Scallops with ricotta-spring pea mash and chive oil

scallop-pea-mash1Welp, in typical Chicago fashion, Mother Nature has dumped a few more inches of snow across the city even though it’s technically Spring. Never fails, there’s always one last wintry slap in the face, and today is as good a day as any. While Mother Nature is dealing with her personality disorder, you can bring a little Spring into your kitchen with this dish.

I wasn’t totally sure how I’d make this vegetarian friendly without just serving up a plate of the mash and saying “bon appetit”. Looking around the kitchen, I spotted some potatoes on the counter and decided I would make “scalloped” potatoes for Terry. I cut them down to what a decent sized scallop would be, parboiled, then pan seared them to get the browned edges and finished them off in the oven. They actually looked better than my real scallops and I was proud of myself for being so clever. I had to use bay scallops because nobody had anything bigger, and they don’t sear up as good as larger ones, so I wasn’t able to get the browned caramelized color on them. But they tasted just fine.

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Fundamentals of cooking, week 4

Striped bass and flounder. AKA. Bill and Phil.

Striped bass and flounder. AKA. Bill and Phil.

Here fishy fishy! That was the theme for this week’s task – fish Monday, fish Tuesday, fish everywhere. Monday’s class started with the demo on how to filet striped bass and flounder. These fish were chosen specifically because one is a round fish (bass) and one is a flat fish (flounder)*. I’ve never once touched a fish, living or dead so I was a bit hesitant to dig in there and grab one of these guys. But just like last week with the game hen, I sucked it up and went to work.

The technique is actually pretty simple – given that you have a sharp filet knife and know exactly what to look for. One cut at the tail, a cut just behind the head, and one smooth slice down each side to detach the filet. Not so easy the first time around, but we did the same thing on Tuesday and having done it two nights in a row helped – Tuesday was much easier. Not to say that I did a beautiful job, but it was easier.

What I’m loving about this class is that each week builds upon everything we’ve learned. We’re going through mirepoix like it’s going out of style and with each batch, my cuts are getting more and more precise. I executed my first totally perfect small dice on a carrot this week, and that felt awesome.

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Seafood Fra Diavolo

diabolo2Tomato sauces are not something I usually go for. Something about them just doesn’t do it for me. I think it’s probably because I totally over did it on spaghetti in college. It was an easy, cheap thing to make so I made it all the time because I could also get a few meals out of one batch.

It’s a rare occasion that I want anything tomato sauce based, but I had a bunch of ingredients to use up this weekend and the best thing to pull together was this spicy tomato sauce. “Fra Diavolo” by the way, means “Brother Devil” – an appropriate name for this given the level of spice in this sauce.

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Scallop binge

scallops-with-tomatoes1It is officially summer and so officially, it’s my favorite time of year. During the summer, I’m most likely to be found in my chair in the back yard, book in hand, drink on the table next to me, soaking in the warm air. It’s quite the contrast to my cold-weather self where egregious amounts of TV is consumed and inactivity reigns.

I tend to crave lighter dishes in the summer, but there is still room for an occasional carb-loaded delicacy and these two dishes serve both purposes. I cooked scallops for the first time about 6 months ago. Nervous that I’d screw them up, (they can be delicate and are very easy to over and under-cook), I took in the appropriate amount of YouTube videos to feel confident enough that I’d get it right. The key is to make sure your pan is screaming hot. Hotter than you think it needs to be – they’ve got to sizzle the exact moment they hit the skillet. A quick test to see if your pan is hot enough is to splash some water in it. If it sizzles, you’re ready to add your scallops.

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Dinner for one: Pan-seared salmon with spinach and pink grapefruit pinot noir sauce

I made A LOT of food this weekend. It started with the tomato-basil soup I made on Saturday, to be served on Sunday for a family lunch. I cooked so much I didn’t even take a picture of the soup, but it’s a really good recipe, so if you want to try it yourself, here’s the original recipe. I definitely recommend getting roma tomatoes. Don’t substitute! Also, don’t forget to add a little sugar to cut back on the acidity.

Also part of today’s menu was stuffed mushrooms and banana split bites for dessert.

Since we had leftovers, Terry had those and I chose to make a separate dinner for myself – this pan seared salmon recipe. I knew I was going to want a good and easy dinner, so I looked for some salmon recipes and found this one on The Food Network website, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse.

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