Thursday, July 28, 2011

Acorda de Gambas (Bread Stew with Prawns)

 A few weeks ago I returned from a trip to Portugal, and my longing for its fresh seafood-caught that morning by native coastal fisherman and grilled to your order the same evening- paired with a crisp regional Vinho Verde has stubbornly refused to cease. As a result, I attempted to recreate our favorite dish there, Acorda de Gambas (Bread Stew with Prawns). Acorda, a traditional Portuguese bread-based stew with a consistency similar to creamy risotto, is composed of mashed rustic italian bread, garlic, coriander, olive oil, white wine and salt. It is often served with local seafood, and our favorite version was simmered in a fragrant fish broth and tossed with fresh chopped parsley, shrimp, and and the signature final touch of the dish: a raw cracked egg, stirred into the dish upon arriving at your table.

This will also be my first attempt to do a wine pairing with a dish! We ate our acorda with Vinho Verde, a Portuguese wine from the northern Minho region of the country. It translates to "Green Wine": the name is derived from the youthful fresh green nature of the grapes, which adds a faint greenish hue to its coloring. Vinho Verde is very dry, light and refreshing in its nature, so if you don't have access to this specific type I would try a dry Riesling instead.

I adapted this recipe from one whose flavor was spot-on, but instructions not so clear (I think the recipe was not originally in English), so I will attempt to be as detailed and straightforward as possible below because this dish is truly spectacular. A sua saude!

Acorda de Gambas (derived from Food and Wine Portugal)
 Yield: 3 servings
1 lb cooked prawns in their shells
1 large loaf of French or Italian bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, diced and divided
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 bunch parsley, divided
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tablespoon coriander spice
A pinch of paprika
Fresh ground salt & pepper
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 eggs

For Fish Stock:
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-heat in a large pot. Add half the onion, the prawn shells (you must seperate these from the shrimp by hand), the garlic cloves (whole), and half the parsley (unchopped, with stems). Saute for 2-3 minutes and then add 6 cups of water. Bring mixture to a boil and add a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes before straining. While broth is cooking...

Prepare Shrimp:
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-heat. Cut each prawn into three chunks. Add chopped prawns, the rest of the onion, coriander, paprika, and rest of parsley (chopped, stems removed.) Saute for about 8 minutes, until onion becomes translucent, stirring frequently. Set shrimp mixture aside.

Mash Bread:
By now, your fish stock should be finished cooking (and emitting a wonderful fragrant brothy smell as evidence!) With a colander, drain the broth into a bowl, saving the garlic cloves. Mash them up, since they will be soft from soaking, and add them to the shrimp mixture. Set aside broth bowl.
In the large pot where the fish stock was created, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the cubed bread and stir, and when olive oil is absorbed by bread add 2 more tablespoons. When bread has crisped slightly- make sure it does not burn- add the wine, then the stock, mashing the mixture as you go. It should first resemble the consistency of stuffing, then of a thick risotto as you continue to add liquid (see pictures below). Turn heat to low as you mash. When the thick risotto consistency is achieved, gently stir in the shrimp mixture, and a generous sprinkle of salt & pepper.

Scoop the acorda into three separate bowls. Before serving- and I recommend doing this at the table, as it makes quite the presentation- crack a raw egg  over each bowl and quickly stir into acorda until the egg is dissolved.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sage and Onion Turkey Burgers

Summer is grilling season, and I offer you three solid reasons why these Sage and Onion Turkey Burgers should be your next choice while planning a grill-out.  First and most important: taste! Diced onion and pepper add essential flavor to the fresh ground meat, which is enhanced by subtle savory hints of sage and thyme, stirring up a pang of nostalgia for Thanksgiving dinner. Second, the naturally high protein, low fat turkey meat (lean white, in this case) is a much healthier alternative to a typical beef burger. By forming your own patties, you also get to eliminate the main unhealthful attribute of the store-bought versions: tons of added sodium. Lastly, local turkey meat has a low environmental impact.  Read more below to learn how you can become a conscientious carnivore!

Sage and Onion Turkey Burgers (recipe from American Medical Association's Family Health Cookbook)
Yield: 6 Sandwiches
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey*
2/3 cup fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs, from about 1 1/2 slices of bread
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup finely chopped celery or green pepper
1 egg white
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried summer savory optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 whole-wheat hamburger buns plus sliced tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle, reduced-fat cheddar cheese for garnish

1. Prepare a medium-hot barbecue fire, or preheat a gas grill or broiler.
2. In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to mix together the turkey, bread crumbs, onion, celery, egg white, sage, thyme, savory, salt and pepper. Form into 6 patties, each about 1/2 inch thick.
3. Grill or broil the burgers, turning once carefully with a spatula, until browned on both sides and white throughout, about 10 minutes total. Place the buns, cut sides down, at the edge of the grill to toast lightly, about 1 minute.
4. Serve the burgers on the toasted buns, with desires toppings.

