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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paella Risotto with Shrimp, Scallops and Crab

I love paella. And risotto. So, then comes the next logical step: combining them into a single luscious dish.

I took a few liberties with this paella risotto, using a recipe from Bon Appetit as inspiration and adapting it to my taste. Traditionally, paella incorporates mussels and/or clams. But I decided to go with shrimp, crab and scallops -- ingredients one often finds in risotto. I wanted to preserve the Spanish sensibility of paella, so I included traditional ingredients such as chorizo, saffron and smoked paprika. And I included some anchovies, tomato paste and orange zest to add depth.

The result is a smoky, sultry, creamy dish. The lightness of the seafood and zest balances the heft of the sausage and rice. The saffron perfumes the dish and the anchovy and tomato pastes and paprika create a complex backdrop. Give it a try!

Paella Risotto

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound chorizo, casings removed
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 garlic cloves, minced

32 oz. fish stock
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 bay leaf

2 cups arborio rice

1 tablespoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

1/2 cup dry white wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 pound uncooked medium peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 pound scallops, sliced in half if large
1/2 pound crab meat, picked over
5 oz frozen peas

1 tablespoon orange zest

Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add sausage and cook for a couple of minutes, breaking up with a spatula. Add shallots, garlic, kosher salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste, and continue to saute for a total of five to seven minutes.

Meantime, combine fish stock, bay leaf and saffron in a small saucepan over medium until simmering, reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Add arborio rice to the sausage mixture and stir for two minutes. Stir in anchovy and tomato pastes and paprika.

Add wine, stirring constantly for about three minutes until wine evaporates. Stir in thyme. Add warm fish stock by ladlefuls, allow to reduce and continue to stir until rice is tender and liquid is creamy, about 20-25 minutes.

Mix shrimp, scallops, crab and peas into risotto and combine gently until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle zest on dish and serve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Michael Symon's Spicy Tomato Soup with Blue Cheese

Tomato soup, in all its forms, is rich, comforting and complex. Over the years, I've made a number of versions: with fresh ripe summer tomatoes and basil; with roasted tomatoes and mixed herbs; and with pancetta and tapenade. All have a place in my kitchen.

So, when I saw Michael Symon's version with Sriracha and blue cheese, I was intrigued. I first saw the recipe when flipping through his new cookbook, Live to Cook, and it remained lodged in my mind for a few weeks.

I recently had a few moments to spare, with all the ingredients on hand, and was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it is to make.

Symon's soup combines olive oil, red onion, garlic, canned San Marzano tomatoes, chicken stock, heavy cream, Sriracha, fresh oregano and blue cheese in a big stockpot. I subbed fresh basil. You allow the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes and puree. I used a stick blender, but to get the finest consistency, follow the recipe, whirl in a blender and strain.

This soup is velvety, smokey and briney. Deeply satisfying and flavorful. It makes a lovely first course and would pair beautifully with grilled steak or roast chicken.

Next time, I'd cut the Sriracha in half and dial back on the cream. I love the heat but the spice might be too much for some. The texture is perfect, but I lean toward less cream, even in creamy soups -- it tends to mute the flavors and weigh it down. Just a little is enough for me.

To get the recipe and view a video podcast with Michael Symon, see The Amateur Gourmet.

Cookie Time!

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Cynthia Orosco is the copy editor of AutoWeek magazine. She's also a baker extraordinaire. Wes has brought home her delectable baked goods often over the years and I'm always a happy recipient. She also bakes an assortment of superb vegan treats.

During the hectic time that is the holiday season, baking often falls to the bottom of the to-do list for many people. But this is my favorite time of year for baking, and for me, baking is a stress reliever. But the problem always seems to be that I find so many recipes I want to try, I never get to all of them. So this year, I broke up the baking into a couple of weekends, and the weekend before Christmas, I pulled out a few tried-and-trues and and one new recipe. (These can be found on the Web; two are from Food Network.) Wishing everyone happy baking and happy holidays!

Crunch Snowballs
I found this in the Sunday coupons a few years ago and have gone back to it each year since. The cookies satisfy a chocolate need and stay tender.

16 Fun Size Crunch bars, chopped
1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
3/4 cup of confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3 cups of all-purpose flour
Mix everything together and roll into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes. When mostly cool, roll them in powdered sugar.

Candy Cane Cookies
I've seen other peppermint cookies or recipes that use candy canes or mints as a main ingredient. This one, from Food Network, I like best because you get the image and the flavor without the candy sticking to your teeth.

