Calabacitas y Elote con Rajas y Crema

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This beautiful recipe name translates to “creamy zucchini, corn, and roasted poblanos, and I happened upon it on The Splendid Table website. If you’re not familiar with The Splendid Table, it was originally a food program on National Public Radio, hosted by the splendid Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Her voice is like sweet nectar, if nectar could talk. You can listen to her here, on You Tube, discussing her years hosting The Splendid Table.

Ms. Kasper retired after 20 years, but The Splendid Table has expanded and now offers podcasts, recipes, interviews, and more. If you want to hear The Splendid Table, check out American Public Media to find the schedule.

The new host is a young man named Francis Lam, who “leads listeners on a journey of the senses and hosts discussions with a variety of writers and personalities who share their passion for the culinary delights.” He’s the one interviewing Ms. Kasper in the you tube video.


This perfect late summer recipe, is a Rick Bayless recipe, from his cookbook More Mexican Everyday, published in 2015, which is one of the few I don’t own. It’s a mixture of zucchini, corn, and roasted chile peppers in cream, used as a taco filling!

This is the photo from the website. The taco filling looks way more crema’d than mine, and I actually followed the recipe. So if you want the filling creamier, add more crema.

Ms. Kasper interviewed Rick Bayless and this is the recipe he describes on air. I’ve adjusted the recipe to read as a recipe, not a story!

Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Roasted Poblanos Taco Filling
Calabacitas y Elote con Rajas y Crema
printable recipe below

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 zucchini, about 1 pound total, cut into cubes a little smaller than 1/2″
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 cups poblano rajas (recipe below)
2 tablespoons Mexican crema
1 sprig epazote or 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled Mexican queso

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When really hot, add the zucchini, stirring and turning the pieces frequently, until they are richly browned all over.

Add the corn and let them brown, for about 2 minutes. I actually browned the corn separately the night before after I cooked corn on the cobs.


Scrape in the 2 cups of rajas, along with the epazote or cilantro (cilantro in my case).

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, and add the crema. Taste for salt.

Scrape it into a serving bowl and sprinkled with crumbled queso.

I chose Cotija for my cheese but after-the-fact felt it was too salty.

The great thing about this recipe is that once you’ve made it the first time, you will be able to make it in your sleep. It’s so easy, and the ratios aren’t critical.

A little bit more corn? More crema? It all works.

I did add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, however, and liked the addition.

Roasted Poblano Cream
Crema Poblana

4 medium fresh poblano chile peppers, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4″ thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup Mexican crema
1/2 teaspoon salt

Roast the poblano chiles directly over high heat, turning frequently. The skin of the chiles should blister and blacken.

Place them in a covered bowl or, what I use, which is a paper bag rolled up so that the peppers can steam cook and the peels loosen. After about 15 minutes, take them out and remove the charred skins and the seeds. Briefly rinse the peppers, then slice them into 1/4″ strips.


Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a very large skillet. When hot, add the white onion and cook until the onion is richly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and oregano.

After a minute, stir in the chile strips and crema.

Continue stirring until the cream has thickened enough to coat the chiles. Season with salt.

Combine the zucchini with the poblano crema, then use as a filling for medium-sized flour tortillas.

Mr. Bayless suggests that the poblano cream sauce is also good with grilled meat, steak, pork chops, broiled fish, chiken or fish tacos. Obviously it goes with everything!

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy Deviled Eggs

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My daughters always loved deviled eggs, so I used to make them often at Easter and other holidays. Now that they’re grown and gone, I realized I haven’t made them in years!

I typically made them with mayonnaise and sour cream, and sometimes a smidgen of Dijon mustard. But deviled egg filling is something with which you can get really creative. You can add herbs like basil or parsley, or chives, chopped pickles or sun-dried tomato bits, and so forth.

Today I’m making deviled eggs with smoked salmon. And, I’m adding some capers. For this recipe, make sure to buy small, unsalted capers.

To make these eggs, I’m also testing out a gadget I bought after seeing it on Instagram.

