Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ginger Scallion Scallops

I made a very daring decision sunday morning, largely influenced by the fact that there was a Say Yes to the Dress marathon on, combined with a fresh issue of Food Network Magazine in-hand. That decision was to send my new roomie, also known as my fiancé, on a solo mission to the grocery store.  I thought I would be safe considering he woke up and declared he was going to make Sunday dinner - his specialty: Chicken Cacciatore.  Obviously if he's cooking, he can handle the shopping, right?

Wrong.  Turns out, Mike cannot be trusted at the grocery store. There is truly no telling what he will bring back.  First of all, he completely overlooked some vital ingredients of his signature dish. Then, not only did he return with enough food to feed an army, but also splurged on a cheesecake, a loaf of artisan bread, a pound of scallops, and a bouquet of flowers.  Ok, so I forgive him for these delightful luxury purchases, but my waistline and our wallet can only handle so much of Mike's shopping skills!

Fortunately, out of Mike's excessive grocery shopping came this recipe.  Scallops could not be simpler to prepare; it only takes a few turns in a skillet to achieve a beautiful golden sear.  I served these scallops for dinner with brown rice and snow peas, but they would make a quick and elegant appetizer as well.

* 1 lb. sea scallops
* 1 tsp. brown sugar
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove, minced
* 2 tbsp. sesame oil
* 2 tbsp. scallions, chopped (both green and white sections)
* 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more if you like the heat!)
* 1 heaping tsp. ginger spice blend (with the refrigerated herbs)
* 1/4 c. reduced sodium soy sauce
* 1 tbsp. honey

To prepare the sauce, heat sesame oil over medium heat in a small skillet.  Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk well to combine.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking often.

Meanwhile, coat scallops very lightly with brown sugar (this will help them caramelize).  Heat olive oil in a skillet to medium high and add scallops, working in batches if necessary not to overcrowd the pan. Let the scallops caramelize on one side before flipping.  Once the scallops are seared, reduce heat to medium low and cover the pan loosely with tin foil for 2 minutes or so until the scallops are cooked through.  Serve warm with ginger sauce.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quick Crostini

I'm so excited to say my house is finally coming together!  The walls have been painted, I have a real dining room, Roscie has made himself at home on the guest bed... I'm loving it.  I can't wait to have friends and family over to share the transformation from extreme bachelor pad to grown-up home.

In anticipation of having some house guests I thought i'd try out a few new recipes so I'm well prepared. When I was roaming the aisles of Whole Foods Friday night (yes, this is my ideal Friday night),  I didn't have a clear concept in mind. This crostini sort of emerged from my miscellaneous choices in my basket. This is not only a delicious starter, but a quick one thanks to the help of pre-made toasted baguette (thank you Whole Foods), and a combination of no-cook ingredients.  The perfect bite for the last minute dinner party (or if you're like me, Friday night at home).

These ingredients don't need to be exact - use them to your preference!

* zest of 1 lemon
* goat cheese (Nature's Way Chèvre is my favorite)
* cherry tomatoes, halved
* fresh basil, chopped
* black pepper
* prepared crostini or toasted baguette

To prepare the crostini, spread a thin layer of goat cheese on each baguette.  Top each piece with half of a cherry tomato, a sprinkle of chopped basil, fresh black pepper and lemon zest.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Catch Up

I apologize for the lack of posts as of late, but unfortunately I've been cheating on the kitchen with the rest of the house.  On Monday, Mike and I officially dove into the deep end: cohabitation.  I'm still getting settled in, and I promise i'll be back with new recipes soon enough, but in the meantime, here's a look at my recent happenings (I'll skip the exhausting moving details!)...

Mike and I took a moving break to celebrate Valentine's Day.  He took me to the Basics (my fave) and even surprised me with flowers at work.  He is so romantical (if Paula Deen says romantical is a word, then I believe it)...

We weren't planning on exchanging gifts, but he surprised me with a new hood over the oven!  It's the perfect, final touch to my new kitchen, and makes a lovely accompaniment to the garbage disposal he gave me for my birthday.  No, i'm not being sarcastic - 3 years of living without a garbage disposal, this is a dream come true! 

In an effort to distract him as I take over his house, I surprised him with a chain saw.  The man at Home Depot firmly pressed the receipt in my hand advising that if my Valentine gift goes awry, my fiancé could always exchange it!  Yeah right.  

Tonight was the first night I was settled in enough to break in the new kitchen.  Sadly, my creative instincts are completely lacking this week so I decided I'd try out someone else's recipe!  This Baked Chicken Parmesan from Skinny Taste turned out to be delicious.  I'd highly recommend this lightened-up version of the Italian classic.  

Happy Friday! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've long been a fan of Valentine's Day, whether single or attached.  What's to hate about a day that celebrates love? 

