Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sautéed Shrimp, Mushrooms, and Peas over Penne w/ Parmesan Cream Sauce

This week's cool weather is a a welcome change from the soaring three-digit temperatures and suffocating humidity we've experienced down south all summer long.

Unfortunately, a turn towards colder weather immediately amps up my craving for comfort food.  Thankfully it's marathon training season again, so I imagine I'll counteract the extra calories with plenty of miles.

That being said, this meal isn't a caloric disaster.  In fact, with the exception of the cream/cheese/butter - the rest of the ingredients, in moderation, are quite healthy.  Besides, I'd rather give in to extra 'homemade' calories than outsource them from a drive-thru or chain restaurant.

Keeping in the theme of cheap, simple meals - this dish is sure to suffice.



Sautéed Shrimp, Mushrooms, and Peas over Penne w/ Parmesan Cream Sauce

 8 oz Barilla Plus Penne Pasta
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 oz Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Cup Frozen Green Peas
1 lb Medium (21 - 30 ct) Shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 Cup Dry White Wine
8 oz Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, plus more for garnish/taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add penne pasta and cook just under al dente, about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter into the olive oil.  Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute until browned and tender, about 3 - 4 minutes.  Next add peas and shrimp and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, or until shrimp just begin to firm and turn pink.  Remove entire contents of the pan to a plate to keep warm;  return the pan to the heat.  Next, add the wine to deglaze the hot pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Allow the wine to reduce by 1/2, or 2 - 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low, add cream, and allow to simmer and reduce for 4 - 5 minutes; taste, adjust seasoning, and keep a close eye on the cream to prevent from boiling.  When the cream has reduced by 1/2, add the mushroom/pea/shrimp mixture into the cream to finish cooking.  Toss in cooked pasta and cheese, and mix thoroughly until well combined.  Remove from heat and serve with grated Parmesan to taste.

Childrens Tumor Foundation

My apologies, however I must digress from food for a brief moment.

I'll start with a big thanks to everyone for following this site - We are growing exponentially each month, and I can't thank you enough for helping to spread the word.  Our visitors span the US and pretty much every other country across the world.  So, again a huge thanks for following along, and especially to those for picking up a copy of the book. With that said, I'd like to bring some awareness to a cause that's also close to the heart. 

I've been involved for four years now in creating, performing, and directing a concert (Rock4Research) to benefit the Children's Tumor Foundation - and more specifically family friend Drew Leathers and his fund raising team, The Tumornators.

If you don't ever come back to this site again, I recommend checking out the The Tumornators site just to see why so many people are devoted to raising funds and spreading awareness on Neurofibromatosis and Schwannomatosis.

I realize that most of you are not in the Atlanta area to attend the Rock4Research concert on October 22nd, nor are the majority of you UGA fans interested in this incredible opportunity.  But - for the rest of you, consider making a small donation to CTF in support of The Tumornators.

Preparing and sharing food with others is one of life's simplest, selfless acts.  However, giving time, thoughts, prayers, and gifts to causes greater than ourselves is what brings true happiness.

Keep peaceful!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Now Available for iPhone/iPad

In the words of Slim Mackerel, That's Right!

Now you can access your favorite recipes and meals 'on the go' via your iPhone or iPad.

Books are available through the Apple Bookstore for $11.99.

Download your copy today!

Taking Shortcuts

We are all guilty of cheating.

Whether it's slacking on a workout, or looking off one's term paper, at some point our moral compass and competitive drive takes the easy way out.

Obviously there's a negative connotation with the word "shortcut".  And for good reason: most of the shortcuts we take are out of laziness and fear.

But, what about kitchen shortcuts?  Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Cake aside, I'm okay with taking a few shortcuts in the kitchen.  After all, relying on a store-bought pasta sauce or salad dressing as a convenience is much better than waiting in line at the local drive-thru.  In fact, many of today's manufacturers offer 'healthier' versions of prepared sauces, dressings, or rice mixes to meet the needs of those looking for convenience without sacrificing their diet.  Whether it's low-calorie, whole grain, or reduced sodium . . . it's a positive trend that many manufacturers are now focused on providing better products to consumers.

