Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: shellfish (page 2 of 3)


I grew some parsley on a planter over the summer along with some other herbs. I figured that, by now, the herbs, and mainly the parsley, would be gone since we’re heading into Fall. To my surprise, the parsley is still going strong. Which meant I would have to use it real soon or I would lose it to the incoming cold. That’s when I decided to create the following dish, since I like scallops  and had some on hand.  And the result is this gem of  recipe—to which I include some toasted sesame seeds for added flavor. Note that the dish calls for the sesame seeds to be lightly toasted. Simply, in a small saucepan or skillet, add the sesame seeds (no added oil is needed). Cook lightly, stirring over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until they attain  a slight golden color (do not burn).

I combined the dish with linguine; but it can go with any string pasta, be linguine, spaghetti, angel hair, bucatini, you get the idea.  And it’s a dish that you can cook in 15 minutes—I timed the thing to make sure. So you can set it up by boiling the pasta at the same time you prepare the scallops.



8 tablespoons butter (¼ pound)
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
20-25  sea scallops (cut in half if too large)
3 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame seeds


  1. Bring 2 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat whisk in the butter a little at a time until the mixture becomes saucy.
  2.  Add the parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat while cooking the scallops.
  3.  Preheat a large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the scallops, but do not crowd. Cook without stirring until they brown lightly on one side, about two minutes. Turn and brown on the other side.
  4.  Serve the scallops drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
    Yield: 4 servings


It’s still a scorcher out there, and the summer ain’t over yet.  So how about preparing the “King of Salads,” Crab Louis (also known as Crab Louie). It features crabmeat and the recipe itself, culinary historians state, dates back to the early 1900s. No one knows the exact date of its creation, but it was being served in prominent San Francisco restaurants by 1908. The version we feature is Crab Louis with avocado an an addition. The recipe itself is from a cookbook, The Book of Salads (HP Books) which was published in 1989. The book was a gift from a fellow martial artists who knew of my interest in cooking and dining. The only change I made in the recipe is that I added tomato wedges for more variety and color.



Seafood Sauce (see below)
8 oz. plain white crabmeat, flaked (equal to two 4 oz. cans)
2 medium avocados
Juice of ½  Lemon
Fresh chervil sprigs
1 medium tomato, cut in wedges

Seafood Sauce:
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup half and half
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Dash of dry sherry
Pinch of red cayenne pepper


1, To prepare seafood sauce: place all sauce ingredients in a bowl and blend well (or do it in a blender).
2.  Fold crabmeat into sauce. Pit, peel and slice avocados, then sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.
3.  Place crabmeat in center of a serving platter, and arrange avocado slices and tomato wedges around it. Garnish with chervil sprigs and serve with crusty bread. If desired, you can also arrange the avocado/tomato on 4 individual plates, garnish with chervil, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.

CAMARONES CON AJO (Shrimps with Garlic)

Back on 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, this was a most popular dish. If you like shrimps and garlic (which Nuyoricans love), this was a favorite. Imagine my amazement, years later, when I discovered that the self-same dish was a traditional tapas plate popular in Spain. There, they call it “Gambas al Ajillo.” Why they call it “gambas,” I have no idea. I do know that it’s a tapas favorite where they include some good bread to soak up the delicious sauce in the dish. In Spanish Harlem, we serve it over rice.

What you have is a traditional garlic shrimp dish which has transcended cultures. In Nuyorican cooking, we also serve this entrée as a sandwich. You put the garlic infused shrimp on a roll or two slices of your favorite bread, and you’re set to go.  I have never seen this done in Spain. Again, it’s a Nuyorican thing. The same way American cooking has transformed Chinese cuisine with such dishes as egg foo young and chop suey, which never existed in China; or Italian coking with pasta primavera, another American invention. Thus, Puerto Ricans a took a tapas dish and put their own mark on it.

(Shrimp with Garlic)

1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined
1 chili pepper, split with seed removed, and chopped
1 teaspoon brandy
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  1. heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2.  Add garlic and saute until brown, about 2 minutes.
  3.  Add shrimp and chili pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook another 2 minutes. Pour in the brandy and cook an additional  2 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.                                                                                 Yield:  4 servings.

