Spicy Cajun Shrimp

Even though we’ve only been there once together, New Orleans is one of our favorite places (and if you’ve ever been, it’s probably one of yours as well), due in no small part to the amazing food there.  Whenever we’re lucky enough to visit a place with uniquely exceptional food, we like to find cookbooks with recipes from the local area.  During one of our many strolls through the French Quarter a few years ago, we stopped in a small used bookstore and picked up the book “Cooking Up a Storm:  Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picaune of New Orleans.”  This book is a special as New Orleans itself, and is filled with old recipes exchanged via a food column of the Times-Picaune, by locals struggling to rebuild their lives — and recipe collections — after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  This particular shrimp recipe was submitted by a reader who cut it out of the paper many years ago and adapted it by reducing the amount of cayenne pepper, even though her family enjoys spicy food.  (Okay by me if it’s okay “bayou” — the dish is plenty spicy even with the reduced amount!)  The recipe is quick and easy to make with simple ingredients:  shrimp; cayenne pepper; black pepper & salt; red pepper flakes; dried thyme, basil and oregano; butter; garlic; Worcestershire sauce; tomatoes and beer.  The plump shrimp cooked in a spicy, rich sauce evokes fond memories and takes us right back to the Big Easy.

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Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Taste Addison:  A combination of food (over 60 Dallas-area restaurants set up booths offering their best and most popular menu items); music (2  different outdoor stages featuring live music all afternoon and evening — we saw Mat Kearney on Saturday night, great show!); arts & crafts (showcasing vendors’ beautiful jewelry, art and wares); and a mini-midway with rides and games.

Brunch at Jake’s:  Late morning, sitting on the huge (uncrowded) deck under the trees and overlooking the golf course, eating surprisingly (for a place that mainly serves bar food) delicious breakfast, sipping perfect mimosas.

Sunday Sauce and Meatballs:  Possibly Dan’s best signature comfort-food dish, made even better when shared (one of my brothers was in town — great seeing you Adam!)

Sushi Axiom:  New location in our neighborhood, enjoyed the “Cherry Blossom” roll, loved getting an unexpected, bonus dinner together when Dan’s business trip got cancelled.

Nudo Olive Oil:  Spring shipment of olive oil from our very own adopted tree in Italy!  A super cool and unique birthday gift from Dan’s brother and his wife this year (let’s be honest, our sister-in-law did all the work) — thanks, I & S!

Greek Lasagne (“Pastitsio”)

Again with the Greek food?  Apparently, once we try cooking a certain type of food and have some success, we continue to roll with it.  Unlike Souvlaki,  and Greek-spiced Shrimp, this dish is not one we immediately recognized as Greek cuisine.  But once we tasted it, we could easily imagine it as a signature comfort-food recipe handed down through generations of Greek families.  But this version, found in Cook’s Illustrated’s “Light & Healthy 2012” magazine, is probably a lot more low in calories and fat than one a grandma likely used to make.  Pastitsio is typically made with a beef- or lamb-based meat sauce, pasta, a rich béchamel sauce and cheese.  This healthier version replaces the beef/lamb with ground turkey, incorporates a béchamel made with low-fat dairy ingredients and reduces the amount of cheese.  Although this recipe is the only version we’ve ever tried, we certainly did not miss any of the more fatty, higher-calorie ingredients in the finished product, which was plenty rich and hearty.  Just like (a calorie-conscious, red-meat-abstaining) Grandma used to make.

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Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

On Saturday, we attended a food-truck-festival of sorts to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  We love food trucks (just beginning to become a “thing” here in Dallas) and festivals, and the LLS is an important charity.  We didn’t love waiting in line an hour and a half for a couple of tacos (as good as they were.)  It seems that we got to the festival at the exact busiest time of day — all the lines for every truck were very long.  But we’re still glad we went and look forward to sampling food from the other trucks as they cruise throughout our local area.

