Sunday, June 21, 2009

Please follow instructions.

Sometimes I'm pretty sure I'll never learn.

I love scallops. If I see them on a menu, I usually order them. For example, at both of my most recent visits to Fork, I ordered the scallops (over a vanilla risotto with butternut squash and apples and, on Eddie's birthday, with fresh ravioli in a light basil sauce).

I decided that, as a treat, I should try making them myself.

I bought this cilantro lime pasta at Ohio City Pasta with the intention of doing a play on ceviche--a Latin dish typically made with seafood, lime, cilantro, and chilies. I figured the pasta with a little bit of olive oil and red pepper flakes would allow the flavors of the pasta and scallops to really shine.

Of course, I've never made scallops before. In my research, every recipe read, "Using a non-stick pan..." You'd think I would have made note of that. But of course, Ol' Stubborn Cody had to try and use the fancy pans in his apartment, which are metal and not non-stick.
Despite the pan being well-oiled, those scallops stuck like you wouldn't believe, which was really sad considering how expensive the scallops were.

I don't have a recipe for you (again) because this recipe was, aside from being a "fail" in procedure also not that great ingredient-wise. The dish needed another level of acidity and real chilies probably would have helped.

I tell you all this because, primarily, I want you to always use a non-stick pan for scallops, and because the french onion soup I made yesterday will make up for this. I am finally back home in Coopersburg for a few days and cooking up a storm, with much success. I'm throwing a Just Desserts party on Wednesday, so you can expect plenty of coverage later in the week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Carb overload.

When I saw this recipe that included both pasta and potatoes, I found it hard to believe. Could I really have pasta and potatoes in the same dish? Wouldn't that be carb overload?

A few months went by, and I found myself at West Side Market with a handful of fingerling potatoes, fresh wild mushroom pasta, and some Italian chicken sausage in my bag (all for under $5). My first thought for the fingerling potatoes was homefries--but then, thinking about the pasta and potatoes recipe I couldn't quite remember the details of--I thought, "Wild mushroom pasta with potatoes. And sausage. And spinach to balance it out."

I went home and got to work. I boiled the potatoes and the pasta, took the sausage out of the casing and sauteed it with the spinach. The result?

Carb overload.

Marc Bittman's recipe for pasta with potatoes is considerably different than this one. Stewed tomatoes may have saved the dish, but it also may have hidden the wild mushroom flavor.

The winner, however, and reason I am blogging about this dish, is the sausage and spinach. Chicken sausage is pretty readily available--there's always plenty at Whole Foods. Simply remove the casing (I know, it's kind of gross) and cook like you would ground beef. Throw the spinach in once the sausage is all the way cooked, only until it wilts.

This sausage and spinach topping would work great for pasta or potatoes, especially if you're in a rush. The flavor of the sausage eliminates the need for any other seasonings or fussing--add a little olive oil and you're done. Also, consider the potatoes, sausage and spinach with eggs, or in a frittata.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Things I can't get enough of lately:

is a pretty mild cow's milk cheese with a line of vegetable ash running through the middle (the fromagier at Dibruno Bros told me it separated the morning from the evening milking). The aroma is strong, but like I said, the taste is pretty mild.

Blood Oranges are like less acidic oranges, and chances are you've already had them. I had never bought them before, but now I'm entranced by that deep purple-red.

But nothing says summer like watermelon. You know I ate that entire third of a watermelon by myself in one sitting. Take a look at that cutting technique. Thanks to Karen Hunter Catering I could probably cut an entire watermelon down to bite size pieces in 5 minutes or less.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More mussels to love.

At 5:30, after buying cilantro lime pasta this morning, I went to West Side Market with the intention of buying scallops. I thought the scallops would go well with the pasta--like a ceviche, with a little olive oil and perhaps some red pepper flakes.

But of course, it was the end of the day, and there were mussels. I took about a pound, for $2.50.
Browsing SmittenKitchen for a scallop recipe, I stumbled upon this pairing of mussels and fries, which I guess is a Belgian thing. I don't know much about Belgium apart from watching Giada eat her way through Brussels a few years ago. I had a few fingerlings left over from another adventure this week (that I'll share eventually, as the experiment kind of failed), so I decided to go all the way and make the whole meal.

The only issue was the white wine.

Sadly, I am not yet 21 (soon!). But how about white cooking wine? Do they card you for that?

Apparently not. Even though I probably could have gotten away with buying a real bottle of white wine in the grocery store (in Ohio, they have wine in the grocery store. Amazing) with the stubble I've accumulated over the past 4 days of not shaving, I went for Goya's white cooking wine for $2.32.

Now, it could be that I don't know much about wine, but the cooking wine wasn't bad. I know you should never cook with wine you wouldn't drink, but here it seems okay to bend the rules.

Moules a la mariniere/Fresh Mussels Steamed in Wine and Flavorings
Adapted from SmittenKitchen, but actually from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (!)
Serves one.

1 c white wine
3 Tb butter
1/2 c chopped green onion
1 clove diced garlic
A few cranks black pepper
3/4 lb. mussels

1. Scrub your mussels (I incurred a minor blister on my thumb--get a scrub brush, using a dishcloth is hard work).
2. In a pot large enough to spread all the mussels in one layer, pour the white wine and the butter. Over medium heat, allow the butter to melt. Add the green onion, garlic, and black pepper.
3. Add the mussels, put a lid on the pot, and crank up the heat to high. In about 5 or 6 minutes, your mussels will have steamed open. Discard those that do not.

The sauce this makes is delicious. Suitable for dipping french fries in, but you might want to have some good, crusty bread on hand. You can also add and swap out various herbs--the original recipe included thyme, parsley and a bay leaf.

Baked Pommes Frites
Adaptable--I wasn't measuring or watching times, but this is one you can probably figure out yourself.

Potatoes (I used fingerling, but the original recipe is written for russet potatoes)
Olive Oil (the ratio from SmittenKitchen is 6 Russets:1/4 c oil)
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 400.
2. Cut your potatoes so they measure about 1/2" x 1/2".
3. Boil the potatoes until a knife goes through easily.
4. Drain the potatoes, toss with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper.
5. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and pop in the oven until golden brown, turning them once after ten or so minutes (it takes awhile--I wasn't as patient as I should have been, but the fries still got nice and crispy on the outside).