ESCALOPES CON AJO (Scallops with Garlic)


This is one of those recipes where the wording and translation is a bummer. In our family, we loved scallops, and our favored way of cooking them was simply sautéed with garlic. We called it Escalopes con Ajo. It makes sense, “scallops,” escalopes. Then I discovered that escalopes could be a Spanglish translation. Spanglish was, and is, the argot that Puerto Ricans invented when they came to the mainland back in the 1950s.  To navigate the strange waters in New York, they added Spanish idioms to everyday words. Thus a mop became el mapo, the back yard became la yarda, the grocery bag became el chopping bag, and (I love this one), later on to “rap” (as in rap music or rap dialogue) became to rapiar. It seems the same thing happened to “scallops.” In traditional Spanish, scallops are translated as vieiras. To us Nuyoricans, that word would have seem strange. In confuse the situation even more, there is a popular  scallop stew called callos de hacha. I have no idea  how that came about.

Whatever. The recipe stands on its own for its taste and simplicity in preparation. Now, we get to the scallops thing.  The most common types of scallops are sea scallops and bay scallops. Sea scallops are the ones you most often see on restaurant menus. They are traditionally cooked seared or thinly sliced. Bay scallops are smaller and sweeter. In the recipe given, both types can be used, though bay scallops are preferred. If you can find bay scallops from New England or the Carolinas, then you have it made. Still, given this recipe, whatever type you use, you’ll love the results. As long as you don’t overcook the scallops (they’re done when their usual ivory color turns opaque),  and the garlic will infuse a terrific flavor enhancement

As an accompaniment to this recipe, I’ve included potatoes with rosemary. You can use regular potatoes or red potatoes, your choice. It marries well with the scallop dish. You can cook both dishes at the same time. The game plan is thus: cut the potatoes (don’t peel), place in water and cook. Chop garlic and parsley. Finish off potatoes and quickly cook scallops.  Serve and enjoy.

(Scallops with garlic)


3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pound scallops
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
2. Add scallops and stir-fry until they became opaque. Depending on size, this will take 5-7 minutes.
3. Add bread crumbs and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
4. Add parsley and cook 20 seconds. Remove from heat and serve immediately.



1 1/2 pounds potatoes, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


1. Place potatoes in a pot of water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes, depending on size of chunks.
2. Remove from heat, drain. Add olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, and toss gently.
Yield: 4 servings.







Two edibles I love are shrimp and grits. Normally we have them as separate dishes: shrimp for lunch or dinner, and grits for breakfast. What if we combined the too? In that vein, I’m told shrimp and grits is a popular dish down south. So I decided to give it a try. Below are two dishes for shrimp and grits. One is basic creamed grits with shrimp; the other is shrimp and grits with spinach. Try ‘em both. See which one works best. With either one, you won’t be disappointed.



1 ¼ cups milk

½ cup instant white grits

½ cup light cream

4 tablespoons butter (about ½ stick)

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup larger beer (do not use dark beer or ale)

Juice of I lemon

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh chopped tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)

  1. Bring milk and grits to a boil in a heavy saucepan, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in light cream and 2 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 onion, finely sliced; and sauté until golden. Add shrimp and cook for 1 minute. Add beer, lemon juice, and garlic. Simmer until shrimp is just opaque in center and sauce is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato, tarragon, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
  3. You can serve by either placing grits in one large platter topped with shrimp and sauce. Or you can divide grits among 4 plates, each topped with the shrimp.

Yield: 4 servings.






2 cups water

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup instant white grits

1 5.2-oz round of Boursin cheese

½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 cups spinach, washed and rinsed

1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 cup grape tomatoes, washed and halved

Parmesan cheese

  1. Bring water and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Stir in grits, return to a boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in Boursin and cheddar cheeses, salt and pepper. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in spinach and oregano, and cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Garnish with tomatoes, and top with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 4 servings.



Calamares Frito – Fried Squid

In Puerto Rican cuisine the main dish involving squid is arroz con calamares or rice with squid. Or, as we call it in our family, “black rice.” The reason for that is that the ink from the squid gives a dark color to the rice. This was my father’s favorite dish. It combined two things he loved: seafood and rice. We also have calamares frito or fried squid.

