Dishing It: Scallops with Tomatoes and Mango

March 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm , by

Before we discuss the dish I made for this week’s “Dishing It,” I have one question: Do you know Bal? Bal Arneson, that is. She’s is one of the Cooking Channel‘s newest culinary stars…and with good reason. Bal completely demystifies Indian cuisine on her show Spice Goddess with simple recipes that anyone can make. (Even I, a culinary school grad, am not ashamed to admit that Indian recipes sometimes intimidate me.) She’ll even sell you the organic spices to prepare them, with proceeds benefiting women and children in her native India—talk about DO GOOD!

I chose Bal’s recipe from the March 2011 issue of LHJ (Dinner Made Easy) mainly because I adore scallops and was intrigued by the sweet/spicy sauce that accompanies it. Plus, as a food editor, it’s always fun to try other chefs recipes—especially chefs I admire, like Bal.

I did make a few changes to the recipes. For starters, I used mango instead of papaya, because I prefer it and since the recipe calls for ground coriander, I took the opportunity to also test out McCormick‘s new line of roasted spices. If you haven’t tried them yet, they’re great. The roasted coriander I used had a much more powerful flavor than traditional ground coriander. It was perfect in a dish like this, with just a few ingredients. Also, instead of serving my scallops with shaved Parmesan, I served it with a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro.

This recipe could not be easier, with minimal prep. You basically start by searing the scallops. The directions say 2 minutes per side which is the perfect amount of time to cook them. They were tender and moist inside and not overcooked at all. Overcooked scallops are often tough and chewy—no one wants that.

After you cook the scallops and remove them from the pan to rest, you toss in your minced garlic and cook for just a moment. Then you add the spices and cook them for another moment. Then you add the tomatoes. (I used an assorted variety of cherry tomatoes, halving the large ones and leaving the smaller ones whole. This was a good move since the halved ones got a touch over cooked.) Cook them for a few minutes before adding the mango (or papaya) to cook a few minutes more. Add the scallops back to the pan to coat in the sauce and serve over rice. That’s it! So, so, so easy, but also very sophisticated. I would totally serve this dish to guests. I’m definitely adding this recipe to my regular repertoire.

As I devoured the dinner (like I said, I adore scallops), I realized that you could prepare this meal with different ingredients and it would be just as delicious. Chunks of cod or salmon could be substituted or, if you don’t like fish, you could always use strips of chicken or pork. Even cubes of tofu if you are vegetarian. Yum!

Dishing It: Lamb and Feta Meatballs

March 3, 2011 at 7:23 am , by

photo[1]For this week’s Dishing It, I made the Lamb and Feta Meatballs featured in the March 2011 issue of LHJ. I absolutely had to make these after tasting them on the photo shoot a few months back. I decided to test them out on Monday for what my friends and I call “Family Dinner Night.” We started this tradition a few months back when I complained that I wanted to cook more, but lived alone and had no one to cook for. So now every Monday I prepare dinner for two of my best friends and we watch a movie and drink old fashioneds. As I was at the grocery store after work I got a text from my friend saying he wasn’t going to be able to make it because he had to work late. Normally, I would have just left the store and gone home, but not tonight–tonight I was having lamb and feta meatballs!

I’m not used to cooking lamb, even though it is one of my favorite meats to eat, so I was a little nervous at first. But I thought, “How hard can it be, is it really any different from ground beef or pork? Nah!” This turned out to be one of the easiest dishes to make, and one of the tastiest. Basically, you throw everything into one big bowl and mix. Then you have the choice of cooking them up in a sauté pan or baking them. I’ve never baked a meatball before so naturally I just went with what I knew and threw them in a sauté pan. I think this probably wasn’t the best option. The lamb is a lot more tender than beef and I had to be extra super careful when rolling them over so they wouldn’t fall apart.


So I cooked up a pan full but realized I had tons of extra meat mix (I mean it was just for me after all). So I decided to follow our food editor Tara’s tip and freeze the rest. Super simple: Just roll them into balls, place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze. The next morning I put them in a Ziploc bag. Done and done.

