Category Archives: Seafood

Fish Tacos with Southwestern Cabbage Slaw

fish tacos

I casually mentioned on Facebook the other day about a “foodie” related resolution I was making for this year – getting more comfortable with cooking seafood. You see, living in landlocked Dallas means seafood is often more expensive, meaning I have historically tended towards land animals for our protein sources. But not all of seafood is prohibitively expensive. There’s some reasonably-priced seafood around, especially the varieties local to the Gulf coast. There are also reasonably priced wild-caught options that are flash frozen. It’s not always optimal, but I can still make some good dishes with frozen seafood.

So therefore, I am making it my mission to learn to cook many more seafood varieties over the next year. I’ll be attempting to make something at least once a week. They might not always show up here, but I’ll definitely share if there are winners! One such winner? These super-easy fish tacos.

I found some flash-frozen wild-caught cod on sale. While this kind of purchase isn’t usually excellent for a dish where the fillet needs to be beautiful, they’re perfect for tacos, where the shape and size of the fish isn’t all that important. And with a bit of seasoning, a quick visit in the cast iron skillet, and topped with a simple cabbage slaw, these tacos make for a healthy, easy dinner. The cod, pan-fried in coconut oil, has pleasing little crispy edges that compliment the crunchy, slightly spicy slaw. Corn tortillas make the perfect delivery vehicle, and are a simple, naturally gluten-free option. From start to finish, these tacos can be ready in 30 minutes or less. Best part? They definitely won the husband “seal of approval”. There were no leftovers.

Also, I’ve made my first “how-to” video, just for you! In an attempt to hopefully give you more insight into the goings-on of my kitchen (and to demonstrate just how easy this recipe truly is), I’m sharing with you some instructions on how to make the slaw for these tacos. I hope you’ll agree that once you see just how little time it takes to whip up, you’ll be sure to add it to your menu. I hope to provide even more simple videos in the future. Stay tuned!

Without further adieu, here’s the video.

And the written recipe!

Print Recipe

Fish Tacos with Southwestern Cabbage Slaw (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 lb cod fillets

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t each chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder

2-3 T coconut oil

8 corn tortillas, warmed (I like to toast them in a dry skillet)

Sour cream (dairy-free or regular) and/or avocados, if desired, for topping

Southwestern Cabbage Slaw, recipe below

Pat the cod fillets very dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the salt and spices. Season the cod fillets with the spice blend.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the cod fillets, 2-3 minutes per side, until browned and crispy on the edges and cooked through. Remove and allow to sit on a paper towel-lined plate.

To make tacos, break apart fillets into a few pieces and place pieces in each corn tortilla. Top with sour cream or avocado if desired. Top with cabbage slaw and serve.

Serves 2-3.

simple slaw

Southwestern Cabbage Slaw (gluten-free, vegan)

2 c shredded or thinly sliced cabbage

1 large carrot, peeled and julienned (I like to use my julienne peeler for ease)

5 green onions, sliced thinly

3 T chopped fresh cilantro

1 T finely chopped jalapeno

1 T lemon juice

1 T olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, add the cabbage, carrot, green onions, and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together the chopped jalapeno, lemon juice, olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve or use for fish tacos.

 

 

Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Before I went gluten-free, I would often treat myself to Vietnamese for lunch. A gigantic bowl of steaming pho and summer rolls could turn even the most difficult of days into a better one. There is something just so satisfying to me about the bold, in-your-face flavors of those two dishes. They’re addictive, but in a good way.

But after going gluten-free, I’ve had trouble finding a good pho shop. While many ingredients in both pho and summer rolls are gluten-free, there are still a lot of hurdles. The hoisin sauce often used in the pho is full of gluten. Who knows how they prepared the broth. And while most rice noodles are indeed made with just rice, some aren’t. So I usually opt to make my own.

Summer rolls, or salad rolls, are a fresh roll consisting of an assortment of vegetables, rice vermicelli, and possibly a meat or seafood, all wrapped up in rice paper, and served cold or at room temperature. They’re not deep fried like egg rolls. Not sure how they arrived at the name “summer roll”, but it fits – they are so perfect for a hot summer day. I could eat tons of them.  Like I said, they’re addictive.

