To Taste: Shrimp Stuffed Aubergine

It’s apparently the summer of the eggplant. I feel like they’ve shown up in more than half of my Greensgrow Farm CSA shares this season and I long ran out of patience to deal with them. The greatest success (until now) of my aubergine summer was a killer baba ganoush, some of which is still on reserve in the freezer. When I brought these beautiful graffiti eggplants (Flaim Farms | Vineland, NJ) home, I knew I had to think fast to enjoy them before we left town for the weekend.

With little time to spare, I decided to recreate a dish I made last summer but had failed to record the recipe. I did a quick search for a “shrimp stuffed aubergine” and was pleased to see my Flickr pic of the 2010 creation come up on page 1 of the search! That was a start, but I needed more info on what recipe I built it from. It didn’t take me long to dig up this sad recipe… and my tweaks came flooding back to my memory. Seeing that I rarely make the same thing the exact same way twice, I got right to work on making this dish even better… and writing the recipe this time for you to enjoy, too! This dish is so savory, easy to prepare, and offers a beautiful presentation.

Check out my Shrimp Stuffed Aubergine (Eggplant) recipe after the jump! Continue reading

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Restaurant Rewind: Phillips Seafood in AC

On May 19th (bear with me, folks! I just started a new job!), I had the pleasure of attending a food blogger dinner hosted by Breslow Partners and Phillips Seafood. I have yet to share my personal philosophy on sharing my restaurant dining experiences, so what better time than the present. It pretty much boils down to a commitment to post only about positive encounters (gratis meal, as in this case, or not) and our evening at Phillips definitely fits that criteria.

Dre & I rushed to AC after work that Wednesday, checked into our amazing room in the new Chairman Tower at the Taj Mahal (thanks, Mike!), and hurried over to the Pier at Caesars. We arrived at Phillips first and were greeted with smiles from Tina & Jennifer, the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind Breslow Partners. Our server, Mike, took drink orders as we got to know our hostesses and perused the amazing menu of food coming our way. How could you not be excited for this?

Phillips Seafood Blogger Dinner Menu

Cocktails arrived and so did 5 other new friends. It was so great to meet the people behind the local food blogs I enjoy, let alone dive into an indulgent seafood feast with them. Lisa & Lisa joined us first, from Jersey Girl Cooks and John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey, respectively (har-har!). We then welcomed Allie of A Food Coma and her guest Mikey with Elaine of Elle Eats rounding out the group. No sooner did we finish our introductions when our first course arrived, Steamed Mojito Clams.

The GM, Brian Fountain, and Executive Chef Paul Drew were nothing short of hospitable, informative, & accommodating through out the meal. They joined us between each course to explain the history & philosophy of Phillips along with all the juicy ingredient and prep details that really  make foodies like us drool.

Steamed Mojito Clams from Phillips

We all had already dove into the tender clams while Chef Drew recapped the Mojito-inspired ingredients that flavored the dish. Phillips excels in freshness when it comes to their seafood and these middle necks fit the bill. They were cooked in butter, rum, mint (which I believed is mis-mentioned on the menu), slivers of garlic, & anaheim peppers and served with a ramekin of extra Mojito butter on the side. We happily sopped up the remaining butter with the warm bread we were served. I appreciated learning that Phillips strives to maintain the option for sustainable seafood by returning all clam shells to the Chesapeake.

Next up was a raw bar lovers dream, The Chilled Plateau. Its top tier featured fresh Maine Lobster and Alaskan King Crab Legs, each steamed with cinnamon, cloves, lemon, Phillips seasoning, pickling spice, & orange and served chilled. Melpac & Blue Point Oysters and Middle Neck Clams on the half shell outlined the bottom tier with fresh lemon wedges and a red wine, shallot, & garlic mignonette. Bowled in the middle, were Tuna Tartar (ahi poke style), U15 Shrimp, and Jumbo Lump Crab Meat with sides of cocktail sauce & mustard sauce for dipping. It was a tower of raw seafood indulgence and I loved every bite (and swallow in the case of the oysters) of it!

The Chilled Plateau from Phillips

The penultimate course for our dinner were the famous Phillips Chesapeake Crab Cakes,  packed with their own pasteurized crab meat, a process first developed by Phillips. 300 million tons of their crab meat are canned each year with 1/3 of that coming from our Gulf. The effects of the current outrageous oil leak saddens me beyond words and I’m sure this will have a grave effect, short & long term, on Phillips crab meat distribution. Let’s all hope for the best that can come out of this unimaginable disaster. But, this afternoon, it’s back to the crab cakes…

Chef Paul Drew explained that Phillips variety includes jumbo lump, back fin, & special lump crab meat for a variety of taste & texture. The whole chunks of crab are seasoned and bound with Phillips seasoning, lemon, mustard, Worcestershire, egg, & mayo. They’re formed into mounds and chilled at 40degrees until broiling them at 450degrees. Dre inquired about their cooking approach, as growing up in Maryland he was used to the deep-fried variety. Without solicitation, the Chef was happy to whip up a batch of fried crab cakes for comparison.  Their table was split on their cooking preference, but I think Lisa (of John & Lisa) summed it up perfectly – “They’re really good baked, but ethereal fried!”

