Vegan Hearts of Palm Crab Salad

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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While I was very pleased with my Vegan Jackfruit Tuna Salad (seen just above in the avocado) – I know that jackfruit is an exotic ingredient & not easily found by many people.  So – I endeavored to make a vegan seafood dish with something more readily available – hearts of palm – and had great success!  Nothing in this recipe is hard to find.  If you are not vegan & eat real mayonnaise – this Japanese mayo used for sushi might be nice in this – as it adds a sweetness.

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I only mention that stuff because I plan on making California rolls with this crab salad & the Kewpie would make them more authentic.  Still – I did not use Kewpie.  I used Just Mayo.

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I also used Old Bay seasoning – which is vegan.   One of the best things about this recipe is the low calorie count of the hearts of palm.  Check it out:

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So – hears of palm, vegan mayo, Old Bay & few other ingredients & voila!  Comes together as fast as a real tuna salad would.  I used a food processor but this is not entirely necessary.  In fact – I might just finely chop the hearts of palm next time – because crab salad is textured & chunky.  Still – I am going  for a California roll with this (which I will post soon) so the finer chop seemed like a good idea.  Either way – I think you will be very happy with this salad!

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Vegan Hearts of Palm Crab Salad

Serves 2 on a salad or in avocado halves or in sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

2 (14 oz) cans hearts of palm – drained

1/4 onion – minced

3 celery stalks – minced

2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup vegan mayo

1 small tomato – seeded & chopped finely

1/4 cup grated carrots – chopped even more

2 tsp prepared horseradish (optional)

4-5 springs of fresh dill – fronds chopped

S&P to taste

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DIRECTIONS

You can either finely chop everything to suit your taste & combine them or – do as I did – and pulse MOST OF (not all) the onion & celery & tomato then add ONE can of hearts of palm – and pulse.  Add mayo & horseradish & Old Bay & pulse.  Add the second can of hearts of palm & pulse until it is mostly chopped & then simply stir in some larger chunks of celery, tomato & chopped carrots for color & texture.  Stir in the dill.  Taste for S&P.

If your resulting salad is too wet – (mine was very wet) – simply wrap it in a clean kitchen towel & twist out all the excess moisture.

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Once the excess liquid is out – you can decide whether or not to add more mayo  or additional spices.  Serve as you will with maybe some extra fresh dill as garnish.

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Red Curry Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Thai Fried Cauliflower “Rice” (Low Carb, Gluten Free & Paleo)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This recipe is easy & guilt-free.  The “rice” is actually just grated cauliflower & the veggies can be customized to suit your tastes or to reflect whatever vegetables you have handy.  I know paleo is all the rage but I am not 100% clear on which vegetables are on the “no” list – but I am pretty sure this is paleo.  If NOT – please write me & tell me why, OK?

The key to this is a pre-made red curry.  I bought this little far at my local Gelson’s.

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Asian stores have little cans of them like these that I buy at Bangluck Market.

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If you can’t buy it made, I am sure there are recipes out there on Pinterest or Google that will show you how to make a red curry paste from curry powder.  Having to make the paste sort of eliminates the ease I am professing about this recipe, though, so keep that in mind.  Try to buy it already made.

That said, I must insist that you try cauliflower “rice” at least once.  In a stir fry, you can hardly tell it isn’t rice & it is so much better for you!

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Red Curry Grilled Shrimp

INGREDIENTS

Skewers (optional)

Shrimp (about a pound)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp sriracha

1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed, if possible)

3-4 TBS red curry paste

2 TBS rice vinegar

4 garlic cloves – minced

3 scallions – sliced (reserve some for garnish)

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DIRECTIONS

Soak skewers (if using) in water for at least 30 minutes to help keep them from burning).

Peel & clean the shrimp.

In a bowl, blend the oil, sriracha, lemon juice, curry paste, vinegar, garlic & scallions.  Reserve some to use as garnish later (maybe 1/3 cup) and then put the rest in a Ziplock bag or other container & add the shrimp & mix it all about.  Marinate the shrimp for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

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When ready to grill the shrimp, either on a grill or in a grill pan, skewer the shrimp (two skewers make it easier to flip the shrimp) & grill for about 2-3 minutes each side or until done.  Serve with the spicy Thai fried cauliflower “rice” (below) and drizzle with extra red curry sauce & garnish with scallion slices.

