Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

6 07 2011

Garlic scapes at the Bala Farmers' Market

It’s finally July – the month when the summer markets really start to hit their stride. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time traveling over the past few weeks, including spending a wonderful few days in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario. One of my favourite things about driving through rural areas in the summertime is stopping at roadside markets and fruit stands. As luck would have it, the community of Bala was having a farmers’ market the day we were there so of course, I had to check it out.

In addition to strawberries, asparagus, peas, blueberries and rhubarb, I was excited to see garlic scapes at the market. Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic plant and can sometimes be found at farmers’ markets in last spring and early summer (unfortunately, you probably won’t see them at supermarkets). They are long and curly and have a sweet, garlicky flavour. Scapes are very versatile and can be used like garlic in dishes such as stir fries, egg dishes, pastas and salads. They can be cooked or eaten raw and you can use the flowering ends as garnish.

Fresh peas are another early summer favourite of mine. They add a sweet burst of flavour to dishes or can be eaten simply cooked with a dash of salt and a bit of butter. The key to fresh peas is to cook them quickly and simply (they are also delicious raw) so don’t overcook them! When shelling peas, discard any peas that have grown large and have split – I find they can have a slightly off, ‘metallic’ flavour. Unfortunately, peas aren’t terribly efficient: I shelled 45 pods to yield just under a cup and I found a few pods with only one pea in them! However, their delicate flavour it worth the effort if you’re looking for a taste of summer. You can always use frozen baby peas to save time. Avoid canned peas – they don’t have the right sweetness or texture!

Cosmo's Smoked Meats - they make a fantastic dry smoked back bacon

A Few Helpful Tips:

  • This recipe is all about the quality of ingredients so use the best you can find. The sauce lightly coats the noodles – it’s not drowning in sauce. You can reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water before draining to add to the pasta if it looks a little dry. The entire dish comes together very quickly once you have your ingredients prepped.
  • I used a dry smoked back bacon from Cosmo’s Smoked Meats and it had a nice dry texture and smoky flavour. You can use any kind of double smoked slab bacon or smoked ham. Of course, regular strip bacon will work in a pinch but won’t have quite the same flavour or texture.
  • I also used fresh fettucine from the refrigerated case at the supermarket. For 500 grams/1.1 lbs. of fresh pasta you can substitute about 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta of any shape you prefer.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Makes about 4 to 5 servings

  • 1 lb. (500 grams) fresh long pasta such as fettucine or linguine (or use 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 oz. (142 grams) smoked slab bacon or smoked ham, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 3 garlic scapes, each about 23″ long, chopped – reserve the flowering ends as garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh shelled peas (from about 40 to 45 pods)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 oz. (28 grams) parmesan, grated (will equal about 1/4 cup packed when grated)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta. While the water is heating, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the bacon or smoked ham and brown until slightly crisp around the edges, about two to three minutes (if you’re cooking raw bacon, it will take a bit longer). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Put the pasta into the boiling water to cook according to package directions. Drain once cooked.
  4. Add the chopped garlic scapes and peas to the skillet and sauté for one minute. Pour in the chicken broth and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until melted and return the bacon to the pan.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Stir in the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a garlic scape if desired. Suggested accompaniment: Bread with Garlic Scape Butter.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Sully’s Favourite Strawberry Shortcake

27 06 2011

When local strawberries appear at the markets, why not make strawberry shortcakes?

It’s finally summer!  When I was a kid, the beginning of summer meant the end of school, warm days at the beach and the start of strawberry season. My grandfather, Ralph (Sully) Sullivan had a camp on Washademoak Lake in New Brunswick and we would pick strawberries nearby. One of his favourite desserts was strawberry shortcake and my mom would whip up some biscuits and whipped cream to enjoy with the freshly picked berries. There is a reason why it’s a classic dessert – the combination is unbeatable!

