Sear Me a Scallop!

Simple, succulent and so easy, seared scallops were our meal of choice this year for Christmas Eve dinner. Total prep time? Less than 10 minutes!

Here's how:

Ingredients
1 lb. "dry" day boat scallops (about 12)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
Fleur de sel (or any good quality salt) and freshly ground pepper

Process
1. Rinse and dry the scallops. Season well with salt and pepper.
2. Add butter and oil to a good-quality, large non-stick sauté pan.
2. Over high heat, bring to smoking.
3. Place scallops carefully in pan, being sure not to let them touch each other.
4. Let sear for 2-3 minutes. Don't move until they come away from the pan without sticking.

5. Turn and sear on second side for 2-3 minutes.
6. Scallops are done when they are well-browned and don't stick to pan.

Slip out of the pan and onto a plate. Serve with green beans, fresh fettucine, a wedge of lemon, and a crisp salad.


Tips: Prepare the green beans well in advance and keep warm. Prepare the fettucine just before the scallops, butter them well and keep warm in a casserole.  When the scallops are ready, the rest of your dinner will be as well!

Merry Christmas!

Mmmmmmeatballs.

Cool, crisp air both day and night now. And so, it's time to make a big batch of spicy meatballs for tonight ... and some to freeze for later. This is a quick and easy recipe, adapted from my mom's (which was adapted from her mom's) ... a third-generation Italian winner. Add your own sauce, pasta, and a salad, and enjoy. (Reserve a few without sauce, to enjoy on a butter garlic roll, drizzled with olive oil and melted mozzarella, for a delicious al fresco lunch.)

Grandma's Meatballs


Ingredients
3 lbs. ground beef
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c. whole milk (more if needed)
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmigianno Reggiano
2-3 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Process
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep two cookie sheets by brushing lightly with olive oil.
2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands to incorporate everything together.
3. Form meatballs, 2"-3" in diameter
4. Place on cookie sheets.
5. Bake @ 400 for 20 minutes, or until centers are cooked through and not pink.
6. Add to pot of Italian sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.



Hurricane cooking.

We're hunkered down, waiting for Hurricane Irene to arrive. Our cupboards are fully stocked in the event we lose power (which we probably will). It's a no-cooking event -- canned tuna, a big jug of tea, lots of water, chips, salsa, peanut butter, cheeses, mustards, olive oil, sweet basil, Balsamic vinegar, and freshly-baked breads. 

Post-hurricane treat: Fresh veggies -- zucchini, broccoli, onions, tomatoes and artichokes -- to grill outdoors after the storm has passed.

For our East Coast friends: what are you planning to eat and serve while the storm swirls around you?

Roasted Tomato, Eggplant & Mozzarella Napoleon

More farmer's market fare. Tonight, we roasted slices of red ripe tomatoes with olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 20 minutes.
When slighly cooled, we layered them in a casserole dish with the breaded eggplant we made yesterday and slices of creamy mozzarella.
Tucked in a little fresh basil here and there, sprinkled with grated parmigiano cheese, and baked @ 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until bubbly and browned.  A perfect summertime meal ... again, meatless, juicy, oozy and delicious ... and nearly effortless!



A Visit to the Farmer's Market, Eggplant Three Ways, Buccatini a la Caprése


A visit to the local Farmer's Market this weekend brought unexpected surprises, including exceptionally perfect tomatoes and a honey-sweet yellow watermelon, also known as a Yellow Crimson.

