Friday, March 29

Steak, Mushroom, & Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry

Steak Mushroom Brussels Sprout Stir-fry

This is the newest recipe in my growing index of stir-fry dishes. Tender slices of skirt steak and mushrooms get paired with shredded brussels sprouts and tossed in a yummy brown sauce. It's inspired by a recent recipe in Bon Appetit, but with more veggies since I'm still trying to get back on track from Vegas. It's almost like a warm Asian salad with the slightly-crisp brussels sprout leaves making up more than half the dish. I found that it was fully satisfying without any accompanying rice, but if you are trying to stretch it to feed more people (or just love rice) you could certainly serve some on the side. As with all stir-fries, this meal cooks in just a few minutes so it's important to prep everything in advance so that the ingredients can be added quickly while cooking. Leftovers reheat easily for a second lunch or dinner the next day.

Related Recipes:
- Beef & Eggplant Stir-Fry
- Thai Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts
- Beef, Mushroom, & Snow Pea Stir-Fry

Steak, Mushroom, & Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a large wok over very high heat.
  • Once oil is nearly smoking, add in 1 lb. thinly sliced brussels sprouts, 6 diced scallions, and 8 oz. thinly sliced mushrooms.
  • Cook vegetables for 4-6 minutes, or until softened and caramelized in some places.
  • Remove vegetables to a plate and return the empty wok to the heat.
  • Add in 1 tbsp. more oil and then add in 1 tbsp. matchstick-sized pieces of ginger, 2 tbsp. minced garlic, and 1 minced Fresno chile.*
  • Cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant but not brown, then add in 3/4 lb. thinly sliced skirt steak.**
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until meat is brown, then add in the vegetables.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 3 tbsp. soy sauce, 3 tbsp. oyster sauce, 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl.
  • Pour sauce into the wok and toss to combine.
  • Cook for 2 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and coated the meat and vegetables.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves four
*I left in most of the seeds for extra heat. If you want it even spicier you can use a hotter chile.
**Slice steak very thinly across the grain to keep it tender. Can substitute with flank steak.

Thursday, March 28

Red Curry Fish with Cilantro & Peanuts

I absolutely love Thai food and came up with this dish as a tweak on my classic coconut curry recipe (seen here and here). A simple broth is made out of a few pantry ingredients (no need to make your own curry paste) that the fish poaches in. I like rockfish for its neutral flavor and flaky texture and because it holds up well once its been cooked. The chopped peanuts add a satisfying crunch that I think is necessary in any fish dish that doesn't have a crispy skin. It's a fast, healthy, and flavorful meal that will spice up your average weeknight.

Related Recipes:
- Thai Curry Chicken Drummettes
Thai Chicken Curry
Shrimp in Thai Curry Sauce

Red Curry Fish with Cilantro & Peanuts:
  • Add 2 heaping tsp. red curry paste* to a skillet over medium heat and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Whisk in 1 c. chicken stock** and one 14 oz. can of light coconut milk until paste dissolves.
  • Add in 2 tsp. fish sauce, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and a very small pinch of cayenne pepper.***
  • Let sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
  • Season 3/4 lb. boneless skinless rockfish fillets**** with salt and nestle into the curry sauce.
  • Cover pan with a lid and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily.
  • Remove the fish from the sauce and divide onto plates. Stir the juice of 1 lime into the sauce and check for seasoning.
  • Pour sauce over the fish, then sprinkle each plate with 1 tbsp. minced cilantro and 1 tbsp. chopped roasted peanuts.

Serves two
*Available in the Thai/Asian aisle of most grocery stores.
**Or fish stock or clam juice. I like chicken stock for its neutral flavor.
***If you want it spicy. Some curry pastes might already be very spicy.
****About 3-4 fillets. You can substitute with any other thin, flaky whitefish.

