Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seared Sea Scallops with Pistachio and Parmesan Risotto

This dinner came about after having picked up one of those recipe cards from the grocery store one day, and not being able to get the idea out of my head. I don’t even remember which grocery store I picked the card up from, but I was immediately intrigued by the Scallops with Pistachio Butter… The card comes from the Try-Foods International company, who probably prints practically every recipe card you ever see in the grocery store and I couldn’t probably tell you for sure, as I have a ton of them! I’m such a sucker for anything cooking related, it’s not even funny… For example, I was recently at one of the local hospitals with a friend who was going through a difficult time, and we went to grab something for lunch when we passed a book fair thing going on in the lobby. I THINK they had other books there, but I can’t remember because I only saw the cookbooks! I bought two of them that day, like I really need any more… ;-)
Then, while thinking about what to go with it, I thought a risotto would go really well. My friend Becca, who’s actually taken classes towards a culinary arts degree, had come over not too long ago and showed me how to make risotto, so I was feeling pretty confident in myself! Not confidant enough to wing it with my very own ideas this time, though… Since the scallops were going to be served with a pistachio butter, I really had my heart set on also having the pistachios in the risotto, so that’s what I searched the internet for. And I came upon this recipe! I think the guy who wrote up the recipe might have some issues, and I don’t even know if he would want me to link back to him since I didn’t follow his recipe EXACTLY, but he does deserve credit for the base recipe I used. (*Thinks to herself, “I hope I’m not getting myself into trouble!”*)
Anyways… You guys know me, so you know I don’t do anything the way I’m supposed to anyways! First of all, when it comes to this recipe, I certainly can’t see spending good money on blue cheese, when I really don’t like the stuff… I don’t care how expensive it is, moldy cheese is moldy cheese!! Secondly, I really don’t think it’s necessary to spend an exorbitant amount of money in order to get good products, nor to achieve high-quality results. And, lastly, what in the heck good is a recipe if it’s carved in stone and you can’t do anything else with it?! So, if the guy who wrote that is offended by me changing his recipe, then I’m sorry. As far as I’m concerned, recipes are only guidelines and there aren’t many of them that I treat with any special attention or affection. Except for that of my sacred, beloved Oatmeal Cherry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies! :-)

One of my favorite things about living in a larger city is the accessibility of all kinds of ingredients. If you really don't have a lot of money, you don't need to spend a lot of money... For example, I could buy a huge container of Arborio rice, but then I would have to worry about storing it so that the oils in the grains don't turn rancid. Because I wouldn't use that much rice in a short period of time, no matter how good the dish (I have a hard time eating the same things over and over), it's much more convenient for me to buy it by the pound. The organic/natural section at my local grocery store has giant dispensers where you can buy all kinds of stuff by the pound, including red and white quinoa, Arborio rice, granola, granola bites, oatmeal, different nuts, and all kinds of stuff. And, the liquor department sells little bottles of probably 50 different wines, including one from one of my favorite local wineries, so you really only have to get as much as you need for one recipe. Unless you're like me and drink a glass or two while you're preparing the meal!

Printable Recipe

½ lb. Arborio rice
⅛ c. olive oil
½ c. finely chopped Vidalia onion
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ c. chardonnay
1 c. chicken stock, warm
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. roasted, unsalted pistachios, chopped
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1½ lb. large sea scallops
Pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ c. butter or margarine
⅓ c. finely chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

If the scallops are frozen, be sure to thaw, rinse, and then drain them well on paper towels. (If at all possible, it is best to buy dry-packed scallops, as they will not retain as much moisture and will be easier to sear correctly.)
For the risotto: In a medium sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes until they sweat; add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Add the rice and toast, stirring constantly, as it cooks for a couple of minutes. Slowly add the wine and cook until it is completely reduced, stirring frequently. When the wine is completely gone, start adding the stock, a little at a time, and cook until the rice absorbs the stock, stirring once after each addition of stock; repeat until all of the stock is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, roasted pistachios, and Parmesan and gently stir it all together thoroughly.
For the Scallops: Preheat a cast iron skillet and stainless steel frying pan drizzled with olive oil over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the dried scallops and place them in the skillet, letting them cook for 3-4 minutes without touching, moving, or turning them. (This is necessary to sear them properly.) After the scallops have browned nicely on the first side, flip them and leave them to cook again for 3-4 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the pistachio nuts and parsley. Remove the scallops from the skillet, serve over prepared risotto with steamed asparagus, drizzle with pistachio butter, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grilled Tropical Chicken Salad and a Blog Award!

I would just like to start out by apologizing to all of my faithful readers for not posting lately… Since starting my new job, it seems like I’m tired all of the time! It might be helpful to know that I had worked PM shift as a Certified Nursing Assistant for 6 years prior to starting this new job, which requires me to be awake by around 7:00 AM… That’s early for a girl who’s accustomed to staying up until 3 AM and not getting out of bed until 10 or 11! And I’ve still been cooking when I get home, but haven’t always had the opportunity to take pictures because of having company over… But, I’m getting back into the swing of things again! So, thank you for your patience with me and your continued support.

