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Warm Spinach Salad with Scallops

Looks like I have some catching up to do on the blog! It has been awhile. Might as well start with a salad I am going to make again this week. I usually make a half recipe and just cook all the scallops at once. But the method below would get a full batch ready at the same time (adding them all to the skillet at once would overcrowd them and keep them from browning properly).

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8 oz baby spinach

2 oranges

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

1 1/2 lb. dry sea scallops (16 to 20 large), tendons removed (note: Whole Foods sells dry scallops – I like to get the frozen ones and defrost them on a plate, covered, in the fridge the day before making this. It usually takes about 24 hours to defrost them.)

salt and pepper

4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Sherry-orange vinaigrette:

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1 shallot, peeled

1 small garlic clove, peeled

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat (or toast in a 350 degree F oven), shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning. Almonds should be lightly browned and fragrant.

To make the dressing, blend all the ingredients (except the oil) in a blender until the garlic and shallot are finely chopped. With the blender running, add the oil and process on high until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds.

To prepare the oranges, cut a slice off the top and bottom and then cut the peel off all around the orange. Cut into quarters and then slice 1/2 inch thick.

Place spinach, oranges, almonds and red onion in a large bowl.

Lay scallops on a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and pepper. Press another paper towel down on the top of the scallops.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of the scallops and cook until evenly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. (The first few scallops may be almost done when the last scallop is added to the pan.) Transfer scallops to a large plate, browned side up and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with a wad of paper towels. Add remaining 2 Tbsp oil and return to high heat until just smoking. Add remaining scallops and cook until evenly golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, flip second batch of scallops over, and return the first batch of scallops to the pan, browned side up. Cook until the sides of the scallops have firmed up and all but the middle third of the scallop is opaque, 30 to 60 seconds longer. Transfer scallops to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add 3/4 cup vinaigrette to the hot skillet, bring to a brief simmer and then toss with the spinach mixture. Divide the salad among individual plates and arrange the scallops over the top. Serve with the remaining dressing.

(Recipe adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best 30-Minute Recipe)

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Sprouted Wheat Muffins

This is a basic recipe with several add-in options. Our favorite so far is the cherry chocolate chip. Even the baby wants to eat them – it’s the first food he reached over and grabbed right out of my hand. 🙂  Getting it in his mouth was another story. He was so sad when it just crumbled onto the floor. These muffins already disappear so quickly; once he gets this figured out I’m going to have to make an even bigger batch!

The basic recipe is supposed to make 12-18 muffins, but you may get more depending on the size of the muffin and how many extra ingredients you add. The cherry chocolate chip ones make about 24 using a standard ice cream scoop for portioning. The original recipe called for another 2 Tbsp of brown sugar, but I think these are plenty sweet, and you could even reduce the sugar a little more if you wanted. With the apple muffins I used a little less than 1 cup because it also has molasses in it.

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3 3/4 cups (16 oz or 454 g) sprouted wheat flour (4 cups if you use sprouted wheat pastry flour or sprouted spelt flour)

4 tsp baking powder, sifted

1 1/4 tsp baking soda, sifted

3/4 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar (8 oz or 225 g) or honey

2 cups buttermilk

3 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted unsalted butter)

2 tsp vanilla extract

Additions:

For chocolate cherry muffins, add 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups dried cherries to the final batter.

For apple bran muffins, add 1/2 cup (2 oz/ 56.5 g) wheat bran or oat bran to the dry ingredients. Increase the buttermilk to 2 1/2 cups, and 1/4 cup molasses to the buttermilk mixture. Add 2 large apples, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces and 1 cup raisins to the final batter.

For poppy seed muffins, add up to 1 cup poppy seeds to the flour mixture and (optionally) 1 tsp lemon extract to the buttermilk mixture. (I also had some lemon sugar, so I brushed the warm muffins with butter and rolled the tops in lemon sugar.)

Mix the dry ingredients and then stir in the brown sugar (if using honey, add it to the wet ingredients). In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir until well combined, about 1 minute.  Fold in any extras and scoop into lined muffin tins.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

You can also bake these in a 4 1/2 by 8-inch loaf pan, filled to within 3/4 inch of the rim. Not sure of the baking time, but probably a little under an hour.