Wednesday, March 27

Cauliflower & Pancetta Shells

Few weeks go by without an easy pasta dish for dinner and this one is my latest favorite. Just a few ingredients create a hearty, healthy meal that feeds a crowd. The cauliflower gets cooked in a big skillet and then most of it gets pureed to a smooth sauce that looks and tastes deceptively creamy despite having no dairy. It reminds me of a healthier riff on the kid-favorite white cheddar shells. It's amazing how far a little pancetta goes in adding flavor, although you could omit it and keep it vegetarian (just make sure you season it well or add a little more Parmesan to make up for the lower salt content). The head of cauliflower that I got at my farmers market was enormous, so you might need two smaller heads to yield that same amount I used. Leftovers taste great too - just add a little liquid before reheating to keep it from drying out.

Cauliflower & Pancetta Shells:
  • Dice 1/3 lb. pancetta* and place in a large, hot skillet.
  • Cook pancetta for 5-8 minutes, or until most of the fat has rendered and the meat has browned and crisped.
  • Remove the pancetta and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until softened.
  • Add in the diced florets from 1 very large** head of cauliflower, 1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until cauliflower is very tender.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt, and add 1 lb. of small pasta shells.
  • Cook pasta until nearly al dente, then drain.
  • Place 3/4 of the cauliflower and onion mixture in a blender with 1/2 c. chicken stock and puree until smooth.
  • Check for seasoning and add more stock as needed to thin the sauce.
  • Add the pasta to the skillet and stir in the puree. Toss to combine and add in 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese.
  • To serve, divide pasta onto plates and sprinkle with pancetta.

Serves four - six
*Or bacon. Place the meat in the freezer for 10 minutes before chopping to make things easier.
**I had 4-5 c. of florets total. Make sure you dice them quite small.

Tuesday, March 26

Lemon Chicken & Spinach Orzo Soup

I just got back from my bachelorette party in Las Vegas and am in recovery mode. Besides suffering from a serious lack of sleep, I've also managed to lose most of my voice. Soup seemed like the perfect cure but generally isn't a realistic weeknight meal because it takes awhile to develop flavors simmering on the stove. Thankfully, this recipe (inspired by this) is a quick-cooking soup that's made in one pot and only takes about thirty minutes. It's full of veggies and lean chicken and has a great freshness from the lemon and dill that gets added at the end. Even though it's so fast to make, the soup manages to develop a slow-cooked taste from my secret ingredient: a Parmesan cheese rind. I actually prefer it to a traditional chicken noodle soup since the flavors are much more complex.

Lemon Chicken & Spinach Orzo Soup:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add in 2 diced celery stalks and 1 diced leek* and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened but not brown.
  • Pour in 7 c. low-sodium chicken stock and increase the heat to high.
  • Add in 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs and the rind from 1 wedge of Parmesan cheese* submerge in the liquid.
  • Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Cover the pot with a lid, lower to a simmer, and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken with tongs, let cool, and shred the meat.
  • Meanwhile, add in 1/2 c. orzo and boil in the broth for 8 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Stir in 4 c. loosely packed baby spinach leaves and the juice from 1 lemon.
  • Allow spinach to wilt into the soup, about 2 minutes, then stir in 1/4 c. chopped dill.
  • Check for seasoning, remove the rind of Parmesan, and divide into bowls.

Serves four
*White and light green parts only. Make sure to clean the leeks before adding to the pot. I like to split them in half and place in a bowl of cold water - the dirt will fall to the bottom and the clean leeks will stay floating on top.

Thursday, March 21

Steamed Mussels with Meyer Lemon Butter

Steamed mussels is one of the easiest recipes out there, since everything just gets dumped into a big pot, covered with a lid, and then is ready to eat in five minutes. If you're having a casual meal, you can even place the pot in the middle of the table and eat out of it family style - which is what my fiance and I like to do. This variation uses end-of-the-season meyer lemons which pair nicely with the briny mussels. It's a restaurant quality dish that's the perfect no-fuss dinner. Make sure you serve lots of crusty bread with it to mop up the extra broth with.

