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 (http://relish.com) 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.

Key West Shrimp

Shrimp and cocktail sauce is an easy and delicious appetizer. It’s served at countless parties and many restaurants across the country. One of the reasons this appetizer is so popular at home celebrations is that precooked shrimp can be used, and the sauce can be as simple as combining ketchup and horseradish.

While a classic cocktail sauce is made from ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce, there are many variations on the traditional recipe.

Here’s one from Florida, courtesy of Linda Gassenheimer of the Miami Herald. Again, ketchup is the mainstay of the sauce, but the “key” ingredient is Key lime juice.

Key West Shrimp
¾ pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon Key lime juice
Fill a medium saucepan three-quarters full with water. Add the shrimp and Key lime juice. Make sure the water covers the shrimp. Add more if needed. Bring the water to a simmer with the bubbles just starting around the edge of the pot; the water will start to turn white. Take off the heat immediately and let sit 1 minute. Drain the shrimp and plunge into cold water if serving cold or serve immediately if serving hot. Serve with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce (recipe follows).
Key Lime Cocktail Sauce
6 tablespoons ketchup
Several drops hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons Key lime juice (see note)
Mix all ingredients together and taste. Add seasoning if needed. Serve with Key West Shrimp.
Note: Lemon or lime juice can be used instead of bottled key lime juice.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 170 calories, 1.5 grams fa (less than 1 gram saturated), 240 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 5 grams sugars, 815 milligrams sodium.

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.

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.

Grilled Barbecue Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Kebabs

Grilling is one of the most popular pastimes on Memorial Day. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that not everyone is a fan of burgers, steaks, hot dogs and the like. There are those who prefer to make a meal out of veggies and maybe some fish or seafood.

But there’s nothing to say you can’t combine meat, veggies and seafood like the following recipe for kebabs. This tasty creation contains shrimp, onion, peppers and bacon with a little barbecue sauce thrown in on the side. Add some grilled peaches and ice cream, and you have a great grilled meal from main course to dessert.

Grilled Barbecue Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Kebabs
50 large shrimp (approximately)
17 slices bacon
1 Vidalia onion
16 ounces of medium size mushrooms
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
Barbecue sauce
Cut up the onion and peppers in large chunks approximately 1 inch squares or a little larger.
Cut the bacon slices into thirds and slightly cook the bacon until it is softened but not crispy. (This could be done in the microwave.)
Wrap the shrimp in the bacon slices and assemble the kebabs on the metal skewers starting with bacon wrapped shrimp, a chunk of red pepper, onion, mushroom cap, and green pepper then another bacon wrapped shrimp.
Place the Skewers on a preheated grill with slightly greased foil.
As you are cooking the skewers, baste with the barbecue sauce on each side for approximately 7 to 10 minutes (depending on the temperature of your grill.)
Yield: Serves 4.

Grilled Peaches
¼ cup bourbon
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 to 6 peaches, halved and pitted
Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring bourbon to boil. Add butter, sugar and cinnamon, reduce heat and simmer mixture until syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Preheat grill for medium, indirect heat (about 300 to 325 degrees). Place peaches cut side down and grill until nicely browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip over and grill for another 5 minutes. Remove from grill and place 2 halves on each plate. Spoon glaze over top and, if desired, serve with vanilla ice cream.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

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.

Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

Shrimp is classic Caribbean fare. No matter where you travel, from Cuba to the Dominican Republic to the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands to the coastal areas of Mexico and Central America, that tasty crustacean rates near the top of culinary favorites of visitors and natives alike.

Some friends of mine recently returned from a trip to that part of the world and raved about the tasty fresh shrimp meals they had there. The shrimp, they said, tasted nothing like their farm-raised counterparts that people who live inland have to rely on. On the contrary, they were tender, flavorful and just impressive.

I’ve never been to the Caribbean, and probably won’t be going there for a while yet. But there’s one thing for certain: When that happens, I’m going to indulge myself in a lot of seafood, particularly shrimp.

In the meantime, though, here’s a Caribbean recipe I may try that will have to suffice.

Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum
1 pound large shrimp
Juice of ½ lime
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons dark Jamaican rum
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 large green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
Using kitchen shears, cut through the shrimp shells two-thirds of the length down the back of the shrimp. Remove the legs and devein the shrimp, leaving the shells and tails on. In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with lime juice for a few seconds. Rinse the shrimp, drain and set on a plate lined with paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, rum, soy sauce and ground white pepper.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and the ginger, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Sprinkle on the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the shrimp begin to turn orange. Add tomatoes, bell peppers and onions and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp have turned almost totally orange. Swirl the ketchup mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce coats the shrimp. Stir in the cilantro.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish or 4 as part of multicourse meal.

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.

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.