Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scallops for Heather

Once again, scallops over spinach over orzo. But different... this time with a white wine and Parmesan cream sauce, which was even better than it sounds. Also better than it looks-- it's hard to take a decent picture of mostly beige food in a dark room.

I need a better name for this, possibly, but I made this for my sister's birthday. We had a ridiculously fantastic bottle of champagne (it was a present) and I wanted to eat something equally spectacular but complimentary.

I'm trying to write this down from memory (I would've taken better notes if I'd known it would be so delicious), but I put it together with a recipe from Cooking Light (ha!) and the general idea of some sort of white wine sauce, which turned into a cream sauce just because I had heavy cream in the fridge. This sounds a little complicated, but if you have everything prepped before you start messing around the stove, it should take about 10 minutes.

Heather's birthday scallops
(serves 3-4)
1 lb. sea scallops (12-16; there should be 3-5 per person, depending on how big they are)
1/2 box of orzo
bag of spinach
a whole lot of butter
a bunch of olive oil
3 shallots, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 c. fresh parsley, snipped
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. dry white wine

Boil water for pasta; start chopping everything into little bitty bits. Set scallops onto paper-towel lined plate; grind pepper and sprinkle a bit of coarse sea salt over the top. Flip them over; repeat.

Once your water is boiling and you have everything chopped and ready to go, start cooking pasta and heating heavy pan over medium heat, generously coated with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. When oil is shimmery, saute garlic, shallots, and half the parsley. Remove the mixture a small bowl. Add more olive oil and 1/2 T butter. Put half the scallops and remaining parsley in the pan; cook for 2 minutes and flip (tongs are extremely helpful.) Cook for another 2 minutes, then remove to plate and cover with foil to keep warm; repeat with the other half of the scallops. Do NOT overcook the scallops; it's easy to do and then they get all chewy.

Drain pasta; leave in colander for now. Deglaze the scallop pan with most of a glass of white wine; pour into empty pasta pot. Bring to a simmer; whisk in cheese and half of the shallot mixture. When cheese is melted, whisk in cream and another tablespoon of butter. Bring to a simmer; stir in pasta.

Meanwhile, put the rest of the shallot mixture, a splash of wine, and the spinach into the scallop pan. Stir until the spinach is all wilted. Add a little salt and pepper.

Plate with a layer of pasta, then a layer of spinach, then 3-5 scallops on top. Sprinkle with any parsley that's left and a couple of grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Or very nearly. They tasted like bagels, even if they didn't look like them.

This was, of course, my fault. Instead of starting with bagel dough, I had no-knead bread dough that I decided to make bagels with. Predictably, instead of staying in the bagel shape, it kind of blobbed back into amorphous rolls. Which I then boiled and baked.

Boiling is what makes bagels all nice and chewy; baking makes them crispy. I boiled each bagel for about a minute on each side (using the method from How to Cook Everything), then set on a rack to drain.

I then baked for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. The bagels were SO good, except for the very minor finger burns that resulted from trying to spread cream cheese on something that had just come out of the oven.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Caprese salad

One of the great things about summer...

Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New header

From these cupcakes... my first attempt at a basketweave icing pattern was pretty enough to look at for awhile.

Chocolate Stout Cake

This was so good... very rich and chocolaty, and not too sweet.

Unfortunately, I need a taller cake dome, as half the top came off with it.

From Allison, who got it from Epicurious. The recipe is there, with detailed instructions; I don't have any notes to add, other than that the best smell in the world turns out to be a bottle and a half of beer with a pound of butter melting into it on the stove. Who knew?

Served with whipped cream and raspberry sauce, because I can't resist any excuse to eat raspberries.

Raspberry sauce

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book
1 10 oz. package of sweetened, frozen raspberries
1 t. cornstarch

Puree (thawed) berries and juice/ syrup from package in blender; press berries through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard seeds.

In a small saucepan, combine, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add berry puree. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook for an additional two minutes. Transfer to a bowl; cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Requiem for a French Press

I knocked my French Press into the sink over the weekend; it did not survive, so we had to dig out our drip coffee maker out from the back of the cabinet. (It would stay out all the time, but there is roughly 3 square feet of counter space in my kitchen.) (I may actually have to go measure that.)

Happily, they sell replacement beakers. Or I might just take this opportunity to buy the size we would actually use, since it's cheaper AND if I need to make a full 12 cups of coffee, I can go spelunking in the cabinets. Plus, one of the listed "product features" is a "Protective plastic encasement so glass won't break." Which apparently I need.

On an only marginally related note, if these are truly shatterproof, why would they need to sell replacement beakers?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friends, Romans, Bloggers!