These are silicone egg cookers. Because I purchase the freshest eggs available, the shells are sometimes nearly impossible to remove, and that makes me crazy.

Here are the directions for the egg cookers: Crack, Boil, Pop. You can make eggs hard- or soft-boiled, or even create egg-shaped omelets. Why I’m not sure, but maybe kiddos would like them.

No directions came in the box. I started water on the stove. I wiped a few drops of olive oil in the cookers, then cracked an egg in each of them. The cookers don’t remove the shells for you, there just aren’t any shells.

When the water was at a full boil I added all 6 of the egg cookers.

I have no idea if they’re supposed to stay upright or fill up with water.

After 15 minutes I removed one and it seemed firm, but it wasn’t. I ate it like the soft-boiled egg that it was.

And then I gave up, threw everything away, and made eggs the old-fashioned way. I can’t tell you how I cook my eggs, and I hadn’t been prepared to write it down because I had these “fabulously innovative” egg cookers.

But I bring eggs to a boil, let them boil a bit, turn off the heat, wait a while, then submerge them in ice water. My head tells me when they’re ready.

So make hard-boil eggs your way. And do not buy this product. Fortunately it was only $8.99.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Capers
printable recipe below

8 large high-quality eggs, hard-boiled, chilled
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
2 ounces smoked salmon, or to taste
1 ounce drained capers
Finely chopped shallots, optional
Sweet paprika, optional

Peel the hard-boiled eggs. There seems to always be one bastard in the bunch that won’t peel, which is why if I want them to look pretty, I typically boil a couple of extra eggs.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise, using a Sharp knife. Keep the knife clean between eggs by wiping it with a paper towel.

The next step is to gently squeeze the egg half to loosen the yolk. Place the yolks in a medium bowl.

Once you’re done, use a fork to mash the yolks. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and mash until smooth.

Finely chop the salmon and fold in gently.

Place the egg white halves on a serving platter. Using a small spoon, carefully place a teaspoon or so at a time into the center. Try not to make a mess, which I usually do because I’m hurrying.

Right before serving, sprinkle some capers on each egg. If you really like caper flavor, you can include some in the egg yolk mixture.

Finely diced shallots are another possible topping for these fancy deviled eggs. It usually depends on my company whether or not I use raw shallots.

Serve at room temperature. These are really good with champagne or rosé, and with a charcuterie platter.

Tasting the egg filling is important, because both smoked salmon and capers are salty.

This is a photo I happened upon online of Bobby Flay’s deviled eggs with smoked trout. I don’t think it’s as pretty as using smoked salmon, but it’s certainly an option, and I love options.

I promise I will never buy another product I see advertised on Instagram.

 

 

Salmon with Apples, Cherries, & Hazelnuts

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I have saved this recipe for years since I first came across it on Epicurious. It’s a Bobby Flay recipe from his cookbook, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, which I do not own. The actual name of the recipe is Hot-Smoked Salmon with Apples, Dried Cherries, Hazelnuts, and Greens.

What I like about Epicurious is that the online publication has reviews and up to four “fork” ratings for their recipes. I like to read the reviews to get an idea of what the general cooking public liked or disliked about a recipe.

Sometimes reviewers don’t like the number of ingredients, or a more complicated recipe, which lowers the overall percentage of a recipe’s rating. In this case, it received 3 out of 4 forks, and only 71% would make it again.

I chose to ignore the ratings in the case of this recipe, because it seemed like few understood hot smoking. There’s nothing wrong with baking or sautéing the salmon, but the important part of this recipe is the hot-smoked salmon paired with the vinegary salad. Hot-smoked salmon is so smoky and rich that it almost requires a vinaigrette.


My Cameron hot-smoker is a handy part of my culinary appliance repertoire. It’s especially handy during months when you don’t want to be outside messing with a smoker. It actually uses real woods that are pulverized so that smoking is done quickly, which is important for thin salmon filets.



This salmon is special to me because it was caught by my husband on a recent fishing expedition in a remote part of Alaska. It wasn’t catch-and-release, so the fish was brought home on planes.

