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Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

4 Jun

Now that the weather has warmed up, I need to try and think of recipes that don’t use the oven.  Preferably, some of them will involve the grill.  These were absolutely perfect for the increasingly hot weather – light, refreshing, and bursting with flavor.

The flavors in these tacos were extremely fresh and bright.  The cilantro and lime marinated shrimp picked up the smokiness of the grill and retained their natural sweetness.  The onions packed a punch of spices and a delicious tartness from the vinegar.  The vivid green of the marinade contrasted nicely with the pinkish hue of the onions.  Both pretty and flavorful, these were an extremely easy, refreshing, and flavorful taco.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

Michael Symon’s Pickled Red Onions:

Adapted from Live to Cook by Michael Symon (I <3 my signed copy!)

1 large red onion, sliced 1/4″ thick (about enough to fill a 1-quart jar semi-snugly)

Vinegar – half apple cider vinegar, half rice wine vinegar


Kosher salt

2 tsp. mustard seeds

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbs. coriander seeds

2 tbs. black peppercorns

4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

2-3 bay leaves

Pack the onion slices in a 1-quart jar and cover with water to come within 1/2″ of the rim.  Pour the water out into a measuring cup.  Note the volume, then pour off half of the water.  Replace it with half apple cider vinegar and half rice wine vinegar.  For example, the total volume of water was 2 1/2 cups.  So I used 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar.

Pour the vinegar mixture into a nonreactive saucepan.  Add 2 tbs. sugar and 2 tbs. salt for every 3 cups of liquid.  Add the mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Allow the liquid to boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Pour the hot liquid into the jar over the onions.  Stir to evenly distribute the spices.

Screw on the lids and shake a few times.  Let cool to room temperature.  Transfer to refrigerator.  Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Shrimp:

1 lb. shell-on jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups loosely packed cilantro

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 lime, juiced

1/2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed

1/3 cup olive oil

Add cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and jalapeño to a food processor.  Pulse a few times to chop the cilantro and garlic.  With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil.  Add the shrimp and the cilantro mixture to a ziplock bag and marinate for thirty minutes.

Meanwhile, heat up your grill.

Thread shrimp onto skewers, making sure they have some space between them.  Brush with leftover marinade.  Add the skewers to the grill.  Depending on the heat of your grill, cook about 4-5 minutes per side, brushing with any leftover marinade as they cook, until pink and no longer translucent.


Pickled red onions, see above

Cilantro-lime grilled shrimp, see above

Soft tortilla shells, heated thirty seconds per side on the grill

Add 4-5 shrimp to each tortilla.  Top with some onions.  Fold into taco shape and devour.

Lemon Roasted Whole Bronzini

16 Apr

Zak and I decided to venture over to the West Side Market after a lovely lunch at Nate’s Deli to pick up some fresh fish and perhaps a vegetable or two.  After strolling around and checking out the options, we settled on a whole branzini, also known as bronzini, European sea bass, or Mediterranean sea bass, at Kate’s Fish.  I am always so happy to have taken a trip to the West Side Market, because we always return with a gem and have a great time shopping.

I love whole fish, first because it’s incredibly easy.  I was very intimidated the first time I bought one to cook, but now it’s my go-to choice for when I’m feeling a tad lazy but want guaranteed results.  I make sure the fishmonger has it scaled and gutted, perhaps with the fins cut off.  You basically need to follow a simple formula of rubbing with oil, seasoning, stuffing with aromatics, and then grilling, roasting, or steaming.  Another advantage is the serious price reduction versus a steak or fillet.  Finally, the flavor is excellent.  As any cook worth their salt should be well aware, bones, cartilage, and skin are more or less synonymous with flavor and moisture.  Unlike a standard fish fillet or steak, a whole fish has all three.

I prepared this lovely whole bronzini as simply as possible.  Olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemons go perfectly with fish.  The simple seasoning and high-heat roasting resulted in a moist and succulent fish that allowed the flavors of the bronzini to shine through.  I served this with some asparagus similarly prepared with a quick toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted in the oven.

Lemon Roasted Whole Bronzini

1 1 and 1/3 pound head on, whole bronzini

3-4 tbs. olive oil

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbs. black pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450º.

Make sure fish is gutted and scaled.  Cut off all fins except the tail fin.  Rub liberally, inside and out, with olive oil.  Season both sides and the body cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff most of the lemon slices in the body cavity and lay a few on top of the fish.

Transfer the fish to a glass casserole dish in which it can lay flat.

Transfer to the oven and roast 25-35 minutes, until flesh flakes easily with a fork and reaches the internal temperature of 145º.

Serve immediately with extra lemon wedges for serving.

Shrimp Etouffee

29 Feb

Unfortunately, this is another picture-less post.  Take it from me, though, this dish was colorful and tempting-looking.

As a former NOLA (that’s New Orleans, Louisiana) gal, I cooked this way back on Fat Tuesday.  Though my Fat Tuesday diet in New Orleans consisted of a Tequila Sunrise at The Boot, a few Bloody Mary’s at Igor’s, and whatever takeout I could find open between our parade camp out for Zulu and my bed, I figured I needed to do tribute to my college town on a day I had some time to cook.

