Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Easy Shrimp Pasta

There are two predominant routes I tend to travel when it comes to pasta... both laden with enticements that make decision making difficult when perusing a menu that offers both as options and, sadly, no plane tickets. One road has white wine, garlic, tomatoes, lemon and parsley lining the way. The other promotes bacon, tomatoes, olives, and onions to lure the senses. And selecting which way to go is never easy.

I’m always torn between that sumptuous and subtle (or not so subtle) garlic-white wine-based pasta common to Shrimp Scampi, especially when dotted with fresh tomatoes and brightened with a good squeeze of lemon, and the pastas that lean more toward the Puttanesca or All'Amatriciana side, with olives and bacon (capers and guanciale for purists) offering an alluring salty, robust flavor that is especially appealing with a little kick of chili flakes thrown in for some heat.

I suppose that’s why eating in is so often the best path… allowing you to forge your own way to combine your favorite profiles into one great dish... especially when the flavors are so compatible.

Here, large shrimp are tossed with just a bit of olive oil and seasoned with a touch of kosher salt, black pepper and a hint of garlic powder before getting popped in a hot oven to roast for 5 minutes... quick and easy. While you can easily drop your shrimp into your sauce to cook through, I think a quick roast adds an appealing bite to the shrimp... and allows you to incorporate a bit more direct flavor than a simmered option offers.

While your shrimp do their thing and you put your pasta on to cook, the rest of the fixings get simmered in a skillet over the stove... onion, turkey bacon, carrot, diced tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, a touch of white wine, a bit of pasta water and a little seasoning. The carrots add a little sweetness without shouting "carrot" and throwing you too far off the Scampi-Puttanesca-All'Amatriciana path. And the turkey bacon paves a little healthier route. In no time at all, everything is ready to toss together and serve... just take a peek at the recipe detail for timing on what gets sautéed first, etc.

A little fresh Italian parsley sprinkled over top and you’re on your way to Happyville (the destination you arrive at when forging your own way... in life and food). Unless, of course, you have a good stretch of time and a plane ticket to Italy… then scrap it all and eat out (you'll get to Happyville via this route as well).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Smooth Sipping… {for Stemilt Growers}

Anyone that knows us well knows that we are just a little obsessed with our morning smoothies… they're just a great, bright, healthy way to start the day… subtly sweet and loaded with nutritious ingredients… all in one glass!

Given our penchant for whirring up a near daily blend of leafy greens, fruits and veggies, I was thrilled when Stemilt Growers asked me to work on a recipe development project to feature a variety of beautiful, tasty, good-for-you smoothies and juices using Stemilt Fresh Blenders... sweet and tart apples in easy 5-pound, grab-and-go bags that make daily blending a breeze.

In all, I created eight different smoothies to appeal to a range of tastes… whether you are looking for a super veggie vibe, a tropical twist, a non-dairy option, etc… there's a little something for just about everyone. And… they are super easy! You can chop and drop as you go, or prep some items the night before. Whatever works best for you. The only real essential to achieving smooth sipping success is having a good blender. While I can't attest to any other than my own (sure there are lots of great ones out there), I use a Blendtec and love it.

The beauty of this particular project was the opportunity it presented to extend just a bit beyond our tried-and-true daily go to of kale, spinach, apple, carrot, orange, ginger and flax. There are just so many possible variations to a great smoothie... super easy to more extensive... ensuring that there’s sure to be more than a few perfect palate pleasers to choose from. 

Take a peek at Stemilt’s Fresh Blenders recipes for complete details on all the smoothies imaged here... as well as delicious options for the juicers in your family. Happy… healthy… sipping!

