Thursday, January 15, 2009

Moroccan Lamb Chops with White Bean Salad

Lamb chops are usually pretty pricey on restaurants menus. When frenched, they are beautiful and delicate and delicious. I grew up with my mother making lamb chops frequently. But she never frenched the bones. She tossed them under the broiler with a little Lawry's seasoning salt and they cooked within minutes. The meat was always tender and slightly gamey, with the subtle hints of salt and paprika. But the true of those chops was the fat and meat stuck to the bones. We would nibble on them as if it was a piece of corn on the cob.

But last night, I frenched the chops. I couldn't help myself. I thought about the bacon mac n'cheese and realized I didn't need the extra grizzle in my diet. Plus, frenched chops make for a beautiful presentation.

Earlier in the afternoon, I made a Moroccan spice mix and seared the meat. Only needing 8-10 minutes in the oven for medium rare, I waited until my husband got home to finish the cooking. I'm sure you can find spice mixes for purchase online and at high end retail cooking stores, but it's just so simple to make one at home, it seems silly to spend the money. I also keep a variety of spices on hand, so it's also less expensive to make my own. Check out recipe websites and I'm sure you can find a combination of spices, but I just threw some together that reflect the Moroccan culture:

I took each double chop and dipped them into the spice mixture and seared them for 2-3 minutes until they developed a nice crust on the lamb. Them I put them in the refrigerator until it was time for dinner. I would suggest taking them out 20 minutes or so before you plan to roast them to let them come down to room temperature.

Canned white beans are always an option but dried beans are far more flavorful and creamy. It's best to soak them overnight and simply simmer them in stock until they are cooked through. I flavored the stock with fresh thyme, garlic, and a bay leaf. Once the beans are cooked, season them with salt and pepper and add anything you want to them. Spinach, tomatoes, escarole, creative. Enjoy!

By the way, I purcahse 4 double chops and they were only$20. Much more affordable than paying restaurant prices.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Seared Scallops with Orange Pecan Green Beans

I've been on a scallop kick lately. On Saturday night, I had them with some delicious balsamic glazed baby brussels sprouts and on Monday night, I had them with Mexican style with some tomatilla salsa. What's not to like about scallops. They are naturally sweet but can also stand up to any flavorings you choose.

Last night, I chose oranges. Determined to make a dent in our stock pile of Florida's finest, I grabbed six oranges, juiced them, and them, and reduced the juice to create a sweet sauce/glaze for the green beans. Whisking in a little unsalted butter would have brought the dish to another level, but I'm still in the 'it's time to eat healthy' phase.

First things first: searing scallops. Here are the key points.
1. Keep you product dry. If you feel the need to rinse, that's fine, but before you sear, dry the product and season it well with salt and pepper. (Oil and water doesn't mix, it splatters)
2. Non stick pan always helps. Turn the heat to high and let the pan get hot.
3. Add a little oil. You're don't want to pan fry, so a little oil. For added flavor you can use a little butter combined with the oil. (I wouldn't use butter soley because it will brown too quickly).
4. Let the oil get hot.
5. Gently place the product into the pan with the side you want to sear face down.
6. Don't touch it!!! If you're cooking something totally on the stove top, (scallops, shrimp, thin chicken, or anything else that doesn't need a lot of cooking time) turn the heat down to medium once a nice crust forms. Otherwise, you can keep the heat high and finish cooking in the oven (steak, lamb, ect).
7. Turn the product when a nice crust has formed. Scallops, for example, don't take long to cook. So sear them for 3-4 minutes (not touching them) and then flip them to finish the cooking for antoher 2-4 minutes. Time of cooking depends on the size of the product.

These tips aren't specific to scallops. They are specific to searing. And that means anything, from mushrooms to chicken to apples.

I blanched the green beans earlier in the day and just tossed them with the toasted pecans and hot organe glaze when I was ready to serve the meal. Following the culinary rule of everything is best in odd numbers, I added five scallops to each plates and then added the green bean salad.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Oranges Everywhere

What's the deal with sending cases of fruit as a gift? A small bag of 6 or 7 is appreciated, but a whole case! We received a case of fresh Florida oranges a few weeks ago. This is on top of ANOTHER case that my husband bought from work. One of his co-workers children was selling them as part of his boy scout troop. So, two cases of orange. And, I bought a case of clementines. Tis the season! I didn't know about the 70 oranges that filled out kitchen when I made the purchase.

So for the past three weeks, our kitchen has had a bright orange tint to it. I feel like we're eating oranges all the time but they're still here! They're starting to haunt me. I'm not even a huge fan of fresh oranges. I never got into them when I was a child. I sucked down water at the soccer games while my teammates make faces and giggled with their orange peels lining their teeth. It always gave me the chills. I must have had a bitter orange along the way and it has scared me still to this day.

Orange juice? Eh....I don't love it either. I'm always a hot tea drinker with breakfast. Not even cranberry juice. That was always too surgery for me.

There is only one instance when I crave and need a tall glass of OJ. When I make my poor man's meal of Uncle Ben's white rice with butter and salt, I need a glass of Tropicana. It's very strange combination and has made friends gag at time. But it hit the spot for me. My poor man's meal is something that I've lived on for years. My mom always made white rice as part of our Shabbat dinners on Friday night and now I make it when I'm home alone or looking for something comforting, filling, buttery and salty.

Tonight is just me for dinner. While my husband is at band practice, I'm going to make a healthy meal for dinner. Seared salmon with a shaved fennel and orange salad. I'm hoping the fatty fish will help me stomach the orange segments from the salad. If not, I'll just cook up some white rice and enjoy my traditional meal.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Eggs...Pleasantly Poached or Sunny Side

I think I just realized that a gently cooked egg, with a delicate white and runny yolk is an ideal addition to any meal. Breakfast, of course, doesn't need any explanation and as far as I'm concerned I can have a breakfast meal for lunch. So let's discuss dinner.

One of the best burgers that I recently had was at the Met Bar & Grill. They have an entire menu dedicated to just burgers...steaming, charred, chin dripping juicy burgers. My selection is the Paris burger; topped with brie, truffle mayo, caramelized onions, and to top it off a fried egg. My mouth is now watering as I type this and if you close your eyes and imagine the flavors combinations (sweet onions, runny yolk, delicate truffle, creamy brie, charred ground beef), I hope you can imagine the beautiful symmetry of it all.

Of course, thinking beyond burgers, we can't not mention the ultimate Salad Lyonnaise. Smokey, hot, crispy lardons combined with the bitter frisee and a warm pooached egg. Finished off with a dijon dressing provides the that missing tang that knocks the salad out of the ball park (or bistro).

(Sadly this picture shows bacon, not lardons. Lardons are small cubes of bacon that burst with flavor).

Tonight's dinner is a chili rubbed flank steak with an arugula salad with sauteed shitake mushrooms. Nothing too exciting. Simple and heathly. But I'm going to make an effort to add a poached or fried egg to each dinner this week. It's protein, right?