I added a 'Friends' link list to the blog... if I know you (and given that I have a readership of, like, 4 people, odds are good that I do) and you'd like to be added, please drop me an email or leave a comment! (Right now, the list consists of Cristin's very cool style and neuroscience blog, and, um, my sister's dog's blog. On which my dog will occasionally will post as well. We have surprisingly computer literate dogs in our family.)


Mmm... chewy cinnamon sugar cookie goodness.

The dough is my favorite part, but the finished cookies aren't too bad, either. I do have a tendency to make the cookies a bit too big-- the recipe says that this makes 36 cookies, but it only made maybe 24 for me. Granted, I probably ate several cookies' worth of dough.

(from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
which has the greatest cookie recipes-- every one I've tried has been fantastic)

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

for coating dough balls:
2 T sugar
1 t ground cinnamon

Beat butter on high for 30 seconds; add 1 cup sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar. Beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour. Cover and chill dough in fridge for 1 hour.

Combine 2 T sugar, cinnamon on a plate. Scoop out teaspoons of dough, roll into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon mixture and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 10-11 minutes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The dangers of shopping without a list

I just got home from the farmers' market. I earlier stopped by a grocery store. I still don't have any garlic.

Shrimp sort-of-carbonara

This is a somewhat lighter take on a carbonara-type pasta; I subbed Canadian bacon for regular bacon, stock for cream, and used zucchini instead of some of the pasta. It turned out to be SO yummy... the dog was disappointed because the plates came into the kitchen pre-licked. (No company was present.) Also, as I'm writing this out, it sounds complicated but actually took only 15 minutes (25 including chopping/ prep time, with the caveat that I already had stock made and frozen)

1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled
1 zucchini, sliced or julienned
1/4 lb. pasta (I used fettuccine)
1/3 c. stock (I had chicken in the freezer, so that's what I used-- shrimp would be better...if you shell the shrimp ahead of time and simmer them in a really small pot with the the ends of the onion you're already using, you conveniently have all the ingredients, and you were just going to throw them away)
1 small onion or a couple of shallots, diced
kernels from 1 ear of corn
3 slices Canadian bacon (yes, real bacon would be good, too), julienned (cut into small sticks-- can you julienne meat? Somehow, you only hear about carrots)
splash of cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil for pan

1. Chop up everything; boil water for pasta; dump in pasta now

2. In large, heavy pan, saute Canadian bacon, 1/2 the diced onion, and the corn kernels until onion starts to go translucent and bacon browns a bit. Remove bacon-corn mixture to a bowl.

3. In the same pan, saute the zucchini and the rest of the onion until zucchini starts to turn brown. Remove to bowl.

4. Deglaze saute pan with your stock; drain pasta. Pour the stock (now with yummy brown bits from the pan) into a saucepan; put over low heat. (I used the same one I used to cook my pasta-- just left the pasta in the colander.) Stir in the parmesan cheese and the bacon-corn mixture; cheese will melt. Stir in cream; toss pasta and zucchini in sauce.

5. Saute the shrimp; this only takes a couple of minutes, so nothing will get cold.

Monday, August 17, 2009

No bake cookies

So I brought these to a barbecue on Saturday, and no one there had eaten them before. Are no-bake cookies a Midwest thing? An Ohio thing? It was mind-boggling.

These weren't quite as good as my Mom's-- too sweet and not quite rich enough. I'm waiting on her recipe, and will post it when I field test it.

Still, though-- I thought this was a universal childhood thing, up there with rice krispy treats and chex mix.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Flatter than I meant it to be bread

I probably should not have been surprised that very wet, unkneaded bread dough, when baked on a flat surface, likes to rise sideways, rather than up. Stupid gravity.

This blob-like dough resulted in a loaf of bread that looked like a beached jellyfish. Super tasty, though, and it looked pretty enough after it was sliced. Nice crust, and lots of it.

It was particularly delicious dipped in olive oil and herbs and with gazpacho.

No-knead flatbread

(once again, adapted from Mark Bittman's no knead bread.)

3 c. bread flour
1/4 t. fast rise yeast
1-1/2 t. salt
1-1/2 c. water
Olive oil (for pan and top of loaf)
Cornmeal (for pan and top of loaf)

Mix dry ingredients in mixing bowl; stir in water until dough forms a ball. Cover with plastic wrap; let sit at room temperature overnight or until surface is dotted with bubbles.

Punch down (by stirring); let rest for 20 minutes. Oil a shallow baking sheet; I sprinkled mine with cornmeal so the crust would be crunchier and so it would stick even less.

Place dough on sheet; attempt to form a loaf; watch as it sinks into a puddle shaped blob. Drizzle oil and sprinkle cornmeal over top. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for at least two hours, or until blob doubles in size and doesn't immediately spring back when poked.