These rolls take a bit of preparation, but once you have all of the ingredients ready, they’re fairly simple to assemble. And they keep well for a day or two, which is a nice bonus. They might keep longer, but I wouldn’t know – I’ve never had them last that long!

Print Recipe

Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce (gluten-free, dairy-free)

For the rolls:

1/2 t fish sauce (can use gluten-free soy sauce instead)

1/2 t fresh lemongrass (can use lime zest instead)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

8 oz medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

6 oz dried rice vermicelli

16-18 round rice papers

1 head of green leaf lettuce, leaves separated and torn into 2-3 inch pieces

1 c julienned carrots

1 c julienned red bell pepper

1 c julienned cucumber

1 c julienned daikon radish

1 mango, cut into thin slivers

18-24 each mint leaves and basil leaves, or substitute with Thai basil, if you can find it

For the dipping sauce:

1 t olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced finely

3 T gluten-free soy sauce

1 T honey

1 T chili garlic sauce

1/4 c creamy peanut butter

1/4 c water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, grated lemongrass, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the shrimp and stir to coat. Marinate the shrimp for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water. Remove from heat, add the rice vermicelli and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil, swirling to coat. Cook the shrimp in a single layer on the skillet for about 2 minutes, flip, and cook until shrimp is cooked through and pink, another 3 minutes or so. Remove and allow to cool a bit. When cool enough to handle, slice the shrimp through down the middle of its back.

Place about 1 inch of room temperature water in a large baking dish. Get all of your ingredients ready for assembly. Dip a rice paper in the water for about 2 seconds. Lift and allow water to drip off. Place on a clean, dry work surface. Blot off the top with a paper towel. (You’ll want to blot your work surface in between rolls as well)

Lay 3-4 halves of the shrimp in a line near the bottom third of the rice paper. Top with a leaf of lettuce, vermicelli, and the veggies and mango, topping with a mint leaf and basil leaf or two. Starting with the side closest to you, roll the roll tight, tucking the sides in periodically as you go, stopping halfway to tug back on the roll to tighten. Once rolled up, the paper will seal onto itself. Transfer roll to a platter and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.

For the dipping sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add oil and garlic. Saute for a minute or until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well, until warm. If the sauce is too thick, add more water.

Makes about 4 servings.

BELA Sardines: Sardine And Wilted Mustard Greens Salad (And A Giveaway!)

This giveaway is now closed. Renata, commenter #3, is the winner of the gift box of BELA sardines! Congratulations, Renata!

An alternative title to this post could be “How To Make A Healthy Meal in 10 Minutes Or Less.” Because truly, this meal took about 5 minutes to make. That’s it. It’s a perfect mix of nutrient-rich vegetables and quality protein, not to mention the excellent dose of omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. The fact that the colors and flavors are so vibrant certainly doesn’t hurt matters either. It’s pleasing to the eyes and the taste buds!

This dish originated from a combination of sources. One, it was late and I didn’t have much time to prepare a meal. Two, I was about to head out of town, and didn’t have much in the way of groceries, save a few veggies (These gorgeous purple mustard greens, and a tomato) I needed to use up from my CSA share before I left. Three, I was contacted several weeks back and was asked to review these BELA Sardines. So I took this as an opportunity to compose a healthy, quick meal, and it turned out to be quite the success.

I opted to cook the mustard greens slightly to temper their spice. This left them with plenty of peppery bite, which played well with the briny capers, the sweet tomato and onion, and the bright and fresh lemon and basil. Of course, the sardines truly were the star of the show. I used the ones lightly smoked in tomato sauce (in keeping with the Mediterranean-style theme), and the slightly smoky flavor was intensely satisfying! I’d definitely make this quickie meal again.

I’m sure that many of you reading this post are stuck on the whole “sardine” thing. It seems a lot of people are turned off by the little fishes in a can. I’m here to tell you – the BELA sardines are quality stuff. If you are a sardine newbie, or if you’ve previously tried them and didn’t like them, try these. They’re fresh-tasting, and they offer several flavors (like tomato sauce or lemon) that can help ease you into the world of sardines.

