Each month I tell y'all where you should spend that hard-earned money if you're into eating from local restaurants. This month I did it again, but with a twist, naturally. But then I also thought: Why not also let you know what we at Houstonia are cooking? Since we're all in our houses like all the time, this is a perfect time to explore your culinary abilities—we've been doing that, and here are the results.

Dirty keto cauliflower rice by Monica Fuentes.

Dirty keto cauliflower rice

Get the recipe here, via Joy-Filled Eats.

Since going keto more than a year ago, my husband and I have curated a jam-packed Pinterest page of low-carb recipes from the interwebs. Most are passable, a few were bombs, and many have entered share-worthy status. This dirty keto cauliflower rice is one we crave, a great one-pan meal that's super satisfying and super easy to make and customize. The list of spices is not too long, and you can add a dash of Tony Chachere's at the end if you still need a kick. And of course, you can make it with regular white or brown rice, but I challenge you to try the cauliflower version. You can serve as a side dish, but we find it the perfect comfort-food-in-a-bowl meal ... and who doesn’t want that these days? —Monica Fuentes, art director

Pickled shrimp, Savannah-style

Get the recipe here, via Garden & Gun.

On Easter, I made pickled shrimp from the cookbook Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, by Toni Tipton-Martin, for the second time. The first time I made them, back in February for a monthly cookbook potluck my friend hosts (or used to host, rather), they were a scene-stealer. This recipe is the bomb, and it’s easy (even if you suck at cooking, I swear). 

Make sure to select real huge, fresh shrimp if you can find them—Key West pinks or brown shrimp from the Gulf; granted, frozen shrimps could work for this in a COVID-times pinch as well (as would making a frozen pizza, topping it with gummy bears, and watching Showgirls instead of cooking at all). There are no rules anymore.   

The recipe calls for fresh tarragon and dill, and pickling spices, so godspeed with that. And because we’re talking pickling—in this case, throwing a bunch of stuff in a jar and shaking it up before refrigerating overnight—you’ll finally have a use for all those mason jars you purchased during the Lowcountry vessel’s hipster boom of the early 2010s, as if you ever planned to make chicken liver pate in kitchenware from a Marshall’s HomeGoods.

The reward? The shrimp come out tart and tangy, and quite dainty for spring or a backyard picnic. I also suggest serving them on a bed of butter lettuce with remoulade (the Jubilee cookbook’s recipe is great, but not online sadly). And, oh yeah, you should also de-turd the shrimp after boiling, cooling and peeling them—what, you actually have something better to do right now? —Gwendolyn Knapp, associate editor

Bing cherry salad

This is an old family recipe—I think it came from my grandmother’s grandmother—and despite its name, this dish is not actually a salad. It’s basically a fancy Jell-O, and it’s the most coveted side at all of my family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Seriously, we never have leftovers, and there’s usually a fight over who ate the last bit of it. It’s sweet and comforting and surprisingly easy to make, so long as you’re okay with waiting overnight for it. —Catherine Wendlandt, digital editor

Ingredients

  • 15-oz can of pitted bing cherries (we use Oregon’s Dark Sweet Cherries)
  • 6 oz raspberry Jell-O
  • 8-oz can crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup carrots, minced
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1.5 cup ice

Instructions

  1. Strain the juice out of the pineapple and cherry cans (makes about one cup of juice), and pour into a pot or bowl. Set the pineapples and cherries aside.
  2. Pour one cup of water into a stove-top pan and heat on high to a boil. Turn off heat, and stir in Jell-O mix until it dissolves. Add ice to cool it down, stir until ice melts (easier to use crushed ice), and place pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pull pan out, and slowly mix in the bing cherries, crushed pineapple, carrots, and pecans. Transfer to a serving dish, cover, and place back in the fridge to gelatinize. For best results, let it chill overnight.

Mid-Atlantic comfort: Maryland crab soup.