Sully’s Favourite Strawberry Shortcake

Makes 6 shortcakes (there will be extra biscuits so just prepare more strawberries and cream for a larger yield)

Biscuits:

Makes 12 to 15 small biscuits – extras can be frozen

  • 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the countertop
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk

Strawberries:

  • 6 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • Sugar, to taste

Whipped Cream:

  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream (35% M.F.)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To Prepare the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and 2 Tablespoons of the sugar. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Using a wire pastry cutter (or two sharp knives), cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles small pebbles.
  4. In a measuring cup, add the egg and milk and whisk together with a fork until smooth. Pour the milk/egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir briefly until it just comes together as dough.
  5. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto a clean countertop or pastry board. Turn the dough out onto the counter and gently knead for about ten seconds. If the dough is very wet, add a bit more flour.
  6. Gently pat the biscuit dough into a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Using a cookie cutter or the top of a wine glass, cut the dough into 2″ circles. Re-shape the leftover dough and cut out more biscuits.
  7. Place the biscuits in a pie plate so they’re just touching each other. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Let the biscuits rise at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  8. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes in a 450 degree oven or until the tops are browned.
  9. Extra biscuits can be frozen and thawed at room temperature before using. (They’re also great with jam for breakfast!)

To Prepare the Strawberries:

  1. In a large bowl, add the berries and sugar to taste (the amount will depend on how sweet the berries are). Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using. Note: You can mash them slightly with a potato masher if you prefer a juicer sauce.

Whipping the Cream:

  1. Place a metal or glass bowl (do not use plastic) and beaters in the freezer to chill about 30 minutes before beating the cream.
  2. Just before assembling the shortcakes, remove the bowl and beater from the freezer and pour the cream into the bowl. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the cream on high until it begins to froth.
  3. Pour in the vanilla and add the sugar, one teaspoon at a time, while continuing to whip. Continue whipping the cream until it forms still peaks. Do not over beat.

To Assemble the Shortcakes:

  1. Split six biscuits in half through the middle and place the bottom of each in bowls. Spoon a half-cup of the sweetened berries over each biscuit bottom.
  2. Place the top of the biscuit on the berries and top with another half-cup of the strawberries.
  3. Spoon a generous dollop of whipped cream over each serving. Garnish with a strawberry if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

A version of this recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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Strawberry Shortcakes are a summer classic





Spring Chicken Soup

9 06 2011

Lemon and dill brighten a soup packed with chicken and spring vegetables

Soups are perfect for showcasing the best of each season, from asparagus in the spring to cabbage in the fall and winter. Packed with spring vegetables, this particular recipe is light and summery, making it ideal for warmer weather. A bit of lemon and fresh dill brighten it up and give it a bit of zip.

Some Helpful Tips: Dill is best when it’s fresh (vs. cooked) so add it at the very end of cooking. Don’t use dried dill – it doesn’t have much flavour. Use fresh lemon juice and always zest a lemon whole, before cutting it open to juice it.

This soup is delicious served with fresh Cheddar-Herb Biscuits or Cheddar Toasts (or just some plain bread if you’d rather not fuss!)

Spring Chicken Soup

Makes about 9 to 10 cups

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 X 12 oz. (350 grams) chicken breasts or thighs/legs, bone in and skin on
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium leeks, chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 large spring onions (or 1 small regular onion), chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (you could also you a couple of garlic scapes, chopped finely)
  • The zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 lb. (450 grams) thick asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 12 oz. (350 grams) baby red potatoes (about 2 cups), cut into quarters
  • 6 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (or more, to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Pat the skin of the chicken dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a large stockpot or enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quart or larger), heat the olive oil on medium-high.  Add the chicken pieces and brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the carrots, leeks, celery, onions and garlic to the pot. Sauté until just beginning to soften, about three minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the asparagus pieces and potatoes. Pour in the chicken stock. Return the browned chicken pieces to the pot and make sure they are submerged in the stock.
  4. Cover the pot and simmer gently on medium heat for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the chicken pieces from the soup. Remove the skin and discard. Using a fork, pull the meat off the bones. Chop it into small pieces and return the chicken to the soup, discarding the bones.
  5. Add the lemon juice,dill and chives and simmer the soup for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with more fresh dill and chives if desired.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
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Farmers’ Market Report – June 5th, 2011

5 06 2011

The first day of the 2011 East Lynn Farmers' Market, Toronto

The farmers’ markets are underway for another year! Last week marked the launch of weekly farmers’ markets in Toronto. While there are a handful of markets that run through the year, the pickings tend to be slim between December and April. Now that there is locally-grown produce available, we can enjoy getting it straight from the farmers for the next five months or so. For a list of Ontario markets, check out Farmers’ Markets Ontario. (If you live elsewhere, a quick google search should point you in the right direction).