I prepared the eggplant three ways -- grilled for sandwiches, breaded and baked for eggplant parmigiano, and sautéed as a topping with bucatelli pasta.  Grilling was easiest -- just brushed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled on a medium-hot grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.  We'll have it one day this week for a lunch panini, with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella on ciabatta bread.
Next, I dipped 1/4" slices of eggplant in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs (all seasoned with salt and pepper, and the breadcrumbs with freshly chopped parsley), put them on an oiled sheet pan and roasted for 20 minutes @ 400 degrees. They came out crispy and virtually fat-free. I'll use them for tomorrow night's dinner of eggplant parmigiano, adding my own tomato sauce and slices of creamy mozzarella.
Finally, for tonight's dinner, I chopped the eggplant into 1" cubes, dusted with seasoned flour and sautéed with 2 tbsp. olive oil and 2 tbsp. butter until crispy and browned. A friend had given us a wonderful caprése, which we used to top the buccatini, added fresh basil and parsley, and drizzled with a little more extra virgin olive oil. One of the best meatless dinners we've had, and literally 20 minutes from 'fridge to table.
Bottom line: If you can get to a local farmer's market, and have a few minutes to prepare what you purchase, you can create three or four innovative and delicious meals in short order, and eat healthful lunches and dinners for a few days. Especially nice in the hot summertime, when you don't want to cook from scratch every day.

Fun 4th Cake

Confiture de Fraises (Strawberry Jam)

Bonjour, mes amis!

What do you do with those strawberries that are still in the 'fridge but no one is eating? Make strawberry jam! It's really fast and easy, requiring only 4 ingredients -- fresh strawberries, sugar, gelatin and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

This is a perfect topping for ice cream (shown above), cake, fresh fruit, or your morning croissant or brioche.

Ingredients
1 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 envelope powdered gelatin
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Process
1. Mix ingredients in a non-stick saucepan. Turn heat on medium to  medium-low.
2. Let simmer for 1/2 hour, stirring frequently and adjusting heat if needed.
3. When it is the desired consistency, pour into non-reactive (glass) bowl and allow to cool.
4. Refrigerate. 


Post-script: We have tried this both warm, immediately after preparation, on ice cream, and cold, the next day, on croissants. It is much better warm! Discard after two days. 

Grilled Peaches 'n' Pound Cake

With props to Bobby Flay and Ben and Jerry's Peach Cobbler ice cream, this dessert is a no-bake winner that takes only a few minutes to prepare and assemble. For those of you who don't have a grill, a grill pan works just as well. Serves 4.

Ingredients
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Canola oil for brushing on to pound cake
4 thick slices of loaf pound cake (store bought or home made,  your choice)
1 pint Ben and Jerry's Peach Cobbler ice cream
2 peaches, pitted and quartered
Slivered almonds (optional)

Process
1. Start grill; set to medium. (Or, if you are using a grill pan on the stove top, brush lightly with canola oil and set to medium-hot.)
2. Pit and quarter peaches.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon. Mix to combine. Set aside.
3. Cut four thick (about 3/4" each) slices of pound cake.
4. Brush each slice of pound cake lightly with canola oil and place on grill/grill pan until grill marks appear, 30 seconds - 1 minute. Turn, and repeat on opposite side.

5. Remove from grill. Sprinkle with sugar and ground cinnamon to taste. Set aside.
6. Grill peaches (without their juices) in same manner,  about 2  minutes on each side, turning to create cross-hatch grill marks.  Watch closely so as not to burn. Remove and set aside.

7. On serving plate, build the dessert:  one piece of pound cake, two or three quarters of grilled peaches, and a generous scoop of ice cream. Top with slivered almonds if desired.

Healthy Dad

Baked Haddock with Panko, Sautéed Broccoli Rape
Here's a heart-healthy meal for Dad (and Mom, too!) ... oven-baked haddock with crispy Panko topping. It's a favorite in our house, easy to prepare and loaded with savory goodness.

Baked Haddock
Ingredients 
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. dry white wine (like Pinto Grigio)
Salt and pepper to taste
Good quality medium to hot paprika
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 haddock filets (about 1/2 lb. for each person)

Process
1. Wash haddock filets in cold water, drain and dry with paper towel; set aside.
2. Using one tbsp of the butter, coat the bottom and sides of a 9" x 12" x 2" oven-proof casserole.
3. Place filets in prepared casserole, dust with salt, papper and paprika to taste.
4. Using remaining butter, cut into small pieces and dot atop filets.
5. Sprinkle filets with Panko breadcrumbs.
6. Add wine around filets on bottom of casserole (do not put wine on top of filets).
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then place under broiler (set to "Low") for 3-4 minutes until crust is browned and crispy.

Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with broccoli rape (recipe below), rice, warm noodles or boiled potatoes.




Sautéed Broccoli Rape

Ingredients
2 lbs. fresh broccoli rape
3 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Squeeze of fresh lemon

Process
1. Trim 2" off stems of broccoli rape. Wash thoroughly. 
2. In two batches, blanch for 2-3 minutes per batch, then immerse in a cold water bath for 2-3 minutes to stop cooking and retain color. Drain well in colander.
3. In heated non-stick frying pan, lightly sauté garlic in 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil for about two minutes, or until translucent (do not brown).
4. Add blanched broccoli rape, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2-4 minutes. 
5. Splash a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, mix to combine, and serve.

Lemon Chive Couscous, Courtesy of Bon Appétit Magazine

This is a delightful side or main dish for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.  Featured in the May issue of Bon Appétit Magazine http://www.bonappetit.com/, we've made this recipe twice, and it's a keeper. Healthy (low in fat, high in fiber) and brimming with fresh springtime flavors, it is easy to prepare and takes only a 1/2 hour from start to finish.

We love that it uses turmeric (in clinical trials for curtailing the effects of arthritis, Alzheimer's, cancer and other disorders), fresh herbs and includes nuts for protein. Use it as a salad to accompany chops or fish, or as a lunch entrée, alone, or with with soup or sandwich. A perfect salad for a summer picnic, because it needs no refrigeration.

Ingredients
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 c. minced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups vegetable stock
1-1/4 cups whole wheat or plain couscous
(Tip - buy the big container to use for multiple recipes)
http://www.hormelfoods.com/brands/worldFood/marrakeshExpress.aspx
2 c. frozen petit peas, thawed
1/2 c. minced chopped chives
Zest and juice of one lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 c. sliced almonds, toasted (for garnish)





Process
Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add turmeric, onion, and garlic; sauté, stirring often, until onion is tender and golden, about five minutes. Stir in stock; bring to a boil. Add couscous and bring to a boil. Add couscous and stir to blend. Remove saucepan from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Stir in peas, chives, and lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer couscous to a serving bowl, garnish with almonds and lemon wedge, and serve.


Calories per serving, 197. Fat 6 g. Fiber 6 g,

Shrimp Scampi

Easy, fast, deep garlic and butter flavor ... this one is a real winner, especially for shrimp lovers.  The secret is to use shrimp that are already cooked. This keeps them tender, and there are no worries if one of your guests has allergies to raw seafood. This recipe generously serves 2.

Ingredients
Kosher salt, or Fleur de Sel, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb. shrimp
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
Basmati rice
Lemon wedges

Process 
1. Prepare rice. (The shrimp takes about seven minutes from start to finish, so time your rice to be ready at or just before shrimp is ready to serve.)
2. Cut lemon wedges.
3. Dry shrimp thoroughly, spread out on plate. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Chop garlic cloves.
4. Heat olive oil and butter in large non-stick sauté pan until bubbly and very hot.
5. When butter is bubbling, add garlic and shrimp to pan.
6. When shrimp is brown on one side, turn, cook until browned and crispy.
7. Serve with rice and lemon wedges.

Whole and Hearty Asparagus Pizza

This delicious whole wheat pizza is a wonderful addition to your spring menu, and works equally well as an hors d'oeuvre or entrée.  It's also a savory, healthy alternative to store-bought pizzas that are loaded with preservatives, sodium and additives. Make it a wonderful, heart-healthy vegetarian pizza by eliminating the bacon; you will still retain depth and complexity of flavor. It gets its name from using whole wheat pizza dough, and its hearty list of ingredients: mushrooms, onions, two cheeses and roasted fresh asparagus spears.  4-6 servings, or more for hors d'oeuvre.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb fresh asparagus
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • Whole wheat or white pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tbsp grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Process
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread fresh asparagus on baking sheet with sides. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Mix well, using hands. Spread out in single layer. Bake 10 minutes.

