Weekly Winner: Wilted Lettuces …. no really!!

Stir-fried lettuceGenerally, I am a very big advocate of leaving lettuce alone.  Toss it in a salad, lay it on a sandwich, or wrap it around some wonderful ground meat for lettuce wraps — but don’t cook it!  No good can EVER come from wilted lettuce, right?  That’s what you throw out, am I correct?  Well, apparently not always.

This week’s Weekly Winner comes from Bon Appetit Magazine and it really is Stir-Fried Lettuces with Crispy Shallots.  No, really!

I was as surprised as anyone by this recipe the first time I made it.  And yes, perhaps just a tad skeptical.  But something about it intrigued me and I made it.  And then I made it again!  I’m still not sure what makes this so good but it has something to do with the texture of the stir-fried lettuce.  You do need to be careful and make sure it doesn’t wilt too much but if done right… it’s magic.  Don’t knock it until you try it.  And you should definitely try it.

Stir-Fried Lettuces with Crispy Shallots

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

½ cup thinly sliced shallots

¼ cup thinly sliced cured sausage (such as salami or Chinese sausage) quartered if desired.

2 Tbsp. thinly sliced garlic

1-1/2 Tbsp minced peeled ginger

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

6 cups coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce (about ½ head)

4 cups watercress (about 2 bunches), trimmed and cut into 2” pieces

4 cups cooked rice

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat.  Add shallots; cook stirring often, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and season lightly with salt and pepper (shallots will crisp as they cool).

Increase heat to medium, add sausage and next 3 ingredients to same skillet; stir for 2 minutes.  Add ¼ cup water; scrape up any browned bits..  Increase heat to medium-high; add lettuce and watercress and cook, tossing often, just until wilted, 1-2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve over rice.

 

Weekly Winner: An Open Love Letter to My Butchers

Grilled Pork chopsI’m just going to put this out there right now.  I love pig.  There is very little you can do to pork and pork products that I don’t dearly love.  And if you take bacon out of the equation (OK, I shed a little tear just now at the thought of that), probably my next favorite part of pork is a nice, big, juicy, bone-in pork chop that is correctly (read: not overly) cooked.

So this week’s Weekly Winner isn’t really a recipe.  Yes, it was the best thing that was prepared in my house all week, but rather than it being a real recipe, it is an open love letter to Paulina Meat Market.  This is my butcher shop.  This is the place I go to feel better.  Some people believe in therapy to feel better about themselves, some people rely on houses of worship to find inspiration, and some pop pills to improve their mood.  Me?  I go to Paulina.  Or the Lincoln Park Zoo but that’s another post.  And don’t worry, I’ve never confused the two and gone to the zoo looking for an exotic rib roast.  At Paulina I can find therapy in the conversations with the butchers, inspiration from just looking in the cases and taking a deep breath to inhale the heavenly aroma of smoked meats, and I always come home with something guaranteed to improve my mood (including a pound or two of their own house-smoked bacon).

Case in point: Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic Butter.  The originating thought for this recipe came from Real Simple magazine.  Basically that was the recipe for the garlic-thyme butter.  While they simply grilled chops served with grilled cherry tomatoes, I thought the addition of baby Yukon Gold potatoes would round out the meal a bit.  And I had them on hand.

So this entry does not so much contain a recipe as a personal plea from me.  Find a good butcher shop.  Go there, and get to know the butchers.  Buy the best meat you can afford.  You simply will not be disappointed.  And to all of my boys at Paulina, thank you and I’ll see you soon!

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Weekly Winner: The Best (and most unlikely) Steak Dinner

skirt steakI love steak.  Any steak.  But I have come to particularly love the skirt steak.  It’s quick, works well in lots of different preparations, and is full of wonderful, meaty, steaky flavor.

Fruit, on the other hand, I’m not a huge fan of.  It’s not that I dislike the flavor of fruit and I will occasionally add some to a salad, but in general I find it more trouble than it is worth.

I also have a leeriness of hot peppers.  While I do love Southwestern, Thai and Indian food, I always tend to steer clear of the really fiery chiles.  Anything hotter than a serrano and I leave it out or substitute a milder one.  I am a firm believer than food shouldn’t hurt.

So, now that you know all my culinary hangups and paranoia, what would possess me to clip a recipe for Grapefruit and Habanero Skirt Steak with Grilled Tomato Salsa?  Yes, the photo was fabulous, but come on…grapefruit and habaneros??  Really??  And what the title of the recipe doesn’t even tell you is that there is also papaya in there!  I’ve never bought a papaya in my life!  I’m not sure I could pick one out in te produce section.  I will be forever grateful to whatever unseen forces made me clip that recipe.  It was amazing and quite possibly the best steak that has been prepared in this household to date.

The recipe comes from Saveur magazine which might explain everything … that magazine always gets me to try things I’d never think of trying.

Grapefruit and Habanero Skirt Steak with Grilled Tomato Salsa

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1 cup roughly chopped papaya
½ cup olive oil
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed
Juice of 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1½ lb. beef skirt steak, trimmed
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 jalapeño peppers, stemmed
4 plum tomatoes, cored
1 small white onion, cut in half crosswise
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
Juice of 1 lime

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Purée papaya and half the oil, plus Scotch bonnet, grapefruit juice, salt, and pepper in a blender into a smooth marinade. Pour ⅔ marinade into a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Add steak and seal bag; set aside to marinate for 30-45 minutes but no longer. Reserve remaining marinade.

2. Heat a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to high; bank coals or turn burner off on one side. Grill garlic, jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions on hottest part of grill, turning as needed, until charred in spots and tender, 1-2 minutes for garlic, 4-6 minutes for jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions. Allow vegetables to cool slightly. Peel jalapeños and transfer to a blender along with garlic, tomatoes, and onions. Add remaining oil, plus cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse into a chunky salsa and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Remove steak from marinade and grill on hottest part of grill, turning as needed, and, using a brush, baste occasionally with reserved marinade until charred in spots and cooked to desired doneness, 10-12 minutes for medium rare. Let steak rest 10 minutes. Slice steak thinly on the bias; serve with salsa.

Weekly Winner: super salmon salad – simple and just what we needed.

salmonSo, yet again I am tardy with the Weekly Winner.  However I’ve got an excellent excuse this time.  I was off on some exotic, wonderful island celebrating my anniversary.  Didn’t do too much but ate and drank… too much!

So when it was time to re-enter the real world, both hubby and I were definitely thinking light, simple, non-exotic dinners.  One of the first things I made when we returned home was this salad.  I’ve been making it for years and just never get tired of it.  It’s Southwest Caesar Salmon Salad and the recipe comes from  Cooking Light magazine.

I like it because the Caesar is different and the dressing is lighter, more lemony than most.  All around, it’s a great dish.  And just what we needed and wanted after a week of living the good life.

Southwest Caesar Salmon Salad

Ingredients

Dressing:

1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise

1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fat-free buttermilk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 canned anchovy fillets, drained and chopped

Salad:

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

Dash of ground red pepper

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skinned

Cooking spray

8 cups torn romaine lettuce

1 cup fresh corn kernels

1 cup garlic-flavored croutons

Preparation

1. To prepare dressing, combine first 9 ingredients in a mini chopper or blender; pulse until well blended. Cover and chill 1 hour.

2. To prepare salad, combine salt, paprikas, and red pepper; sprinkle evenly over top of fish.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish, spiced side down, to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned. Carefully turn fish over, and cook for 4 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

4. Combine lettuce, corn, and croutons in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over lettuce mixture; toss gently to coat. Arrange 2 cups salad on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 fillet.