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Spicy Thai Fried Cauliflower “Rice”

INGREDIENTS (use or don’t use or substitute according to your taste)

1 medium head cauliflower

Olive oil

10 green beans – trimmed & chopped

4 jalapeno peppers (red or green) – seeded & diced

1 cup brocoli florets

2 carrots – chopped

1 bell pepper – chopped

1/2 red onion – diced

1 cup peas

4 mushrooms – cliced

2+ TBS red curry paste

2 TBS soy sauce

Eggs – to scramble into rice (optional)

Thai (or other) basil – chopped

Chopped peanuts and/or sliced scallions and/or sliced cucumber and/or lime wedges – as garnish

Sambal oelek, sriracha or chili garlic paste to add kick – if you desire.

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DIRECTIONS

With a hand grater or with the grating blade of your food processor – grate the cauliflower & set aside.

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Whisk the soy sauce & red curry paste together & set aside.

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Prepare your veggies.

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Heat some olive oil (1-2 TBS) in a wok or very large pan.  I threw all the veggies in at once.

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Once they were tender, I added the red curry & soy sauce mix.

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Then I added the cauliflower.

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After about 5 minutes, I created a well & added two egs & scrambled them in the well.  When nearly done, I mixed them into the rice & vegetables.  I then added chopped basil.

Serve with chopped peanuts or scallions and maybe a lime wedge & some sliced cucumber.  Serve with the red curry grilled shrimp.  I have no photo of them together as my phone battery died.  Sorry!  I can promise – this is one yummy disj – especially with copious amounts of sambal oelek dumped upon it!

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Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I’ve loved Vietnamese food since high school when my parents & I would go to the Saigon Inn in the Combat Zone (red light district) in Boston in the late seventies-early eighties.  It was a tiny place on the edge of Chinatown in an old, white, free-standing building that had once been a White Castle or something.  There were 4 or 5 tables and maybe six stools at a counter & everything on the menu was under $4.  It is here that I learned about hoisin sauce & sambal oelek & vermicelli bowls and about eating their little egg rolls (cha gio) wrapped in lettuce leaves & dipped in nuoc cham (sweet chili dipping sauce).  We would go there late nights after seeing bands like Bauhaus or X or Gray Numan somewhere in town – like The Channel or The Rat.  And I walked around looking like this:

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My parents long bragged that they loved the Saigon Inn so much that even the discovery of a cockroach in my step-dad’s half-consumed iced coffee did not dull their passion for the place.  In fact, that roach should have come as no surprise as this restaurant was situated in one of the filthiest & most run down areas of downtown (Chinatowns everywhere are seldom famous for their hygiene & fresh scents – and red light districts have their own grotesquerie to offer).  Also, the roaches at Saigon Inn were bold & you were hard pressed to eat there & not spot a few walking nonchalantly up walls or across menus.

As a quick aside, let me share this gorgeous photo I found as I hunted for a shot of the Saigon Inn.

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Boston, Combat Zone 1970 – by Jerry Berndt.  Found HERE.  Isn’t that sensational?

This one, too, by the same guy.

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And this (though I do not know if it is from the same guy or exhibition in Boston).

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So – with that, I present my Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl!

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A key to this dish is the dipping sauce – the nuoc cham (or spicy chili dipping sauce).  If you cannot find it in an Asian store like this

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then there are lots of recipes for variations of it, if you Google the term.  Here is the basic recipe (from www.VietWorldKitchen.com):

Basic Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Makes ¾ cup

3 tablespoons lime juice (1 fat, thin skin lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

Optional additions:
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 Thai chilis, thinly sliced or 1 teaspoon homemade chili garlic sauce or store bought (tuong ot toi)

1. Make limeade. Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste and as yourself this question: Does this limeade taste good? Adjust the flavors to balance out the sweet and sour.

2. Finish with fish sauce. Add the fish sauce and any of the optional ingredients. Taste again and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Aim for a bold, forward finish — perhaps a little stronger than what you’d normally like. This sauce is likely to be used to add final flavor to foods wrapped in lettuce or herbs, which are not salted and therefore need a little lift to heighten the overall eating experience. My mother looks for color to gauge her dipping sauce. When it’s a light honey or amber, she knows she’s close.

