Thursday, January 11, 2007

good to eat * did i mention she can cook?

i know this is not a foodie blog and i know, as you will see below, i need to grout my backsplash but....
my friend andrea is one of theose people who can do anything. currently, she is an honor student, mother of three, supportive wife, full time career woman, great friend and the MOST fabulous cook. we spent an afternoon whipping up a fantastic mediterranean meal and i thought i would share with you the shining stars of the menu. this seafood dish is gourmet worthy and the dessert? i can not remember anything quite so fantastic. thanks to my son for the photo.

spicy seafood with couscous, the traditional dish of trapani.

3 tablespoons
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 28oz ish-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (the best canned ones you can find - it does make a difference)
4 cup seafood stock (we used glace de fruits de mer gold)
1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed (we used pei (prince edward island))
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups plain couscous
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 small bay leaves
2 pounds assorted fish fillets (such as halibut, cod and red snapper), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (we used black cod & halibut)
8 ounces uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
Chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek*)

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices and 4 cups seafood stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor. Blend to chunky puree; return to pot.
Combine mussels and wine in another large pot. Cover and cook over high heat until mussels open, about 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer mussels and clams to bowl (discard any that do not open). Strain cooking liquid into tomato broth.
Place couscous in large bowl. Bring 3 cups tomato/seafood stock to boil in medium saucepan. Mix into couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; let stand until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, mix thyme and bay leaves into remaining tomato broth in pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add fish. Cover and simmer 4 minutes. Add shrimp; cover and simmer until seafood is opaque in center, about 4 minutes. Turn off heat. Add reserved mussels. Cover; let stand 2 minutes.
Mound couscous on platter. Top with seafood. Spoon some tomato broth over to moisten. Sprinkle with parsley. Mix 3/4 cup tomato broth and hot chili paste in small dish. Serve couscous, passing chili mixture and remaining broth separately.
* Sambal oelek is available in Asian markets and some supermarkets.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. here are a couple things we think make a difference...

THE FINALE! ZUPPA INGLESE (not really soup)
the origin of this luscious dessert, which resembles an english trifle, is most likely with the homesick victorians who fled the cold english climate for the warmth of italy. in this neapolitan version, the cake is lightly drizzled with mandarine liqueur and layered with chocolate-cinnamon and vanilla-orange custards. IT IS SO GOOD! better if you make it a day ahead except the whipped cream.

Pastry Creams
4 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat!! worth it ya'll)
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
10 large egg yolks (again, worth it)
2/3 cup all purpose flour
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange ot tangerine peel

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange or mandarin liqueur (or leave it out if you want the kids to eat it)
1 2.2 poundish italian panettone KEY INGREDIENT!!

for pastry creams:
bring milk and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar to boil in heavy large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. remove from heat. whisk yolks with remaining 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar in large bowl to blend. sift flour into yolk mixture and whisk to blend. gradually whisk in hot milk mixture. return mixture to saucepan and whisk over medium heat until custard boils and thickens, about 2 minutes (mine took more). divide custard between 2 medium bowls. add chocolate and cinnamon to custard in 1 bowl and stir until chocolate melts. add vanilla and orange peel to custard in second bowl and stir to blend. press plastic wrap onto surface of each custard and chill until cold, at least 4 hours.

for syrup:
stir 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. cool. mix in liqueur.

cut panettone vertically into 3/8-inch-thick slices. arrange enough cake slices on bottom of 16-cup glass bowl to cover in single layer. brush with syrup. spread half of orange cream over cake. top with another layer of cake slices. brush with syrup. spread remaining chocolate cream over. top with another layer of cake slices. brush with syrup. spread remaining orange cream over. top with enough remaining cake slices. brush with syrup. spread remaining chocolate cream over. top with enough remaining cake slices to cover. brush syrup over. cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
whip 2 cups chilled cream in medium bowl to soft peaks. we left ours unsweetened. spread cream over cake.

Serves 12. the following were key ingredients but orange or no liqueur will work too.


ALL THE BEST said...

Amy, you know what they say...great minds!! Too funny that we both posted on the same topic, and yes the Wedgewood plates are to die for.

You should a post to my blog with your email (I have to moderate mine) and I won't post it, but that way I can email you. We seem to have sooo much in common.

Your blog looks great!

Karzimodo said...

You forgot "wonderful sister." Hope you had a great time--wish my trip to Nashville had coincided so I could have met you.

Amy Leonard said...

i can't believe you missed each other! i love your sister!