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Robin Garr

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RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Robin Garr » Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:49 am

Tuna and shrimp orzo

Just as necessity is the mother of invention, sometimes the creation of a new recipe is borne of unexpected necessity.

Yesterday, for example, I picked up a chunk of fresh ahi tuna and a few fat shrimp at a local fish store, planning a variation on <I>Salade Niçoise</I> to go with an excellent new California rosé wine that was calling my name.

Or such was my plan, until I got home and remembered that the garden had offered up a huge mound of fresh spinach that needed to be eaten <i>right now</i>. Substituting spinach leaves for the crunchy, bitter spring greens in a <I>Niçoise</I> didn't make sense, but I didn't really want to have a big dinner salad <i>and</i> a bowl of fresh spinach, either.

So it was fallback time, and happily it didn't take me long to dream up a new concept: A happy mix of cubes of pan-seared tuna and scampi-style shrimp, tossed capers, olive oil and lemon juice tossed with <i>al dente</i> orzo pasta and piled overflowing into a roasted yellow bell pepper made a splendid alternative, with plenty of healthy green from the simply steamed spinach on the side ... and it couldn't have gone better with a great rosé, "Bone-Jolly" 2006 Gamay Noir from Edmunds St. John.

Here's how it went together. If you try it or something similar, please let us know how you fared. Obvious tweaks would be to add olives - ideally small, purple <I>Niçoise</I> olives - or experiment with the addition of sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheese or herbs.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 large yellow or red bell pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic
Fresh ginger root
4 tablespoons (120ml) olive oil
Dried red-pepper flakes
6 large shrimp in the shell
4 ounces orzo or other small soup pasta
Small amount of red onion, enough to make 1/4 cup (60ml) chopped
8-ounce (240g) sushi-quality ahi tuna
1 tablespoon (15g) capers
Juice of 1/2 lemon (Meyer lemon if available)
1 or 2 fresh green onions (scallions)
Sea Salt
Black pepper

PROCEDURE:

1. Cut the bell pepper in half from top to bottom, trimming out and discarding seeds and ribs. Put it in a 450F (230C) oven - a toaster oven is ideal - for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice, until the skin side is sizzling and blackened. Put the pepper halves in a paper bag, close it, and let the peppers cool for 5 minutes. Remove them and carefully peel off their skins, which should slip off fairly easily after this treatment. Reserve.

2. Peel and smash the garlic. Cut a 1/4-inch slice from the ginger root and whack it with the side of a chef's knife to release its juices. Put the olive oil into a skillet or saute pan, put in the garlic, ginger and a good shake of dried red-pepper flakes, and warm over medium-high heat until the garlic and ginger are sizzling. Put in the shrimp, in their shells, and sautee them briefly, about 1 minute on each side, until they're just cooked through.

3. Remove the shrimp and let them cool enough to handle, then peel them and set the cooked shrimp aside. Discard the garlic and ginger, but reserve the scented olive oil in the saute pan.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, put in the orzo, and cook until <i>al dente</i> as per package instructions, about 12 minutes.

5. Chop the onion, cut the tuna into bite-size cubes, measure out the capers (and rinse them if you prefer to reduce their vinegary bite), squeeze the lemon and discard any seeds, and mince the scallions fine.

6. Put the reserved olive oil that was used to cook the shrimp back over medium-high heat, and saute the onions just until they're translucent. Put in the tuna cubes and saute for just a minute or two, turning to sear all sides while leaving them sushi-rare at the center. Reduce heat to very low, add the reserved cooked shrimp and the capers, and stir in the lemon juice, adding a bit of pasta water from the simmering orzo pot.

7. When the orzo is <i>al dente</i>, strain it and add it to the skillet with the tuna and shrimp; stir to mix, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

8. Put the reserved roasted peppers in warmed bowls and fill with the fish and orzo mix, allowing the excess to spill over into the bowls. Garnish with the minced green onions and serve.