Fried squid is popular in Mediterranean cooking. Both Greek and Italian cuisine have a version of it. Ours is not that much different: the squid, both tentacles and body, is cut into small pieces or ringlets, dredged in seasoned flour or bread crumbs, and deep fried. The seasoning varies. We add oregano and parsley to ours, other recipes may use cilantro or thyme. It’s all a matter of taste.

This is one of the easiest dish to prepare—that is, if you buy already cleaned squid, which can be found these days in almost any supermarket or food shop. If you do have access to already cleaned squid, then purchase a whole squid from your fishmonger (note that one pound whole squid yields about 1/2 pound of cleaned calamari). Rinse the squid, tentacles and all, under cold running water. Cut the tentacles, which are near the eyes, and remove from the head. Reserve the tentacles since they are considered the choicest morsel. Remove and discard the mouth which is located in the center of the tentacles. Next, rub off the purplish outer skin of the body under cold running water with your hands. Hold the closed end of the body (also called the mantle) in one hand and with the other squeeze out the innards, pushing out the viscera, head and translucent backbone. Turn body inside out. Discard viscera, head and bone. Wash the inside of the body thoroughly. Lay the body on a flat surface and slice down the center from the bottom. Spread open and cut into bite-sized pieces or strips. Cut tentacles into rounds. That’s it. Another way of removing the viscera from the squid is to feel inside the body with one hand and simply pull out the innards, rather than using the toothpaste method of squeezing forward. Whichever way you do it, after washing and cutting the squid is set for cooking.

       (Fried Squid)

1 1/2 pounds cleaned squid with tentacles, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
Salt an freshly ground back pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Vegetable oil for frying

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oregano, salt, pepper, and parsley.
2. Toss squid in floor mixture to coat, shaking off excess flour.
3. Pour oil in a heavy bottomed pan or skillet to about the depth of 3 inches. Heat over medium heat. Working in batches, add squid and fry until golden brown and crisp, about 1-2 minutes.
4.With tongs or slotted spoon, transfer calamares to a plate lined with paper towels
    Yield: 4 servings.

Shrimp with Black Beans

I was recently given a jar of fermented black beans as a gift. The first thing I asked is, How do I use this thing?  Then I discovered it is very common in Chinese cuisine, and it’s an item found  in Asian stores.  I also learned that, in cooking, it should be used rather sparingly. Its not like opening a can of beans and adding it to your stew. A little bit goes a long way. The recipe I tried it with is stir-fried shrimp.

The dish is easy to cook and calls for the usual ingredients found in Cantonese dishes: soy sauce, sesame oil, bok choi (or other cabbage, if desired), ginger, and scallions. I decided to give it a sweet and sour affect by adding honey to the mix. The result is given below. Served over steamed rice, or, if you like, lo mein noodles, it’s delicious.


2 tablespoons fermented black beans
2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry
2 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound bok choi, trimmed, washed and dried (can use regular cabbage)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 cup minced scallions

1. Soak black beans in wine or sherry. In a large bowl, marinate shrimp in 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sliced garlic, salt and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Separate bok choi leaves from stems. Chop stems into 1-inch pieces, and chop leaves roughly.
3. Preheat a wok, large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Raise heat to high, and when it begins to smoke, add minced garlic and immediately add shrimp with its marinade. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon shrimp out of wok into a plate and set aside.
4. Add remaining tablespoon peanut oil to wok and, when it smokes, add ginger and bok choi. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes.
5. Add shrimp to wok. Stir in black beans and their liquid, scallions, and remaining honey and soy sauce. Cook for 1 minutes. Turn off heat, drizzle remaining sesame oil on top, and serve.  
    Yield: 4 servings.

Mussels Cooked with Beer

Mussels are very easy to cook. Most everyone knows that. You wash the mussels, scrub them well, pop them in a pan, add a little white wine or sherry, and cook until they open. I’ve cooked mussels in almost every sauce combination imaginable: from a soy sauce blend to mustard based, and everything in-between. Then I came across beer as a steaming agent. And I’ve discovered that when I use beer, the heartier the beverage, the better the result. Forget using a nondescript mass produced American beer. They generally suck, especially those “light beer” that are flavorless. Go for a dark beer or hearty type ale. Thank goodness we have in a this country a resurgence of regional and local breweries that have put our beer back on the map. If it wasn’t for that, American beer wouldn’t be worth drinking.