If you want the original recipe, please click on the link in the top paragraph. I’m not going to use Bobby Flay’s method for hot smoking the salmon, although I will use his rub and curing step. Make sure to remove the pin bones before proceeding with the recipe.

Hot-Smoked Salmon with Apples, Dried Cherries, Hazelnuts, and Greens

For the Salmon:
1/2 cup kosher salt (I used 1/4 cup because of the reviews)
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns
1 – 3 to 3.5 pound piece center-cut salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed

Mix together the salt, sugar, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a medium bowl. Line a piece of extra-wide aluminum foil that’s a little longer than the length of the fish with an equally long layer of plastic wrap.

Sprinkle half of the rub on the wrap. Lay the salmon on the rub. Sprinkle the remaining rub on top of the salmon. Put the wrapped fish on a rimmed baking sheet and top with another baking sheet. Weigh down with a brick or two and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Unwrap the salmon and rinse off the cure mixture with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Bring the salmon to room temperature about two hours before you plan on serving it.

To use the stove-top smoker, set it over medium-high heat to get the smoke going, and then turn the heat down to low for 15 minutes. I prefer salmon cooked medium-rare.

The smoke can really get going when you use this gadget, so cover it up with wet dish towels. And, sometimes they catch on fire, so be prepared.

For the Salad:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
4 ounces organic baby greens
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and honey in a large bowl and seasonwith salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.

Add the greens, apple, onion, cherries and hazelnuts to combine. Season with salt and pepper.


Place the salmon on a platter and arrange the salad on top.


Are you ready for this? This recipe is going on my Last Meal list! It’s that good!

The salmon is fabulous with the vinaigrette and the apples and cherries. The onions and hazelnuts are like icing on cake.


I didn’t taste much mustard from the vinaigrette, which is fine, but I added a few mustard seeds on top for fun.


I’ve never pressed raw salmon with weights, but it certainly didn’t ruin anything. The flesh was condensed, as you’d expect, but still moist and tender.

I’d barely finished photographing this dish before I began devouring it. I added more vinaigrette because the fish can take it, and by the end it was more like a salad with salmon on my plate. Nice and messy. And delicious.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

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Méridionnale is the southern region of France famous for its ratatouille, classic in that it contains tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, but unusual in that it is cooked gently in the oven, not on the stovetop. This, according to Daniel Boulud, in his cookbook, “Café Boulud Cookbook,” published in 1999.


I bought the cookbook after going to Café Boulud in New York City, not once, but twice during the same visit back in 2010. My daughter and I stayed at the Surrey Hotel, located adjacent to the restaurant. I had accompanied my daughter to New York City for a major interview, which all turned out well.

To make our first night easy I’d made a reservation at Café Boulud, and it was so perfect that went went the next day for lunch. The food, the service, the ambiance – all was truly perfection. One thing that I remember is that when you were brought the check, it came with just-out-of-the-oven Madeleines.

The cookbook is uniquely divided into four parts.
1. La Tradition – the traditional dishes of French cooking
2. La Saison – the seasonal specialties of the market
3. Le Voyage – dishes from lands far and near, and
4. Le Potager – vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden.

So many recipes jumped out at me when I first read the book. A roasted chicken stuffed with a Tuscan bread filling that included chicken livers and prosciutto, for example, and veal chops stuffed with fontina and porcini. But I chose this ratatouille recipe, from the “La Tradition” section.

Right now my garden is abundant with most all of the ingredients in this hearty vegetable dish, so there’s no better time than the present to make ratatouille.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, split, and germ removed
1 onion, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, deveined, cut into 1” chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, as above
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 small eggplant, about 4 ounces, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 zucchini, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 yellow squash, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 1” chunks
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for the vegetables to retain their distinctive flavors, you will need either to cook them in batches or to cook them in two separate sauté pans.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 1 clove of garlic, the onion, and the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften a bit but don’t take on color, about 5 minutes.

Either remove the vegetables and wipe out the pan or, while the peppers are cooking, take another sauté pan and warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the second clove of garlic, the eggplant, zucchini, and squash and cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes, this time allowing the vegetables to color a bit.

