Saturday, January 26, 2008
I have recently rediscovered scallops.As a little girl, my grandmother would sometimes buy them to accompany our weekly Friday night dinners of fish, hushpuppies, cole slaw, and vegetables of choice. My grandmother casually put one on my dinner plate when I was three years old. The round disk had been pan-fried and was the same shape, size, and color of the hash browns we used to get at the Hardee's restaurant down the street. The crispy, golden outside encased a piping hot, farinaceous inside that was always a special morning treat. I was amazed that grandma had taken the time to make hash browns for our sea-fare. I popped the "hash brown" into my mouth and was greeted with the bitter, fishy taste of a scallop. I immediately cried foul and my grandmother explained to me that it was a scallop. Seafood. I was mad at grandma. At the scallop. And my dinner. I swore off scallops for 23 years. In 2008 they have resurfaced as a delectable little treat that can only be described as: "Yummy."
I have issue with fleshy foods. I like seafood, but only in small quantities. I only order popcorn shrimp from the children's menu and gingerly eat those with what else? A shrimp fork. The crayfish and crawdads my Creole cousins pile on their plates don't make it past the preliminary perusal of the family buffet table. I don't care that the heads, eyes, and antennae are still attached. I just don't want to sink my teeth into anything that is akin to munching on my hand.
The cute little mollusk we all know and (now) love came back in a surprise visit while I was cooking dinner for a co-worker and his family.
I made flounder in a tomato creole sauce and thought it ingenious to add sauteed bay scallops to the plate. I wasn't planning on eating them. The dinner was for the enjoyment of my friend and his family. Dare I taste my own wares? Dare I put my lips around the very animal that made me swear off most seafood for nearly a quarter of a century? I used a full-sized four prong fork for this one, folks.
And as my tongue touched the pearlescent nugget... it melted into creamy, buttery mollusckan bliss. I have arrived. Or at least the scallop did.
Needless to say I have a new recipe for sea scallops.
It can be used as an appetizer or a main course. It is simple so it could make the date night dinner list. And to be honest, you can cut out the middle man and use Pacific Natural Foods Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup and then it makes the"We-only-have 20-minutes-so-let's-hurry-this-up-or-I-will-starve" dinner list.
Pan Seared Scallop in Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce Serves 2
1 small head garlic
1/2 lb plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper (1/2 lb)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 tb parsley, chopped fine
1tsp olive oil
2-4 sea scallops, cleaned, muscle removed
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut off and discard top of garlic head and wrap remainder in foil. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in a foil-lined 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and sprinkle lightly with salt. Add whole bell pepper and garlic (in foil) to pan and roast vegetables in middle of oven 1 hour.
Cover pan with foil, then let stand about 20 minutes. Unwrap garlic and squeeze roasted cloves from skin into food processor. Peel pepper, discarding stem and seeds, and transfer all the pan's contents (juice and all) to a food processor or blender.
Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then purée sauce until smooth. Using a sieve or mesh strainer, strain sauce into serving dish or other container. Use a ladle, spoon, or rubber spatula to press sauce though. Garnish with parsley during service.
Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in cleaned skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then sear scallops, turning over once, until golden brown and almost cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
Pour sauce slowly onto plate so that it surrounds the scallop.
The finished product.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Canned pumpkin can be found year-round in the grocery store and there ain't nothin' wrong with that! With that in mind, I have provided here below another easy baking recipe. This loaf is similar to the pumpkin loaf found at Starbucks and during a taste test involving customers, not many could tell the difference (except that mine was better).
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 large eggs
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Stir or cream together the sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time until each is incorporated. Add vanilla. Beat. Sift dry ingredients into separate bowl. Mix in wet ingredients until all incorporated. Pour into two well greased loaf pans or one 9X13 cake pan. Bake in 350 degree oven about 1 hour. Cool completely before turning out onto cooling racks or slicing.
For lower fat opportunities: Substitute equal amounts of unsweetened applesauce for the oil. Using 2 egg whites instead of a whole egg reduces calories and cholesterol. I wouldn't use more pumpkin puree for this purpose because pumpkin has such a strong flavor and it might overpower your loaf and make it unpleasant. Also, substituting 1/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) for each egg is a reasonable option. Using egg substitute in place of eggs tends to make this loaf rubbery, because egg substitute has no fat. To improve the texture, add 1 tsp canola oil.
Using 100% Splenda or other artificial sugar in baked goods is not something I recommend. If you must use it, use a baking blend or make your own blend.
Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of spices you can find in the spice section of your local grocery store. This eliminates the need to attemt to find spices you may not have in your cabinet. It's a ground mix of any combination of cinnamon, clove, allspice, mace, nutmeg, or ginger. I like to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and so should you.
A closer look at this wholesome cake...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The following recipe is my "go-to"
chocolate cake recipe whenever I need to make a cake quickly.
I am not a fan of chocolate. I will eat a Cadbury egg at Easter (I am nearly 30 years old and I still ask my mother to make an Easter basket for me), I will drink a hot chocolate if offered but I do not dream of/crave/pine for chocolate. I am of a weird sort, I know. But this recipe is easily customizable for the chocolate lover in you.
Easy Fo-Sheezy Chocolate Cake
2 cups cake flour
2 cups superfine sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
Sift flour and sugar into large bowl.
