Archive for May, 2011

May 27, 2011

Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree

I am officially obsessed with scallops.

I do not know exactly when this obsession started, but I feel like I could cook them every single night and it is impossible to order anything else if I see scallops on a menu. Literally, impossible. Although I eat scallops year round, spring and summer heighten my obsession of this perfect, sweet and rich shellfish.

I spent much of the winter eating Trader Joe’s frozen scallops – a quick, inexpensive way to get my fix. Now that is warmer and seafood is constantly my mind, I have been splurging on only the best scallops. I am weary of Shaw’s and Stop and Shop when it comes to seafood – everything always looks so old and tired and off-color. Enter the newest aspect of my scallop obsession: Wulf’s Fish Market. This place is all about fresh and local seafood, and the scallops I have been getting there, although pricey, have been absolutely delicious and fresh, and well worth the extra cost.

Last week I wanted to keep the scallops simple and sweet. I recommend trying the recipe below with high-quality DRY scallops (as opposed to evil wet scallops treated with phosphates, which results in them absorbing more water – so you pay more per pound – which then evaporates during cooking leaving you with shrunken, dry and tasteless scallops – I could go on and on about this, but I’ll spare you).

The slightly spiced scallops pair extremely well with the butternut squash puree which is sweet and savory, and adds a little texture. Also served with grilled asparagus and sauteed spinach with fresh lemon juice. This meal was light and extremely delicious!

Pan Seared Scallops

  • around 1/3 to 1/2 pound of scallops for each person
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1) remove extra moisture from scallops by placing them between layers of paper towel on a level surface and put something on top to add a little pressure – I use a cutting board.
2) meanwhile, mix a little more than a teaspoon of each of the spices above together on a small plate
3) add butter to a large saute pan on medium-high heat.
4) after they chill in the paper towels for about 5 minutes,  put both sides of each scallop in the spice mixture and add to buttered pan and don’t move them around! It can be hard not to move them/check on them, but if you want the nice pan-seared crust you must leave them alone! Also, do not overcrowd the pan or you will steam, not sear the scallops.
5) cook for about three minutes, then flip to the other side (pans/stoves are different, so peek before flipping to make sure you have a brown/golden crust)
6) cook the other side 2-3 minutes depending on size. Don’t overcook your scallops – it is easy to do. When they are done they should be springy to the touch, and have a light translucent center.

Butternut Squash Puree:

  • 1 medium-large butternut squash
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp light cream
  • fresh chives
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1) pre-heat oven to 350
2) slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and flesh and place on a baking sheet, skin-side down
3) bake for about 35 – 45 minutes, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork
4) scrape flesh out of squash and add to food processor and puree for a minute or two while adding ingredients above. You do not have to add all of the above ingredients, the puree will be sweet and smooth on its own, but I think the extra ingredients make it even more delicious. Especially the fresh chives, salt and pepper.

note: to make this an extra veggie filled dinner I grilled some asparagus, and sauteed some spinach in a bit of olive oil and then squeezed some fresh lemon juice on top. The lemon brought some needed acidity to the dish so I recommend it.

nutritionally speaking: 
excellent source of potassium, selenium,  protein, folate, omega-3,
vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E, K

May 23, 2011

Kale and Broccoli Pizza

Yes, kale even makes a wonderful pizza topping!

Boston has seen nothing but rain for what feels like weeks and weeks, so at the end of a particularly dreary and rainy day, homemade pizza was the perfect dinner! Whole wheat pizza dough topped with fresh mozzarella, grated parm, broccoli and crispy oven-roasted kale chips makes for a nutritious meal that still fulfills the cheese quota so needed after a cold and rainy day. The pizza was served with a mixed greens salad with lots of veggies.

To make the pizza:

  • Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough
  • Trader Joe’s pizza sauce (I added chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano)
  • fresh mozzarella, 8 oz
  • shredded Parmesan cheese, I didn’t measure… about 3/4 cup or so?
  • chopped broccoli
  • minced fresh garlic
  • kale, chopped into small pieces

1) roll out Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough on a cutting board with lots of flour, I made two smallish (about 8 inch) pizzas. With enough time I would have preferred to make the pizza dough from scratch- my dad makes an amazing sourdough pizza dough, but Trader Joe’s had to do on a work night.
2) chop broccoli crowns into small pieces, steam lightly in a vegetable steamer
3) chop kale and toss (lightly) with olive oil, salt and pepper. place on a cooking sheet and cook at 375 for about 10-12 minutes or until crisp. They will turn a darker green… my kale chips ended up getting a little extra crispy (almost burned), but were still delicious, they literally melt in your mouth.
4) add pizza sauce to pizza dough and top with chunks of fresh mozzarella and shredded parm cheese. Then add broccoli and fresh chopped garlic.
5) bake pizza for about 15 minutes, until edges of crust are lightly browned and crispy. Add kale for last 1-2 minutes of baking just to re-heat.

