a year in food and life

Roasted shrimp with broccoli March 27, 2009

Filed under: food,seafood,veggies — superspark @ 9:28 am


I would consider myself astounded, dumb-struck if there were a Superspark reader out there who isn’t familiar with the likes of The Wednesday Chef, Orangette, and The Amateur Gourmet, That’s not to say that I consider myself in the same league as those well-loved blogs- no, I am quite clearly an amateur and dilettante by comparison.  Rather, what I mean to say is that if you read Superspark, you are most likely an avid food blog reader with dozens of subscriptions in your RSS feed  (listen to me getting all techie!) including the most popular and well-written food blogs.

All of which goes to say that you have probably already seen this  most wonderful recipe for roasted shrimp with broccoli from the New York Times.  So you’ve read what the food blogging elite have to say about how moist and delectable the shrimp are, how perfectly roasted the broccoli is, and how easy the whole thing is to put together.   My guess is that many of you have already tried this terrific recipe, added it to your repertoire of super-simple, delicious meals.   Truly, this post is intended for the handful of you who might have let this recipe slip through the cracks, fall by the wayside – barring vegetarianism and shellfish allergies, you’ve found your dinner for tonight.  Go get some shrimp and broccoli and turn the oven up high.  Then sit back with a nice glass of wine and let your dinner cook itself.

Roasted shrimp with broccoli (serves 4)


2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons ( 1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (you might consider grinding them up- your call)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (see above)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.


Tilapia with strawberry-citrus-avocado salsa June 1, 2008

Filed under: food,seafood — superspark @ 10:15 am

Since discovering a quick and foolproof way to cook tilapia to perfection a couple of months ago, I’ve been fairly obsessed with making fish tacos topped with fruity salsa. So it seemed a no brainer to add them to the menu for my mom’s recent weekend visit. As I mentioned in a recent post, her diet is almost the exact opposite of mine, favoring protein and fats over carbs, and so I was looking for recipes that would fit into that little area of overlap. Fish tacos seemed like a good answer, as I could have them in the traditional way (tortilla and all), whereas mom could just have the fish topped with salsa.

We hit the farmer’s market that morning with a rough idea of a recipe for a fruity salsa, but with an open mind as to exactly what fruits and veggies would go into it. Mom quickly declared that the Seascape strawberries from one of the local growers were the best she’s ever had and given that berries were one of the few fruits permitted on her diet, we decided to boldly try a strawberry salsa. I convinced her to let me sneak a little bit of orange in to give it a citrus kick (even though citrus is technically verboten to her) and she was more than happy to include fresh California avocado as the final main ingredient. Using this recipe from Epicurious as the base, I whipped up the tacos that night (and the next) to great acclaim. I’ve never been a huge seafood person, but I could eat these again and again. I’m looking forward to trying variations on this salsa with all of the wonderful fruit that’s now coming into season.

I’ve been away from Weekend Herb Blogging for a while now, but I’m back. Check it out the recap, hosted this week by Wandering Chopsticks.

Tilapia with strawberry-citrus-avocado salsa (serves 4)



2 cups finely diced fruit such as strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, mango, or papaya
2 California avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 fresh serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste


4 mild fish filets (like tilapia)
sprinkle of kosher salt
1-2 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup flour (or as needed)

8 soft taco-size flour torillas (if you want to make tacos)

1. To make the salsa, simply combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and toss gently until well combined. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Pat fish dry and season both sides generously with salt. Let fish stand for about 5 minutes, until it glistens with moisture.

3. Place the flour in a pie plate and dredge fish in flour. Shake off any excess.

4. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in skillet over high heat. Add 1-2 tbsp butter and heat until foaming subsides. Reduce heat to medium and add fish to pan. When bottom of fish is golden brown, use two spatulas to gently flip fish. Continue to cook to desired doneness.

