roasted shrimp with rosemary and thyme

We are blessed to have an abundance of fresh seafood available year round. We live in a town almost equidistant from both coasts of Florida. Cedar Key is just over an hour to our west, and St. Augustine is perhaps an hour and a half to our east. Fresh seafood is celebrated with festivals throughout the state, but especially in this part of northern Florida. Cedar Key will celebrate their 41st annual seafood festival this October. St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, held their 29th annual seafood festival in March. There’s the Blue Crab Festival in Palatka and the Fiddler Crab Festival in Steinhatchee.

I think you get my point. Seafood is a big deal here.

When the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened a couple of weeks ago, we started wondering about the future of seafood in our area. Our seafood comes in part from the Gulf, and in part from the Atlantic Ocean – also potentially threatened by the oil spill. There seems to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the long term effects of oil leak, but it’s certainly not a good thing. A well-written article by Kim Severson in the New York Times highlighted the fears of Gulf coast residents and the potential impact on the fishing and shrimping industry.

My mind has been on shrimp lately because of all of this, so I decided to roast some. It’s such a simple preparation that you don’t really need a recipe. In fact, all you need are some great shrimp, some olive oil, and some seasonings which you can vary to your taste. I used St. Augustine shrimp, the most common type we buy at our local seafood market.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and drizzle a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil over the peeled and deveined shrimp. Toss the shrimp with some kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, chopped fresh rosemary, and chopped fresh thyme. Spread them out on a sheet pan and roast them in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and firm and cooked through. I served mine with some cocktail sauce as an afternoon snack, but I’m sure they would be great in a simple pasta or risotto dish.

a personal challenge: potato gnocchi

I have always been intimidated by the kitchen. Even now, at times, I’ll see a recipe and feel a queasy sensation starting in the pit of my stomach if it looks a bit too long, a tad too complicated. You know the recipes I’m talking about – the ones that are so long that they carry over to the next page, or the ones labeled “intermediate” on the Food Network website.  Thoughts of “I can’t do that” start creeping back in my mind.

I have to confess – it wasn’t until recently that I’ve started learning my place in the kitchen. It doesn’t seem to come naturally to me the way it does for a lot of people. Over time, though, things are starting to make sense. It’s hard to explain how liberating it felt the first time I took the risk of not following a recipe exactly the way it was written…and it turned out fine! That was a great discovery, and I’m continuing to work on being more creative with my cooking. It’s a journey, but an exciting one to take.

Along this path to culinary wisdom, I’ve set some little challenges for myself. Making potato gnocchi was one of these hurdles that I was determined to overcome.  So, one day when I had an entire Saturday afternoon to myself, I did it. I made gnocchi. As it turns out, the process wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as I had built it up to be. In fact, it was a lot of fun. My technique could seriously be improved, but those gnocchi tasted darn good. I felt pretty proud of myself.

One challenge down, many more to go.

P.S. Shortly after making the gnocchi, I read about my friend Jennie’s experience making gnocchi. After reading her post, I almost couldn’t write this. Her little gnocchi were just so beautiful and perfect. She is definitely my pasta hero.

Yield: Serves 6.

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients:

2 pounds whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
1 1/2 cup flour
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet and cool slightly.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare a work area and dust it with flour.

Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add the flour, toss to coat. Form a well in the center of the potato mixture. Add the egg yolks, salt, and nutmeg. Stir with fork until the mixture is evenly moistened and mixture looks shaggy.

Turn the mixture out onto the lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press lightly into each gnocchi, making an indentation in the pasta.

At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi by placing them into the freezer spread out on a baking sheet dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. Once frozen, place the gnocchi in a freezer bag. To cook them, place the frozen gnocchi into simmering water (next step).
Working in batches, cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, until they rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl. Serve with your favorite warm pasta sauce.

Recipe blended and adapted from Elise Bauer's recipe here on Simply Recipes and from the Bon Apètit recipe from February 2010.


weekday wines – a south african rosé

Our weekend started off on a great note at our local wine shop, the Wine and Cheese Gallery, celebrating their 37th birthday with a fantastic wine dinner. There were some great items on the menu, but my favorite was an asparagus bisque with pancetta and a seared scallop. The two top wines of the night were a Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and a Turley Zinfandel.

But, I’m not going to tell you about those wines. I’m going to tell you about the $11 bottle we picked up on the way out.

I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about rosé wines, so when we left the dinner Friday night, I asked our friend Wade to recommend something. Wade also happens to be one of the owners of the Wine and Cheese Gallery, so with his at 37+ years of experience, I trust his recommendations. He handed me the 2009 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. And for $11, I really had nothing to lose.

I had intended the rosé to be opened one weeknight, but the weekend got a bit crazy after we got home Friday night. My daughter, Madeline, busted her little brother’s lip with a toy – a minor trauma with a lot of blood that nearly sent us all over the edge. Then, an unexpectedly severe thunderstorm cropped up and our house – or somewhere very nearby – was hit by lightning. A powersurge fried our refrigerator, my husband’s desktop computer, and our phone and internet. We spent the weekend dealing with the thawing mess in our fridge and freezer and waiting on cable repair people.

Needless to say, the wine was opened Saturday. I waited until around 6pm, but we were tempted to open it up around 11am that day.

And the wine was really very good. It’s not complicated, this rosé, but that’s what makes it a great wine for drinking before dinner – or with dinner, or after dinner. It was dry with a nice minerality to it, beautiful strawberry pink color, and I tasted berries (strawberry, maybe, or cherry?). For the price, it’s definitely a rosé worth keeping in the fridge. Once the fridge is repaired, that is.