Shrimp Salsa for Hunan Hand Awareness Week

Hunan hand. It’s serious. So serious in fact that I will reference this scholarly medical definition. I am shocked that more bloggers have not spoken out about this condition sweeping through kitchens all over the world. Well, I am a hunan hand survivor and this is my story.

A few weeks ago I was spending a nice afternoon with my lovely friend Christine. We started talking about a sushi-making party she once threw, she reminded me that I had sung “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer” at Karaoke, and I recalled that JD and I had been 3 hours late to the party – because I had hunan hand.

HH (as I like to call it) is a chili burn that you get after handling hot peppers – the capsaicin from the peppers causes skin to have an [often intense] burning sensation. On that fateful night, JD and I had been making hot pepper jelly to give away for Christmas. I had minced over 1lb of jalapenos… the resulting HH caused us to try soaking my hand in milk, water, and even vodka! Let me tell you, it was a waste of perfectly good vodka. After lots of fretting (by me), drinking (by JD), and googling (by both), we reasoned that the only thing that could make HH go away was time. Hence being 3 hours late for the party, missing all the sushi making and arriving only in time for the sushi eating, and obviously, the karaoke.

Although I survived that incident relatively unscathed, I never looked at a hot pepper the same way again. Do yourself a favour – wear gloves, or at least remember to periodically rinse your hands in cold water.

This recipe comes from Gina at Skinnytaste and made a terrific summer meal – would probably also make a great party dip. Next time, I’m going to add some minced garlic.

Juice two limes – or the biggest lime you can find. This lime was so huge, I wondered if it was juicing with steroids

Chop your veggies and herbs

Add your chopped, cooked shrimp

Mix well and allow the flavours to combine in your fridge for a minimum of one hour

JD version: shrimp salsa taco with avocado and old white cheddar

Julia version: shrimp salsa lettuce wraps

Highly customizable – could add black beans, corn, other seafood…yum!


Blog Love: Illuminating Blog Award

Taking a short break from our regularly scheduled programming for some blog-on-blog love!

I have really been enjoying polishing The Fork lately (groan – couldn’t resist!) and so was simply delighted to be nominated for the Illuminating Blogger Award by dlcwelch828 of Ramblings and Recipes – a delicious food blog.  Cheers!

As per “the rules” of this award, I will list one random thing about myself:

The first thing I ever made on my own – probably scrambled egg and salsa breakfast wraps and really awful coffee. This was my first culinary adventure when I became of age to make my parents breakfast in bed. I have some vivid memories of the coffee maker overflowing…

And five blogs that I regularly read, I am also nominating, so now you shall know what I drool over on a daily basis:

The Ranting Chef

Terri’s Kitchen UK

Low Carb Confidential

Marinating Online

My Fancy Pantry

And looking to your right, you may observe my shiny, fork-y, new badge. Fun!

Hot Lobster Dip

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Please allow me to set down my champagne and diamonds so I may tell you all about the hot lobster dip we just enjoyed. You simply must try it, darling.

The secret to why we were eating lobster dip on a Monday night is this: I bought the lobster (canned, frozen, and of excellent quality) at Costco for $14.99. A small price tag on a decadent pay off.

And let me tell you, this stuff is good. No, it isn’t exactly the same as fresh lobster – but then again, you don’t have to cook live lobsters and tear them apart, now do you? Plus, I consider myself something of a lifelong lobster connoisseur (LLC) so you can trust me. When I was growing up in Newfoundland, my parents had a cabin on the south side of  North Harbour – I kid you not – and they always seemed to have a friend who was a lobster fisherman who would supply us with fresh lobster. My dad always claimed that the colder the ocean, the sweeter the lobster meat and held the [possibly biased] opinion that Newfoundland lobster was the best. I have many fond memories of coming home from school and seeing my dad out on our back deck with a cooler and a kiddie pool filled with salt water and live lobsters. He would boil them on the back deck on a Coleman propane burner and then shell the lobsters for us so as not to bring the carnage into the house – what a gentleman, I know. He also loved to remind me that, at age 7 while riding in his truck, I announced “Daddy, lobsters couldn’t get any tastier if they tried!”

Historically (my dad also liked to remind us of this all the time), lobster was consider a poor man’s food and was generally considered by most as bottom feeders that were unfit to eat. Ah, how the times change.

This dip is rich but very delicious.

