Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini with Spinach and Feta

Stuffed 8-ball Zucchini at Paprika Red

I love these little zucchinis. Have you seen them? I think they're called 8-ball zucchini, and they're about the size of an 8 ball or a softball, and they are just perfect for stuffing. I always get a little sad when I see the regular stuffed zucchini, because to me it's not really stuffed. More like shallowly carved out and then a bunch of toppings piled on top that could possibly tumble off. I understand that you can get more crunchy, browned cheesy goodness on those zucchini boats than these round ones, and so for that, I can understand why people do it. But I really love to truly stuff something and get a ton of goodies inside, which is why I really love these. Plus, they look so cool, and it might be my imagination, but I think these are milder and sweeter than your regular old regular zucchini. And if you've read my blog before, you know how obsessed I am with personal serving sized things, like mini cakes and tartlets, so you can imagine how much I like these when a single stuffed pepper is the perfect serving for one person. Not to mention totally cute.

Now, take a sweet, mild, uniquely shaped zucchini, and stuff it with herbs, veggies, and cheese, and you totally have my vote. The great thing about these is that they are open to using up leftovers and really very versatile. Want something hearty? Stuff it with cooked rice, crumbled italian sausage, the rest of the zucchini, and some parmesan or romano. Got some leftover chicken? Throw it in. Need to use up the end of some cheese? Use whatever you have on hand. For me, I had some fresh baby spinach that was a couple days past salad stage, a gigantic block of feta that I was still working through, and some leftover pistou that I had used on top of some salmon. For me, this was a great clean-out-the-fridge dish. Since it is warm and summery here, I made this vegetarian and just popped it in my toaster oven—no need to heat up the whole kitchen with the regular oven when it's nearing 80 degrees out. My hands on time was only a few minutes, and dinner was ready in under 45 minutes. Add a starch—in my case, some great ciabatta from the Mount Vernon farmer's market—and some fresh fruit for dessert, and you're done!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ginger-Vanilla Roasted Strawberries

Summer Berries at Paprika Red
It's here. I wait all year for this. It's berry season in the northwest. And if the strawberries you are used to are big, mild, and white in the middle, then that's a pale shadow of what a strawberry could be. Here, our strawberry season is short lived, but glorious: small crimson berries that are red all the way through, and once picked, they only last a couple days tops.

I become rather greedy during this season, buying pints frequently and often eating them in just a day or two. Sometimes in one sitting. I have no shame, and my obsession for summer fruits like this only extends to maybe Rainier cherries (I'll have to post on those soon, too) and of course heirloom tomatoes (ditto).

But though they are nearly perfect, after a couple pounds of strawberries all to myself, I start to wonder what else I can do with them. And so we have roasted strawberries: strawberries cooked until barely holding together, giving off their concentrated juices into a thick syrup, laced with vanilla and ginger. Is it possible to improve on perfection? Maybe. Try these berries and let me know.

Ginger Vanilla Roasted Strawberries at Paprika Red

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Smoky Paprika Grilled Shrimp

Smoky Paprika Grilled Shrimp
I'm still obsessing about the meal that we had at the Harvest Vine a few weeks back. Just about everything was perfection: from the elegant but rustic decor, the knowledgeable and friendly service, and the food. The standouts, besides the Iberico ham that I talked about before, were the shrimp, wild Gulf shrimp with some sort of amazing sauce. I am so picky about my shrimp, and have had too many sub-par shrimp that were bland, overcooked, rubbery, or worse, earthy tasting so you know they're off or haven't been cleaned properly, which makes me so very gun-shy when ordering them. But these were superb: seasoned perfectly, tender but not mushy, and oh so very sweet. They were, without a doubt, the best shrimp that I've ever had. And we only had 5 or 6. To share, Clearly, this was not enough shrimp. We could have easily devoured 3 more orders between the two of us.

So when the weather finally cleared, and it became grilling time, off we went to Metropolitan Market to find enough shrimp to satiate our shrimp craving. And they had beautiful, fresh, huge, wild gulf shrimp. Bingo! We used a very simple rub out of the Weber's Way to Grill book, which is a really great grilling book and not what you'd expect (definitely not "100 ways to make burgers" as a friend had thought it might be), but it's full of great things like cedar planked salmon, flank steak roulade, even grilled fruit recipes. And this wonderful but simple rub. I'm usually not a big fan of garlic powder, but it works here. Try to seek out some high-quality fresh, wild shrimp, and a good Spanish paprika, it will make all the difference.