Hot Seafood Casserole

It’s not always easy to come up with a dinner plan, especially if you’re the one who does the majority of your family’s cooking. One way to overcome this dilemma is to browse your recipe collection for ideas.

That’s exactly what I did today. And what I came up with was a recipe for a hot seafood casserole. I don’t know who cut it out of a Relish ( magazine, but regardless, it’s what we’re having for supper tonight.

What sold me on the recipe was that it was described as a shrimp and crab casserole mixed with buttery cracker crumbs.

I love casseroles, and the idea of combining shrimp and crab along with some green pepper, onion, celery, mayonnaise and a little Worcestershire sauce really was appealing.

Hot Seafood Casserole
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 6-ounce can crabmeat, flaked
1 pound shrimp, cleaned, cooked, cut in small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise (see note)
1 cup buttered Ritz-style cracker crumbs (see note)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine green pepper, onion, celery, crabmeat, shrimp,salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl. Mix Gently. Spoon into an 8-inch-square baking dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs.  Bake for 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves 4 to6.
Tip: This dish is is also good with 1/4 cup cooking sherry added to the seafood mixture before baking.
Note: Substitute low-fat mayonnaise and crackers to reduce calories if desired.

Quesadillas de Camarones

If you are looking for good ethnic food when dining out, it makes sense to go a restaurant where the help is familiar with the cuisine. At least that’s been my experience.

That premise held true today when a friend and I went for authentic Mexican food at a restaurant called San Pedro in Scottsbluff, Neb.

As soon as we entered the establishment, I knew we were in for a treat after we were greeted by a friendly hostess who was Hispanic as were two other employees I observed. And when our wonderfully looking food was brought to us by a young Hispanic waiter, I knew we were in for something special.

My order of a shrimp quesadilla (Quesadillas de Camarones) was some of the best Mexican food entrees that I’ve ever eaten. And my friend, Al Gunderson, was equally impressed with his dish (chicken quesadilla). And did I forget to mention the chips and tasty chili that served as an appetizer?

Quesadillas, in case you don’t know, are hot flour tortilla sandwiches, Tex-Mex style. They most often are filled with seafood or meat, melted cheese and spicy salsa.

Here is a recipe for a shrimp quesadillas that I found online that could easily be made at home and looks as if it could be as delicious as the entree I had at San Pedro.

Quesadillas de Camarones
Flour tortillas
12 whole large shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 ounces, fluid Mexican red sauce
1 whole large onion
1 whole red bell pepper
1 whole green bell pepper
2 cups cheese, grated such as Monterey Jack
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
Pour red sauce over shrimp. Set aside.
Chop vegetables into large pieces. Heat skillet over high heat and add olive oil. Cook vegetables over high heat until they start to get brown/black. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Return skillet to high heat, then dump in the shrimp with the sauce. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until shrimp is opaque. Add in a little water if the sauce gets dry. Remove from skillet and chop into bite-size pieces.
In a separate skillet, heat butter. Place a tortilla in the skillet, then layer on ingredients: cheese, vegetables and shrimp. Top with a little more cheese and a second tortilla. Cook on both sides, adding butter before flipping to the other side so the tortilla isn’t overly dry.
Remove from skillet and slice into wedges. Serve with rice, beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole — whatever you’d like!
Yield: Serves 6.

Planked Salmon with Mustard-Mayo-Dill Slather

There’s no question that smoking greatly enhances the flavor of meat. The same can be said about fish. And in the case of salmon, planking — or cooking on a plank of aromatic wood that has been soaked in water — also helps to keep fish moist as well as doing it in a fat-free manner.

The subject of planking has come up three times for me in the past couple of days. The first instance was in a story by Star Tribune food writer Lee Svitak Dean, who explained that one brand, Superior Planks of Minnesota (red oak, sugar maple and cedar), are harvested and processed on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, a short ferry ride from Bayfield, Wis. (Recipes are available at

Svitak went on to say how the planks are made, how many meals the particular wood is good for and the types of liquid people use for soaking.

The other two times were in conversations I had, the first  with Jack Stoltman of Grand Forks, who just returned from the state of Washington, where he went salmon fishing and took a tour of the Pugent Sound area.

