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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Honey-lime sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos

sweet-potato-tacoAfter many weeks of heavy, butter-induced French style cooking, it’s time to start eating a little lighter and healthier. I’m trying to squeeze in as much fruit and vegetables and salads as possible over the next couple weeks until school starts up again. Probably not great timing being the holiday season and there are so many yummy treats that are definitely not healthy, but any little bit helps, I guess.

If you feel like adding a little protein, shrimp would be great in these. I’d dust them lightly with the same mixture of spices on the sweet potato and saute them off in a skillet.

I used pico de gallo as a topping, but you could use a variety of any type of topping – cotija cheese, cilantro, salsa, hot sauce, anything.

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Warm sweet potato salad

sweet-potato-salad4It’s the time of year that beckons comfort food; hearty pastas, squash of all types, casseroles and creamy soups. With that comes a load of calories as well – and if you’re like me, you’re not at all active in the winter, so chowing on all that yummy food tends to add up and leave you feeling a bit sluggish come spring.

Pace yourself through the season with this salad – it has the best of both worlds. The sweet potato is the star giving substance and when paired with the crunch of pistachios two ways, the tang of goat cheese and the snap of pomegranate, this is a salad that eats like a meal without making you feel like you over indulged.

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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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Cheese stuffed Portobello mushrooms

You want something easy and flavorful? This is it right here.

I found this recipe from Food & Wine and knew it was what we were going to eat at some point over the Memorial Day weekend. Equipped with fresh Portobello mushrooms from the farmer’s market, I went to work slicing, dicing and prepping.

The recipe is actually for a burger. I say don’t even bother with the burger part. These babies taste so good on their own, adding a hamburger bun seems like a sin. The filling is deceptively rich, and eating this as a burger would likely not leave much room for dessert, if there were any to be had. The filling has a versatile flavor that could be used on its own as a sauce (just add a little bit of heavy cream and perhaps some white wine and reduce it), serve it over vegetables or heck, even pasta. Oooo – or maybe even as a risotto! Now that would be good.

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Sweet potato burgers with roasted garlic spread

I think we’re all just about ready to close the door on winter and welcome Spring with open arms. There are signs all around us that Spring’s arrival is imminent. We moved the clocks ahead today, the temperatures have risen to above freezing, birds are chirping and if the wind is blowing right, you can catch a whiff of the earth’s aroma sneaking out from beneath all those layers of snow.

With the changing of the seasons also comes a motivation for Spring cleaning and nothing is exempt – especially the fridge. We have quite a few odds and ends ingredients that have been taking up residence for too long, so after doing an assessment, I determined that sweet potato burgers and baked onion rings would be the best thing to make today.

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