3. While asparagus is roasting, slice sweet onion thinly and saute in 1 tbsp of butter until caramelized, about 10 minutes, then set aside.

4. Slice mushrooms; saute in 1 tbsp of the butter until they give up their liquid and are browned, about 10 minutes; set aside. 
5. Prepare the pizza dough by rolling out on a floured surface, transfer to pizza baking sheet brushed lightly with a little olive oil, and brush dough lightly with more olive oil.



6. Cut cooled asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces. Layer ingredients onto dough in this order: caramelized onions, bacon pieces, mushrooms, asparagus (in a pinwheel arrangement, if desired), mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, until dough is crusty and browned on edges, and cheese has melted.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Goes really well with a crisp Pinto Grigio or Reisling!
 

Strawberry Cinnamon Morning Muffins

Adapted from our melt-in-your-mouth blueberry muffin recipe, these strawberry cinnamon morning muffins are the ultimate comfort food, and a fantastic way to start a Spring morning when there is still a chill in the air.

The extra-added flavor comes from sanding sugar and cinnamon. We love the new Williams-Sonoma line. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/food/spice-collection/

Ingredients
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 cup sour cream
1-1/2 tsp. best-quality vanilla extract (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/madagascar-bourbon-vanilla-extract-2-oz?utm_source=frooglecom&utm_medium=cse&utm_campaign=shopping)
2 cups Hecker's unbleached flour  (http://www.heckersceresota.com/recipes.html)
1/2 tsp. Clabber Girl Double Acting baking powder (http://www.clabbergirl.com/consumer/products/clabber_girl/)
1/2 tsp.baking soda
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch Kosher salt
Sanding sugar and cinnamon for topping (see above)

Mix wet ingredients
1. Cream butter and sugar with hand mixer
2. Beat in eggs, one at a time
3. Beat in vanilla and sour cream

Mix dry ingredients
1. Sift flour
2. Stir in ground nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and a pinch of salt

Combine
1. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients
2. Fold in strawberries

Spoon into 12 muffin cups lined with paper, sprinkle tops with cinnamon and sanding sugar (about 1/2 tsp. of each for 12 muffins).


Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

Serve plain, or with whipped butter.

Indian Delights

Our menu tonight included Lamb Rogan Josh (lamb sautéed in brown curry sauce with onions and garlic), madras lentils (lentils cooked in a spicy tomato sauce), Basmati rice, and curry-scented roasted cauliflower. It was a savory mix of spice, sweet, savory and salt. Recipes and pix to come.

Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Gravy

Last night I wanted to do something quick and filled with French flavor, so I chose thinly sliced chicken breasts at the grocer, and a package of mushrooms (already sliced). Start to finish, under an hour, even counting the rice and sautéed broccoli sides. It was hot and bubbly, a perfect Sunday night meal for two.

Ingredients

1 lb. thinly sliced chicken breasts (can substitute a scallopine of veal)
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
2-3 tbsp.flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Process

Prepare mushrooms: Sauté in non-stick pan with 1 tbsp. of the butter. Set aside.



Dredge the chicken in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.
Add 1 tbsp. of the butter and all of the olive oil to a deep saute pan.

Brown the chicken on both sides. Set aside on warm plate.

To the pan drippings, add chicken broth and white wine to deglaze. Scrape brown bits and stir. Add 1 tbsp. flour and cook about 1 minute.  Add chicken and mushrooms back into pan, being sure to add in juices from chicken, if any, and the liquid from the mushrooms.


Lower heat and let simmer until chicken is cooked and gravy is thickened, about three minutes.

Serve with fresh broccoli, sauteed with butter and garlic and fluffy white or brown rice.