Chesapeake Crab Cakes, Potato Gratinée, & Broccolini

The crab cake entree was well-rounded with sides of Potato Gratinées with Swiss cheese and tender Broccolini. We discussed our final thoughts on the meal over a palate-cleansing dish of mango sorbet. Overall, it was a great experience to try a restaurant I normally would not have with great fellow food bloggers. It was a refreshing experience, as sometimes a classic presentation of a seafood indulgence truly hits the spot. I couldn’t ask for a better meal that this beachside feast to kick off my Spring/Summer!

Blogger Dinner Contacts

Breslow Partners

Phillips Seafood AC

Jersey Girl Cooks

John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey

A Food Coma

Ell Eats

Restaurant Rewind: Date Night @ Sampan

I love date night! On a Friday in early March (bear with me, I’m a bit behind), Dre & I made plans for dinner at Sampan, the new hot spot I’ve been dying to try.  We walked into the bustling restaurant early for our 930pm reservation and sat at the bar for some cocktails. First on the drink list, and my choice, was the Blood Orange Martini w. Gin, Lillet, & Blood Orange. It a great balance of sweet & tart, but I was really jealous once I sampled Dre’s crisp Yuzu Sake Martini w. Gin, Elder Flower, & Lemon Grass. So far, so good!

Dre noticed that there was counter seating overlooking the energetic open kitchen. The hostess confirmed that a twosome was about to pay their bill and seats would be opening up. SCORE! What more could a foodie ask for than to watch the magic happen (under great lighting,too!). We got to know the cold line chefs, Matt & Onna, along the way and oggled the food porn they effortlessly executed. I’m always refreshed by a culinary team so dedicated to their craft.

Tuna w. Avocado, Puffed Rice, Flat Bread, & Spicy Sauce

Earlier in the week, I met Michael Schulson, the man behind Sampan, at a Philadelphia Weekly sponsored panel discussion on “Chefs, Bloggers, & the Blogosphere.” After the event, Chef Schulson graciously indulged my request for some personal menu recommendations. I definitely took his suggestions seriously! While we waited for each of our 7 carefully selected dishes to arrive, we sipped Sampan’s monster cocktail, the Scorpion Bowl – 64 ounces of rum, gin, white win, & fruit juice. It was really tasty, impressively strong, & lasted through the whole dinner. Our first dish, the Edamame Ravioli was light, tender, & perfectly enhanced with white truffle oil.

Sampan's Edamame Ravioli w. Truffle, Shoot, & Sake Broth

I always like to try different interpretations of the famous Philly Cheesesteak and we really enjoyed Chef Schulson’s version. The braised beef was rich & savory, accented with crispy shallots & Sriracha’s perfect heat.

Philly Cheese Steak w. Bao Bun, Shallot, & Sriracha

Next, a contrasting plate of cool freshness arrived. Chilled poached lobster nuggets laid under a simple pico of flavor-packed chopped tomatoes & garlic speckled with tender black beans for a perfect intermezzo between savory dishes.

Lobster w. Black Bean, Tomato, Garlic

I love bulgogi, so the Korean BBQ Beef Satay was a no brainer. Double-enforced skewers pierced tender ribbons of marinated medium-rare short rib topped with traditional kim che. They were a bit too pink for Dre’s liking, but that just meant more for me to savor.

Korean BBQ Beef Satay w. Short Rib, Bulgogi, Kim Che

The following dish may have be my favorite & the most interesting. I was excited to see the flavor combination & presentation of hiramasa, a sustainable substitution for yellowtail, bacon, arugula, & a pear kim che. The menu may tell you what you’re getting, but in most instances not how you’d expect to get it. From the deconstructed spicy tuna (see the photo above of Ona preparing this dish) to the current plate in front of us, Sampan’s surprises always seem to please. I really loved this dish. Beyond the interesting plating, the flavor blend was spectacular. I took the time to include a morsel of each element on my fork for each bite. The clean hiramasa fillets, painted with a peppery arugula puree, were a flawless palate for smokey bacon and sweet & spicy pear kim che. The portion was impressive and I still could have eaten another plate!