Steamed Mussels with Meyer Lemon Butter:
  • De-beard 1 1/2 lbs. of mussels and discard any shells that are already open. Place remaining mussels in a bowl of ice water and soak for 5-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot and add in 4 cloves of minced garlic and 1 minced shallot.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until soft but not brown, then lift the mussels out of the water* and add to the pot.
  • Pour in 1/3 c. white wine and a pinch of salt and cover the pot with a lid.
  • Let the mussels cook for 5 minutes, or until open and some of the wine has reduced.
  • Add in the juice from 1 meyer lemon and 3 tbsp. cold butter and turn off the heat.
  • Stir until butter has melted, then taste sauce and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Top with a handful of minced parsley.
  • Serve with crusty bread.

Serves two (entree)
Serves four - six (appetizer)
*Any sand and grit will stay at the bottom of the bowl, so make sure to lift the mussels out rather than dump the whole bowl in at once.

Wednesday, March 20

Mahi Mahi Tostadas

I've been craving seafood recently and decided to throw together these easy fish tostadas for dinner. Mahi Mahi is such a simple fish to cook since it's pretty sturdy and holds up well on the grill. It has a mild flavor that's great for picky eaters and makes a nice vessel for the avocado puree and hot sauce. I like frying the tortillas into crunchy tostadas for a crispy texture but simple tacos would be great (and easier) too. You can add any toppings you like - I happened to have some leftover Mexican slaw from a pupusa stand at the farmers market that added a nice heat.

Grilled Mahi Mahi Tostadas with Avocado Sauce:
  • Brush 3/4 lb. mahi mahi fillet with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place on a hot grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until fish is opaque.
  • Meanwhile, scoop the flesh out of 1 pitted, very ripe avocado into a blender, along with 1-2 tbsp. water, the juice of 1 lime, and a pinch of salt.
  • Blend avocado sauce until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary to thin out the sauce.
  • In a small pan, heat 1/4" of canola oil until very hot but not smoking.
  • Add in a corn tortilla and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, or until crispy and golden.
  • Remove tortilla and place on a towel to absorb any excess oil and repeat with 3 more tortillas.*
  • To assemble tostadas, spoon some of the avocado sauce onto the tortillas, top with a few pieces of fish, a couple dashes of hot sauce, a few cilantro leaves, and a handful of finely sliced cabbage.**
  • Serve immediately and enjoy.

Serves two-three
*Tortillas can be fried in advance and kept in a warm oven on a baking rack over a baking sheet until ready to serve.
**Or any other toppings you like.

Tuesday, March 19

Burrata, Prosciutto, & Roasted Pepper Sandwich

Since work provides lunch during the week, I usually go out on the weekends because its the only time I can order a midday meal from some of my favorite restaurants. I've had the roasted pepper and burrata sandwich from Huckleberry (one of our frequent weekend stops) a few times before, which is the inspiration for this recipe. It's such an easy meal to make since I rely on good store-bought ingredients for most of the components. The contrast of textures and flavors and temperatures makes the sandwich taste really interesting and complex. I love the soft, warm peppers with the salty prosciutto, creamy cheese, and herbaceous pesto sauce. It's the perfect weekend lunch - just make sure you keep a stack of napkins close by because eating it can get messy.

Burrata, Prosciutto, & Roasted Pepper Sandwich with Pesto:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet and add in 2 thinly sliced bell peppers.*
  • Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until very soft.
  • Stir in 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until very fragrant.
  • Slice and toast a baguette and divide the peppers onto the bottom half of the bread.
  • Break open a ball of burrata cheese over each sandwich and top with 1-2 tbsp. pesto sauce.**
  • Top each sandwich with 2-3 thin slices of prosciutto, then place the top piece of bread over.

