Lumpia

After spending a lovely but blustery morning fishing from Okaloosa Pier, we came upon Nellie’s Lumpia in Fort Walton Beach. Self-described as an “unfussy strip-mall joint offering a buffet of Filipino staples, including lumpia & chicken adobo,” Nellie’s is reasonably priced and absolutely delicious. What’s not to love about piping hot, savory deep fried spring rolls filled with pork and cheese (below left) or beef and veggies (below right), served with a sweet and tangy chili dipping sauce? Yum!

The Global Recipe Project cookbook contains a fantastic recipe for authentic lumpia. Bee at Rasa Malaysia also offers an approachable recipe to try. Whether you make them in your own kitchen or pick up a batch from a Filipino diner, I hope you try these amazing snacks. Life is short. Eat happy food!

Shrimp Alfredo Two Ways

Shrimp Alfredo is a really simple dish that tastes like you cooked all day. Rich alfredo sauce packs a caloric punch, but served over zucchini noodles it is low-carb and keto friendly. If you prefer an old school helping of pasta under your shrimp alfredo, well, that’s great too. We’re all friends here at Crowded Earth Kitchen.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound small fresh shrimp (41/50 per pound), peeled and tails removed

2/3 cup salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

2/3 cup half and half

2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound cooked pasta OR 4 small zucchini, spiralized

Directions

1) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and shrimp. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until shrimp are no longer pink.

2) Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside. DO NOT DRAIN THE SKILLET. There will be some liquid in the skillet, and that’s OK!

3) Add remaining butter and the half and half to the skillet. Once the butter is melted, add parmesan cheese. Whisk lightly but constantly over low-medium heat until the parmesan is fully melted and the sauce thickens. Please note: right before the sauce is done, it’s normal for the parmesan to look sort of clumpy and weird. You haven’t done anything wrong – just keep whisking.

4) Once the alfredo sauce is smooth, add the shrimp back to the skillet. Heat everything for 30 seconds or so, just to warm up the shrimp.

5) Serve shrimp alfredo over pasta or zucchini spirals. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Life is short. Eat good food!

Amberjack Tacos

Fresh Amberjack Tacos

Spicy and smoky, sweet and savory, these amberjack tacos are a gulf coast delight. Amberjack is a prized fish on gulf coast menus. Mild and meaty, amberjack to me seems like a cross between swordfish and tuna in the kitchen. In the wild, amberjack prefer warm ocean waters, and grow up to six feet long!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 flour tortillas

1 pound of fresh, filleted amberjack, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons bacon fat

1 cup romaine lettuce, sliced fine

1 fresh tomato, diced

2 ripe avocados, diced

Juice from 1/2 orange

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For the creamy sriracha sauce:

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonaise

1 tablespoon sriracha (more if you like things spicier)

2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions

1) Blend together creamy sriracha sauce ingredients. Set in refrigerator.

2) Toss diced avocado gently in juice from 1/2 orange. Set aside.

3) Add bacon fat to skillet over medium high heat. Add cubed amberjack to skillet. Allow to cook for 2 minutes without disturbing. Then, use a tongs to turn the pieces of fish over and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove fish from skillet with a slotted spoon.

4) To assemble your amberjack tacos, first spread some of the creamy sriracha on each tortilla. Top with lettuce and avocado. Add 5 or 6 pieces of cubed amberjack. Garnish with diced tomato and a sprinkle of cheese.

Enjoy! Life is short. Eat good food.

Autumn Biscuit Pie

Autumn Biscuit Pie fresh from the oven!

This recipe is adapted from Tomato Imperative, which we discussed while making Sweet Tomato Figs. You’ll notice that the ingredients are flexible, allowing you to use this recipe as a backbone for creating something delicious out of whatever goodies your garden is offering up today! Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, sliced into several pieces
1/2 cup milk
3 – 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup other garden vegetables (optional) such as thin sliced root vegetables or freshly cut corn
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used mint)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used muenster and gouda; cheddar would also work well)
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Step 1) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to work butter into the flour mixture until the butter resembles small crumbs. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Use your hands to work the mixture into a smooth biscuit dough.

Step 2) Press biscuit dough onto the bottom and slightly up the sides of a greased, 8 inch x 10 inch glass baking dish.

