Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scallops for a Sad Night

I had planned to drive up to Cleveland to spend the night and make Jeannene a nice dinner on Sunday, since our office is closed Monday. But then I realized that since my senior pastor will be out of town, I need to stick close to home. So, my solution was to drive up last night after Coffee Shop Hours and make her special dinner then. I ended up driving up in some pretty scary weather and, by being out of our neighborhood, saved my car from broken windows and big dings in the hail storm that destroyed the siding on the house and shredded the screens, breaking a few windows, as well. I stopped by Dorothy Lane Market for a pint of Jeni's brown butter almond brittle ice cream, my current favorite. I had already promised that to Jeannene. When she called to tell me our dog had died (apparently a heart attack...she was about 10, we think, so not too shocking, but still a rough night), I knew my vegan boy would need a treat, too, so I picked up a pint of chocolate Coconut Bliss. The DLM folks were nice enough to give me ice packs to tuck in the hot/cold insulated bag I bought and the ice cream made it to Cleveland with minimal meltage. Despite the storminess (I drove much of the way with a sharp eye on the quality of the clouds and another eye looking for the best ditch in which to fling myself should a funnel cloud appear), I kept the A/C on and I think it helped the successful ice cream transport operation.

When I arrived, I commenced cooking. Jeannene had requested scallops and asparagus. I decided to sear both. The recipe I used for the scallops called for dredging them in flour before cooking. I am not sure that was a brilliant idea, as the flour tended to brown nicely and then slip off the scallops, leaving them denuded. Jeannene loved them anyway, but I believe I would skip that step next time. Otherwise, everything was delicious! I am tempted to make the asparagus again tonight. The entire menu was seared scallops on butter lettuce salad with avocado & grapefruit, pan-seared asparagus and parmesan rice. The first two are my adaptations of Sara Moulton recipes, the last a rice dish my mom made when I was a kid. I've been making it since high school myownself.

Seared Scallops on Butter Lettuce with Avocados & Grapefruit

1 c. Wondra/flour (I used Wondra)

1/2 lb. medium sea scallops

Salt & pepper

1/2 c. oil (I would use olive oil next time)

Juice of 1/2 pink grapefruit

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (Moulton recommends rice vinegar, which was not to be found in Jeannene's cupboard)

A pinch of sugar

Sections from half a pink grapefruit

1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 avocado, chopped

1 scallion, green part only, sliced

1/4 c. sunflower seeds

Mix salt and pepper with the flour in a large Ziploc. Add scallops and shake to coat, shaking off excess flour as you remove them from the bag (or, just season the scallops with the salt and pepper and have done with it, as I wish I'd done). Heat 2 tbsp. oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Saute scallops 2-3 minutes per side, to attain a golden sear. Meanwhile, simmer the grapefruit juice to reduce it to 2 tbsp. Whisk in shallot, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve salt & sugar. Gradually whisk in 6 tbsps oil. Toss the lettuce with 1/3 c. of the dressing. Divide between 2 plates. Top with scallops, avocado and grapefruit. Sprinkle with scallions & sunflower seeds. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Serves 2 with some leftovers for lunch.

Pan-Seared Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus

1/2 oz. shaved parmesan (the originial recipe calls for grated, which might work better, but either is fine. Just make sure you use the good stuff and not the parm from the green canister)

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch fleur de sel (plain ol' kosher salt is fine, too. That's what Moulton calls for, we just happened to have fleur de sel)

Juice of 1/2 lemon


Heat oil on high heat (yes, really) in a large skillet. Add asparagus and salt and cook, covered but stirring often to avoid burning, for a couple minutes. Add the rest and serve hot. Serves 2 with some leftovers for the next day.

Parmesan Rice

2/3 c. jasmine rice

1 & 1/3 c. water


2 tbsp. butter

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 c. grated parmesan

1 egg, lightly beaten


Put rice in pan with water and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook about 14 minutes, until cooked through with water absorbed. Add butter and stir to melt. Mix rest together and add to rice. Cook 5 minutes. Serves 2 with leftovers.