Serves two, generously
*Red, yellow, or orange peppers.
**I used a local walnut pesto from our farmers market, but you can also make your own using this recipe.

Monday, March 18

Roasted Asparagus & Prosciutto with Hollandaise

Since I conquered poached eggs (see here), I figured I'd take on another notoriously difficult recipe: hollandaise sauce. Traditionally, it's made by slowly whisking the ingredients over a double boiler until thick and rich, but this version can be made in just a few minutes using a blender. The key is to make sure all ingredients are at room temperature so that the sauce can thicken properly. The roasted asparagus and crunchy prosciutto are a perfect pairing for an easy brunch or light lunch. Serve some bread alongside for mopping up any extra sauce.

Roasted Asparagus & Prosciutto with Fried Eggs & Hollandaise:
For Sauce
  • Place 2 room-temperature egg yolks, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 3/4 tsp. salt, a pinch of pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper in a blender.
  • Blend for a few seconds to combine the ingredients, then remove the lid from the top of the blender and slowly add in 6 tbsp. melted butter* while the motor is running.
  • Blend for 30-60 seconds, or until sauce is thick.
For Asparagus & Prosciutto
  • Trim the ends off 1 bunch of asparagus, toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast asparagus in a 425F oven for 5-8 minutes, or until almost tender.
  • Meanwhile, arrange 4 thin slices of prosciutto in a single layer on another baking sheet.
  • Add to the oven and cook for another 5 minutes, or until very crispy.
  • Remove both sheet pans and let cool slightly.
  • Melt a small pat of butter in a small pan. Crack in 2 eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are set and yolks are still runny.
  • To serve, arrange some of the asparagus on the plate, top with prosciutto, and then an egg. Drizzle hollandaise sauce over top.

Serves two
*The butter must be extremely hot in order to thicken the sauce.

Friday, March 15

Roasted Lemon Chicken & Sunchokes

One of the worst things about living in a small apartment is the lack of kitchen space. I dream of our future house, complete with ample counter space, a dishwasher, and room for family and friends to gather, but in the meantime, I try and keep dishes to a minimum. This is a great recipe (adapted from Jerusalem), since it requires combining most of the ingredients in a plastic bag to marinate and then gets dumped into a single pan before cooking in the oven. The chicken skin gets nice and crispy, the sunchokes get caramelized and tender, and the garlic and shallots turn into sweet melt-in-your-mouth flavor bombs. The lemon helps to cut through the richness and the sunchokes add a nice nutiness. If you can't find the chokes (to learn more, see here), you can substitute waxy potatoes instead. It's a low-maintenance dish that's as easy to make as it is to clean up after.

Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs & Sunchokes:
  • Combine 6 smashed garlic cloves, 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1/4 c. dry white wine, and 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large resealable bag.
  • Season four bone-in skin-on chicken thighs with salt and pepper, place in the bag, and move to fridge.
  • Let chicken marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.*
  • Scrub 1 lb. of sunchokes under running water and pat dry. Thinly slice the sunchokes and arrange in an even layer in a baking dish.**
  • Drizzle a little olive oil over the sunchokes and season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the chicken and marinade on top of the sunchokes and arrange chicken skin-side up.
  • Scatter 4-5 peeled small shallots on top and place the whole thing in a 450F oven.
  • Roast for 40-50 minutes, turning vegetables with a spatula once or twice during cooking, until chicken and vegetables and golden and cooked through.
  • Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the entire dish, divide onto plates, and serve.

Serves four
*If you don't have time, you can skip the marinating step but it won't have as much flavor.
**Or a large ovenproof skillet.

Thursday, March 14

Chicken & Chorizo Tortilla Casserole

Weeknights have been especially busy lately thanks to wedding preparations kicking into overdrive. Since I haven't had much time to cook, and am often wolfing down food as quick as possible before heading out the door or arriving home late and starving, I figured I'd make something over the weekend that would last for leftovers most of the week. This dish is the perfect make-ahead meal because it tastes even better reheated once the flavors have time to blend and develop. No side dishes are required, since it contains everything you would need for a balanced meal (meat, tons of veggies, cheese). It's a great, hearty dinner that will feed a crowd.