I must say, I was really happy with the outcome of this dish.  I’ve eaten quite a bit of etouffee in my day (crawfish, shrimp, crab, alligator, chicken), and I think this stacks up with some of the best of them.  My favorite is crawfish etouffee due to the fact that they are small enough to comprise of a succulent surprise in each bite, but crawfish, unfortunately, are not readily available in February in Cleveland.  And if they are, please comment and let me know, because I’ve yet to find them.  This dish had an excellent balance of freshness from the parsley and lemon, spice from the creole seasoning, and savory deliciousness from the homemade shrimp stock, bay leaf, and shrimp itself.  The vegetables added color and texture, resulting in a satisfying and relatively quick dish that is equally appropriate for a special occasion and a fast week night meal.

Shrimp Etouffee

Adapted from Emeril

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1 tbs. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1/4 cup carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 tbs. creole seasoning of choice (for example, Zatarain’s, Tony Chacere’s – I used a recipe from the Uglesich’s cookbook)

1 cup shrimp stock (see below)

1/2 pound shell-on shrimp, peeled with shells reserved for shrimp stock (see below)

1/2 lemon, juiced

3 tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Slowly add the flour, while whisking, to form a roux.  Reduce heat to medium and continue stirring 20-25 minutes until the roux is about a deep golden brown, about the color of peanut butter.  Add onions, celery, bell pepper, green onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the shrimp stock and peeled shrimp and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until thickened and shrimp are cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and parsley.

Remove from heat and serve over white rice.

Shrimp Stock:

Shells from 1/2 lb. shell-on shrimp, reserved from above

1/2 lemon

1/2 cup fresh parsley stems and leaves, roughly chopped

2-3 stalks celery, with leaves, quartered

1 carrot, cut into 2-3 pieces

1/4 large red onion, quartered

1 tbs. whole black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

Add all ingredients to a large pot.  Cover with water and cook over very low heat for at least five hours.  Strain.

Pan Fried Calamari with Thai Chiles

17 Feb

Our refrigerator was on the fritz a couple of days back.  I went to pour myself a glass of milk on Valentine’s morning and it was curdled.  Ew.  And our landlord was out of town.  So, basically anything in the fridge was of little or no use.  Luckily, there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot in the fridge to begin with, since I’ve been way too busy to do much shopping.  And the freezer was still okay, which means I had to think about what was in the freezer and the pantry to comprise a colorable Valentine’s Day dinner.

This delectable finger food was a really delicious explosion of flavors and textures.  I had originally planned to use scallions in place of the chiles, but Zak requested I mince up a few of the hot peppers and it turned out to be a really excellent substitution.  Beware – these chiles are very hot, so be careful when handling and reduce the amount or remove all of the seeds if you aren’t a huge fan of spice.  Alternatively, you can substitute a milder chile such as a jalapeño or poblano.  We both really enjoyed this, however, and I thought the flavor worked well with the brightness of the lemon juice and earthiness of the garlic.  The calmari had a really nice crunchy bite to it, and alongside some rice, this made for a light and delicious dinner for two.

Pan Fried Calamari with Thai Chiles

1/4 cup canola oil

1 lb. squid, bodies and tentacles, defrosted if frozen, bodies cut into 1/2″ to 3/4″ rings

3 tbs. all-purpose flour

3 tbs. cornstarch

4 cloves garlic, grated

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2-3 Thai chiles, very finely minced

In a cast iron pan, heat canola oil over high heat until oil is shimmering, about 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large brown paper or ziplock bag, add all flour, corn starch, salt, and pepper.  Shake until calamari is well coated.  Shake off extra flour and add calamari to pan, working in batches if necessary, and cook 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently.  Add the chiles the last thirty seconds or so, and cook  until calamari is cooked through but tender.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.

While the calamari is draining, toss together garlic and  lemon zest.  Toss with calamari and serve with lemon juice.

Savory Salmon with Vanilla Balsamic Marinade

16 Jan

Zak ordered a boatload of vanilla beans for making vanilla extract and beer.  Since neither of us were excited at the prospect of having a ton of baked goods around the house, I thought I’d try to find a savory application to use up a couple of them.  I Googled around for awhile before I saw this vanilla and balsamic marinade for fish.  I immediately knew it would be something both Zak and I could get excited about, so I added salmon to our shopping list.  I am very glad I did, because this slightly sweet, slightly acidic marinade was absolutely lovely with the fatty, rich taste of the salmon.  The marinade forms a slightly sticky-sweet crust on the fish, offset by the luscious, silken texture of the salmon.  I served this with lemon-parsley white asparagus and wilted arugula with pearled barley, the recipes for which I will likely be posting over the next several days.

Though I was initially slightly skeptical about the thought of vanilla on anything savory (especially fish!), I’m now looking forward to trying it in other applications.  Vanilla needn’t be relegated to the dessert table – when treated properly, it has a hint of sweetness with a dark, musky undertone that works really well in this savory application.  I can’t wait to see where else it might work!

Savory Salmon with Vanilla Balsamic Marinade

Adapted from

1 lb. center-cut salmon, cut into 2 fillets

2-3 tbs. olive oil

1/2 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley

1/4 tsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Caviar from two vanilla beans

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 tbs. olive oil

Combine all ingredients except fish and canola oil in food processor and puree.  Pour into a ziplock bag and add salmon fillets.  Marinate 1 hour.  Remove salmon fillets and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Brush flesh side with marinade.

Preheat broiler.

Add olive oil to a 10″ cast iron pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Add salmon flesh side down and cook 3-4 minutes until a slight crust forms.  Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until skin is crispy.  Brush thoroughly with marinade and transfer to broiler.  Cook another 2-3 minutes until a glaze forms and fish is cooked to desired temperature.

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