Category: Dinner

Pan Seared Scallops with a Fava Bean Pesto Risotto

The first time I ever tried scallops I think I was about 19 years old and with a newfound interest in food but barely cooking myself.  I was at a restaurant, actually to be honest I think it was Macaroni Grill which is funny to me now since I would probably never order scallops from a macaroni grill, mimis cafe, chilis or the like at this point in my life.  I ordered a salad with scallops on it I remember and really had very little idea what scallops were or how they tasted, and remembering it now I think I forced my way through that first taste test.  There was nothing dramatically offensive about them, but the texture was slightly slimy however there was zero fish taste and in fact it is a notoriously sweeter taste.  I’ve posted one other recipe with scallops and it was a salad with sliced strawberries and seared scallops and because of the sweetness of the scallops the pairing with the strawberries was fantastic.

This time, I chose a more savory approach but one which I had at a restaurant shortly before I made this recipe.  I found that the risotto was a perfect pairing because of the creamy texture of risotto and the smooth texture of the scallops .  Overall this was not the most difficult thing I have attempted to make but it does take a bit of dedication, a moderate amount of planning, and a step by step adherence to the recipe.

I chose to add the fava beans mainly because they are in season but also because they seemed like a fun ingredient that I had seen at the farmers market.  Which is honestly how I choose the recipes I make.  Something seems fun, and there ya go.  Fava beans are not much different than cooking other fresh beans, but the thing to remember about favas is that they are double shelled, meaning there is the outer shell that holds the individual beans and then each bean has a softer shell that also needs to be removed. HERE is a good step by step of how to cook them.

For anyone who thinks scallops are beyond their skill, they are wrong and anyone who things scallops are too expensive is misadvised.  Granted, you will get a better quality scallop from a fish market but you can get some just fine from most supermarkets these days.

I found the risotto recipe HERE , and the seared scallop recipe HERE.

{The second shell coming off}

{And then, the risotto.  As long as you stay close to the stove you shouldn’t have too many issues with the risotto}

{As the rice absorbs the chicken stock, the rice will cook and the mixture will get slightly thicker and will develop the notorious creamy consistency of risotto}

{So at this point is where there should be pictures of scallops being cooked, however, I feel like raw scallops are not that pretty so I didn’t take any.  But the recipe I linked has great step by steps}

{The finished plate!}

Summer Panzanella Salad

So I grew up in northern california, which most of you know, and let me just say it gets blazing hot in the summer.  When it gets to be over 100 degrees multiple days in a row there is not many types of food your body will willingly consume besides heavily iced drinks.  Well, salad happens to be one of them.  I’ve described the nostalgia of salads like my chinese chicken salad recipe in a previous post, but there really is nothing that makes it feel like summer to be than actually craving a salad multiple days in a row due to the overwhelming heat.

I’m going to be quite honest with all of you, I have absolutely zero idea where I got the idea of making a panzanella salad.  Seriously, sometimes people ask how I decide what to make and in all seriousness I think some it I think up in dreams.  So after deciding I wanted to make a panzanella salad, which for the record is a salad with fresh vegetables and big cubes of toasted bread…no leaves, I began scouring my favorite food blogs and of course pinterest to find a good recipe to follow.  Well after my thorough research I came to the conclusion that there really is no recipe for a panzanella salad, ok there obviously is if I found it on food blogs and such but what I mean by that is, you just throw whatever fresh vegetables you want together with some bread and voila!

*Sidenote*: I discovered squash blossoms about a year ago and love adding them to salads.  I also have a         fantastic post to come for goat cheese stuffed, fried squash blossoms…but thats for later.  The whole blossom is edible and I also added the mini zucchini that you see at the end of the blossom in the picture to this salad.  I have never seen the blossom in a market (maybe a specialty market) but they are reliably at the farmers market until mid august.

This salad, being so easy and more ‘hearty’ with the chunks of bread is a recipe you must make this summer. Whether you make it as a main course of a side salad is up to you but with a salad so fresh and light but also filling, youll start dreaming about it too.  And if by some change I havn’t convinced you….just look at the pictures.

