15 Minute Scallops

It’s early August, which means Christmas decorations will likely be showing up in stores any day now (sigh) — and while that can drive any person nuts, I’m already looking for ideas for Christmas Eve.  I found this Barefoot Contessa recipe a few years ago, and it has always been a good standby for a quick and tasty dinner that you can make in, no joke, 15 min or less.

Served alongside some sauteed sprouts, some crusty french bread to soak up the sauce, and a tall glass of wine to account for the presence of a threenager at the table, and you’ve got a quick and easy Friday dinner.

Enjoy

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons

Over the years, the wife’s go-to gift for me has been a cookbook. (She always seems to shoes and coffee from me). One of the best purchases has been the Chopped Cookbook, which, much like the show, offers creative ideas for things you almost certainly have in the house already. This one is a becoming a favorite; you can make it in a half hour. And our toddler loves it.

Take some chicken thighs, season them with salt, pepper, cinnamon and coriander. Brown them, about 3 min a side, then take them out. Throw some tomato paste in the pan, cook it for about a minute, then add the chicken back, with about a cup and a half of chicken stock, chickpeas, and some preserved lemons*. Let it simmer for about 15 min, then serve it over couscous with dates and cilantro.

*if you dont have preserved lemons, just take a regular lemon, slice it, then season with salt, pepper and sugar. Let them sit for about 15 min, the sear them for about 2 min a side to caramelize.

Try it out, and enjoy!

Tuna Done Right

With kid #2 slated to arrive just about any day now, I’m making a conscious effort to run through all of the wife’s favorite dishes.  She’s yet to make me an official list, but if she ever did, I’m pretty sure this one would be near the top.  Tuna with a spicy mango avocado salsa.

Before the wife showed up in my life, tuna was something that came from a can, was buried in mayonnaise and make the house stink like hell for days. In short, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But, over our first few dates, she helped expand my horizons and eventually I came up with this.

In short, it is pretty easy.  One mango, one red onion, one diced jalapeno (or whatever heat producing pepper you want), one avocado, some salt, a dash of chipotle powder, line juice and a handful of cilantro.  Toss it all together –and then wait for the tuna.

As for the fish –  season it with some salt and pepper, and again a dash of chipotle powder, then get the grill stupidly hot (700+ degrees) — and seer it about 30 seconds a side.  Remember, its almost impossible to uncook tuna, and incredibly easy to overcook it. This one was actually slightly overcooked, but still very tasty.

Wash it down with a tasty pinot noir  …. or if you’re 9+ months pregnant a tall yet refreshing glass of water.

Milan meets the Ocean

Years ago, the wife and I honeymooned in Italy. To this day, there’s a small part of me that’s surprised we ever left (jobs and having a source of income are funny like that) – but about two years ago, we went back, and took the then 11-month-old munchkin to Lake Como and Milan. Milanese cuisine is often hit or miss  The farther north you go in Italy, the more the cuisine starts to resemble French and German, neither of which are bad, just neither of which are the Italian that I love.

However, the one thing the Milanese do better than just about anyone is risotto.  As i’ve mentioned before, risotto itself is generally quite easy to make, as you can count the ingredients you need on one hand.  This NYTimes recipe is a good place to start, although as I almost always pair risotto with scallops, I tend to use seafood stock for the broth rather than other options (in this case I used some leftover shrimp stock I had in the fridge.

The little guy ended up eating his weight in risotto. Damn if saffron doesn’t cost several hundred dollars a pound….

Mother’s Day Creative Pasta

I’m fortunate enough to have a better half, although to be honest, most days it feels more like she’s the better three quarters.  She’s brilliant– I, um, try hard. She’s successful, I often hack my way through.  She’s gorgeous, I’m, well, me. But at least I can cook, and I try to put a smile on her face come dinner time every night, and make an extra effort to go that extra mile on holidays.

Unfortunately, many of her favorite meals in my lexicon aren’t exactly pregnancy-friendly (my seared tuna with mango avocado salsa, for example)– So this Mother’s Day, I went with a little creativity and hoped for the best.

The weather was lousy here today, grey and wet. So I wanted to do something a little more hearty for dinner tonight, which led me to mushrooms, and being Italian pasta on a Sunday seemed to make the most sense.  The result — this.  A wild mushroom spaghetti

I took a variety of mushrooms (porcini, hen of the woods, baby bellas) – and sauteed them in garlic, olive oil, and shallots, threw in some white wine and some herbs grown in the garden (sage and basil) then pureed most of it with a little cream and goat cheese. I added a little pasta water to loosen it up and bind it to the pasta and then topped it off with a few of the mushrooms that were pulverized and of course, a little parm.