Chicken & Chorizo Tortilla Casserole:
  • Brush 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place chicken on a baking sheet and cook for 30-35 minutes in a 375F oven, or until just cooked through.
  • Let chicken cool, then shred meat and set aside.*
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice one large yellow onion,** dice two bell peppers, and finely seed and dice two jalapenos.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pot and add in 3/4 lb. fresh chorizo sausage.***
  • Break chorizo up with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the sausage but leave the fat in the pan.
  • Add in the vegetables and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until tender.
  • Add in 1 head of washed and chopped swiss chard and 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until greens have wilted.
  • Add in 1/2 c. chicken broth, the chorizo, and the shredded chicken.
  • Stir in 1 tsp. each of ground cumin and ground paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper.****
  • Let mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until some of the liquid has been absorbed. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • Place a layer of corn tortillas in the bottom of a deep baking dish, then spoon in half of the chicken and chorizo mixture.
  • Sprinkle a layer of grated pepper jack cheese over the top, then repeat with more tortillas and the rest of the filling.
  • Top with another layer of cheese and bake in a 375F oven for 35 minutes, or until cheese is melted and dish is bubbling.
  • Let cool for a few minutes and sprinkle with a handful of minced cilantro.
  • Serve with sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Serves six - ten
*Can be done a day in advance and kept in the fridge. Or use store bought rotisserie chicken or any leftover chicken you might have. You need about 1 1/2 c. of cooked, shredded chicken.
**Or two small onions.
***Remove the casings.
****Add cayenne as desired, the dish will already be a little spicy.

Tuesday, March 12

Citrus Bars

Sweet and tangy citrus bars adapted from the classic Joan's on Third recipe

Citrus Bars

My mom makes these great lemon bars from a recipe the L.A. Times adapted from the iconic restaurant and bakery, Joan's on Third. They're the perfect balance of tangy and sweet and have a crumbly, buttery crust. I had a bunch of different fruit on hand, so I adapted the recipe by adding in lots of zest and some orange juice. The result was an even more flavorful bar with tons of complex citrus flavor. I think grapefruit or tangerine would be awesome too, just adjust the amount of sugar depending on how tart or sweet the fruit is.

More Citrus Dessert Recipes:
- Blood Orange Cake
- Tangelo-Orange Sorbet
- Lemon Yogurt Cake

Citrus Bars:
  • Stir together 1 1/2 c. flour, 3/4 c. powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt.
  • Stir in 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) melted butter until just combined, then pat the dough into an even layer in a 12" x 8" baking dish.*
  • Bake the dough in a 350F oven for 15 minutes, or until dough has barely taken  on any color.
  • Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, combine 1 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tsp. each lemon zest and orange zest.
  • Use your fingers to rub the zest and sugar together until moist.
  • Stir in 3 tbsp. flour, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 tsp. baking powder.
  • Whisk in 3 large eggs and 1/4 c. each of freshly squeezed lemon juice and orange juice.
  • Pour mixture on top of the dough and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until just set.
  • Let cool to room temperature, then sprinkle with a layer of powdered sugar and cut into bars.

Makes twelve-sixteen bars
*I like to use the bottom of a glass to smooth out the dough into an even layer.

Monday, March 11

How To: Poach an Egg

I've mastered the fried egg (see here), but sometimes a poached egg is just better. The only problem is that they're so much harder to make. Whenever I try to poach one, I get it right about 20% of the time and end up wasting a bunch of eggs and getting in a bad mood. I thought I had tried all the tricks, but this article and video from Serious Eats encouraged me to try again. The key is to use the freshest eggs you can find (I got mine from the farmers market) and strain out the loose watery whites that spread out in the pot and cloud the water. You'll be left with a thick white and yolk that stays in tact and holds its shape. This weekend I made four poached eggs and they all turned out perfectly - egg-shaped, no weird floating whites, and a liquid gold center. It made for a perfect breakfast over some buttered toast and sprinkled with coarse sea salt, but try this, this, or this, for something more substantial.