5. If you want to make tacos, while the fish is cooking, warm soft taco-size tortillas in the oven at ~250 degrees, being sure not to burn them. When fish is done, cut into large bite-size pieces (about 6 per tilapia filet) and divide among tortillas. Top with a generous helping of salsa and fold in half. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!


Fish tacos with citrus salsa April 9, 2008

Filed under: food,seafood — superspark @ 5:38 am

One of the greatest things the West Coast has to offer is their fish-based Mexican food. To a native East Coaster, the idea of putting fish in a burrito or taco is frankly foreign and kind of repellent, at first thought. Isn’t Mexican food supposed to be a cheesy, gooey mess? Why would you put a fish in it?

In Southern California, however, seafood-based Mexican food is practically ubiquitous and it only took a single fish taco from one of the leading chains to convert me. I still like a traditional burrito well enough, but given the choice I’ll take a fish taco almost any day. Now, all fish tacos are not created equal, and I will admit, for taste alone, I am of the fried fish school of thought (as opposed to those healthier grilled fish varieties). I’ve written before about the best fish burrito in town, a hulking fried fish extravaganza from Senor Fish (locations in Pasadena and elsewhere in the LA area, just google it), but as far as making my own fish tacos or burritos? I wasn’t quite up to it until the other night…

What finally inspired me? The gorgeous shrimp tacos on Food Blogga– that Susan could make just about anything look good! As is my way, I fully intended to copy her, step for step, only to find that on the day I was going to finally make my tacos, Cook’s Illustrated arrived with a feature called Fish 101, instructions on the proper technique for cooking fish in five different ways. Given that most of my hang-up in cooking fish revolves around not having a clue as to what I’m doing, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to learn how to saute tilapia to perfection and then put together some lovely soft tacos with Susan’s unusual grapefruit-jicama-avocado salsa.

So how did they turn out? Absolutely fantastic, even if my picture doesn’t adequately reflect it. The fish was perfect- crispy on the outside, nice and flaky on the inside, complemented perfectly by the citrus and the avocado. I’ll admit I was shocked by just how good they were and am already looking forward to having them again tonight- with some leftover salsa, a quick 5 minute saute and we’ll have another gourmet dinner.

Fish tacos with citrus salsa (serves 4)



1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 ruby red or pink grapefruit, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1 navel orange peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1/4 cup peeled jicama, diced
1 avocado, diced and sprinkled with lime juice to prevent discoloration
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (without seeds)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro


4 mild fish filets (I used tilapia)
sprinkle of kosher salt
1-2 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup flour (or as needed)

1. To make the salsa, simply combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and toss gently until well combined.

2. Pat fish dry and season both sides generously with salt. Let fish stand for about 5 minutes, until it glistens with moisture.

3. Place the flour in a pie plate and dredge fish in flour. Shake off any excess.

4. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in skillet over high heat. Add 1-2 tbsp butter and heat until foaming subsides. Reduce heat to medium and add fish to pan. When bottom of fish is golden brown, use two spatulas to gently flip fish. Continue to cook to desired doneness.

5. While the fish is cooking, warm soft taco-size tortillas in the oven at ~250 degrees, being sure not to burn them. When fish is done, cut into large bite-size pieces (about 6 per tilapia filet) and divide among tortillas. Top with a generous helping of salsa and fold in half. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!


Salmon with potatoes in thai red curry sauce March 19, 2008

Filed under: food,seafood — superspark @ 6:27 am


Though I’ve posted several salmon recipes on Superspark, and though we usually have a handful of salmon fillets in our freezer, it’s a fish that I really have to psych myself up to eat. I know most people love it, I know it’s ever so good for me, but something about it is just way too fishy for me. Give me a little old piece of tilapia or cod any day- something white and flaky, thin and flat- instead of a thick slab of salmon. Still I persist in buying it, trying to make it, hoping that one day I’ll make a breakthrough and really like it rather than just stomaching it.

