Category Archives: Seafood

30 Minutes to a Delicious Italian Dish

I like free stuff.  Most people do because if you can get it for free, it’s like a little prize.  I follow a lot of the coupon blogs and on very special days, these coupon blogs offer free magazine subscriptions.  I love those days because the magazines are usually great magazines.  Last year, I signed up for La Cucina Italiana, knowing that I love Italian food.  It might be my most favorite type of food on the planet.  I’m not just talking pasta and sauce (or gravy as some people are known to call it), but the flavors: the garlic, the tomato, the eggplant, the cheese, the meats, the olive oil.  So very delicious!

My most favorite foods on the planet.

This magazine features these flavors in so many wonderful ways and presents some amazing plates.  A recent issue featured about a dozen recipes on polenta alone. It’s no wonder I love looking over the pages of what a certain celebrity chef/travel show personality calls “food porn.”  Also, being someone who is always on the lookout for healthy ways to change my relationship with food, this magazine presents a whole new world of whole food cooking and fresh ingredients which is another great plus for me.

This month, the feature article was on fresh pasta but before the feature article, they always have a few recipes that they call “Cooking by the Clock.”  Basically, quick and easy meals to make on those nights when you don’t have time to cook a five-course meal.  I don’t know about you, but for me, five-course meals are presented on a nightly basis.   Ok, so that’s in my next life when I have a personal chef and the metabolism of a hummingbird.

I’m sure like a lot of you, dinner is decided late in the afternoon based on what is in the house and how long it will take to cook. That is why this new recipe was tried today, when there was time to kill.  We know now how long it takes, even though the magazine told us it would only take 30 minutes.

The recipe was called passato di ceci con gamberi in its original Italian.  For those who are not fluent (sign up for a class today and learn something – can’t hurt to learn a new language), that translates to creamy chickpea soup with shrimp and tomatoes.

The ingredients were all items that I liked:

12 large shrimp
2 (15 oz) cans of chickpeas
1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil plus a little more for drizzling
3 leafy thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, gently smashed and peeled
fine sea salt
1/2 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
freshly ground black pepper

My Mother was home tonight and she was really the one who wanted to give the recipe a go so she took the job as master chef.  As she prepared the recipe, the smells from the kitchen made my mouth water.  Reading the steps below, you can understand why it would smell so wonderful.

First, Reserving shells, peel and devein shrimp.  Reserving liquid from cans, drain chickpeas.  Set aside 1 1/2 cup chickpea liquid discard remaining liquid.

Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup oil, thyme, and garlic.  Heat over medium heat until fragrant about 3 minutes, then remove and discard garlic and thyme.,  Add Chickpeas and 1/2 tsp salt, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add chickpea liquid and bring just to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until chickpeas are very tender, about 10 minutes

Those smells just waltzed from the kitchen to the living room and filled our small house with an amazing tease of what we were in store for.  She continued to cook.
In a small skillet, melt butter over medium high heat.  When foam subsides, add shrimp shells and cook stirring occasionally until shells just begin to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and pinch of salt, simmer until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.  Reserving shrimp stock, strain and discard shells.

In a blender, combine chickpeas and their liquid and shrimp stock; puree until smooth, in batches, if necessary.  Return soup to saucepan and gently reheat.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

After the blender started whirring, I knew that it was almost time to taste what had been smelling so wonderful.  The anticipation was building.  She cooked on.

This is not my blender, but how cool is this?

In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add shrimp and cook, turning once halfway through, until opaque and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total.  Add tomatoes, 1/2 tsp salt and generous pinch of pepper cook, stirring occasionally, 30 seconds more.  Remove from heat.

Divide soup among 4 serving bowls.  Top with shrimp and tomatoes.  Drizzle with oil.

Now, in the magazine there was a picture of this dish.  It was colorful.  The soup was a golden yellow, the tomatoes a perfect red and shrimp a lovely pink.  The dish my Mother presented was close in color.  The only difference was the soup, it was a little darker – maybe because of the beans we used?

It was also a little thicker than we thought it would be.  For some reason, the word creamy means smooth and liquid to me.  This was closer to a humus/grits type consistency.  It wasn’t bad, just not what I expected.

The taste though, was smooth.  The creaminess of the soup was nice and not heavy.  The shrimp and the tomatoes brought out the creaminess that much more.  It was filling and perfect for this cool, drizzly August night.  A definite keeper and I’m sure it will come back out in the winter when we need something to warm us all up from the cold.