For the salad:

  • romaine lettuce and fresh spinach
  • grape tomatoes
  • cucumbers, chopped
  • shredded fresh Parmesan
  • stale bread for homemade croutons (or fresh if necessary, hamburger buns, rolls, etc. work too)

1) toss lettuce, spinach, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and parm together
2) take bread and cut into bite size pieces. Coat lightly in olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and any extra spices – I used dried oregano and parsley- bake in oven or toaster oven until crunchy, about 5 minutes.
3) for a salad dressing I recommend a to-taste combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and fresh chives… a simple dressing works for this relatively simple salad, and the end result was fresh and delicious!

May 5, 2011

Asian Salmon with Polenta and Brussels Sprouts

The onset of spring has given me a craving for fresh foods. This meal was just that: fresh, light and a little bit sweet! Three of my favorite ingredients, salmon, polenta and Brussels sprouts came together very well and created a wonderful meal for the new season.  The salmon was prepared in an Asian style with flavors of soy sauce,  garlic, ginger, and sweet Teriyaki, perfectly sweet and spicy! The Brussels sprouts were tossed in a sweet maple glaze and roasted at a high temperature for a delicious crunchy texture. Lastly, I pan-fried polenta to balance out the overzealous flavors and provide a starch foundation for each tasty bite.

Salmon marinade and preparation:
Note: I rarely measure ingredients for marinades, I usually combine the various flavors I’m looking for and then adjust to taste…

  • fresh salmon fillets (about a half pound per person)
  • about 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp brown sugar (to taste)
  • about 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce (I use the Huy Fong brand, from the Asian foods aisle – careful, its spicy!)
  • a couple cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • splash of Worshire sauce

1) Put salmon skin side down in a shallow pan
2) Combine all ingredients and mix well, pour on salmon
3) Marinate for 2-3 hours
4) Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and heat to medium
5) Place salmon in the pan, skin side up and cook on medium. After about 4 minutes, flip sides and cook for another 4 minutes. I then added some Trader Joes Soyaki Sauce (my favorite because of its thicker consistency) and put the entire pan (make sure it doesn’t have a rubber handle!) in a pre-heated oven to bake at 350 degrees for another 15 minutes or so – varies depending how thick your salmon is.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

  • fresh Brussels sprouts
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1 splash of balsamic vinegar

1) Pre-heat oven to 375
2) Slice Brussels sprouts in half and wash thoroughly
3) Toss sprouts in maple glaze and spread onto a greased baking pan and bake, stirring often to prevent burning (even when you do this the single layers will burn a little, I don’t mind this, but you can eat around them if you do).
5) Roast until they are caramelized and fork tender, about 30 minutes

Pan-Fried Polenta:

Polenta is made from ground corn meal that is boiled for a long time… it is quite labor intensive to prepare because it requires constant stirring. Polenta makes an excellent base to add additional flavors too, think of it like risotto; it pairs well with cheese, spices and herbs, vegetables, and even meat- I once had an amazing sausage polenta in Spain!

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to stand in my kitchen stirring polenta, so I buy it pre-cooked at the grocery store. I recommend San Gennaro polenta which comes in a sausage-like tube. There are endless ways to prepare and serve it, but I prepared mine like so:

1) Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat
2) Open polenta and slice into 1/2 inch slices and add to pan, fry on each side until lightly toasted brown – polenta has a lot moisture so it might take a few minutes (it is already cooked, so you are just adding heat and creating texture). I left it unseasoned – besides s&p of course – since I had such flavorful accompaniments on the plate.

San Gennaro also sells flavored polenta, basil garlic, sun-dried tomato etc., but I prefer original and flavoring it myself! If you have not cooked with polenta I suggest you try it – its a wonderful alternative to pasta, rice and potatoes!

nutritionally speaking:
excellent source of omega 3!!
Vitamins  A, B6, B12, C, K, niacin, thiamin, iron,  protein, folate and dietary fiber. 

Lastly, I paired this dish with a delicious wine, Gnarly Head‘s Old Vine Zin, vintage 2009. This medium-bodied wine had zesty flavors of plum, cherry, pepper and a hint of spice. The toasted spicy flavor paired well with the salmon and Brussels sprouts because of their spicy/sweet flavors and BBQ-like taste and texture. Slightly chilled this wine would be perfect with cheese and crackers or at a BBQ  this summer!