It’s not very often that I get the pleasure of cooking for my loved ones. Jason and I live such hectic, full-to-the-brim, jam-packed lives that it’s hard to find time to treat my family and friends to a home-cooked meal. So when I found out my mom was going to be in town dog-sitting for my brother last week, I jumped at the opportunity to spoil her! She’s been so supportive of my culinary passion and I think it’s safe to say it has rubbed off on her a little too. I wanted to make something I knew she wouldn’t normally make herself, in hopes of exciting her taste buds a bit. We just ate these curried mussels out of the bowl with a chunk of bread to soak up the broth. This would be equally delicious over a bed of rice. Or if you’re not a fan of mussels, try it with shrimp!
I love cooking shellfish like mussels and clams because you can do it all in one pot (easy clean-up!) and it will all come together in just 10-15 minutes. In Seattle, we’re blessed to have incredibly fresh, meaty mussels from Penn Cove which is just a short drive from where I live. If you’ve never cooked mussels before, don’t worry! Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Buy them fresh the day you plan to eat them, if possible. Keep them cool on ice until you’re ready to cook.
- Rinse and scrub them lightly to get rid of any barnacles or loose shell fragments.
- Pull off the “beard” (the fibers that attach a mussel to a rock).
- If any mussels don’t open during cooking, don’t eat them.
One of my favorite things to do is to open people’s eyes to lesser known foods, particularly ingredients that they never would have touched otherwise. I didn’t grow up an adventurous eater. Tuna noodle casserole and sloppy joes were the norm in my diet. Trying lemon meringue pie was the equivalent of tight-rope walking across Niagra Falls. In fact, “picky eater” in the dictionary featured my picture til I was 18.
But now, I love roasted brussel sprouts dusted with sea salts as much as french fries. So what changed things around? When I met my now-husband, I couldn’t cook so much an eggo waffle, but that was all about to change. One day, I plopped in front of the TV and stumbled across the Food Network. As I watched the episode (I wish so badly I could remember which one it was!) I realized it didn’t seem that hard afterall. So little by little, I began to branch out and try new things.
What I loved most was that I had control over ingredients like onions which I normally would have picked out of my dinner tirelessly. But when I was in control of the meal, I started to scatter those ingredients in slowly and surely until I found out that if you caramelize onions, they take on a deliciously sweet flavor. Or if you roast brussel sprouts, they take on a crispy, nutty persona. With me in the drivers seat of the next meal, I began to thrive on the idea of doing the same thing for other people: transforming the frog into the prince.
Sea beans are a vegetable that most people have never heard of before. A final challenge on Top Chef was my first introduction to these branchy, coat-rack like plants but I never realized that they grew right in my backyard. Sherlock Holmes-esque foragers scour Pacific Northwest beaches for croppings of these veggies. When I saw them at my local farmers market, I tried to get the vendor to leak the location where he snips his sea beans but his lips were sealed.
Nonetheless, I snatched them up to give them a try myself. They add a nice, crunch and salty bite to this roasted potato salad. Green beans make a perfect stand-in if you can’t find them yourself. I realize this potato salad is a little time consuming, and dirties up it’s fair share of pots and pans…but it’s worth it! Plus it tastes even better the next day, always a bonus. : ) Give it a try at your next bbq and you won’t be disappointed. This recipe is more or less a rough guideline so don’t bother measuring everything exactly.
I know I’m not the only one out there with a serious sweet tooth. Right around 3 ‘o clock everyday I start to crave something chocolatey. Normally, chocolate-covered strawberries are one of my favorite deserts, but it’s obviously not something I would whip up on a weeknight. Then, I stumbled across this recipe on the Steamy Kitchen Blog. The idea of using caramel as an alternative to chocolate is pure genius, and the peanuts add a nice textural addition as well. The best part is that this comes together in less than 10 minutes and uses just 4 ingredients that you can find at any grocery store.
This is the perfect recipe to wow your friends and family. Take it to your next birthday party, baby shower, BBQ, whatever and you can bet everyone will be asking for the recipe! If you want to take this desert to the next level, sprinkle some sea salt over the caramel once it’s melted.
When I found out that Oprah was holding an open casting call/audition for her new “Own” television station, I couldn’t wait to apply! I’ve spent the majority of my life dreaming and telling everyone my grandeur ideas. But, I have a bad habit of not following through with those aspirations. This year, I decided to turn over a new leaf and take action. No more wasting time dreaming about what could be. Instead, I want to take the steps to make those dreams a reality.