 *I got my ground turkey from DiPaola Turkey Farm, a second generation family farm in New Jersey that raises free-range, antibiotic-free turkeys fed on a mix of corn and soy. The meat is sold in 16 oz containers for $8 each, enough for about 5-6 burgers, an appropriate quantity for the recipe that is not likely to leave excess.  Compare that to a whole frozen turkey...did you know that 20% of all edible meat is thrown in the trash, with turkey in the lead for amount of meat likely to be thrown out by a consumer at 31%?  Check out the Environmental Working Group's Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health, a succinct, informative guide challenging its readers to "reduce your impact. improve your health." Emphasizing that not all meat is created equal- lamb and beef have the greatest environmental impact- EWG encourages carnivores to "eat smart."  When shopping for meat, they offer a few tips:
Look For:
  • Grass fed or pasture-raised meat
  • Lean cuts
  • No antibiotics or hormones
  • Certified Organic
  • Certified Humane
  • Local (DiPaola  "turkeys are raised on the property from birth to death, with all of the processing done on-site")
  • Unprocessed, nitrate-free and low sodium

"Happy Turkeys, Friendly People." Web log post. What Is Fresh. Web. 19 July 2011. <>.
"Report-2011 Meat Eaters Guide." Environmental Working Group. Web. 19 July 2011. <>.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Berry, Honey and Yogurt Pops

    You can't be in New York City right now without noticing its newest food craze: ice pops. Whether its a Mexican mango-chili popsicle on the highline or a red plum shaved ice cup from People's Pops, gourmet ice-pops are making their mark in NYC this summer.
    Of course, I am thrilled! Not only does this give me an excuse to eat one more frozen delicious treat a day (I could live off a diet of ice-cream in the summer), but icepops are a wonderful way to use fresh summer fruit from the farmers market, and serve as a refreshing, healthful alternative to an ice cream pop.

    I used Epicurious's Blackberry, Honey and Yogurt Pops recipe but experimented with blueberries and strawberries in addition to blackberries, hence the title of my recipe: Berry, Honey and Yogurt Pops.
    The yogurt and honey add a fragrant Greek flare to the fruit, plus give the popsicles some protein so the snack can fill you up to avoid "empty calories".  A tip for all kvellers out there that I learned the hard way: don't wear white while making these!

    Berry, Honey and Yogurt Pops
    yield: Makes 10 pops, active time: 30 minutes, total time: 9 hours 30 minutes

    2/3 cup water
                2/3 cup sugar
                3 6-ounce containers fresh blackberries (3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups)
                1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (preferably organic)
                5 teaspoons honey
                4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

    Special equipment:
                1 ice pop mold (preferably with cover) for 10 pops (each about 1/3- to 1/2-cup capacity)
                10 ice pop sticks or lollipop sticks

    Bring 2/3 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Transfer simple syrup to small bowl and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

    Place blackberries in processor; puree until smooth. Pour blackberry puree into strainer set over medium bowl. Using rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much puree as possible. Discard seeds in strainer. Measure 2 cups blackberry puree and place in another medium bowl for pops (reserve any remaining puree for another use). Add chilled simple syrup, yogurt, honey, and lemon juice to puree; whisk to blend.

    Divide mixture among 10 molds (each about 1/3- to 1/2-cup capacity). Top with mold cover, if available, and insert stick into each. (If cover is not available, cover top of mold with plastic wrap, pulling taut; freeze until partially frozen, then insert stick into center of plastic wrap and into pop mixture in each.) Freeze pops until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.

    Dip bottom of mold into hot water 10 to 15 seconds to loosen pops. Remove pops from molds and serve.

    fruit purees

    fruit & yogurt mixture

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Eggplant Napoleon with Quinoa Cakes

    This stack of eggplant, cheese, roasted red pepper and quinoa tastes as beautiful as it looks. I paired two recipes: Eggplant Napoleons and Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant Tomato Ragu and Smoked Mozzarella for a twist on the classic eggplant stack: the quinoa cake adds a protein boost to the dish, plus a wonderful crunch at the bottom of the pile.  As usual, I've scaled down the oil and substituted reduced-fat cheese to make a healthy, light summer dinner. Certainly impressive to a crowd, these Eggplant Napoleon with Quinoa Cakes are not too difficult to make, so I recommend hosting a dinner party to test them out. Enjoy!

    Eggplant Napoleons (original recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis from Food Network...she ranked it as "Level: Easy", so go for it!!)
    Prep time: 15 min, Inactive Prep Time: 5 Min, Cook Time: 23 Minutes. Serves 4



    • 1 large or 2 small eggplants, unpeeled, cut into 12 (1/2-inch thick) slices
    • 1 12 oz can roasted red peppers, thinly sliced to 4-inch lengths (the original recipe calls for asparagus slices instead of roasted red pepper. Feel free to use either or both!)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
    • Balsamic Vinegar, for drizzling
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


    • 1 (15-ounce) container skim milk ricotta or 1% whipped cottage cheese
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
    • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or low-fat mozzarella
    • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Optional: hot red pepper flakes


    Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
    For the eggplant: Place a grill pan over medium-high heat, or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.* Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until tender, about 4 minutes each side. 
    *I don't have a grill, so I roasted the eggplant in the oven on 450 degrees F for 10 minutes on each side before continuing with directions.
    For the filling: In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta/cottage cheese, basil, Pecorino Romano/Mozzarella, lemon zest, and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes if desired), to taste.
    To assemble: Place 4 slices eggplant on a work surface. Spread each with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the ricotta/cottage cheese mixture. Line 4 pieces of roasted red pepper, side-by-side, on top. Place another slice of eggplant on top and repeat the layers. Top each napoleon with a slice of eggplant and place on a small baking sheet. Bake until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Pour a generous serving of balsamic vinegar over the stack and serve over quinoa cake (recipe below).
    Note: If the eggplant slices dry out in the oven, drizzle with olive oil before serving.
    Quinoa Cakes (derived from Epicurious)
    Active Time: 45 min, Total Time: 1 1/4 hr.  Yield: 4 servings
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 cup quinoa
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Directions: 
    Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.
    Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve.
    Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.
    Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1-cup dry-ingredient measure. Pack enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula to fill it two-thirds full. (If spatula becomes sticky, dip in water.) Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. Make 3 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.

    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes total (pat cakes to reshape with cleaned rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). Transfer to plates and serve Eggplant Napoleons on top.