Notes

Advance Preparation – This sauce may be prepared early in the day and left to sit at room temperature.

Variation – Use half lime juice and half Japanese rice vinegar for a less assertive sauce. Some delicately flavored dishes require this.

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The Vietnamese egg rolls can be purchased like this

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but these might be hard for you to find.  They are nice because they are tiny – about the size of one of my fingers cut in half.  These are also nice because they are vegan.  But, if you cannot find these you could Google a recipe to make them (traditionally, they are filled with ground pork) or you could just use any old frozen egg rolls of your choice.  If they are big egg rolls, just slice them up after frying.

I added shrimp to this dish because I wanted it to be more substantial & I didn’t want to eat a dozen fried egg rolls.  You could go all shrimp or all egg rolls or even add grilled veggies.   These vermicelli bowls were topped with all sorts of things (sliced meats, meatballs etc etc) at the Saigon Inn, maybe even some things we are glad we are unaware of, so feel free to customize this to your taste.

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I had this for dinner two nights in a row.  The first time was less successful because I used fresh vermicelli like this

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which got gooey & clumped together.  These guys are far better for soups, like my Vegetarian Pho.

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As another side note – if you love that pho but do not want the calories those noodles represent, why not try my ZERO CALORIE ZERO CARB Vegetarian Shirataki Pho?

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Last night I made the salad bowl with these dry vermicelli noodles.

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They worked far better so I recommend this type for the salad bowls.

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Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl

INGREDIENTS

Vermicelli noodles – cooked as directed, rinsed in cool water & left at room temperature.

Egg rolls – fried as directed (or baked, if you prefer)

Shrimp – peeled & cleaned

Cucumber – cut into matchsticks

Carrot – grated

Sprouts

Red or green leaf lettuce – roughly chopped (leaving some pieces large enough to wrap around bite-sized egg roll slices)

Basil and/or mint (even cilantro works) – to be hand torn & mixed into the bowl after serving

Lime

Peanuts – chopped

nuoc cham (recipe above or bottled)

Sambal oelek or sriracha – as additional condiments, if you want to add a kick

For the shrimp marinade

1 lemongrass stalk

1 shallot

3 jalapenos – seeded

2 hands full basil (I used both Thai basil & Thai hot basil but any basil will do)

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup sambal oelek (or chili paste or sriracha)

1 TBS sugar

2 TBS olive oil

4 garlic cloves

Juice of 2 limes

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DIRECTIONS

Peel & clean the shrimp & put them in a Ziplock bag or a lidded (preferably glass) container.  Hit the lemongrass with a tenderizer or (as I did) with a heavy pepper mill or something & bruise it up.  Slice it into large chunks & add to the shrimp.

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Puree the shallot, lime juice, jalapeno, basil, fish sauce, sambal oelek, sugar, garlic & oil.  Add to the shrimp & toss well.  Refrigerate for an hour or as long as overnight.

Then simply cook the vermicelli.  This is a room temp dish with warm toppings so – make the noodles & assemble them in a bowl(s).  Surround them with the lettuce, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, basil, lime wedges & top with peanuts.

Grill the shrimp & cook the egg rolls.  Add them to your bowl.

Serve with the dipping sauce (you can even pour it on top of the whole lot & mix it all up).

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Grilled Lemon & Garlic Calamari

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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There is no real recipe here.  A shoe box would taste good with garlic & lemon & parsley.  Calamari really comes down to those that like it & those that do not – and maybe those that can only tolerate it breaded & fried.

The best calamari I have ever had in my life – and I’ve had the pleasure of having it on repeated occasions – was served to me as a non-menu special a my favorite Manhattan restaurant – Il Bagatto in the lower east side.  Here is the picture they post of it on their site:

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Holy fuck.  It is a glorious thing.  Glorious in its fresh simplicity.

The key to pulling this off at home is a real grill rather than a grill pan, lots & lots of garlic, lots & lots of lemon, lots & lots of parsley (yes – as an ingredient – not just a pretty flourish) and very fresh squid.  When you buy squid – buy it cleaned!  Cleaning squid is labor intensive & really fucking gross.  It will turn you off the whole thing.  But – cleaned – it looks so pure & innocent.  I got $3 worth at my local Ralphs & the stuff was practically angelic looking.

