Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

This soup is incredibly good!  Plus, it’s fast to make. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. If you are in a rush, you can just skip baking the tortilla strips and just crumble some purchased tortilla chips over the top.

Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

Tortilla Soup with Shrimp and Avocado

corn tortillas, about 12
cooking spray

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, chipped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes (with juices)
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

avocado, diced
fresh cilantro, chopped
lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Stack the fresh corn tortillas and cut in half. Re-stack and then cut into then strips. Arrange the corn tortilla strips on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake in the oven until golden (about 8 – 10 minutes), stirring occasionally to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a soup pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic and jalapeno and continue to cook for another minute or two. Stir in the ground cumin. Next, add the petite diced tomatoes and juices, broth, cayenne, Mexican oregano, and tomato paste. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once the soup has come to a boil, add the peeled and deveined shrimp and cook until the shrimp is done, about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into a bowl. Top with diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and a handful of the baked tortilla strips. Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over the soup before eating.


Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

My 6 year old was home today with a nasty stomach bug and fever. I spent the day taking care of him. He needed lots of snuggling. Poor baby. For dinner, I was able to whip up something quick (and comforting) for the rest of us. These Salmon Cakes didn’t take too much time to throw together and they were really delicious. The capers and Dijon mustard added so much flavor.

I served the Salmon Cakes with arugula dressed with a homemade grapefruit vinaigrette (shallots, fresh grapefruit juice, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and olive oil) and Bird’s Eye Steamfresh Italian Style Protein Blend that I zapped in the microwave. The blend of whole grains, lentils, broccoli, white beans, and spinach (and some kind of sauce) was kind of bland, but wasn’t terrible (it tasted better mixed with the dressed arugula). Generally, I’m not a big fan of Bird’s Eye’s seasoned or sauced products. Their Voila! Skillet Meals are downright disgusting! I don’t know whose taste palette they are targeting, but it isn’t mine. Anywho, I was able to bundle a coupon and Ibotta rebate with a sale and got a package of the Protein Blend for free. I like free.

I had the afterthought of adding some dill to the salmon mixture. I love the flavors of salmon and dill together. I will definitely try it next time I make these Salmon Cakes.

Salmon Cakes

1 15 – 16 ounce can salmon, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 to 1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Break up the salmon in a mixing bowl. You can remove the skin and the bigger bones if you want to. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until tender. Add the veggies to the salmon.

Add the capers, Dijon mustard, lightly beaten egg, salt, and pepper to the salmon and veggie mixture and combine well. Mix in the breadcrumbs, a little at a time, until the mixture is at a consistency where it is not too wet and it can be shaped into cakes easily. You may not use the full cup of breadcrumbs. Divide the mixture into 12 equal parts and shape each part into a cake with you hands.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet (you can use the same one you sautéed the onions and celery in) over medium heat. Add six of the salmon cakes and cook until browned on one side. Carefully flip the salmon cakes over and brown on the other side. Remove from the skillet and keep warm in a 250° oven (or toaster oven) while you cook the next batch. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and cook the remaining salmon cakes (as you did before). Serve warm.


Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Did you know you can cook cucumbers? You can! They are especially great in stir-fries. In this particular spicy noodle dish, the addition of shredded cucumber helps cool the heat from the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing.

The Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing is the key to this recipe. It’s essential. Make it first.

Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. This dish comes together very quickly.

Fire Noodles with Shrimp

Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing (recipe follows)
4 ounces rice vermicelli
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded (or use 4 – 5 pickling cucumbers)
3 carrots, peeled
handful of black fungus (found in Asian markets)

Soak the rice vermicelli in a large bowl with enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes or until they soften. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Soak the black fungus in a bowl with enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes or until they are soft. Drain and slice very thinly. Set aside.

Shred the cucumbers. The food processor fitted with the shredding attachment is the quickest way to do it. Squeeze the liquid out of the shredded cucumbers. I place the shredded cucumbers in a clean dishtowel, gather all the edges, and squeeze out the liquid.

Shred the carrots.

Heat 1/4 cup of the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing in a wok over high heat. Add the drained rice vermicelli noodles and stir-fry until softened, about 3 minutes. Move the noodles to the side of the wok. Add 2 more tablespoons of the Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing and add the shrimp. Stir-fry the shrimp until no longer pink, 2 – 3 minutes, and then mix into the noodles. Add the cucumbers, carrots, and black fungus and stir-fry until well-combined and heated through.

Serve the noodles with extra Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing for drizzling.

Red-Hot Chile Oil Dressing

I got this recipe from Nina Simonds’ Asian Noodles: Delicious Simple Dishes to Twirl, Slurp, and Savor (Hearst Books, 1997), one of my all time favorite cookbook. This dressing is hot and downright addicting! I like to use it in stir fries and to dress Asian-style noodle dishes.

I get the super-hot crushed red pepper from Penzey’s. I like it hot.

1/4 cup safflower or corn oil (I use canola)
2 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 4 to 6 small dried hot chile peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch rings
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
7 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or sake
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Combine both oils in a heavy saucepan and heat over high heat until almost smoking hot. Add the red pepper, cover, and remove from the heat. Let sit until cool, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerated, in a covered container, the dressing will keep for a week. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits

I made this for dinner last night. It was easy and very flavorful.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits 2

Despite having been in South Carolina for 5 years, I’m still not completely gaga for grits. They taste boring. The addition of cheese and roasted poblanos definitely make grits more exciting for the taste buds.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits 3

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Cheesy Poblano Grits
Makes 4 servings

For the grits:
2 poblanos chiles/peppers
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grits (not the quick cooking kind)
4 ounces Monterrey jack (or pepper jack) cheese, shredded

For the shrimp:
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime

To roast the poblano chiles:
Preheat broiler to high. Place the poblano chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning every 5 minutes until each side is blackened and charred. Alternatively, if you have a gas stove, you can char the peppers over a flame, using tongs to turn them. Place the roasted poblanos in a large bowl and cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel the skin off the chiles, cut in half lengthwise, discard seeds and membranes, and chop.