After all, sardines are so good for you. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, and are a great lean source of protein. Since they are a smaller fish, they’re more sustainable, and they are also lower in mercury and other contaminants. They’re also much less expensive than other omega-3-rich fish such as salmon and tuna. I love to keep a few cans stashed in my pantry for quick meals like this, or for when I’m packing my lunch at the last possible second. It gives me peace of mind knowing I have something on hand when I’m rushed that nourishes my body, rather than the typical junk food that’s so easy to reach for.

Would you be interested in winning a sampler pack of BELA Sardines? Yes? Well, today is your lucky day! I’m giving away a pack of assorted flavors to one of my readers! All you have to do is leave me a comment below telling me how you’d like to enjoy your sardines.

One winner will be chosen at random at the close of the contest, which will end at 11:59PM Saturday, October 6, 2012. Winner must be at least 18 years of age.

And now, onto the “Healthy Meal In 10 Minutes or Less” recipe!

Print Recipe

Sardine and Wilted Mustard Greens Salad (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)

1 t olive oil

1 bunch mustard greens (I used these purple mustard greens, which are a tad milder than regular), chopped if desired

1/4 c thinly sliced red onion

1 t capers

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small tomato, cut into wedges

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tin BELA sardines in tomato sauce

1 T chopped fresh basil

In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the mustard greens, onion, and capers and saute for 2-3 minutes, or just until the greens have wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from skillet and set on plate. Top with tomato and sprinkle with lemon juice. Top with sardines and garnish with basil.

Serves 1.

What are some ways you make sure you get your dairy-free calcium? Join in the conversation over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community!

Giveaway: Pure Alaska Salmon Company (Cilantro-Lime Salmon Salad in Avocado Cups)

Disclaimer: I received a sample of Pure Alaska Salmon Company’s products for free in exchange for a review. This in no way influenced my review.

This giveaway has ended! Congratulations to commenter #85, Kathleen Conner!

Salmon is a favorite in our home. We don’t eat it as often as we should, because honestly, it’s not inexpensive. We live in the landlocked Dallas area, far, far away from the Pacific Northwest, where healthy, nourishing salmon is abundant. So while I know we’re supposed to get a healthy dose of those fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, we generally only end up eating it about once or twice a month.

We do try to eat some other canned oily fish as well, namely tuna (the no-salt-added, soy-free varieties), and I am a fan of kippers and sardines. They make good last-minute sources of protein and pack well in a lunch. But until now, I’ve shunned canned salmon. I didn’t like the smell or the texture (and I’m definitely NOT a picky eater). So when Shirley of Pure Alaska Salmon Company contacted me about her canned salmon, I was up front with her about my opinions. She called me her “challenge”. I was willing to try the salmon out – after all, it was supposed to be a high-quality, straight-forward product. Nowadays, I’m limiting my reviews of products to only those I feel positive about, those that fit into our diet and healthier way of eating. Since the ingredients in Pure Alaska Salmon Company’s products are only salmon and salt (in the salt-added varieties), this fit the bill nicely. I was game. Of course, I arranged to get some samples to give to you as well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Pure Alaska Salmon Company is owned by the Zuanich family, who resides in Alaska and has been in the fishing industry for generations. Their company is committed to bringing consumers sustainably harvested, healthy, delicious wild salmon. Wild salmon is preferred to farmed salmon because of its superior nutritional content and sustainable, eco-friendly harvesting practices. Also – did you know they dye farmed salmon pink with artificial coloring? Only wild salmon is naturally pink because of their diet. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and calcium, as well as a great source of protein. Mercury levels are also very low in wild Alaskan salmon, so it’s a safer choice.

I was delighted to see that the samples sent to me included a dozen cans of various types of wild Alaskan salmon, both “red” (sockeye) and “pink”. I couldn’t wait to try them out. Even though my previous experiences with canned salmon were less than ideal, I love trying new things!