Served alongside some simply roasted broccoli, and a glass of red (for me) — and all and all, not too bad.

Although, probably a safe bet that next Mother’s Day will involve seared tuna.

 

 

Mothers Day Brunch

I’m not entirely sure where the tradition of mother’s day brunch came from, but with a 2.5-year-old in the house, who has a passion for destroying things at will, and a pregnant wife unable to self-medicate with alcohol, a morning at one of DC’s finer establishments wasn’t really in the cards.

So, we did it ourselves at home, with some breakfast tacos.  Pretty simple here, scramble some eggs, with a handful of cheese, add some bacon, salsa, sour cream and avocado — and you’ve got brunch, in 20 min or less.

Penne with Sausage and Saffron

Years ago, my parents bought me a subscription to the (now defunct) La Cucina Italiana magazine, which assured that every two months, I’d get 70 pages full of pictures that would make me hungry, and very few recipes I would ever make, on account of the fact that most of them included exotic or at least non-everyday ingredients like rabbit, or required more cooking and prep time than a working day (or at that point, a working boyfriend) could invest most nights of the week.  However, about a dozen recipes have made it into our frequent rotation; this is one of them.  Its one of the wife’s favorites, and the munchkin can’t get enough of it.

It’s pretty easy. Take a white onion, sautee it in a little canola oil with some thyme for about 5 minutes or just until the onions start to brown.  Toss in about a half pound of sausage meat (I think the original recipe calls for sweet, but hot can work too), then add about cup of cream and a heavy pinch of saffron (bloom the saffron in a bit of water before adding to the cream).  Let that thicken up for a few minutes, then toss the sauce over your favorite cut pasta.

As always, serve with red wine.  If you’re the parent of a toddler, lots of red wine.

Beating the Heat with Citrus

Citrus flavors are often a great way to combat blazing temperatures outside. Given that it’s 90+ outside this citrus and pea linguini really hit the spot.

This is mostly following this recipe from epicurious with only two changes. I swapped out the orange for a blood orange, which has a bit of a stronger flavor… and its juice can make a tasty mimosa or screwdriver tomorrow.

Swapped linguini for penne, to better enable pictures like this.

Shockingly, the kid didn’t like the prosciutto….we might have to disown him.

 

Sleep with the Fishes

As a communications professional by day, I can appreciate the concept of irony. Like, for example, me noting that I rarely cook with a recipe, and then the first few blog posts showcase food that heavily relies on a plan of attack developed by someone else.  Let’s park that though, this is a blog about food, not semantics.

Firmer fishes are something I’ve come around to later in life. Growing up, we used to eat shark and other similar things on occasion, they were awful. Years later, with some cooking skills of my own under my belt, I’m realizing my aversion to “fork and knife” fishes was probably due to the fact that my parents overcooked them….incinerated them — like we’re talking Donald Trump steak preferences here.

The wife has brought me around the past few years, but I still don’t feel overly confident enough to just wing it.  So, when in search of a recipe — Ina Garten is always a good place to start. Her recipes are usually pretty straightforward, and generally speaking, calibrated to feed two people, not 20.

She calls this one Indonesian Swordfish, although the ingredients are pretty basic, so I’m not overly sure what makes this Indonesian.  But again, we’re talking about food here, not semantics.

I served this alongside some quickly flashed kale, that uses all of five ingredients (6 if you count the fire) – Kale, Salt, Pepper, Lemon Juice and Olive Oil. As Ina would say, “How easy is that?”

Carbonara – Proof that God Exisits

I’m honestly not sure if I had ever had Spaghetti Carbonara until the wife and I took our honeymoon to Italy. Which basically means I lived the first 30 years of my life deprived.

You’d think with so few ingredients, it would be a pretty idiot proof dish. You’d think wrong.  The number of times I served what basically turned out to be spaghetti and scrambled eggs was appalling.  Then I found this New York Times recipe and everything made sense.  I usually double the pancetta in the dish (because, which of life’s problems cannot be solved with more bacon?) and add one extra egg yolk to the mixture, although “1 egg” can always be a bit of an inaccurate thing listed on a recipe, given that they don’t come in uniform sizes.  While generally sacrilegious, I often had some parsley or basil at the end just for color.

Key to success here is having the eggs and pancetta at mostly room temperature. Even let the pasta cool a little too. The only heat to cook the eggs should come from the lukewarm pan, the residual heat from the pasta, and the pasta water.