That Old Bay river…

Poached Shrimp on Succotash

SHRIMP!!! (with guest appearance by succotash)

SHRIMP!!! (with guest appearance by succotash)

This is from a feature on poaching.  I’m on record as loving poaching as a cooking method, but I’ve never poached shrimp.  It never seemed necessary to me.  I like to poach chicken because chicken gets dry when you cook it other ways (has anyone ever had dry shrimp?), needs flavor (shrimp is a flavor), and I hate checking to see if chicken is done or not (shrimp cooks almost instantly).  So the draw was not there.  It turns out that poached shrimp is amazing.  This is poached in water and Old Bay with a halved lemon thrown in there for good measure.  My can of Old Bay is almost certainly 10 years old, but this was still good.  I should probably buy another can, but let’s be honest with ourselves, I do not cook a lot of seafood, let alone the kind of awesome seafood (read: crabs) that takes a lot of Old Bay.  So old Old Bay keeps on rolling along.

The succotash is fine.  It’s just zucchini, green beans, and corn.  It’s almost certainly a waste of corn on the cob to cut it off and cook it like this.  Unless the price of corn on the cob is truly great (and it isn’t yet), then frozen corn is going to be a better bet.  Really, the shrimp is the star here.  I’d recommend poaching the shrimp this way and serving it with some cocktail sauce.  I don’t have my secret cocktail sauce recipe in front of me to share with you, so I’ll have to give it from memory…  Here it goes: about a 1/2 c. of ketchup, an 1/8 c. prepared horseradish, 1 T or more of hot sauce, 1 t Worcester sauce, maybe a little salt and pepper.  Honestly, I think the recipe might be closer to 1/4 c. horseradish.  I add so much horseradish that this is actually pink, not red.  If you like hot cocktail sauce, give this a try.

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Stacked

Tofu-vegetable stack

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn't look all that small!

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn’t look all that small!

This dish is labeled as a “Meatless Main.”  It also gives its calorie information as 175 calories per serving.  Now, unless you’re going to have a rather substantial side dish or you’re saving ample room for dessert (good move) or you’re using MyFitnessPal and you find yourself with no more calories left….this is a side salad.  That’s how we served it.  We had frozen pizza with this as a side.  I wound up eating less pizza because this was here, so that’s good.  Anyway, I just wanted to point out for you that this is meatless, but it’s probably not much of a main dish as is.

On to the more interesting things.  Can you really grill tofu?!  Yes!  You definitely have to drain it to get it nice and dry.  The recipe says to split the block crosswise in four and the picture looks like big slices of tofu, so I took that to mean that you were supposed to cut it horizontally to make, in essence, wide patties of tofu.  This made sense from a grilling standpoint.  My tofu was wider than your usual block and not quite so tall, so I just cut it once.  If I cut it into four big slices, there’s no way they’d have the structural integrity not to fall through the grates.  Plus, only two people were eating, so why bother?

D is silly

D is silly

The veggies also grilled very nicely, and the dressing was awesome.  I took some liberties with the dressing.  I only had a little bit of parsley, but I have an herb garden in my window that’s producing basil, thyme, and oregano.  I chopped up some basil and oregano and added it to the little bit of parsley I already had.  That was delicious.  It took on more of an Italian flavor.  I really enjoyed the earthiness I got from the oregano.  Fresh oregano is really pretty awesome, but who wants to bother, right?  Right.  So I definitely recommend getting creative with your fresh herbs.  And here’s the real bonus to getting creative with your herbs…and this is kind of a fat kid move…the dressing is very good on frozen pizza.  How do I know?  Are you going to make me say it?  I dipped my pizza in it.  I figure fresh herb, fresh lemon, and olive oil dressing on pizza is the classy version of dipping it in ranch dressing.  Whatever.  It was good.

So please enjoy this side salad or very small main dish or pizza dip.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

More side dish and less main

Mexican Charred Corn Dog

Who invited that hot dog?!

Who invited that hot dog?!

This post is really just a recommendation to make the topping and skip the hot dog.  The topping is completely delicious.  I didn’t think that cooking corn (I used defrosted frozen stuff) in a dry skillet would actually make much of a difference for flavor.  I was so wrong.  The browning brings out the sugar in the corn, making it the perfect foil for all of the other sour ingredients.  I think I overcooked my corn a little, though.  The recipe says to roast the corn in a dry skillet until it is browned, then add oil and scallion greens, and cook until the scallions are soft.  Well, the corn doesn’t magically stop cooking once you add the oil and scallions, so I cut this whole process off before the scallions were cooked because the corn was edging from brown to black.  That having been said, it was delicious.  I think I would brown the corn by itself until it is very nearly fully browned, then add the oil and scallions to brown it the rest of the way while the onions cook.

