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Festive Summer Supper

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Check out this recipe from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook called School Night: Dinner Solutions for Every Day of the Week. “Mediterranean Shrimp with Feta, Olives, &  Oregano” has a few things going for it:

  • Healthy.
  • Good for company, good for the fam.
  • Mostly assembly and one dish, plus a sauce pan of couscous.
  • Shrimp! Olives! Feta! Yum!
  • Fresh herbs! But dried oregano works too.
  • I made it for my dad on Father’s Day. Good vibes. Make it for someone you love.

Materials

  • Colander
  • Sheet pan
  • Paper towels or cling wrap
  • Medium saucepan
  • Fork (for fluffing couscous)
  • Deep casserole dish
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring spoons
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Serving bowls

Ingredients

  • Box of couscous
  • Butter and kosher salt
  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
  • 1 1/2 lbs frozen shrimp
  • Pitted kalamata olives, 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
  • Crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves or 2 Tablespoons dried oregano

Instructions

  • Thaw frozen shrimp in the fridge for a few hours in a colander on a sheet pan with cling wrap or paper towels draped over the top. Bring them to room temp and get rid of any ice crystals by running the colander under warm water at intervals and patting the shrimp dry as you make the couscous.
  • Make a box of couscous, following the directions on the package. I went ahead with a pad of butter and several pinches of salt, as called for my box. (The cookbook calls for Israeli couscous rather than the instant kind. I confess I’ve never made Israeli couscous, so you’ll have to comment if I’m missing out. The instant kind was yummy too).
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rinse, dry, and chop the tomatoes, placing them in the bottom of your casserole dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix well with your hands.
  • Bake for 8 minutes, until the tomatoes release their juices.
  • Check to make sure the shrimp is thawed. (The cookbook calls for raw, deveined shrimp but medium frozen ones cooked at the same temperature for the same time worked just as well).
  • Layer the cooked tomatoes with shrimp, olives, feta, and oregano. (The cookbook recipe calls for a half cup of both olives and feta, but I recommend more of each. Serve the remaining olives as an hors d’oeurve, or nibble while you’re cooking. Point is — jar should be consumed, some way or another.)
  • Bake 12 minutes. Drizzle the cooked casserole dish with olive oil and serve atop the warm couscous.

Serve with this simple, healthy Rachel Ray tomato, cucumber, red onion chopped salad if you want to round out the plate.

And finally, to end your summer meal, a berry pie. I adapted Joy the Baker’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie by substituting a pound of blueberries for the rhubarb, since zero out of three of my local grocery stores were selling rhubarb in June. (Wha??)

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I also substituted half the lemon juice for orange juice, and added some orange zest and lemon zest to the filling.

Instead of pecans, I used store bought roasted, salted almonds for the crumb topping. But don’t make my mistake — thoroughly mix the butter with the flour, and this is key — before you add the nuts — otherwise you’ll end up with sections of raw, unbrowned flour on the top of your pie.

As for the crust, cold ingredients are key — dice the butter and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes, and keep the buttermilk refrigerated until you use it. This hand-mixed, buttermilk-congealed pie crust is one of the easiest I’ve ever made. The buttermilk really helps things come together to form a smooth dough.

I made two pies — for Clark, and for Patrick, my father and my father-in-law — and I learned these helpful hints about freezing a pie from The Kitchn. Long story short, if you tightly wrap and freeze an unbaked pie, the juices from the berries won’t make the crust soggy when you eventually bake it. So freeze pies unbaked. Enjoy 🙂

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Let Us Eat Cake

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 9.30.53 AMMy mom loves birthdays more than anyone else I know — other people’s, that is. More accurately, she loves the ingredients that make up a party: the people gathered together, the festivity, the memories to be made. She has spearheaded many a birthday party for her three kids, and even in my late 20s, my birthday is a thing, with gifts, cards and phone calls. There is no stopping the birthday bandwagon — it’s a love train bearing tokens of affection, full speed ahead. Let’s talk candy: if my mom’s good cheer and ebullience resemble a star bust, I can be more of a sour patch. Think “People’s Parties,” by Joni Mitchell, which speaks to the underwhelming way that we wallflowers like to socialize — listening, watching, feeling a connection to people through observation, but loathe to do too much talking. Except on random occasions in which we suddenly feel compelled to “be ourselves,” busting out a moon walk or a rendition of “Killing Me Softly” à la The Fugees, but that’s another story.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 9.20.41 AMWallflower tendencies aside, it’s mom’s birthday this Saturday, the perfect occasion to celebrate her sense of spontaneity and fun, her ease among people, her “joie de vivre.” It’s her turn to be toasted, celebrated, and embarrassed by outpourings of affection. In fact, mom’s love of birthdays represent many of her endearing traits: her demonstrative, generous way with people, her appreciation of good food and company, her creativity. Being a birthday enthusiast (and an excellent cook), mom is quite naturally a believer in birthday cakes. And I’m bursting — almost as much as these pistachio profiteroles — to share some of them with you.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.31.12 PMTake this lemon angel food cake by Ina Garten. Light, classic, plenty of surface area for pink frosting and sprinkles, mom would dig (into) it.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.39.06 PMHow ‘bout mini pies, mum? One cook’s tedium is another cook’s playground, and these precious, slightly painstaking pie-bites are the kind of drawn-out, flour-dusted kitchen project that my mom whole-heartedly embraced when I was too young to execute them well. I’m sure it demanded patience, but it had the positive effect of cultivating a genuine, fearless love of cooking on my part. For example, we spent an entire summer of my childhood experimenting with pie and cobbler recipes, at my request. I don’t remember a single one, but to this day, pies are my favorite thing to bake.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 8.43.05 AMAlso, mom wouldn’t bat an eye if I hypothetically owned a cookbook solely dedicated to the art of mini pies. (Don’t hate a girl for wanting to master 20 recipes for mini pies! Maybe they’ll land on your doorstep :)) Mom gets that cookbooks are not only instruction manuals, but books, as much for reading as they are for cooking. This is reflected in her massive cookbook collection, and her penchant for giving me books centered on the art of grilled cheese or french fries or…

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.54.02 PMCupcakes! She was all over that trend. I think coconut cupcakes take the cake on being festive, classy, and birthday appropriate. I made this version by Ina Garten (who else?) for a previous birthday. I happen to know that mom would appreciate a simple birthday sugar cookie. These are a Christmas tradition for us, a recipe from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook that yields a phenomenal amount of dough. Like mom, it’s hard not to like them. They’re so darn sweet.

Things You Need
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Cream Butter & Sugar
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Add Eggs, Vanilla, Flour
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Flatten, Wrap, Refrigerate
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Roll it Out, Cut it Out

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Happy Birthday!

[Photos through Creative Commons Search or taken by me: moonlightbulb’s photostreamkimberlykv’s photostreamgrongar’s photostreampkingDesign’s photostream]

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