I wish I had thought to take a photo of it before eating it, but then I still have mixed feelings of taking too many photos of food.  Maybe next time I try a new recipe, I’ll remember to take a photo of it so I can post it.

I plugged the recipe into and came up withe following nutritional info per serving:

Calories: 401

Carbs: 38g

Fat: 23g

Protein: 11g

Fiber: 13g

Sugar: 1g

Not too shabby.

Plugged into my WW calculator and the value was 10 points.  I’m guessing because it was a little high in the carbs.  10 points though for a filling meal is not a bad thing when you have as many points as I do in a day.  This dish was worth every point!  On the plus side, all the main ingredients count as a Power Food so that’s a good thing too.

Try this recipe.  Your taste buds will thank you.  And if you really like Italian food, not what some chain restaurants tell you is Italian food, get a subscription to La Cucina Italiana.

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Filed under Food, New Recipes, Seafood

Scallops Worthy of A Certain Reality TV Kitchen

Post-op visit number one went very well today.  I go back in two more weeks after the bruising is down a little more.  I am the worst patient because I hate how slowly the recovery process moves.  I am not one who enjoys sitting around, doing nothing.  When I say nothing I mean no driving, no housework (well, that one is not too bad I suppose), no real serious exercising , NOTHING.  I’m getting stir crazy.  I enjoy reading and crafting but I also enjoy going out into the world every now and then.  Sigh.   Only a few more weeks for a lifetime of no gallstone pain, right?  Right.

I suppose Mr. Emerson is right  Nature does know best.  I mean, Nature had some hand in creating wonderful diver scallops, the very same type of scallops that I pan seared this evening for dinner.  Diver scallops, for those not familiar with the difference between the varieties of scallops, are the really big scallops that are hand-picked off of the rocks by divers.  Hence the name Diver Scallops. They tend to be bigger because the divers usually go for the more mature mollusks which are usually the meatier kind of scallops. They do taste very different from Bay Scallops which are smaller and often more sweet than Diver (Sea) Scallops.  Bay Scallops, or Nantucket Bay Scallops in particular, are really my favorite variety, especially when baked and covered in a wonderful buttery ritz-cracker crumble (I think the recipe posted in this blog is a tried and true recipe for anyone from southeastern MA and possibly all of New England though I never use the wine…will have to try that next time)…mmmmm….

This blog has another similar recipe too!

They are the scallops made famous by a certain British chef and his wonderfully foul-mouthed show full of aspiring “chefs” who do more swearing than cooking on some episodes.  But more to the point, on the show, one of the appetizers is pan seared scallops (they pronounce them “SKAL-laps” and people from where I live tend to pronounce them “sCALL-ups”).  The wannabe chefs often find themselves struggling to produce the perfect scallop.  I can understand, to a certain degree, that it might be hard to learn how to do if you aren’t someone used to cooking seafood on a very regular basis.  But after seven or eight episodes, you should be able to pan sear those shellfish in your sleep.  Again, I am judging something that I’m sure is much harder than it appears but seriously, is it really that hard?

Tonight, I pan seared some wonderful Diver Scallops to near perfection.  They glazed on the outside to a perfect caramel brown.  They were simply seasoned with freshly ground sea-salt and pepper.  Nothing fancy.  Maybe two teaspoons of butter in the pan (have to watch the fat/oils for a while after all) and then the scallops were done in a few minutes.  I tend to not always pay attention to the clock and watch the scallops but if I had to guess, I’d say 3-4 minutes per side on medium heat.  Maybe 4-5 minutes but again, I eyeball the actual food to make sure the colors are looking right.

I didn’t cook a veg because I was being lazy and also cautious of the side-effect of some of the veggies so I’m taking them slowly as I add them back into my no-gallbladder diet but I did serve them with the Near East Wild Mushroom and Herb Couscous – another personal favorite.  I love couscous.  Usually we have plain couscous on hand all the time but oddly, tonight, we were out.   For the sake of saving time, I bought some of this and it was perfect for the scallops.  Now if only I had a nice Sauvignon-Blanc with it, I think I would have been an even happier girl.

Well Nature, good things come to those who wait, right?



Filed under Food, Healthy Me - Yay!, Seafood