There isn’t a whole lot available right now but things should pick up considerably in about a month. Here were some of the highlights of this week’s markets:

Asparagus

Asparagus at its peak

It’s June and that means asparagus is at its peak! It seems to be a very good year for asparagus – the spears have been sweet and flavourful. The tables at the market Saturday morning were piled high with bundles of asparagus of various thickness (I prefer thicker ones but many people enjoy the delicate thin spears). It’s extremely versatile and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I whipped up a simple egg white omelet for lunch the other day and threw in some steamed spears (see Asparagus 101 for cooking tips). I added some chopped ham, finely diced onion, chopped chives and a tiny bit of cheddar cheese. Served with a simple green salad, it was the perfect spring lunch. Eggs pair very well with asparagus: try a Crustless Asparagus Quiche. It can be dressed up with a bit of ham, cooked crab or lobster, your favourite herbs, different cheeses (swiss is nice) or diced red peppers.

A simple egg white omelet filled with steamed asparagus, fat-free ham, diced onions, chives and a bit of cheese is easy, nutritious and delicious.

Strawberries

Ontario strawberries are finally in season!

I was excited to finally see strawberries at the market. They are a little bit late this year, likely because of the cool, damp weather we had for most of May. The few I tried were on the tart side but still had more flavour than imported berries. As the weather warms up, hopefully the berries in coming weeks will be a little sweeter. For breakfast, I like to add a few sliced strawberries to my cereal. If you’re feeling a little more decadent in the morning, Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce are sure to be a hit.

Rhubarb

There was no shortage of rhubarb at the markets this week. It’s a bit of an acquired taste (I know quite a few people who don’t care for it) but properly sweetened, it can be quite refreshing. Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote is a great make-ahead dessert for a spring meal. Or start your evening off with a rhubarb-based cocktail such as a Springtime Kir or a Rhubarb Refresher.

Onions and Herbs

There were a few fresh herbs available this week, including mint which pairs beautifully with strawberries in Strawberry Mojitos. I also saw garlic scapes and picked up a few baby onions. Chives are also starting to blossom (in my herb pot – I didn’t see any at the market) and are delicious in stir-fries or coated in a tempura batter and fried: Chive Tempura Blossoms.

Chive blossoms: pretty and edible!

Bon Appétit and Happy Marketing!

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Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote

30 05 2011

Rhubarb at the market

The first local fruit to hit the markets where I live is rhubarb. After a long winter of apples, apples and more apples, it’s refreshing to see something new. Rhubarb is remarkably versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. In desserts, it pairs very well with ginger, vanilla and of course, strawberrries.

Cheesecake is always a popular dessert and is a great choice for entertaining because it can be made in advance. It’s also surprisingly easy; don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe, it’s very simple if you take it step-by-step. Be sure to use a springform pan so you can easily remove and cut the finished cake.

Once strawberries come into season, you can always add a few to the rhubarb compote (a compote is basically a sweetened fruit sauce). Try a ratio of half strawberries and half rhubarb and sweeten to taste.  The cheesecake base is pretty neutral so you can top with other favourite fruit sauces if desired.

Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote

Makes one 9″ cheesecake

Crust:

  • 5 oz. (140 g) gingersnap cookies (hard ones, not chewy ginger cookies) – will yield about 1-1/2 cups of crumbs
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor*, pulse the gingersnaps until they become fine crumbs. (*if you don’t have a food processor, place the cookies in a sturdy bag and crush until fine with a rolling pin or wine bottle). You should have about 1-1/2 cups of crumbs. Place the crumbs into a medium bowl.
  3. Melt the butter (it can be done in the microwave in about 45 to 60 seconds). Pour into the gingersnap crumbs and stir until the crumbs are completely coated.
  4. Press the crumb-butter mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, making sure it’s in an even layer.
  5. Bake the crust for five minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while preparing the cream cheese filling.

