Sesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp

Today I’m thinking about healthy choices – in what I eat, how I move, the interactions I have with my family – and the balance that is required to do these things well.

Greens AND brownies, running AND couch time, speaking my mind AND holding my tongue.  I want them all, just not in the same amount and at the same time.  The trick is to navigate when a brownie is just the thing (and these King Arthur Flour brownies are totally the thing) and when greens are a better choice.  Likewise with relationships, say, just hypothetically, when you are having a conversation with your daughter about future college and life plans when you are both hormonal.  Sometimes the healthiest choice is to say what you feel.  Other times, it’s best to not share exactly what is running through your mind in that specific moment.  When I’m navigating these moments successfully, which, let me tell you, is not always the case, I’m feeling my way to the best choice.  Calmly noticing.  Aware, but not hyper sensitive.

And, not to segue too abruptly to food, but actually, the same is true when I’m making a recipe.  I sort of feel my way to the right flavors.  In the same way that you might feel your way through a delicate conversation.  In this case, it’s a conversation with food and flavors.  This meal, the creamy AND limey, the greens AND rice, the chicken AND shrimp is one with balance.  One that walks the line of not too much sharing and not too much holding back.  I could have used a little more of that last night when in conversation with my daughter.  Ah well, at least I managed it in this meal.

SeasmeTahiniChickenSesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp over Rice and a Bed of Spinach
This dish is just as easily made with chicken OR shrimp, but the combination of the two is my favorite.
Basmati Rice:
2 cups basmati rice
Salt

Sauce:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
8 ounces boneless chicken breast; about 1 large breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces medium (41-50 count) raw shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water, as needed
8 ounces baby spinach leaves

Garnish:
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Wedges of lime
Cilantro leaves
Sriracha

Rice:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. The water should be as salted as you want your rice and no more. Add the rice and stir well. When the water again comes to a boil, set the timer for 18 minutes. Pour into a strainer and let sit for 5 minutes or longer while you prepare the sauce.

Sauce:
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Heat, stirring often, until the seeds begin to brown. Transfer to a blender and add the chicken stock, tahini and tamari. Blend until well mixed and smooth. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, garlic, ginger and chicken and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook until you can just see a little bit of gray remaining. Add the pumpkin seed mixture and stir well adding water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately over rice and a bed of spinach. Garnish with sesame seeds, lime, cilantro, and Sriracha.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie
Finding the balance where I can.

Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon with Greens

Extra greens this time of year seems to be what I crave over and over again.  More kale, more spinach, more Swiss chard.  I’ve even begun eating kale for breakfast with my eggs instead of having toast.  It’s delicious and gives me one more serving of what’s good for me anyway.

This column for the Maine Ingredient, created with holiday entertaining in mind, could easily become a weekend dinner with friends.  The recipes – Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon, Brown Butter Kale with Toasted Almonds, and Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Cranberries and Preserved Grapefruit – are all healthy, with a large dash of elegance.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Cranberry Preserved Grapefruit

Annie
Eating my greens

First Seedlings of the Year

I couldn’t take it one more day.  The seed catalogs have begun to saunter in and I’ve resisted looking at one, but instead have filed them in the cabinet next to my desk.  It’s February you see.  If I look at seeds and green and growing, I will start to yearn – for seeds and green and growing.  Like this…

green garden

And I will no longer love the snow, which is gorgeous, clean, white and covering the entire garden.  Like this…

fresh snow

Until today I succeeded.  Until I didn’t, and then I just had to plant some seeds, just a few.  Because it is so cold, I didn’t feel up to braving the garden shed for containers and instead got ingenious with the newspaper.  These little window boxes fit perfectly on my window sill and contain spinach, bibb lettuce and radishes.

PaperWindowBoxes

It didn’t take but a few seconds before I was on a roll and thinking creatively about how to use the misplaced mini-greenhouse out in the back garden to squeeze some greens out in late April.  Because it isn’t over a garden bed right now, but instead just in a path, I won’t plant directly into the ground, but will fill several shallow boxes with several inches of dirt and actually plant rows.  The edges of the greenhouse will need some straw for insulation and I think a row cover or two will do the trick to protect the seedlings…

Seed packets

Annie
Yup, I’m on a roll and green is in my future!