Hiramasa w. Bacon, Arugula, Pear Kim Chi

Another interesting take on a traditional dish was Sampan’s Peking Duck. The tender duck meat was pulled & served with foam in a small glass jar. The accompaniments included julienne cucumber, shaved scallion, & tamarind pancakes to build your own Peking Duck soft taco.

"Peking" Duck w. Tamarind Pancake, Scallion, Cucumber

Our final dish was a last minute decision and a menu item I’d been eyeing since before we made reservations – the Wonton Taco. The wonton wrapper, crisped in the deep fryer into a perfect hard taco shell, was stuffed with spicy succulent rock shrimp balanced with blood orange & avocado. We were one of a few tables left & we scarfed them before I could snap a pic.

Sampan’s energy and delicious cuisine were a perfect setting for another amazing date night with Dre. I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d want to “mmm & ahh” over an impressive dinner with!

Next trip to Sampan – bahn mi & homemade ice cream!

To Taste: Catfish & Shrimp Po’Boys

Last Sunday, the Colts took on the Saints for Superbowl XLIV. I wanted to cook up a dinner in the spirit of the game, but even though we were rooting for Peyton Manning to pull out a win, there’s not much to say about the cuisine of Indiana. Dre suggested a New Orleans flair and requested Po’Boy sammies. We had just gotten thru the first round of Snowpocalypse 2010 and it was a slow, slippery trip to Acme to pick up the rest of the supplies.

Thank goodness for Dre! He found the Green Bean under 28"+ of snow!

I’m still very much in the honeymoon stage with my new Deep Fryer, so I was excited to fry again! I defrosted (2) Catfish fillets & a half dozen U20 Shrimp, rolled them in Cornmeal Flour seasoned with Tony Chachere’s, dipped them in milk, and rolled them in the Cornmeal mixture again for a double layer of flavor & crisp. The Catfish & Shrimp fried up perfectly in only about 5 minutes!

Cornmeal Crusted Catfish Fillet

You can’t make a Po’Boy sandwich without a delicious Remoulade to spread on your roll. I deferred to Emeril’s recipe and pretty much followed it exactly (which is a rarity for me!). The batch ended up being WAY more than we needed for our sammies, and I certainly wished I had cut the recipe in half until I realized I’d have a delicious spread for other sammies all week. I ended up using it on a Griddled Ham, Turkey, & Swiss Sandwich for dinner Tuesday night and on a Ham, Egg, & Swiss Sandwich on a leftover long roll for my snow day breakfast. It was perfectly creamy & spicy with LOTS of flavor!

Spicy Remoulade w/ Shallots, Celery, & Green Onion

I discovered some amazing fresh long rolls from the corner store when picking up salt for the sidewalks.  They were no Louisiane French Bread, but were soft & crusty. We split them, spread them with the Spicy Remoulade, and topped them with Romaine, Roma Tomatoes, and our Fried Catfish & Shrimp. Dre prepared Zatarain’s Dirty Rice to pair with our Po’Boys for a perfect New Orleans dinner. Way to go Saints!

Shrimp on our Superbowl Po'Boy Sandwiches

CATFISH & SHRIMP PO’BOY SANDWICHES w/ SPICY REMOULADE

  • Cajun Fried Catfish & Shrimp
  • Emeril’s Remoulade Sauce
  • Romaine Lettuce, Sliced Roma Tomatoes, & Crusty French Bread
  1. Split French Bread or long roll and spread Remoulade Sauce on both sides.
  2. Add Lettuce & Tomato Slices and top with the fried Catfish & Shrimp
  3. Enjoy!

Cajun Fried Catfish & Shrimp

Prepared for (2) people

  • Catfish Fillets – (2) whole fillets – rinsed, patted dry, & cut in half
  • U20-25 Raw Shrimp – (6-8) – de-veined, de-shelled, & de-legged
  • Cornmeal Flour – (1.5) cups
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning – (3) T
  • Milk – (1.5) cups – you choice on fat level & use buttermilk if you have it!
  1. Pre-heat deep-fryer or pot of oil to about 350 degrees. Set prepared Catfish & Shrimp aside.
  2. Combine Cornmeal Flour & Tony Chachere’s in a bowl and then spread evenly on a plate.
  3. Lay Catfish Fillets on seasoned Cornmeal mixture and flip to coat each side. Dip each fillet in a bowl of milk and return to Cornmeal mixture to coat again.
  4. Drop coated Catfish filets into hot oil and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes. While cooking, prepare the Shrimp with the same coat with Cornmeal then dip in milk then coat in Cornmeal process.
  5. Remove Catfish once crispy and drain on paper towels. Make sure the oil comes back up to temperature and drop in coated Shrimp. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until crispy. Drain.