Cut your block of cream cheese into cubes

Add your melted garlic butter to the cream cheese

Add half a chopped onion, old bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha sauce and mix well.

Thoroughly drain your lobster meat and chop roughly – look at those lobster knuckles and claws, yum!

Add lobster meat and shredded cheese and fold together gently until combined

Add mixture to a medium sized baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until hot and bubbly

Like so!

Get your “dippers” and go crazy! JD and I sure did…! Sweet yellow peppers, radishes, celery and rye toast.

Hot Lobster Dip

8oz block of cream cheese, softened

3 tbsp of butter melted with 2 cloves of minced garlic

1/2 a small onion, chopped

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sriracha sauce or other hot sauce

1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup shredded extra old white cheddar

320g can of frozen lobster meat, thawed and drained

Cut cream cheese into cubes. Melt butter and garlic and allow to simmer for 30 seconds. Add melted garlic butter, onion, sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay seasoning and stir to thoroughly combine. Roughly chop your drained lobster meat and gently fold lobster and the shredded cheese into the mixture. Spread into an oven-proof dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 until dip is browned on top and bubbling. Enjoy with veggies, toasted bread, crackers, tortilla, or a spoon.

Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Your mother called. She wants you to eat more green vegetables. And if she is anything like my mother, she also wants you to clean your cutlery drawer, find out what your brother’s been up to, and teach her  more slang terms so she can impress her “peeps”.  Love you, mom!

On Friday, JD and I spend a completely lovely evening BBQing, drinking, and being silly with our friends K. and C. and their little girl, MJ. On the menu: sausages from the Italian butcher across the street, couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, grilled zucchini, and an impressive amount of beer and vodka.

This is a very quick side dish that can be put together and cooked in under 15 minutes. It also makes a nice alternative to a plain jane salad. I am not a lover of giant bowls of lettuce + assorted diced vegetables dug from the bowels of the refrigerator so I’m always looking for different ways to get veggies in. Plus, grilling things over open flames is really fun.

Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

a pinch of salt

I like to slice my zucchini on the diagonal because I am quite fancy, really.

Mix together all your ingredients and toss with zucchini. Let marinate about 5-10 minutes (although this is optional).

Grill about 1 minute per side over medium high heat – or better yet, have someone do it for you! Credit here goes to our friend, C.

Enjoy! This is the gluten-free, low carb version for me….(I also ate many more tomatoes and zucchinis than shown)…

And here’s the JD version with brown rice couscous salad included. All accounts stated that the couscous was pretty delicious – we used this garlic and olive oil kind.

All in all a great evening with some great friends – hopefully soon to be repeated. JD and I have been lucky to learn a lot about parenting from K. and C. They even let us babysit their little girl when she was only 8 hours old – they were in the next room – but it was still an experience I won’t soon forget. Happy Mother’s day to my dear friend K. – I am sure your day will be filled with cuddles and giggles!

From left: me, K., and Miss MJ

The Hot & Spicy Weekend: Homemade Thai Red Curry

Sometimes you want to come home from work, strip down to your unmentionables, pour yourself a stiff drink, and eat an astonishing amount of Thai food.

Don’t let me frighten you away! The actual culinary skill involved for this homemade Thai Red Curry is very little: can you make a blender drink? You can make this. I will admit, though, that assembling the ingredients can be a bit piddly. But that’s ok – one trip to a decently stock Asian market should have you ready to go. I first made this dish while I was at home in Newfoundland visiting my family –  if I could track down the ingredients in the land of Fish n Chips, I’d wager you can find them where you are, too.

This recipe is a mish-mash of dozens I have read. I can’t make any guarantees towards authenticity but it is delicious.

Thai Red Curry Chicken and Veggies

For the red curry paste:

15-20 dried red chilis, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (I used 20)

1 shallot, chopped, or 1/4 cup of red onion, chopped

1/2 a red pepper, chopped

2 stalks fresh lemongrass, chopped (tender parts only – remove the outer tough layer) or 3 TBSP frozen sliced lemongrass

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp kaffir lime leaves (often sold frozen in a package – they look like large, lime scented bay leaves) or substitute the zest of 2 limes

3 tsp red chili sauce, such as sriracha

2 thai bird’s eye chilis (optional – only if you like things VERY spicy)

One 2-inch piece of galangal or ginger, sliced

1 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander (aka cilantro) stems

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp sugar or equivalent amount of sweetner of your choice

2 tbsp chili powder

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp coconut milk (optional – if you have trouble pureeing)

For the assembly:

1 large can of coconut milk (unsweetened)

1 small can of bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into bite sized pieces (use instead: beef, shrimp, or tofu)

Assorted veggies: eggplant, green beans, red pepper (optional)

For Serving:

Steamed rice

Lime wedges

First, mix yourself a cocktail. Next, lay out everything you will need

Soak your dried chilis in hot water. Doesn’t that look like the devil’s hot tub? Yikes. Anyway, while your chilis are soaking, chop your other ingredients.