(Recipe adapted from Bread Revolution by Peter Reinhart)

Whole Wheat Pasta Tasting

A little while ago, a couple friends and I decided to buy as many types of whole wheat pasta as we could and see how they compared. I didn’t expect any to be quite as tasty as regular pasta, but one of them was surprisingly good. The hands-down winner was:

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Delallo 100% Whole Wheat pasta tasted almost the same as regular pasta. I’ve started buying their gemelli to use in pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans. It’s available at Martin’s locally, and also at Whole Foods.

Second place went to Gia Russa.

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The rest of them were about the same for taste and texture, except for Ronzoni’s which was a little grittier. I bought that one because of an America’s Test Kitchen review…from about 10 years ago. Although we tried the 100% whole wheat one, not the Whole Wheat Blend that they recommended. So, maybe I’ll have to give it one more try.

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Next tastings: black tea and dark chocolate. Who’s in? 🙂

Oatmeal Cookies with Pistachios, Golden Raisins and Cardamom

I cut the amount of cardamom way down from the original recipe. It was a full teaspoon, which seemed like a little much. I like cardamom to be a bit more subtle, especially with other flavors. But these are a great cookie and keep well in the freezer (I usually just grab one and eat it frozen).

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2 cups rolled oats

1 cup spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)

1 cup almond meal

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp freshly ground cardamom (from about 4-5 green pods)

½ coconut oil, melted

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¾ cup maple syrup

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

½ tsp sea salt

Zest of 1 orange

½ cup golden raisins

1 cup boiling water

¾ cup toasted pistachios

Mix oats, flour, almond meal, baking powder and cardamom in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the coconut and olive oils, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and zest. Whisk until emulsified. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to firm up a little. Soak raisins in boiling water for 10 min, drain well and add to dough along with pistachios.

Make balls using about 2 Tbsp dough and flatten slightly. Place on a parchment lined sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 min. Let sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.

(Recipe adapted from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin)

Simple Baked Buffalo Wings

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If chicken wings are not already prepared, separate the wing and drumettes, and trim off the wing tips.

Bake at 425 degrees F for an hour, turning them over halfway through. (They will be cooked sooner than this, but it takes about an hour for the skin to get nice and crispy.)

Transfer to a bowl and toss with enough Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce to coat. Serve with carrot and celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Cutting Up a Whole Chicken

My latest cooking goal is to start buying whole chickens and cutting them up myself. Even though it’s easier to just buy the specific pieces I want, I’m trying to embrace this new challenge, mainly because it’s cheaper. For the price of a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts, I could buy the whole chicken and get several more meals.

The only problem was I didn’t know how to do it. But then I found this great video on YouTube: How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken. It’s less than 4 minutes, and also includes making stock with the scraps!

So far I’m on chicken number three and it definitely got easier after the first one…but not yet easy enough for me to tackle on a weeknight before making dinner, which I did last time. Whoops. Late dinner. Nevertheless, I think I’m hooked. I’ll just try to plan ahead and get it done on the weekends.

Here’s how I’ve been using a whole chicken:

Boneless skinless chicken breasts for chicken marsala. (The first time I had a bit of trouble and also ended up with some smaller pieces to use for a stir fry).

(I also saw a tip in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice that you can cook the skin, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, in the oven at 350 degrees F until it gets nice and crispy. Best part of a roast chicken!)

Chicken legs and thighs for chicken and rice (and another version not on this blog).

Chicken wings cut and ready and stored in the freezer until I get enough to make a batch of buffalo wings worth baking

Backbone, breastbone, and wing tips for stock (Instructions in the video).

The third time I used the whole chicken in pieces for chicken fricassee. I’ve also got a few more recipes I want to make that call for a whole chicken. I’ll try to update this list once I make some more.

Here are my takeaways so far:

-It’s worth it, but does take some planning and time. Especially to let the stock simmer. Next time I think I’ll use the slow cooker.