The following recipe relies on a low-sodium box of Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice as a side/starch to round out the meal.  No, it's not as good as standing over a pot of beans as is called for in the traditional NOLA preparation, but for a busy weeknight, it gets the job done.

Call it cheating if you will.  I call it being realistic.

Grilled Pork Chops with Red Beans and Rice and Sauteed Spinach

1 Package Reduced Sodium Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice
2 Thick Cut Pork Chops (about 8 - 10 oz each)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Package Spinach Leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  On the stove top, prepare rice according to package instructions (approximately 25 - 30 minutes total cook time).  Next, heat a grill/grill pan to medium high heat.  Coat each pork chop in olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  When 15 minutes cooking time remain for the rice, add the chops to the grill; cook and do not disturb for 2 minutes.  Turn chops 1/4 turn and cook for another two minutes, creating nice grill marks.  Flip chops and add to a high heated oven (or indirect heat on a covered grill) and cook until medium well, about 10 minutes depending on the size and cut.  Remove rice from heat and allow to cool and thicken.  In a small skillet over medium-high heat, add a teaspoon of olive oil and the garlic; saute for 30 seconds.  Add the entire bag of spinach and cook until leaves are just wilted, about 1 - 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, remove chops from heat and rest for 2 -3 minutes.  Begin plating by placing a portion of red beans and rice and spinach side by side.  Rest the chop over the beans and serve. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meals for the Bachelor: 5 Simple, One Skillet Recipes

As much as we'd always like to dine in the company of a beautiful woman, sometimes it just doesn't happen.  No worries.  Check out this post I did for our friends over at The Art of Manliness offering up some great recipes when dining alone.



Monday, August 16, 2010

Stay home. Eat Local.

Tune into one of the many food television programs these days, and you will inevitably find some chef praising the merits of utilizing local ingredients.  If you think about it, it's quite strange that we've come to this point.  After all, in the old days, local/seasonal ingredients were our only option.  So, why is it that we are so focused on the source of our food?


Sure, it's pretty cool that I can pick up a kumquat in my local market in the middle of winter.  But tasting that piece of citrus imported or trucked across the country quickly quells my fascination with modern day logistics.

The fact of the matter remains:  it's best to eat local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.  In fact, most of the time these ingredients are cheaper because they have not been marked up to cover the costs of transportation, packaging, etc.

Forget about the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting your local farmers . . . there are enough Birkenstock wearing, burlap sack carrying, foodie types out there that have already created a 'movement' to spread the love.  Instead, just be realistic.  Local ingredients are typically cheaper and better tasting than the alternative . . . enough said.  If you get that warm fuzzy feeling as a by-product of making realistic and sustainable choices . . . all the better.

Today's recipe is for a simple Caprese Salad.  I utilized fresh basil from my herb garden, along with house-made mozzarella cheese made daily by Tom over at Lazzaroli Pasta.  I was fortunate to have a few friends bring me an assortment of heirloom tomatoes grown by some of Sugar Hill, GA finest local farmers, Marler & Edwards.  These guys are producing outstanding crops of tomatoes and peppers that are all the rage in the Atlanta fine dining circuit.  Don't fret if you can't find their website or location . . . you are more likely to catch these two traversing the serene waters of the Chattahoochee than you are with a hoe and shovel in hand.  With that said, they may produce only the finest of ingredients in the Atlanta area, but your local farmers market or vegetable stand will offer up some great varieties for use in this recipe and others.



Heirloom Caprese Salad

1 Cup Assorted Heirloom Cherry and Grape tomatoes, sliced
6  - 8 oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil, torn into small pieces
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar

Arrange sliced tomatoes and cheese on a serving plate, garnishing with fresh torn basil.  Lightly season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Drizzle oil and vinegar over the top of all ingredients.  Serve.

Grilled Flank Steak Sandwiches w/ Garlic/Basil Mayo and Caramelized Onions

Sandwich - for dinner?

I know what you are thinking . . . sandwiches don't technically fit into typical dinner fare.

Think of this as a gourmet sandwich, made simple:  It's great for a weeknight dinner.  Pair this up with some oven roasted french fries and a glass of red wine, and you might think you are dining at a bistro on the outskirts of Paris.  Well, not really - but it never hurts to imagine.