 Add a nice Frascati, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay ... a French meal, uncomplicated, filled with flavor, and ready in less than an hour. Enjoy!!

Curried Lentil Soup with Kielbasa

We woke to mountains of white billowy drifts of snow this morning, some as high as five feet. Cars and shrubs were covered, and picket fences that yesterday separated us from neighboring yards were blanketed by snow. The landscape was punctuated only by the tiny red bows on our trees, vestiges of holiday color.

After a few hours of clearing and digging out, hot and spicy curried lentil soup seemed the perfect foil to 18 new inches of snow, in what is becoming a record-breaking winter.  This soup is filled with hearty, complex flavor, and its aromas filled the house in late afternoon. 

Ingredients

1 16-oz. bag dried lentils, looked over and rinsed with cold water
8 cups cold water
2 cans beef broth (about 3 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped (including some with celery leaves, minced)
4 large carrots, chopped
1 smoked ham hock
1 bay leaf
1 lb. Polish beef kielbasa, cut in 1/2" "half moons"
4 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
One package "Tasty Bite" chickpeas (seasoned with cumin and ginger)*

* Available at Costco   (www.costco.com)



To water and beef broth, add lentils, ham hock, vegetables, kielbasa, and all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for 1-1/2 hours, partially covered and stirring every 15-20 minutes.  During last 15 minutes of cooking, stir in chickpeas. 


When peas are thoroughly heated, serve with French bread and salad.

Bacon Garlic Home Fries

I never tire of finding new ways to cook potatoes. Tonight, I used crispy bacon strips that I had oven-baked earlier in the day (20 mins on baking sheet @ 400 degrees), minced garlic and sliced sweet onions to make a savory pan of home fries. They became a spicy accompaniment to hot and crispy oven-roasted chicken.

Ingredients

4 large Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes
1 large sweet onion
6 strips bacon, cooked
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground 5-pepper to taste


Process

Boil 4-6 cups water.
Scrub potatoes clean and cut into 3" squares pieces.
 Boil for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, until fork tender.
Remove from pot, immediately immersing in cold water.
Slice into 1/4" slices.  Set aside.


In non-stick deep frying pan, sauté onion and bacon until onion is translucent and wilted but not brown.
Add garlic and sauté a few minutes more.
Remove from pan and set aside.

Add butter and oil to pan, with potatoes, salt and pepper.  Sauté until potatoes are beginning to brown.
Add onion/bacon/garlic mix and sauté all together until browned and potatoes are crispy on the edges.

Yummy with dinner ... and leftovers are perfect for tomorrow's breakfast with eggs and toast!

Optional: Stir in 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley just before serving.

Mama's Chicken and Potatoes


My mom had a wonderful way of welcoming me home after school, with a home-cooked meal, a cake or cookies in the oven, and show tunes on the stereo.  Tonight, it was cold outside, with another forecast of snow after midnight, and Tommy was home for dinner (rare treat). I thought this was as good a night as any to make Mama’s Chicken.


Ingredients

2 tbsp. vegetable or Canola oil
1 4-lb chicken, cut into pieces with bone in. 
1 lb. carrots, cut on diagonal, about 2” in length. (Halve larger ends so all carrots are about same size for even cooking.)
2 medium onions, sliced
4-6 small-medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, skins on, cut into approx. 2” x 2” pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Good Hungarian paprika, to taste (about ½ tsp. all together)


Process

1. Heat oil in large deep skillet
2. Arrange chicken pieces, skin side down



3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika
4. Brown and turn, repeat steps 1-3



5. After both sides of chicken are browned, layer carrots, onions and potatoes on top of chicken.


6. Add ½ cup hot water to edges of skillet
7. Cover; let simmer for 15 minutes.
8. After 15 minutes, stir all, making sure that liquid covers the vegetables
9. Add more water as needed.
10. Cover and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked and all liquid is dissolved.

Serve with a salad and/or green vegetable, such as broccoli or peas.