-It helps to have a place (bags/soup pot/etc.) for all the various chicken parts ready to go before starting.

-A sharp knife is a must

-I like to wear disposable gloves to make cleanup easier. It’s hard to turn on the tap when my hands are full of raw chicken.

This has also inspired my cooking beyond chicken. I recently bought a pork shoulder for a soup I wanted to try. Even the smallest one was much bigger than I needed, so I cut up some for another recipe and stuck it in the freezer, then I was left with a big awkward piece with a bone in it. Since I was going to make a pork soup, I thought I might as well make a pork stock with the meaty bone. It was getting late so I just stuck it in the slow cooker overnight with some onion/carrot/celery.  It worked great. Then I had the meat in the broth to add to another soup. We’ve gotten a lot of good soup for that $8 piece of meat!

If you use a whole chicken, what do you do with it?

Pasta, Potatoes, and Pesto with Green Beans

I’m still working on cleaning out the freezer over here. I have a big batch of pesto I made last summer and froze in an ice cube tray. It’s nice to be able to just take out a bit at a time. This recipe is simple enough that it doesn’t really need a recipe, but I wouldn’t have thought to try this combination. And, you can make it all in one pot! It’s easily doubled to feed a bigger group (add a little extra water though). Everyone liked it and there was just a tiny bit left for my lunch the next day.

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1/2 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or cut into bite-sized chunks)

1 Tbsp salt

8 oz. gemelli or other short pasta

8 oz. green beans, trimmed and halved

1/2 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade pesto)

extra fresh grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a stockpot, cover the potatoes with 2 inches water. Bring to a boil. Add salt and pasta and return to a boil. Cook 2 minutes then add the green beans. Return to a boil and cook about 6 minutes, or until pasta and beans are done. Drain and toss with pesto. Season with salt and pepper and serve with extra parmesan. (Can serve warm or at room temperature).

(Recipe from One Pot by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living)

Rye Soda Bread with Dill Butter

On it’s own, I thought this bread was alright, but a little on the dry side, especially compared to my favorite Irish Soda Bread. But with the dill butter, I think it’s a new favorite. They make a great combination. I plan on making another loaf (and batch of dill butter) as soon as I finish the first. We had it with soup/stew for dinner, toasted for breakfast with scrambled eggs, afternoon tea, etc.

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2 1/3 cups (275g) rye flour

1 3/4 cups (225g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting and kneading

1 3/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt

2 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the buttermilk and stir until it comes together into a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just long enough for the dough to come together (about 30 seconds). It will be very sticky.

Form into a slightly flattened ball and place on a lightly floured baking sheet (I line it with parchment first). Brush the top and sides of the dough with buttermilk and sprinkle generously with flour (about 2 Tbsp). Slice four deep slashes in the dough, about two-thirds of the way down (as if making it into 8 wedges, but not going all the way through).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes in the center of the oven, then quickly move the bread up a level. Bake another 20 minutes, or until hard and hollow sounding when you tap the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve with dill butter.

Dill Butter:

1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives (I didn’t have this and left it out)

1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped shallots

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 tsp fine sea salt (reduce to a pinch if butter is salted)

1/3 cup goat cheese or semi soft farmers cheese.

Mix the herbs and shallots into the butter first, then mix in the cheese, leaving some small chunks of cheese. Serve at room temperature. (Keeps in the fridge for a week)

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(Recipes from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson)

Paella

I just finished reading The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn for a book club. I’ve been inspired (again) to work more on using things up in the kitchen. One of the ways she recommends doing that is by making paella. I didn’t realize that it was a good vehicle for using things up, but with all the random things in my freezer, I decided to give it a try and I really liked it!

I didn’t have shrimp, chicken legs/thighs, spanish chorizo, artichokes, pimento, or mussels. I did have the recipe “essentials” and also a few things to use up: 4 cooked chicken wings from roast chickens, 4 oz. Mexican chorizo, 5 scallops, 2 filets of home-smoked bass. Never would have thought to combine all those, but it worked! I’m including the recipe as shared in the book, but it’s pretty flexible so use what you have or what you like! I’ll probably never make the recipe exactly as written, but I’ll definitely make it in some form again.