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 3 X 8 oz. (250 grams) packages of cream cheese (regular, not low-fat), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (regular, not low-fat)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • The seeds from one vanilla bean (split the bean in half lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out the tiny seeds. Discard the empty pod)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  1. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds and salt until smooth.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  2. Turn the beater speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Mix until smooth. Tip: Crack the eggs, one at a time, into a separate bowl before adding to the batter to ensure no shell pieces get into the filing.
  3. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until just set in the centre, about 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool slightly. Refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
  5. To serve: Top with rhubarb compote (see recipe, below). Run a knife between the pan and the edge of the cake to loosen it before unhinging the springform pan.

Rhubarb-Ginger Compote:

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1-1/2 lbs. (24 oz. / 680 grams) rhubarb (before leaves and roots are trimmed), will yield about 4 cups of rhubarb once trimmed and cut up
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or more/less, to taste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  1. Trim any leaves and root ends from the rhubarb and discard. Chop the stalks into 1/2″ chunks.
  2. Place the rhubarb pieces into a medium saucepan. Add the water and bring to a gentle simmer on medium heat.
  3. Cook until the fruit begins to soften, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, ginger and vanilla. Stir to combine and continue to simmer until the rhubarb is completely soft. Use a large spoon or potato masher to crush the fruit.
  4. In a cup, add the cornstarch and water and mix well until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the rhubarb mixture and turn heat to medium-high.
  5. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the butter until melted. Remove from the heat and let the compote cool completely before using. Extra sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days.
  6. To finish the cheesecake: Spoon the cooled rhubarb compote over the cheesecake, spreading it in an even layer. Serve extra sauce on the side.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Vanilla cheesecake with rhubarb-ginger compote and a gingersnap crust

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Seafood Salad with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

25 05 2011

Shellfish at the market

As the weather warms up, many of us are looking for fresh meal ideas. A simple salad of chilled seafood topped with an easy avocado and buttermilk dressing makes an elegant lunch or light dinner. It can also be served in smaller portions as a starter course. Many fish markets sell lobster, shrimp and crab that have already been cooked which makes this a snap to pull together. Make sure you select an avocado that is very ripe – I often plan ahead and buy my avocados a few days before I need them because the ones at my local store are usually under ripe and as hard as rocks.

About Buttermilk

Traditionally, buttermilk was the liquid that was left after making butter. Today, most buttermilk sold in supermarkets is made by adding lactic acid bacteria culture to pasteurized milk. Buttermilk is tangier tasting and slightly thicker than regular milk. Full-fat and lower-fat options are available in the dairy section of most grocery stores and it is sometimes sold as a powder in the baking section. However, if buttermilk is not available, a decent substitute is to stir one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice into one cup of milk. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and stir until smooth. Sour cream or plain yogurt will also work – mix with a small amount of milk to thin it.

Seafood Salad with Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 light servings

  • About 16 oz. cooked seafood such as lobster, shrimp or crab (or a mix of all three)
  • 4 cups butter lettuce leaves
  • 20 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh chopped chives as garnish
  • Dressing (see below)

Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 Tablespoons 1% buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute – see above)
  • 3 Tablespoons Hellman’s or Best Foods style mayonnaise – regular or light
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons chopped chives
  • Very finely diced shallot
  • Salt, to taste

To Make Dressing:

  1. Cut the avocado lengthwise through the middle and pull the two halves apart. Remove the pit and discard. Scoop the avocado into the bowl of a food processor or processor cup of a hand blender.
  2. Add the garlic, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, cider vinegar and two teaspoons of the chives to the avocado. Puree the mixture until smooth.
  3. Transfer dressing to a bowl and stir in the remaining chives, diced shallot and season with salt to taste.
  4. Use as a dip or dressing. It will keep covered in the fridge for a couple of days.

Plating the Salads:

  1. Place a bed of lettuce on each of four salad plates or one big serving plate. Top with cherry tomato halves. Set cooked seafood on top of the lettuce and tomatoes, arranging it so it looks attractive.
  2. Drizzle with avocado-buttermilk vinaigrette and garnish with fresh chopped chives.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Seafood Salad with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication. This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.





