Shrimp Beignets

Here in Richmond, we’re lucky to have been spared the worst of Hurricane Florence. Earlier in the week, Florence’s path was supposed to curve up through central Virginia, so Richmonders did the mad dash to clear water and bread off of grocery store shelves, buy every generator available, and stock up on candles. I was getting gas on Tuesday and pseudo-patiently waited in line for about 15 minutes, since everyone else was getting gas too, only to pull forward when it was finally my turn and immediately get cut off by an elderly woman who laughed at me as she flipped me the bird. So that was ridiculous. But luckily for us and not so luckily for the Carolinas, Florence stayed south, so we’re just getting some drawn out gray days with a little more breeze than normal and on & off rain through the weekend.

Since it’s not really nice enough outside to do much of anything, but it’s certainly safe to travel in this area, we’re having a New Orleans style feast at Ally’s aunt and uncle’s house. Aunt Lori is making gumbo and cornbread, so we decided to make an appetizer that matched her theme. I think we all (sub-consciously or not), associate New Orleans with hurricanes since Katrina, so there’s that too I guess. Ally loves Emeril, so of course we turned to him for our appetizer inspiration. Crawfish beignets are a classic New Orleans festival treat, so we went with that – adapting our recipe from Emeril’s recipe for crawfish beignets, substituting shrimp for the crawfish, plus a few other little tweaks. Ours are a little spicier than Emeril’s too! If you were in New Orleans, you’d probably have these with remoulade on the side, but we decided to whip up a Lemon Aioli. Our Super Garlic Aioli would probably be delicious too!

As we were making and eating these, the question came up… Why are these beignets? A couple people remarked that they reminded them of the conch fritters you get in the Caribbean. So why aren’t these ‘fritters’? I googled it and literally the first line of the Wikipedia page on beignets says, “Beignet, synonymous with the English ‘fritter’…” So there we have it! These are beignets because they’re from French-Creole New Orleans!

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Stay safe Carolina friends – we love you 🖤🖤🖤

Shrimp Beignets

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz fresh shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • ~3/4 cup green onions, finely chopped (white & light green parts)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
Instructions:
  1. Heat the 2 tsp of oil over medium heat in a medium sized pan. Once hot, add the garlic and bell pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened a bit.
  2. Now add the chopped shrimp and season the pan with the salt and pepper. Cook for another 2-4 minutes with the lid on until shrimp have lost their translucency. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Stir all of the remaining ingredients, except for the flour (and the ‘oil for frying,’ obviously), and the shrimp mixture into that bowl. Add the flour last, stirring as you go. Add the last 1/4 cup slowly, stopping if your mixture gets too thick.
  4. If you have deep fryer, whip that out, otherwise fill a tall-sided pot no more that 1/3 full with oil. Heat to 365 degrees.
  5. Once oil is hot, drop dough by spoonfuls into the oil. Do this in batches – don’t over-crowd the pot! Fry for ~3 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a wire rack or a paper towel lined dish. (Try to maintain the temperature of the oil – if it’s too hot the outside will crisp (burn) very quickly and the inside will remain raw.)
  6. When cool enough to handle, enjoy!
Makes ~ 2-3 dozen depending on size

Lemon Aioli

 

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We made this light lemon aioli to dip our Shrimp Beignets in, which was a nice contrast the the fried spiciness of the beignets. This aioli is light and almost delicate – not so sour as to make your mouth pucker! It worked great as a dip for our beignets, but I think it would pair well with all sorts of seafood-based dishes.

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Lemon Aioli

Ingredients: 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup neutral oil
  • Zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions: 
  1. Place garlic and egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  2. Zest the lemon into the bowl.
  3. Slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl, whisking continuously.
  4. Once base has come together, stir in the lemon juice.
  5. Refrigerate if not eating immediately.

Fig Chutney

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Ok y’all. Remember that fig chutney that we made last weekend to go on top of some roast pork (Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney)? We’ve been talking about it all week. It was that good! So good that we felt the need to make it again and share it as a standalone recipe. The super sweet figs create a balance with the acidic vinegar, creating just the perfect flavor! We planned to put it on some grilled cheeses last night, because we’re fancy like that, but we got home from work a little late… That meal might make an appearance in the next few days though. We did made enough to keep in the fridge, not that it’s going to last more than a few days! Tonight for dinner, we had a perfect football-watching snack meal, including this chutney with some cheese and crackers.

