Thursday, June 28, 2012

COMPLETE MEAL: Dilled Sole with Almonds and Cranberry & Toasted Coconut Couscous

Last Sunday's dinner was one of my better successes in creating an entire meal, by myself.  That may seem like a strange thing to say, but what usually ends up happening is that I choose a challenging entrée to which I must devote all my time and attention. When my husband gets home from work, then, the first thing out of my mouth is usually, "Can you make the salad?"  Just what everyone wants to hear when they get home from work, I know. (I'm hoping he remembers that time I did have a martini waiting for him when he walked in the door...that's got to be worth something, right? It happened once.) Now, the Lord of Shallots does not go to work on Sunday, but I really wanted to cook something new, but something easy that would allow me to concentrate on the entire meal.

Enter sole.  Sole, like tilapia and other thinner fishes, is a great fish to cook when you don't have a lot of time. I had picked up some grey sole at the Farmers Market, and found this recipe to which I made only two adjustments:
  • I toasted the almonds beforehand (in a very hot skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil, and I added paprika)
  • I used breadcrumbs instead of cornmeal (just what I had on hand).
So, what to have as a side?  Rice takes too long, so couscous was the ticket. But normal boring couscous felt like a cop out, so...

Cranberry and Toasted Coconut Couscous (or, Couscous with Cranberries and Toasted Coconut)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup couscous
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil (separated into 1 tablespoon portions)
2 tablespoons coconut flakes (toast your own--don't buy pre-toasted)*
1/4 cup dried cranberries
freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:
  • In a thin metal skillet, toast the coconut flakes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, shaking the pan frequently and stirring the coconut until golden brown. Set aside on a plate or in a bowl to cool.
  • Prepare the couscous according to package directions, using chicken broth instead of water, and adding the remaining tablespoon of oil to the broth (let the broth and oil boil, add couscous, cover and remove from heat).
  • When liquid is absorbed (5-7 minutes), add cranberries, toasted coconut and pepper.
* If you toast your own coconut, not only will it make your home smell heavenly, the coconut has a much better texture and flavor. It takes all of two to three minutes, and you can't be a lazier cook than I am, so just try it.

I finished with mixed greens & scallions in a light white-wine vinaigrette.
A wonderful and EASY summer meal!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ORIGINAL RECIPE: Smoked Trout Scramble

My husband arrived home from work one day with some smoked trout from a generous colleague. I had never cooked with smoked trout, but I figured it was a good bet that it could be used in similar ways to smoked salmon. We had it that night in a salad, and then for the next morning, Rebecca's Smoked Trout Scramble was born...and it was VERY good.

Smoked Trout Scramble
 Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:
4 eggs1 tablespoon of milk
smoked trout (equivalent of 1-2 filets, deboned)
fresh dill, chopped (1-2 tablespoons, depending on your taste)
2 tablespoons butter (unsalted), split into 1 tablespoon sections
salt* (use sparingly, especially if using salted butter)

freshly ground pepper
 3 spring leeks, thinly sliced (white/light green parts only)
fresh basil, 3-4 leaves thinly sliced into strips


DIRECTIONS:
  • In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, trout, dill, and salt & pepper (to taste)
  • Sauté the leeks in 1 tablespoon of the butter until tender, with some of the outer leeks becoming crispy.

  • When leeks are tender, add remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan. When it bubbles, add the egg mixture.

 
  • Scramble the egg mixture, and when almost done, add the basil (note: the basil will discolor, so for the best immediate presentation, add it at the last minute)
Serving it with dry toast is not mandatory, nor preferred, but I wanted to get the photograph outside and figured not letting the eggs get cold was more important than buttering my toast:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quinoa Pilaf with Artichokes, Leeks and Sugar Snap Peas

More Quinoa!  This was healthy, easy, and, "a way I actually *like* quinoa" as reported by my husband.  The recipe is here, and I made the following notes:

  • stir the quinoa in the oil and leeks for 2-3 minutes before adding the broth
  • definitely use low-sodium chicken broth---quinoa absorbs salt very well and I found that the regular chicken broth was too salty.  If you are using homemade stock or veggie broth, you are probably fine.
  • I will add the snap peas last next time (with the artichoke hearts). I like my peas to retain their "snap."
This is really a terrific meal for summer or to bring to a potluck.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcake

Given how infrequently I bake, I'm always astonished when I try something that involves baking and it comes out perfectly the first time.  I found myself with some leftover buttermilk, and started with a search on AllRecipes.com.  Then I realized I also had fresh strawberries from the Farmers Market and whipping cream. There is absolutely no way I could have passed on the opportunity to make Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcake.

I made no adjustments to this recipe, except to add about a teaspoon of vanilla extract in with the buttermilk. I have no complaints---the biscuits were airy, but full of taste and and texture, the strawberries were sweet but not overly sugared, and it really is one of the best strawberry shortcakes I've ever had.