Bake at 400 for 35-45 minutes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flour tortillas

I think these are worth the effort... tortillas that are yummy in and of themselves, rather than just a vehicle for fillings. From The Homesick Texan.

Texas Flour Tortillas

(adapted from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison)

2 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 t vegetable oil
3/4 c. warm milk

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil.
Slowly add the warm milk.
Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.

Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft.

Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest, otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)

After dough has rested, place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. Repeat 7 times.

Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook. If you need put them aside for more than a few minutes, keep tortillas separated with plastic wrap between each one.

In a dry skillet heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done.

Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat.

Makes eight tortillas.

I served them with fajitas... 1 out of 1 husbands agree: Thumbs up!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Eggs and toast!

Not a recipe... but this was weekend breakfast perfection. Eggs over easy and homemade toast.

Just look at the open crumb structure of the bread (Craig says that this was my best loaf of bread yet):

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Almond, this time, with raspberry butter cream frosting. I didn't overfill them quite as much as last time, but still ended up with mushroom shaped cupcakes. Still, they mostly came out of the pan intact!

And I got to bust out my decorating bag!

Not too bad for a first attempt at the basket weave pattern:

And I like these little swirlys:

I've decided that frosting is my favorite medium to doodle in.

I used the same recipe as last time, just adding an extra 1/2 t of almond extract to the batter, and substituting seedless raspberry preserves for the cream in the frosting.

Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cupcake recipe

Almond Cupcakes (makes 12, plus a little extra)
1/2 c. (a stick) butter, softened
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 t almond extract
1/4 t vanilla extract
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350; line muffin tins with papers.
Mix milk, almond extract, and vanilla in measuring cup; mix flour and baking powder well with a fork or whisk.
Cream butter; beat in sugar gradually and beat until fluffy (~3 mins on medium speed)
Beat in eggs one at a time
Gradually add flour and milk, alternating and beating until incorporated
Spoon batter into cups, about 2/3 full.
Bake 20-22 minutes; cool on rack before icing.

Raspberry Buttercream frosting
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 c. confectioners sugar (or one 15 oz. box)
1/4 c. seedless raspberry preserves (4 T)
1/4 t vanilla extract

Cream butter; beat in half the sugar and all the jam and vanilla.
Gradually add remaining sugar until icing is thick enough to spread.

One thing I didn't think of until I was frosting the last, extra little cake (there's enough batter for 13 or 14 cupcakes-- I made the extra in a little ramekin) was adding a thin layer of jam on top of the cupcake before frosting. I now highly recommend this... particularly if you make the cupcakes a day ahead so that the jam soaks into the cake a little bit. Keep covered in the fridge; take the cupcakes out an hour or two before serving to bring to room temperature.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When you want more than steak sauce...

Mmm... medium rare T-bone (cut in half) with gorgonzola and red wine sauce.

This was definitely not a weight watchers recipe... but keep the portions smallish, and it's not quite a heart attack on a plate.

Ingredients (for 2 people):

1 1-lb ribeye (probably better for cutting in half)
2-3 oz. gorgonzola cheese
4-6 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
a lot of butter (3 T?)
1/2 c. (1 glass) red wine (not too dry)

30-60 minutes before cooking, remove the steak from the fridge. Pat dry with a paper towel; sprinkle coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper generously on each side.

When ready to cook, heat up heavy duty skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 T of butter to the skillet; it should sizzle and melt immediately. Add the steak to the skillet; cook somewhere around 4 minutes on each side. Remove steak to a plate; spread 1/2 T butter on top, crumble the cheese over it, and tent with foil.

Add yet another tablespoon of butter to the skillet and sautee the mushrooms until they stop giving up liquid (3-4 minutes). Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits up with a spatula. Cook until the wine is reduced by about half and looks a little thicker. Add remaining butter; stir until melted.

Cut steak in half and plate; pour mushrooms and sauce over each portion.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chilled cucumber melon soup

I think I need a better name... there's something similar called Fire and Ice soup. But that sounds like a figure skating routine. This is basically a fruit gazpacho, but with cantaloupe instead of tomatoes, no bread, and with ginger as the major seasoning. Or, really, it's a smoothie in a bowl.

This was SO GOOD... it's kind of a weird color in the pictures, but it was delicious (and less odd-looking in person.) It could be a dessert (maybe?) or first course (definitely.) It was very easy... once again, just throw stuff in a blender and then chill for a couple of hours. To make two bowls of this soup, I blended:

1/2 peeled cucumber
1/2 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into chunks
1-2 inch piece of ginger, peeled (and I used ginger shavings for garnish)
1 T honey
1 T sour cream
dash of red pepper flakes (use sparingly-- it gives a nice little kick, but I went a little overboard)

The cantaloupe has enough water that you don't need additional liquid. The sour cream adds a little tanginess; plain yogurt would be good, too.