Poached Eggs:
  • Fill a saucepan with a water and heat until barely simmering.*
  • Crack eggs, one a time, into a small bowl or ramekin.
  • Transfer eggs, one at at time, into a fine mesh strainer and gently swirl to allow the very liquid whites to fall through.
  • Carefully submerge egg and strainer into the pot of water and gently jiggle the egg out into the pot.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, using a slotted spoon to turn the egg every minute or so to evenly cook.
  • Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place on a power towel to drain.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Repeat with remaining eggs.**

*The water should just have a few small bubbles at the bottom of the pot.
**You should be able to poach 4-5 eggs in the same water. Poached eggs can also be immediately transferred into cold ice water and kept in the fridge for a few days. To heat, gently place eggs in hot water for 2-3 minutes.

Friday, March 8

Mustard Chicken Milanese

Crunchy pan-fried chicken cutlets topped with a fresh arugula salad

Smitten Kitchen Mustard Chicken Milanese

It’s hard to find a better quick, cheap, and crowd-pleasing meal than breaded chicken cutlets. The outside gets crunchy and golden while the chicken inside stays juicy and perfectly cooked and it all happens in just minutes. I took a suggestion from a recipe in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and added some Dijon mustard to the egg mixture for an extra flavor booster. If you’re not a fan of mustard, I’d still encourage you to put some in since it just adds a little zip without an overpowering taste. If you love mustard (like I do), I’d encourage you to add a little mustard powder into your flour for a more pronounced flavor. The lemony arugula salad helps cut through some of the richness of the breading and rounds out the dish into a full meal. It’s a no-fuss weeknight dinner that everyone will love.

Related Recipes:
- Chicken Picatta
- Chicken Parmesan
- Sesame Chicken Tenders

Mustard Chicken Milanese:
  • Set up your breading stations: add 1/2 c. flour and salt and pepper in one shallot bowl, beat 2 eggs with 1 tbsp. Djion mustard, salt, and pepper in another bowl, and add 2 c. panko breadcrumbs to a third shallow bowl.
  • Season 2 chicken cutlets* with salt and pepper and (one at a time), dredge in the flour and shake off any excess, then dip in the egg mixture, and then coat in the breadcrumbs.
  • Press the breadcrumbs into the chicken so that a nice, even crust forms.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1/4" canola oil in a large heavy skillet until very hot and shimmering but not smoking.
  • Add the cutlets into the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until a golden brown crust forms and the inside is cooked.
  • Place chicken on a paper towel to drain.**
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, the juice of 1 lemon, and 3-4 tbsp. olive oil in a bowl.
  • Add in 4 oz. baby arugula and toss with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, divide cutlets onto plates and top with the salad. Serve immediately.

Serves two
*I bought my cutlets from the butcher, but you can also butterfly a chicken breast and pound out thinly.
**If making more chicken and working in batches, it's best to place the chicken on a baking rack over a baking sheet and keep in a 175F oven until ready to serve.

Thursday, March 7

Seared Scallops & Baked Saffron Risotto

I hadn't made scallops in what seems like forever (especially since I was thwarted in my attempt to score some for Valentine's Day), so I decided to whip them up for a quick but elegant weeknight meal with friends. They're great with risotto, but this easy baked version requires almost no effort compared to the classic cooking method. All I had to do was put the rice in the oven before my guests arrived and then quickly sear the scallops five minutes before we were ready to eat. It's such a great dish to entertain with and tastes like something at a fancy restaurant.