Coco's Retirement Lunch

Much to the chagrin of everyone at the church, our splendid secretary Ann is retiring next week. So, we took her out to lunch at Coco's, near the Oregon District. I'd had dinner there before with Beth when she was in town and was favorably impressed. Yesterday, I was even more impressed. Chris had said the burger (topped with Boursin cheese---how could that be bad?) was amazing and that's what she ordered. The bite I tried was juicy and flavorful. Ann had the crabcake sliders, which were prettily presented, and proclaimed them delicious. Brian's lunch was the blackened tilapia sandwich, which he seemed to like. I chose the BMT, which is nothing like the Subway sandwich of the same name. It's a baguette with a hefty pile of crispy bacon, fresh mozzarella and a layer of fried tomatillos, accented with basil mayonnaise. It is a truly splendid summer lunch! I stuck to the summer theme for my dessert and ordered the berry shortcake, with a gorgeous pile of mixed berries and a pouf of real whipped cream on a good, biscuity shortcake. Chris' chocolate cake, starring layers of dense mousse, was moist and good and Ann's key lime pie was the real deal, nearly impossible to find up North here. I was not remotely impressed with Brian's creme brulee, though. The creme to brulee ratio was skewed entirely too far to the creme side and the texture of the custard was unpleasantly thick and a little rough, unlike the light, silky mouth feel I prefer. It is served in a metal mug, which I think is a mistake. They need to use an oval ramekin for a better spread of the custard and more crunchy goodness to complement it. But, perhaps some folks like it as it was presented at Coco's. Oh, their iced tea? Very tasty! The busy lunchtime crowd made for a rather noisy atmosphere, but not unpleasantly so. The deep teal walls lend to the air of sophistication projected. For more info:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chaperone Carnitas

The last couple weeks have been a morass of attempting to find suitable chaperones for upcoming events...Confirmation's upcoming trip to Atlanta and the Youth Lodge at our church retreat, most notably. I started much earlier, but due to weeks of polite offers to allow people to chaperone resulting in no luck, I became desperate and pleading in the last couple of weeks. I finally attained full coverage, but last Monday, I was utterly downtrodden when I arrived home from work. Thus, it was lovely to have a pork roast waiting for me, all cooked and ready for shredding into carnitas. Crockpots are beautiful things. All I had to do besides shredding the meat and adding a little seasoning was to make some boxed Spanish rice and heat up a can of Roasrita refried beans. I had never tried that brand before and enjoyed the combination of beans left intact and beans mashed. Someday, I will probably make my own, but for last Monday, canned was perfect.


2-4 lb. pork butt roast (I made 4)

5 cloves garlic, sliced

1 jalapeno, chopped

12 oz. beer (I used Abita; you can use anything but light beer)

1 bunch cilantro ( tastes like soap to me, but Jeannene loves it; if it tastes like soap to you, too, you can omit it)

Cumin & chili powder, to taste (optional; I felt it needed something more)

Make slits in the pork roast and slip the garlic slices into them. Place in crockpot. Put jalapeno and cilantro on top. Sprinkle with spices, if using (or you can, as I did, add them during the shredding process). Pour beer over the roast, cover and cook on low 8-12 hours, high 4-6 hours. Shred the meat. Serve with soft tortillas (corn are traditional but I like flour better for this) so people can make tacos. If you want to get fancy, you can serve some sliced onions and chopped tomato with it as well. 2 pounds serves 4, with leftovers.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Something Fishy's Going On

Tonight, as my sweetheart was being taken out to Nemo Grill, a fabulous seafood spot in Avon, Ohio, for pan-seared scallops by her foodie boss, I was cooking up a tilapia dinner for my auntie and cousin. I got to Kroger too late the other night for the fish counter, so I settled for a bag of frozen tilapia fillets. As soon as I got home from work today, I popped some big potatoes in to bake. When they were nearly done, I started the rest of dinner, a selection of veggies & dip and the aforementioned fish. I slit the green parts of a number of scallions into thin ribbons and slid them, still attached to the white bulbs, into a bowl of ice water to rest and curl while I prepped the rest of dinner (20-30 minutes should do the trick). When they were ready, they went into a cup to accompany a plate of baby carrots and green pepper strips and this dip, adapted from a recipe I found in Family Fun Magazine in 2005:

6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
6 oz. reduced fat sour cream
3/4 c. grated parmesan
1 tsp. onion powder
1 scallion, chopped
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried parsley (the store was out of the fresh Kroger kinda sucks)
1/4 tsp. salt
A good grinding of pepper

Mix together and chill until ready to serve with veggies. It would probably also be yummy with sturdy crackers or pita chips.

For the fish, I mixed up a butter sauce by melting half a stick of butter and then tossing in a minced clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I think a little dill would be nice, too, but we appear to be out of it.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Veggiful Joes

On a cold, rainy night like tonight, it was nice to come home from the grocery after a long day at work and make cozy comfort food. This was my first attempt at sloppy Joes from scratch. Not bad, but I have to admit (hanging head in shame) that I like Manwich better. Now, if I chose not to call these sloppy Joes and came up with another name, I'd be happy to eat 'em just about any day. I think they need about twice the ketchup and maybe a quick dash more Worcestershire sauce. I served them with tater tots and corn because, really, are there any better sides for sloppy Joes?

Veggiful Joes

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

8 oz. tomato sauce

2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

4 multi-grain English muffins

Brown & drain beef. Add veggies and sauce. Cook 5-7 minutes. Add seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Toast English muffins. Serve on muffins. You could do open-face sandwiches if you are looking to get some of the carbs out of your diet. Serves 4.