1 bag of sugar cookie dough (I like Betty Crocker)
1 stick of butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup softened cream cheese (I found reduced fat works fine, if you don't want to use regular)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Red food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (I do 2 teaspoons, for a more minty flavor)
Mix together all ingredients except for the food coloring and extract, then evenly divide the dough into two bowls. Add the extract to one, and the food coloring to the other, until you get the shade of red you want. Flour counter or board and roll chunks of each color dough into ropes about three inches long. Twist one red and one white rope into a candy cane shape, and place on a parchment-lined pan. Bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
A former neighbor of ours when I was in junior high school made these wonderfully fluffy sour cream sugar cookies. I had the recipe at one point but lost it along the way. I found this recipe during a Web search, and while it doesn't yield all of the fluffiness I remember, the cookies are still good. You could make these round and sprinkle them with coarse sugar, or roll out the dough and cut into shapes (after chilling it in the fridge for about 30 minutes).

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
Sift together the dry ingredients, and separately, cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Combine the dry and wet, gather and cover in plastic wrap and chill. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400 and bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Aaron's Cinnamon Chocolate Cookies
When I saw this recipe in my e-mail, I couldn't resist. The finished product is crisp yet soft, and you get just a hint of the peppers as you eat the cookie. The caramel drizzle and chopped nuts (I used walnuts) give an extra sweet-and-salty note, and these cookies are even more tasty dunked in a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

Note: I didn't have sweet butter in the house, so I used all unsalted butter, and the cookies baked and tasted just fine.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Mexican cocoa powder (or add 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sweet butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons margarine
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch ground black pepper
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
1/2 cup dulce de leche, optional
1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped, optional
Combine the flour, cocoa and salt and set aside. In another bowl, combine the sugars, removing any lumps, and set aside.In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add sugar mixture, cinnamon, peppers and vanilla. Beat in the egg white. Add flour until just combined. Gather dough, form it into a log, wrap in plastic and chill at least 45 minutes. Line pan(s) with parchment paper and heat oven to 350. Cut 1/4 rounds from the log, place on pan(s) and cook 12 to 14 minutes. When cool, drizzle with dulce de leche and sprinkle on nuts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spinach Salad with Apples, Cheddar and Honey Roasted Pecans

As autumn eases into winter, I want to leave you with a fall salad. This salad is hearty and substantial without being overbearing, and can serve as a main dish or first course. It blends classic seasonal flavors, but can be enjoyed all year-round. It combines spinach, apples, honey roasted pecans, bacon, sharp cheddar and golden raisins with an apple cider vinaigrette cut with Dijon, honey and lemon zest. The result is a melange of texture and flavor; crunchy, crispy, creamy, savory and sweet. See the recipe at

This isn't a 30-minute meal; the salad takes some time. But bidding a bittersweet farewell to fall is a worthy endeavor. Try it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bloggers, Cupcakes and Chevrolet

The Best of Cupcakes tour group

Yesterday was National Cupcake Day. How grand that we have a designated day to celebrate the lovely cupcake. A few of my colleagues in LA decided to do it up right, and invited 12 fellow food blogger to go on a cupcake crawl across the city. Check out When Tara Met Blog for details and video.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Savory Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

I recently met Kelsey, The Naptime Chef, and was immediately impressed with her friendly, upbeat personality, her talent in the kitchen and her incredibly delicious double chocolate cookies.

When she posted these delightful cheddar cheese biscuits recently, I knew I had to make them myself. A cross between a cracker and shortbread, these flavorful cheese biscuits are light, buttery and completely addicting. They blend good quality sharp cheddar, butter, paprika, red pepper and pecans, and they couldn't be easier to make. You simply mix the dough, roll into logs, chill, slice and bake. The result is a sophisticated, savory appetizer or snack.

For the recipe, see Kelsey's blog. I have a feeling you're going to be seeing a lot of her in the future -- her star is on the rise! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ginger Glazed Sole with a Little Help from my Friends

I've found that one of the lovely and unexpected benefits of being a food blogger and writer is your friends start giving you food. 

I arrived home from work one day to find a small, fragrant package in my mailbox from my friend Abbie, a talented and creative home cook in Austin. Inside, some beautiful handcrafted dried blood orange slices and finishing salt from her kitchen.

Then, my seriously smart friend Renee from the office gave me a jar of pungent ginger preserves -- one of her favorites. And for good reason: it's golden, sweet and spicy, with a serious kick.

And finally, our hilarious, generous globetrotting friend Beth brought us back some amazing spices from Abu Dhabi, including some Kashmiri chili powder and biriyani masala. 

So I decided to combine these gifts into a dish, and came up with Ginger Glazed Sole.

I put about a quarter cup of the jam in a small saucepan, along with a drizzle of olive oil. Added a teaspoon each of the spices, a little minced garlic and a good pinch of brown sugar. I crushed a dried blood orange slice into the mixture, brushed it over the sole fillets, and baked for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. I dusted it with the blood orange finishing salt and served with a side of steamed broccoli.

The delicate sole fillets contrasted nicely with the assertive ginger glaze. And, while this dish is not for the faint of heart -- it packs some major heat -- the sweetness of the preserves and brown sugar softens the punch. A bit.

Thanks, friends. You make me smile.