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However – THIS squid did have a definite bleachy, funkified aroma so I couldn’t get it into a garlic-lemon marinade fast enough.  I am not sure if all squid smells sketchy raw – but I ate this all up both grilled and in my stuffed calamari recipe and I was not rendered ill.

Again – the non-recipe recipe is – marinate your CLEANED squid in a combo of a little olive oil & lots (a dozen cloves – minced) of garlic, the juice of a lemon and some S&P.   Marinate for a least 4 hours or overnight.

Then – on a very hot grill – char these bad boys.  I found they took quite a while to cook through.  Every time I turned them, they poured water out of their little belly cavities.  I didn’t like that so I cooked them until that stopped.

Serve with lots of fresh lemon & lots of freshly chopped parsley.  Practically zero calories, too!  Cheap & dietetic.  And kinda fancy.  It’s just a win-win-win!

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Pepper & Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi with Spicy Mayo or Wasabi Mayo & Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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If you read this blog regularly, you know I burned $5 recently on a little container of micro arugula.  It is that little shamrocky looking stuff in these pictures.  I just wanted to follow up on my confession that I bought something so silly by pointing out how much mileage I am getting out of it!  It is really a pretty (and SPICY) little thing & it dresses up food spectacularly.  And it really does add flavor so – that might not be the last time I splurge on it.  So there.

There is nothing easier than this recipe.  The hardest part is finding a quality piece of fish & then ponying up the cash for it.  I got two 3/4 pound slabs at Costco recently for about $20.  That felt steep but then I saw the same fish at Gelson’s for $27 a pound so I felt better.

I felt even better when I used this stuff.  You might have already seen my pretty Sushi Tower

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which was a massive success both on the plate and in my mouth.  This seared option is also wonderful & far easier to pull off.  The two sauce options are really easy, too.  I am posting a little baby kale & arugula salad I made here, too, because it isn’t really a recipe that warrants its own post but the Matsuhisa dressing is so unbelievably delicious – I had to share it with you.  It would go well on any salad or seafood or chicken.  Crazy yummy!

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Matsuhisa Dressing

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup finely diced sweet onion

2 TBS plus 2 tsp soy sauce

2 TBS plus 1 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp water

1/2 tsp sugar

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp powdered mustard

pinch fresh ground pepper

4 tsp grapeseed oil

4 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

Shake together.

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OK – now onto the mayo concoctions.

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Wasabi Mayo

Blend 1/3 cup mayo with 2 tsp prepared wasabi.

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Spicy Mayo

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup mayo of your choice

2 TBS sriracha

1 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

Blend together.  If you have a squeezy bottle to put it in do – because then you can make pretty designs on the plate with the mayo.

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As to the tuna, I used a mortar & pestle to grind up

1 TBS peppercorns

1 TBS white sesame seeds

1 TBS black sesame seeds

1 tsp ground pepper

It was hard to grind them.  Next time – I will just use a pepper mill for grinding the pepper & not bother grinding the sesame seeds.

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Then – simply press your ahi into the mix.

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Press the spice mix in with your hands.  Then, on a very hot grill, sear for about two minutes on each side.

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Cut it up right away to disperse the heat & to keep it from cooking more.  Dress with your mayos & serve with Wasabi Mashed Cauliflower and/or the salad with Matsuhisa dressing!  What a fabulous, light & healthy meal!

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Braised Calamari Stuffed with Shrimp & Baby Kale Over Whole Wheat Spaghetti

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Ok – I confess – I just could NOT get a decent shot of this dish.  This is becoming a frequent issue – caused, most likely, from my lack of continued inspiration photographically.  My lighting & plating options are limited & largely exhausted.   I need to start going to yard sales & junk stores & buy up some new cutie little dishes etc to maybe restore the fun of photographing the foods I prepare.

At any rate – this was a really satisfying dish to prepare.  I felt like an old Italian mamma in my kitchen, expertly filling squid with stuffing & braising them.  Braising, by the way, is defined on Wikipedia like this:

Braising (from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor.

This dish takes a few steps but is well worth it.  If you use boxed pasta & jarred sauce – this dish is downright easy!

I found fresh squid at my store the other day, all cleaned & pristine looking, and I got two packages for under three dollars combined.  There were probably 20 little squid in there – each only about 3 inches long.

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I, personally, preferred the littler guys but you could do this with larger squid & have less work to do with the stuffing of them.