I came up with this salad after seeing “Tropical …something… Salad” on several menus recently and wondering what in the world qualified them as being “tropical.” One had mangos and raspberries with a basil vinaigrette dressing… One had shrimp and mandarin oranges on it… And I can’t remember the other.
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I think of tropical places, I imagine pineapples and papayas… Fresh fish and bright flavors… While I do love basil (it’s my favorite herb), I’m not sure that it’s a tropical kind of thing. So, when I was thinking of what I wanted to go on my salad, something with pineapple definitely came to mind. I found this recipe on the internet, but changed a few things based on what I wanted. I have a couple of lemon verbena plants in my house, so definitely wanted to use that as I rather adamantly dislike rosemary. Not to mention that bright lemony flavors seem much more fresh and all of that good stuff!
I suppose one could argue that raspberry chipotle barbecued chicken isn’t exactly tropical either… But, oh, well! I had originally intended to make shrimp, which would also be really good, but didn’t get to use it soon enough and so had to throw it away. Next time! But, chicken is a universal meat selection around the world, right?! :-)

Printable Recipe

½ fresh, ripe pineapple
¼ medium fresh, ripe papaya
2 ripe mangos
6 oz. fresh raspberries
2 chicken breasts
Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Spring Mix lettuce
Pineapple Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Sliced almonds, optional

Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium heat.
Prepare the fruit. For the pineapple, remove the peel and cut it into quarters lengthwise; remove the core by cutting along the inside length just around the woody center. Depending on the size of the pineapple, cut the quarters in half or thirds lengthwise. For the papaya, cut it in half lengthwise and then lengthwise again into sizes similar to the pineapple. Prepare the mangos by identifying where the pit is and then cutting the fruit along the long sides of the seed. (There are mango gadgets that do this for you, but if you don’t eat mangos very often then I would suggest just using your knife.) For the raspberries, fill a bowl with cold water and gently place the fruit in the water. Allow them to sit in the water for a few minutes to clean them off and then allow them to dry completely on a paper towel.
Place the chicken and the prepared fruit pieces on a medium hot grill, being sure to watch the fruit closely so that it doesn’t burn; when the fruit is warmed through and has sufficient grill marks, remove it from the grill and allow to cool slightly. When the chicken is cooked through, baste it with a little bit of the raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce and allow it to set before removing it from the grill. Cut the fruit into bite-size pieces and the chicken into strips.
For the salads, arrange the lettuce in large salad bowls or on dinner plates. Arrange the grilled fruit on top of the lettuce, dividing evenly among the dishes, and top with the strips of grilled chicken. Sprinkle the fresh raspberries over the top of the salad and drizzle with the pineapple vinaigrette. If you’d like, you may also sprinkle some sliced almonds on top of the salads.

Pineapple Vinaigrette:
6 oz. pineapple juice
2 Tbsp. almond oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. dried parsley (or 2 Tbsp. fresh, minced)
1 tsp. fresh lemon verbena, minced

Mix all of the ingredients in an airtight container with a lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. The dressing must be mixed well each time it is served, as the other ingredients separate from the oil. (No refrigeration is necessary.)

Even though I’ve been exhausted from starting a new job and haven’t had much ambition to do a whole lot of anything, even blog, it’s nice to know that my readers still think of me. Sharon, from Family and Food Chronicles, was kind enough to pass a blog award on to me last week, so I thought I’d better return the favor! So, without further ado…

According to tradition, I'm to pass on 15 "new or newly discovered" food blogs, and share 7 interesting tidbits about myself. As for the blogs that have recently captured my interest, these are among my favorites:

Michelle – Brown-Eyed Baker
Raven – RavieNomNoms
Parsley Sage – The Deep Dish
Ally Lynn – Ally’s Baking Journey
Vicki – Wilde in the Kitchen
Jackie – Domestic Fits
Christina - Sweet Pea's Kitchen
Liren – Kitchen Confidante
Chelsea – Sprinkles of Parsley
Christiane – The Mom Chef
Shellina – The Frugal FlambĂ©
Stacey – The Four Points Foodie Blog
Kristina – My Life as a Mrs.
Sommer – A Spicy Perspective
Kay – My Home-Cooked Meals

As for the tidbits about myself…

1. I am a little bit OCD about grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Even in text messages, I refuse to shorten phrases (except Lol and the like, which just sounds weird if you write those out…) and always write as though actually writing on a piece of paper.
2. I am OCD about washing my hands… People always think that it’s because I spent 6 years of my life working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, but I was obsessive about it even before then! I don’t like my fingers to be dirty at all. And on the rare occasion that I do use a public bathroom, I absolutely judge anyone who walks out without washing their hands. It makes me want to walk around the entire store disinfecting everything I touch, just in case they might have touched it before me!
3. I am so completely thrilled to have found a job doing what I love most! Those darn early mornings are brutal, though…
4. I am extremely amused by Adam Sandler. Even though some people don’t get it, my favorite of his movies is “Billy Madison.” It’s even better when watching it with my best friend, who also loves it!
5. I have one entire bookshelf dedicated to my cookbooks, and am almost in need of another one. I am currently working on purchasing all of Alton Brown’s cookbooks (he’s my favorite celebrity chef)!
6. I love the old television show, “I Love Lucy” and have almost every season on DVD. I can never seem to find Season 5 and the last set of discs which includes Seasons 7-9… If you ever see them, could you please let me know where?!
7. I love experimenting with new ingredients and techniques. When I find or hear of something I’ve never had before, I start researching it extensively until I know as much as possible about it. One day, I’m going to take on a spherification project! :-)