summer

Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

I started a new job today. I’m really excited for an entirely new challenge, meeting new colleagues, and using my brain in new ways. More to come on that front.

Anyway, they say you should take time off between jobs. I didn’t really follow that advice. I took a couple of days, and I played catch-up on errands, sleeping, and mostly boring things. (I would have included quality time at the pool, but Mother Nature had other plans.) But, I did get to use some of that extra time for berry picking, making and canning salsa, and doing some prep cooking for the week ahead.

Here’s a quick weeknight dinner I whipped up to take advantage of zucchini season, utilize other ingredients I had on hand or was purchasing, and to create a no-leftover meal (between welcome events, navigating a new commute, and various social outings, leftovers would otherwise go uneaten).

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Shrimp and Zucchini Tacos

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Per person:
2 teaspoons oil or fat of your choice
1 small zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion, if desired
4 oz. cooked shrimp, cut in half if large
Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, other seasonings, to taste
2 or 4 small corn tortillas, 2 flour tortillas, or 2 leaves Boston Bib lettuce

For serving, as desired: diced avocado, salsa, cilantro, lime wedges, etc

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, peppers, and onions; sauté until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp to pan; heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, and/or cumin.
Meanwhile, heat tortillas (if using). Spoon filling into tortillas or lettuce leaves; serve with desired toppings.

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Strawberry Shortcakes with Basil-Infused Whipped Cream

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It’s June! This is my absolute favorite month of the year. Beautiful weather, an open pool, baseball, strawberries, birthdays… oh the birthdays. More on that soon.

Not long after my last post, a professional opportunity presented itself that I simply could not turn down. The Gatsby and I packed up the Jeep and drove to Nebraska for a 7-week adventure (or, in The Gatsby’s case, a 7-week vacation at Grandpa’s house). There was some cooking, but mostly working and eating, little recipe-testing, and no blogging.

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The Gatsby spent part of our drive on my lap.

We’ve been back in Virginia for about two weeks and are settling in nicely after a lovely and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I’m back at the gym, and I’ve been to the pool six times already. And I made these delicious shortcakes for an office shindig.

I LOVE whipped cream infused with herbs such as basil or mint. It’s unexpected and fun, and just a bit fancy without being over the top. These were easy to bring to the office. The night before, I infused the cream and made the shortcakes. In the morning, I whipped the cream and packed up the container along with a package of strawberries, the shortcakes, a few basil leaves, and a paring knife. At party time, I sliced the berries and set up a make-your-own assembly line.

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Strawberry Shortcakes with Basil-Infused Whipped Cream

Shortcakes from Bon Appetit
Serves 8

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
15 large basil leaves, plus small or torn leaves
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 lb strawberries, sliced

Infuse the cream: Bring 1 1/2 cups cream to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bruise large basil leaves by hitting repeatedly with the dull side of a knife; stir into cream. Remove from heat, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let steep for 25 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a mixing bowl, pressing solids to extract liquid. Refrigerate until very cold, at least 5 hours.

Make the shortcakes: Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Using your fingers, work in butter until the texture of coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. Add remaining 1 cup cream and mix until dough just comes together (it will be sticky). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle, about 12 x 4″, 3/4″ thick. Cut rounds using a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter, re-rolling scraps to make 8 rounds. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Whisk egg and water in a small bowl. Brush tops of cakes with egg wash. Bake until tops are golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Make ahead: Shortcakes are best served fresh but can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

Assemble: Beat the basil-infused cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Split shortcakes and fill with berries and whipped cream. Top with additional whipped cream and basil leaves.

Suggestions and alternatives:
If you like your strawberries saucy, increase to 1 1/4 pounds berries and toss with 1/4 cup sugar (and a few torn basil leaves if you like). Macerate for an hour or more, tossing occasionally.

Substitute angel food cake for the shortcakes. If you’re grilling out, try lightly grilling slices of angel food cake before serving.

Dairy-Free Coconut Raspberry Ice Cream

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One of my dear friends drives a yellow Mini Cooper. It is a perfect metaphor for her disposition. We first met as coworkers, when her laughter would echo through the building. We both moved on from that company years ago but have remained friends, and she’s someone I count on for advice, support and a good gab session.

She has pretty significant food restrictions, almost none by choice. If you didn’t know her well, you might not even know, but I always worry about excluding her from the ritual that is shared food experience.

I happened across this recipe for dairy-free ice cream a few weeks ago, and we agreed it would be a great treat to try when she came over to catch up on episodes of Scandal.

I was out of rum (what??), which will definitely play up the coconut flavor. Use at least one can of full-fat coconut milk and let the ice cream soften a bit before serving to avoid an icy texture.

Coconut Raspberry Ice Cream
Adapted from Kiran Turan

2 13.5-oz. cans of coconut milk (full-fat or one can each full-fat and light)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
2 tabelspoons coconut rum (optional) 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (if not using rum, increase to 2 teaspoons)
9 oz fresh raspberries, divided (1 1/2 containers)

Freeze ice cream bowl and chill coconut milk im the refrigerator overnight.

In a blender, combine coconut milk, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and rum. Blend until smooth.Pour this mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Rinse the blender.

While the ice cream churns, make raspberry puree. Add 6 ounces raspberries and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar into blender (or use a handheld blender). Blend away until smooth.Strain raspberry puree to remove seeds.

While ice cream continues to churn, slowly drizzle in raspberry puree. With remaining raspberries, smoosh between your thumb and forefinger and drop into the ice cream bowl.

Transfer ice cream into a freezer-safe container and freeze for a few hours (until solid) or overnight.

Allow ice cream to soften for a bit before serving. Serve ice cream topped with toasted coconut flakes and fresh raspberries, if desired.