Step 3) Layer vegetables, fresh herbs, and half of the cheese over the biscuit dough.

Step 4) Combine mayonnaise, horseradish, and garlic. Gently spread mixture over the vegetables and cheese. It’s ok if ingredients move around a bit. 🙂

Step 5) Top with remaining cheese and Italian seasoning. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until both the cheese on the top and the crust on the bottom (this is why we use a glass pan!) is golden brown.

Step 6) Serve immediately. Be well, friends!

Sweet Tomato Figs

IMG_2343A few years back, my fellow gardening friend Denise gifted me with a copy of Tomato Imperative. It is unfortunate that this book is no longer being printed, as it is chock full of old school recipes for enjoying and preserving tomatoes.

Today we are making Sweet Tomato Figs, adapted from Continue reading

Deconstructed Pumpkin Stew

IMG_2306Rich, earthy stews with layers of warm and savory flavors are ubiquitous with autumn. This pumpkin stew makes good use of one of the most wonderful offerings of late season gardens… pie pumpkins. It’s so flavorful that omnivores won’t even notice how the dish is entirely vegan.

Deconstructing the stew, i.e. layering the stew over slices of roasted pumpkin instead of mixing the pumpkin into the pot of stew itself, is an awesome way to preserve the satisfying texture of freshly roasted pumpkin. Try this for your next Meatless Monday. Three cheers for autumn!

IMG_2303Ingredients (Serves 4 with leftovers)

1 pie pumpkin, 7 or 8 inches in diameter Continue reading

Fresh Tomato Soup

IMG_2231Few foods are more satisfying on an autumn afternoon than a bowl of fresh tomato soup with the last of the garden tomatoes. This recipe is simple to prepare, and doubles easily for freezing or canning. Yes, it’s safe for water bath canning, to enjoy throughout the winter! Enjoy.

Ingredients (Makes one large pot; recipe can be easily doubled OR cut in half) Continue reading

Zucchini Pickles Two Ways

Left: Spicy Zucchini Pickles    Right: Garlic Dill Zucchini Pickles

My garden zucchini plants went bonkers this year. I’ve already made zucchini apples (a favorite around here), zucchini boats, and several zucchini-enhanced baked goods. With the last of my garden zucchini – because I am uprooting the plants to make room for a late crop of onions – I’m making Easy Zucchini Pickles.

Crisp and tangy, these pickles will stand up to any cucumber pickle, I promise. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes approximately 4 quarts)

2 large (approximately 16 inch) or 3 medium (approximately 12 inch) zucchini

4 cups water

4 cups white vinegar

3/4 cup salt

1/4 cup white sugar

16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

For garlic dill pickles: 16 heads of fresh dill -or-
For spicy pickles: 12 Thai chili peppers, scored lengthwise

Directions

Step 1) Wash zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Slice Zucchini halves crosswise into 3/4 inch slices, then cut each slice into 2 inch pieces. Set zucchini pieces aside in a large bowl.

Step 2) In a large pot, combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic. Bring brine mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to simmer.

Step 3) Pack zucchini pieces into sterilized quart jars, layering a head of dill (or a chili pepper), about 1 cup of zucchini, and about 1/2 cup of brine at a time. Don’t be afraid to really stuff the zucchini into the jar, 1 cup at a time! The back of a tablespoon can be useful for packing zucchini.

Step 4) Leave 1/2 inch head space at the top of each jar (no zucchini should be “poking up” into that last 1/2 inch of space). Make sure zucchini is covered in brine, and tap the jar (or poke with a chopstick) to remove air bubbles.

Step 5) Cover each jar with a sterilized lid and band. For refrigerator pickles, place jars in the fridge. For canning, place jars in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Your zucchini pickles will taste best after one week. Enjoy!

Five Minute Salsa Chicken

IMG_2228Do you have five minutes? Great – because that’s about how long you need to prepare this delicious Salsa Chicken! Two ingredients + one slow cooker = a delicious dinner that you can prep early and forget about for a few hours.

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we Continue reading

Yes, you need Garden Sauce in your pantry!