Just in case you need more encouragement, here's another angle:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Scapes & Asparagus with Sea Scallops

Usually I prefer to consult recipes, then go shopping, then cook...in that order.  There's something about the logic of it all that I find comforting, let's say.

This past Saturday, my trip to the Farmers' Market came prior to figuring out what I was going to make for dinner, so at 4:30 or so in the afternoon, I felt the familiar dread creep upon me. I hate cooking when I'm limited to whatever ingredients I have on hand, even when they are freshly purchased scapes, asparagus, snow peas, etc.

After a brief perusal of past posts regarding scapes and asparagus, I decided I would roast both, even though I have never roasted scapes. I was also looking for an excuse to use some wonderful linguine al nero di seppia that a friend brought back from Venice, so the scallops seemed a no-brainer after that.

Roasted Scapes and Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces (I used the tips only)
4-5 scapes, cut into 2 inch pieces (leave off the thinnest part of the scape which will only burn during roasting)
olive oil
kosher salt or Maldon sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.
Lay the scape and asparagus pieces on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
Drizzle thoroughly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix with hands so that each piece of scape and asparagus is thoroughly coated with oil, salt and pepper.
Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the tips of the asparagus begin to brown just a bit.

I put the water on to boil while the oven was preheating, so the timing was about right for the pasta. That said, feel free to leave the scapes and asparagus aside after roasting because tossing them in with the freshly cooked pasta will reheat them.

I left the scallops for last, and followed this easy recipe for pan-sautéed scallops.
I served the scallops over the linguine tossed with the roasted scapes and asparagus, a little bit of butter and parmesan.
Next Post: Strawberry Shortcake!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

Once again, I am indebted to the Food, Wine & Song Facebook page for motivation.  I was looking for something healthy and interesting, when this recipe from the NY Times caught my eye via Food, Wine & Song. I made no adjustments to the recipe, except that I skipped the goat cheese and I used sprouted quinoa.

Sprouted quinoa, according to the box, can be eaten raw (simply rehydrated). I prefer cooked quinoa, so this was not an issue, but it did give me some flexibility with the cooking time as not all of the grains were evenly cooked.  This was fine.

It has been awhile since I've made quinoa, and I forgot that it absorbs salt rather well. I went a bit overboard with the salt in the water, and was slightly worried (this is also why I left the goat cheese out).  Luckily, I let the salad sit for several hours and the radishes and asparagus took some of the salt. AND the dressing was a total lifesaver--the lemon buttermilk dressing hid the saltiness of the quinoa, and brought out the flavors of the veggies. I definitely recommend making the salad ahead as it will result in a better distribution of flavors. This is a fantastic summer salad---good for BBQs and as a main.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Adventures in Omelettes

What is that??

That, my friends, is an omelet/omelette.  My FIRST omelette.  Now those of you who think I am some sort of gourmet cook will know the truth.  I have never made an omelette. We will address the fact that it looks like a burnt sock in the prose below.

The Lord of Shallots is out-of-town and I haven't really touched the stove. I say that it is "cooking for one" that I find difficult, but the truth may be that I don't enjoy cooking nearly as much when the person who does the dishes has left the building. That said, while I've had many lovely dining experiences in the past week, including trying the brand new West Bridge with my friend The Hungry Musicologist,  economics and the size of my waistline have motivated me to get back into the kitchen.

I have long felt some fairly intense shame in not making omelettes.  My father, who in addition to being a brilliant biologist, is an astoundingly good maker of omelettes and he set the bar high. In fact, I rarely have an omelette in a restaurant that tops my father's omelettes in taste or texture. But, when the Lord of Shallots is out-of-town, I occasionally cultivate my sense of culinary adventure, mostly because he won't be around to witness my reaction to failure.

So...while the picture above shows the bad and the ugly, I will tell you--it was good!  While perhaps a bit browner than it should be, the texture was quite excellent. The other side was even less attractive, due to the fact that I only managed to fold it about 3/4 of the way, instead of completely and evenly in half. What's in it?  Well:

I started with this recipe, mostly because it covered a lot of what I had purchased at the farmers market. I didn't make any adjustments to the recipe except for adding salt and pepper to the egg mixture and adding a bunch of fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley and chives). Oh, and I used mozzarella instead of swiss (mostly due to the fact that I couldn't find pre-grated swiss and I can only aim so high when not terribly motivated to cook in the first place).

So: crabmeat, mozzarella, chives, tarragon and parsley.  Great combination! But here's where I call upon those more knowledgeable and experienced in omelette making.  The recipe calls for whisked egg yolks folded into fluffy egg whites. While I am not opposed to egg separation, is this necessary? I don't remember my father ever separating the whites from the yolks, and I'm not so sure I was thrilled with the final product in that it was difficult to keep the whites and the yolks together when they were supposed to be. I look forward to any thoughts you might have.

Oh, and it is nice to be back!