<B>MATCHING WINE:</B> I fashioned the dish specifically to accompany a good dry rosé wine, and it was spectacular with the excellent new Edmunds St. John 2006 "Bone Jolly" El Dorado Gamay Noir Rosé, which I'll review in a coming edition of <i>The 30 Second Wine Advisor</i>. It would also work with a rich white wine - a Chardonnay would be fine - and possibly a Pinot Noir for the tuna, although the shrimp might talk back a bit to a red.

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Jenise

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Jenise » Thu Apr 26, 2007 12:08 pm

Not only does this give me the idea for another post, it almost gives me the post itself. Stand by.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Robin Garr

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Robin Garr » Thu Apr 26, 2007 12:19 pm

Jenise wrote:Not only does this give me the idea for another post, it almost gives me the post itself. Stand by.


Awwright! <waiting>
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Jenise » Thu Apr 26, 2007 12:44 pm

My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Robin Garr » Thu Apr 26, 2007 12:55 pm

Jenise wrote:Okay, done! Check this out


Excellent! Looks like our minds were working along very similar tracks. :)
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Jenise » Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:05 pm

Robin, the funny thing is that I hadn't thought about sharing the recipe because it was just one of those meals I came up with on the fly, even though it was good enough to do again on purpose and good enough to impress company (I had unexpected drop-ins, so everybody got three spears). And then I read your excellent post and realized I was being too provincial. It really was a spectacularly good dish, and I coincidentally arrived at it almost word for word by the same method you arrived at yours so I thought I'd flatter you with imitation.

Btw, I notice you successfully snuck shrimp into Mary with this dish.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Robin Garr » Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:13 pm

I'm glad you were inspired ... it looks like a wonderful recipe, and I'm definitely going to try it.

It's funny, some very good cooks always follow recipes and other very good cooks love to invent recipes ... and I think it's especially good for those of us in the "love to invent" crowd, at least now and then, to post a RC walking through the steps of recipe creation, hoping to inspire more of our pals to give cooking-on-the-fly a try.

As for the shrimp, I figured I'd get them for me and let Mary try one if she wanted to. To her credit, she ate part of one before giving the rest of it to one of the cats. ;)

More seriously, she really didn't complain at all about the subtle shrimp flavor that was imparted to the dish by sauteeing the swimps, sort-of-scampi-style with garlic, ginger and red-pepper flakes in the first step and then using the scented oil to cook the main dish. I really was happy with that concept, and it executed perfectly.
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Jenise

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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by Jenise » Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:46 pm

and I think it's especially good for those of us in the "love to invent" crowd, at least now and then, to post a RC walking through the steps of recipe creation, hoping to inspire more of our pals to give cooking-on-the-fly a try.


You're so right. As you so ably demonstrate, it can be done in the spirit of sharing and without bragging.

As for the shrimp, I figured I'd get them for me and let Mary try one if she wanted to. To her credit, she ate part of one before giving the rest of it to one of the cats.


Aw, makes me sad. I no longer have a cat who begs at the table for shellfish. Our Dave was actually allergic to shellfish and couldn't eat more than two bites without throwing up, but the smell of cooked shellfish was nonetheless the ultimate call of sirens for him. For peace, we'd usually toss him a piece of shell so he pretend it was road kill and drag it off to a corner.

More seriously, she really didn't complain at all about the subtle shrimp flavor that was imparted to the dish by sauteeing the swimps, sort-of-scampi-style with garlic, ginger and red-pepper flakes in the first step and then using the scented oil to cook the main dish. I really was happy with that concept.


Yes, you should be. I'm often unhappy watching cooking shows that combine ingredients without taking the opportunity to saturate flavors as you did here, and as I did by cooking the ham and onions together for longer than it took to simply soften the onions.

Speaking of shrimp flavors, I'm suddenly reminded of one of the most amusing dinners I've ever been invited to, where the hostess--a Chemical Engineering major with a minor in Economics--who absolutely could not cook--attempted paella. For starters, in the interest of frugality instead of buying fresh shrimp, she bought a little packet of chinese dried shrimp. Get this: she thought those tiny things would plump up and get big, like dried sponges. Then she mixed all the ingredients together at 7 a.m. and left them in the crock pot to cook all day into a porridge.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo

by James Roscoe » Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:47 pm

I was so shocked that you suggested the ESJ rose to go with this recipe. :P
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