Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scallops and Pasta

I have a new infatuation. I've known about The Pioneer Woman for quite a while. Heck, I even have a printed copy of her Penne a la Betsy included in my Tastebook. And her cooking site held the answer when I needed to figure out what on earth to make with the load of turnips that showed up from the CSA last year (answer = turnip gratin!) But, I had never actually read anything on her blog that was not related to cooking. Until this week.
First a word of caution, don't start reading this unless you have an hour or two of uninterrupted time carved out. Because you won't want to stop. It's the real life story in blog form (to be published in a book next year, and already optioned for a movie!) of how she met her husband. I think this reading is probably for the ladies, but guys could definitely take some pointers on how to make your woman feel... special.
All of this has nothing to do with Scallops and Pasta. Except for the fact that I stumbled across this recipe when I was browsing around her site. And when I saw this I immediately craved it, even though I don't have a cast iron pan to make that beautiful sear. Then I went to my favorite grocery store they had giant sea scallops on sale. Score.
My kids and I love seafood. With a husband out of town (still) we are enjoying it more often than not these days. And yes, I cook like this for myself and two small kids on a Wednesday. We're worth it.

Scallops and Pasta
only slightly tweaked from Scallops 'n Pasta

1/3 lb pasta
1 lb (about 10-12) whole giant or jumbo sea scallops
1 Tablespoon oilve oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup white wine or stock (chicken or seafood)
a few tablespoons of parsley, chopped
freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper

1. Cook the pasta in salted water per the instructions on the box. Drain and set aside.

2. Dice onion and tomato. Chop parsely. Use paper towels to pat the scallops until they are very dry. (See picture above to find the one scallop which was not thoroughly dried.)Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

3. Heat a large frying pan or saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the olive oil. Add the scallops to the pan, not touching so that they can sear properly. Cook for 2 minutes without touching then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes until cooked through. Remove to a plate.

4. Turn the heat to low. Add the butter and the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes then add the tomatoes.

5. Turn the heat to high and add in the white wine. Use spatula to scrape up bits in the bottom of the pan while it is bubbling. Add cooked pasta, throw in the parsley and stir well to let the sauce coat the pasta. Top with the seared scallops.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Black Bean Soup

OK, I've confessed before that sometimes menu planning is driven by what is on sale at the grocery store, and when I see the price drop on red bell peppers I am reminded how much the kids and I enjoy black bean soup. It's the red bell pepper which seems to be the trigger, because the rest of the ingredients are almost always on hand. Another part of the delight is that it is a meal which encourages condiments - always a hit with little kids.

This is not a dish I had ever ordered at a restaurant before, nor had I ever even eaten it before trying it at mom's house a couple years back. Who knew that black bean soup was so delicious? OK, so maybe others out there already knew this, but it was news to me. Topped with shredded cheese, diced avocado, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and soy-flaxseed tortilla chips (another item I would have never tried on my own ) and it's true comfort food that is healthy and easy. So easy I had made the whole pot before realizing I hadn't taken any pictures. Oops.

Black Bean Soup
Closely followed from "Black Bean Stoup"

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery with greens, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 bay leaf
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
Salt and pepper
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable to make vegetarian)

Heat a medium soup pot over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to the hot pot, then onion, celery, and garlic. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, then add red peppers and continue to cook. Drain and rinse 2 cans of beans, transfer to a flat-bottomed dish and mash with a potato masher (or fork.) Add mashed beans, plus one can of whole beans (with liquid) to the pot. Season with cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, then stock to achieve desired consistency (maybe be more or less than 2 cups.) Add bay leaf and bring soup to a bubble. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes over low heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Serve into bowls and add favorite toppings - fresh lime juice, diced avocado or guac, shredded cheese, torilla chips, sour cream...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Greek Orzo with Meatballs

I've been cooking, and our family has been eating. And (most of the time) I remember to take pictures, but there seems to be a disconnect between that step and writing the blog. So, as I sit down at lunchtime, I thought I'd peek through the photo lying in wait, and start trying to catch up. Do I start with the oldest? The most recent? After browsing the albums, I knew I had to start with this one - yummy comfort food!
My sister shared the inspirational link for this dish. As soon as I saw it, I knew I'd be making it. Soon. I was planning to make Swedish meatballs during (Jim's) week in Sweden, but somehow I ended up making this Greek dish instead! So, the meatballs themselves I used in this dish were not the recipe from the link above. Nor were they a real Swedish meatball either. In fact, I'm not sure they were the right ones to accompany these flavors, so I would do something else next time. But, in the spirit of forging and succeeding in blogging during lunchtime, I don't want to delay sharing the secret to this deliciousness.
The way the orzo bakes in the broth (instead of cooking, then draining) is so wonderfully creamy, especially when combined with the cheese on top. This is definitely comfort food in my book. And, love the excuse to use my (no longer quite so) new pot!

Greek Orzo and Meatballs
Only slightly modified from Ivy's Feast

2 Tablespoons (Greek) olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 1/2 cups whole wheat orzo
4 cups (1 box) chicken broth
4 ounces creamy feta cheese, crumbled (for topping pasta last ten minutes of baking)
1 pound of ground meat made into meatball (use Ivy's or your favorite recipe)

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat the olive oil in enameled pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and saute until onion is tender, 8 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and dill, saute 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 1 minute. Take pan off of the heat and add the orzo and chicken broth. Stir to combine, cover, then transfer to oven and bake for 30 minutes.

While orzo is baking, make meatballs. Sautee on stove top until brown on all sides and cooked through.

After 30 minutes, remove pot from the oven and stir pasta gently. Add meatballs, pushing them into the pasta slightly. Then sprinkle with feta cheese and return to oven, continue to bake another 10 minutes until the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 10 more minutes before serving, the pasta will absorb moisture as it cools