I went with Flank Steak in this recipe as it's relatively cheap and easy to find.  This lean cut is best served when seared quickly to medium/medium rare and sliced thin across the grain, as shown here.


Let's break this down into a few simple steps and get started.  Don't forget to enjoy a glass of wine during the process.

Grilled Flank Steak Sandwiches w/ Garlic/Basil Mayo and Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cups Yellow Sweet Onions, sliced thin

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

Garlic/Basil Mayo
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Pinch Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Fresh Basil, chopped
1 - 2 Dashes Worcestershire 

Grilled Flank Steak Sandwiches 
1 Loaf Whole Grain French Bread
1 lb Flank Steak
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

1. Onions: 
In a skillet over medium low heat, combine oil, onions, and kosher salt and saute for 25 - 30 minutes, stirring on occasion until onions are browned and tender.
2. Mayo:  Combine minced garlic and kosher salt onto a cutting board.  Using the flat side of a chef's knife, work the ingredients into a paste on the board.  Combine garlic paste with mayo and remaining ingredients.  Cover, and keep chilled until ready for service.
3.  Sandwich:  Slice French bread into approximately two 6 - inch servings.  Next, slice the bread horizontally to create a sandwich top and bottom.  Place each slice under a broiler for 30 seconds - 1 minute, or until slightly browned and crispy.  Meanwhile, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the flank steak and season both sides liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Add steak to a grill/grill pan over medium- high heat and cook for approximately 2 - 3 minutes per side for medium rare.  Remove steak from grill and set aside to rest for 3 - 4 minutes.  Begin assembling sandwich by spreading a layer of mayo on each side of the toasted bread.  Next, thinly slice steak across the grain and add to the bottom portion of the sandwich.  Top with caramelized onions and serve.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back to the Basics

Sometimes it's the simple things . . . Sure, a recipe that requires French translation sounds impressive, but it may not always be on the mark.  Depending on your audience (beautiful dining partner), your efforts may be lost in translation.

Over the next few weeks, I'm focusing my work on simple meals.  Stay tuned for more quick and easy meals on my site, along with a few forthcoming articles that I've written for your favorite publications.  For those of you looking for something more complicated, just scroll through the last few months of posts, and I'm sure you will find meals to satisfy your palate, and your time.

When most people think of summertime, high humidity, and three-digit temperatures, the last meal they typically consider is a satisfying bowl of spaghetti.  After all, that's comfort food, right?

Wrong.  The following recipe is light, fresh, healthy, and easy.  

Somewhere along the Atkins Diet craze, people decided that eating pasta was akin to killing your neighbor's dog.  Sure, it's not the greatest thing to slurp up a bowl of noodles and sit on your ass, but then again, when has it ever been good to be a gluttonous sloth? (College Football weekends aside)  In this case, I've gone with a high fiber pasta that's lower on the glycemic index (carbs) than your traditional variety.  Of course, whole grain or wheat pasta could also be used.

The main rule of using fresh, quality ingredients is even more important in a recipe that requires so few items.  In other words, choose your ingredients wisely.  With that said, this meal is still easy on the wallet.

Simple. Easy. Cheap - oh là là.


Summertime Spaghetti
10 - 12 oz Barilla Plus Spaghetti
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Large (28 oz) Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes, preferably San Marzano variety
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
6 - 8 Fresh Basil Leaves
Crumbled Feta Cheese

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and saute until tender, careful not to brown.  While tilting the pan away from you, add the entire contents of the canned tomatoes to the pan.  Using the back of a wooden spoon, break apart the whole tomatoes.  Season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to medium and allow sauce to simmer and reduce while the pasta is cooking.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook until just under al dente, about 8 minutes.  Using tongs, remove pasta from the boiling water, draining off excess water, and add to the sauce.  Toss the pasta thoroughly in the sauce to coat the spaghetti and finish cooking, about 1 - 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Carefully stack, roll, and slice the basil leaves into long thin strips, or chiffonade.  Add a generous portion of the pasta and sauce to each serving plate.  Top with crumbled feta and fresh basil.  Serve.