Roasted Shrimp with Salsa Calabrese

Did I mention that I met Bobby Flay this summer? It’s true! It was fun but really not that exciting. 😉 He came to our mall for the 10th anniversary of his first “Bobby’s Burger Palace” restaurant. I stood outside in a huge line in 90+ degree heat with my kids and friends for the opportunity to meet him. I think that I waited so long to share this news because the photo of me with Mr. Flay is terrible. I was also too shy to ask him to write to “the brook cook” in my new Bobby Flay cookbook. Ugh. Overall, we all had good time, I bought a great cookbook, and we got free milkshakes. 🙂

Now seems like the time to share this dish because it’s from his “Fit” cookbook, healthy and tasty. Perfect for the season of resolutions and dietary changes.

The recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay Fit: 200 Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. I used graffiti eggplant instead of Japanese, grape tomatoes instead of plum, and increased the garlic. I made the dish a little more caloric by serving it over brown Basmati rice. Cauliflower rice would also be a nice option- or without rice as in the original recipe.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 2 graffiti eggplants or 4 Japanese eggplants, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 grape tomatoes or 2 seeded plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste, preferably Calabrian
  • 5 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 21-25 count)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • brown Basmati rice or cauliflower rice, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. Spread the vegetables on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring a few times, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and purée until almost smooth. Add the vinegar and 1/4 cup of water, and continue processing until smooth.
  5. Add the basil and the parsley and pulse a few times to incorporate while still leaving flecks of herbs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to a bowl.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the fennel and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Spread the shrimp in an even layer on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until pink and firm and just cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  8. To serve, spoon sauce over prepared rice, if desired, or in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with about 5 shrimp and garnish with whole basil leaves.

Note: The vegetable sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Hazelnuts & Bacon

Yes- more soup! It may be sunny outside but it is still freezing. The positive spin I’ve taken on this gloomy situation is that I can still make delicious soup for dinner. 🙂

This recipe is from one of my favorite magazine columns, the RSVP section of Bon Appétit. It was adapted from chef Mark Filatow of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna, British Columbia. It was fabulous!

  • ½ cup raw hazelnuts
  • 2 T baking soda
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 small onion or ½ of a large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine or water
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Blanch and Peel the Hazelnuts: Boil 1 ½ cups water in a small saucepan. Add 2 T baking soda and the nuts. Boil for 3 minutes, or until the skin is easily removed. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel the skin off of the nuts.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection roast.
  3. Toast the blanched hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
  4. While the nuts are cooling, increase oven to 400°, preferably on convection roast.
  5. Toss cauliflower and 2 T oil on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until florets are browned all over and tender, 30–35 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cut bacon crosswise into ½” pieces.
  7. Heat a heavy pot over medium and cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
  8. Cook fennel, onion, and garlic (I chopped them using a food processor) in drippings in pot, stirring occasionally, until onion and fennel are very soft, 5–10 minutes.
  9. Add wine and cook until mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  10. Add roasted cauliflower, broth, cream, and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper.
  11. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until cauliflower is very tender, 20–25 minutes.
  12. Pluck out bay leaves; discard. Let mixture cool slightly.
  13. Working in batches, purée cauliflower mixture until very smooth. (I puréed the soup using an immersion blender in the pot.)
  14. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  15. Just before serving, ladle soup into bowls; top with bacon and nuts and drizzle with oil, if desired. (I omitted the additional oil.)

Do Ahead: Soup can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill soup and bacon separately.

One Year Ago: Breakfast Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Muffins

Two Years Ago: Cheesy Pasta Casserole with Wild Mushrooms

Three Years Ago: Gemelli with Mushrooms & Ricotta

Four Years Ago: Saffron Pappardelle with Moroccan Spiced Shallot-Butter Sauce

Five Years Ago: Minestrone and Macaroni Baked in Yogurt (Arshda Madznov)

Wild Rice & Mushroom Casserole

This hearty vegetarian main course casserole would be a lovely option to serve vegetarian guests during the holidays. We ate it as a cozy winter meal with roasted broccoli and green salad.