Bring 1 cup butter, 1/4 cup cocoa and water to a boil in saucepan. Pour over flour mixture; mix well. Add buttermilk, baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla, eggs and salt and mix well. (A handheld mixer works well here. A spoon will do just fine with you are of the low-tech kind)
Pour into greased and floured 10x15-inch cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean.
Substitutions: orange juice, double strength coffee, extra chocolatey milk, bourbon, Kahlua, creme de cacao, creme de cassis can be substituted for all or a portion of the 1 cup of water.
Cupcakes are also an option. Reduce baking time by 5 to 8 minutes. And don't forget to grease up the individual paper muffin cups, if youre using.
The list can go on but these are the tried and true additions I have found make this cake a winner.
- Use the freshest, highest quality ingredients you can find. I use Ghirardelli cocoa powder and Swans Down cake flour to make this cake.
- You can also make this cake 1 cup cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour to acheive similar results. The crumb will be denser.
- DO NOT use self rising flour. It contains salt and baking powder already. Since baking is a science, the amounts in the self-rising might mess up the end result of your cake.
- Make sure everything is room temperature.
- If you are out of or don't have buttermilk on hand, just add a 1tb of white or cider vinegar to the 1/2 cup of milk and let sit 10 minutes.
Breaking the fast. To go without food (especially for a personal or religious reason) is called a fast. Ending that period of time in the morning is what we call breakfast. And this morning, my friends, what a break it was! I made homemade pork sausage with biscuits before going to work. The following recipe isn't difficult but I suggest you make them on a day when you're not rushing out the door to meet the kids' school bus on time.
Nikki's Sausage Patties
1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tb superfine sugar
1/2 tb rubbed sage
1/4 tb thyme
1/2 tb crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tb paprika
1/2 tb garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in large bowl; mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Use 1 tsp canola oil to grease pan so patties don't stick. Add as many sausage patties as will fit without crowding skillet. Cook sausage patties 4 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue until no longer pink in center. The sausage mixture will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To freeze, portion into a cylindrical shape (or other managable portions), wrap in plastic wrap and again in foil.
Recipes are only guidelines, not an exact science. Only when baking should you follow recipes to the letter. The measurements above are to my personal tastes. I love spice. I love pepper. Spice aids in digestion and ground black pepper is the simplest form of spice I know. I encourage you to tweak the recipe and find what suits you best.
I use kosher salt because it flakes over the food evenly resulting in the need for less salt.
I use super fine sugar for the same reasons plus is dissolves easier in whatever you're making
The sausage patties formed and ready to cook in the pan.
I love the way the flat top stove looks with its coils all aglow. It makes me feel all warm and tingly inside (or outside if I hold my spatula too close). I use a cast iron skillet for EVERYTHING because it is durable and holds heat well after you turn off the eye.
The biscuits! If you don't know how to make a biscuit, you must not be Southern. And we won't hold that against you. A box of Bisquick in the pantry will do just fine. On the fly, I use the Heart Smart Bisquick because it is low in fat, cholesterol and high in calcium and fiber. To make these biscuits taste better (because sometimes low fat means low taste), I add Molly McButter to the mix.
My breakfast. I added a cup of grapefruit juice, a multivitamin, and I was on my way to greatness.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The bathroom. Walk-in glass walled Terrazzo shower and soaking tub with windows that open onto the sleeping room.
A waterfall in bathtub. How chic. How luxurious. Aveda bath products are the toiletry of choice here. Peppermint shampoo and conditioner, Refreshing bath bar, and Rosemary Mint lotion were part of the arsenal in the bathroom. I wish I had forgotten a toothbrush, comb, or razor to see what delight I'd find.
The Chop Shop
One of my many joys is shopping. Every chance I get, I shop for new gadgets for the kitchen. I think of myself as a no-nonsense kind of gal. I don't have a need for an avocado slicer, a corn kernel cutter, or a shrimp deveiner. I need practical, durable, reasonably priced items to fill my kitchen. Today: Sur la Table.
I've been patronizing Sur la Table (SIR-la-tahbl) since late last year when they had FREE knife sharpening. I couldn't drive there fast enough. The limit was two so I chose my Santuko and slicer knives to test the waters. One day later I went back to retrieve Fric and Frac and they were as sharp as the day I received them in culinary school. They sharpen knives regularly for $2 an inch. I heard a rumor they'll offer the service for free again in April.
They are in the midst of their Winter Sale, 20%-50% off select merchandise. Sur la Table is an expensive William-Sonoma. Specialty gourmet stores are all expensive. But if you want quality and know what you are looking for, specialty is where it's at. I visit the store every Saturday and sometimes on Sundays. Last week it was for a sharpener for my Santuko. Regularly priced at $19.95, on sale for $9.96.This week it was for a heart-shaped Le Creuset pot. Resists chips, stains, scratches and possibly Pompei-esque destruction. Who cares if it is in the shape of an overused muscle? Regularly priced at $50, on sale for $29.96. Le Creuset pots and pans are expensive. And heavy. Wise investment, I say. The sale ends in February, so now is the time!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Yes, I will have general musings about the world at large, television, celebrities, and other news-worthy items too! And that's only because that's who I am as a person and experiencing those things are what shape me as a chef.
Hot damn, it's going to be good in 2008, people. Very good.
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