I wound up absolutely loving the corn topping, dressing, everything.  So I was super excited to eat the hot dog.  Here’s roughly a transcript of what went on in my head with each bite: “whoo hoo!  Corn!  Lime mayo!  This is awesome! (chew, chew) Oh, yeah, hot dog.  Huh.  Bun.  Yeah…ok, I guess.”  Then I’d take another bite and repeat that.  The hot dog and bun really got in the way of the salad.  Unlike the banh mi dog where the hot dog added some salt and umami to the other flavors, here it just seemed like an afterthought.  So just serve the salad as a side with a hot dog that you dress as you please.  Curious how I prefer my hot dog?  I thought you’d never ask.  I like it with cheap yellow mustard, corn relish, and raw onions.  Actually, I once had that hot dog with homemade pickled watermelon rind added on and it was perfect.  That would be my ultimate dog…with this corn salad on the side.

On the other hand, you could just grill corn on the cob on the grill and dress it with the lime mayo, Cojita cheese, and chili powder.  That would probably be the best of the best.  That cheese, by the way, tastes almost exactly like feta.  I’ve also had corn dressed this way with freshly grated Parmesan.  That works too.

 

Beware too many substitutions

Pasta Nicoise

When you're out of the habit of blogging, you sometimes forget to take pictures of your food until they are leftovers...

When you’re out of the habit of blogging, you sometimes forget to take pictures of your food until they are leftovers…

D made this one, so I had to get his take on this dish as a recipe.  As an eater, I loved it.  He remembered that we’d made this one before with water-packed tuna and added our own olive oil.  He said that was better than reserving the oil from oil-packed tuna.  I would agree with him.  Oil-packed tuna is kind of weird.  It spread out all over the salad instead of staying in chunks.  The texture is a little mealier.  But here’s the really important point: there’s no tuna water to give the cats.  I’m surprised they let D live.  Seriously.  I cannot imagine what he went through opening two cans of tuna, draining them, releasing the tuna aroma into the air, and listening to the incessant meow of two housecats who are. not. having. it.  Sorry, D.  So we highly recommend water-packed tuna, especially for cat owners.  This also lets you use your own favorite olive oil instead of whatever the tuna people use.  We were also out of red wine vinegar.  Well, that’s not entirely fair.  We were out of it on purpose.  I’ve been trying to use up all of the random ingredients in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  To that end, I used up the red wine vinegar about a month ago and haven’t bought more.  D used balsamic instead.  It was good, but it was better with red wine vinegar.  So it’s time to replace the red wine vinegar.  Fair enough.  One substitution was very successful.  D used up the last of the black Moroccan olives that we purchased for who knows what recipe.  I’m telling you, getting these random things out of the fridge feels very good.

Upshot: Even with the slight problems with substitutions, this is a good recipe.  It was a very nice, hearty meal.

Hot dogs: the other red meat

Banh mi hot dogs

As B said, "Is there a hot dog in there somewhere?"

As B said, “Is there a hot dog in there somewhere?”

Before I tell you about this awesome hot dog, I need to tell you a disgusting but true story.  You know how Chinese restaurants usually sell items where you can swap out one protein for another?  So shrimp fried rice, chicken fried rice, pork fried rice, etc. etc.  Yes, I’m referring to American Chinese restaurants.  I don’t know what real Chinese restaurants serve.  Probably not egg rolls, so that’s a deal breaker right there.  Anyway, cultural insensitivity aside…you’re familiar with the choices of protein at your standard Chinese restaurant.  It’s usually beef, pork, shrimp, chicken, maybe tofu.  I once saw a flyer for a Chinese restaurant where one of the protein choices was…hot dog.  That’s right, hot dog.  You could order hot dog fried rice.  This struck me as absolutely hilarious because hot dog fried rice is the kind of poverty chow that everyone makes in a pinch (especially in college or right before grocery shopping), but no one would ever advertise in a thousand years.  It’s like a restaurant bragging that they offer American cheese microwaved on a bagel or Pop Tarts.  Also, I can hear your eyes rolling incredulously through the tubes, so I’ll just leave this here.  You’re welcome.

So you’d forgive me for being skeptical about a banh mi hot dog.  But this thing is delicious.  The carrot slaw is lovely.  The mayo and cucumber cools down the jalapeno slices.  The cilantro leaves bring their special bitter bite.  The hot dog brings the salt…  This is just a delicious and easy meal.  I’ve actually made it a few times before.  I wouldn’t feel embarrassed serving it to guests.  Unlike hot dog fried rice.  That’s just…  No.