Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It

Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) showed up on Tuesday evening for dinner. Actually Frank, not the devil, came down for dinner and requested that I make Mussels Fra Diavolo. Easy I thought, and it was with a recipe I found on-line from Lydia Bastianich. I added the mussels to this Shrimp Fra Diavolo recipe for a traditional spicy red sauce. IMHO it was great, with just the right amount of heat.  The heat factor can be increased or decreased by adding more or less red pepper flakes. I followed the recipe and found it to be perfect for my taste (I don't care for very spicy food, wimp that I can be). Frank declared this to be a "thumbs- up" preparation. We served it with 1/2 pound linguine for the two of us and had leftovers. The recipe serves 6 but can easily be adjusted. Any changes that I made to the original recipe are in red italics. So here it is...

Shrimp in a Fra Diavolo sauce
Lidia Bastianich
This dish is excellent served as a main course or as a dressing for pasta. We used 1/2 pound linguine (not included in recipe)
         6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
         6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
         2 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp (about 30) peeled and deveined (I used about 12 jumbo shrimp and 18 fresh mussels for two servings).
         One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), cored and coarsely crushed (I used about 2/3 of a 28 oz can of Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes.
         8 fresh basil leaves, torn into quarters
         2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
         1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)
Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cook, shaking the pan, until golden. This takes about one minute. Add as many shrimp as fit in a single layer with some space between each. If you crowd the shrimp, they will steam in their own juices rather than get crunchy with a lightly browned exterior. Cook, tuning once, until lightly golden, about three minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate, leaving as much garlic as possible in the pan.
Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the tomatoes into the skillet, season with salt and crushed red pepper, and bring to a vigorous boil. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer and cook until it is lightly thickened. After about 5 minutes, add the mussels to the sauce. Simmer another 5 to 10 minutes.  The mussels are done with they open. 
Stir in the cooked shrimp, basil and parsley and cook until the shrimp are heated through. This takes just a few seconds. Do not overcook the shrimp.

Add cooked pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve and enjoy. 

Serving Size
Serves six

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Family Gathering

Dateline: Maggie Valley, NC:

The Simpson/Smith clan and the Leinar family gathered again in Maggie Valley, NC for the 4th of July followed by my brother's birthday celebration on the 5th. My Brother (Chuck) and his friend (Peggy) spend their summers in Maggie Valley so we all spend some time with them for his birthday. This year Frank and I flew up from Tampa to Greenville/Spartanburg and drove to Maggie Valley late on the 4th. While we missed the Maggie fireworks, we saw a number of local community fireworks from the highway. 

For the birthday "boy" (many years older than me, but definitely with more hair) 19 of us went to Sagebrush Steakhouse in Waynesville, to feast and imbibe in celebration. I will NOT go down the list of each participants entrees but let me say my rare Prime Rib was very good and everyone left full and satisfied. On Friday we visited another family favorite, Grandma's Chicken Palace which specializes in Southern Fried Chicken, (duh)! Since we ate the chicken last year, Frank and I decided to try the fried catfish. It was very good and not heavily breaded. Again everyone left full and happy. (even though Granny doesn't serve alcohol).

Frank and I spent Friday driving through the Pisgah National Forest to reach Brevard NC near the South Carolina border. The drive was a typically curvy mountain road, but a lovely drive. I spent a number of summer vacations at Brevard College attending what was then billed as "Florida Distance Runners Camp". (Now called Brevard Running Camp - happy someone is carrying on the tradition). We ran through trails in the National Forest and at least once during the week we were bused before dawn to the Blue Ridge Parkway to watch the sunrise through the fog cover in the valley below. It was fun to revisit after at least 20 years.

On Saturday, we drove to Black Mountain to visit an ex-coworker of Frank's. Pat and her husband Bill just moved to Black Mountain from Tampa and are building a house there. We enjoyed the visit and the lunch in town. 

Sunday Frank had to leave for a week in Eastern North Carolina for work, and I flew home on Monday. As always we had a good time visiting with the family, as crazy as always.

That's all I'm saying.

The Birthday Boy and Peggy - what a lovely couple

The Entire Gang

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Carmel Cafe

You are so right, Bob, I did not blog about Carmel Cafe previously so I am going to fix that omission since the restaurant is definitely worth a post. Carmel Cafe has 4 locations (South Tampa, Carrollwood, Clearwater, and Sarasota) and offers a broad selection of "Modern Mediterranean Cuisine" as small plates (tapas style) or full dinners. They also have a large by-the-glass wine selection. Frank and I joined another friend, Roger, on his first visit to Carmel. To the best of my recollection we shared Fried Calamari, Seared Scallops, and some other nice dishes that have escaped my memory. Everything was tasty and well prepared. Give it a try if you are near any of their locations. We dined at the Clearwater location with it's casual, but classy contemporary decor, the corporate standard. 

The restaurant uses Apple iPads to present the menu and allows each customer to place their order for food and wine from the iPad that was provided when seated. Very neat and it worked great. When you need a refill, place another order or settle the bill, it is all done on the iPad. Whether you are techie challenged or not, they have hard copy menus and a very competent serving staff.

I would expect this small local chain to grow since one of the co-founders is Chris Sullivan, of Outback Group fame.

Carmel Café and Wine Bar
2548 McMullen Booth Road
Clearwater, FL, 33761