Green, green pasta

This is the time of year when I crave green vegetables by the bushel-full.  Kale, broccoli, swiss chard, green beans, spinach – it all sounds good to me.  So when Chlöe asked for Spinach Balls as I was headed to the grocery store this week, this is what came…

Green, Green Pasta

Spinach Balls

They do well if frozen, but do not defrost in the microwave, but rather bring to room temperature or heat in the oven or toaster oven.   Add to Marinara Sauce or cool and refrigerate or freeze.  Makes approximately 48 spinach balls

Spinach Balls:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, (4 T. for spinach balls, 2 T. for green beans, 2 T. to toss with pasta)
1 cup minced onions
2, 16 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 cups bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper

Green Beans:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces green beans, stem ends removed and cut into thirds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 pound spinach fettuccine
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Spinach Balls:
Preheat oven to 350°.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients.  With a small melon baller, form the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Green Beans:
In the skillet that you cooked the onions, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add the green beans, salt and pepper.  Sauté on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the beans begin to brown on the outside, but are still crunchy on the inside.  Remove from heat and set aside until the pasta is done.

Cook the pasta to package instructions in a medium stockpot filled with boiling, salted water.  Stir well when you first add the pasta to the water to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.  When the noodles still have a insy, tiny dot of white in the center when you cut one in half, they are done.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl or platter.  Toss with 2 tablespoons butter and half of the Parmesan.  Top with the green beans and then the spinach balls.  Serve with the other half of the Parmesan as an additional topping.

Serves 6-8

Cook the Book – Spinach Gorgonzola Soup

Spinach & Gorgonzola Soup

1/4  cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons thyme
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
5 ounces spinach, washed and julienned
2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes

Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat; add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the Gorgonzola and chicken stock; bring the stock to a simmer then purée it in a blender or food processor. Place the spinach in the stockpot and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and puréed stock, simmer, and serve.

Serves 4-6

Cook the Book – Sautéed Greens

This is a simple way to use all those greens you are finding at your local Farmers Market and are ready for harvesting in your own garden. Sometimes there is nothing better than sautéed greens with little or no embellishment.  Other times I’ll boost the flavor with Parmesan or feta cheese, roasted nuts, and/or diced tomatoes.

Sautéed Greens

1 pound greens (spinach, Swiss chard, or dandelion greens are all good)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash then roughly chop the greens. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and garlic; cook the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the greens, tossing gently, then add the rest of the ingredients and toss again.  Cook until the greens are tender.  Cooking times will vary depending on the green.  Spinach will go the fastest.

Serves 4

Lobster, Mushroom, Spinach Risotto

This recipe is the perfect balance of colors with the bright reds and pinks of the lobster nestled alongside the gentle white of the risotto and the brilliant green of the spinach.  The flavors also balance well.  The spinach is a slightly bitter taste that pares well with the soft, cheesy risotto and the salty, creamy sea taste of the lobster.

Me, I’ll take risotto any way you can think of making it, but this one?  Tops.

Risotto has such a reputation for taking a long time to cook while the said cook stands over the stove with limp hair and a little damp with the heat as they endlessly stir and stir.  It doesn’t have to be so serious.  Just some coming back to the stove to stir, add more liquid, move away and repeat as needed, but not continuously.

Lobster, Mushroom and Spinach Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 t. salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3oz. or 4 cups lightly packed spinach, washed, drained and deribbed
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat
2 tablespoons butter

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and then mushrooms.  When the mushrooms begin to brown on the edges slightly, add the white wine and salt.  Bring to a boil and add the spinach and lemon juice, stirring quickly with tongs.  When the spinach has wilted, remove from heat and add the lobster meat and the butter.  Swirl the pan or stir with a wooden spoon and serve on top of risotto.

Serves 4

Risotto

4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 stick
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups low-salt chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for one minute.  Add the salt, pepper and 1 cup of the stock and stir.  Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated stirring frequently.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and reserve the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table.

Serves 4

Annie

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Maine Ingredient – All About Squash

Squash and pumpkins come in a myriad of shapes and sizes some endearing and some impressive.  Some pretty or cute and some, well, just downright ugly.  No matter about what they look like on the outside though, because it’s the flavorful inside that counts.  The seeds and the flesh.

Pumpkins and squash at the farm

I find that many squashes can be used interchangeably although each kind has it’s own individual flavor and texture.

Two of my recipes that ran today in the Portland Press Herald column are:

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter and Spinach
Delicata Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon and Chive Cream Fraiche

We just had the Pumpkin Ravioli with a Spinach Salad – more greens, yeah! – last night for dinner.  Perfect fall meal.

Annie
Thinking up more things to do with all the squash from the farmer’s market

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