This recipe was originally posted on YumSugar as fish braised in green thai curry. What grabbed me was the assertion that “the fish — smothered in the sauce — has no “fishy” flavor”, exactly the words I want to hear from a salmon recipe. A quick trip to the fridge revealed a small jar of red thai curry paste (as opposed to the suggested green), but figuring it to be an adequate substitution I set about trying to change my own mind about salmon.

I will admit that just as advertised, the curry sauce actually did a pretty good job of masking the fishy taste, which could be a positive or negative, depending on how much you like salmon’s intrinsic essence. But the dish didn’t quite come together as a whole- the sauce remained very runny even after extra simmering, leaving the finished product (as is painfully apparent from the photo) sort of soupy and sloppy. Given that the potatoes didn’t seem a totally obvious or natural pairing with the salmon and the thai flavors, it would be a no brainer to swap them out for a bed of fragrant jasmine rice next time. Not only do I think it would pull the dish together a bit more, but it would soak up some of the sauce. In the end, I can’t say this dish made me a salmon convert. Would I eat it again? Sure. Would I make it again? Maybe. But it’s really going to take something phenomenal to make me see salmon as something to look forward to.

Salmon with potatoes in thai red curry sauce (serves 4)

4 salmon fillets
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large baking potatoes, peeled, sliced thinly, and boiled until soft
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 cup canned light coconut milk
2 teaspoons canned Thai red (or green) curry paste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Season the fish fillets with pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and brown the fish on both sides.

3. Add potatoes, broth and garlic to the skillet, and simmer until the fish flakes to gentle pressure, about 5 minutes (for me, it took more like 10 minutes). Transfer the fish and potatoes to a warm platter.

4. Over high heat, reduce the liquid in the pan by about half. Stir in the coconut milk and curry paste. Simmer until lightly thickened, stir in the parsley and pour over fish and potatoes.


Orzo with shrimp, feta cheese, and white wine March 8, 2007

Filed under: food,Pasta,seafood — superspark @ 4:56 pm


What a rude awakening it is to enter the real world. I’m still all excited about my job and even feeling okay about my commute because although long, it takes me to some pretty cool locations. The real drawback of the whole work thing is not having enough time to keep up with the other things I like to do. I’ve barely been able to muster up time to get to the gym these days let alone cook or try to blog about it. I’m quickly coming to the realization that sustaining a food-based blog on a daily basis is a task better left to the unemployed or those whose work involves a little more…shall we say, discretionary time?  So I’m afraid I may soon turn in to a reluctant intermittent food blogger rather than an everyday girl, but I’ll try my best to keep it up. And kudos to those who actually manage to juggle both.

That said, I had had this dish in mind for the last week and with my basil quickly aging past the point of no return, it was last night or never. I found this dish from Bon Appetit April 2003 (via Epicurious) while searching for new ways to use shrimp (and thereby clean out our over-stuffed freezer). Not only did the recipe and the reviews look great, but the fact that we already had orzo, feta, and diced canned tomatoes further suggested that it was meant to be. All in all, it was good. Not fantastic, but perfectly solid. And it was easy enough to make that I would certainly try it again if I found myself in possession of the ingredients. Would I go out of my way to make it again? Well, probably not, but then unless a recipe is truly spectacular these days (like our recent attempt at panade), there are always new dishes I’d rather try.  Fingers crossed that I can find the time to keep it up…


8 ounces orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons dried oregano (I omitted this)
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400. Brush 11×7-inch glass baking dish with oil. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain well and return orzo to same pot. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons basil; stir to blend. Arrange orzo mixture in prepared dish.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sauté until slightly pink, about 2 minutes (shrimp will not be cooked through). Arrange shrimp atop orzo. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to same skillet. Add garlic and sauté over medium-high heat 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juice; cook 1 minute. Stir in wine, oregano, crushed red pepper, and remaining 1/4 cup basil. Simmer uncovered until reduced to thick sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper; spoon over shrimp. Bake orzo until heated through, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup feta cheese and serve.


