Tangy Chili Shrimp on Toast

(30 minutes, serves dozens)

My mother is known for these delicious, fussy little appetizers. They present beautifully for a cocktail party.

1 lb medium raw, peeled shrimp
2 medium onions, minced
enough vegetable oil to sauté (about 3 TBL)
1-2 rounded tsp cayenne
ketchup to taste (about 1/4 cup)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 – 1 rounded tsp salt
cilantro or curly parsley for garnish
either buttery crackers or slices of white bread
butter to spread
mustard to spread (optional)

Optional: Cut small circles of white bread and toast in an oven for a few minutes. Spread with butter, or butter mixed with mustard. Alternately, use crackers.

1. Sauté onions in oil until golden; add cayenne and sauté on high a minute or two until darkened.

2. Add shrimp, ketchup, lime juice, and salt; turn down heat to medium and cook, stirring, until well blended.

3. Serve on toast or crackers, placing 1-2 pieces of shrimp on each one and garnishing with a sprig of parsley or cilantro.

Halibut with Roasted Spicy Beets, Beet Green & Coconut Mallung, and a Dill-Citrus Gremolata

    I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook different kinds of fish, so tonight, I took on halibut. This seems like a fairly delicate fish, and many of the recipes I reviewed were very simple and lightly seasoned. Which is fine, but, y’know, Sri Lankans gotta bring a little heat, right?

So I took an pleasant-looking recipe on Epicurious, which made use of both beets and beet greens for a very pretty result, and started messing with it. Lime and lemon instead of orange, mostly to lead it in a Sri Lankan direction. A little green chili improved the beets, and a little lime juice improved the halibut.

The real excitement was taking the beet greens and using a mallung-style approach with coconut, lime juice, and sugar. So good! On roasting, the greens sitting under the fish soaked up lots of flavor, and the greens on the edge got delightfully crispy. I could’ve made a meal out of beet greens alone, which is not something I say every day! But they were delicious with the halibut and the roasted beets.

If you wanted to make it just a little more South Asian, I think you could add a t. of cumin powder to the halibut, and/or 1-2 T of coriander seeds and maybe a few T of yogurt to the beets. I’ll be trying that next time!

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Gremolata:
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel + 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

Beets:
3 medium (1 1/2- to 2-inch) beets with green tops attached; beets trimmed and scrubbed
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1-3 green chilies, chopped fine (optional)

Beet greens mallung:
Beet greens very coarsely chopped (about 4 cups, ideally)
1/2 c. grated dried coconut (unsweetened)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Halibut:
4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets or mahi-mahi fillets (about 1 inch thick)
2 T lime juice
more salt and black pepper to grate over

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Cover large rimmed baking sheet in foil and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Mix chopped dill and grated peel in small bowl for gremolata.

2. Peel beets and slice into 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick slices; put in medium glass bowl; add enough water to cover beets halfway. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high until just tender, 4-5 minutes. Uncover and drain. Return beets to same bowl, and add 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon gremolata, sliced shallots, and green chilies.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss well.

3. Toss chopped beet greens in another medium bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, lime juice, sugar, salt, and pepper.

4. Spread beet slices in single layer on half of prepared baking sheet. Mound beet greens on other half of baking sheet.

5. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; place fish fillets on top of beet greens and pour remaining lime juice over fish. Brush fish with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle fish with 2 tablespoons gremolata.

6. Roast fish and vegetables until fish is just opaque in center, about 10-12 minutes.

7. Divide fish and vegetables among plates. Sprinkle with remaining gremolata and serve.

Spiced Swordfish Bowl with Red Rice, Cashews, Cranberries, Tomatoes, and Yogurt-Lime-Honey Drizzle

Experimenting with yesterday’s Sri Lankan spiced swordfish. Made a quick drizzle (1 T yogurt, 1 T lime juice, 1 t. honey), cooked some healthy Sri Lankan red rice (similar to brown rice, with a lovely nutty flavor), and stirred in some salted, roasted cashews, dried cranberries (sultanas would be more traditional, but I love the added tang from the cranberry), and fresh summer cherry tomatoes.
 
This was sweet and hearty; a comforting meal. If I were doing it again, I think I’d add some kale salad, either in place of the red rice, or in addition — the fresh green would be nice. And I definitely would want to up the spice level for me — sliced pickled jalapeños would be a great addition. But that said, yum. 🙂

Sri Lankan-Spiced Baked Swordfish

This spice preparation is one we’d traditionally use for deep-frying. In a hot country, a quick deep-fry is perhaps preferable to having a hot oven on! But I rarely deep-fry anything, so I wanted to see how it would do baked. Delicious!
 
You could certainly flake it into a salad, maybe accompanied by grilled peaches and a lime-honey yogurt dressing. I’m planning to try it soon in a bowl preparation, with red rice and a sunny-side-up egg on the top. But for my lunch today, I just had one of the swordfish steaks straight up, with a piece of fresh fruit — perfect.
 
Ingredients:
1 lb swordfish steak
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 TBL lime juice
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 T oil
 
1. Preheat oven to 400.
 
2. Mix spices, lime juice, and oil together in a mixing bowl and add fish; coat thoroughly.
 
3. Optional: Heat grill pan on stove on high; when pan is hot, add fish steaks and cook 3 minutes. (This is mostly to get the pretty char marks and a bit of that flavor; you can totally skip this step if you want.)
 
