Italian Shrimp And White Beans

shrimp and white beans

Late last year when I was researching food trends, one thing that popped up over and over again was the growing popularity of pulses, which is another term for beans, lentils and some kinds of peas. In fact, 2016 has been given the title International Year of Pulses by the United Nations. Pulses are nutritionally rich and also are nitrogen-fixing legumes that replenish soil, so they’re also a part of good, sustainable agriculture. They also — as they do in this Italian shrimp and white beans recipe — add substance and a rich, creamy texture to a dish.

This particular recipe is a modified version of one you might find along the coast of Tuscany, where fresh seafood and the produce from the region are both plentiful. The beans are infused with a little rosemary, which blends beautifully with the tomato-basil flavors clinging to the shrimp. Using fresh tomatoes in summer makes it even better. Serve this with a good Chianti or a Sangiovese varietal and you’re all set.

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Fantastic Banana Cake

banana cake

Most of the recipes here at Discovery Cooking are either developed here or at least very heavily modified. There are notable exceptions, of course. This banana cake is one of them. It’s simply the best cake I’ve ever made and one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s moist, light, full of flavor and — depending on the thickness of the cream cheese icing — more than enough to satisfy any sweet tooth on the planet. It’s killer.

The recipe below I found on a refrigerator door in a beach house we rented a number of years back in North Carolina. There was nothing to indicate where it came from. We had one rainy day that vacation and so I decided to try it and it blew my family away. On searching the net, I found dozens of copies of the recipe on various food sites and blogs, none of which pointed to the original. So my guess — and it is just a guess — is that this banana cake was probably published by one of the ingredient makers (a flour company, cream cheese brand?) some years ago and has been passed around.

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Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

three cup chicken

Three Cup Chicken is a dish most often found in Taiwanese cooking or in Taiwanese restaurants around the world. Like many good Chinese recipes, it is very easy to make and doesn’t call for many ingredients. Despite that, it has a dark, rich, umami-laden flavor that’s delicious.

There are dozens of variations on three cup chicken and a little research finds that just about every Taiwanese family has its own version, with tweaks here and there. The name comes from what must have been a version for a large family that called for using a cup each of the rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. Obviously, that’s way too much for a half dozen chicken thighs. 

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Shrimp with Mango Sticky Rice

Shrimp with Mango Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is known by several names, including sweet rice and glutinous rice (though it has no gluten in it, go figure). It’s a mainstay of Lao cuisine, but it’s spread throughout Southeast Asia and southern China, as well. In my travels through Asia, I’m certain I’ve eaten sticky rice, but apparently it wasn’t memorable enough for me to recall where or when. This mango sticky rice, however, is something I will remember. It’s Thai name is Khao Neeo Mamuang and apparently it is a well-known and well-liked dish among Thai cuisine enthusiasts.

I stumbled upon it after plans I had for a different sticky rice dish fell through and I was looking for  something else that might be interesting to do with some very nice fresh shrimp I found at a local seafood shop. The recipe I started with needed a bit of adaptation to suit me, but the final product served as a very good foundation for the simply sauteed shrimp I wanted to make.

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Pork Neck Stew

pork neck stew

It seems there is a movement afoot among very good restaurants to use as much of an animal as possible in creating new dishes. Some of these dishes go by euphemistic names that disguise what you’re actually eating, others are pretty up-front about it. Either way, I’m a fan of these dishes, if for no other reason than they reduce food waste and in that same spirit, harken back to a time and place where not wasting food was a matter of survival. This pork-neck stew was created in just that spirit.

When I was a child, I lived in a part of my small town that was predominantly African-American families. My neighbor was a lovely woman whose family came from the deep South by way of Kansas City (where I suspect pork necks were easy to come by and cheap). Her house sat on a big double lot, so that there  was a large grassy area separating our house from hers. She gave my grandfather permission to plant a garden there, adjacent to her own garden. When my grandmother would make something special, she would often make extra to send over to Mrs. Wilson. And when Mrs. Wilson cooked up one of her Southern dishes, she would send that our way. That was my first introduction to pork-neck stew. 

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Deep Fryer Chicken Kiev

chicken kiev

Chicken Kiev is one of the favorite “special” dishes around Discovery Cooking, mainly because it’s a bit of a pain to make (and requires some forethought and planning), but it’s so delicious, it’s worth the effort and I wonder each time I make it why that doesn’t happen more often. In any case, it’s a very impressive dish when it finally hits the table, so if you want to do a special dinner some time, this is really the ticket. There is something wonderful about slicing open that roll of chicken and watching the melted butter and scallions ooze out.

You can cook the chicken in a shallow frying pan with about a half an inch of hot oil, but the whole process is much easier if you use a deep fryer. Seriously.

Like many impressive dishes, there are a couple of tricks to this one. The most important is to be sure the chicken breasts are pounded thin enough. I can’t stress that enough. About an eighth of an inch is right (the chicken will expand a bit as it cooks). Measure if you must. Any thicker and you will have to burn the bread crumb coating to get the chick done completely. My best friend for this is a heavy rolling pin. The smooth end of a meat hammer is good, as well. In a bind, I’ve even used a heavy sauce pan as a hammer. The other thing is to take the refrigeration steps seriously. It helps the rolled up breasts remain intact throughout the cooking process.

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Easy Game Day Chili

game day chili

About a year ago, I shared  my Cincinnati chili recipe on a recipe forum and a boisterous (and sometimes rude) “discussion” erupted over whether it was, in fact, even chili, let alone edible. Chili, apparently, is a topic that many people are passionate about. Well, if you’re a chili enthusiast, this recipe is almost certainly something for you to pass by. On the other hand, if you’ve just been invited to a tailgating party or playoff watch party, this might be for you. It’s simple, quick to make and tolerates sitting for hours in a slow cooker. You can eat it with a spoon or treat it like a dip with tortilla chips. You can make a meal of it, or treat it like a side with sandwiches.

The recipe itself is flavorful, but also easy to dress up to your taste. You can add more or hotter chili peppers as you like, or even drop in a square of dark chocolate and a little cinnamon, if that’s your thing. It scales up really well. Got a big party? Double or triple the recipe without worry. And if you suddenly find that you’re getting more guests than anticipated, you can extend it by adding cooked elbow pasta or rotini. No prob.

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