An Old Standby and a New Favorite

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I remember reading this recipe in an issue of Cooking Light while I was either in college or grad school, and immediately thinking that it sounded like utter deliciousness: Broiled Shrimp over Black Bean and Corn Salad.  The shrimp are marinated in a delicious citrus-soy sauce-garlic-Worcestershire glaze, then broiled for just a few minutes.  And in the meantime, you make this salad, bursting with freshness and bright, summery flavors.  It became my simple go-to recipe for entertaining or cooking an easy dinner for friends, and I’ve always loved it.

About a month ago, as the weather started to warm up, I realized that I’d never made it for Adam before.  I knew he would love the flavor combinations, but he’s also a boy and can EAT, so I wanted something else to round out the meal and make it just a bit heartier for a growing boy.  Enter Pinterest – I found this unbelievable-looking (and 5-minute) recipe for baked avocado with salsa and breadcrumbs, and it seemed like the perfect accompaniment.  And it was.  This meal as it stands now has become a regular in our rotation and requested by Adam – shrimp, salad, avocado, and all.  The thing that takes the longest is marinating the shrimp.  The rest you can throw together in a half hour.  Love it. Perfect for a delicious, healthy, but quick weeknight dinner.

(As a side note, the recipe as it stands says to broil the shrimp, while the avocado bakes at 450.  I usually just pop them in a 450-degree oven together!)

Broiled Shrimp over Black Bean and Corn Salad (adapated from myrecipes.com)

Shrimp marinade:

juice of one lime
1/4 cup thawed orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced

Put everything into a Ziploc bag with a pound of peeled, raw shrimp (you can do as much shrimp if you like – one pound is perfect for two people with enough leftover for one lunch). Let sit for a half hour to an hour, mixing it up once in a while.
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Salad:

2 cups coarsely chopped tomato
1/2 cup sliced green onions
handful chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.25-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
juice of one lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Disclaimer: I eyeball pretty much everything (except for the canned goods).  Prep your veggies and add everything from the tomato through the jalapeno into a large bowl.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste to make a dressing.  Pour over the salad, toss, and let sit a few minutes for the flavors to meld.

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Once your shrimp are nice and marinaded, pop them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and broil (or bake at 450!) for about 4 minutes or so, until they look nice and pink and no longer translucent.  Done!

Now, let’s talk about that avocado.  Oh man oh man.  Who knew that popping an avocado into an oven would taste so so amazing?  (Well, I adore avocado, so I’m not surprised, but it’s a whole new taste sensation.)

I found the recipe here via Pinterest (Baked Avocado Salsa), but it’s been popping up all over the internet, and possibly originated from a tweet from my beloved Eric Ripert:

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So.  Avocado.  This couldn’t be easier.  Take an avocado.  Halve it, remove the pit.  Into each hollowed-out half, spoon some salsa of your choosing.  Then, in a little bowl, mix together 1/4 cup bread crumbs, one minced clove of garlic, about a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, and a tablespoon of lemon juice (enough to make the mixture stick together).  The recipe also calls for chopped basil, about a tablespoon.  I’ve made it with and without and it’s delicious either way.  Up to you!

Once you’ve got your breadcrumb mixture, kind of pack it on top of your little avocado halves, like so, and pop them on a baking sheet.

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Then into the oven they go! 5 minutes or so at 450 until the breadcrumbs start to get nice and toasted.  Remove, eat, and wallow in the deliciousness.
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Wishful (Spring) Thinking

I’ve loved to cook for years.  I distinctly remember discovering that I liked being in a kitchen in my Home Economics class in Middle School.  I will forever be indebted to Mrs. Dobos for introducing me to scones and teaching me how to make pie.  But there were stretches of years where I lived alone and wasn’t dating anyone seriously, and let’s face it – cooking for one isn’t fun.  You either put tons of time and effort into producing very little food, or you end up eating the same thing for a week straight.  I love leftovers, but to a point.

Enter Adam.  Ever since we started dating last year, and especially since he moved in last September, I’ve been cooking almost every day. And I love it.  I love having the time to cook.  I love having someone to cook for.  I love trying new recipes.  I love that we both eat everything and that he’s open to any and every culinary experiment and adventure.

Last weekend we were both feeling a dash of spring fever, and wanted to spend our Sunday evening cooking a spring-like meal together, and so we decided to consult our resources – my bookshelf overflowing with beautiful cookbooks full of glossy images of mouthwatering food, and, predictably, Pinterest.  We quickly decided we wanted an appetizer and a pasta, both featuring green-tasting things, but nothing that would take over an hour to prepare.

The first thing we hit on was a recipe for Green Beans with Charred Onions, from Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking.

The photograph screamed seasonal deliciousness, and the recipe seemed simple but ultimately satisfying.  I then remembered a recipe I’d pinned recently for pasta tossed in a creamy avocado-spinach-basil pesto that just coats each noodle in green avocado goodness.  (I heart avocado.)  We thought we had a winning combo.

And we did.  Both dishes were super-simple to prepare, and both turned out amazingly flavorful and tasting of Spring.  Exactly what we were going for.

Green Beans with Charred Onions (adapted from Mario Batali, Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking)

Kosher salt
1 pound young green beans or haricots verts
2 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (we thought this was too much onion – eyeball it to your liking)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt.  Add the beans and blanch until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water; drain well.

Halve the onions lengthwise and trim off the ends.  Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide slices.

Heat a dry 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until very hot.  Add the onions and saute until charred in spots but still crunchy, 4 to 6 minutes.  During the last minute or so, add the beans, stirring and tossing to warm them through.  Transfer the beans and onions to a large bowl.

Whisk the balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and oil together in a small bowl.  Pour over the beans and onions, tossing to coat.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour, before serving.

Sprinkle the beans with sea salt and serve.

Creamy Avocado Pasta (adapted from Blissful Eats with Tina Jeffers)

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted
1/2 a lime
3 garlic cloves
1/2 a jalapeno pepper
handful of fresh basil
handful of baby spinach
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
handful to half a bag of baby spinach
basil leaves to garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still al dente, 9 -11 minutes.  Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.  Put the handful-to-half-bag of spinach in the bottom of a serving bowl, place the spaghetti on top, and toss for a few minutes to wilt the spinach.

While the pasta is cooking make the avocado sauce.  Scoop out the flesh from the avocado and place in a food processor.  Zest the lime and add along with the lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, basil, handful of spinach, salt and pepper.  Drizzle in oil and blend until smooth.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss everything together, adding a little cooking water to loosen the sauce as needed (I used about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup).  Top with the grated Parmesan and basil and serve.

You’re welcome!