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How to Buy, Store, and Cook Garlic, In Season in August – Bon Appétit

How to Buy, Store, and Cook Garlic, In Season in August – Bon Appétit.

This is the time of year when you will find great heads of garlic at your local farmer’s market. Bon Appetit has a nice little article here about what you should look for when buying some garlic and how best to store it to get the most out of it. Check it out!

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Cooking Tips, Cooking Websites, Vegetables

 

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Under the Sea (Scallops)

After a morning at the dentist, it’s time to get down to some writing. Today’s dinner is an easy recipe and a very tasty one. Today I am making pan-seared sea scallops with lemon and shallots, roasted broccoli and carrots, and white rice. It’s nothing difficult to make and the whole meal itself only takes about 35 minutes total, so it’s easy to do during the week,

In my opinion, there is really only one type of scallop worth buying, and that is sea scallops. Bay scallops or Calico scallops are much smaller and tend to be rubbery, so I opt for the sea scallops. They do cost more, and many of them are dipped in preservatives to help extend their shelf life. These are generally called wet scallops. If you can find dry scallops, or scallops labeled chemical-free, opt for those. You’ll be able to tell the difference even if they aren’t labeled, as wet scallops are bright white in color and, well, they’re wet with a milky liquid. Dry scallops range from an ivory color to a pale pinkish orange, and look dry. Most places will label them, and dry scallops in this area tend to be quite expensive, around $18 a pound. They do taste better and are worth the splurge. We only cook them about every 6 weeks or so and it is a seafood the whole family enjoys.

Now on to the recipe. This one is pretty easy and shouldn’t take long at all. i would recommend using the largest skillet you have for this, or do the scallops in batches so they aren’t bunched together and end up steaming instead of getting the nice pan sear on them. Also, you could add capers into this recipe if you like. Capers are basically unripened flower buds that are often pickled and are about the size of a small pea to a small olive. They can be rather salty, but also can add a nice flavor to meats, sauces, dressings and vegetables. My family doesn’t really like them, so I eliminate them, but if you like them, go for it.

Pan-Seared Scallops With Lemon and Shallots

1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup dry white wine or vermouth (or just use water if you don’t want the alcohol)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and minced (optional)

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Gently lay the scallops in the pan and cook until well browned, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook until the sides of the scallop are firm but the center remains very soft, about 30 seconds. Transfer the scallops to a plate and tent with foil.

Pour off all the fat left in the skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and melt over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the wine (or vermouth, or water) and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining butter, the parsley, lemon juice, capers (if using) and any accumulated scallop juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops to the sauce and let warm through before serving, about 1 minute.

Pretty easy, huh? The thing with seafood and shellfish is that it generally doesn’t need a long time to cook, just minutes at the most, unless you’re steaming shellfish like lobster, crab or clams, or cooking thick flesh seafood steaks, and even then seafood steaks don’t take too long. A lot of people tend to overcook seafood, leaving it unflavored, tough and rubbery. Just a few minutes is all it takes for some really tasty seafood.

For tonight’s vegetable, I decided to roast broccoli and carrots. Broccoli and carrots are both favorites in our house (I can’t think of a vegetable we won’t eat actually, even Sean is really good about veggies). In this recipe, if you want a little bit of a spicy kick, add some crushed red pepper flakes towards the end. I love roasted vegetables; they tend to taste sweeter than steamed and the flavor is more concentrated.

Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

1 1/2 pound broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Zest of 1 lemon (I use whatever I didn’t from the scallops recipe)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional, Michelle and Sean do like it on their portions)

Position 1 rack in the middle and 1 rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (you’re roasting, it should be very hot). Divide the broccoli and carrots evenly among 2 baking sheets. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil a 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Toss well, then spread the vegetables out in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and roast until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the vegetables evenly with the garlic, red pepper flakes(if using), lemon zest and cheese (if using). Continue roasting for 2 minutes more. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl and serve.

Another easy side dish done. Lastly, for this meal is the rice. I personally prefer long-grain white rice, just a personal preference of mine. Use whatever rice you like the best. Cooking rice on the stovetop is very easy and pretty foolproof. I use a 2 to 1 ratio in cooking, so if I make 1 cup of rice, I use 2 cups of water. One cup is more than enough for the three of us and we generally have leftovers that can be used for other meals. Just bring the water up to a boil on the stove, add in the rice and a teaspoon or two of salt (or not, if you’re cutting back) and return the pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, generally about 12 to 15 minutes for 1 cup of rice.

Brown rice and wild rice tend to take longer. Long grain brown rice takes about 25-30 minutes, while wild rice can take about 35-40 minutes, so if you want to use those, budget your time accordingly. I like both of those, but for a quick, weeknight meal the white rice fits better.

So that’s another day down in this week’s meal plan. If you have suggestions, questions, or any input at all, please feel free to leave a comment here. I am willing to respond, good, bad or indifferent. Tomorrow’s dinner is also my choice, and we will be having pork chops with butternut squash and apple stuffing, roasted potatoes,and Swiss chard with garlic and shallots. Until then, enjoy your day and your time in the kitchen!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Rice, Seafood, Vegetables

 

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Enter The Meal Plan…

It’s Monday and it’s time to start off the week with a meal plan. My family meal plan started a while ago, and it worked well while we stuck to it, but then we kind of drifted away from it and things got a little out of hand again. By out of hand I mean we didn’t plan ahead on any meals. which led to a lot of meals thrown together at the last-minute or just getting take-out or eating out. In the long run, it wasn’t benefiting us as far as our health and being together as a family, so I decided we needed to get back to the meal plan.

