Monday, March 5, 2012

My favorite food, hands down, is Alaskan king crab. It is something I rarely get to enjoy, but if I ever have the chance (and the change), I indulge. My love of seafood began as a young child on a very long trip out East with my family.

Our parents took us on a historic tour along the eastern part of the United States that included Boston. It was there I tasted Boston clam chowder and crab legs. I was hooked. There aren’t many types of seafood I don’t love. Sea scallops and lobster are my other favorites and of course, shrimp is always good too.

Since Iowa doesn’t have as much access to fresh seafood as the coasts, I love traveling to places near the ocean. In 2000, my mom and I traveled to visit friends near Houston and New Orleans. Along the way, we stopped in College Station, Texas, for the night. We dined in a very casual seafood restaurant that served the largest king crab legs I’ve ever seen. The largest leg on my plate was almost the girth of my wrist. The crab was sweet and delicious, my favorite way to enjoy seafood.

Fiesta Scallops

You can add a little zing to your plate with this quick dinner and your guests will never know how easy it was to prepare!
1 pound sea scallops
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups hot-cooked whole-grain rice
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
juice of one small lime

Pat scallops dry. Combine cumin, chili and black pepper in a medium bowl. Toss scallops in spice mix. Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. When oil is hot, add scallops. Cook for 2 minutes per side, undisturbed. While scallops are cooking, combine hot rice with chopped cilantro, diced tomato, and jalapeno. Drizzle with lime juice and toss. Serve scallops atop rice and garnish with cilantro if desired.
Makes 4 servings.

Shrimp Pasta Primavera

When I frequent an Italian restaurant, I’m always scanning the menu for a dish that includes shrimp and pasta, two of my favorite foods. This is a perfect dinner for two that utilizes fresh herbs and spring asparagus.

4 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on or off)
6 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small plum tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon each minced fresh basil, oregano, thyme and parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute shrimp and asparagus in oil for 3-4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add mushrooms, broth, tomato, salt and pepper flakes; simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Drain pasta. Add pasta and seasoning to skillet; toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.
Makes 2 servings.

Creamy Seafood Enchiladas with  Chilies and Pimento-Stuffed Olives

Made with Parmesan cheese, crab and shrimp, these are a tasty twist from traditional enchiladas. Save this special dish for dinner guests who love seafood as much as you.

1 pound lump crab meat, picked over carefully for shell and cartilage (or two (8 ounce) packages imitation crab, flaked)
8 ounces frozen cooked salad shrimp (very small), thawed and drained
¾ cup coarsely chopped pimento-stuffed olives
8 ounces (3 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
2 (8 ounce) bottles clam juice
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
4 garlic-cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chilies
16 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Mix crab, shrimp, olives and 1 ½ cups of the Monterey Jack cheese in a medium bowl. Microwave clam juice, milk, and garlic in a 2 quart microwave safe bowl until steamy hot, 6 to 8 minutes or heat in a sauce pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides whisk in flour until well blended. Pour in hot milk mixture all at once; whisk vigorously until sauce is smooth and starts to thicken. Whisk in Parmesan cheese and chilies, continue to simmer until sauce is of cream soup thickness. Stir ¾ cup of the sauce into the seafood, and spread 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 9xs13 inch baking dish.

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat to 400 degrees. Microwave tortillas on high in a microwave safe plastic bag until warm, about 45 seconds. Spoon about ¼ cup of the filling into a tortilla. Roll into a cylinder and place, seam side down in prepared baking dish (you may need to turn some sideways to make them all fit). Drizzle enchiladas with 1 cup of the sauce, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Lightly spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray, cover the dish and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and let stand for a few minutes. Warm remaining sauce (and thin with water, if necessary, to cream soup consistency) and serve over enchiladas.

Creamy Shrimp with Corn and Bacon

This hearty dinner is ready in about 30 minutes. The sauce is creamy and savory due to the addition of a bit of cream and a few slices of bacon.

1 cup long grain rice (also try jasmine or long grain brown rice)
4 slices bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
¾ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
Kosher salt and black pepper

Cook the rice according to the directions on package. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel, let cool, then break into pieces. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Stir in the shrimp, corn, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Simmer until cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the bacon; serve shrimp over the rice.

Super Easy Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi is a classic Italian-American dish that always includes garlic, butter, and wine. The shrimp can be served alone, with crusty bread, over pasta, or over rice (for gluten-free version).

1 pound large (16-20 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
3-4 garlic cloves, slivered, or 1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat a sauté pan on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter melts, foams up and subsides, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for a minute or until you see the edges of some of the garlic just beginning to brown, but be careful garlic does NOT burn, or you will need to wipe out the pan and start all over.

As soon as the garlic begins to brown, add the shrimp to the pan. Then add the white wine and stir to combine and coat the shrimp with the butter, oil, and wine. Spread the shrimp out in an even layer in the pan. Increase the heat to the highest setting and let the wine boil vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

Turn the shrimp over, or toss them so the cooked sides are mostly facing up, and boil the wine for another minute. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and toss to combine. Add the lemon juice and black pepper.
Makes 4 servings.