Needless to say, my opinions have changed. The first can I opened was the ThinkPink salmon, which is a pink Alaskan salmon that has a milder taste and can be substituted for canned tuna in just about any recipe. The texture is excellent – there are large chunks and fillets in the can (not like the mushy, near-shredded texture I associate with canned salmon). I was happy just to take bites of salmon straight from the can.

But then, after eyeing the avocados that needed to be eaten, an idea struck me. What if I used the avocados as a cup for a salad? Then you could enjoy a creamy bite with the salmon salad, without a ton of mayonnaise or other heavy dressing so often found in traditional seafood salads. And just like that, as I pulled the rest of the ingredients from the refrigerator, this salad was born.

It’s a great, super-speedy appetizer salad, perfect for a first course or a light lunch. I opted to eat it along with a bunch of mixed salad greens for dinner the other night, and it was lovely, fresh and bright.

Cilantro-Lime Salmon Salad in Avocado Cups (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

1 7.5 oz can of Pure Alaska Salmon Co. salmon (I used their ThinkPink Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon)

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 t olive oil

1/2 green apple, diced

1 T green onion, minced

1 T cilantro, chopped

1/2 t fresh serrano pepper, minced

1/8 t ground cumin

Pinch or two of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

2 avocados, sliced in half, pits removed

In a medium bowl, gently toss the salmon, lime juice, olive oil, apple, green onion, cilantro, serrano, cumin and paprika until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss again.

Scoop salmon salad into the “cup” made by the removal of the pit in each avocado half. Serve with additional smoked paprika sprinkled on top, if desired.

Makes 4 appetizer-sized servings.

photo courtesy of Pure Alaska Salmon Company

Oh, yes, the giveaway. Don’t think I forgot about you. Pure Alaska Salmon Company has agreed to give one of my lucky readers a sampler pack, which includes a dozen cans of their Redhead and ThinkPink canned salmon. What a great way to stock your pantry with some healthy, easy, delicious options. How do you enter? Here’s how:

  • You get one entry by leaving me a comment below telling me what you’d like to make with canned salmon.

You can get additional entries by doing the following:

  • “Like” Pure Alaska Salmon Company on Facebook and leave me a comment telling me you did so,
  • “Follow” Pure Alaska Salmon Company on Twitter and leave me a comment telling me you did so,
  • “Like” Tasty Eats At Home on Facebook and leave me a comment telling me you did  so,
  • “Follow” Tasty Eats At Home on Facebook and leave me a comment telling me you did so,
  • Post an update on Facebook or Tweet about this giveaway, tagging Pure Alaska Salmon Company and Tasty Eats At Home.

This giveaway will end at 11:59 PM CDT on Sunday, March 25, 2012, so act quickly! No purchase necessary – just your comments, and bonus likes and follows!

Best of luck to you!

 

2012, Balance, and Shrimp Cauliflower Curry

Gosh. It’s been a week and a half since I’ve graced you with any tasty eats. I hope the scalloped potatoes were enough to keep you sustained through the holidays. I didn’t anticipate taking so much time away from here, but with the rush-rush-rush of the holidays and a busy work schedule, I was glad I did.

How was your holiday season, by the way? Merry, I hope, and full of warmth and family and friends, worthwhile indulgences and comforts. We spent the holidays here in town (as we usually do – we are lucky to have most of our family members here in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex), feasting for what seemed like days. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with so many loved ones. We rang in the New Year with family as well, enjoying a retro-yet-fun fondue party in our home. The perfect ending to the holiday was a trip to the Winspear Opera House to see Les Miserables on New Year’s Day. (If you are ever in Dallas, I highly recommend checking out the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I’m ecstatic that Dallas finally has such a gorgeous area for the Arts.) While this isn’t my first time seeing Les Miserables (heck, I practically have the thing memorized), I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, soaking up all that I could from this spectacular performance. It was gorgeous.

And now, I’m transitioning back to “normal” life. While I didn’t post a list of “resolutions” this time around, I did take a look at my 2010 goals. Actually, I was rather surprised - I have achieved nearly all of those. I haven’t posted my very own bread recipe yet, so I imagine I’ll still focus on that goal, but I have worked towards improving the design here at Tasty Eats At Home (more still to come!), and I posted a menudo recipe in 2010, and I attempted puff pastry/phyllo. As for the work/life/blog balance thing, I’m repackaging that into my 2012 focus.