Seared Scallops & Baked Saffron Risotto:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pot over medium heat and add in 1 minced onion.
  • Cook onion for 7-10 minutes, or until soft and translucent, then add in 1 minced garlic cloves.
  • Stir the garlic for a minute, or until fragrant, then add in 1 c. of aborio rice and stir to combine.
  • Cook the rice for a minute or so, then add in 3 1/4 c. seafood stock,* a generous pinch of salt, and a pinch of saffron.**
  • Place a lid over the pot and transfer for a 350F oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and is tender.
  • Immediately stir 1/2 c. more stock, 1/4 c. white wine, and 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese into the rice.
  • Stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes, or until rice is creamy. Add a little more liquid if necessary to achieve the right consistency.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet over high heat until almost smoking.
  • Rinse 1 1/4 lbs. sea scallops under water, pat very dry, and season with salt.
  • Add scallops to the pan and let caramelize for 2-3 minutes,*** then flip and cook for another few minutes on the other side.
  • Divide risotto onto plates and top with the seared scallops.

Serves four
*Or use a mild chicken stock.
**Optional, but I love the color it gives the risotto.
***Do not move the scallops until the are darkly brown or they won't caramelize and will stick to the pan.

Wednesday, March 6

Parmesan Roasted Romanesco

I stumbled upon some beautiful romanesco at our farmers market (for those of you who aren't familiar, it's a cross between cauliflower and broccoli) and was drawn in by its bright green color and exotic spiky shape. It has a mild broccoli flavor, which is drawn out even more by roasting it in a hot oven to caramelize and get tender. I added some Parmesan cheese near the end, which sticks to the florets and gets crunchy and nutty. It makes for a crowd-pleasing side dish and is so simple to make.

Parmesan Roasted Romanesco:

  • Cut one head of romanesco into small florets, discarding the tough core.
  • Place florets on a baking sheet and toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast in a 425F oven for 10-15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown.
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle with 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two-four (side dish)

Tuesday, March 5

Sesame Peanut Chicken Satay

Our apartment isn't huge and we routinely find ourselves having dinner on the couch in the living room rather than in our dining nook (which often gets cluttered with clothes, gym bags, mail, etc.). It isn't the most glamorous way to enjoy a meal, but it's a nice way to unwind after work and cozy up with each other. Dining on the couch can be tricky, though, with finger foods being much easier to eat than dishes that require both a knife and fork. These chicken skewers are delicious and portable, making them a great TV dinner. The grilled chicken gets slathered with a flavorful sesame peanut sauce (inspired by this recipe) that also does double duty as a dip. Any leftover sauce can be eaten with sliced veggies for a snack the next day.

Sesame Peanut Chicken Satay:
  • Turn on a blender and add into 1 garlic clove and a 1" piece of peeled, roughly chopped ginger and blend until finely chopped.*
  • Add in 2 tbsp. tahini paste,** 2 tbsp. creamy unsalted peanut butter, 1/4 c. water, 2 tbsp. soy sauce,*** the juice of 1 lime, 1 tsp. brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp. red chile flakes.
  • Blender mixture until smooth, adding more water if necessary to thin the sauce.
  • Meanwhile, chop 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and thread onto 4-6 wooden skewers.
  • Brush chicken with sesame oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add chicken to a hot grill**** and cook for 6-8 minutes per side, or until golden and just cooked through.
  • During the last few minutes, generously brush the top of the skewers with some of the sesame peanut sauce.
  • Remove chicken from the grill, sprinkle with 2 tbsp. crushed peanuts and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds.
  • Serve with extra sesame peanut sauce, for dipping.

Serves four
*You must turn the blender on before adding the ingredients or they will get stuck under the blade and won't get finely chopped. You can also just chop the garlic and ginger finely by hand.
**Sesame seed paste. Look for it by the nut butters.
***If you are using salted peanut butter, add less soy sauce.
****I used a grill pan. If you don't have either, you can use a regular skillet or cook them in the broiler.