A few hours later, I mentioned this to co-worker Eric Hylden, who has some experience cooking salmon with cedar planks. (Eric’s brother-in-law is a commercial fisherman in Alaska.)

Here’s a recipe for planking salmon by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, a cooking duo from Kansas known as the BBQ Queens who also are authors of “Techniques for Grilling Fish” and “Techniques for Planking” ($12.95 each, Harvard Common Press).

Planked Salmon with Mustard-Mayo-Dill Slather
1 salmon fillet, ¾-inch thick, skin removed (1½ to 2 pounds)
1 15-by-6-by-½-inch cedar or alder grilling plank, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Prepare an indirect fire in a grill, with a hot fire on one side and no fire on the other.
To make the slather, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.
Compare the length of the plank with the length of the salmon fillet and trim the salmon to fit the plank, if necessary. Place the salmon on the prepared plank and spread the mustard slather over the top.
Place the plank on the grill grate on the no-heat side. Cover the grill and cook until the fish begins to flake when tested with a fork in the thickest part, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve the salmon hot, right from the plank.
Yield: Serves 6.

Seafood Brodetto

A lot of recipes for fish soups and stews can trace their origins to the coastal areas of Italy where seafood reigns. One such dish is cioppino, the pride of many find California restaurants, which was derived from an fish soup called ciuppin, from the province of Liguria, an important fishing area on the Italian Riviera.

(Cookbooks from Italy describe ciuppin as a rustic relative of bouillabaisse — minus the saffron, Provencal herbs and Pernod.)

Another such seafood recipe that’s caught my fancy recently is brodetto. I had the Olive Garden’s version of it the other night and it very delicious. (Olive Garden describes it as scallops, shrimp and delicate tilapia with spinach and mushrooms simmered in a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth.) The stew was served with toasted ciabatta bread.

Almost all brodetto recipes feature a tomato base and a lot of seafood. Upon doing some research, I discovered one of the oldest recipes for brodetto comes from the Le Marche town of Ancona and calls for 13 different types of fish.

Here’s a brodetto, though not as elaborate as the Le Marche version, which I may have to try.

Seafood Brodetto
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/6 cup vinegar
1 cup white wine
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
½ pound tilapia, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ pound scallops
½ pound shrimp
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
To the pot, add the tomato sauce, vinegar, wine, water, tomato paste, and parsley. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.  Let the mixture come to a boil to burn off the alcohol from the wine.  Return to a simmer, cover, and cook about 30 minutes.
Add the fish, followed by the scallops and shrimp.  Cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.  If you are using pre-cooked shrimp, don’t add the shrimp until the last 5 minutes or so.  You want the shrimp to meld with the other flavors, but not overcook.  Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 3 to 4.

Crab Cakes

Many people, especially those living along the coasts, consider crab cakes a delicacy. Just the mere mention of them can make natives of states such as Maryland and Louisiana bubble over with enthusiasm.

I’d never made crab cakes before yesterday, and with all certainly, it won’t be my last time, either, because the result was simply delicious. But the thought about making them had crossed my mind several times over the years.

A friend, the late Gordy Love of Grand Forks, used to tell me with pride about the crab cakes he used to make when he cooked at an Alaskan hunting camp. His accounts were so descriptive and stimulating that it made my mouth water. There were times that I almost rushed out and bought some crabmeat after hearing one of his stories.

Gordy would have been proud of the ones fixed yesterday. They were made with premium lump crabmeat (not imitation) from wild-caught blue crab, what many of the world’s top chefs consider the most flavorful of all species.

The recipe I used came on the inside cover of the crabmeat container, a simple one that only required ingredients that we already had on hand.

Our crab cakes were nicely complemented with some tasty risotto (made with brown rice) and a garden-fresh salad. It was a meal that only was very tasty but also quite nutritious, and one that the hunters Gordy used to cook for would have greatly relished.

Crab Cakes
16 ounces crabmeat
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/3 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/3 teaspoons yellow  mustard
2/3 cup crackers, crushed
1 1/3 teaspoons parsley, chopped
Mix all ingredients except crabmeat. Gently blend in crabmeat. Form into cakes. Cover loosely with wax paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.
Pan-fry cakes in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Paella

There are probably as many versions of paella as there are cooks who prepare them, but there are three that are most widely known.

Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), land snails, beans and seasoning. Seafood paella replaces meat and snails with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables, while, mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and sometimes beans.

I’ve either made or sampled all three varieties, but it’s the kind with seafood that is my favorite, although my first experience with the Spanish dish, at the home of former Grand Forks residents Dan and Billie Jo Rylance, was the Valencian type. It was made by a foreign exchange student from Spain who was living with the Rylances. By all accounts, it was very delicious.

Since then, I’ve tried a few different cookbook recipes, but my favorite was from GQ magazine. It was contained in an article titled “May the Force Bewitch You,” by senior writer Andrew Corsello, who fixed the Shrimp iPaella! recipe for actress Mira Sorvino, who he was interviewing for a cover story.

After reading Corsello’s account of the seductiveness of the recipe (it contains a “freakish” amount of shrimp and is a bit labor intensive), I knew the recipe was right up my alley. I improvised on it slightly, adding pheasant breasts for my grandson who didn’t like shrimp, a little tomato paste and brown rice instead of white), I discovered “the power of paella” to which the writer spoke of, as did everyone else who tried it.

I got to thinking about that recipe after seeing the following one, which was adapted from one in Martha Stewart’s Every day Food magazine’s December 2003 issue. It was contained in an article by Susan M. Selasky of the Detroit Free Press that came via one of the Herald’s wire services.

What I like about the recipe is that it goes together in less than an hour and instead of using chicken thighs and Spanish chorizo, it calls for precooked chicken sausage.

Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Paella
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound chicken sausage, sliced in ½-inch rounds
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups long-grain rice
¼ teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
Pinch of saffron
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt added diced tomatoes
2 14.5-ounce cans fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
In a shallow, heavy 12-inch saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp until just pink on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes (do not overcook). Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add remaining tablespoon oil and sausage to pan; cook over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rice; cook, stirring to coat, until rice is translucent; about 2 minutes.
Stir in paprika, saffron, tomatoes and broth, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed almost all liquid, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Stir in cooked shrimp; serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 385 calories,(30 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 41 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 972 milligrams sodium, 126 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.

Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Asparagus

Spring is in the air, and it’s only March. And what better way to celebrate the nice weather we been experiencing the past couple of days than with a real taste of spring — asparagus.

It’s hard to go wrong with this tasty and nutritious superfood. Whether you steam it, broil it or grill it, asparagus is good by itself or combined it with other vegetables, meats or seafood.

The following is an easy saute in which asparagus is combined with shrimp for a delicious dish that can be made in less 30 minutes. Served with a salad, a side of rice or over pasta, this recipe is sure to be one that you will reach for each and every spring.

Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Asparagus
1 pound shrimp, medium to large, peeled and deveined
¾ teaspoon kosker salt (to taste)
Black pepper, to taste
1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, sliced thinly
¾ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut into 2 inch lengths (about 2 cups)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon cornstarch
Place shrimp on paper towels and dry very well.
Sprinkle shrimp with a bit of the salt and pepper.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of the lemon peel and then cut the strips into very thin long pieces; be sure to peel only the yellow part of the peel, not the bitter white part.
Cut lemon in half and juice it into a small dish, removing seeds.
Heat a deep 12-inch skillet (preferably not nonstick) over medium high heat for 1 minute.
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until it’s shimmering hot — just a few seconds.
Add the shrimp in a single layer and do not disturb it; let cook for about 2 minutes until browned.
Turn shrimp over and brown the other side, about 1½ minutes, then transfer to a plate. Shrimp should not be cooked through.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds.
Add asparagus, lemon zest strips, red pepper flakes and a bit of salt and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add chicken broth and cover, simmering for 1 to 2 minutes until asparagus is almost done.
Stir cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and stir into the pan.
Add shrimp back to the pan and cook another 1 to 2 minutes until done.
Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then taste and add more juice, salt and pepper if needed.
Yield: Serves 3.

Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp

It would be hard to find an appetizer more popular than shrimp. No matter if they’re chilled and accompanied by cocktail sauce or hot on skewers with some vegetables that have been grilled, shrimp is pretty hard to beat.

The simpler the better is my motto when it comes to shrimp appetizers. A good example of this is shrimp that are  marinated.

The following quick and easy recipe, from Olisur, Chile’s leading olive oil producer, finds the crustacean in a marinade that contains extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, little salt and pepper and some fresh parsley.
Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1¼ pounds cooked shrimp
Place garlic and oil in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss with shrimp in large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Yield: Serves 12.
Note: Cover and make ahead 2 hours.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 73 calories, 3 grams fat (no saturated), 92 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, no fiber, 153 milligrams sodium.

Succulent Baked Salmon

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. And that means there are a lot of people who are hitting their cookbooks and the Internet in search of recipes that don’t include meat.

Topping a lot of lists is salmon, I’m sure. It’s one of the most popular foods that Catholics turn to in this season of fasting and abstaining. But salmon isn’t a favorite of just Catholics during Lent.

Here’s a recipe for salmon that looks tantalizing. There are many flavor combinations in this recipe from smoky to sweet to a little hot. The bacon mixture gives the salmon added crunch and flavor, although true salmon-lovers — and Catholics — will prefer their fish plain.

Succulent Baked Salmon
Olive oil
12-ounce salmon fillet, skin and any bones removed, cut into 2 equal pieces
Salt to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons hot and sweet mustard, or any favorite mustard
1 slice of bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
2 shallots, peeled, chopped
Large pinch of dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Line a baking sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil. Place the salmon fillets on the baking sheet; sprinkle them with salt and spread the mustard over the top. Set the salmon aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, saute the bacon over medium heat until it’s golden. Add the shallots and garlic, mix well, cover and cook until the shallots and garlic have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano and black pepper to taste.
Stir the shallot mixture and divide it between the salmon fillets, spreading it evenly over the top.
Bake the salmon for 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish just begins to flake easily when poked with a knife tip. Remove it from oven and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 277 calories, 37 percent of calories from fat, 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 7 grams carbohydrate, 35 grams protein, 169 milligrams sodium, 95 milligrams cholesterol, 41 milligrams calcium, 1 gram fiber.

Lobster and Shrimp Pasta

Pasta and seafood is a combination that’s hard to beat. And if you add some tomatoes, mushrooms and sweet red bell pepper, the result is one mouth-watering dish.

One of my favorite entrees fits that mold. It’s called Sunday Shrimp Bake. I’ve mentioned it several times in my writings over the year and have shared it with several co-workers, who always rave about it.

I’ve now come across another recipe, a one-skillet dish, that has the some of the same ingredients, including shrimp, as well as lobster. And I can’t wait to try it.

The lobster and shrimp are lightly sauteed in butter, then covered and steamed in their own juices. The rest of the ingredients are tossed in the same skillet to finish the dish.

Lobster and Shrimp Pasta with Sherry Tomato Cream
4 ounces favorite dried short pasta, such as penne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 lobster tails (about 5 ounces each) in shells
6 large shrimp in shells
1 shallot, peeled, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
¼ pound sliced mushrooms
½ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
Good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup dry sherry
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
½ cup crushed canned tomatoes
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese
Chopped chives or parsley or both for garnish
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain pasta and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the lobster tails and cook just until spots on their shells start to turn red, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add shrimp and cover, reduce the heat to low and cook about 5 minutes. Remove the lobster and shrimp from the skillet. When cool, remove lobster meat from shell and cut into large chunks. Remove shrimp from shells and leave whole.
Meanwhile, in the same skillet, add the shallot and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, pepper and pepper flakes. Saute about 5 minutes or until mushrooms release their juices.
Deglaze the skillet with the sherry. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and heat gently. Stir in the cream and cheese and heat through. If the sauce is too thick, thin with some of the reserved pasta water. Add the lobster, shrimp and cooked pasta and heat through. Transfer to individual serving bowls and garnish with chives or parsley. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 2 (generously).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 595 calories, 38 percent of calories from fat, 24 grams fat (14 grams saturated), 57 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 696 milligrams sodium, 143 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.