Salmon with Israeli couscous, slow-roasted tomatoes, and lemon oregano oil February 16, 2007

Filed under: food,grains,seafood — superspark @ 10:46 am


I have a new favorite grain. Israeli couscous (otherwise known as pearl couscous or mughrabiya) is a very large-grained and tender version of ordinary couscous. It is often compared to tapioca, which I think is apt, and it soaks up the flavor of the liquid it is cooked in, leaving you with delightful, chewy little beads of grain. After searching a bit to try to find out more about israeli couscous, I finally found the answers in a book Dylan had once been given, The Foods of Israel Today. Apparently, Israeli couscous was “invented” in the 50s in Israel by a noodle company as an alternative to rice and couscous, both of which were hard to get in Israel during that period. It is actually just an extruded wheat-pasta designed to resemble rice, but really has a texture all of its own.

Anyway, after searching for the grain for quite some time, I found it in the Whole Foods bulk section, and although its price was an order of magnitude higher than rice (about $4/lb), I decided it was worth a try. I had spotted this recipe from Gourmet (April 2005) on Epicurious and thought it might be fun to try for Valentine’s Day. Now I know this might not strike everyone as the most romantic of meals, but it seemed appropriate in that it required a whole lot more effort and time than I would normally spend on a meal. Even in my unemployed state, I have a hard time summoning up enthusiasm to slow-roast tomatoes for 2 1/2 hours. But for my honey on Valentine’s Day, why not? And although I am not usually a salmon lover, I know that most people (Dylan included) appreciate a well-rounded meal, rather than a starchy bowl of pasta (as I prefer).

This recipe had overwhelmingly good reviews on Epicurious and I have to say that my finished product lived up to those raves. Every bit of it was delicious, from the soft, sweet tomatoes to the lemon-oregano scented fish. And of course, the couscous was terrific. Can’t wait to get more of it. I think this recipe would also be lovely with shrimp instead of salmon and should you choose to stick to a more readily available grain, others said the recipe worked well with ordinary couscous or even spaetzle. If you want to make extra lemon oregano oil, it would be a great finish for many dishes. (I made the fish for 2, but the tomatoes and oil for 6 so that we could use them in other dishes later this week.)

Salmon with pearl couscous, slow-roasted tomatoes, and lemon oregano oil (serves 6)

Ingredients for tomatoes and lemon oregano oil:
6 plum tomatoes (1 lb), halved lengthwise
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 fresh basil leaves
12 whole fresh oregano leaves plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler and finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for couscous:
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous (12 oz)
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for salmon:
6 (6-oz) pieces wild salmon fillet with skin (we used farm-raised without skin and it was still great)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives (3 oz), pitted and quartered lengthwise (I omitted these being an olive-hater)

1. Roast tomatoes and prepare oil:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 250°F. Toss tomatoes with sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and arrange, cut sides down, in a small shallow baking pan.

Heat oil in a 9- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in basil and whole oregano leaves, then pour oil over tomatoes. Roast tomatoes until very tender but not falling apart, 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer tomatoes with a spatula to a large plate, then pour oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl or measuring cup, discarding solids. Stir in chopped oregano, zest, juice, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.2. Cook couscous:
Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then toast couscous, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and pale golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth, water, and salt and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed and couscous is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes, then stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon oregano oil. Season with salt.

3. Roast salmon while couscous stands:
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 500°F. Line a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan with foil. Arrange salmon, skin sides down, in baking pan, then drizzle with olive oil, rubbing it over tops of fillets, and sprinkle with salt. Roast salmon until just cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes.

Divide couscous among 6 plates. Lift salmon flesh from skin with a slotted spatula and transfer a fillet to each bed of couscous. Put 2 tomato halves on each plate, then sprinkle salmon with olives and drizzle with some lemon oregano oil.

Cooks’ note:
Tomatoes can be roasted 3 days ahead and chilled in oil in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.