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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seared Scallops With Blood Orange Salsa and Polenta

I wanted to make something different with the blood oranges for our entree for Oscar Night. I picked up some scallops on my weekly shopping trip, and started creating from there. I wanted to create a sauce that would really capitalize on their color. I had jalapenos on hand (as always), so I thought a fresh salsa would work with the scallops. And we love polenta with just about anything, so this was a really quick and easy dish, but very dramatic on the plate. Perfect for a night of "star-gazing". 

Seared Scallops With Blood Orange Salsa and Polenta 

For the salsa: 
4 blood oranges, peeled and cut into sections, remove as much of the membrane as you can
1 large jalapeno or 2 small, seeded and roughly chopped 
1 large scallion, roughly chopped 
3 tablespoons honey 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
Place oranges, jalapeno and scallions in a food processor, and blend until mostly chopped together. Pour into a bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Set aside.

For the polenta: 
5 cups water 
2 teaspoons salt 
1 cup polenta 
3 tablespoons butter 
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese 
In a large pot, mix together water, salt and polenta. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring regularly to avoid lumps. Continue to stir until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese. 

For the scallops: 
1 dozen fresh scallops 
Salt and pepper 
Olive oil 
Make sure scallops are dry and at room temperature. Salt and pepper both sides generously. Heat a saute pan over high heat, and add olive oil. Sear scallops 2-3 minutes on each side until golden, and remove from heat. Place polenta on plate, top with scallops, then salsa. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Blood Orange Chutney with Chevre

'Tis the season for blood oranges, and I love them so much ! Not just for their color, which is very dramatic, but also for the unusual citrus flavor they bring to a dish. I have used them in both sweet and savory recipes, with great success. 

I wanted to make something fun and special for Oscar Night this year, and since blood oranges are plentiful, they seemed like the perfect choice for my menu. This was our appetizer dish for Oscar night. I was able to make use of our honey from the hives in our yard and these beautiful blood oranges, plus goat cheese, which we always love. With the addition of the peel, it is almost a cross between chutney and marmalade. 

Blood Orange Chutney with Chevre
5 blood oranges 
5 cloves garlic, finely minced 
1/2 cup honey 
1 teaspoon black pepper 
1 teaspoon garam masala 
5 ounces vhevre (goat cheese), at room temperature 
12 pieces of toasted baguette or other bread 
Zest 3 of the oranges, and stir the zest into the goat cheese, set aside. Using a vegetable peeler, peel outside skin from oranges, being careful not to get any of the white pith along with it. Cut peel into fine julienne strips and place in a small sauce pan. Using a knife, peel remaining oranges so all of the membrane is removed from the outside. Cut between the sections so you are only getting the flesh of the orange, and add to the saucepan. Give it a good squeeze when you are done to make sure you get all the juice as well. Add garlic, honey, pepper and garam masala to the sauce pan, and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently. Cook until the entire mixture is thick and syrupy, then let cool. To serve, spread cheese mixture on toasted bread, and top with chutney. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

I hate to admit that I used a Martha Stewart recipe as the starting point for this breakfast. I was looking for a way to change up regular pancakes, and her site had a whole bunch of ideas. I liked this one, because I love corn muffins. I changed some of the quantities of the ingredients, and added some, for our tastes. I was really pleased with the flavor and texture. They were actually a lot lighter than regular pancakes, and this made enough that I was able to freeze a few, so we can enjoy them later.

The original recipe appears here :

And here is my version...

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blueberries, rinsed
Non-stick spray
Mix together buttermilk, butter, egg, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients together, and mix just until combined, it's all right if it's a bit lumpy. Let sit for 5 minutes while you heat a non-stick griddle or skillet. Spray pan with non-stick spray, and pour batter onto pan, making 4-5 inch pancakes. Sprinkle with blueberries. Cook until top starts to bubble and edges are cooked. Turn, and cook 1-2 minutes on other side. Serve with butter and syrup.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winter Squash Picadillo Bake

I made picadillo for the first time about a year ago, and we really liked it, but it never worked its way back into the regular menu. I'm not sure why, because it's really delicious. We had most of the ingredients on hand for it, so I was planning to make it, but I wanted to switch it up a bit. I was trying to think of a way to make it even more unique than it already was. 

We had one final butternut squash left over from the fall garden, and it really needed to be used up. My initial thought was to cube it and incorporate it into the "stew", but then I started thinking about making this like a shepherds pie. The result was really amazing ! The only other real change I made from the original recipe was substituting dried apricots for raisins...I know, I know. I have a thing about cooked raisins, I just don't like the texture. This way, I still got the sweetness, but not the odd texture. Now I know this will be made more frequently at our house ! 

Winter Squash Picadillo Bake 
For the picadillo:
1/4 pound spicy chorizo 
6 cloves garlic, finely diced 
2 cups yellow onion, diced 
1 large green onion, diced 
2 pounds ground bison, venison or beef 
2 pints diced tomatoes with green chiles 
2 tablespoons dried oregano 
2 tablespoons cumin 
1 tablespoon chili powder 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves 
1/2 cup diced dried apricots 
1/2 cup small green olives 

In a large dutch oven, brown chorizo over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook until onion is translucent. Stir in green pepper, and cook until pepper is soft. Crumble in the ground meat, stir and cook until meat is browned. Add tomatoes and spices, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in apricots and olives. 