Combine the sautéed vegetables in one large ovenproof sauté pan or baking dish and stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover the pan with a circle of parchment paper, pressing the paper against the vegetables.


Put the pan in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the ratatouille every 15 minutes or so.

The ratatouille is done when the vegetables are meltingly tender but still retain their shape. Remove the bay leaves and garlic.

Serve while it’s hot, or when it reaches room temperature. Just before serving, stir in the basil leaves and the squirt of lemon juice.

The ratatouille can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, bring it to room temperature or warm it gently in a slow oven.

I served the ratatouille with roasted chicken. Simple and delicious.

I was really surprised after all the cooking time as well as stirring that the pieces of vegetables remained intact. I have seen many a ratatouille look like mush.

So it’s for that reason alone that I will make this recipe for ratatouille again. It’s pretty, delicious, and perfect for a glut of ripe vegetables.

Avocado Pie

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Yes, you read it right. Avocado pie. And for once, I’m not talking savory. I came across my old friend’s hand-written recipe recently and had to make it this summer. Avocado pie is unique and simply delightful.

Way back in the 70’s I lived in Santa Barbara, California, where I attended college. I had friends who co-habitated in a large house, and I visited them quite often, probably because I was living in a mother-in-law cottage and enjoyed the space, and the music.

These folks were all wonderfully talented bohemian artists, writers, and musicians – a nice change from the nerdy geology majors with whom I attended classes. (Nothing against nerds, as I was one of them.)

One friend stood out for three reasons. First, he looked just like Jesus Christ. Second, he was a classical pianist who was as talented as Van Cliburn. Third, he made this pie, and it’s from him that I got this recipe.


Above from the left: my sister, myself, and Jesus Christ, circa 1975?

So fast forward a million years and I have a cooking blog, and I’ll bet a small minority of you have ever had such a thing as an avocado pie. I only say that because, I’ve never come across one, and I follow hundreds of blogs. It’s a dessert – it has nothing to do with guacamole. And it’s so simple to make.

First you must make a graham cracker crust.

Graham Cracker Crust

5 ounces graham crackers
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick or 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Choose an 8 or 9″ shallow pie plate.

Place the graham crackers in the jar of a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth.

Place the crumbs in a medium bowl and place the stick of butter on the crumbs. Microwave gently until the butter melts.

Stir everything until evenly combined. Scrape the mixture into the pie plate.

Using a large spoon, begin spreading and flattening the crumbs into a firm crust, working it up the sides of the pie plate. Bake the crust for approximately 12 minutes – it will be firm and golden in color.

If it has puffed a little, smooth it down with the large spoon.

Cool the pie crust and meanwhile prepare the filling.

As the recipe states, blend together the avocado, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice until smooth, then pour the result green glop into the pie crust.

The pie must chill at least four hours or overnight before serving.

I served mine with a little squiggle of diluted crème fraiche.

The pie is so sweet that it really needs the crème fraiche.

It’s also quite soft. If I was a confident baker I would figure out how to incorporate a little gelatin into the avocado pie filling.

As I mentioned, this pie is sweet. Normally sweetened condensed milk is not a favorite ingredient to use, but I wanted to make the recipe as I remember it. Some lime zest and a little less lime juice to maybe help the filling be thicker, but it’s not a lime pie. Just don’t try and cut large pieces!

Tomato Salad with a Twist

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I’m not going to pretend that I’ve never seen a tomato and watermelon salad on blogs. Cause I have. I just hadn’t eaten one until I was in New York City recently visiting my daughter.

She took us to Governor’s Island for a beautiful walk, followed by lunch at Island Oyster. The view of the Manhattan skyline was spectacular.

It was there I had my first lobster roll, for which the restaurant is popular. We shared the tomato watermelon salad.


Well, the lobster roll was exquisite, but so was the salad. Once home, I decided to make my own tomato and watermelon salad, but with a twist.

When I received some fresh peaches a few weeks ago, I stuck a few slices in a jar of apple cider vinegar, along with a couple chile peppers. This is the photo I posted on Instagram.

