Tonight was halloween at our house, and with the kids deciding to stay home and hand out candy, I decided to feed them over the course of the evening with some tapas, or small plates. Tapas are fun because the usual rules of protein, starch, complex carbs that make an entree appealing get loosened up a bit. And given that yesterday was farmer’s market day, our fridge and counters are loaded up with great ingredients.
First tapas: Curried Sweet Potatoes and Chard
Peel and cut two sweet potatoes into 1″ cubes. Boil in salted water till tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up about 6 large chard leaves. Wilt them in a pan of hot olive oil for a minute. In another skillet, heat about 1.5 cups milk, whisk in about 1 TBSP of whatever curry spice you like (there is a spice blend called Garam Masala sold by one of the major spice companies that’s pretty good), a few saffron threads, and a couple tsp of sugar. Slowly whisk a little flour or cornstarch in the hot, spiced milk to thicken (start with a tsp or two). Stir together the potatoes, chard and spiced milk.
Second & Third Tapas: Peperonata with October Bean and Tuna
I had intended for this to be two tapas, Peperonata, and then October Bean & Tuna. But the kids decided they were going to trick-or-treat for the last hour, and I figured their good eating momentum would slow after candy, so I plated these two together.
For the peperonata, coarsely chop two medium bell peppers. Saute in hot olive oil for a minute, then add a large tomato cubed in 1″ pieces. Season with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Add a couple tsp of red wine vinegar. Toss until warmed through. Plate.
For the October Beans & Tuna, cook a cup or two of October Beans, aka Shelly beans or Phaseolus vulgaris. You can substitute a can of white beans, too ;-). Plate the hot beans. Cover with a big forkful of canned tuna. I’ve been meaning to make my own, as described in this post by Georgia Pellegrini, but haven’t yet gotten around to it, so I do use cans. Please do not use that lousy white tuna in water, that stuff is the worst. Go for tuna in oil with sea salt. Best brand is Cento, but most markets have some version of tuna in oil. If you use water packed tuna because you’re afraid of fat, rest easy that mayonnaise is not allowed near my tuna, so what you add in fat from the oil pack you more than make up for by lack of mayo. Some thin sliced red onion would be great on this, too, but I didn’t have any.
Fourth & Fifth Tapas: NC Shrimp Skewers and Marinated Shitake Skewers
OK, these are both painfully easy. First, soak your wood skewers in water while you do your prep.
For the shrimp, simply peel and devein, then skewer. Season as you like with salt, pepper, Zatarain’s, Old Bay, etc.
For the mushrooms, mix up a quarter cup each of soy sauce, mirin and rice wine vinegar. Add a TBSP of sugar (heat slightly to dissolve sugar). Throw in about 12-16 shitake caps, stems removed. Let them marinate for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Skewer the caps. Reserve the marinade for more shrooms (it’ll keep for weeks in a mason jar in the fridge), or use in a big stir-fry later in the week.
Grill shrimp and shroom skewers for about 4 minutes per side on a medium grill.
All of the ingredients for these tapas came from Western Wake Farmer’s Market this weekend. While I didn’t do my usual cost breakdown, I estimate all the ingredients came to about $17. They fed four people, so that’s $4.25 per person for a five plate tapas meal. Cheaper than a Big Mac combo.
Want an authentic European espresso to put the perfect end to tapas night?
Dinner tonight was a quick throw together. Spicy shrimp and potato pancakes with petite filet and salad of seasonal greens and tomatoes. All the ingredients were in the house and obtained from local farmer’s markets or, in the case of the filet, from our local butcher.
The shrimp pancakes were the centerpiece. Boil some potatoes; I used redskins, but whatever you have around is fine. I keep skins on because I’m lazy. When cooked, hand mash coarsely. Allow to cool a bit. While cooling, mix up a couple eggs, some garlic (3 cloves, smashed), a couple tablespoons Worcestershire sause, some crushed mustard seed or dry mustard (1 tsp), a minced pepper (I used a small red bell pepper) and whatever chopped herbs you have around (I used a few TBSP of basil and parsley). Then chop up some raw shrimp into a fairly fine dice, maybe 1 lb cleaned total. Mix the potatoes, egg mixture and shrimp together. Add a couple cups of Panko and continue to mix well. I also added some liberal dashes of Tabasco habenero sauce and a couple TBSP of Zatarain’s cajun seasoning, both of which are completely optional. Form into small patties and saute in a skillet with a little oil till nicely brown both sides.
The salad was chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, salt pepper, olive oil and wine vingar. Mix up an hour ahead and allow to marinate. Serve over bed of seasonal greens. I added a slice of fresh mozzarella from our favorite local cheese company.
The filet was actually a small, free sample from The Meat House on Kildare Farm Rd in Cary, but perfect size for three light meat eaters. It was marinated ahead in something delicious of their making. I grilled it medium-rare, rested a few minutes and sliced. Each portion was a couple ounces.
Not pictured is a simple, mayonnaise-based sauce for the potato pancakes: mince a few cornichons, mix into 3 or 4 TBSP mayonnaise. Add a couple tsp lemon juice, and a couple tsp of soy sauce. Stir well, put a small dollop on each potato pancake.
The shrimp-potato cakes cost about $9, mostly shrimp. It made 4 servings, plus leftovers for 4 more, for $1.13 per serving. If you omitted the shrimp, it would go to about $0.25 per serving. The salad was about $4 in ingredients, not including cheese, and was enough for 4, so $1 per serving. The cheese added $0.50 each, so salad as shown was $1.50 per serving. The filet was free, but to be fair, if you had to buy it, was about $4 worth of filet tips and was enough for 4 servings, so $1 each. All in, this meal, as shown, was about $3.63 per serving. Two simple omissions (shrimp and cheese) bring it down to $2.25 each serving. Meatless, which we do several nights a week, this meal is $1.25 per person.
Need great coffee?