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This is a little different than the original chutney that went with the pork, though obviously that deliciousness was the inspiration for tonight. We added bacon to this recipe and made a few other tweaks tamp down on the sweetness a little bit more. It’s not that we don’t still love what we made last weekend; it’s just that it was the perfect topping to the pork as it was, whereas tonight we tried to think of how we would want it with a variety of other accompaniments! If you’re looking for a suggestions… cheddar cheese and crackers topped with this was delicious! We’re also thinking about it on top of a juicy cheeseburger or warm on top of baked brie. Or, obviously, as part of a snack-dinner platter ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓

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Fig Chutney

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12oz fresh figs, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions: 
  1. Put a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Slice the bacon into lardons and fry until crispy and the fat has been released. Then remove the bacon to the side, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
  2. Lower the heat to a medium-low and toss the onions in the bacon grease. (You can add some additional oil here if you need to.) Season with a pinch of salt and 10+ turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Cook until caramelized, stirring every five to ten minutes, for 45+ minutes. Remove to the side with the bacon.
  4. Add the garlic and the figs to the pan. Cook for just a few minutes prior to deglazing the pan with the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Meanwhile, blitz the bacon and the onions in a food processor for just a few pulses. Then return this mixture to the pan.
  6.  Simmer over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed and you’re left with a jammy concoction. Add crushed red pepper and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Serve hot or cold. Refrigerate when not eating.
Makes roughly 2 cups

Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney

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Fall is so close we can almost taste it! It’s September, college football debuted yesterday, the NFL regular season starts this coming week, and Halloween candy and pumpkin-flavored everything are starting to show up in stores. The bad news? It’s still 90 degrees and sunny outside. The forecast is calling for 90+ degree days for the entire rest of the week 🙄🙄 So, while we’re waiting for our fall weather to show up, we’ll try to celebrate the shoulder season… with a longing gaze towards fall 🍁🍂 The figs we used tonight are the perfect fruit for this concept – a bridge from summer into fall. The main season for figs runs from August to October, when you can get these fresh, juicy, sweet fruits. We got a big pack of them this week and decided to pair them with a pork tenderloin, half because we thought they’d go well together and half because, for some reason, I associate pork tenderloin with early fall, which is in keeping with this theme we’re working on here.

We were really happy with how this came together. Figs are naturally very sweet, and that sweetness combines perfectly with the acidity of the vinegar to make this chutney. No extra sugar needed here! The choice of sage for our herb tonight was tasty and reminiscent of traditional fall dishes, so that worked well too. If you can’t find sage or dislike sage, try this recipe with rosemary or thyme. Our pork came out with a nice little crust from the sear and was juicy in the middle. Furthermore, I think pork is a great meat to stand up to a sweeter sauce. We loved every bite.

A little bit about the star of this recipe… the fig. This post should actually be called fig chutney over roasted pork, since the fig is really the pièce de résistance. Figs are native to the Middle East & Western Asia. Turkey is the largest producer of figs in the world. Interestingly enough, we have the California Gold Rush to thank for the fig’s popularity in the US. The agricultural areas of the the Bay Area & surrounding counties are along the same latitude as Turkey’s fig producing region, Smyrna.        

(Side note, I gave the figs by weight in the recipe because they can come in quite the variety of sizes. Ours are fairly small, but you can definitely find larger ones.)

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Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, halved vertically & sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4+ large fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • ~2lb pork tenderloin
  • ~12oz fresh figs, stems removed & coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Instructions:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan. Once the oil is warm, cook onions, topped with a pinch of salt and several turns of fresh ground black pepper, over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
  2. Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the chopped figs and sage. Then, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up any brown, delicious bits that are stuck. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until well thickened.
  3. While you’re making the chutney, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Season all sides of the tenderloin with sprinkles of salt and pepper. Sear all sides in a cast iron skillet over high heat for just 1-2 minutes on each side.
  4. Once the tenderloin is seared, move it in the skillet to the hot oven for ~15 minutes. You want an internal temperature of 145 degrees, at minimum. Allow to rest for ~5 minutes before slicing. (If you prefer pork on the medium-rare side, remove it at an internal temp of 135-140, since it will cook a little more while resting.)
  5. Slice the pork and serve with the fig chutney on top! Sprinkle with some additional fresh sage.
Serves ~6

