Archive: July, 2012
I got the text from my son first thing in the morning on his girlfriend’s birthday. “I want to make a birthday dinner tonight. Can you send a good easy recipe.”
I’m happy anytime my kids cook instead of resorting to take out, but I was especially thrilled that he wanted to cook a special meal instead of going out.
“How about the scallops we made over the weekend,” I suggested via text.
“Eh, no scallops,” he shot back. “What else you got?”
“What does she like?” I queried. “Fish or meat?”
Why did I bother to ask?
“Meat!” was his reply.
Well, at least he was just doing steaks on the grill, he was actually looking for a recipe. I suggested a pork roast with vegetables, an easy, but elegant dish.
“Boom! Send the recipe!”
But moments later, he was having second thoughts.
“Chicken parm, I decided,” he texted, naming one of his favorite dinners. “Do you have a good recipe?”
I explained that it was just like the eggplant parmesan I had made often and that recipe was already on the blog.
“You just saute the chicken breast, then spoon tomato sauce on top, layer some cheese over that, and bake it in the oven.”
“Perfecto, can you send the recipe?”
“Haha! I thought I just did.”
I did email the recipe, and he actually made the dish before me, texting me a photo at 8:20 that night.
“Impressive!” I texted back, and I meant it. The photo really did look delicious.
“How did it taste?”
Slowly, meal, by meal, I may convince these children of mine, that cooking is worth the effort.
Makes 2 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon each, chopped: fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (3 ounces each) chicken cutlets
¾ cup marinara sauce
¼ cup shredded mozzarella
Fresh basil, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
2. Stir the oil and herbs in a small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the cutlets with the herb oil. Heat a heavy, large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add the cutlets and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the skillet from the heat.
3. Spoon the marinara sauce over and around the cutlets. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of mozzarella over each cutlet. Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil.
— From Giada De Laurentiis
Per serving: 507 calories, 54 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 24 grams fat, 161 milligrams cholesterol, 604 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
From the time my children were in grade school, their favorite takeout dinner, hands down, was the vermicelli noodles and chicken topped with spring rolls from Vietnam Restaurant in Chinatown.
I don’t mean to suggest that they were super adventurous eaters, because they weren’t. But my husband used to bring home this dinner for the two of us, and soon enough the kids wanted to taste what their parents were eating. Shortly thereafter, they wanted styrofoam containers of their own.
It was just familiar enough, with noodles, lettuce, carrots, cucumber and peanuts, but a little bit exotic and grownup with mint and spicy chili peppers. The fish sauce was served on the side, and could be skipped, until their palates were ready for the salty, fishy fermentation.
It remained one of the few takeout dinners that my daughter Sally could eat after she was diagnosed with celiac, as the noodles are made with rice, and it is entirely gluten free.
So, I was anxious to try this Vietnamese noodle salad when I saw the recipe, and curious to see if I could reproduced something close to the dish we all love.
It was surprisingly quick and easy to pull it together, and the flavor profile was really close to the salad part of that favorite takeout. It does require some chopping, but the ingredients are all routine purchases, except for the rice noodles and fish sauce, which I found easily in the Ethnic food section at Wegman’s. I forgot to buy peanuts, and subbed with chopped almonds, which were not bad, but I definitely recommend using the salted peanuts.
I topped the salad with some leftover grilled chicken, which worked well. But I think it would also be great with grilled shrimp or pork kebabs.
It’s definitely a salad I’ll be making again, even though I’m sure it will never completely replace our favorite takeout. I love those crispy spring rolls way too much, and deep frying them at home is out of my league.
Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodle Salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings
½ cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 large limes)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai bird chile, seeded and minced
8 ounces dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch thick)
8 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce (from 1 large head)
1 large carrot, shaved into ribbons (use a vegetable peeler)
1 large cucumber, peeled if you like, cut into ½-inch dice
5 medium radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves
3 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced thin
½ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, cilantro, fish sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and stir immediately. Cook the noodles, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water until cool to the touch.
3. In a large salad bowl, combine the noodles with the lettuce, carrot, cucumber, radishes, and mint leaves. Add the sliced chicken and toss the salad with the dressing. Garnish with the peanuts.
Per serving (based on 8): 200 calories, 5 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat, no cholesterol, 530 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Let’s face it, sometimes dinner comes down to what’s in the freezer. I knew I had a nice bag of Trader Joe’s scallops that soon would be overstaying its time in my freezer.
When I grabbed them to defrost, I spotted a bag of frozen peas and inspiration struck: Scallops with Thai pea puree, a Nigella Lawson recipe that could not be easier.
The truth is, I have yet to try a Nigella recipe that has not worked for me. Her flavor combinations are always inventive, but always spot on, and usually not ingredients I would have put together on my own.
In this case, the recipe calls for cooking a bag of frozen peas, and them throwing them in a blender with Thai green curry paste, and some sour cream. (I actually subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream, which worked out just fine.)
Then the scallops are quickly seared for a couple of minutes on each side in a pan with butter and oil. The pan is deglazed with the juice of a lime, to create a sauce to be drizzled over the scallops. The pea puree is served alongside.
The green curry paste gave the peas just enough heat to make it interesting, while the lime butter sauce added a citrus zing that really elevated an ordinary scallop dish.
The whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes, start to finish, as quite a lovely weeknight meal. But don’t confine it to weeknights, wthis is nice enough to serve for guests.
Scallops with Thai-scented pea puree
Makes 2 servings
1 pound (3½ cups) frozen petits pois or peas
1 to 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons peanut or other flavorless oil
2 teaspoons butter
6 big scallops (such as sold in shell by fishmongers) or 10 to 12 small bay scallops (such as sold in packages in the supermarket), preferably diver-caught (If frozen, thaw in refrigerator according to package instructions.)
Juice of a lime
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or Thai basil
1. Cook the peas in boiling, slightly salted water until tender, then drain and tip into a blender, adding 1 tablespoon curry paste and the sour cream or Greek yogurt. Season to taste with salt and perhaps add more curry paste, depending on how strong it is.
2. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan until foamy, and then fry the scallops for 2 minutes a side. If you are using big scallops it is sometimes easier to cut them in half across. When they are cooked, they will have just lost their raw look in the middle and be lusciously tender, while golden and almost caramelized on the outside.
3. Lift the scallops onto two warmed plates and then deglaze the hot pan by squeezing in the lime juice. Stir to mix well and pick up every scrap of flavor, and then pour over the scallops on each plate.
4. Dish up the pea puree alongside the scallops, and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro or Thai basil. Serve with another wedge of lime if you feel like it.
_ From Nigella Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion, 2010)
Notes: The pea puree can be made 2 to 3 hours ahead. Drain peas and immediately rinse with plenty of cold water. Puree when cold with 1 tablespoon of the curry paste and sour cream or Green yogurt. Put in a bowl, cover and leave in a cool place or refrigerator. Reheat gently in a saucepan, taste and adjust seasoning before serving. If using sour cream, make sure the puree doesn’t boil, otherwise it will turn grainy.
Per serving: 536 calories, 42 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 23 grams fat, 83 milligrams cholesterol, 485 milligrams sodium, 13 grams dietary fiber.