Summer Panzanella Salad 

Ingredients

  • 3 c diced baguette or rustic loaf
  • 15 mini yellow squash  cut in half
  • 15 mini zucchini (see picture of squash blossom above) sliced lengthwise
  • 15 squash blossoms (from the mini zucchini) chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (you can substitute cherry tomatoes too)
  • 1/2 shallot sliced thin
  • 1-2 tbl capers
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Lemon mustard vinaigrette 

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place cubed bread on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven to toast, about 20 min.  Rotate halfway to make sure the bread is toasted evenly.  Remove from oven when toasted, set aside.
  3. In 1 tbl olive oil saute the mini zucchini and mini yellow squash until just under fork tender, about 10 min. Remove and set in large bowl to cool.
  4. Chop the tomatoes into chunks or slice the cherry tomatoes in half if you are substituting.  Add the the cooled squash.
  5. Slice the shallot thin and add to the large bowl.
  6. Add the capers to the bowl.
  7. Mix up the vinaigrette and add to the large bowl, toss to coat.
  8. When you are ready to serve, mix in the toasted bread and toss again to coat the bread in the vinaigrette.  Top with chopped squash blossoms and enjoy!

{I got both of these mini squash at the farmers market but I have seen the mini zucchini alone and the mini yellow squash at the supermarket}

{Slightly blurry saute action}

{The finished plate!}

Salmon with Panko Crust and Salmon Burger with Pickled Veggies

I know I probably mention this every time I post about a seafood recipe I made, but I cannot believe I used to dislike fish.  I mean, its understandable..the fishy smell can be quite off putting, especially for younger children who seemed to be pre-programmed to dislike anything green or that smells different than chicken…which has no smell.   Regardless, sushi was my turning point and after I became ok with seaweed the rest of my fish eating habits is history.

A couple years ago I had a roommate who also enjoyed cooking and she would make a similar panko crusted salmon which is where I got the idea.  Let’s face it, anything beautifully coated in a crunchy golden panko with a little butter and even garlic is quite irresistible, not to mention extremely easy to make.  If I was feeding more than just myself I would get the salmon filets from costco where you can get a good amount of bang for your buck as they say.  But my alternative is the frozen fish from Trader Joes.  Usually they come in freezer sealed packs of two or three filets and you can get salmon, tilapia, marinated ahi and other things but that’s usually what I get there.  Just think about how many you are feeding and choose a package with a weight accordingly (obviously the lighter the cutlets the cheaper it is).  You can keep it in your freezer for a week or two even before cooking it, which is always appealing when you get too many fresh vegetables that will go bad quicker.

When I made the panko crusted salmon I made both the pieces but knew I would only eat one.  So for a leftover meal I came up with the idea of making a salmon burger! The finished product resembled more of a crab cake-like patty but was absolutely delicious.  I even soaked sliced cucumbers and carrots in some rice vinegar for a couple hours before I made the burger and topped the patty with those along with a quick sriracha mayo…but honestly sriracha has been going on most things in this apartment lately.

HERE is a good recipe for panko crusted salmon.  And below is how I made the leftover into a salmon burger.

** I also made goat cheese and pesto smashed red potatoes. To make those boil the potato until fork tender, cut in half, smash with a potato masher and top with pesto and goat cheese then bake in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets slightly brown.

Salmon Burger with Picked Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 filet of cooked panko crusted salmon
  • 4 tbl light mayo
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 3 tbl panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1/2 tbl capers
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Whole wheat bun
  • 1/2 cucumber sliced lengthwise
  • 1 whole large carrot sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 c rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl sugar

Recipe

  1. A couple hours before eating or a day ahead combine the sliced carrot, cucumber, rice vinegar and sugar in a container, shake to mix and let sit in the fridge to marinate.
  2. In a food processer or by hand in a bowl combine the cooked salmon, 3 tbl mayo, egg, breadcrumbs, red chile flakes, capers and salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly, you should be able to form a patty with the mixture.  If it is not holding together add more mayo.
  3. Heat 2 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat.  When hot add the pre-formed salmon patty.  Sear each side until golden brown, about 3 min each.
  4. While the patty is cooking, combine 1 tbl mayo with 1/2-1 tbl sriracha depending on your spice tolerance.
  5. At this point you can also toast the buns if you wish either in a toaster or in a preheated oven.
  6. When the patty is seared on each side (remember, the salmon is already cooked so you are just looking for a good golden brown crust, you don’t want to overcook it) remove from heat.
  7. Smear some sriracha mayo on bottom and top hamburger bun and place the salmon patty on the bottom bun.
  8. Top with the rice vinegar marinated vegetables and place top bun on, ENJOY!

*feel free to adjust the burger toppings to your liking.

