Friday, November 25, 2011

You're 15 Minutes Away from Scallops Provençal

For our anniversary we decided that we would go out to lunch and stay in for dinner and cook something special.  "Something special" to us means some kind of seafood.  This night it was scallops. I must admit that I have never been much of a scallop eater.  They are usually blah and chewy so I was a bit nervous about preparing them for our anniversary dinner.  With the saute pan in hand, It was going to be the night to master the scallop!

I had seen Ina Garten as she raved about her scallop dish, and I must admit that they always looked delicious so I pulled out her cookbook, Barefoot in Paris.  The recipe for Scallops Provençal looked perfect and appeared easy enough.  We were only minutes away from a great anniversary dinner.  Truly, minutes...scallops cook quickly!

Scallops Provençal
by Ina Garten

Serves 3-4

1 pound fresh bay or sea scallops
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in half

If you're using bay scallops, keep them whole. If you're using sea scallops, cut each one in half horizontally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.

In a very large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat until sizzling and add a single layer of scallops. (Do not crowd the scallops in the pan.) Lower the heat to medium and allow scallops to brown lightly on one side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes total. 

Melt remaining butter in the pan with scallops; add shallots, garlic, and parsley and sauté for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine and cook for 1 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice.


This was the perfect anniversary dinner.  I do believe that I am now a fan of the scallop!  Scallops Provençal is even my new favorite recipe....what a great flavor...and cooked to perfection.

If you are looking for a cookbook to add to your library, Barefoot in Paris would be a great addition.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being Thankful

I have been blessed in many ways.  When I saw Ralph Waldo Emerson's Thanksgiving reflection, I was immediately drawn to it.  It is simple and also expresses my thankfulness.

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

During the few years I have been blogging, I have been blessed with many new friends, cyber-friends. I choose to count cyber-friends as friends.  While we do not usually meet face-to-face, some of us do when the occasion presents itself.  Some of my friends have shared books, sentiments, thought provoking quotations, cooking gadgets, "how-to's", numerous comments, and great discussions with me.  I am appreciative and feel blessed to belong in such a helpful and caring community.

I must mention the lovely Maya Angelou book of poetry celebrating the phenomenal woman that Marilyn at Delights of the Heart shared with me.  What a delight it was to read (no pun intended).  She also tucked some tea from Thailand and a pendant inside!  I have appreciated Marilyn's thought-provoking questions, reflections and sentiments this year.  While I thanked Marilyn privately, I didn't say thank you publicly.  Thank you, Marilyn!

The newest kitchen gadget in my house are Star Pancake Molds!  Can you imagine how cute pumpkin pancakes are going to be in these darling molds?  Thank you Kathleen at Cuisine Kathleen for these cute molds and the cupcake stencils that were tucked inside and the occasional email to check in and say hello!

I never knew there were so many kind, thoughtful and delightful folks out there!  Thank you for making me think and reflect and for taking the time to stop by and leave an occasional comment.  You always make me smile.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beef Tenderloins with an Herb Crust

It is once again time for the Secret Recipe Club post.  I enjoy having the opportunity to really explore a blog and select something to prepare that sounds delicious!  This club offers just that opportunity.  We are all assigned a blog to peruse, find a dish to prepare, prepare said dish and post.  This month I met Amy at Amy's Cooking Adventures.

Amy explains that she was motivated to begin cooking when she had her first son.  Suddenly it was very important what she fed her family.  She started exploring resources to help her prepare healthy meals....thus began Amy's Cooking Adventures!

I found a recipe for Beef Tenderloins with an Herb Crust that sounded great and since I just happened to have two medallions in the freezer and herbs in the garden, it was easy for me to decide to prepare it!

I did change the cooking procedure as it was still warm outside rather than cook the tenderloins in a skillet, we selected to go to the barbecue.  I was hesitant at first because I didn't want the herbs to fall off, but the herbs weren't lost to the coals...

Herb Tenderloins with an Herb Crust
adapted from Amy's Cooking Adventures

½ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp coarse salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 beef tenderloins, cut ¾ inch thick (about 1 pound)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a shallow baking dish, thoroughly mix together the parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Using the palms of your hands,your fingertips gently flatten the beef tenderloins to about ½ inch thick.  (I barely flattened the tenderloins.)

Coat the beef tenderloins by gently pressing them into the herb mixture on one side, and then the other.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  When the first wisp of smoke appears, use tongs to set the coated beef tenderloins into the pan in a single layer.  Cook until darkly browned, about 3-5 minutes.  Flip and cook on the other side, until deeply browned, another 2-3 minutes (or to desired doneness).  (Mr. T and I elected to barbecue the tenderloins.)