4. Turn steaks over (char-side up) and put on a foil-covered baking sheet; bake 20 minutes. Serve hot!

Spicy Shrimp with Avocado and Mango

Spicy Shrimp with Avocado and Mango
(10 minutes, serves 1-2)

I had some frozen cooked shrimp that I’d bought by mistake (usually I prefer to buy raw and cook them, which lets you use them well in a greater variety of preparations), so I was a little stuck trying to decide what to do with them. I wanted spicy, fruity, rich and satisfying enough that I didn’t feel the need for additional bread or rice. This delivered nicely, and was particularly pleasant to eat on the back deck, enjoying a perfect early summer day.

2-3 T cilantro, chopped
2-3 T lime juice
1 T vegetable oil
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
3-5 chopped green chilies (optional)
1/2 lb. cooked shrimp, shelled
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 t. raw red chili pepper (optional)

1. Combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, salt, black pepper, and green chilies in a bowl, beating quickly to emulsify dressing.

2. Stir in shrimp, avocado, and mango. Stir in red chili pepper if using. If you let it sit a little, maybe 15-20 minutes, it’ll blend better, but if you are impatient like me, you can just eat it straight up. Enjoy!

    

Quinoa & Red Rice Bowl with Mackerel Curry

I’ve been experimenting with alternatives to white rice, and alternatives to the traditional Sri Lankan way of eating rice, which is a big plate of rice with a little curry on top. That’s reasonably frugal, but also pretty high in starch and low in fiber (things I pay attention to as I get older and my metabolism slows down).

The problem is that it just doesn’t work to simply reduce the amount of rice and add in quinoa, because you can’t eat it the same way, rolling up the rice and curry into satisfying little balls with your hand and popping them in your mouth. The texture is wrong, the rice and curry won’t hold together in those proportions, etc.

So I figured maybe there was something to this quinoa bowl thing that’s so popular right now, and maybe if I tried to compose a Sri Lankan bowl, that might work better. The red rice + quinoa (cooked in a mix of chicken broth and water) on its own was a little dry, esp. after the first day, so I knew I wanted to add plenty of unctuous rich flavor. Fried egg was an obvious contender (egg hoppers are classic Sri Lankan food, and so delicious), and mackerel curry is nicely traditional (and deliciously spicy). Avocado lent another creamy element, and a cool balance to the heat, and a crisp kale-coconut-onion-tomato sambol was the perfect vegetal accompaniment.

I wasn’t even hungry, but dear reader, I DEVOURED this bowl, and was tempted to fry another egg and go back for seconds. Experiment: wildly successful. (Bonus, this would be easy to pack up and take to work to eat with a fork in the office.)

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll try it with beef curry, for poor Kevin, who doesn’t appreciate fish. Pretty sure that will also work great, keeping all the other elements the same. (A little seeni sambol added in wouldn’t hurt either…)

Sourdough Soup Bowl & Watermelon Salad

One consequence of writing a cookbook is that now when I eat out, I find myself taking mental notes and/or critiquing the food. These are two dishes from the Marriott I was staying at in Walnut Creek. The clam chowder was delicious, but the best part was how they served it in a little individual bread bowl, that they had buttered and crisped up before filling it with soup. Great contrasts of crispy bread exterior with soft, soup-soaked interior. Would make a fabulous autumn / winter appetizer or light meal.

I also liked this watermelon salad appetizer — so pretty! But the raspberry dressing was too sweet; it needed to be more citrus, to contrast with the candied nuts. And while the long cucumber slices are pretty, they required pulling out a knife, which none of the rest of the salad did, which was sort of annoying. I’d do it on a bed of round cucumber slices instead.

Thai Yellow Curry with Shirataki Noodles

Experimenting with tofu shirataki noodles (shirataki is made of yam, and is extremely low-carb, low-calorie, and gluten-free); here I added them to a simple Thai yellow curry.
 
Take one can Maesri yellow curry paste, add one can Chaokoh coconut milk, heat in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Stir in a t. of brown sugar and a T of fish sauce. Add two frozen tilapia filets (no need to thaw), one can drained bamboo shoots, and half a pound of trimmed green beans, simmer until fish is cooked through, 10-15 minutes. That’s your basic curry; use the protein and veggies of your choice.
 
Usually I’d serve this with white rice, but I’m trying to eat a little less white rice these days (sob!), so experimented with shirataki noodles. Follow the instructions on the package — rinse noodles well and drain, toss in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain again. Then stir the noodles into the curry and serve hot.
 
I’d call this a qualified success. It doesn’t taste as good as eating the curry with rice or the kind of noodles you’d use for pad thai; the shirataki noodles retain more bounce / tooth to them, so just don’t blend into the dish as well. But that said, they’re very neutral; I ate a big plate of this and was reasonably happy with it, and will be happy to eat more tomorrow as leftovers.
 
At something like 20 calories for the entire package of noodles (of which I ate perhaps a third), it’s at the very least a good option to know about if you’re being careful about calories or carbs, or need to eat gluten-free.
 

Tilapia with Quinoa & Rice

Five minute dinner — well, mostly because of leftovers and accompaniments. I had some rice + quinoa leftover from yesterday, and a little kale salad, and of course, I try to keep myself stocked with coconut sambol and seeni sambol in jars in the fridge.

So all I had to do was throw a tablespoon of butter in a hot pan, add a few tilapia filets, grind salt and pepper over them, flip them over a few minutes later, grind a little more salt and pepper on the other side, and when it was cooked through, serve with the rest of the food. Delish. The tilapia, seeni sambol, and rice/quinoa combo by itself would have been great — the other elements added pleasant fresher notes.