When the meatballs were done cooking, I decided to go the healthy route and serve them on top of salad. I cut up romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and kalamata olives, and crumbled feta on top. Then I just sliced up a few meatballs and threw them in. I topped it off with the yogurt sauce that Tara suggested, and voila! A healthy and super tasty meal. So even though I didn’t get to enjoy them with my Family Dinner Night crew, I did get to plop down and enjoy them with my Golden Girls marathon (don’t tell my friends but it was secretly just as much fun). And what will I be serving at next Monday’s Family Dinner Night? Well frozen lamb and feta meatballs of course. —Laura D’Abate

Made With Love: Passing On The Traditions

December 22, 2010 at 11:52 am , by

717694202_09_15oprah-monicabhide_081_fullThree things the holiday season has us thinking about: family, traditions and food. Guest blogger Monica Bhide, columnist, blogger, foodie and author of Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, shares her thoughts on the close ties between love, cooking and recipes passed down through the years.

This morning I was making a lentil soup for my family, almost exactly the way my grandmother in India taught me decades ago. Or so I first thought. Her recipe used six tablespoons of butter, onions, garlic, red lentils, about eight different spices, loads of cilantro and a touch of salt. I recall my mom making this but with much less butter, baby peas for us kids and no salt as Dad was watching his sodium. As I smelled the aroma of garlic from the soup that I was stirring, it occurred to me that my soup today was in truth a reflection of my life here in the states, far away from India: butternut squash, chicken stock instead of water and no cilantro as my hubby thinks it tastes soapy.

The changes to the recipe had occurred so slowly, so gradually, that I never really noticed that I had changed it. I have to admit I felt guilty at first, almost as if changing the recipe meant I was changing the memory of a childhood taste. Familiar childhood tastes give us a place to belong: They bear witness to our lives. Changing them seemed sacrilegious. Read more

Dishing It: Ina’s Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

November 18, 2010 at 10:02 am , by

I’d signed up to try out Ina Garten’s Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms from the November issue of LHJ, but before I’d chopped, peeled or stemmed a single thing I was already feeling a little anxious. Extra-large white mushrooms—the first item on the list of ingredients—had me stumped. At Whole Foods all I could find were white mushrooms. Was I supposed to be looking for a different type of shroom entirely—extra-large white mushrooms? Or should I just be looking for really big white mushrooms? Clearly, food is something I’ve yet to master. This is good news for you though—if I can do this, you definitely will be able to.

I tried to make things as easy as possible by putting out all my ingredients on the counter. I realized after I’d gotten home I’d forgotten mascarpone cheese, and I couldn’t find scallions so I’m using shallots instead, but everything else is the same. I have a very bad habit of starting on the recipe before I prepare the ingredients on the list, but after the first step I realized what a mistake that was. Prepare your ingredients first. There’s a good reason for it. I was all set to start cooking—heat on, oil cooking—when I realized I hadn’t removed the sausage casings. The recipe itself was simple—no hard steps and no words I had to look up!

The recipe didn’t say how long it would take to get everything in the oven, but I think it took me about half an hour, mostly because I like to be thorough (partially because I took a short Guitar Hero break), and I’m not a particularly quick cook. The baking, however, took less than 50 minutes. It was probably closer to 40, if not less.

DSC_4037When they came out the oven, I was initially saddened at the lack of green they sported compared to Ina’s originals, but they were really tasty and surprisingly filling! I think the mascarpone would have been a nice touch. The shallots were a good scallion substitute. On a side note, these weren’t the only things for dinner tonight. I think I’m a bold eater—I’ll try almost anything and I’ll put the oddest two things on my spoon. In my defense, I’m also a college student—sometimes I just have to make do. So tonight, I’d happened to serve guacamole and chips as an appetizer to this dish. Even then, I barely finished four stuffed mushrooms, and I sunk into a warm food coma right afterward. They made for a very cozy almost-winter meal.


Dishing It: Ina Garten’s Wild Rice Salad

November 3, 2010 at 9:07 am , by

IMG_3297 IMG_3298IMG_3308

This salad recipe (which ran in our November 2010 issue on page 150) intrigued my wife and me for several reasons, not least among which is that it seems to provide a wonderful side dish for many occasions. It would support any number of main dishes no matter the season and might very well stand on its own as the main event at a luncheon at any time of year—pair it with fresh-baked baguettes and the right complementary wine and no guest would go unsatisfied or underfed.

The recipe is not only a breeze to make but fun as well. This is the sort of recipe that any beginning chef ought to be able to master because its steps are so clear and its success is all but guaranteed. That said, it is also the sort of recipe that any pro should be able to make since its flavors are extremely complex: This Wild Rice Salad is as hearty and crunchy, owing to its rice and nuts and grapes, as it is subtle, owing to its varied sweet-salt-acid palate. To say that it is a wild ride on a thrilling roller coaster would be no exaggeration, for its flavors keep unfolding the longer you sample it. But first, here is how its assembly went.