{This is how I sliced the veggies, feel free to slice differently}

{The Finished Plate!}

{This is a jump in the directions but I didn’t get any in between pics}

{Pesto Smashed Potatoes}

{Leftover Salmon Patty Makings}

{The Finished Burger}

Creamy Spring Pasta with Paprika Shrimp

Nothing makes me more giddy than going out to check the mail and seeing a brand spankin’ new ‘Cooking Light’ magazine.  Some buy People magazine regularly, others have shelves and shelves full of National Geographic magazines…I have years worth of Cooking Light magazines built up.  At some point, I know it will be the smart thing to throw out some older ones or simply stop subscribing.  But it is such a joy to spend an afternoon flipping through the different recipes and planning new dinner menus.   I also just have a great love for this particular food magazine.  The recipes are always delicious but at the same time always on the lighter side (nutritionally).  They have a way of transforming recipes that everyone wants to eat into healthier versions so beautifully.  So if you’re thinking of picking up a food magazine, my recommendation is definitely Cooking Light.  Food Network mag is also good but not on the healthier side, and Bon Appetit is a little on the swankier side (aka not as versatile and easy to make all the recipes).    So there is my low down on various publications that are oh so important to everyones well being, but I know there are a few out there that feel the same way about food magazines, or even a different type…at least you understand my reaction to seeing the mag in the mailbox.

On another note, a lot of people ask me if I follow recipes or if I make them up as I go.  Well, it’s a little of both.  Most of the time I will see a recipe and either figure out how I can follow the basic premise of it but alter it to my delight (or based on what I have around).  Other times, I know I should follow it word for word.  But to be honest the ability to change it up is why I love cooking so much, as opposed to baking.  This post is one of those moments where I altered…most of it.  But when I saw a healthier version of a creamy pasta I knew I had to try it.  And because Cooking Light is so great about keeping the delicious taste of recipes while substituting lighter ingredients, you don’t have to worry about this cream sauce not living up to your favorite alfredo.

THIS is the recipe that I followed to make the cream sauce.  And the following are the ways I altered it based on what I had around.

1. I eliminated the asparagus and green peas.

2. I forgot to add the breadcrumbs, but wish I had.  So make sure to include those if you want.

3.  I toped the pasta with shrimp sauteed in 1 tbl olive oil until cooked through with 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp ground black pepper.

4. I substituted shells for fettuccine because that’s what I had around.

{Cooking Light love}

{1/3 less fat cream cheese is the perfect way to get a creamy sauce while keeping it healthy}

{Finished plate, garnished with capers and fresh parsley}

** I trust that you know how to boil pasta so I eliminated that instruction

Breaded Eggplant and Polenta Parmesan

Everyone should have a go to meal that does not take a lot of work to make but is reliable every single time.  Usually it doesn’t include fresh produce, I like to keep certain things stocked that I know I can make when I run out of fresh produce but haven’t gone to the grocery store.  For some its frozen meals, for others is mac n cheese, for me its sliced polenta.  About a year ago I discovered this polenta at Trader Joes and have been buying it ever since.  Slice it up, pop it into the oven and throw some marinara over it and thats a meal!

Now eggplant can be a tricky beast, its weird looking and has a weird looking inside too.  The first couple times I used eggplant I didn’t cook it long enough and was thoroughly disappointed.  However, now I have come to learn the best ways to cook eggplant, and sliced, breaded and pan fried is by far the best method.  The trick though, is to crisp it up in a pan with a little olive oil but then after its golden brown on both sides, you put it into the oven to finish cooking.  If you tried to keep it on the stove until it was cooked the breadcrumbs would be a charred mess.  The same goes for breaded chicken, if the chicken is really thick it takes much longer to cook through than to nicely brown the outside.

Breaded Eggplant 

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 eggplant, sliced evenly
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • about 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3-4 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe

  1. Set up a breading station.  Place the flour on a plate with salt and pepper, then place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, then finally the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish (pie dishes work great for this)
  2. Take the sliced eggplant and for each slice, coat each side in flour first and shake off any excess, then dip into the egg and let the excess run off, then place in the breadcrumbs and lightly press the breadcrumbs onto each side of the eggplant slice and shake off any excess.  Place to the side and continue with the rest of the slices
  3. If you need more flour or breadcrumbs simply add more and continue.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  5. Heat 1 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat, when hot add 2-3 eggplant slices depending on the size of the pan, when the first side is starting to brown, flip and brown the other side. About 5 min on each side.
  6. Continue browning the rest of the slices.  When done, place them all on a baking sheet and place in oven to continue cooking for about 30 min.  (the eggplant should be fork tender and easy to slice with the side of a fork)

Crispy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 1 tube polenta
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2-3 tbl olive oil

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice the polenta evenly
  3. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, brush with olive oil.
  4. Bake for about 15 min, flip the slices and continue baking for another 15-20 min or until the outside is firm.