In the last few weeks of moving-related-madness, I have had a few bright spots.  The other day, I was packing up a bookshelf when I set aside my grandmother's copy of Little Women (too precious to pack in a rolling suitcase of course).  When I flipped through it later, I found this beautiful little Valentine inside.  It was postmarked February 13, 1922, and addressed to my grandmother, Vivian Eloise Humphreys.  

After I spoke to my mom, I realized that in 1922, my grandmother would have been two years old, and I'm assuming this Valentine was from another family member (we didn't recognize the signature "junior b").  To me, this is what Valentine's Day is all about.  A sweet little note, a candy heart or two, and a reminder of all the love in your life, no matter who it's from.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Steak au Poivre

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and what do you know, I nearly missed it.  I've been in quite a tizzy for the past few weeks as I've been in the midst of moving across town. Little did I know how exhausting moving ten minutes away could be!

In case you also happen to have forgotten to make that crucial reservation, fear not- Steak au Poivre is impressive enough for the big day, and easy enough to whip-up on the fly! This is one of my favorite classic French dishes and it's bursting with flavor from the Cognac and cracked peppercorns.  Serve it up with your favorite steakhouse sides and a hearty bottle of red.
* 1(12 oz) sirloin, or two smaller filets
* 1 tbsp. butter
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* Salt, pepper

Au Poivre Sauce:
* 1/3 c. Cognac
* 1/3 c. heavy cream
* 1 shallot, minced
* 2 tbsp. butter
* 1 tbsp. peppercorns, coarsely cracked

Allow the steak to come to room temperature for 30 minutes or so.  Pat the steak dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat; add 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil to the pan.  When the pan is heated, add the steak and cook to desired temperature (about 4-6 minutes per side for medium rare, depending on thickness). Remove the steak from the pan, set aside, and wrap tightly with aluminum foil.  To prepare the sauce, first drain off any excess oil from the pan and reduce the heat to medium low.  Add butter to the pan.  Once the butter is melted, add the shallots to the pan and saute until tranlucent. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cognac, then return to the burner (be cautious if you're using a gas stove). Add cream and peppercourns to the pan and reduce for another 1-2 minutes.  Slice the sirloin and serve with au poivre sauce.  Enjoy!

*They key to the perfect steak is starting with a well heated pan-you want a sizzle when you add it.  Brown the steak well on all sides, avoid flipping too often, and always let it rest at least ten minutes before you slice it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cabernet Braised Short Ribs

A few weeks ago, Mike and I celebrated the big one-year anniversary.  Sure, one-year may not seem like the biggest accomplishment, but since i've forced poor Mike to celebrate our anniversary on a monthly basis since we've been together, graduating to annual increments is pretty significant! Since our actual anniversary was January 20, a mere 3 days after my birthday, I decided to give him a free pass on my usual fancy date requirement and make us a nice dinner at home.

I absolutely love short ribs, and I'm not sure if Mike knew before our date, but he loves short ribs too.  They may not look like much in the package, but once you braise them low and slow they become this rich, fork tender, fall off the bone, melt in your mouth deliciousness; almost like a gourmet pot roast.  The key is not to rush it - perfect for a sunday project and lovely for a special occasion! Start a day early with the dry rub for extra flavor.

Ingredients (serves 2):
* 8 bone-in short ribs
* 3 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
* 3 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
* 1 tbsp. salt
* 2 tsp. pepper
* 1 bottle cabernet sauvignon (chianti also works well)
* 1 c. beef broth
* 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
* 2 tbsp. butter
* 2 tbsp. flour

Prepare the dry rub by combining rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Pat the short-ribs dry with a paper towel and place in a casserole dish.  Rub all sides of the short ribs with the spice mixture.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  When it's time to cook the short ribs, let them come to room temperature for an hour. Preheat the oven to 375.  Meanwhile, add vegetable oil to a large, oven proof pan or dutch-oven that has a well fitted lid.  Heat on the stove over medium high heat.  Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. When all the meat is browned, return to the pan, add wine and beef stock, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the  mixture is boiling, cover with lid and transfer to the oven.  Braise until the meat is fork tender, between 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your pan.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine flour and butter into a paste. Once the ribs are done, remove them from the pan using a slotted spoon, place in a bowl, and cover tightly with foil.  To prepare the sauce, skim any excess fat off the top and bring the wine mixture to a boil for twenty minutes or so, until the liquid is reduced by half.  Once the sauce is reduced, reduce heat to medium and whisk in butter and flour mixture until the sauce is thickened.  Return the short ribs to the sauce and serve.  ** I served mine with blue cheese grits- I prepared the grits as the package directed, then added a splash of cream and a few tablepoons of blue cheese crumbles.  Yum!

Happy One Year to My Pooch!