Indeed, the only time-consuming part to this recipe (other than eating it, of course) is cooking the rice. Wild rice takes nearly an hour to prep (unlike the mere 20 minutes that white rice takes). After that, assembly is straightforward: You add the oranges to the cooled rice, then the olive oil, orange juice, raspberry vinegar, grapes (we used green per the recipe but you could also use Thompson Seedless or any other variety‚ even Concord), pecans, dried cranberries, scallions, salt and pepper. But forget about waiting 30 minutes before sitting down to eat this luscious salad. If you can wait 30 minutes you are either not hungry or your nose is not working. Read more

Cookbook Round-Up: New Favorites

March 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm , by

cookbooksYou wouldn’t believe the number of cookbooks that cross my desk in a week. While most are forgettable, Tara and I have have been quite taken with a few recent offerings. Here are some of our new favorites:

  • For every kitchen, a great new reference - If you miss Sara Moulton on television as much as I do (former host of Cooking Live and Sara’s Secrets on Food Network and Sara’s Weeknight Meals on PBS) then you’ll really appreciate her new book, Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners. It’s full of classic (Chicken Cassoulet) and unique recipes (Fruit Dumplings), as well as useful kitchen tips and tricks.
  • For the glamorous “hostess-with-the-mostess” - New York City restauranteur Donatella Arpaia makes the simplest foods chic and fab in her new book Donatella Cooks. Her Mediterranean recipes could not be easier—many call for just a few ingredients! Come Summertime, I can’t wait to try her Zucchini Fritters and Bocconcini with Peaches.
  • For the advanced pastry cook who dreams about moving to Paris – If you aren’t reading famed pastry chef David Lebovitz’s blog then allow me to introduce you. He writes about 2 of my favorite things in life: baked goods and Paris, chronicling his sweet exploits along the way. Ready for Dessert, is a gorgeous new offering full of homey (Cherry-Almond Cobbler) and haute (Pistachio-Cardamom Cake) recipes.
  • For the young mom looking to add a bit zest to her meals - I love Daisy Martinez because she is a culinary school grad who uses her classical training to help the home cook. This FORR (Friend of Rachael Ray) is famous for her Latin cuisine. Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night, is full of fun recipes like Bacon and Shrimp Empanadas and Avocados stuffed with Crab-Mango Salsa.
  • For the sometimes baker – Do you love to bake treats for your office mates? Are cupcakes and cookies part of your baking repertoire? Then you’ll love Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell. This homage to the famous Pennsylvanian treat features recipes for sweet and savory whoopies. We love the classic Chocolate, but can’t wait to try Chocolate Chip or Banana. You know, some say whoopie pies are the new cupcake!
  • For the home cook who’s tired of chicken for dinner…again! -Recipes for chicken are some of the most searched for on the web. Chicken is versatile and inexpensive, but it can get boring, so when chef John Torode’s new book Chicken & Other Fowl arrived I was intrigued. His take on the humble bird is truly inspiring and will definitely help you rethink this weeknight staple. Try one of his Curries or Roast Chicken with Tarragon Sauce.

Do you have a favorite cookbook? Share it with us!

A Peanut Butter Sandwich Worth $25K

March 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm , by

$25K PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHPeanut butter and mayo isn’t a combination I’d normally try, but it sure is creative—so creative that it earned one 10-year-old a $25,000 scholarship from Jif and four other kids a $2,500 scholarship. The kids were competing to come up with the most creative peanut butter sandwich in Jif‘s 8th annual Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest.

Grand prize winner Rachel G.’s “PB & Fruity Say “’Let Us Rap,’” (complete with mother and daughter posing back-to-back after serving the wrap), impressed the judges the most—but she had tough competition from other creations like Stephanie H.’s “Chickenchita” and Lauren W.’s, “Peanut Butter and Banana Quesadilla with Fresh Fruit Salsa.”

During the competition, the sous-chefs (aka parents!) said that cooking together was a good way to encourage their kids to explore their creativity and help parents and children communicate better. After all, how else could Maria M. come up with a “Peanutty Cristo Breakfast Sandwich” if she didn’t have the opportunity to prepare and test different recipes alongside her mom in their kitchen?

Kids often get attached to wacky food combos—what kind of unique recipes have you and your kids come up with?