In order to portray who I am while showing my culinary point of view, I had to come up with a recipe that would essentially be “Katie on a plate” (in less than 3 minutes!) With my food, I really value using seasonal, local ingredients in recipes that are packed with flavor yet still healthy (without being diet food). For my featured recipe, I wanted to come up with something that utilized seasonal vegetables with other ingredients you can find at any grocery store.
I love these tomatoes because you can mix up the stuffing and use tons of different ingredients to switch up the flavors. They work great paired with a salad for a light summer dinner, or you can make a big batch as a side dish for a large crowd.
Technically speaking, spring officially started a few weeks ago. It didn’t really feel like it was here though until this last weekend filled with sunshine and blue skies. Even though Jason and I were stuck working, it seemed like everyone else was really enjoying the change in weather. We’ve spent the last few years supplying everyone else with their toys and our busiest days in the shop are often those 75 degree days where everyone wants to rent paddleboards, buy a trainer kite, or demo a longboard. It seems like the only time we get a breather is on those gray, drizzly days when the rest of the world is smart enough to stay home. Luckily for me, i’m more than happy holing up in my kitchen on those rainy days and braising a big chunk of meat til it falls of the bone.
But I digress. My whole point was that yes, spring is finally here. To me, that means making the transition to light, healthy cooking with all the fresh seasonal produce cropping up. These couscous cakes epitomize spring freshness. This recipe is a variation on the couscous cakes in Fine Cooking Mazagine issue No. 37. You can fill them with any type of veggie you love. I made these with whole wheat couscous so they were extra healthy (it’s actually all I had in my pantry to be honest) and filled them with zucchini, garbanzo beans and almonds. A simple salad played a supporting role while a roasted red pepper sauce brought the cakes to life.
The best part about these couscous cakes is that they’re not only a showstopper but you can fry them up and keep them warm in a warm oven while you put together the rest of your dinner.
My waffle obsession really started just before Jason and I were married. As a gift, my Grandma Joan gave us what we call a “waffle stick maker” that basically makes waffles in individually little sticks. Suddenly we were whipping up waffles for breakfast two or three times a week. I think you all have figured out by now that we eat pretty well in the Clack house. With pre-packaged waffle mix, there’s no excuse to not be making waffles more often!
Normally I’m happy with just smothering peanut butter all over my plain waffles with bacon on the side. But when I saw Giade De Laurentiis actually put bacon inside her waffle batter, I just about died and went to heaven. What a genius idea! I made a few tweaks to her recipe and this is what I came up with. The sugar helps bring all the other flavors to life without being overly sweet. In just 15 minutes you can enjoy an easy homemade recipe that will win over any guest.
I can’t figure out why I’m having such a writer’s block when it comes to this post. Afterall, these prosciutto-wrapped halibut skewers are one of my top ten favorite things to make. Maybe that’s why. I’m struggling with finding the right words to capture how truly delicious these are. I should probably invest in a thesaurus. : ) These skewers are too awesome for words! They are the reason I counted down the days until halibut season opened last month. If you like to cook seasonally like me, now’s the time to buy halibut.
There’s a few philosophies I have about food and cooking that will become evident in a short amount of time. I’ll share one of the most important ones with you tonight since it’s relevant to the recipe.
#1. When in doubt, wrap it in bacon, prosciutto or pancetta.
Simple as that. You know how Bubba from “Forrest Gump” was the king of shrimp? “Shrimp salad, shrimp soup, bbq shrimp”….and he went on and on. Well that’s like me and bacon. I know this isn’t some revolutionary concept. Obviously everyone knows that salty pig fat is to-die-for, but I don’t think most of you embrace this food truth to the extent that I do. It provides that savory richness known as umami and is one of the elements that fuels my love of cooking.
Whenever I’m uninspired for dinner or feel the need to impress my guests, I wrap something in prosciutto and call it good. Some things I make are hit-or-miss, but I know without a doubt that anything wrapped in pig-fat will end up devoured by my meat-loving friends. So don’t be surprised when you start to see this common denominator start to crop up throughout my posts. Pancetta-wrapped pork loin, bacon-wrapped tequila shrimp, prosciutto-wrapped roasted pears with arugula….the list goes on.