Instead of a list of “resolutions”, I’ve opted for a singular word. A theme, if you will. Balance. I struggle with balance on a regular basis. I think many of us do, always trying to do too much, too fast, too often, and many times ignoring other areas that need our attention as well. Personally, I forget to give myself permission to be still. Most days, I’m up before 5AM, and I am busy-busy-busy, getting my workout in, packing breakfast and lunch to take to work, getting ready for the day, and I’m out the door at 6:30AM or so. I commute about an hour to/from work, and then I’m home, and busy-busy-busy making dinner, washing dishes, doing other chores, and gosh, before I know it, it’s bedtime, and the whole process repeats itself, and I feel I can’t find the time to contribute to the blog, to keeping the house clean, to doing special things with the kids, much less “relaxation” time! I have to remind myself that it’s okay to let things be from time to time, to remain still, to balance the crazy-busy with the calm-happy parts of my life. So, for 2012, balance is the theme.

It only makes sense that on a grander scale, The Balanced Platter launched yesterday!

This is an exceptional place you can visit for balanced, gluten-free eating. You might notice me around there, as I’ll be contributing posts from time to time. I’m extremely excited about this site and its future!

Balance also carries into my diet. While I’m not joining the millions of others in a New Year’s diet, I do want to achieve balance in my eating. I feel best when I am eating in a balanced manner. For me, that means many fresh vegetables, a healthy dose of protein, very little grains, and healthy starches such as sweet potatoes and pumpkin. And fats. I feel satisfied when I have lots of good fats. For me, coconut oil and coconut milk suit me well, and I love to incorporate them in a lot of recipes. In this curry, (which is somewhat a variation on gobi masala) I use both. The result is not nearly as creamy or indulgent as some other curries I’ve shared, but the coconut milk provides a lovely body to the sauce as it clings to the shrimp and cauliflower. It also gives the dish a dose of comfort without being overly heavy; the perfect balance of healthy and satisfying. You might find this dish in need of a bit of extra heat – when I make it again, I’ll likely add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (we like a bit of kick). However, even without the heat, this curry was delightful.

Shrimp Cauliflower Curry (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

3 T unrefined coconut oil, divided

2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used large shrimp)

1/2 t kosher salt

1 T black mustard seeds

1 medium onion, chopped

2 T red bell pepper

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 t grated fresh ginger

1 serrano chile, seeded and minced

2 t ground turmeric

1/2 t ground cumin

1/4 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t garam masala

pinch asafoetida (hing) (make sure it’s gluten-free; many contain wheat)

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets

3/4 c coconut milk

1/2 c water

salt to taste

chopped cilantro

Heat skillet to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat. Season shrimp with salt and lightly cook (in batches if needed), 1-2 minutes per side, until shrimp is pink but not cooked all the way through. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the mustard seeds and saute for about 30 seconds. Add onion and red pepper; saute 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlid, ginger, and serrano chile. Saute another minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, garam masala, and asafoetida and stir once. Add the cauliflower and stir into the seasonings to coat. Add the coconut milk and water and stir to coat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally. Add back the shrimp and season with additional salt to taste. Cook for another 2 minutes or until shrimp has cooked through.

Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with steamed basmati rice if desired.

Easy Sardine Salad – The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen (Giveaway!)

A while back, Skyhorse Publishing contacted me about a book to review. The publicist told me that a great majority of the recipes in the book were naturally gluten-free, but were also approachable to any guest at the dinner table. Her recommendation and the title of the book drew me in. The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen – Glorious Meals Pure and Simple, by Levana Kirschenbaum. The majority of my cooking is 100% whole foods, so this sounded like a perfect addition to my cookbook collection (which currently has outgrown all available bookshelf space, and is now occupying some pantry shelf space, as well as space above my kitchen cabinets, and there are more without a home right now. I may have a problem…). I readily agreed to review the book, and asked for some additional copies to share with you all in a giveaway. Of course, they agreed!  