* Feel free to eat the polenta plain, with marinara, with pesto, with eggplant etc.

{Breading Station}

{After oven time}

{Sliced polenta tube}

{Finished plate, with a side of balsamic green beans}

Creamy Mac n Cheese with Roasted Scallions

Who doesn’t love mac n cheese? The cheesy noodl-y goodness, and the moment I realized oven baked mac n cheese with breadcrumb topping was maybe the best moment of my life.  There seems to be a move in a lot of restaurants to bring comfort food back and make it stylish, well I couldn’t be more on board with that movement.  Today you can find so many different types of mac n cheese, the oddest though might have to be the blue cheese mac n cheese my sister ordered one time.  That was a little strong.

I added the scallions to this recipe and to be honest, they could have been there or not but roasting them for a bit was a nice touch.  And the key to getting that oven baked goodness is definitely the crispy breadcrumb topping, and even more so when you mix in a little parmesan cheese.

HERE is the recipe I followed (minus the broccoli, however if you like broccoli that would be a delicious addition)

** for the roasted scallions, use about 5 whole scallions, trim each end and place in oven safe dish.  Add 1 tbl balsamic vinegar and raost at 350 for about 20 min or until wilted.

** Feel free to use whatever block cheese you have or want to add

***after the sauce is mixed with the pasta, place in oven proof dish and top with about 1 cup breadcrumbs.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 min or until topping gets golden brown.  (you might want to put the dish on a baking tray in case the cheese sauce bubbles over a bit)

ENJOY!

{I love my stackable measuring cups}

{Two cheeses}

{Before it went into the oven to crisp up}

{Melty oozy cheesy}

{The finished plate}

Baked Buffalo Wings and Fried Okra

I don’t really know how to explain it.  I kind of have a big thing for chicken wings. I can’t tell you how it started or when it started but there’s a fire burnin’. I originally intended to make this recipe for superbowl sunday as I was going to head over to a friends house and felt the need to come with gifts.  However in a change of events I had to work that day and wasn’t able to make it, but since I had already found the recipe it just wouldn’t leave my mind.  Luckily my friends are also pretty into wings so I’ve had the opportunity to make these a couple times.

In terms of the okra… well that was all Jessica. I’d heard of the stuff before, seen it at farmers markets, seen it pickled, but never purchased it or really looked up how one cooks okra.  The first time I had it was a couple months ago when we went out one night to a southern BBQ place where they had it offered as a side (which of course Jessica got).  Here’s my best stab at describing okra.  It’s pretty tasteless but has the consistency of a small squash inside. Tempting I know. But its actually delicious, especially when friend in cornmeal or just flour.  Add a pinch of salt and before you know it, you’ve eaten every last one of ’em!  So as convincing as my description was, I really do recommend trying them either in your own kitchen or if you find them on a menu.

Now here is my disclaimer about the chicken wings.  1.) We ended up getting a big back of raw frozen sings/ drummettes from smart & final for this recipe.  In hindsight it would have been worth shelling out a bit more to not have them frozen and also to have the skin removed already.  Because the recipe I followed involves baking the wings instead of frying them, the skin would never have crisped up enough to enjoy so I found myself skinning the wings before cooking them…not very appetizing and also very labor intensive.  2.) I didn’t take any pictures of the wings mid process because lets be honest…raw chicken isn’t very pretty.

THIS is the recipe that we used for the wings.  Jessica took over the okra but here is how we did it.

Fried Okra

Ingredients 

3/4 cup all purpose flour (you can also coat with cornmeal but the flour gives it a nice even breading)

salt and pepper to taste

1 bag frozen sliced okra (use as much as you want to serve)

oil for frying

Recipe

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat (I dont’t own an oil thermometer so I usually just splash a drop of water and if it crackles then I assume its ready..yup real official)

2. Place flour, salt and pepper and okra in a mixing bowl, toss to coat

3. When the oil is hot enough place one floured okra slice in the pan, if it sizzles and floats the oil is ready.  Add enough to fill the pan but not to crown the okra at one time.

4.  keep an eye on them, when they start to brown take them out and place them on a paper town to drain the excess oil.  (keep in mind that they will continue to brown/ fry when out of the pan so long as the oil is hot on them so pull them out right before they are too brown)

5. Enjoy!

{Sometimes you just have to take the spice into your own hands}

{The finished wings}

{Hello, meet Okra}

{Instagrammed}