Garden Sauce is so simple to prepare, it hardly counts as a recipe. You can make a little or a lot; the ingredients below may be easily doubled or tripled. Not only is Garden Sauce easy to prepare, it is versatile as well! Here are just a few Continue reading

Toasted Melon Seeds

melon seedsIf you’re waiting longingly for October to enjoy the savory taste of roasted pumpkin seeds… no need. One of the best kept secrets among frugal cooks is that ALL melon seeds are edible! The seeds from pumpkins, winter squash, watermelon (yes, watermelon), cantaloupe, honeydew, etc. are not only edible, they are chock full of Continue reading

Italian Marinated Eggplant

It should come as no surprise that Crowded Earth Kitchen features at least one or two new eggplant recipes every summer. When you emphasize “fresh” and “frugal” in your kitchen, eggplant has a way of emerging as a frequent star. This summer, as these lovely purple beauties make their way from our garden to our table, we’re trying something new. Italian Marinated Eggplant is best served cold as part of an antipasto platter, with a side of crusty bread, or as a salad ingredient with fresh mozzarella (shown above). Enjoy!

eggplant1Ingredients (Makes 1 quart)

1 large or 3 small eggplant Continue reading

Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice

IMG_2139For some reason, fried rice has always sounded complicated. It’s not. The trick is to cook the rice the day before and refrigerate it overnight. It is much easier to stir-fry cold, day old rice. Trust me on this, and dive into this delicious, Thai inspired treat!

IMG_2138Ingredients (Serves 4 with leftovers)

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

2 cups Jasmine rice, cooked to package instructions and refrigerated overnight

1 cup diced, fresh pineapple Continue reading

Easy Zucchini Boats

IMG_2135Delicious, very easy to prepare, and uses up a few famously prolific garden zucchini – what’s not to love about Zucchini Boats? Medium sized zucchini, 10 to 12 inches long and about 3 inches in diameter, work well for Zucchini Boats. If you happen to find a “baseball bat” sized zucchini lurking in your garden (it happens), you can use it in this recipe, just add a few minutes to the baking time.

IMG_2133Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 medium sized zucchini, halved lengthwise and seeds scooped out Continue reading

Chicken Noodle Spring Rolls

IMG_2131During the height of summer, fresh spring rolls are a refreshing afternoon lunch. Spring roll wrappers used to be tricky to find, but as Asian cuisines have increased in popularity throughout the US, these wrappers have become readily available in supermarkets and online. This recipe uses other easy to find ingredients as well. For the cooked chicken, either a can of chicken or part of a supermarket rotisserie chicken will work. For the noodles, feel free to experiment! I really enjoy Japanese sweet potato noodles, but a cooked package of instant ramen noodles will work just fine.  Have fun!

Ingredients (Makes 12 Spring Rolls)

IMG_212712 round spring roll wrappers (rice paper)

1 cup cooked chicken cut into small cubes

3 ounces cooked noodles cut into 2 inch pieces

1 cup shredded cabbage

1 large carrot, grated

1/2 cup crushed peanuts

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons chili vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1 inch piece of ginger, finely grated

Directions

IMG_2126Step 1) In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the five sauce ingredients. Fold in chicken, noodles, cabbage, carrot, and peanuts.

Step 2) Place about 1 inch of water in a 12 inch skillet and bring to a simmer (not a boil) over medium heat.

Step 3) When water is hot but not boiling, place ONE spring roll wrapper in the water for 2 SECONDS (really… just two seconds). Use a spatula to gently remove the spring roll wrapper from the water and place it on a wood cutting board. Gently smooth out the wrapper; a few wrinkles are fine. If parts of the wrapper are still hard, you can dip the wrapper in water again for an extra second.

Step 4) Place 1/4 cup of filling in a small rectangle near the center of the wrapper.

WIN_20160502_170716Step 5) Fold the sides of the spring roll wrapper over the short sides of the rectangle of filling, as shown. Then, gently roll the spring roll from top to bottom, sealing the filling inside of the spring roll. The wrapper will stick to itself and form a nice seal.

Step 6) That’s it! Repeat steps 3 – 5 until you run out of filling.

Spring rolls are a FRESH food and are best enjoyed within a few hours of rolling (store in the refrigerator if not enjoying immediately). Try dipping your spring rolls in soy sauce, plum sauce, or peanut satay sauce – delicious! Spring rolls are inherently low in fat and are gluten free. You could also omit the chicken and add some shredded greens for your vegan friends. Have fun!