RECIPE: Shrimp & Linguine in Pesto

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This sounds fancy, but store bought pesto makes it pretty easy. That being said, homemade pesto is pretty easy to make. It also keeps in the fridge for a bit as long as you have olive oil covering the pesto so it doesn't brown. The olive oil acts as a preservative. This makes a quick weeknight meal that's pretty light and yummy.


1 lb. linguine, cooked according to package directions

1 container of store-bought pesto

1 lb. cleaned and deveined shrimp ( I buy the precleaned frozen ones and defrost them in tepid water before cooking.)

3/4 cup water

1 chicken bouillon cube

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Salt & Pepper to taste


Heat oil in a large skillet, and saute crushed garlic until softened and starting to brown. Meanwhile, heat water until boiling in a microwave and dissolve the bouillon cube. When the garlic is ready, saute the shrimp, flipping them when one side is pink and opaque to do the same on the other. As they are cooking, sprinkle parsley, salt & pepper. As the shrimp finish cooking, use tongs to remove them and place on a plate to keep warm. When all the shrimp are removed, raise the heat to high and add the bouillon to deglaze the pan. Use a spoon to loosen and bits and browning and boil the liquid down to about 1/4 of a cup. Add the shrimp and the linguine and toss. Then add about 1/2 –3/4 of the pesto sauce. Toss to coat evenly and serve warm with grated Parmesan.

COOKING: Which beef cuts are good for what cooking method?

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I have felt the need to do this post for a while. I am constantly dismayed when I am at the grocer when talking to the "butcher". I put the word "butcher" in quotes because these guys that are hired by the grocery chains are far from a real butcher. Their lack of knowledge when asking them anything is shocking. I often need a certain cut of beef for a recipe, and they typically do not have it. When I ask for a worthy substitute, 9 times out of 10 they lead me astray. When I cook the substitute meat, it is tough and should not have been cooked the way I was planning on cooking it. I find this very frustrating after all the work I put into a meal.
The next recipe I plan on posting is a slow cooker recipe that I made last week. When I went to our European market to get the beef, they did not have the specific cut I needed. When I asked the butcher (I had higher hopes at this market versus the huge chains that these men knew more) he pointed to sirloin tip and waved at the surrounding cuts of sirloin and said that all that would work in the slow cooker. Now I vaguely remember being told this before and having a disastrous slow cooker meal-so I called my husband (one of his clients for years was The Beef Council) and as I read off the different cuts they had available, he weighed in on each. I am happy to report that the choice of chuck pot roast was perfect and so was the meal! So, I have decided to help all of us "beef challenged" grocery shoppers with a rundown of what cuts work for what kind of cooking-and I have created a printable card you can cut out and keep in your wallet or purse for shopping excursions. This will come in handy when your store will inevitably not have the cut you need and you will need a worthy substitute. Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I have to couch my criticism of butchers. It is not the butchers I am frustrated with. A real butcher, like the fine men at The Paulina Meat Market for instance (a Chicago pantheon of all things meat- is a real treasure and if you have a real, local butcher please support them with your patronage. There are so few left. What we have for the most part are pretend butchers that the large grocery chains employ en masse. If these guys would educate themselves a little better, they would be a great asset to these chains and to their patrons.

As you can see above from the beef chart, the areas that get more activity or "exercise" are tougher cuts and need more time to cook. The areas in the middle like sirloin or filet will be very tender and need little time to cook. Also, it depends on the cut itself. The pieces with bone and sinew need a little more time to get tender with cooking while a chop or a steak doesn't need nearly as much. Rolled roasts or roasts with a layer of fat on the outside make for great roasting or braising. The layer of fat keeps things moist and tender during the slower cooking time. Very "boney" pieces like ribs, shanks, oxtail and cheeks also need a lot of cooking time on account of the bones, sinew and tendons. But these cuts, if cooked properly, can yield some delicious nibbles of meat. Osso bucco, braised then grilled ribs or oxtail soup come to mind.

For more information, go to the consumer side of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association at

RECIPE: 2 recipes from 1, Slow Cooker Provencal Beef Stew with Farro Pilaf, Farro Mushroom Risotto

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In the fall, we were at an Italian restaurant where I tried a Seafood Risotto made with farro. Farro is as whole grain as you can get. It is the whole wheat berry in it's entirety, also called The Pharaoh's Wheat or Emmer Wheat. You can cook it like rice for a risotto, or cook it like a hot cereal, or serve it like a pilaf. Because it is the whole berry, the protein and nutrients stays in tact. It is very healthy and full of fiber. Farro comes from many areas. I was able to find it in them Middle Eastern section of my market. But I have read that there is a wonderful Farro that comes from Italy, grown in the way the Romans grew it. It is said to be more tender and takes less time to cook.

We decided to experiment with it, and we were quite pleased at our results. We decided to actually get two meals out of our efforts. The farro takes a long time to cook, so we cooked the whole bag on a Sunday and used the left overs the next night in a delicious risotto. Most of the work was done on Sunday, so it was quick to use for a Monday night meal. Being an
Urban Domestic Diva is all about efficiency, right!?