I marinated the squid in garlic, olive oil & lemon overnight – but this is unnecessary.  I did that, primarily, because I thought they had an odd smell & I wanted to get rid of that.  It wasn’t a smell like they had spoiled or were fishy but, rather, kind of a musky, bleachy scent which I found super gross.  The marinade cured that & these guys cooked up as mildly & inoffensively as any squid I’ve ever had.

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Also – I used baby kale because that is what I had.  You could use regular kale or spinach or broccoli or whatever in the stuffing for these.  Other recipes I looked at for this kind of thing suggested a course chop for the shrimp.  I opted to puree the whole lot & that resulted in a stuffing mix that could be inserted into the squid with a pastry bag or, as I used, a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off.  THIS was a lifesaver!  Trying to stuff these fuckers by hand – even with my green puree – was crazy-making so definitely have a zip-lock bag handy.

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Also – I only had these foiled sandwich toothpicks around.  If you use these, be sure to cut off the plastic fringe with kitchen scissors before cooking the calamari.

Also – I used my 5 Minute Arrabiata Sauce for these. You can do that, too, or use your own favorite red sauce, whether homemade or jarred.  I used whole wheat spaghetti from a box

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because I really like whole wheat pastas & was too lazy to make fresh pasta.  This, too, is open to your interpretation.  Make some pasta (I have posted lots of recipes for that) or simply boil up your favorite brand & shape of the boxed variety.

Lastly – definitely buy CLEANED squid.  I tried to clean squid once in the late eighties & was scarred emotionally by the experience.  It took until this week for me to ever attempt squid again.  So – if your grocer has squid in the case but it isn’t cleaned – pay whatever it takes to get them to clean them for you.  Trust.

When these little bad boys are cooked up, they are so tight & neat & resilient – you can slice them up with a knife & they do not fall apart.

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PRINT THIS RECIPE

Braised Calamari Stuffed with Shrimp & Baby Kale Over Whole Wheat Spaghetti

INGREDIENTS

1 lb pasta of your choice

15 -20 little 3″ squid or lesser quantity of larger ones

3/4 lb shrimp – peeled & deveined

6 garlic cloves

2 cups baby kale (or other vegetable like maybe spinach or broccoli or arugula)

3/4 cup panko (or other breadcrumbs)

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 TBS crushed red pepper

1 TBS dry oregano

6-7 fresh basil leaves

S&P to taste (1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper?)

Olive oil

1 tomato – diced (optional)

Parsley as garnish

Marinara or Arrabiata of your choice

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DIRECTIONS

I marinated my squid in a little olive oil, 10 cloves of crushed garlic, the juice of a lemon and some S&P overnight.  This is optional.

Prepare your red sauce or simmer your jarred sauce in a large saute pan.

For the stuffing – put any tentacles you might have from the squid into a food processor with the shrimp, garlic, kale, eggs, panko, cheese, crushed red pepper, oregano, basil and S&P & pulse to puree.  You might need to scrape the sides a few times.

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With either a pastry bag or a large zip-lock bag with one corner cut off – squeeze your puree into each of the squid.  Only fill about 2/3 of the way because squid shrinks when it cooks & it will shrink wrap your stuffing quickly & begin to squeeze it out.  Secure the open end by simply piercing through with a toothpick.  If using fancy tipped toothpicks – cut the fancy part off with kitchen scissors.  Pierce each squid once or twice in the fat part with the tip of a sharp knife to vent them as they cook.

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I had extra stuffing so I just made little “meatballs” from it.

Heat a frying pan & add 2 TBS olive oil.  I used my marinade to sear the squid & you can, too, but know that the garlic burns a bit.  When hot, place the calamari in there & sear them a bit all over, on high heat, until they begin to brown.  Remove from heat.  You can sear your “meatballs” in this process, too.

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When your red sauce is ready, place the seared calamari into that pan.  I added a little water to my sauce to thin it but that is just a matter of taste.  I also added 1 diced tomato.  Cook for about 15 minutes over low to medium-low heat without disturbing them.  Then turn them & cook another 15 minutes.  If you have extra stuffing “meatballs, add them to the pan for the second 15 minutes.

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Cook your pasta & serve it smothered in your red sauce & evenly distribute your stuffed squid.  Remove the toothpicks!  Garnish with chopped parsley & maybe extra crushed red pepper.