This book was just as was described to me. There are countless delicious, mouth-watering, healthy recipes made from real, whole food ingredients in this book. Homemade harissa? Curried apple kale soup? Moroccan turkey patties in lemon sauce? Just hearing those recipes makes me hungry. I currently have about a dozen recipes bookmarked in this book to make. But late one evening, when I was on my own for dinner, I decided to whip up a super-easy recipe for sardine salad.

Sardines, you ask? Aren’t those the gross little canned whole fishes? Okay, before you click away, hear me out. To many, sardines are a bit off-putting. I understand that. But they sure pack a nutritional punch. For people like me who can’t consume dairy, there aren’t many calcium-rich foods out there. But sardines are an exception. They pack nearly half of the daily requirement of calcium, thanks to those tiny edible bones. They’re also a great source of protein and omega-3s. For the price (a can of sardines costs about a dollar), they are one of those “must-have” budget foods in your pantry. If you’re skeptical about the taste, this salad is a great way to start. The tahini, lemon, and greens cut the “pungent” flavor of the fish, and when you’re mixing the ingredients together, you won’t see the skin and bones of the sardines. If you try it, you just might find these little fishes to be to your liking. While I’ve long adored sardines (particularly in another salad recipe I found over at City|Life|Eats), this recipe further established my love for them. It definitely was the perfect light meal.

Sardine Salad, from The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen, reprinted with permission

2 cans sardines, skin and bones on, oil and all

1/4 c tahini (sesame paste)

4 scallions, sliced very thin

Juice of 2 lemons, or a little more to taste

Ground pepper to taste

Splash of bottled hot sauce

4 cups very finely chopped romaine, watercress, or sprouts, or a combination (I used spinach)

Mash the sardines with their oil and the tahini with a fork in a bowl. Add the scallions, lemon juice, pepper, and hot sauce and combine thoroughly. Fold in the greens and mix. Makes 8 servings. (of course, I ate more than 1 serving as a main meal…)

And now, the giveaway. I am giving away two copies of The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen by Levana Kirschenbaum, courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing. To enter, leave me a comment.

To gain additional entries, post about this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook, and come back and leave me a comment telling me you did so.

The giveaway will end Sunday, July 31, 2011.

Good luck!

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto

Risotto, to me, is an ultimate comfort food. It’s creamy, starchy, and warm – all attributes of comfort food in most people’s minds. And while this version is gluten and dairy-free, and relatively low in undesirables as far as healthfulness is concerned (it’s not comprised of processed foods and has a moderate amount of healthy fat), it’s still on the “special occasion” list for me, as it is a less-healthy grain than say, brown rice. That being said, this is deliciously indulgent without wrecking your waistline. And with the bright flavors of lemon and fresh herbs, it’s also a lovely dish for spring.

I originally found a lemon risotto over at What’s For Lunch Honey, and this recipe is based off of Meeta’s. Of course, I adjusted to my needs and what I had on hand, much to our delight as we sat down for dinner the other night. With a few seared scallops to top our risotto, suddenly, all was right with the world. We slowed to savor each bite – the scallops were so unbelievably sweet, which elevated the sunny notes in the risotto. It was a comfort dish for sure, but a lighter version – one that definitely welcomes spring.

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto, inspired by What’s For Lunch, Honey

1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 carrots, diced

1 t fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 c Arborio rice

1/2 c light white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

2 lemons, zest and juice

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 T chopped fresh tarragon

1 lb sea scallops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

2 T hulled pumpkin seeds (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a simmer. In a large skillet or low-sided saucepan, heat oil to medium heat and add onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. If vegetables start to color, lower heat – you want them soft, but not brown. Add rice and continue to saute for another minute or so, stirring, to make sure each kernel is coated with oil. Add wine and deglaze pan, stirring to ensure any bits are scraped up. Cook, continuing to stir, until wine is nearly evaporated. Add a ladle-full or two of the stoc into the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is nearly absorbed, and add another ladle. Continue with this process until the rice becomes plump and gives up a lot of starch, making the rice appear creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. Once your rice is nearing done, bite into a piece to check the doneness. In the center of the rice grain, there shouldn’t be more than a pinhead-sized white dot. This is al dente.

