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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

10/12/2018

~ Spanish-Style Garlic-Lovers Shrimp & Pappardelle ~

IMG_3998While pasta is not an ingredient any of us foodies would off-handedly associate with Spain or Spanish cuisine, it has been incorporated into their diets.  It's not commonly found on restaurant menus, but, in their home kitchens, it is used as an occasional substitution for Spain's claim-to-fame staple, rice, in some of their dishes.  Gambas al ajillo (gam-bus alla-jheero), is one of Spain's most popular tapas dishes, my personal favorite tapas, and, from the moment I tasted it, I knew it could be turned into an extraordinary Italian-pasta meets Spanish tapas main-course.

IMG_3632Gambas al ajillo is a Spanish classic, and, relatively speaking, it is pretty easy to make at home. It is also an example of a "ración" ("family-style meal") turned into one of Spain's most popular pub-grub tapas.  Sweet shrimp are sautéed on the stovetop (in a seasoned 10" terra cotta "cazuela" (ka-sway-la) -- a glazed, earthenware skillet shaped similar to a straight-sided chef's pan) in a goodly amount of Spanish olive oil that has been infused with lots of garlic (shaved and/or minced) and a sprinkling of sliced small red chiles, to taste, for heat. When the shrimp are just short of being cooked through, about 3 minutes, a splash of sherry vinegar, plus a pat of butter to finish off the sauce get added, and the dish, complete with the oily garlic-sauce and a parsley garnish goes on the table.  The dish is served ASAP, family-style, in the cazuela, with plenty of grilled rustic bread slices for sopping up the garlicy oil.

IMG_3958Pappardelle is a broad, 3/4"-wide flat ribbony pasta shape.  While this pasta is traditionally served with rich, thick heavy sauces, it handles the rich, highly-flavored chile-garlic-oil of gambas al ajillo perfectly. Typically, pappardelle is made with an egg-based dough, which renders it richer and fluffier.  The wide surface area of the ribbons render it very absorbent and sturdy, which means pair perfectly with the succulent extra-jumbo shrimp.

When a Spanish tapas dish meets Italian pasta, magic happens.

IMG_3534For the shrimp:

2  pounds extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), peeled, deveined, tails left on (32-40 shrimp)

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sweet, smoked Spanish paprika

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  1/4  cups high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish, divided thoroughout recipe, 1/4 cup for tossing into shrimp and spices, 3/4 cup for infusing with the garlic and chile peppers

8-10  large whole garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

4  small red chile peppers, super-thinly sliced

1  tablespoon sherry vinegar

1  tablespoon salted butter, for stirring into finished dish

1/4  cup minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

rustic bread slices, toasted or grilled, for accompaniment

IMG_3958For the pasta:

12-16  ounces egg pappardelle pasta, cooked al dente, cooking time to be determined by package directions

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537 IMG_3537~Step 1.  In a large bowl, using a large spoon, toss the shrimp with the baking soda, Spanish paprika, sea salt and 1/4 cup olive oil. Set aside at room temperature.  Slice the garlic cloves and the chile peppers, placing them in a small bowl as you work.  Add the remaining 1 cup olive oil to the garlic and chiles and set aside, to steep, at room temperature, 1 hour.  During this hour, stir the shrimp a few times.

IMG_3555 IMG_3555 IMG_3555~ Step 2.  Place the garlic-chile pepper-oil in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pans.  Heat over low heat, until garlic is softened, very fragrant, ever-so-gently sizzling and moving around in the pan by itself, but not browning, 8-10 minutes. The garlic and chile peppers "slow poach", in that, both soften and release their flavor without browning (which renders both bitter).  Turn heat off and cook pasta as directed in next step.

Note:  When preparing classic gambas al ajillo, you would not turn the heat of now.  You would add the shrimp, briefly cook them, and finish the dish -- a process that takes less than 5 minutes. In order for the shrimp to be tender and succulent when the finished pasta dish is taken to the table, the pasta must be ready and waiting for the shrimp the moment they are finished.

IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963 IMG_3963~Step 3.  In a 4-5-quart stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add the salt.  Add the pappardelle.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook until al dente.  In the case of my papparadelle, that takes 9-10 minutes.  Drain pasta into a colander then immediately return drained pasta to the still hot stockpot and place it back on the still warm stovetop.  Transfer and gently toss 6 tablespoons of the garlic-chili-oil from the skillet into the shrimp.  Partially cover the pot of pasta and finish the shrimp as directed.

IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567 IMG_3567~Step 4.  Adjust heat under the skillet of chile-garlic-oil  to medium-high.  Once it is hot, add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until turning pink, firming up and just short of being cooked through, 3-4 minutes.  (There is no big sizzle when the shrimp hit the pan. The baking soda, gives the exterior of the shrimp the signature "pop", not to be confused with "crunch" and it works magic.  DO NOT, overcook the shrimp -- they will continue to cook while butter melts, parsley gets stirred in, and, while tossing into the pasta.)   Stir in sherry.  Turn heat off.  Stir in  butter.  When butter has melted, stir in half the parsley.

IMG_3987 IMG_3990 IMG_3990~Step 5.  Add all of the shrimp and all of its flavorful oil to the pot of pasta.  Gently toss, and continue to toss, on occasion, for about a full minute, to thoroughly enrobe the pasta in the garlic-chili oil.  Portion into 4-6 shallow bowls, garnish each portion with the remaining parsley and serve immediately.

Superb, succulent, extraordinary shrimp...

IMG_4001... & eggy pasta enrobed in garlic-chile-oil.  Divine.

IMG_4007Spanish-Style Garlic-Lovers Shrimp & Pappardelle:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 1-cup measuring container; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; 4-5-quart stockpot; colander 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d17d6a16970cCook's Note:  A shrimp with the tail left on is a very pretty presentation, and, depending upon the dish being served, if there is a chance the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole, it serves as a convenient "handle" -- especially if there is a sauce it can be dipped into.  There's more:  As all shrimp connoisseurs know, the last bite of shrimp (located inside the tail), is the most succulent, tasty bite of shrimp.  That said:  Whether in the home kitchen or in a restaurant, peeling shrimp is labor intensive. Leaving the tail on is an indication that the cook or chef cares about you and is serving you the best quality shrimp possible.

The only reason to remove the tail is when the shrimp, usually smaller size ones, are inclusive in the dish, meaning:  the diner needs a fork, spoon and/or knife to eat the dish.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

10/09/2018

~The Crispy Bits about Bruschetta, Crostini and Panini~

IMG_3899Bread comes in many forms.  I am of the opinion that bread IS the staff of life, and, I average one serving of bread per day.  Sans the occasional requisite soft-textured grilled-cheese sliced white, the hot-dog roll and the hamburger bun, any humble flatbread or pita pocket, along with the breakfast-y bagel and English muffin, the display here represents a sampling of my personal artisanal favorites.  Except for one, the delicate croissant, they are all firm-textured, and, by choosing the correct shape, I can make make one of three crispy Italian-style specialties.

IMG_3916Bruschetta (broo-skeh-tah) means "oiled slice" and comes from the word "bruscare" (broo-scar-ay), which means "to roast over coals". Bruschetta is the original garlic toast.  Traditionally, large, thick slices of firm, crusty bread are toasted over a wood fire, rubbed with plenty of garlic while they are still warm, drizzled with the finest olive oil available, sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper, then served warm.  They are classically served with freshly-picked basil, tomatoes and same-day-made buffalo-milk mozzarella, but when paper-thin slices of Italian meats, cheeses and vegetables (grilled, roasted or marinated) are added, they can turn into a hearty knife-and-fork open-faced sandwich meal.

