Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fettuccine With Scallops and Lime

Last nights dinner was in a word FANTASTIC! Thanks once again to my newest BFF Chef Cat Cora for a meal that makes me feel like I could actually have a dinner party. The cumin coated scallops browned and cooked just the way Chef Ramsey abused, I mean instructed. This dish is spicy hot but the avocado and butter makes it creamy, smooth and rich. I would actually pay for this dish in a restaurant. The best part is that it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare.
Photograph by Mike Johnston

Fettuccine With Scallops and Lime
Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 16 medium scallops, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fish stock or store-bought low-sodium stock
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup cilantro plus more for garnish
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

Fill a large pot with water, add the salt, and bring to a boil.

In a large bowl, toss the scallops with the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes.

When the water boils, stir in the fettuccine and cook until it's al dente, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until it begins to shimmer but not smoke. Add the scallops and cook, turning with tongs, until almost cooked through, about 1 minute per side. With a slotted spoon, transfer the scallops to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.

Pour the stock into the pan and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. When the pasta is al dente, 9 - 11 minutes, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Add the red pepper flakes, lime zest, and half of the butter to the stock, whisking until the butter is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the remaining butter and whisk until the sauce has thickened. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss; add the cilantro and toss again. If the mixture isn't saucy enough, add some of the reserved pasta water. Divide the pasta among the serving bowls. Distribute the scallops and sliced avocado evenly among the bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve immediately.

Cat gives a twist on this recipe. I will probably try it when I make this next time.  It is called the tequila twist. She says "[a]fter you've cooked the scallops on both sides, pour in 1/2 cup tequila (stand back!) and flambe. With a slotted spoon, transfer the scallops to a platter, pour the stock into the pan, and proceed as directed."

Since I live in the mid-west there is no such thing as a fresh scallop. I have to buy mine frozen.  One trick I have learned is they will not brown unless you dry them.  I wrap mine in a tea towel and press down on them gently to remove the water. 

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did. It's quick, easy and will truly impress your friends and neighbors.

Life is good - enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cat Cora's Chopped Vegetable Salad

Every cook I know loves a new cookbook.  There is something seductive about them.  Most have glossy pictures that make us think we can be great chefs. Cookbooks let us dream about what could be.  There is something about holding a cookbook - flipping through the pages of one that your mother or grandmother owned and seeing all the little specks of history -  their handwritten notes about what was good and what was not, or what they changed to make the recipe better. I hope that electronic readers don't replace my beloved cookbooks - it just won't be the same.

This week my copy of Cat Cora's Classics With A Twist arrived in the mail. According to Wikipedia Cat was born in Jackson, MS, attended the Culinary Institute of American and was the only female winner of the Food Network's Iron Chef. The books jacket describes its contents as "...casual fare that looks as if you spent hours on it (but it takes a fraction of the time)..."

On Sunday I made the Chopped Vegetable Salad.  The salad has a lot of flavor and textures is light and delicious. I halved the vinaigrette for the two of us but made the entire recipe of vegetable salad (used only 1 avocado) and doubled the salad greens.

Photograph by Mike Johnston

Chopped Vegetable Salad
Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup almond oil or safflower oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Whisk together the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oils, one at a time, whisking constantly, until the vinaigrette is thick and creamy. Add the salt and pepper and set aside. (The vinaigrette can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.)

Chopped Salad
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup trimmed and chopped green beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels raw or cooked
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped jarred artichoke hearts
  • 2 large avocados, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped tomato
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mixed greens of choice (curly endive, chicory, or baby lettuce), cut or torn into bite-sized pieces.
To Blanch the vegetables: Using a fine-meshed basket or a slotted spoon, dip the carrots in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, removing them while they're still crisp and bright. Cool them in the ice bath, then scoop them out, let them drain for a few seconds, and place them in a large bowl. Add more ice to your ice bath and repeat the blanching process with the green beans, transferring them to the ice bath while they're still bright green, cooling and draining them in the same manner and adding them to the bowl with the carrots.