PRINT THIS RECIPE

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Food, Fun & Frolicking at Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This past weekend marked my 2nd trip to small town Victoria, Texas – for the second season of the festival there (for which I have served as both programmer & juror – both years) – www.VTXIFF.com.  VTXIFF, incidentally, in just year TWO, was recently named on of the “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”  See the list HERE.

Here is what Victoria looks like from both the bottom up & the top down.

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That red building on the left side of the frame houses Rosebud, the town’s main diner-style cafe.  The top image above is the interior of the Rosebud.  Here are some more shots:

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Last year when I visited Rosebud, I ordered either a shrimp or oyster po-boy & I loved it.

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This year, I ordered just straight fried oysters but I found them a tad fishy.

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I was there this year with my darlin’ Miles & my old friend, Richard Speight, Jr.  Richard’s appearances in public happen to the GREAT delight of Supernatural fans who remember him as The Trickster.  Richard has quite an enthusiastic fan base – lemme tell you.  It is gratifying to see.

Here is the menu at The Rosebud:

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Miles ordered the beef soup special & Richard got the chicken fried steak, seen – respectively – below:

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Here they are fighting over me.

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Of course, I jest.  There was no fighting.  And here is a rare picture of me (rare for this blog) – reflecting the results of the combination of the day drinking & late nights that festivals demand of you.

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I made the boys pose as models, too.

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Some guys embrace that concept with more gusto than others.  For example – here is an impromptu modeling shot of my stepfather, Alvan, and our old friend, Tim Catz.

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Despite two bad knees, Alvan is attempting a favorite pose of ours that we discovered whilst flipping the pages of Rubber Lovers (A Profusion of Rubber Delights – 1982).  This might require some explanation – so – here it is.  Alvan worked in a used bookstore in Boston in the early eighties & this magazine was in a large box of books that someone dropped off.  I found the magazine.  Simple as that.  Here is the magazine (which I still treasure):

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As you might have noticed, it is issue number seven so there was clearly some demand, in the Reagan eighties, for rubber delights by rubber luhvahs.  I can’t begin to imagine the reasons for that and will refrain here from public guessing.  More important is the famous pose.  Dilettantes can attempt to manifest this pose but they can only ever achieve homage.  This guy, the creator, simply nails it.

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Never fear, ladies.  This pose can be attempted by the fairer sex, too, though I think their poses suffer from the absence of facial hair and the fact that there is zero potential for hanging brain:

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Anyway, moving on from the Rosebud & rubber fetishists – I would like to mention Drifters (a divey bar) and The Bungalow, the restaurant attached.  Last year, I ordered a beer there with a salted rim:

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This year, I had a Cosmo & the new proprietress, Gayle, introduced us to some 4 oz crawfish.  Literally introduced us.  At the table.  To huge, live crawfish.  The poor guys were holding their enormous claws up defensively like this guy (image stolen from Google)

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and I was instantly heartbroken for them.  The next thing you know, Gayle delivered a few cooked ones to our table, for free.  I am not sure if they were the very ones we’d met – but I was off crawfish for the day (at least) no matter who they were.  Miles & his brother did not display the same compunction & ate the bejesus out of the poor bastards.  Pure carnage.  A mud bug holocaust.  Despite the horror, the brothers declared the crawfish the best they’d ever had.  I remain unwilling to devour something that had looked me in the eyes a few moments before, and even displayed survivalist spunk in the face of his own certain demise.  😦

Servers at both the Rosebud and The Bungalow hard sold what they promised were the state’s best fried pickles and, in both cases, we took the bait.  It both cases, I felt like I was drinking pure, granulated salt.  Maybe I just don’t like fried pickles.  Maybe they are tied for best & I am a poor judge.   Who knows?

Anyway, let’s take a break from local food & let me show you the amazing Spirit Inn.  It is a 12 room hotel on acres of farmland in the middle of nowhere – 12 miles outside downtown Victoria.  Look at how gorgeous it is:

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Here is the Tim Burton evil-tree forest you must drive through for about a mile to reach it:

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Here are a few more shots & pictures of the top floor room I inhabited for 5 days ( I recently discovered the panoramic feature on my camera – so pardon the curved imagery).