Disclaimer: I’m all about eating healthy too. The trick to taking care of your body while eating bacon wrapped foods is simple. Don’t gorge yourself! Eat in moderation. Make sure the other 2/3 of your meal is comprised of fresh vegetables and whole grains. Also, because of the potent flavor that these pork products offer, you end up eating much less of it overall than you would something with a more muted flavor like ground beef.
I hope you’ll use the fresh rosemary skewer idea and run wild with it. Don’t be surprised when they take average veggie kabobs to the next level.
I can’t believe tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo! If I was actually on top of things enough to know what day of the week it is (hard to keep track of when you don’t get a traditional weekend), I would have thrown something together a few close friends. I can’t think of a better holiday. Afterall, there isn’t a single person I know who doesn’t love Mexican food. Tequila on the other hand seems to be a little hit-or-miss, especially if you’re one of the many people who had one of “those” nights where you can’t even smell Tequila without gagging.
Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day which is actually September 16th. In reality, Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French in 1862’s Battle of Puebla. Arguably, the fifth of May seems to have taken on greater meaning in the US than it has south of the border. Regardless though, it’s a day of national pride for hispanics, and a day where the rest of us show our respect and appreciation for their culture.
Jason and I are lucky enough to spend a good chunk of our time in Mexico in a little fishing village called La Ventana. We fell so hardcore in love with the area, we laid down our savings and purchased a little chunk of land. And after three years of sweat, landscaping, cinder block lifting, and more than a few pokes from all the cacti, we even have a casita we can call home. If I had it my way, we’d spend the entire winter down there. Everyone in the town is so friendly and welcoming. The more you give to them, the more you get in return. And I don’t mean material things. I mean getting to know the locals, smiling, waving as you pass by, respecting their culture and so on.
Where we are, the guacamole is often just a bowl of watered down green liquid that resembles avocado only in color. Great for drizzling over fish tacos but not something you can really mound on top of a tortilla chip. This is basically my mom’s recipe that’s been passed down to me. It doesn’t get any better than this. So even if you can’t make it out to your neighborhood taqueria, do me a favor and make this guacamole recipe. You can thank me later!
I can’t take credit for this recipe unfortunately, but Miss Ina Garten can! You probably know her as the Barefoot Contessa. I have most of her cookbooks and they’re perfect for finding foolproof recipes. If I’m looking to make one of the classics like lasagna or lemon meringue pie, she’s the first one I turn to. In fact, I can credit her with helping me build the foundation for my cooking.
This particular coffee cake has been a staple in my repertoire for years now. It was a hit back then and still doesn’t disappoint. The sour cream keeps it incredibly moist, and the walnut streusel in the middle adds the perfect amount of sweetness. A little maple glaze drizzled over the top doesn’t hurt either. Unlike most baking recipes, this one calls for using cake flour which you probably don’t have hanging out in your pantry but not to worry. There’s an easy substitute. It really does make a huge difference in keeping the coffee cake nice and light. Regular flour would result in a tough cake.
I hope you try this one, let me know how you like it!
If actions speak louder than words, and a picture is worth a thousand words…well then I must be a chatterbox! Truth is, I’ve never been that good with words. There are so many people out there who I admire that have the most amazing voice and tone with their writing. Me, on the other hand, not so much. In fact, when it comes to any sort of confrontation, I shrink into a blubbering idiot. I’m much more comfortable letting my actions do the talking for me. And that means letting my food speak for itself.
This is another dish that really defies words. Mostly because you’ll be too busy cramming these into your mouth to bother with speaking. Why waste precious time talking (or in my case typing) when you could be slurping the sweet garlic-butter out of the oyster shells?
My rockstar sister-in-law Megan is the mastermind behind this recipe. She’s always entertaining at her house and this is the go-to appetizer that wows her guests every time. So you can rest assured that if you make this at the next BBQ you go to this spring you’ll be a rockstar too.
Oh and if you thought you didn’t like oysters before, I guarantee this will change your mind. Heck, I’d eat rocky mountain oysters if they were smothered in garlic-sherry butter and cheese.
Here’s some tips for the Oyster Newbie
-Try to buy them the day you’ll be eating them
-Store them on ice in your fridge
-smaller oysters are more tender
-if the oyster is already open before you start, discard it b/c it’s probably either dead or may carry unhealthy bacteria
-rinse the sealed oysters under cold water and scrub them to remove dirt
-they’re excellent with a bubbly glass of champagne!