For the Salad:  Add the onion, corn, celery, and artichokes to the bowl. Just before you're ready to serve, add the avocados and the tomato. Gently toss the vegetables with about half the vinaigrette until they're lightly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and gently toss once more.
Toss the greens with the remaining vinaigrette, but use a light hand. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Divide the salad greens among four salad plates. Mound the chopped vegetables on the greens and serve.

I served this with a crusty Tuscan White Boule and glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc. 

Life is good-enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mexicali Sliders With Cajun Yam Fries

I recently read about a young vegan chef, named Chloe Coscarelli,  who won a contest on the Food Network show called “Cupcake Wars”.  She made beautiful cupcakes WITHOUT butter and eggs and won. I was intrigued thinking that anyone who can bake without these two ingredients and win a contest against other chefs has some secrets to share with the rest of us. I was right. There were the two winning cupcakes:

If you want to try your hand at making her winning raspberry tiramisu cupcakes you can follow this link: http://www.chefchloe.com/blog/2/16-new-winning-recipe-raspberry-tiramisu-cupcakes.html.
Many years ago I tried being a vegetarian.  It was boring and the food I ate just wasn’t that exciting. More recently I have tried to incorporate vegetarian and vegan meals into my weekly diet.  I know several people who don’t eat meat but eat convenience foods that make them think they do.  I’m talking about those fake burgers and chicken patties, fake sausage and fakein-bacon.  I ate  these things as well, thinking how healthy I was being, until  I looked at the ingredient list on the backs of the boxes.  You may as well be eating pesticides for all the chemicals they put in to make it tastes like meat. But today things are changing.  There are wonderful cooks like chef Chloe who are taking healthy ingredients and transforming them into meals that we can all love.
This past weekend I made her Mexicali Sliders and Cajun Yam Fries.  The sliders are out of this world.  Since I didn’t have small buns I divided the slider mixture into four 5oz. patties.  These sliders are slippery and the best way to eat them is with a knife and fork.  We pitched the top bun - it just wasn’t necessary.
Photograph taken by Chef Chloe
Mexicali Sliders
Serves 6-8
12-15 mini buns/rolls for sliders or 6-8 regulars sized hamburger buns
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, small dice
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small carrot, finely diced or shredded (about ½ cup)
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ bunch cilantro, chopped
¼ cup water
My Patties before pan frying

Spicy Mango Sauce
1 mango, peeled and cut
½ cup sun dried tomatoes, whole or sliced
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, but any kind will do)
1/8 teaspoon salt

3 ripe Haas avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
½ lime, juiced
¼ cup salsa fresca
sea salt and black pepper

1.    In a large skillet, sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until tender and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes.
2.    In a large bowl, use a large spoon or your hands to mash together beans, carrots, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, chili powder, salt, cilantro, ¼ cup water, and caramelized onions. If mixture is too dry to hold together, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.
3.    Using your hands, form mini burger patties that match the size of your buns or mini slider rolls.
4.    In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium/high heat and fry patties. Let each patty get browned and slightly crisp on each side before flipping (about 3 minutes on each side). Add more olive oil to skillet as you continue to fry more patties.
Spicy Mango Sauce
1.    Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
1.    In a large bowl, mash together the avocado and lime juice, then fold in the salsa fresca.
2.     Season with salt and pepper to taste.
1.    Slice each roll or bun in half and layer a couple teaspoons of mango sauce, 1 black bean slider, and about a tablespoon of guacamole. If you have extra mango sauce, you can use it as a dip for your fries!
Cajun Yam Fries
Photograph by Chef Chloe
Serves about 3 people
1 large yam, peeled and cut into ¼ thick fries
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2.    Toss yam sticks with oil, salt, and Cajun seasoning. Spread out evenly on a half sheet tray. If multiplying the recipe, use a separate sheet tray for each yam.
3.    Bake for 15 minutes then flip fries with a spatula. Rotate pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes until nicely browned and crisp looking.
This is soul satisfying food.  Although this meal took some time the leftover sliders kept well under refrigeration for several days. Thanks to chef Chloe and to the many other cooks and nutritionists who are helping us enjoy great vegan cooking.

Life is good - enjoy!