Seared Scallops with Ajo Blanco

Rummaging through my freezer, desperately needing to make some sense of the mess it had become, I found the leftover Ajo Blanco I made. I decided to freeze what I had left of it for a rainy and day that day had arrived, although it wasn’t actually raining.

The first time I had Ajo Blanco it was with charred octopus so I thought it could also serve as a nice blanket for sea scallops to sit on.

*If you are using a frozen soup or sauce of any kind, once it’s defrosted pop it back into a blender or food processor to bring it back to it’s original consistency.

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Ingredients (Serves 2)

Ajo Blanco 

10 Sea scallops

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher salt

Season both sides of the scallops with salt. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat until nearly smoking, 1½ to 2 minutes. Add  2 teaspoons of olive oil and the scallops and cook until golden brown, about 3½ minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 3½ minutes longer. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

Spoon 4 tablespoons of the ajo blanco in two shallow bowls or plates. top with  scallops, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

 

 

 

Chicago

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I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Chicago, my first time! The day of travel would have been just fine if the plane actually took off and arrived at the gate when it was supposed to, however we had a lot of down time on the tarmac. Dinner reservations were at 8:45 that night so we went straight to the room and back out into the city in search of the restaurant.

Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard was a must do. Unfortunately her flagship restaurant The Girl and the Goat was booked out until November so we decided to try her Asian restaurant Duck Duck Goat. “Reasonably authentic Chinese Food” is what the waiters say when they greet you at the table. The place was buzzing for a late Thursday evening. The space was tight and the volume loud. Sitting almost too close for comfort next to other diners, we ordered off of the “chef recommended” menu. I only have a couple pictures since the lighting wasn’t doing me any favors.

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We started off with the wood fired duck hearts.  The were tender, smoky and served on a creamy bed of garlic aioli. Delicious.

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Along with those we ordered the duck spring rolls, braised pork belly and ended with the   char siu bao. The bao dough was probably the best I have ever had, so light and fluffy. It was all really good. Happy with our decision we moseyed on closer to the hotel to meet a friend for a drink.

The next day we walked out on the river and hopped in a water taxi toward Willis tower.

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Not wanting to wait in line for the sky view we kept on walking to Union Station where I had my first Chicago dog.

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I’ll come clean, I don’t really like hot dogs. I felt that I had to try it and see what all the fuss was about. Eh, it tasted like a hot dog that had too much stuff on it. I won’t need another one.

The rain started to arrive as we were along the riverwalk so we tucked into a winery for a couple glasses of wine. I really dig the vibe of the river front, I can see spending warm afternoons out there listening to music and people watching.

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Cold and ready for a hot shower we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner numero dos.

Reservations weren’t until later that evening so we started at a speakeasy bar called Brando’s. Remembering I am too old for crowds, we weren’t sure if we would be able to stand the elbow to elbow nowhere to sit room. However the happy hour prices and delicious dirty martinis swayed us to fight the sporadic nudges of the flannel wearing strangers. Then a barstool opened up and we made ourselves comfortable until dinner.

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Rick Bayless, he’s my favorite . He was who graced the screens of my early culinary classes and whom I grew to admire years after. Eating at his restaurant Frontera Grill was the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to finally see Chicago. I wish I had a better experience to share but it was just very underwhelming.

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We started with pork tamales and tamarind margaritas. Both were just OK. I’ve had much better in San Diego and our waiter was less than gracious.

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The entrees were molé enchiladas and a fish dish. The fish was better than the enchiladas. If you want really really good Molé Enchiladas head to El Comal or JV’s tacos in San Diego. Can’t be beat.

The best thing we had were probably the plantains, they could have stood to cook a little longer but dipped in crema and molé they were pretty darn good.

 

Unsatisfied we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.

I had the next day solo, so after lounging in bed with multiple cups of coffee I ventured out. I walked down to Navy Pier and had a mango smoothie along the water. I had some company stop by.

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I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the afternoon so I just started walking along the lake.

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So unreal, just breathtaking! Are we sure this is a lake?

I found myself not far from Lincoln park, I decided that would be my destination and a place to stop for lunch.

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I found a little restaurant outside the Lincoln Park zoo that suited my needs. A glass of rosé and a sandwich. The wind picked up and my toes were going numb, yes I wore flip flops, duh!

I also found that cabs were much easier than ride shares out there, do you guys agree?

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Back at the hotel I poured a big glass of Syrah and submerged myself in a piping hot bath. We were invited to an event at the House of Blues later that night, so with time to kill we went to the hotel bar for a bite to eat and a drink.

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The short trip ended with an open bar, live music, late night pizza and amazing company!

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It was a perfect little getaway. I love being in a new place, it’s one of my most favorite things. Like any place, I could have used a couple more days. If I ever get back there, I have a list ready!

 

 

 

Baked Korean Teriyaki Chicken Wings

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Gochujang is a fermented Korean hot pepper paste. I see it all over these days even on the shelves of the big box grocery stores. If you haven’t tried it, here’s your chance, it’s delicious.

I had a bottle of K Pow, a Korean hot sauce in the pantry.

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The main ingredient is Gochujang and I thought it would be the perfect thing to add to a chicken wing sauce. I do love me a Thai or Asian inspired chicken wing. I will take those every day over Buffalo sauce.

This is finger licking good recipe.

INGREDIENTS

3-4 pounds chicken wings

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 1/3 cups soy sauce

1/3 cup Mirin (rice cooking wine)

1/2 cup honey

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2-3 tablespoons Gochujang or Korean hot sauce

1/2 tablespoons  toasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray

In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together soy sauce, Mirin, honey, garlic, ginger, Gochujang or Korean hot sauce and cornstarch mixture.

