Today’s post features one of the sorts of dishes that comes together out of a need to finish of various foodstuffs that might otherwise go to waste. Here, I had some leftover grilled octopus tentacles (which actually would have been eaten one way or the other) along with some tomatoes that were getting very ripe indeed, and some basil leaves left after pruning the plants in my kitchen window.

The basil and tomato suggested a Caprese Salad sort of affair and, while I didn’t quite go that way, the basic idea did inspire the pasta salad I eventually created. To make it, I first boiled, drained, rinsed and cooled some fusilli pasta (rinsing is only employed when using pasta in cold dishes). I then tossed this with just a little olive oil and some dried thyme, savory, and black pepper. Later, just before final assembly of the dish, I tossed the pasta once again with just a tiny amount of mayonnaise to give the whole a creamier consistency, and then stirred in some diced tomato and basil cut chiffonade.

The tentacles of the octopus had already been prepared by blanching and were subsequently grilled on skewers. The majority (already eaten at this point) were threaded whole onto the skewers, while the remainder, used here, were sliced crosswise and grilled with just a little oil and seasoning. Once cooled, the meat, still on the skewers was marinated with a little more oil, some garlic, rosemary and lemon juice. The total margination time was no more than a few hours (basically long enough to make the salad), and, to serve, I just popped a few skewers atop a mound of the salad and, on this occasion, I garnished one of the bowls with some basil flowers.

Anyway, the result was very nice. The salad was simple and tasty and would easily make a great starter dish all by itself. The same was true of the octopus, which was very tender and enhanced by the combination of herbs and lemon juice. The only thing I was less keen on was the pairing of octopus with basil…. That would be something I may rethink in the future…

You may already well know that shrimp cooked in the shell can often be much for flavorful than the pre-shelled variety in the same way that meat cooked on the bone is generally much better than boneless cutlets from the same source. Indeed, eating shrimp that is still in the shell can be a bit fiddly, and even quite messy, but, at an outdoor barbecue, or a casual meal with friends, this often enhances the pleasure of the meal…

Today’s little dish is very easy to prepare and could be served as a light snack, or appetizer with drinks. It is somewhat Asian in spirit, especially with the splash of soy sauce used to give saltiness, but there is no garlic or ginger used (though you certainly could, if desired) and the preparation could just as easily feature in a tapas meal as it could as one of a series of dim sum type dishes.

Basically, you just flash-fry the de-veined shrimp in oil until nicely pink and then add in thin slivers of red chili pepper (or sweet bell pepper for a less fiery result). Once the latter are softened, quickly stir in a splash of soy followed by enough homey to coat the shrimp and, just before serving, a generous sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

That’s it …

A while ago, I did a post featuring the Italian cured hog jowl meat known as Guanciale and I included a picture of a Spaghetti Carbonara I made using it. There are two fairly famous Italian dishes made using Guanciale (or sometimes Pancetta, or else regular bacon) and these are the aforementioned Pasta Carbonara and Pasta Amatriciana. Both of these are descendants of a simpler dish known as Pasta alla Gricia, which is basically pasta tossed in the pan with cooked Guanciale, generous amounts of pepper, grated cheese and sufficient pasta water to make a rich ‘sauce’.

Today, I am using the ‘alla Gricia’ style as my base but I am creating a ‘descendant’ version by adding sliced black truffle along with some brocollini for a little color and texture… Read More →

Today’s recipe was inspired by one I saw in a fairly old Japanese cookery book. It is Enoki Mushrooms (Enokitake in Japanese) which are braised in rice wine and soy, and it generally follows the Japanese recipe except that, instead of Mirin, I uses Chinese Rice Wine, and, rather than cooking oil, I use butter. Butter does occasionally get used in some Japanese preparations, but it is an uncommon ingredient and I have used it here because it lends a nice depth of flavor and richness…

I began with a 100 gram package of Enoki. I cut away the dense, somewhat fibrous common ‘root’ and then separated the individual mushrooms from each other, leaving some of the tiniest still grouped together.

Cooking is easy… Just melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a pan on medium heat, add the mushrooms and stir until coated, then add about three tablespoons of rice wine (or mirin if you prefer), a teaspoon of light soya sauce, then cover the pot and let the mushrooms braise until tender and limp. Finally, before serving, add in a little finely sliced or shredded green onion (green part only).