Mint & Feta Topped Eggplant

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After making Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad last week, we had some leftover mint.  By “some leftover mint,” I really mean, “Did this package of mint grow exponentially more mint?” I feel like it’s pretty much impossible to use all the mint in a package and even more impossible to use all the mint that most people grow. We didn’t want to waste any of the fresh herbs, so I was exploring Pinterest this weekend for a dish that would put these ingredients to good use. After awhile I found this recipe that not only required minimal shopping, using up the mint and feta, but also a mostly hands-off and healthy dinner for tonight! We were really happy with how this turned out. It’s light, but filling and flavorful! Thanks Pinterest (and Live Eat Learn) 🙂

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Mint & Feta Topped Eggplant

(Adapted from Live Eat Learn blog)
Ingredients:
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 heaping tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice eggplant in half. Slice through the flesh on the diagonal, creating a cross-hatch pattern. Don’t slice all the way through; stop before reaching the skin.
  3. Brush the eggplant with 1 tbsp of olive oil and top with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper. Roast for 35 minutes in the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining olive oil, mint, garlic, and lemon juice.
  5. After the 35 minutes, slide out the eggplant and brush the mint mixture on top. Return to the oven for just another minute or two to warm.
  6. Serve topped with the chopped feta and sprinkled with Aleppo pepper.
Serves 2

Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad

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I, like most other people I know, love a juicy summer watermelon. It is just so refreshing and delicious! I remember that my grandfather always used to (and probably still does) put salt on his watermelon, which I thought was absolutely crazy. I thought that salt would ruin the sweet taste. Through the years, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people like salty touch with their watermelon. If so many people like salted watermelon, there’s got to be something to it right? And then I realized that the salty watermelon thing was taken to the next step with feta and watermelon salads. This combination is all over Pinterest and summer restaurant menus. And logically, I understand that salt balances sweet and brings out brighter flavors. Yet for some reason, I still never tried it. Well that mistake is over. I didn’t know what I was missing.

The watermelon is still the star of this salad, but it doesn’t taste like just a fruit salad with some feta on top. It’s a little more savory than expected. The mint flavor is strong and makes it nice and herbaceous. Don’t worry about the vinegar on the cucumbers either – it’s not overwhelming at all. Overall a great salad for summer! 😎

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Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad

Ingredients:
  • 1 cucumber
  • ~1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 5 cups watermelon, chopped
  • 3/4 cups feta cheese, diced
  • ~10 leaves fresh mint, chopped
  • Black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Peel the cucumber, then slice it length-wise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice into half-moons.
  2. Marinate the cucumbers in the white wine vinegar, topped with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper, for at least an hour.
  3. Chop the watermelon into bite-sized chunks. Chop the feta a little smaller, more of a dice (can you dice something that’s not a vegetable??). Tear or chop the mint leaves. Combine all of these in a large bowl.
  4. Drain the vinegar from the cucumbers. Add the cucumbers in with the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine.
  5. Add a little more black pepper to taste.
  6. Best served immediately.
Serves 6-8

Peach & Burrata Salad

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As promised, here’s the recipe for the gorgeous salad hidden in the corner of one of our pictures from Saturday night’s Patatas Bravas with Super Garlic Aioli! Ally’s cousin Emily is responsible for this dish, and we’re hoping this is the first of many of her creations we’ll share on here (you should see some of the incredible desserts she makes). This salad is beautiful for your eyes and your taste buds – I mean, you can’t really go wrong with cheese, summer peaches, and prosciutto! The ingredient amounts are easily adjustable for different numbers or preferences of diners. Basically framework for a beautiful summer dish! Emily mentally combined a few recipes she’d come across to yield the final result of this one – inspiration from herehere, and here.

This salad came together, in part because of the THREE MASSIVE BAGS of fresh, juicy summer peaches that my aunt/Emily’s mom brought home from Saunders Brothers. August is National Peach Month, and we definitely know why! ❤ ❤

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Peach & Burrata Salad

Ingredients: 
  • Mixed greens
  • 3-5 peaches, peeled & sliced
  • 2-4 balls of burrata, cut into chunks
  • 6-8 slices of prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Fresh mint, chopped
  • Balsamic glaze (homemade or store-bought*)
Instructions: 
  1. *If making your own balsamic glaze, reduce balsamic vinegar with brown sugar in a 4:1 ratio (ie: 1 cup vinegar to a 1/4 cup sugar) at a simmer until thickened and syrupy.
  2. Assemble salad by placing mixed greens on a platter or in a large bowl. Top with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Oooh & aahh at your pretty salad!