Emeril’s Remoulade Sauce

Makes about 1.5 cups from Emerils.com

  • Mayonnaise – (1) cup – prepared or homemade
  • Ketchup – (3) T
  • Creole Mustard – (3) T – I used Inglehoffer’s Original Stone Ground Mustard
  • Hot Sauce – (1) tsp – I used sriracha, but any kind you’d like works fine.
  • Celery – (1) T – julienne, then minced
  • Shallots – (1) T – minced
  • Garlic – (1/2) tsp, minced
  • Green Onion – (2) T, minced
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper – to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Chill in fridge at least 15 minutes or until you are ready to use.

Catfish & Shrimp Po'Boy w/ Dirty Rice

Restaurant Rewind: Hawai’ian “‘Ono Grinds” Flashback

‘Ono = Hawai’ian for “delicious”

Grinds = Hawai’ian for “food”

Every January I have the pleasure of visiting my Mama in Waikiki, Hawai’i. She lives right in the thick of things and only 2 blocks from the beach. What more could you ask for?!? I just returned last week from my 3rd annual visit, but was on a tight budget for this trip. I spent my days kicking back at the beach or by the pool while Mama cooked me up yummy seafood-focused dinners each night. I ate sweet pineapple every day and made my usual snorkel trip to Sharks Cove on the North Shore.

SNORK!

During my first 2 visits, I had the pleasure of exploring the cuisine of this tropical paradise.   Unfortunately, I couldn’t escape Philly as Ono Cheesesteaks is right on the main strip of Waikiki. They may ship in Amaroso Rolls, but the sandwich as a whole was utter blasphemy! OH NO, is right! I made sure to stick to the amazing seafood Oahu has to offer.

The North Shore is scattered with shrimp ponds & shrimp trucks where you can enjoy the freshest variety of these crustaceans.We decided to stop at Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp Truck (which is actually quite popular on Yelp!).

Fumi's Kahuku Shrimp Truck on the North Shore

For a tourist rate of $8, we enjoyed plates of Spicy Garlic Shrimp complete with White Rice, Green Salad, & a Pineapple Wedge. Things get a bit messy as you hand-peel your saucy shrimp at tented picnic tables, so all the trucks make sure to offer a handwash station for clean-up.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp Plate

On one of my many lazy days relaxing on Waikiki Beach, I decided to pop into Beard Papa for my first taste of their famous Cream Puffs. Not only are they just splendidly delicious, they fill them fresh with your choice of cream flavor. I went with their Classic Vanilla in an Eclair Puff, however they offer Chocolate, Strawberry, Coffee, Green Tea, & Earl Grey. They also make sammies on their puffs, but who wants that when you can have dessert? And, why have I never heard of these amazing cream puffs before? And, why isn’t there a franchise in Philly?? I hear there’s one in NYC. Could it be true? So many questions…

Beard Papa Eclair Puff w/ Vanilla Creme

Of course, no trip to Hawai’i is complete without a super sushi indulgence. My first visit, I had a blast pulling all sorts of varieties off a conveyor belt at Genki Sushi. Last year, however, we tried somewhere new and thank goodness! Unfortunately, the name of the restaurant eludes me (Mom?). I was treated to the best (and forever my favorite) Ahi tuna dish I could ever imagine – a fresh hunk of Ahi, wrapped in Arugula, Tempura-battered & flash fried in a delicious sea of Wasabi-Soy Butter. Heaven.

Ahi Tuna & Arugula Tempura w/ Wasabi-Soy Butter

Hawai’i, I love you. See you next January with an empty belly (or hopefully sooner)!

Leftover Lightning! Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps!

Portioning is definitely not my forte when it comes to cooking… but who can deny leftovers! With my Spicy Fish Taco dinner, I went a bit overboard with the Mexi-Risotto! I also had an avocado, grape tomatoes, romaine, & green onion to use at their peak freshness. I defrosted some U-30 shrimp and made the tastiest Sweet & Spicy Garlic Sauce (recipe via Big Oven) to toss them in! I added some extra water in the end as the result was a bit too sticky for me, but I’ll def be keeping this simple recipe in my back pocket & suggest you do too! Next time I may just make the sauce & pour it over rice (or drink it straight)!

I wasn’t sure about the blend of flavors once I combined all of my lettuce wrap ingredients, but they meshed perfectly!

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps:

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp – U-30 Shrimp tossed in this amazing & easy Big Oven Recipe

Leftover Mexi-Risotto

Tomato-Avocado Salsa – Leftover Avocado, Grape Tomatoes, & Green Onion w/ Lime Juice & S&P – made by Dre

Whole Romaine Leaves