IMG_3932Crostini in Italian simply means "little toast", and also means they don't always get drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.  Just like bruschetta, crostini are topped with any number of savory toppings. Unlike bruschetta, they are usually made using smaller, cylindrical-shaped breads, like a baguette. Crostini are almost always served as a snack or an appetizer before a meal, but, a basket of them can be served as an accompaniment to the meal.  That said, in the case of both bruschetta and crostini, any size, color or flavor of rustic bread can be used, as long as it has a firm texture and have a good crust -- ciabatta, focaccia, michetta, baguette or batard, and sourdough are prime examples.

IMG_3862Panini is the Italian word for a grilled sandwich made with the same type of firm, crusty bread (or rolls) used to make bruschetta and crostini.  "One panino, two panini" are the singular and plural forms (which derive from the Italian "pane" and Latin "panis", referring to bread), but the use of panino is uncommon and almost never used. Panini sandwiches, served hot off the grill, were traditionally filled with the same thin-sliced specialty deli-meats and cheese served with or on bruschetta and crostini (capicola, ham, mortadella, salami, soppresatta, provolone, etc.), meaning they're associated with Italian fare, but, nowadays a panini can find itself fused with any cuisine.  

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided contact grill that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter.

Crispy bruschetta, crostini or panini -- your choice!

IMG_3939"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

10/07/2018

~ Grillmarked: Italian-Style Panini-Croissant-Crostini ~

IMG_3862Panini-croissant-crostini.  That's a lot to digest, and if you're of Italian-heritage, simmer down, lighten up, and read on before criticizing my fun-loving play on mouth-watering words.  Sandwich-press-grilled panini, full of cured Italian meats and cheese, substituting mini-croissants for the traditional rustic Italian bread (I've affectionately added the word crostini to describe them, because I serve them, crostini-style, as 3-4 bite appetizers), are crowd-pleasing snacks that get gobbled up at a tailgate party faster than beer flows at a fraternity house.  While crusty, firm-textured rustic-type breads make marvelous panini, I am here to tell you, if you've never made a panini using a light and airy buttery-rich croissant, you are missing out on one of the best panini-sandwich-eating experiences of your life -- every savory bite literally melts in your mouth -- the croissant is cottony enough inside and crackly enough outside to produce extraordinary results.

IMG_3874bready bit about Italian bruschetta, crostini & panini:

Bruschetta (broo-skeh-tah) means "oiled slice" and comes from the word "bruscare" (broo-scar-ay), which means "to roast over coals".  Bruschetta is the original garlic toast.  Traditionally, large, thick slices of firm, crusty bread are toasted over a wood fire, rubbed with plenty of garlic while they are still warm, drizzled with the finest olive oil available, sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper, then served warm.  They are classically served with fresh basil, tomatoes and buffalo-milk mozzarella, but when paper-thin slices of Italian meats, cheeses and vegetables (grilled, roasted or marinated) are added, they can turn into a hearty knife-and-fork open-faced sandwich meal.

Crostini in Italian simply means "little toast", and also means they don't always get drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.  Just like bruschetta, crostini are topped with any number of savory toppings. Unlike bruschetta, they are usually made using smaller, cylindrical-shaped breads, like a baguette.  Crostini are always served as a snack or an appetizer before a meal, or, an accompaniment to the meal.  That said, in the case of both bruschetta and crostini, any size, color or flavor of rustic bread can be used, as long as it has a firm texture and have a good crust -- ciabatta, focaccia, michetta, baguette or batard, and sourdough are prime examples.

Panini is the Italian word for a grilled sandwich made with the same type of firm, crusty bread (or rolls) used to make bruschetta and crostini.  "One panino, two panini" are the singular and plural forms of the word (which derive from the Italian "pane" and Latin "panis", referring to bread), but the use of panino is uncommon and unused nowadays.  Panini sandwiches, served hot off the grill, were traditionally filled with the same thin-sliced specialty deli-meats and cheese served with or on bruschetta and crostini (ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, etc.), meaning they were associated with Italian fare, but, nowadays a panini can find itself fused with any cuisine.  