Monday, March 4

Orange Chocolate Macaroons

I've been having a major sweet tooth lately, and these macaroons (adapted from this recipe) easily satisfy my craving while only taking a short time to make. The large flaked coconut forms wonderfully crispy brown edges and crannies in every bite and makes for a less sugary cookie, which is a major upgrade from the sometimes overly sweet treats. I added some orange zest (from oranges given to me off my aunt's tree) and some semisweet chocolate for extra flavor and decadence. They're a great treat that look as good as they taste and leftovers hold in an airtight container for days.

Orange Chocolate Macaroons:
  • Combine 4 egg whites, 3 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes, 3/4 c. sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1 pinch of kosher salt in a heatproof bowl.
  • Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that the bowl doesn't actually touch the water.
  • Stir the coconut mixture for 6-8 minutes, or until the coconut mixture is sticky and hot.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and add in 1 tsp. orange zest and stir again.
  • Let mixture sit for 15-30 minutes, then drop in large spoonfuls on a lined baking sheet.*
  • Bake in a 350F oven for 5 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet and lower the temperature to 325F.
  • Cook for another 12 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.
  • Top each cookie with a small square of semisweet chocolate and return to the oven for another 3 minutes, or until chocolate is melted.
  • Let cookies to cool, then remove from the baking sheet and serve.**

Make one dozen cookies
*I used a silpat, but a lightly greased parchment paper would also work.
**Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 4 days.

Friday, March 1

Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, & Kale Soba

I’ve talked before about using cooking as therapy, and this is the kind of recipe (adapted from here) I find really therapeutic to cook. It actually can come together pretty quickly if you’re in a hurry, but if  you’re not, there’s something super relaxing about taking out a sharp chef’s knife and meticulously prepping and cutting the vegetables in this salad. I got home from work a little early, turned on some music, and spent the next thirty minutes neatly making ribbons out of a big bunch of kale and a bushel of brussels sprouts. The vegetables literally get massaged with some sesame oil and a pinch of salt, which does wonders to soften the texture of their raw leaves. Even though it’s a soba noodle salad, the dish is vegetable-heavy and full of strong, fresh flavors, which will do as much to cleanse the body as it will  the mind.

P.S. I added some tofu to make this a little more hearty and incidentally perfected the pan-frying method. The key is to pat the tofu really dry after removing it from the water (press really hard to remove as much liquid as possible), add it to a searing hot skillet, season generously with salt, and only flip once the first side has a deeply golden crust. It was my meat-loving fiance’s favorite part of the dish.

Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, & Kale Soba Noodles:
  • Slice the ribs out of 1 bunch of lacinato kale* and then thinly slice into ribbons.**
  • Thinly slice 8-12 brussels sprouts, discarding the tough stem.**
  • Combine the vegetables in a bowl and drizzle with 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil and a large pinch of salt.
  • Massage the oil and salt into the vegetables to coat.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 minced red chili,*** 1/2 tbsp. grated ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil.
  • Toss dressing with the vegetables and set aside.****
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook 5-6 oz. soba noodles according to package instructions.
  • Drain noodles and toss with the vegetables. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. sesame seeds.
  • In another pan, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil until very hot.
  • Cut 8 oz. extra-firm tofu into matchsticks and pat very dry with paper towels.
  • Add the tofu to the hot pan and cook for 6-8 minutes, turning once, and sprinkle with salt.
  • Divide noodles into bowls and top with tofu.

Serves three-four
*Also called black or dinosaur kale.
**The best way to do this is to work in batches by stacking some of the leaves, then tightly rolling them, and then thinly slicing the bundled kale (basically chiffonading). For the brussels sprouts, a mandoline will make your work go quickly.
***I used a Fresno chile, but you could use something a little spicier if you want a lot of heat.
****If possible, try and let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes. This will soften the vegetables just slightly.