Transfer cooked tenderloins to a warmed platter and rest for 5 minutes before serving.


We were thrilled with the meal!  I prepared some roasted smashed potatoes and steamed some squash to accompany the tenderloins.  I would make this again.  It was delicious.

Take some time to peruse Amy's blog, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tomatillo-Braised Pork Loin Revisited

A number of years ago, a Rick Bayless cookbook was on my SIL's Christmas list.  At the time, I hadn't heard of Rick Bayless and had no idea what I had been missing.  I purchased Mexico One Plate at a Time.  Of course I perused it before I wrapped it...then, I purchased a second copy!  Since that time we both must own at least three of Rick's cookbooks.  I have never been disappointed in his recipes.

The first recipe I prepared was the Tomatillo-Braised Pork Loin.  Since then, I have prepared the dish at least four times.  I love the "heat" of the tomatillos and chilies in this dish.  I love the way the potatoes absorb the wonderful flavor of the juices.

I know my daughter and SIL like to shred the pork and make tacos from it.  I like it sliced with lots of the sauce poured over.  Either way, it is delicious.

Tomatillo-Braised Pork Loin

1 1/2 tablespoons rich-tasting pork lard or olive or vegetable oil
1 2-pound boneless pork loin roast, untied if in two pieces
1 pound (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 serranos or 1 jalapeòo), stemmed
1 medium white onion, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 or 2 large sprigs fresh epazote, plus extra for garnish
OR 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
10 small (about 1 1/4 pounds total) red-skin boiling potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

Browning the pork. In a medium-size (4- or 5-quart) Dutch oven or other heavy pan with tight-fitting lid, heat the lard or oil over medium. When quite hot, lay in the pork loin (if there is more than one piece, don’t crowd them or they’ll stew rather than brown). Brown well on one side, about 5 minutes, turn it over and brown the other side. Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the pork to a plate; set aside the Dutch oven or pan to use for the sauce making.

The sauce. Roast the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side — 4 or 5 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatillos and chiles that are soft and cooked through. Cool and transfer everything to a food processor or blender, being careful to scrape up all the delicious juice that has run out onto the baking sheet. Process until smoothly pureed.

Set the pork-browning pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer.
Raise the heat to medium-high, and, when really sizzling, add the tomatillo puree all at once. Stir until noticeably darker and very thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and the epazote or cilantro. Taste and season with salt, usually 1 teaspoon. Stir everything thoroughly.
Braising the pork. Heat the oven to 325. Nestle the browned pork into the warm sauce, cover the pot, and set in the oven. Cook 30 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, simmer the potatoes in heavily salted water to cover until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

When the pork has cooked 30 minutes, nestle the cooked potatoes into the sauce around the meat, re-cover and cook about 10 minutes longer, until the pork registers about 145 on a meat or instant-read thermometer. The meat will feel rather firm (not hard) to the touch, and cutting into the center will reveal only the slightest hint of pink.

Serving the dish. With a pair of tongs and a spatula, transfer the pork to a cutting board. Let it rest there for 3 or 4 minutes while you finish the sauce: Spoon off any fat on the top of the sauce, taste the sauce and season it with additional salt if you think necessary. Spoon the sauce and potatoes onto a warm, deep serving platter.


This is comfort food from South of the Border!  Great for those cold days ahead.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spicy Tuscan-Style Sausage Ragu in your Slow Cooker!

It was a cold and windy kind of weather.  It was a day for baking and a day for comfort food.  It was a day for the slow cooker!  A cold day, with yummy aromas coming from the kitchen.  A day for the fireplace.

I recalled seeing a recipe for Spicy Tuscan-Style Ragu that Mari at Once Upon A Plate had posted.  She described it as thick and rich...she was right!  This was a different kind of sauce from my usual, also.  I don't normally use just sausage and I had never tried making it in a slow cooker.  What a great idea, except about mid-day we lost electricity.  Not to worry it came back on...only to go off again.  This time it stayed off for a long time.  I decided I had no choice but to go to the stove top.  Just as I dumped everything into the pan, the electricity came back on.  Geez....

It did finish cooking.  It was Easy! Aromatic!  Delicious!  I bought the cookbook.  Yes, I have a cookbook weakness.  Take a look.  You may find yourself adding The Italian Slow Cooker to your library.

The sausage proportions may be adjusted to your taste.  We like a spicy dish so I evened out the amount of sweet to hot sausage.  I agree with Mari, this dish needs a sturdy, chunky pasta!