Clockwise from top – your soaked red chilis, shallot, garlic, galangal (or ginger), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (or zest of 2 limes), thai bird’s eye chilis (optional), chopped coriander (aka cilantro) stems.

Stuff everything into your magic bullet cup (if you’re me ) – or add everything to your blender. If the lime juice/fish sauce/soy sauce is not enough liquid to get things moving, add a few tbsp of your coconut milk.

Why, hello! It’s your new friend, Thai Red Curry paste! Now…please taste a miniscule amount. Literally dip your pinkie finger in and taste this tiniest bit because this is the concentrated paste and as such, it is very, very strong. Adjust as necessary – if you can’t taste the lemongrass, add more. If you find it too sour, add more sugar or tomato paste. Not savoury enough? Add a little more soy sauce or some salt. Is it very spicy? Consider that the coconut milk will calm that. Way, way, way too spicy for you? Add a little more lime juice to calm the heat.

The next step is to sautée your chicken (or whatever protein you wish) just until no longer pink in the middle. About 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat. Set aside.

Now add a little oil to your pan along with 2 to 4 tbsp of your curry paste and apologize for your terrible photo (I’m sorry). For a milder curry, use 2 tbsp of paste; if you like it spicy like we do, use 4 tbsp. The point of this awful photo is to show you that as you cook your red curry paste, it will begin to darken and become fragrant. At this point, add your coconut milk and stir until combined. Then add your veggies (if using), bamboo shoots, and chicken and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until veggies are tender and your whole kitchen is engulfed in the smell of Thai food. Serve over steamed rice with lime wedges as a garnish.

Now, eat a ridiculous amount and enjoy. Happy weekend!

P.s. But Julia, you didn’t say what to do with all my leftover curry paste? Leftover red curry paste can be portioned out in tbsp into plastic sandwich bags or containers and frozen for future use. Just defrost your portion of curry paste and proceed with the recipe. A little work upfront makes a lot of lazy weekend suppers, huh?

Cod Chowder with Bacon and Fresh Dill

I lied. This is actually Cod Chowder with Bacon, Fresh Dill and crab and white wine and whatever other delicious bits you can dream up. But that long of a title is somewhat unappealing, no?  This is one of those weeknight dinners that is actually incredibly fast to make (fish cooks in a snap, dontcha know!) and tastes so decadent you’d think it was already the weekend.

This recipe is loosely based on my mother’s famous Cod Chower and is high adaptable for any kind of white fish. You could also add salmon if you like, or some shrimp.

If you can get your hands on fish stock and some fresh dill, use them! Otherwise chicken stock and dried dill will do fine.

Cod Chowder with Bacon and Fresh Dill, and Crab

5 rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 cups fish stock or chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

1.5 lbs cod fillets cut into bite size pieces

1 tbsp fresh dill, finely minced – or 1 tsp dried dill

1 small can real crab meat, drained

1/2 cu very dry white wine (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

First, cook bacon until medium crispy, drain on paper towels and crumble. Reserve the bacon grease for cooking your veggies. Set bacon aside for later. Also it’s okay if you eat a little of the bacon because you are the cook and, quite frankly, you are hungry.

Next, sautée the vegetables you have so nicely diced in the bacon grease. Let them cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Measure your stock and add to your pot…

And do the same with your cream. Bring to a gentle simmer and continue simmering for 10 minutes until vegetables are quite tender.

While your pot is simmering away, prepare your fish and mince your dill. Add the fish and dill to your pot, cover, and let simmer about 15 minutes or until fish is cooked through. My pieces are slightly larger than bite-size. What can I say, JD has a big mouth…!

Add your crab and wine, if using, along with crumbled bacon, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine and allow to simmer 15 minutes longer so that flavours can combine.

Serve with a glass of chilled white wine and enjoy!