The puréed beans add creaminess to the filling. After reading comments about this recipe online, I was apprehensive to include all of the bean liquid required in the original recipe because others had complained that the final consistency was mushy. I only used half of a cup but next time I would include 1 cup or even additional liquid (noted below).

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I substituted celery for fennel, added a chipotle chile, used mixed baby greens, and reduced the breadcrumbs, beans, liquid, and baking time. It was the ultimate dish to utilize my brand new giant 14-inch skillet. Yay! The vegetables could be cooked in batches if using a smaller pan, of course.

Yield: 12 servings

  • 2 ¼ cups vegetable, mushroom or chicken stock
  • coarse salt
  • 1 ¼ cups wild rice, rinsed
  • 9 t0 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 24 oz sliced mushrooms, preferably a mix of different kinds (I used cremini mushrooms.)
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery heart or 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped
  • 5 ounces mixed baby kale, chard, and spinach
  • 7 fat garlic cloves (4 chopped, 3 finely grated or crushed into a paste)
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • (14-ounce) cans white beans, strained with liquid reserved (I used cannellini beans.)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (about 2 tsp)
  • tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • cup chopped fresh cilantro (or basil)
  • cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/4 cups panko or coarse bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
  1. Taste broth; if bland, season to taste with salt. In a medium pot, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in rice, lower heat, cover and simmer until just tender, about 1 hour, or according to package directions. Fluff rice with a fork, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté vegetables: In a large, heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If using a smaller pan, cook in batches, adding oil if necessary.)
  3. Adjust heat as needed to prevent burning. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a plate and sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. In the empty skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Stir in leeks, fennel/celery and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in baby greens, chopped garlic, tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and cook until garlic starts turning golden, another 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
  6. Heat oven to 400 degrees, and oil a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  7. In a blender, purée 2 cans beans with 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the reserved liquid, chipotle, lemon juice, 1 grated garlic clove, and salt to taste. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Stir bean purée, remaining whole beans (drained), mushrooms, cilantro, parsley and cooked wild rice into skillet with vegetables. Taste and add more salt or lemon as needed; it should be well seasoned. Add additional bean liquid, if necessary, in order to achieve desired consistency. Scrape into prepared baking dish.
  9. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, rosemary, lemon zest, remaining 2 grated garlic cloves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil and Parmesan, if using.
  10. Sprinkle evenly on top of casserole and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
Note: To make part of this recipe in advance, assemble casserole and prepare topping (separately) up to 24 hours ahead. Refrigerate, covered, in separate containers. Just before baking, spread breadcrumb topping evenly over the casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until heated through and topping is golden, another 20 to 30 minutes.

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One-Skillet Chicken Thighs with Buttery Orzo

I had saved this recipe a couple of months ago just waiting for my CSA box fennel to arrive. As soon as I saw it on my list of veggies to expect, I knew exactly what I was going to make. 🙂 I love how the orzo is cooked like risotto in this dish- the results were amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in. I also increased the amount of fennel and used a sweet onion instead of a leek. We ate it with sautéed collard greens as well as sautéed yellow summer squash, also from my CSA box, of course. Easy, fresh, and delicious.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped (I used 1 1/2 bulbs)
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion or 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2½ cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat 2 T butter in a medium cast-iron skillet (I used a 10-inch skillet) over medium-high.
  4. Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps (if you can’t quite fit them all, wait until chicken shrinks slightly, then puzzle in the remaining pieces). Cook until meat is opaque around the edges, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Turn chicken browned side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, about 4 additional minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  6. Set same skillet over medium; combine chopped fennel bulb and leek/onion in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  8. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.
  9. Add broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10–15 minutes.
  10. Remove skillet from heat, taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 T butter, then chopped fennel fronds.
  11. Nestle and pile chicken on top and finish with lemon zest.
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