Monday, April 25, 2011

Cream of the Crop

I've been collecting small glass bottles lately, mainly to use for bud vases.  I've saved bottles that once contained balsamic vinegar, perfume, olive oil, wine and any others that possess that certain "je ne sais quoi". But when it came to Easter Sunday and I wanted to take a few little gifts for my family, I just couldn't find the right bottle.  I wanted to keep it small and simple, creating one of those sweet tilt your head "aah" moments.

So while I was talking with my sister on the phone she suggested using the Strauss family dairy milk bottles, or to be more specific, the smaller bottles that they use for their half and half and their whipping cream.  Great idea!  I love those bottles.  So off to Whole Foods I go.  I ended up just buying three of the half and half bottles (complete with half and half), brought them home, emptied the cream into a mason jar and went on to assemble my little arrangements.

My flower of choice was the ranunculus.  I thought about tulips, in their pastel pinks, purples, yellows, so traditional, so Easter Sundayish.  I though about sneaking over to the old JAL (Japanese Airline) housing apartments that have since been vacated and are sitting empty but apparently someone is still keeping up the grounds.  They have beautiful roses growing and it seems a shame to let them bloom there unnoticed.  But the truth is I've never been fond of roses.  They are a bit too stuffy, too predictable, too prickly and possibly the idea of "stealing" my gift just made me a tad uncomfortable. The ranunculus, on the other hand, remind me of the beautiful, younger and wilder sister of the rose. They don't behave properly, get unwieldy, move like Elaine Benes on the dance floor, don't always have the best of manners, but they do have personality. Take note; the ranunculus flower is extremely toxic. They are native to South America and are known to be fatal to cattle and other livestock if they are consumed, which I guess they are when other food options are scarce. So you won't want to be adding any of these pretty petals to your Sunday brunch salad.
Admiring my arrangements

Strauss Dairy half and half bottles

So now, what to do with all the half and half.  I do drink a lot of coffee, but this amount needs to be utilized in another manner.  I need a recipe that will take 3-4 cups instead of my daily few tablespoons. Enter Ina Garten and her shrimp bisque recipe. But before the soup, a bit about my favorite contessa.  I love her, love her life, her house, her little BMW, even her funny little husband Jeffrey who it seems only shows up in time to partake in whatever meal she has prepared and manages to smile and mingle perfectly with her already arrived guests.

I thought she got a bad rap recently with the whole "Make a wish" story.  I've included a link if you'd like to read it - if you have any animosity towards her for what you think her actions might have been, this might warm you back up to her, just like a cup of her steaming hot cocoa.

But back to the bisque. Delicious, creamy, shrimpy bisque. I figured not only do I need to use up my half and half, but it looks like today is more than likely going to be our last rain for the year. A perfect day for a bowl of soup. Hmm Hmm good.

Shrimp Bisque
(by Ina Garten)

1 lb.large shrimp, peeled, deveined, reserve shells
4 cups seafood stock
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed. 

In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.

1 comment:

  1. Love your flower arrangements! They turned out adorable....and how dare anyone bash Ina! She's the Queen of good food, and like you, I adore everything about her~ this recipe looks yummy, let me know how it turned out. All her recipes that I have tried have been great. By the way, still talkiing about how good that coconut cake recipe is. Took my leftovers to work and everyone was raving about it! Thanks for sharing.

    Love you