Sunday, April 21, 2013

Arugula Shrimp Burgers

Tim bought a bounty of beautifully plump Carolina shrimp the other day. We enjoyed half of them in a stir fry and saved the rest to make shrimp burgers the next day. I had intended to use the Lee Bros. reliable recipe until I realized that I sent my books off to be signed a few weeks ago and have not yet reclaimed them.

I scanned the fridge for inspiration and found it in a large container of peppery aurgula, Graham's favorite green. From idea to first bite, our delicious dinner was ready in under 30 minutes.

Arugula Shrimp Burgers
Makes 3 for dinner (or about a 12-15 appetizers)

1 lb. fresh Carolina shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large handful arugula
1 egg white
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
1/2-1 teaspoon hot sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil
3 brioche rolls or hamburger buns, toasted
mayo and mustard

Grab a large handful of arugula and place it in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse-chop until fine but not watery.  Add the shrimp, pulse-chopping just until chunky. Do not overwork the shrimp as it will turn into an unappetizing paste. Add egg white, hot sauce, salt and pepper; pulse until just combined.

Transfer to medium bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of the panko crumbs and stir to combine. Form into three patties. Arrange on a plate and chill about 15 minutes. (If you wish to chill longer and cook later, cover with plastic wrap.)

Pour about 3 tablespoons of canola oil into 10- or 12-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat. While oil warms, lightly press shrimp burgers into remaining panko crumbs to create a crust. Slide patties into the oil and cook until golden brown; carefully flip over and allow the second side to become equally golden. Remove from pan and drain briefly on paper towels.

Serve immediately on toasted brioche rolls lightly coated with mayo and your favorite mustard. I'm addicted to Gulden's Zesty Honey and Graham is likewise keen on Inglehoffer stone ground. Tim goes with the flow. If seasonal, add a nice slab of tomato.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Baker Karen Barker prefers savory crunch over sugary sweets for dessert

Karen and Ben Barker will be the guest speakers for Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina (CHOP NC) from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. A meet and greet will precede the reading from 6:45-7:15 p.m. next door at Foster’s Market.

Karen Barker's Olive Oil Biscotti with Orange and Rosemary
There are many home bakers and professional chefs who aspire to be as creative Karen Barker. But now and then, the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef – who used to dazzle customers at the much-missed Magnolia Grill – finds herself in the position of a fan who just has to know how a certain treat was made.

“There is a great coffee place in the East Village of New York City that Ben and I really like called Abraco,” Barker says from the kitchen of the couple’s Chapel Hill home. “They make a sweet-savory black olive biscotti that is just delicious.”

Barker has made her share of biscotti; the twice-baked cookie can be made from a wide variety of ingredients (different flours and fats, with or without eggs) and endless flavor profiles. But there was something about this one that was especially memorable.  

Karen and Ben Barker prepare for dinner with friends.
“I’m not a big sugar person, so sweets don’t often excite me,” Barker says as she gathered ingredients on the heavy butcher block counter. “Once in Provence I saw someone make a dessert with black olive and tomatoes and herbs. But this was the first time I’d ever tasted a biscotti anything like that. I loved it.”

Barker was making a batch to bring to a meeting the next day of their dinner party club. Ben was prepping an appetizer of brined lamb tongue to be simmered with shallot in a red wine sauce. Karen was making the biscotti to provide a crunchy counterpoint to the final course, a dairy-free chocolate mousse served with a red Italian dessert wine.

“A savory cookie is not for everyone,” she concedes while giving the fragrant, purplish olives a quick mince and grinding a generous amount of black pepper into her mixer’s work bowl. “But dunk this into some wine, or scoop up some chocolate mousse … it’s just perfect.”

Barker says the recipe could be easily tweaked to substitute other ingredients: use lemon zest instead of orange, leave out the olives and add walnuts. “I wouldn’t try green olive, though,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “I just don’t think that would work.” 