While picadillo is cooking, prepare the butternut squash. 
For the squash: 
1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds) 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 stick of butter 
1/2 teaspoon cumin 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon cloves 
Preheat oven to 400. Peel and dice the squash, and toss in olive oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until soft. Mash the squash together with the butter and spices and set aside. 

To assemble, spray a 9 by 13 pan with non-stick spray, and pour in the picadillo. Spread the squash mixture on top, and place in oven. Bake 30-35 minutes until squash begins to brown. Remove from oven, and let rest 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Retro Spinach Balls

This is a dish we first had when visiting friends. Suzie said she had received the recipe from her high school boyfriend's mom, so you know it goes back a bit. And I think what I liked about it was that retro cocktail party feel they have, the hot, one bite appetizer you can prep ahead, and pop into the oven right before party time. 

My husband absolutely adores these, because they have a little bit of a Thanksgiving stuffing vibe about them, so if that is a flavor you like, make a double batch ! 

Retro Spinach Balls 
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out 
1 large onion, finely diced 
3/4 cup butter
1 cup Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, crushed finely 
1 tablespoon dried thyme 
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt 
6 eggs, beaten 
Melt butter in a large skillet. Saute onions until soft, then add spinach and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Remove to a mixing bowl and let cool. Add remaining ingredients, mix together and let sit for 10 minutes. Roll into one inch balls, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until golden on top. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Venison Swedish Meatballs

Several years ago, a coworker brought Swedish meatballs to a potluck at work. I have to admit, I have never been a big fan of these. I didn't grow up eating them, and I had never even been tempted to make them at home, it just wasn't a flavor I was all that intrigued by. And then I had Sarah's... 

It's really the sauce, because she said they usually just use the store bought meatballs in her family. And tradition at her house was to serve them with no noodles or rice at all, more like an appetizer. This made me love them even more. So, as I created the Super Bowl Ball Feast, I couldn't leave off these tasty morsels. 

To kick it up a little, I made meatballs from scratch. I used a combination of venison and pork and added some of the same spices that are in the sauce. Because they were so rich, I omitted the beef boullion cubes in her original recipe. I would say, if you use store bought meatballs, you might want to add it back in. 

Venison Swedish Meatballs
For the meatballs:
3/4 cup bread crumbs 
3/4 cup milk 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon allspice 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
1 cup onion, diced finely 
3 tablespoons butter 
1 pound ground venison 
1 pound ground pork 
2 eggs, slightly beaten
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the bread crumbs, milk, and seasonings and let sit. In a large nonstick pan, saute onions in one tablespoon of butter, and add to bread crumb mixture. Mix in meats and eggs, and mix until very well combined. Using a scoop or tablespoon, form into 1 1/2 inch balls, compact as tightly as you can. Melt remaining butter in the same nonstick pan you used for the onions. Cook meatballs thoroughly, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove to a tray, and begin sauce. 

For the sauce: 
1/4 cup (half a stick) of butter 
1/4 cup flour 
2 cups whole milk 
1/2 teaspoon allspice 
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dill (to your taste) 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cubes beef bouillon, optional
1/2 cup sour cream 
In a large dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, and stir until smooth. Gradually add milk, then add spices. Stir and continue to cook over medium heat until sauce thickens, then add sour cream. When sour cream is completely combined, gently stir in meatballs and heat through. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Super Bowl :Ball Menu !

We weren't planning on going anywhere for the Super Bowl, but since one of my favorite things about football is eating gametime snacks, I couldn't let this "holiday" slip by without making something. I puzzled over the menu a long time, because I also wanted something we could snack on all day, but t I didn't want to spend all day working in the kitchen. My first thought was these amazing old school style spinach balls, which I first had at my friend Suzie's house. 

They seem like something that would have been served at a 70's cocktail party, but they are totally tasty, and really easy to make. That started me down the path of "old school" snacks, and my next stop was Swedish meatballs. One of my coworkers make the most amazing sauce for these I have ever tasted. I decided to go the extra mile and make homemade venison meatballs to toss in this super creamy sauce, and then I see a theme developing. BALLS ! How funny ! What else can I make... 

I have been drooling over several recipes for roasted, spiced chickpeas lately, so I decided I could make my own spice mix on the fly. Balls, three ways ! Recipes will follow... 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Smoked Chicken and Black Bean Soup

This is the first cooking I have done in six weeks, and it should probably be subtitled "scooter chili". My husband has been doing all of the cooking while I recuperate from foot surgery. Getting around the kitchen isn't easy on a knee scooter, so I have been mostly a spectator. I usually cook to relieve stress as well, so you can imagine how much fun it has been for him !

With subzero temperatures this week, I wanted a hearty, warm soup, but it needed to be simple enough for me to make while scooting around. As luck would have it, we still had one chicken in the freezer from our Labor Day smoker, so I used some of that to bring an extra level of flavor to this soup. It was simple and delicious, and I was able to make it unassisted. A win all the way !

Smoked Chicken and Black Bean Soup

1 pound dried black beans
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 cups onion, diced
2 jalapenos, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon marjoram
2 cups smoked chicken, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sour cream and fresh cilantro for garnish
Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water over the top, by two inches. Let soak overnight. In the morning, drain off water and rinse beans thoroughly. Place in crockpot, along with chicken stock, water, onion and spices. Stir together, and cook on low 8 to 10 hours. Add chicken for the last hour of cooking. Stir in lemon juice just before serving, and top with sour cream and cilantro.