicing)
Cilantro (I’ve found that fresh or dried both work – fresh delivering a lot more flavor)

  1. Cook rice according to directions.
  2. Combine all ingredients

I did say easy…

Credit photo to Ree Drummond

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Spaghetti Squash

Fra Diavolo is one of my favorite Italian sauces, and the spicy tomato sauce pairs really well with seafood. In fact, I really only see it served as either Seafood or Shrimp Fra Diavolo. The best part of this dish is that it’s super easy to make, and requires basic ingredients.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo over Spaghetti Squash

While pasta is the natural go-to medium for the sauce, I prefer spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is a winter squash and usually starts to show in the produce section in late October. To me, it looks a bit like a yellow rugby ball.

The name comes from the fact that the flesh can be pulled out in long “noodles” after cooking. After posting a picture of this meal to Facebook, there was a thread on the various methods of cooking, which really makes it easy to prepare. It can be boiled, roasted, and microwaved. I prefer roasting, as it bring out some more flavor from an other wise bland vegetable.

A 1-2 pound spaghetti squash will produce more than enough “pasta” for two adults, with some leftovers. I think it keeps in the fridge better than cooked pasta, as it doesn’t have the starches or gluten that creates the big ball of cold noodles the next morning. Plus, the slight crunch of the squash noodles adds some great texture to the dish.

Spaghetti Squash
Roasting Spaghetti Squash

As I mentioned, there are several ways to prepare the squash, but I prefer roasting. It’s super easy.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice the squash in-half, lengthwise.
  3. Using a large spoon, scrape out the seeds and core.
  4. Sprinkle the squash with salt & pepper.
  5. Place squash, cut-side down, on a cookie sheet.
  6. I like to then put enough water to come up about a half-inch on the squash.
  7. Bake in the oven 30-40 minutes.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, then use a fork to scrape out the flesh

Fra Diavolo Sauce

You can either use un-cooked or pre-cooked shrimp. For convenience , I usually have frozen pre-cooked, shelled shrimp in the freezer. Allow them to partially thaw 10 minutes before cooking.

Also, feel free to experiment with the level of heat. I like to have my fra diavolo cause me to start sweating, so I’ll even add diced cherry peppers.

10-12 large shrimp (about a half pound)
1 can of petite diced or pureed tomatoes (I prefer diced)
1/2 a yellow onion – diced (optional)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. of capers with brine
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Fresh basil
Tablespoon of butter
1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

1. Heat a large skillet with enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
2. Mix the shrimp, red pepper flakes, garlic, and enough olive oil to coat, in a bowl. Add to the skillet.
3. Cook the shrimp 3-4 minutes until they start to turn pink (if un-cooked). Watch that the garlic doesn’t burn.
4. Remove shrimp from the pan and set-aside.
5. Add the garlic to the pan, allow to soften (3-4 minutes). Season with salt & pepper.
6. Add the tomatoes and oregano.
7. Allow the sauce to simmer for 5-8 minutes. It should start to thicken.
8. Add the shrimp and any juices back to the skillet. Allow to simmer and complete cooking the shrimp.
9. Just prior to removing from heat, add in the butter (optional) and fresh basil.
10. Server over pasta or spaghetti squash.

Photo credit to Steamy Kitchen

Mushroom Risotto Recipe

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Not risotto...

On a recent date night, I decided to really pull out the stops and make risotto as part of the meal. Having never actually made a risotto before, I was a bit nervous since it is always talked about in hushed tones, as if it is The-Dish-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.

But, I was fearless and remembered that Alton Brown had once made it on an episode of Good Eats. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I found his risotto recipe and a clip of the show to help me.

I did make some changes: I didn’t use asparagus, mostly because I didn’t want to have to deal with stinky pee for the night. I also didn’t use the nutmeg, lemon zest, or fresh parsley… mostly because I forgot to pick them up while grocery shopping.

Also, because I was only cooking for two, I only used a cup-and-a-half of rice and only needed 4 cups of broth (I actually used stock – again, a shopping issue). In retrospect, I would reduce the amount of wine used in the future.

But, the end result was fantastic. The risotto was creamy, the rich was perfectly cooked, and the flavors of mushroom, cheese, onion, and wine were well balanced. Plus, it really impressed my date.

Here’s the clip from Good Eats:

Easy Lasagna Cures Everything

One of the most powerful food memories I have from growing up was after one of my grandparents passed away. In the days that followed, friends and neighbors would stop by the house to offer their condolences, and many brought food for our family. From pasta to casseroles to cookies, our home was suddenly flooded with one of the most intimate forms of human affection: food sharing.

If you pause to think about it, food sharing is one of the most selfless acts that a human can do, which is why it is the basis of so many parts of our lives. Weddings, birthdays, courtship, and celebrations seem to always be marked by people gathering and breaking bread together. Food sharing has been the focus of many anthropological studies and has raised many evolutionary questions about how this altruistic behavior originated.

Easy LasagnaSo, when I learned of a loved one spending some time in the hospital, I immediately wanted to show how I cared for them and their family. While flowers and cards are nice, I remembered the way I felt opening the fridge as a kid and seeing those gifts of food. Because I knew the family would be spending long days at the hospital, and that grocery shopping and cooking would be a low priority, I decided to make a lasagna.

Despite being Irish, I feel like I cook a mean lasagna. While many Italian purists will likely turn up their nose at some of my ingredient choices, I feel like my finished product will stand toe-to-toe with Nonna’s lasagna. Plus, mine is easier to make.

Easy Lasagna Recipe

1 lb ground beef or sausage (I prefer hot Italian sausage)
1 package No-Bake lasagna noodles (I like Barilla)
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 32 oz jar of sauce (I like Francesco Rinaldi)
1 can of diced tomatoes (preferably in sauce)
2 cups Italian cheese blend (something like Sargento’s 6 Cheese Blend)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella
2 eggs
salt, pepper, garlic power, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper to taste

For assembly, I simply followed the directions on the back of the Barilla box. Brown & drain the meat. Combine eggs, ricotta, and blended cheese. It’s at this point that I’ll add my dried herbs and seasoning. I really like crushed red pepper, so I’ll had a solid teaspoon. I also combine the sauce and tomatoes in a bowl, and I’ll add some olive oil.

Then layer in a pan according to the box directions and bake. Protip: spray the underside of the aluminum foil with non-stick spray; this will keep the cheese from sticking to it and peeling off. I personally like to had another handful of cheese after I remove the foil. I’ll also had parsley to the top for some color.

The cheese on top is gooey, the flavors marry well, and it is one of those dishes that not only holds up well as leftovers, but seems to get better a day later.