Barker leaves the end slices on the counter after she returns the cookies to the oven for their final toasting. “Baker’s privilege,” she says, nibbling a slice deemed not pretty enough to serve. She closes her eyes for a moment to let the flavors fill her mouth.

“I have to say, I find these pretty addictive,” she sighs. “I have a hard time just having one of them."

Karen Barker’s Olive Oil Biscotti with Rosemary and Orange

Makes 1 loaf (about 18-22 slices)

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup semolina or yellow corn meal
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsbp. minced rosemary
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup fine chopped black olives (such as kalamata)
a few grinds of black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine first three ingredients in the work bowl of mixer; combine well with paddle attachment. Add remaining ingredients, mix again. Ensure that all ingredients are thoroughly blended but avoid overworking the dough, which will be sticky.

Transfer dough with floured hands to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly press into the shape of a 12x3-inch log, adding pinches of flour if needed. Chill for at least 40 minutes but preferably for several hours.
Bake for 30 minutes or until loaf is lightly browned. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife and cut half-inch slices on the diagonal; should yield about 18-22 pieces. Arrange flat on the baking pan - it's OK if they are crowded - and return to oven until just lightly golden around the edges, about 5-6 minutes. Turn slices over and toast again, about 3-4 minutes, until just golden on the edges.

Cool biscotti completely. Wrap in parchment paper or keep in airtight container.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Celebrate spring with a sip of New Orleans: Susan Spicer's basil-infused Cotillion cocktail

One evening several years ago, a neighbor’s daughter stopped by our house and rang the bell. I went to the kitchen door and saw her standing, well dressed and seemingly murmuring to herself, out on our front porch. This struck me as curious on several levels, but mostly because no one uses our front door.

When I unlocked it and teased her for ringing the bell, I saw her take a deep breath and extend her hand.

“Good evening,” she said with a polite brio that made me think she could probably make a better impression at a job interview than some of my co-workers. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Okay, so ... nice, but weird. This sort of thing never happened where I grew up in New Jersey. When I rang a neighbor’s doorbell they’d pretend they weren’t home to avoid buying chocolate bars or oranges or whatever we were selling that year to finance a band exchange trip.
After getting the low-down from her mother, I learned that this was an essential phase of cotillion training, a sort of pre-coming out grooming that also included knowing the difference between a salad fork and one used to poke at – but probably not really eat – a calorie-laden dessert.

For me, cotillion brings to mind something else entirely.  I think of the cocktail, a satisfying sip infused with fresh muddled basil. It’s a drink that reminds you just nice it is that winter is over and spring has finally arrived – even if your car is covered with sticky yellow pine pollen.
While typically made with bourbon and rum, we prefer the tequila variation Susan Spicer includes in her fabulous book, Crescent City Cooking. Published on the same date as our 24th anniversary in 2007, it was a gift from my husband as a remembrance of our 20th anniversary trip to New Orleans, where we were so dazzled by Spicer’s Bayona restaurant that we made a second reservation before we paid our first bill.

Spicer’s recipe is posted on the Amazon link to her book – you must also try her amazing Jalapeno Pork Pork Roast, which makes great sandwiches – so I feel safe including it here in an effort to spread some seasonal cheer among friends who participate in #LetsLunch, a global food community that posts themed recipes each month. This month’s choice is “spring break.”
If you don’t have basil growing in your garden yet, get some from the market or a garden center. Instead of buying a bunch of limp, packaged basil for $2.19, I bought a hearty plant for $2.99, which will keep us in basil through summer – despite the fact that we pinched off a nice sprig to make cocktails tonight.

Susan Spicer, Crescent City Cooking

Makes one cocktail (but plan on having several)

5–6 fresh basil leaves, plus one for garnish
1 sugar cube
1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1½ ounces Patron or other silver tequila
5 ounces orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed

Using a wooden spoon or "muddler," mash the basil with the sugar cube and Cointreau in a tall Collins glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the tequila and orange juice. Stir with a long spoon or straw and garnish with a basil leaf.