For the vinaigrette, I used this fruity-zingy vinegar whisked together with good olive oil and a bit of salt. It’s always interesting that fruit pales when stored in vinegar or vodka over time.

I first chopped my garden-ripe cherry and grape tomatoes in half and added them to a paper towel-lined bowl to rest for about 30 minutes and release unnecessary liquid .

Discard the paper towel, then chop the watermelon and add them to the tomatoes, along with a small, finely-chopped shallot. Season with salt and pepper.

Add peach vinaigrette to taste to the tomato and watermelon salad and stir gently.

Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

As delicious as this salad is, I decided on a little more zing so I diced a jalapeno and added it.

I preferred the salad this way, but of course the jalapeño is optional. And if you don’t like biting into bits of chile pepper, you can always include a few squirts of Tabasco in your vinaigrette.

I’d originally thought I’d use the peachy vinegar on some butter lettuce, maybe with avocado, but with this salad, it adds a different sweetness from the watermelon, plus a zing from the chile peppers.

All this salad needs is some good olive oil and perhaps a white balsamic, however. The peach vinegar is not a requirement!

Paloma Margarita

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Yes, one more margarita recipe! This is a recipe I had hand written on a recipe card many years ago, but then recently discovered it online when I was researching the source of the name “Paloma.” The same margarita is on the Food Network Website. It’s a different kind of margarita recipe in that it contains grapefruit juice.

But first I have to brag about my recent purchase, a Breville 800CPXL Die-Cast Stainless-Steel Motorized Citrus Press from Amazon. It’s not inexpensive, but so worth the expense if you love margaritas and your hands can’t handle squeezing 30 limes at a time.

This appliance works with any size citrus fruit, from limes to grapefruits.


What is also really nice is that with little effort, more juice is removed than any kind of manual squeezing in my experience.

In fact, it’s so “fun” to use, I’ve been keeping a bottle of lime juice in my fridge, and it’s more handy than I even expected! Need lime juice for a quick lime dressing? Done! How about some lime juice for guacamole, or even for a quick limeade! Done! It’s very handy and stays fresh in a lidded bottle.

But the Paloma margarita story doesn’t end here. (I never did figure out why the name Paloma…) My daughter and her family were visiting for a pool party kind of day, and I thought I’d serve the Paloma margaritas to the big people; it was a perfect opportunity to test the recipe.

Well, my daughter and I made them, and we hated them. So my more bartender-talented daughter stepped in and created the following recipe. (She’s always saved my sangrias in the past as well!)

There’s still grapefruit juice in this cocktail, but it’s also definitely a margarita.

Paloma Margarita
Makes 2 drinks

4 ounces tequila
4 ounces grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
Juice of 1/2 small lime
5 drops of Stevia
Fresca, chilled

Prepare two glasses with a salt rim, and fill the glasses with ice.

Combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and stevia in a cocktail shaker. Add a little ice and shake to cool the margarita.


Strain the ice and divide the margarita between the two glasses. Top each drink with about 2 ounces of Fresca.

Ta da! You’ve got one of the most enjoyable margaritas ever. If you enjoy grapefruit juice.

Make sure to use good, ruby-red grapefruit for maximum sweetness.

If you don’t like salty rims, add a pinch of salt into each cocktail. It really adds something special.

You can adjust the amount of stevia used as well, or substitute a teaspoon of simple syrup.

I thought this margarita was spectacular. There’s something about tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and salt….

Mimi’s Tomato Pie

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I started making this savory pie when I was perhaps a young teenager. I’m pretty sure my mother had clipped the original recipe from McCall’s magazine. I loved the pie so much that I dubbed it “Mimi’s” tomato pie, which is a bit pompous. I think I was excited to finally learn to love tomatoes, which I hadn’t previously.

This savory pie is made with ripe tomatoes, so I only make it in the summer.

If you love the combination of tomatoes, Swiss cheese and bacon, and basil, you’ll love this pie. It’s simple and wonderful.