Maryland crab soup 

Like so many people these days, I’ve been turning to comfort food to keep me going, and as a born and bred Baltimore gal, nothing is as comforting as a piping hot bowl of Maryland Crab Soup (the red one, not that weird cream one). To be honest, crab soup is also our food of choice for celebrations, periods of mourning, Orioles games, and weekends down at the beachwhat can I say, this Old Bay-spiced soup runs in our veins. Every family with Maryland roots has its own take on this classic recipe; here’s mine. —Emma Schkloven, associate editor

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 T oil (of your choice)
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 3-4 cleaned gumbo blue crabs
  • 3-4 T Old Bay Seasoning (or seasoned celery salt), to taste
  • 2 lbs frozen mixed vegetables (traditional recipe calls for corn, carrots and lima beans)
  • 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 32 oz beef stock (Bone Broth, or other Beef Stock) plus more for consistency
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 tsp black pepper 
  • 4 whole dried bay leaves
  • 1 lbs canned, precooked blue crabmeat

Instructions

  1. Finely dice the onion and place into small pan with oil. Sweat onion until soft (about 4 minutes) and put contents in soup pot.
  2. Dice celery into small cubes and add to soup pot.
  3. Add cleaned gumbo blue crabs, mixed vegetables, and cans of diced tomatoes to pot with beef Stock. Stir.
  4. Add Old Bay Seasoning, tomato paste, and black pepper to pot. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Cook on low heat; the longer the soup cooks, the richer and deeper the flavor. When using a Crockpot, set on low and cook for at least 5-6 hours, adding stock or water as necessary to keep a soup-like constituency (as opposed to a stew). If it gets too thick, add stock or water for soup consistency. For an Insta-pot, use the soup setting at least 4 hours, leave sealed until pressure allows for opening. 
  6. Add 2-3 T crabmeat to each potion when serving (do not freeze soup with crab meat inside or the meat will get chewy). Serve hot. 

Additional note: On the Eastern Shore of Maryland (that’s the part between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean), the recipes usually include a ham bone added at the same time as the gumbo blue crabs.

Orecchiette with broccoli and sausage

Historically, I have never been much of a cook—I tend to leave the culinary tasks to my fiancé because he’s a pro while I could barely boil water when we met. But since he is stuck overseas (he’s Italian and was traveling when this started) I have found myself in the kitchen and actually enjoying cooking as a welcome distraction from the crazy coronavirus world we’re living in. And so far, the best dish I have discovered is orecchiette with broccoli and sausage. While it may not sound enticing, trust me, this is the most amazing comfort food, Italian-style.

And it’s pretty easy to make. —Dianna Wray, editor in chief

Ingredients

  • 1-2 lbs of broccoli crowns (this varies based on your love of broccoli)
  • 1 lbs of Italian sausage
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (this varies based on your love and tolerance of garlic)
  • Rosemary, to taste
  • Thyme, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 box of orecchiette

Instructions 

  1. So you take the broccoli crowns and chop them up into edible bites, then pop the broccoli into a large pot of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes.
  2. While the broccoli is cooking put the sausage into a skillet, add in chopped-up garlic, rosemary, thyme, and crushed red pepper, and brown the meat. Once the broccoli is done scoop it out of the boiling water and add to the pan of sausage to simmer.
  3. Put the orecchiette (fun fact, the name translates to little ears in Italian because, you guessed it, the pasta are shaped like tiny ears) into the boiling broccoli water. Cook for 9-11 minutes, depending on your preferences for pasta firmness. Strain the cooked pasta and then add it to the mixture of broccoli and sausage in the skillet.
  4. Top this dish off first by adding a little more crushed red pepper (that's if you want more spice). Then finish it by grating pecorino or pecorino Calabrese over it before serving. I am so obsessed with this stuff that when the store was out of orecchiette, I ordered reinforcements online. I now have 10 boxes of the stuff, and no regrets.

This oxtail ragout is a meal in itself, but a little pork never hurt.

Roasted pork shoulder with oxtail ragout

Get the recipe for oxtail ragout here, via Food52.

I love slow roasts for big holidays like Easter, so this year, with plenty of time over the weekend to prepare and cook, I scored myself a 5-pound, bone-in pork shoulder. As always with pork shoulder, you can simply roast it naked with a salt rub and fresh herbs, but I went for an Italian-style milk braise with a good lemony punch. Why? For one, I wanted some of that richness to get into the pork, plus, heck, with two small children we had leftover milk and I wanted sauce for another cook. Anyway, this shoulder cooked for about three hours at 250 F, then 300 F for another 30 minutes to finish.

The real star, though, is the ragout. It's a multi-step process that'll keep you in the kitchen for a few hours, but hey, you'll have copious red wine. (I found that holding back to a half-bottle of wine lets the oxtails really shine.) The recipe calls for so much that I had about three containers leftover, and that means one less thing to worry about when you make all those pasta dishes during quarantine. —Timothy Malcolm, dining editor

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