About Me

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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

21 February 2013

Recipe: 4 Days, 3 Feasts and One Leftover Special

Mid-February is always a busy time for the Armstrong-Duartes.  Within the space of 3 days we have to celebrate Valentine's Day, my mother-in-law's birthday and my dad's birthday!  And this was an especially important birthday for my dad -- he turned 75!

So, loosening our belts, we prepared for the onslaught ...

First up, Valentine's Day.  Now I get that a lot of people feel that Valentine's is a Hallmark-consumer-driven-cheesefest.  Got it.  But I still like it.  I like taking one day out of the year to show a little extra love.  We don't do presents or boxes of chocolate or overpriced chi-chi restaurants.  What we do is cook ourselves a feast at home!

Now I wish I could say that I had developed all these recipes on my own, but let's be honest: I don't cook 10-ounce lobster tails on the regular.  I followed recipes.  And they were brilliant, I highly recommend all of them.  Here was our menu:

We started off with Tyler Florence's Steamed Mussels.  LEKKA!  Amazing.  We ate an entire pound-and-a-half between the 2 of us (with lots of toasty bread.) 

Here's the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/steamed-mussels-recipe/index.html

Next up:  Broiled, stuffed Lobster Tails.  The stuffing was garlicky and buttery and complemented the luxuriously tender meat.  SIGH.

This recipe is easy & genius: http://www.food.com/recipe/baked-stuffed-lobster-tails-174936

With the lobster we had roasted root vegetables.  No recipe needed for this one, just a mixture of beets, sweet potatoes, small Yukon Gold potatoes and whole garlic cloves tossed in olive oil, fresh rosemary, salt & pepper:

Then for dessert we wanted something lighter, simple, but apropos ... we did poached pears, one of our favorite desserts:

This recipe is so delicious: http://wine.about.com/od/howwineismade/r/poachedpears.htm

One down, 2 to go!

Next up was my darling mother-in-law's birthday.  We actually went out for dinner, at a South Minneapolis Italian place called Al Vento -- really lovely Southern Italian cuisine.  But we came back to our house for cake and presents.  Behold:

That is the patented Armstrong-Duarte birthday candelabra.  I think a touch of Liberace should always be with us, dontchathink?

Two down, one more!  ¡Si se puede!

When I asked my dad what he wanted to do for his big birthday, he was very clear: a lunch at your house with shrimp, rice and salad.  OK, then, here we go!

The star of the show was this:

I actually found the recipe in a little pamphlet-like cookbook that I got in South Africa:

It's called "Let's Braai" and is Published by Media24 Weekly Magazines and edited by Izelle Venter.  I altered the recipe a bit, so, here's my version:

Swakopmund seafood potjie (ala Salvadoreña)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large, or 2 small/medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green pepper, seeded and cut into strips (I used one whole bag of Trader Joe's raw, frozen peppers)
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 large can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 pound large shrimps (prawns), cleaned & rinsed *
2 pounds mussels, cleaned & rinsed *
Chopped fresh parsley and cilantro (coriander/dhania) to garnish

* You can use any combination of your favorite seafood to equal roughly this amount.

In a large Dutch oven, sweat the onions in the olive oil till translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute, till fragrant.  Add tomato paste to brown a bit.  Add all the spices and cook them a few minutes, till they are fragrant.  Add peppers and celery, turn heat down a bit and let the natural moisture of the peppers andcelery come out.  Cook the mixture down.  You should have a very fragrant sludge.  Add wine, tomatoes, olives and simmer 15-25 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.  (The sugar helps balance out the acidity in canned tomatoes.) 

Turn the heat up, add the lemon juice and zest, stir, then add all the seafood.  Cover and steam about 5 minutes till the prawns are no longer translucent and the mussels open (discard any that don't open.)  Serve with rice and bread to soak up all the juice!

Speaking of bread ...

I made a loaf of the New York Times "No-Knead" Bread -- and I realized again how ridiculously simple it is.  Everyone loved it and assumed I had slaved for days kneading and coaxing starters.  I almost didn't disabuse them of that notion, but my inner Catholic won out and I confessed how stupid-easy it really is. 

We also had rice and salad, but in the midst of feeding and feasting, I didn't get any pictures.

I did, however, make sure that I got a picture of this:

Isn't she cute?  It's my dad's birthday cake.  He specified: vanilla with whipped cream & strawberries.  Now the challenge is that my dad has diabetes and he is very careful with his diet.  So I had to -- you know -- make sure he could eat his own cake.

I searched and searched and finally decided on a recipe using Truvia Baking Blend.  It's a mixture of sugar and stevia (an all-natural sweetener that I've loved for years.)  And here's the one womp-womp of this whole marathon of feasting.  I used a recipe from the Truvia website and it was OK, but too dense and too dry.  I mean, it was passable, but not great.  Sad-sigh.  Truvia people, can you please test your recipes a little more carefully?  I had a feeling as I was pouring the batter in to the pan that it was too stiff, but I thought, well, maybe the Truvia acts differently than sugar does ... No.  No, it does not.  Anyhoo, it was still pretty good and ice cream helped moisten it a bit ;)

And a beer always helps dry birthday cake go down!

(Note the candelabra again!)

And to top it all off, and as a light, cleansing meal, the next day I whipped up a yummy rice salad using leftovers from my dad's lunch:

The real secret here is the vinaigrette, which is my own version of a classic French one.  I use way more vinegar and more mustard -- I guess I like it zippy!  Here's how I do it: 

    1/2 cup red wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup any light-tasting vegetable oil (grapeseed, canola)
    2 shallots, finely chopped

This will make lots of salad dressing, just keep it in the fridge, it's really yummy!  I just mixed a couple of tablespoons of this dressing with rice (white basmati, which had been cooked with chicken stock, bits of carrot, one onion and one garlic clove -- but you can use whatever you've got), some leftover chicken breast, both lemon and lime juice, chopped cilantro and parsley, grape tomatoes, chopped scallions and chunks of avocado.  It was really delish!

So there you go, 3 feasts in 4 days!  Hope you are all well and that the year has started off great for you!

1 comment:

  1. My father has just been diagnosed with diabetes which is why I'm thankful for finding your blog. Diet is extremely crucial with the type 2's and I'm literally out of my wits when it comes to this but not anymore. I'm gonna trying your recipe and see how it works. Thanks!

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