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided contact grill that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter.

The meat, cheese, condiments & how-to assemble tips:

IMG_3774With the bread or rolls in hand, find a market with a selection of high-quality cured Italian meats -- trust me, there are a lot of options in every large market, some at the deli-counter and some prepackaged. Choose 3-5 of your favorites plus provolone cheese (mozzarella is typically not put on an Italian panini).  Ask the person at the counter to slice the cold-cuts as thin as possible -- just short of falling apart. If the meat is sliced too thick, the panini sandwiches will be texturally off balance -- too chewy and dense.  The traditional order atop the bread:  a thin coating of butter or a creamy, smooth, flavorful sandwich spread, a cheese slice, the meat(s), soft leafy greens and/or herbs, and (optional) onion, roasted red pepper, or, a pickled vegetable or veggie mixture.

My favorite combo for 8, 3" snack-sized sandwiches or 16 appetizers, listed in order of assembly:

1/2  cup my recipe for Balsamic Mayonnaise:  The Other Italian Dressing*   

8  small 3" croissants, a total of about 9 ounces

8  slices provolone cheese folded in half, 1 full-round slice per sandwich

16  slices dry salame, 2 slices per sandwich

24  slices hot sopresatta, 3 slices per sandwich

8  slices mortadella w/pistachios, 1 per sandwich

32 wispy slices dry-aged hot capicola, 4 per sandwich 

a few, 6-8-10, baby arugula leaves per sandwich  

IMG_3761 IMG_3761* For dressing:  In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon each:  garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning blend. Refrigerate 1 hour, to allow flavors time to marry.

IMG_3777 IMG_3777 IMG_3777~Step 1.  Slice each mini-croissant in half horizontally, then slather each half (both top and bottom and bottom halves) with 1 generous teaspoon of the balsamic mayonnaise.  Take one slice of provolone cheese, fold it in half (to form, essentially, two pieces) and place it on the bottom of the croissant.

IMG_3790 IMG_3790 IMG_3790 IMG_3790 IMG_3790 IMG_3790 IMG_3790~Step 2.  Place 2 slices of the dry-aged salami, 3 slices of the sopresatta, and, 1, carefully-folded-to-fit slice of mortadella atop the cheese on each panini-crostini.  Finish by placing 4 wispy pieces of the capicola on top, followed by about 8-10 baby arugula leaves and put the top on each of the sandwiches.

IMG_3814 IMG_3814 IMG_3814 IMG_3814 IMG_3814~Step 3.  Spray grill grids of panini press, top and bottom with no-stick cooking spray.  Close  grill and preheat to medium-high on grill-panini setting.  When green light turns on, place 2-4 mini-croissant-crostini on hot grill grids.  I'm demonstrating two, because it is easier to photograph -- four will easily fit, six in two rows of three can be achieved.

IMG_3833 IMG_3887~Step 4.  Place the top of the press on the sandwiches. Firmly, but gently, using the press's handle, press down on the sandwiches for 30-45 seconds.  You are NOT trying to squish the sandwiches, but, you are trying to put just enough pressure on them to steam and crisp the bread a bit.  Let go.  Allow sandwiches to grill 3-4 minutes, until cheese is oozing and bread is crispy.  If they don't look perfect, they're perfect.

Transfer from grill, wait 1-1 1/2 minutes, slice on a diagonal...

IMG_3855... & serve, as is & unembellished, as the star of any party:

IMG_3883Grillmarked: Italian-Style Panini-Croissant-Crostini:  Recipe yields 16 appetizers, or, 8 snack-sized sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  small bowl; spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; panini contact-grill; thin spatula; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01a511bbddf7970cCook's Note:  When it comes to making panini, the best thing to do is be creative, meaning:  test grill-pressed sandwiches using ingredients that 100% that appeal to you.  I would never have created my own ~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini ~ without one or two experiments.  They don't call it 'wichcraft for no reason. Concocting a well-constructed sandwich is a serious undertaking.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)