Disclaimer: While I have been compensated by Stemilt Growers for this recipe development project, including photography, the opinions expressed on A Savory Nest are my own. Recipes and all images are the sole property of Stemilt Growers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Apple-Cauliflower-Cabbage Crunch Salad {for Stemilt Growers}

Visual appeal, aroma, flavor, and texture are powerful factors when it comes to food, though there are different camps on just how these align and weigh into decision making. In my (very humble) experience, the first three are fairly universal in their importance and influence... with no particular order. It’s the last that is kind of a tipping point, either way. Personally, texture can be off-putting at times, yet I’m always one to give it a go... let taste prevail. However, I know others that won’t come near any food that is texturally challenged... mushy, goopy, slimy, soft, etc. Whatever the particular textural ailment might be, the food is vetoed.

I believe the one texture that IS universally beloved, however, is crunch. There’s just something that is so appealing about this satisfying element that kind of makes it its own separate criteria (in my book, anyway)... a fifth factor, if you will, in this line up.

While there are loads of foods that provide a powerful crunch factor, fresh fruits and veggies kind of corner this market when it comes to making healthy choices. And chop... or crunch salads are a personal favorite for getting the optimal balance... mixing color and cut for visual appeal; adding bits of herbs and a citrus dressing for a subtle, fresh aroma; mixing compatible elements to enhance flavor; and getting that great pop of crunch (and texture) with raw veggies and fresh fruits.

Here Stemilt’s Fuji apples provide that satisfying, fresh pop of sweet crunch that balances beautifully against the more robust nature of raw cauliflower florets and purple cabbage. A little pop of fresh celery and flat-leaf parsley provide that aromatic bit of goodness with little bits of sweetness added to beautifully meld it all together... bits of red and yellow pepper, dried cranberries and lightly toasted walnuts.  A simple olive oil-lemon dressing infused with a touch of honey dresses it all up for an easy, fresh, healthy, satisfying crrrunnnccch salad.

For recipe details, visit Stemilt’s blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed on A Savory Nest are my own.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chicken with Fennel, Artichokes, Green Olives & Tomatoes

When I hear anyone wax on about the glorious summer weather that has been bestowed upon us this season... I smile in agreement, yet refrain from any refrain. It is true that we have happily experienced... from way up high, through billowy white clouds and sapphire blue skies... a blazing sun that has wrapped its warm arms around us for an uncharacteristic number of consecutive weeks. It’s been good.

And yet... I still hold back any refrain. For if I were to offer a refrain, and I’ve learned not too, it would be like saying “yes, I love whipped cream on my sundae... but I really love whipped cream on my sundae with a cherry on top.” It kind of kills the moment to not just be thankful. And I am.

This week, however, offered that slightest glimmer of change; that peekaboo moment when you realize it’s just a little bit crisper out, that the day is just a little shorter, and the vivid skies are peppered with just a few more clouds. And then that pivotal moment presents itself... the first legitimate drizzle. Walkways saturated; windshield wipers on; air conditioning off. It’s that little glimmer, that peekaboo moment that says it’s now safe to offer a refrain... I love, love summer but my favorite season is Fall. There!

I believe there are loads of folks that favor Fall but anyone with any tact realizes that saying so even a moment too early is seasonal sacrilege... a definite no-no in the Pacific Northwest when the promise of summer can, at times, be the one and only glimmer that gets you through a long winter and sometimes non-existent Spring.

With the arrival of Fall comes so much of what I love... golden hues, brilliant skies, roaring fires, crisp morning air... and brothy dishes, like this little chicken stew.

It’s a dish that’s loaded with some of my favorite Mediterranean flavors... mixing fennel, onion, tomato, olives, and artichokes in a tasty broth that envelopes the chicken in much the same, warm way that summer accomplishes in its brightness and Fall promises in its comfort. It’s satisfying, but not overbearing or heavy. It’s bright, but subtly so.

A long grain brown rice dotted with fresh, flat-leaf parsley and sliced green onion is a light accompaniment that makes this dish a great entre to Fall, one that could easily be switched out for a hearty mashed potato as the season turns to cooler days.

And... it’s easy. One pot... a few steps... a little simmer... and done. No further refrain.