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Allegedly, Bonnie & Clyde stayed in this house when it was at another location nearby.  While there were no outlaws in the house last weekend, there was a motley crew of no-goodnicks.  Look at them.  Pure trouble.

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But shenanigans are what you should expect, I guess, when filmmakers are picked up at the airport in a Hummer limo & allowed to stop for alcohol on the three hour drive.

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Here is some cool neon from the drive:

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As an aside, let me share with you the hours of fun you can have with the panoramic feature by having someone on one side of the frame run around behind you – on cue – and reposition themselves on the other side of frame.  Here is Miles – with zero manipulation to the photo.

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And here is my new friend, Stu, pulling the same stunt:

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There is a really creepy statue on the grounds at the Spirit Inn, too.

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And huge red wasps (photo by Stu)

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And COWS!!!

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Speaking of cows, another local restaurant is called Moo-Moo.

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As you can see, it is a fried chicken joynt & it was awesome!  Here is the chicken & my fried catfish:

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Miles & I both had dinner for $13.

The interior is lowbrow & CRAMPED.

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The tables are so narrow, your knees touch those of the person opposite you.  But the food is fresh & cheap & delicious!  GO – if you are in that neighborhood.  Below are the buildings directly across the street from Moo-Moo.  Local color – so to speak.

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Another amazing & cheap option was this food truck:

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They had $1 Zombie Fingers (taquitos, really), a $4 deep fried burrito called ( I think) The Flip Kick & they even had a $3 veggie burrito & veggie tacos.  Yummy!

Bayside Seafood looked super depressing from the outside (image stolen from Google):

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And the menu was just as ugly

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but it was all we could find on a Sunday & the catfish & oysters I ordered were great!

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Miles was not a fan of the catfish (the only one of four of us to say a negative word about it) – but he enjoyed his loaded baked potato.  Miles is a picky eater, so don’t let his review deter you.

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Another place we went to (and I went last year, too) is what seems to be the only kinda upscale place in town – The Pumphouse.

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We had dinner inside one night at a table of 20+ (image stolen from VTXIFF founder, Anthony Pedone)

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That is me, center left, using a flashlight to read the menu because I am a blind motherfucker.

I ordered a soft shell crab but the dim light makes it look like the Crypt Keeper’s hand:

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Looks icky but it wasn’t!

Daytime dining is delightful, too.  Here is the entrance to the Pumphouse (and one of to VERY friendly kitties that live out there):

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There is a river out back & seating by it:

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It is really lovely.

Briefly, here are the quilaquiles at Jalapeno’s Cafe:

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And Miles having a beer at Greek’s 205:

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And YES!  There was a film festival!  And amazing film festival!  Here is my gorgeous Miles with our friend (and fellow programmer/juror), Xavier, in the VIP room:

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And festival founder, Anthony Pedone, with our celebrity guest, the legendary actor, Rutger Hauer (which whom I had the opportunity to interact several times):

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I worked with Rutger once on an HBO project in 1989 – a film called The Edge.  I had two lines but they were to Rutger.  Click that link and check out the amazing cast (and directors) in that project.  I was in incredible company for what was like – my 2nd job ever.

Anyway – my short film Grasshopper! screened as did a doc I am in about the Boston hardcore sceeen, All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film.   Miles & Richard & I in front of the backdrop thingy:

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And here is the theater on the night of the awards.  That is Miles & Josh up there presenting the Crossroads Award, which their film PILLOW won last year.

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To close up the festival – everybody headed to the only open restaurant, The Olive Garden.  The only thing special about that us the fact that we arrived as they were closing & then begged & manipulated them into letting about 60 of us come in.  After closing.  Two servers left – two cooks.  It was very dramatic & traumatic for the staff but they pulled it off without a hitch & I can forever say that I had dinner with Rutger Hauer – even if he was unaware I was at the other end of the table!  🙂

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One thing about the Olive Garden – they have an amazing (cost-wise) special that allows you to order one of about 5 selected entrees & have unlimited soup or salad with that.  When you are ready to leave, you can take a second entree on that list home with you.  So – two entrees & salad & breadsticks – for $12.95!   CRAZY cheap!

In closing – I leave you with a final image of my badass Arkansas boyfriend, Miles, as we left the Spirit Inn.  Until next year, Victoria!  Thanks for the fun & art & hospitality!

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