For this recipe I would recommend a good IPA, brown ale, or even better, stout. I cooked the mussels using an Otter Creek Copper Ale. This gem hails from Vermont and is a good example of native brewing. I also serve the dish with hot, crusty grilled bread.


2 1/2 pounds mussels
4 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 bay leaves
2 cups beer or ale
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

1. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Add shallots and garlic and cook until soft and transparent (about 3 minutes, but don’t let garlic get brown).
3. Add bay leaves and beer or ale. Bring liquid to a boil, add mussels, cover, and steam until the shells open (5-8 minutes). Discard any shells that do not open.
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove mussels to a large bowl or platter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parsley over mussels.
5. Remove bay leaves from liquid in pot. Add basil and return liquid to a low heat. Stir in cream and remaining parsley. Cook until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Stir in additional 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour sauce over mussels and serve with hot bread.
   Yield: 4 servings. 


Shrimp with Thyme-Flavored Cream Sauce

Something to start the coming year, a devilishly scrumptious entrée. It harks back to  haute cuisine. So, if you’re one of those skinny model types or a compulsive dieter, this ain’t for—-unless you crave something sinfully delicious. And, let’s be honest about it, we all need to indulge once in a while. What’s that famous line from the play Auntie Mame? “Life is a banquet and most suckers are starving to death.” So let’s break out the flour, milk, butter and wine. Add to it fresh raw shrimp, and all ladled over wholewheat linguini (my one crumb to the health conscious). And that’s it, let’s party! Oh, yes, for the wine I would suggest a good, classic white like a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc—-or champagne! Make it that special dinner. What a better way to start the new year?  


5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped shallots (can use onion, if desired)
1 pound saw shrimp, shelled and deveigned
1/2 cup dry, white wine
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)

1. 1 pound wholewheat linguini In a sauce pan or skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add shallots, shrimp and wine, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. In a separate saucepan, melt the remaining butter, add the flour and stir with a wire whisk until blended.
3. Heat the milk to a boil and add it to the  butter-flour mixture, stirring vigorously with the whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package directions (some prefer it al dente. I prefer it tender—you’re choice).
5. Add the sauce and the thyme to the shrimp mixture and cook slowly 5 minutes longer. Pour over the pasta, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Scallops with Parsnips and Honey-Sage Sauce

Winter is coming. And one of my favorite winter veggies is parsnips. Parsnips comes from that line known as root vegetables, i.e turnips, rutabaga, beets, radishes, etc. For some reason or another, in my group, no one likes parsnips (or turnips, for that matter). And I can’t understand why. Properly prepared, they can be heavenly. As in the dish given bellow. I happen to be a fan of scallops, be it sea scallops or bay scallops. And this dish combines scallops with parsnips (puréed), in what is called a honey-sage sauce, or in French, a honey sage jus. I know, the thing sounds highfalutin, but it ain’t.

One last note: this dish goes great with chenin blanc, one of my favorite wines. It combines a hint of sweetness that matches well with this entrée. What I like about chenin blanc is that you can smell the flavor of the grapes; it’s like a whisper of tropical fruit that makes a wonderful pairing. So, wanna impress your dinner companions? Lie, and tell them you slaved over a hot stove whipping up this classic, and serve with the wine. Make it sound impressive: jus (like jooze—puckering up your lips like some maītre’d at some fancy restaurant).


1 pound parsnips
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 to 16 scallops, about 1 1/4 pounds, tough tendon removed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
12 sage leaves, washed and julienned (cut into thin strips)

1. Wash parsnips under cold running water, place in a pan with water to cover and boil until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, peel, cut into chunks, and purée in a  blender or food processor.
2. Place in a small dish or saucepan, season with salt and pepper. Stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil. Cover and keep warm.
3. Rinse scallops under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add scallops and sear on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn over (they should be golden-brown), and lower heat.
4. Add butter to pan in bits. Raise heat to medium-low. Stir in shallots and cook, basting scallops with pan juices until shallots soften and scallops are just cooked (1-2 minutes more). Transfer scallops to a warm serving platter.
5. Add honey and vinegar to skillet. Whisk to deglaze the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon a mound of parsnips purée into the center of serving platter. Place scallops around it, spoon pan sauce over scallops, and scatter sage on top. Serve to the admiring glances of all your dinner mates.
   Yield: 4 servings.

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