Slow Cooker Provencal Beef Stew


3 Tbsp. olive oil

4 oz. salt pork, diced
2 lb. chuck pot roast steak, trimmed and cut up in chunks (see post if you wish to substitute.)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tsp. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 cup fruity red wine
2/3 cup beef broth
Bouquet Garni made from 1/2 cup parsley sprigs, 3 bay leaves, 1 1/2 tsp dry thyme leaves, 8 peppercorns
1 small onion studded with 3 whole cloves
Grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Farro Pilaf (recipe follows)

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the salt pork over medium heat until nicely browned. Use a slotted spoon, transfer the salt pork into the slow cooker. Switch the cooker on high for the time being. Working in batches, brown the beef in the pork fat until nicely browned on all sides. Continue cooking all the beef and transferring the beef into the cooker, adding more oil if needed.

Mix the beef stock and red wine in a cup and pour over the beef in the slow cooker. Add the bouquet garni, nestling it deep in the beef. Meanwhile, in the pan, cook the onions and garlic until tender, then add the carrots, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, cooking gently until they begin to release juices. Pour all the vegetables, scraping the pan as you go, into the slow cooker. Turn the cooker to low, and add the clove studded onion to the slow cooker, nestling that down as well. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 hours on low, stirring every once in a while.

Before serving, take out the clove onion and bouquet garni. Mix in the grated orange and parsley. Serve with the farro pilaf.

Farro Pilaf


1 bag (1 lb.) of whole wheat berries (also called Farro or Emmer Wheat)
3 1/2 cups broth (I mixed beef and chicken evenly, you could do water or vegetable)
2 Tbsp. infused olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter


In a large sauce pan, heat up your liquid and oil until boiling. Add the wheat and stir.

Lower your heat and cover. Cook gently, stirring every once in a while for 2 1/2 hours. Check it every once in a while to add more liquid or if the grain is tender.

For the pilaf, you want it tender but firm. It should have a little bit of chewiness to it, similar to brown rice but a little firmer that that. Depending on where the wheat berries come from, the cooking time may be longer or shorter. So let the stove do the work and check it every 30 minutes to either turn it off or add more liquid.

When done, add butter. Toss and serve with a stew or main entree.

Chicken Porcini Farro Risotto


4 cups precooked farro
1 large chicken breasts, 1/2 inch pieces
1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white truffle oil (optional)
1 oz. dried porcini, rehydrated in 1 1/2 cups hot water
1/4 cup dried sherry
1 cup peas
1/2 -3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Drain porcinis, reserve liquid. Roughly chop porcinis and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil and white truffle oil. Cook garlic and chicken over medium heat until starting to brown (4-5 minutes). Add onion, cook until translucent. Add dry sherry then porcini and cook 1 minute. Add the wheat berries, peas and porcini liquid and heat 2-4 minutes, stirring until liquid is absorbed. Add Parmesan and cook 1-2 minutes more. Serve with extra Parmesan.

RECIPE: Marinated & Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables with Tomato Onion Puree and Whole Wheat Fettuccini

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This is a variation on a Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home Recipe that I made this weekend. I longed for a light, summer meal even if it is February, and this did the trick. I will tell you that I think this recipe would have been spectacular if it were Summer and I had fresh vegetables from the garden and the use of an outdoor grill-so keep this one out for your next picnic. But for a light, healthy pasta dish it really is nice even in winter using the indoor stove top grill. Because I had to use indoor grilling techniques, I kicked up the flavor my marinating the vegetables for an hour at room temp and using more garlic and herbs. Also, I used our infused olive oil instead of plain to add a little more oomph.


3 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup herb infused extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
8 oz. "Baby Bella" mushrooms
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 thick slices
3 large, ripe plum tomatoes, halved
16-20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 oz. whole grain fettuccine, cooked al dente
2 tsp. chopped basil leaves as garnish
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzle


In a bowl, mix the balsamic and seasonings for the marinade. With a whisk, add the olive oil while whisking to emulsify the marinade. Set aside.

Take 1/3 of the marinade and pour it in a Ziploc bag with the zucchini and red onion slices. Keep the onion slices as "discs" as much as you can. In another smaller bag, add another 1/3 of the marinade to the mushrooms and seal. The final third left in the bowl, add the shrimp and toss. Let the vegetables marinate at room temperature and cover the shrimp and marinate in the fridge. Let everything sit for an hour.

Heat up your stove top grill to very hot for 10 minutes. Lower the temp and start grilling your vegetables until charred and tender. The more caramelization, the better.

As vegetables are finished cooking, divide your onions in half. Half go in with the zucchini and mushrooms, the other half get pureed with the tomatoes.

Use the left over marinade to brush on the tomatoes as they cook. Keep flipping them over until they are charred and tender. Grill the shrimp quickly. When they are done, set them aside and keep warm. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to directions and drain. Keep the pasta warm in a big bowl.

While the tomatoes are finishing (about 10 minutes total or so), take the grilled zucchini, mushrooms and half the onions, and roughly chop them and toss them into the pasta.

Take the grilled tomatoes and onions and puree until a very fine sauce. Be sure to puree this VERY well. Let that food processor GO! Then strain the sauce aggressively though a fine wire mesh into a smaller bowl.

Now it is time to assemble. Put your pasta and veggies in the serving dishes. Divide the shrimp among all the dishes and place them on top. Drizzle the tomato puree over the pasta (about 3-4 tbsp. each). To finish, drizzle the olive oil (about a tbsp) over each dish, and sprinkle each with extra chopped basil. And there you go! HELLO SUMMER!

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