Archive for ‘fresh black pepper’

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

January 27, 2011

what’s in season wednesday

brussels sprouts are the feature of this edition of what’s in season wednesday. a versatile vegetable with belgium origins (approx. 16th century), brussels sprouts are extremely good for you – one serving has more vitamin c than 3 whole oranges! about 75% of our nation’s brussels sprouts are grown in california. brussels sprouts have a notoriously bad reputation, but if cooked well and seasoned just right, brussels sprouts are a wonderful, delicious and nutritious side dish to any winter meal.

a beautiful cold season crop – the peak season runs september to february -brussels sprouts are lucky to be in the same family as the famously nutritious broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale and mustard greens. they really are just tiny versions of cabbage.

it is best to steam your sprouts, or roast them for an extra crispy texture and flavor. i’ve even had them fried buffalo style, and they were delicious. boiling/overcooking brussels sprouts is a bad idea because it will significantly reduce the amount of sulforaphane, which is believed to prevent cancer. they are also a great source of indole-3-carbinol, believed to block the growth of cancer cells.

to make delicious chili-powder brussels sprouts:

try to buy sprouts still on the stalk when possible. they’ll be fresher, and its fun to cut them off. sprouts already removed from the stalk work fine too. wash them well, and slice them in half. in a large fry pan heat up 1-4 tablespoons of butter (depends how many sprouts you have, and how much you like butter) and add sprouts. put a lid on the fry pan and steam for about 10 minutes.

next add flavor… season the sprouts with salt, pepper and chili powder. the chili powder is key here – i discovered last winter that brussels sprouts come alive when spiced with chili power, the combination is delicious. how much you add depends on your spice/heat tolerance. i add a lot! continue to steam on low/medium heat until sprouts are cooked well – tasting is the best method to determine if they are done. they should be slightly crisp, but easy to chew. if you have overcooked your sprouts they will be bitter and have a bad after taste (hence the bad reputation!). chili-powder brussels sprouts are simple and reheat very well so make extra!

nutritionally speaking: excellent source of vitamins a, b6 and c, great source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin and very high in dietary fiber. low in saturated fat, sodium, and no cholesterol

January 12, 2011

broccoli leek & potato soup

i made this soup in those dreary weeks between the end of fall and the beginning of real winter. it is a perfect pick me up soup; delicious, hearty and warming from the inside out. i love this recipe because it really showcases the leeks, which often do not get the praise and attention they deserve, and it has a rich creamy texture (with very little cream!). in addition, this recipe uses both broccoli florets and stems to reduce food waste and increase nutritional value.

nutritionally speaking – excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, riboflavin, and folate and significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron. low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol.


broccoli leek & potato soup:

  • 2 baking potatoes – peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large broccoli bunches
  • 4-5 medium to large leeks – white and light green parts only
  • olive oil – about 2-3 tablespoons
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic – chopped small
  • 3 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup of light cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bread (for croutons)
  • parmesan cheese for garnish

directions:

1) peel baking potatoes and chop into 1-inch cubes. cook in boiling water until a fork easily goes through one of the chopped pieces. set aside once cooked.
2) meanwhile, separate broccoli stems from florets. slice the stems into small coin-like pieces (sometimes it is recommend that you peel the outside of the stem, i do not bother with this step unless the outside of the stem is very thick). break the florets into small pieces and steam both the florets and stems together in a vegetable steamer. set aside once cooked.
3) clean and prepare leeks. chop off the darkest green ends of the leeks which are often slightly damaged or worn. cut off the white bearded bulb at the bottom. all you should have left are the white and light green parts. separate the leeks length wise and run under water to remove the dirt between the leaves. some leeks are really dirty – there is nothing wrong with this (usually those are the best locally grown leeks!) just clean them well. once clean slice thinly.
4) in a large fry pan heat olive oil and add garlic. add leeks and cook on medium heat to “sweat” the leeks, stirring often until they begin to soften and are fragrant – usually about 5-6 minutes. add about 3 cups of vegetable broth and cover, reducing the heat to medium-low. cook another 8-10 minutes.
5) mix cooked potato, cooked broccoli and leeks in a large bowl, and transfer the mixture in batches to a food processor (a blender also works) and puree until smooth.

6) as each batch is pureed, return to a large sauce pan on the stove. then add light cream, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chives and parsley.  reheat about 5-10 minutes.
7) serve with shaved parmesan cheese and home made croutons *

*croutons can be made with almost any type of bread, stale bread works best. chop into cubes, add a small amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs of your liking, toss and bake in a toaster oven or oven for 10-15 minutes until crunchy.