Snow Crab

12 05 2011

Snow crab legs and claw (cooked)

Every now and again something will come to my attention and I’ll become sort of obsessed with it for a while. The current object of my affection is Canadian snow crab. It started with a couple of trips to Montreal I took back in April. The snow crab season had just begun and I enjoyed a starter of cooked, chilled crab at a party I was attending. A couple of weeks later, my husband and I had an excellent meal at Le Filet, a new restaurant from the owners of the much-lauded Le Club Chasse et Pêche. (Lesley Chesterman gave Le Filet a lukewarm review in The Gazette around the same time but the kitchen was on its ‘A’ game the night we were there and our dinner was outstanding). The highlight of our meal was an asparagus and snow crab risotto. When I returned to Toronto, I decided to seek out some of the sweet crustaceans and we’ve enjoyed it a number of times since.

Snow Crab (a.k.a. Queen Crab, Spider Crab, Crabe des Neiges, Crabe Araignée) is harvested off Canada’s east coast from April to November. It is usually found frozen at most fishmongers although last weekend I was fortunate to find cooked, unfrozen claws and legs at The Beach Fish House, a great little seafood shop in my neighbourhood.

To thaw frozen snow crab, you can steam or briefly boil the legs/claws. Extracting the meat takes a bit of time but is well worth the effort. I usually set the crab on a clean folded dishtowel to soak up any liquid. You can use lobster crackers or a sharp knife to crack open the claws. The shells tend to be relatively thin at this time of year so I use seafood scissors (see photo) to cut them open. Most cookware shops sell seafood forks that you can use to extract the meat but I just use the forks from my fondue set – they work perfectly fine.

Tools for extracting crab meat: seafood scissors and fondue forks!

Snow crab is very versatile but I feel that the simplest preparations are usually best – let the sweet crab meat shine! Here are a few simple suggestions for enjoying it:

Garlic Butter

Melt some butter in a small bowl. Finely mince a clove of garlic and stir it in. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon if desired. Dip the crabmeat into the garlic butter and enjoy!

Crabby Spaghetti

In a sauté pan, heat a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes, two finely minced garlic cloves, a couple of peeled and seeded diced tomatoes and cook for a minute until the garlic is tender and fragrant (you can also add a bit of minced green onion and finely diced red or yellow pepper if desired). Add a cup of crab meat to the pan and stir to combine. Cook spaghetti or other long pasta according to package directions. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss until the pasta is coated. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh chopped chives, if desired.

Spaghetti with Snow Crab, Garlic and Tomato

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

These make a great appetizer for parties. You can skip the avocado to make things easier. Get the recipe here: Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes.

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Asparagus and Snow Crab Risotto

The perfect spring dish, this was inspired by my dinner at Le Filet in Montreal. Follow the instructions for Basic Risotto but use shellfish stock (see recipe below) instead of meat stock (although chicken stock will work in a pinch). Add about 1-1/2 cups cooked crab meat and 4 oz./113 grams of lightly steamed asparagus, cut into 1-1/2″ pieces. Stir in the asparagus and crab toward the end of cooking. Season with fresh chopped chives and two finely minced fresh basil leaves. Finish with a generous amount of butter and garnish with a crab claw (optional). Note: Italians do not usually serve seafood dishes with cheese but you can add a bit of parmesan if desired.

Snow Crab and Asparagus Risotto, garnished with a crab claw

Shellfish Stock

This makes a great base for all kinds of seafood dishes from risotto to pot pie to chowder. I usually save any shells from shrimp, lobster and crab in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch of stock. Leftover stock can be frozen.

Makes about 7-1/2 cups of stock

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups shrimp shells
  • 1 lb. / 500 grams crab and/or lobster shells (cooked and empty)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 cups water
  • Cheesecloth, for straining
  1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the shells and sauté until they begin to brown slightly around the edges, stirring frequently (they may stick to the bottom of the pot a bit).
  2. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté for another two minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and add the brandy, if using. Add the thyme.
  4. Pour in the water. Cover and let simmer gently (don’t hard boil) for about 25 minutes.
  5. Line a strainer with multiple layers of cheesecloth and pour the stock through it into a large vessel.  If the stock isn’t completely clear, repeat the straining with more clean cheesecloth.
  6. Stock can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen.
  7. Note: The stock will seem a bit bland because it doesn’t have any salt in it – season it as you use it so you can control the sodium levels.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.