Mimi’s Tomato Pie
printable recipe below

Pie crust for 9” pie pan
Fresh Tomatoes
12 ounces sliced or grated Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces bacon, preferably uncured bacon
Fresh basil

Bake the pie crust, lined with weights, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until just lightly golden. Remove the weights and let the crust cool.


Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels. They need to be as dry as possible so as not to mush up the crust. I use two sizes of tomatoes and two different varieties.


When you’re ready to assemble the pie, begin by placing 1/3 of the Swiss cheese on the crust.


Add 1/2 of the tomato slices, filling in as many holes as possible using the smaller slices.


Season the tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then add the other half of the cheese and tomatoes, seasoning the tomatoes. You will end up with 2 layers of cheese and 2 layers of tomatoes.

Lay the bacon slices in a lattice or radial pattern on top of the tomatoes.

Bake the pie at for 30 minutes, then raise the heat up to 375 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes. The bacon should be cooked and the cheese bubbly.


Before serving, top the pie with a basil chiffonade, or simply strew basil leaves on top if you prefer.


The pie is good with a nice Viognier, an Albariño or a rosé.


Oh, and the pie is really good heated up for breakfast…

As I mentioned above, if you love tomatoes, cheese and bacon…

Tomato Pie

Pie crust for 9” pie pan
Fresh Tomatoes
12 ounces grated Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces uncured bacon
Fresh basil

Bake the pie crust, lined with weights, at 350 degrees Farenheit until just lightly golden. Remove the weights and let the crust cool.
Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels. They need to be as dry as possible so as not to mush up the crust.
When you’re ready to assemble the pie, begin by placing half of the Swiss cheese on the crust.
Add half of the sliced tomatoes, filling in as many holes as possible.
Season the tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then top with the remaining cheese and tomatoes, again seasoning them with salt and pepper.
Bake the tomato pie at for 30 minutes, then raise the heat up to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
The bacon should be cooked and the cheese bubbly.
Before serving, top the pie with a basil chiffonade, or simply strew basil leaves on top if you prefer.

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

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The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.


Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.


I really love my concocted dish!

And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

Cherries Foster

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My idea for cherries foster, inspired by bananas foster, which is a favorite of my husband’s, came about only because bananas are so long and require an elongated serving dish. I know, that’s a weird reason to ponder other forsterable fruit. But see?

Which made me think about what other fruits would allow a different sort of presentation – basically little round fruits like cherries!

Bottled cherries like Griottines or Frabbri Amarena would make a lovely topping on ice cream. But I really wanted to “foster” ripe cherries to mimic the bananas foster dessert.

Why? Because it’s fabulous. There’s caramelization, there’s sweetness, there’s fruitiness, there’s some liqueur, there’s flambéing, and ice cream. What’s not to love!

If you’ve never pitted fresh cherries before, it’s very easy. Just use an olive pitter, sometimes called a cherry pitter! I find it best to pop out the pit from or through the stem end. It can get a little messy and there can be flying pits, but it’s easy.

And definitely worth doing to make this dessert.

Here’s what I did.

Cherries Foster
Serves 4

1 pound of ripe cherries, rinsed, dried
4 ounces of butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
Good splash of Kirsch*
High quality vanilla ice cream

Pit the cherries, slice in half, and set aside.

Heat the butter and brown sugar in a skillet. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the cherry halves and sauté them until soft, at least 5 minutes.


Add the splash and light the liqueur. Let it flame until the flame dies out. You have to look closely, but there are flames! Sauté for another few minutes then turn off the heat.


Scoop the ice cream into serving bowls. Top with the cherries with the cherries and sauce.

I found these cookie crumbs on Amazon and I thought they’d be good for some crunch.


I thought the crunch really added something. The possibilities are endless.


By the time I’d taken photos, the ice cream had become soup…

But boy was this a spectacular dessert. I truly loved it. And it’s pretty enough. I certainly could have done a better job of “styling” the cherries, but I added them still warm; my time was limited!


Thank you Mr. Foster.

* Vanilla liqueur or bourbon are other choices, or no alcohol.