Arrange wings in a single layer onto prepared baking dish. Pour the sauce evenly over the wings.

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You can let this hangout for a bit while you do that task you’ve been putting off.

Place into oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, using tongs, turn halfway through. Then broil for a few  minutes, or until the wings are slightly charred.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions. Let cool for a few before serving.

Cooking with Kids {Basic Pizza Dough}

I love cooking with kids, my mom cooked with me, I cooked in my classroom and my two girls have been in the kitchen with me from early on. Now I am not going to say it’s easy, cooking with children. What’s easy is taking a picture of your child cracking an egg and then once the picture is taken it’s like “okay, you’re getting it all over, get out!” Am I right? The key is to go in knowing it is going to be messy and if you have multiple kiddos then there is always going to be a fight. BUT, it’s good for them, good for their brain and if you have your wine glass full, a little easier on you!

Kaili picked a pizza dough recipe out of her cookbook and read me the ingredients.

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INGREDIENTS

1 cup water

1 package yeast

2 tbs olive oil plus 1 more for the bowl

2 tbs sugar

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

Combine sugar, water and yeast in a measuring cup or small bowl.

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center.

Pour yeast mixture and oil in well and stir into dry ingredients until you have a soft dough.

If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Knead until smooth on a lightly floured surface.

Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled.

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How simple is that? Now the hardest part is a toss up between the clean up or the refereeing.—> Take a big sip of wine!

Once I put the dough on a hot baking sheet, they slathered on store bought pizza sauce {it was a weeknight meal y’all} and cheese. Anything else in their mind is “gross”. Side eye.

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And voila! A cheese pizza that they both ate and didn’t kill each other over!

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Shrimp Piccata over Mashed Cauliflower

Shrimp Piccata is an easy weeknight meal, the cauliflower takes a bit more time but is still doable under the weekday pressures. Mashed cauliflower will also reheat very well if you are the Sunday prep day type of person.

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MASHED CAULIFLOWER INGREDIENTS

1 small head of cauliflower chopped

1/4 cup or more, whole milk

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. Kosher salt and more to taste

pepper to taste

Fill a medium pot halfway with water. Add cauliflower and cover pot. Bring to a boil, cook until florets are easily pierced with a knife, about 8 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a food processor.

Add milk, butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Purée until smooth, adding more milk if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

SHRIMP INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp butter, divided

12 oz. uncooked peeled, deveined, large shrimp

1 medium shallot sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup chicken broth

¼ cup dry white wine

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp drained capers

Salt and Pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Heat the oil and one tablespoon of  butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In the meantime pat the shrimp dry with paper towels.

Add the shrimp to the skillet. Cook the shrimp, flipping after one minute. Once the shrimp turns opaque and is slightly undercooked remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the shallot and garlic the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. If you like a little heat, this is a good time to add some red pepper flakes. Add the chicken broth, wine, lemon juice and capers, stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Add the shrimp back to the skillet with any juice. Cook for 1 minute, or until the shrimp is cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add butter and serve immediately atop the creamy mashed cauliflower.

 

Tzatziki

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When I was younger, Trader Joe’s Tzatziki was a staple in my refrigerator. As I have gotten older and really learned my way around the kitchen, I found it’s much more delicious homemade. As most things are.

A creamy greek yogurt sauce with garlic and cucumber, its a great partner to a lot of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Or to just dunk a warm piece of pita bread in.

I used this as a topping to some chicken shawarma pitas. Easy to make there is really no excuse to buy it, sorry Trader Joe’s.

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INGREDIENTS

3/4 English cucumber, peeled and grated

4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled, finely minced

1 tbs lemon juice

2 tbs chopped fresh dill

1 tbs GOOD Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cups Greek yogurt

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

After the cucumber is grated allow to sit in a fine mesh strainer, sprinkle with a dusting of kosher salt and let sit, this will bring out the moisture in the cucumber.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt,  garlic, lemon juice and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Squeeze as much liquid out of the cucumber as you can using cheese cloth, dish towel or aheavy duty paper towel. Add to the yogurt mixture and combine well. Chill until ready . Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

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Jamaican Jerk Shrimp with Mango Salsa

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Fun fact, did you know that mango skin is related to poison Ivy? I found out the hard way years ago after I developed a rash on my hands and face from devouring a case of mangoes. Maybe that isn’t such a fun fact.

It’s hard to beat a perfectly ripe and juicy mango. Delicious on their own but they are also perfect partners for seafood. Mango salsa cools the palate from the spice in this recipe. Save a batch of seasoning for a super easy weeknight meal and don’t be afraid to venture into another type of seafood, this would be good on salmon or a meaty white fish.

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*recipe adapted from MyRecipes

INGREDIENTS

1-2 mangos, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 red onion, diced

salt to taste (garlic salt is even better)

2 lbs large raw shrimp

2 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk spice mixture **recipe below**

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Combine the first 5 ingredients together and set aside.

Toss shrimp (tails on or off it’s your meal) with olive oil and spice mixture, mix to coat. Heat large skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. Add coconut oil, when hot add your shrimp. Cook 3 minutes per side or just until shrimp turn pink.

Serve on a bed of mango salsa. Coconut rice would be a wonderful team player.

**JAMAICAN JERK SPICE MIXTURE

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1/3 cup paprika

2 tablespoons ground allspice

4 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, store in an air tight container.