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Shrimp-Flavored Stock:

1 lb medium shrimp, deveined, shells reserved

1 quart chicken stock

 

Seasoned Chicken:

6 chicken legs and/or thighs

coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

couple pinches cayenne

 

Basics:

2 Tbsp olive oil

8 oz chorizo, cut into bite sized pieces

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups Arborio, Bomba, or other short-grain rice (uncooked)

Pinch of saffron threads (about 1/4 tsp crushed)

 

To Finish: 

14 oz. can artichokes

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 oz. diced pimento

About 1 lb mussels, bearded and scrubbed

2-3 lemons, cut into wedges

Strips of green pepper (Apparently you are supposed to alternate bites of paella and green pepper. Mine was frozen so I didn’t get to try it this time)

Combine the shrimp shells and chicken stock in a pan and simmer until needed. Season the chicken pieces generously with the salt and other seasonings.

Heat a 12 to 15-inch pan (I used a 12-inch carbon steel frying pan, and it all just barely fit) over medium-high heat or a hot grill. Add the oil and saute the chorizo until it is partially cooked, about 5 min. Add the chicken to the pan and brown it well, turning occasionally, for about 15 min. Remove the chorizo and chicken and set aside. Add the onion, green pepper and garlic and cook until the vegetables are softened and starting to brown. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and cook another 3 min. Strain the shrimp shells from the stock.

Add the rice to the vegetables and cook, stirring, for a couple minutes, until gently toasted. Add the strained stock, saffron, several cranks for black pepper and 3 pinches salt. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pan.

Cover loosely with foil and adjust the heat to keep it at a bubbling simmer for about 25 min, until the rice is tender. (It can also be finished in a 450 degree oven.) If excess liquid remains, remove the foil and cook until it is absorbed. Scatter the artichokes, peas, and pimentos on top of the rice. Press the shrimp and mussels into the hot rice. Cover again until the seafood cooks through, about 8 to 10 min. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand (covered) for a few minutes before serving. Discard any mussels that are not open after cooking. Remove bay leaves. Serve with lemon wedges and strips of raw green pepper.

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(Recipe adapted slightly from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn)

 

Cream of Celery Soup – à la “Chopped”

On a recent very long flight I was watching the cooking show Chopped for the first time and four teenagers were competing. If you’ve never seen the show before, the contestants have to make various dishes and must include a bunch of random leftover ingredients in each course. The results were quite impressive. Two of them were only 14 years old and their dishes looked very professional!

I was inspired, and when I got home I resolved to look in the fridge and pantry and use up stuff creatively (something I’m not very good at doing yet, but would like to improve).  So I garnished my cream of celery soup with celery leaves and parsley, crushed peanuts, and Frank’s buffalo wing sauce. Served with goat cheese biscuits (I think you can serve pretty much anything with these and be happy). I couldn’t compete with those teens, but this was pretty good.

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Cream of celery soup:

About 1 lb celery, roughly chopped

4 cups stock or water, or a combination (I used 1/2 vegetable broth and 1/2 water)

1/4 to 1 cup cream or half-and-half (I used about 1/4 cup and it seemed just right for this soup)

salt and pepper to taste

optional: chopped fresh celery leaves, parsley, or chives, peanuts or other nuts, hot sauce, or an extra drizzle of cream

In a medium saucepan, bring celery and stock to a boil then lower the heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in a blender. Strain celery soup after pureeing (unless you use a Vitamix, then it’s unnecessary). Reheat the soup over medium-low. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cream, heat again and serve.

(Recipe adapted from “Cream of Mushroom (or Any Vegetable) Soup” in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

Note: So, I actually wrote the draft of this post years ago and I’m not sure why but I never published it. I recently found myself once again with a bunch of celery destined to rot in fridge if I didn’t do something about it, and I remembered this recipe that I made before. I guess it’s now time to post it!  This time I didn’t have peanuts or Frank’s, but chopped cashews and another type of hot sauce did the trick (and the soup would still be good without any garnishes). And this recipe can be used for pretty much any vegetable you need to use up.