Spicy Tuscan-Style Sausage Ragu
Adapted from The Italian Slow Cooker

Makes 10 cups

2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed
3/4 pound hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28 oz can Italian peeled tomatoes with their juice, chopped
1 28 oz can tomato puree
Salt to taste
1 cup heavy cream

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Crumble the sausages into the pan and cook, stirring frequently to break up the lumps, until the meat is lightly browned.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.

Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet.  Pour the contents into the slow cooker.  Add the tomatoes puree, and a pinch of salt.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.  Stir in the cream and cook for 1 hour more, or until the meat is very tender.  Taste for seasoning.

I garnished with shaved Parmesan and a chiffonade of basil.  Yum!


I will make this dish again but I will probably go to the butcher and buy some bulk sausage.  I could eat another plate of this!!

Be sure to visit Mari at Once Upon A Plate.  Her blog is so much fun and each recipe is a keeper!

I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Designs by Gollum and Fusion Fridays hosted by Jane Deere.

Broccoli-Ham Strata

This recipe is a standard at our house.  I love that I can do the preparation the night before and bake in the morning.  It is one of those dishes that travels well and is also perfect for those times when you have overnight company or during the holidays when you need something different in the morning or for brunch.

The original recipe came from our Guild House.  I have mentioned the Guild before.  It is a non-profit whose main objective is to organize volunteers to conduct fundraising activities to assist and support the Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic. It is a worthy cause...and they have never served a bad meal!

The only change that I made to the recipe was in the selection of bread.  I prefer to use sourdough bread in a strata as opposed to plain white bread.  I think it gives a better texture to the dish....and tastes better, too!

One thing I have noticed with this recipe is that it is much better if you are able to push down on the top to make certain that the top layer of bread is saturated with the liquid.  I also find that I end up adjusting the temperature to 350° F. the last twenty minutes.  In my oven it doesn't firm up within an hour.  Keep an eye on it as cooking times will vary oven to oven.

Broccoli-Ham Strata
adapted from Guild House Cookbook

Serves 12

1 loaf sourdough bread, crust removed, slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces
1 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
2 cup ham, finely chopped and well packed
2 T minced instant onion
6 eggs, slightly beaten
3 1/2 cups half and half
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Thaw and drain broccoli; set aside.  Place slices of bread in the bottom of a well-greased baking dish (9 X 13).  You may need to  cut some pieces so the the bottom is covered.  Reserve some of the bread for the top.  Sprinkle grated cheese over the bread, saving enough for the top.  Ad the well-drained broccoli, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle the onion over the broccoli.  Layer the ham over the onion.  Arrange the remaining bread on top.

Combine the eggs, half and half, salt, mustard, and Worcestershire Sauce.  Mix well and pour over the bread.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Bake, uncovered, on a baking sheet, for one hour at 325° F.  Cover with foil if the strata becomes too brown.  Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese the last 5 minutes of baking time.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Taking a picture in a moving motor home was an interesting activity.  The vibration wasn't helpful!

We enjoyed our one day trip to some of the Central Coast wineries.  My part was to bring a breakfast dish.  It was delicious!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Wine Tasting Adventure

Early Saturday morning a group of friends and neighbors got together for our Great Wine Tasting Adventure.  We had planned to visit six wineries and had both lunch and dinner reservations.  We piled into a neighbor's motor home for a short two hour drive to the first winery, Tobin James Cellars.  The tasting room has a western flair and club members are known as the James Gang!

With a glow we traveled to Chumeia Vineyards where the Winemaker, Les Nesbitt, told us about the winery and his award wining wines.  Check out the many recipes featuring good food and wine on their website.

 Next on the list was Sculpterra.  I was intrigued by the sculpture garden that surrounds their elegant tasting room.

Lunch was next.  We had reservations at Cass Winery where we had an outstanding gourmet lunch in their Library Room.

Robert Hall Winery was our next stop.  My favorite wines are from Robert Hall.  Their Sauvignon Blanc is my very favorite.  We talked with Robert Hall and learned that he went into the wine business after his second retirement!  We had a great tour of the caverns.  Sadly, I had left my camera  in the motor home!

Our last winery was Wild Horse Vineyards.  I spent my time looking at cookbooks and yes, I couldn't resist purchasing just one.  Our last stop was dinner at McPhee's Grill in Templeton.  A delicious meal and time to head for home...

It was a long day and gee, with the time change, we got to add one more hour to the day!  I used mine for sleeping!

It is time for Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.