That’s it….

I did up this little appetizer using a couple of octopus tentacles I had left over from using the rest of the beast in a different recipe. I first thought of doing something sort of Asian with ginger and soy, but I decided, instead, to marinate my sections of tentacle with lemon juice and herbs before gilling them on skewers.

The tentacles had been blanched and frozen before use and so needed no further tenderizing. I cut each into sections and then marinated the pieces in a few tablespoons of olive oil, along with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, a quarter teaspoon of pureed garlic, and about one eighth of a teaspoon of dried thyme with just a few needles of rosemary crushed into the mix with a pinch of salt. I let this sit for about a half hour so.

Finally, I threaded the pieces on skewers and grilled them over high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, basting with the marinade as I did so. I served them, as you can see, over thinly sliced lemon and the result was very pleasant indeed. I have not used thyme with octopus or squid before and I liked the combination. Next time, I think I may try a more complex Herbes de Provence blend…

Recently, our local supermarket has been carrying some very nice cocktail sized shrimp and, since they don’t appear that often, I have bought quite a few packages and have been using them in different ways. I opened one pack to make scrambled eggs with shrimp and, since I didn’t need the whole package, I put together the little fritters you see above. They are somewhere half-way between an Indian Pakora and Japanese Kakiage, and, for this recipe, I kept everything very simple and clean… the only seasoning in the fritters is a dash of salt and the batter is made very light with egg-white rather than whole egg…Read More →

Today’s post is really just the result of me playing around with a number of different pickling recipes from both Chinese and Japanese cuisine. In many cucumber pickles, small ‘dill-pickle’ sized ‘cukes’ are used, and the pickling is by way of lactic acid fermentation for at least part of the process. Here, I am using large, seedless, English cucumbers and I am ‘quick-pickling’ using rice vinegar as the agent, and soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds and rice wine for seasoning… Read More →

Today, I am going to show you a couple of little dishes made with the same basic  ‘dumpling filling’ mix I made for my Shrimp and Pork Stuffed Mushrooms  a while ago. As I mentioned in that post, the combination of shrimp and pork is one of my most favorite dumpling fillings but I wanted to use it in a few non-dumpling applications as well. The stuffed mushrooms were first but then I used the remainder of the mix to make some ‘balls’ that I almost think of as ‘dumplings without wrappers’ … Read More →

I love lamb chops …

Typically, I just grill a few up and serve them with some mashed spud and a couple of other veggies, and, of course, a bit of mint sauce or mint jelly. As such, I generally think of lamb chops as a main course sort of thing but, for today’s post, I tried an appetizer type offering along the lines of a Spanish ‘Tapas’ …Read More →

I began experimenting quite a while ago, attempting to make a sauce something along the lines of the standard Chinese Oyster Sauce. Essentially, an oyster sauce is the essence of oyster extracted through long simmering and then sweetened and thickened in various ways. I was aiming for the basic taste, except, for my experiments thus far, I used shellfish ingredients other than oyster…

In the inset in the above picture, you can see the brown, viscous, and thick sauce I produced, along with a simple stir-fry dish I cooked using it (It was pork, green pepper and onion as best as I remember). I made the sauce almost two years ago (and the stir-fry a few months later), but I shelved the project for the time being and only resurrected it recently. I still had a jar of the sauce in the fridge and I was a little amazed to find that, not only had the sauce maintained very much the same consistency and viscosity (and not dried out as I might have expected), but it also had preserved its original taste to an amazing degree.

My method was to boil some cooked lobster shells, a little leftover lobster meat, and some dried shrimp in water, reducing it until the ‘broth’ was quite strong. I then cooked this once again along with soy sauce, unflavoured corn syrup, and a little sugar, once again reducing everything until the consistency was like a commercial oyster sauce.

In actual oyster sauce, the flavor is sweet and salty with a vaguely shell fish background; It is oyster-like to a certain degree, but really, any suitably sweet,  marine type flavor would work, and my lobster-shrimp concoction managed to reproduce the essential taste quite well. In any event,  I want to keep working at this and reduce the process to a simple ‘recipe’ in the near future, and I will certainly post my work as it develops…