Here is how our meal plan works. We, as a family, decide on the meals each week. While it sounds like a challenge right away by letting kids choose meals (who wants chicken nuggets or pizza every day?) I have tried to make it so that, since there are 3 of us, we each pick 2 meals for the week and the extra day we eat leftovers. Once a month we take the extra day and either go out or get take out. The stipulations on the meals are this: the week’s meals have to be one night of red meat, two nights of poultry, one night of seafood, one night of pasta/grain/vegetarian, and two nights using whatever we have as leftovers to make a meal. I also had to add in that we couldn’t pick the same meal on consecutive weeks, otherwise Sean would have us eating burgers and pizza every week. Each meal has to have some type of vegetable and some type of protein. The protein doesn’t have to be meat, but there has to be one there somewhere. Once the meals have been picked out, we go through and which one fits best on which day of the week for that week. Like any family, some weeks for us can get a little hectic and some nights are better suited to leftovers than others, so we try to work with that. Once that is done, I do the shopping list of the supplies we need for the week to make the meals, we outline the everyone’s duties for the week as far as the meals go and then we move ahead with the week. Here is the print out I use for our meal planning. I have found it a big help for planning and for shopping because I tend to stick closely to it and shop only for the things that we really need for the meals that week so we can stay on budget a little better:  family_meal_planner.

Now that the basics are laid out, we can talk about today’s dinner plan. Today is pretty simple. Sean picked today’s meal and since he is off from school today, he gets to help cook it too. It’s straightforward, spaghetti and meatballs. He chose broccoli as his vegetable for the day and we’re going to make some garlic bread as well. I don’t make my own bread, so we’ll cheat a little there and buy a loaf and make it garlic bread, but if you make your own, it will probably be very tasty.

The spaghetti itself is pretty easy and painless. I don’t eat pasta, I never have. I just don’t like the texture of the store-bought pasta. I think if I had the counter space to make my own pasta, I would probably eat it because I think the taste of fresh pasta would be much better. But hey, just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I won’t cook it (and if you cook it and I am invited over, you can be sure I’ll eat it, no questions asked. My momma raised me right :)).Tonight, it’s just plain spaghetti (I am eating white rice) and I think most people can handle cooking it, so I am not going to spend time on it. Instead, I’ll focus on the sauce, meatballs and garlic bread.

There are lots of sauces available right out of the jar or can, and some of them taste good. They are quick and easy to use and make our lives simple, but personally, if I have the time to make sauce, I am going to make it. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive and take all day. As a matter of fact, I find that sauce cooked too long tends to lose some of its flavor (this is for a sauce with no meat in it). In a perfect world, I would use fresh tomatoes, but, as I discussed previously, the tomatoes available here in the stores are generally pretty flavorless and not ripe. I have found that using diced and crushed tomatoes for sauce works just fine for me. This is a simple sauce recipe. It’s quick, it’s easy, has few ingredients, and tastes good:

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (if you’re using dried basil, cut this in at least half)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes (don’t scorch the garlic, it tastes pretty bad when you do. As soon as you can smell it, you’re ready for the next step). Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

You can easily double this recipe to make more sauce, just add about another 10 minutes of cooking time. Freeze extra so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice for a quick meal.

On to the meatballs. There are several brands of frozen meatballs that are good, and we usually have some in the freezer to use for quick meals or as appetizers when people are over. Like the sauce, if I have the time, i want to make my own. Sean likes the frozen ones better, and since it’s his choice tonight, we’ll probably use them, but I am going to give my recipe for meatballs anyway. You don’t have to use the beef, pork, veal mix that I do (I use the same mix for meatloaf and you can find it in most supermarkets). Chicken or turkey works just as well if that’s what you prefer. You also don’t have to use your own bread, but I find it tastes and binds better with fresh bread instead of dried breadcrumbs. Just my personal choice.

Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound beef, pork, veal mixture

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the beef, pork and veal mixture, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the tomato sauce, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Okay, now you have your pasta, your sauce, and your meatballs. Our vegetable of choice today is broccoli, although we’ll be having salad along with it too (which Sean won’t eat, hence the broccoli). There are lots of ways to cook broccoli (steaming, roasting, braising, sauteing) and Sean prefers simple steaming, so that’s how we’re going with it today. Later on in the week I’ll be roasting some and I have the recipe for that for you. I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the broccoli is done.

Garlic bread itself is a pretty simple endeavor:

1 loaf Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened (use less if you like, I often do)

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese of your liking, or no cheese at all, it’s optional)

Preheat the broiler. Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil, garlic and oregano. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread. On a baking sheet, place the bread under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the broiler and serve, or, if using the cheese, sprinkle cheese over the bread and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

That’s it, you have our first meal plan. We usually only do dessert about once a week, and usually on the weekends so you’ve done it! Clean up for this one should be relatively easy, and I try to clean up as I go along to make things easier. If you have any suggestions or variations for this meal, please feel free to add them. I am always looking to try something new. Have fun cooking tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow night Sean and Michelle are out for the night at a fundraiser, so I’ll be cooking for one (which makes tomorrow a leftovers night this week), so I’ll have to come up for a topic for tomorrow. Any suggestions?

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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Jennifer Probst

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