For the grits:
Bring the water, milk, salt, and butter to a boil. Gradually whisk in the grits. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring often, for 15 – 20 minutes, or until desired consistency. Stir in the chopped roasted poblanos and shredded cheese and take off the heat.

For the shrimp:
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook 2 – 3 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the garlic and cook another minute, or until the shrimp are completely cooked through. Add the cilantro and lime juice and serve over the grits.


Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

This is a super quick and flavorful main dish for two. Each serving comes in at around 202 calories. Served with rice and a green veggie (like broccoli or asparagus), you have a healthy, low-calorie meal.

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 clove garlic, finely minced
8 ounces wild salmon filets
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, combine the balsamic vinegar, water, maple syrup, and garlic over medium-high heat. Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper and place in the balsamic sauce in the skillet. Bring the liquid just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, turning once, until the salmon is done, about 10 minutes. The balsamic vinegar sauce will have reduced quite a bit and thickened. You may have to add a tablespoon (or more) of water if the sauce is thickening too quickly

 


Singapore Noodles

Singapore Noodles

While I was in Texas a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with a dear friend one night and we had dinner at P.F. Chang’s in Arlington. I ordered the Singapore Street Noodles. It was a somewhat simple noodle dish and I knew right away I could re-create it. I think I hit the nail on the head. There are minor differences. P.F. Chang’s uses red cabbage in their Singapore Street Noodles, but I just used green cabbage since it was what I had. Napa or Savory cabbage would be really good too. Their dish contained halved grape tomatoes, but I left them out. I also left out the  green onions. Like most Asian dishes you cook in a wok, you want to have your ingredients prepared and ready to go. Once you start cooking, it comes together fast.

I’m partial to Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder. I used to be able to buy it locally when we lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, but since moving to South Carolina I have not been able to find it. I ended up ordering it from Amazon.com. Here’s what that container looks like:

Sun Brand Madra Curry Powder

Singapore Noodles

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, cored and sliced (use any color bell pepper you like)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/4 large head red or green cabbage (or your favorite type of cabbage), cored and thinly sliced
1  1/2 – 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (to taste)

lime wedges, for serving

Soak the rice noodles in very hot water until they are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside until ready to use.

Meanwhile, combine the water, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, turning the wok to make sure the oil coats the bottom. Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Transfer to a clean bowl or plate. Wipe out the wok (It doesn’t have to be super clean, I just quickly wipe the wok out using a paper towel) Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok and then add the sliced chicken and cook until no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to the bowl or plate with the shrimp. Again, wipe out the wok.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. add the garlic and cook briefly, a few seconds, before adding the onion, bell pepper, carrot, and cabbage. Stir-fry the vegetables until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the reserved sauce and the Madras curry powder to the wok. Add the softened rice noodles and cooked shrimp and chicken, gently tossing them with the sauce and vegetables.  Cook, stirring often, until the noodles absorb the sauce, about 3 – 5 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.


Pad Thai II

Pad Thai II

I love Pad Thai. When I go to a new (to me) Thai restaurant, I will usually order Pad Thai. It’s kind of a boring order, but I feel that if a restaurant can do Pad Thai well, then other dishes will be good too. We actually don’t go out to eat very often, so when I’m craving Pad Thai, I usually make it myself. This has been my go-to Pad Thai recipe for years. It’s fine, but it just doesn’t taste like any Pad Thai I get at a restaurant. I can do better. I have decided that I am going to master Pad Thai this summer. A girl has got to have goals. : )

I adapted/simplified this version from a recipe for Thai Noodles in Victor Sodsook’s True Thai. It’s good, a little on the sweet side, but good. So good that I have made it twice this month. The ingredients are fairly easy to find, although I’m not sure how authentic of an ingredient ketchup is. Once the ingredients for this dish are prepared and assembled, it comes together quickly.

Pad Thai II

8 ounces dried flat rice noodles (bahn pho)
1/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 pound chicken breast, sliced
5 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
fresh cilantro, chopped

crushed peanuts
chile pepper flakes
fresh bean sprouts
fresh cilantro, chopped
lime wedges

Soak the rice noodles in very hot water until they are soft, about 15 minutes. When they are ready, drain in a colander and set aside until ready for use.

Meanwhile, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and chili powder (if using). Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved.

Have all the ingredient ready and within reach. This dish comes together quickly once the cooking begins.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, turning the wok to make sure the oil coats the bottom. Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Transfer to a clean bowl or plate. Wipe out the wok (It doesn’t have to be super clean, I just quickly wipe the wok out using a paper towel) Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok and then add the sliced chicken and cook until no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to the bowl or plate with the shrimp. Again, wipe out the wok.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of oil in the wok. Add the minced garlic and cook briefly, about 30 seconds. Add lightly beaten eggs. Cook the eggs, stirring to scramble them, until they are set. Pour the prepared sauce mixture into the wok. Add the reserved softened noodles, tossing gently in the sauce. Cook until the noodles are tender and have absorbed the sauce, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the reserved cooked chicken and shrimp and toss to combine. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve. Have the crushed peanuts, chile pepper flakes, bean sprouts, additional chopped cilantro, and lime wedges on the table so everyone can add their desired condiments.

Adapted from True Thai by Victor Sodsook (William Morrow and Company, 1995).