In addition to the long lines, our visit to the food truck festival was cut short by our need to go home and prepare caprese bites and proscuitto- wrapped melon for the first annual block party on our street.  Our next door neighbors (Hi Craig and Emily!) graciously hosted a giant bounce house on their lawn for all the kids.  While the kids bounced themselves silly, the adults enjoyed good food, drinks and conversation.  We’re a little embarrassed to admit that after nearly 6 years of living in our current home, Saturday was the first time we met many of our neighbors.  It was a fun gathering and we enjoyed meeting everyone.  We feel lucky to live where we do and look forward to getting together with our neighbors more often.  Chili Cook-Off in the Fall!

Although we didn’t get to spend Mother’s Day with either of our wonderful mothers, we celebrated them by treating ourselves to an amazing brunch at an old favorite restaurant, Terilli’s.  (It was the least we could do.  We love you Mom/J and Mom/E!)  Dan had the Sauteed Lemon Veal with poached eggs and hollandaise.  Wow.

Also wow?  The Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum, which we attended Wednesday evening.  We’re working on a full post about it and will save our gushing comments for that, but it was a major favorite of our week, and we highly recommend you go see it if you’re in the Dallas area between now and October.

We’re trying to enjoy as much patio time as we can these days, while the temps still cool off a bit in the evenings.  Dan made enough delicious seafood paella for a small army on Sunday, and we made an event out of it by dining poolside.


Tabouli is one of those dishes that always seemed (at least to us) a little mysterious and intimidating, as though it involved complicated preparation and exotic ingredients.  Not sure why — maybe the unfamiliar name/spelling?  (“Tabouli” may not be the technically correct spelling of this dish — I picked the spelling from the recipe we adapted.  I’ve also seen it spelled “taboule,” “tabbouleh,” and “tabouleh.”  Whatever — you don’t spell it, son, you eat it!)  But we were pleasantly surprised that tabouli is actually quite easy to make with readily available ingredients:  bulgur, parsley, mint, oregano, onion, tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt & pepper.  In fact, the most “exotic” ingredient — bulgar — really isn’t that unusual at all.  Especially after you finally ask the salesperson at Central Market where the cracked wheat is located and she points out that “cracked wheat” is the same as bulgur.  And it’s available right in front of your face in the rice/grains section where you are currently standing, or in bulk in the bulk foods section.  Awesome.  In addition to being quick and easy to make, tabouli is a versatile side dish that pairs well with many different kinds of proteins (we’ve had it with both fish and pork) and tastes just as fresh and healthy as it actually is.  If you’ve never tried it, tabouli is slightly similar to quinoa, but with a MUCH better texture (in my, possibly biased, opinion.)

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Here’s a soup would be perfect for your next dinner party, or any occasion when you want to impress someone with an elegantly savory dish.  As exquisite as this soup tastes, it is remarkably easy to prepare with just a few ingredients:  butter, garlic, red onion, flour, a jar of roasted red peppers, a chipotle chile, fresh thyme, chicken broth, heavy cream and white bread for homemade croutons.  Given the simplicity of the ingredients and the fact that the recipe comes from a book of “quick-from-scratch” meals prepared in less than 60 minutes, we were shocked by the complex, layered and delicious flavors.  This is restaurant-quality soup:  something you might expect from a quaint, yet still fancy, little French bistro.  In France.

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Cooking Class at Sur La Table

On a whim one Friday a couple of weeks ago, we signed up for a cooking class at Sur La Table called “Date Night:  Springtime in Paris.”  We had never taken a cooking class together before, but we like Springtime and love Paris, so we figured it would be a fun date.  And it was indeed.  The chef teaching the class guided us through the preparation of a fancy four-course meal —  frisee salad with roquefort and toasted walnuts; green peppercorn steak with a mushroom-cognac pan sauce; roasted potatoes with spring herbs; and a strawberry and rhubarb tart — all of which was delicious.  Much of the prep work was done ahead of time and the cooking was done in a group style, so it really didn’t seem like that much work (which is my ideal kind of cooking.)  We learned a few things and really enjoyed the experience of doing something different than our usual dinner-and-a-movie date night.

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