Meanwhile, while you are stirring your rice and it’s nearing done, pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat another skillet to medium-high heat and add oil. Once hot, add scallops and allow to cook undisturbed for a minute, or until scallop releases easily from the skillet and has a golden brown crust. Turn over and sear the other side. Be careful not to overcook the scallops – you want them to be slightly firm and not mushy, but you definitely don’t want rubbery. This should only take a few minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Once your risotto is al dente, add lemon zest, juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs and stir in. Serve immediately in low, shallow bowls, and top with a few scallops. Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds over as garnish, if desired.

Serves 4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Kids In The Kitchen: Blue Crab Boil

 

Another seafood adventure for Kids In the Kitchen – this time, with blue crabs! Brandan wanted to try a crab boil, as he’d never encountered live crabs before. Sure, we did the lobster thing a few weeks ago, and we’ve had crawfish boils, but never crab. As an avid lover of all things crab, I figured we were overdue for this adventure. I contacted my local fishmonger and we were set. We brought home about 8-9 pounds of blue crab.

Brandan was ecstatic. Of course, as any young boy, he wanted to play with them. So we picked up one, and in response, it angrily latched onto others. You were hard-pressed to only pull one from the bunch – many times, you’d pick up one only to lift a chain of three or four, clasping each other with their claws.

Ready, set, now fight!

After the play ceased and our water was boiling (we simply seasoned with Old Bay, lemons, and a bit of vinegar, which makes for easier picking), we dropped crabs into the water. They were relatively small, so they were cooked through in about 8 minutes. Boiling crustaceans actually is a relatively quick and easy job, compared to a lot of other cooking that goes on in our kitchen! After a brief cool-down, they were ready to pick and eat!

Want to know how to eat a blue crab? Check out this step-by-step tutorial over at Coconut & Lime. (Hint: you might not want to wear your Sunday best for this, and you might want to cover the table in newspaper. Also, plenty of paper towels is a plus.) It does take some time to thoroughly pick the meat from a crab, but it makes for a great social gathering opportunity – just gather around a table filled with crabs and chat and eat! (Also, a not-so-kids-in-the-kitchen-friendly tip – crabs go great with a gluten-free beer.)

The verdict in our household? Brandan and I enjoyed the crab most of all, and put quite a dent in our bounty. (I particularly savored the claw meat - so sweet and delicious.) Brittany and Matthew weren’t fans, although I wasn’t too surprised after the lobster incident last time. John wasn’t as excited about it as he was the lobster. Regardless, it was certainly a delicious adventure.

Boiled Blue Crabs

8-9 lbs live blue crabs

large, deep stockpots, filled with filtered water

1/2 c Old Bay Seasoning

2 T vinegar

2 lemons, cut in half

Add seasoning, vinegar, and lemons to water. Bring water to a boil. Add 1/3 to 1/2 of the crabs to the water and return to a boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until crabs are a bright red and are completely cooked through. Remove from water and allow to cool for a minute, and then enjoy! (Repeat with remaining crab)

Kids In The Kitchen: Boiled Lobster

Last weekend was Brittany’s turn in the kitchen. Weeks ago, she had expressed interest in something chocolate (again). When the time came for her to decide, however, she threw a curveball. Lobster, she said. Just like a whole lobster, in the shell? I asked. Yup. I explained that we would be purchasing the lobsters live and cooking them, and while she hesitated, she agreed and we went forward with the plan. Everyone was excited – because hey, it’s not every day there is a lobster dinner at the Mantsch house!

Brittany and I went to the store to buy our lobsters and a few other items. Once the lobsters were in our cart, however, she was no longer interested in getting near the cart. Poor girl – she was worried the lobsters would somehow crawl out of their bag and pinch her. Explaining that their pinchers were secured by rubber bands was not enough to change her mind. I pushed the cart to the checkout, and I placed the lobsters in the car for the ride home, and I was the one that placed them in the refrigerator until it was time to cook.

Unfortunately for Brittany, the whole “mind over matter” thing didn’t work for her when it came to the lobsters. She couldn’t bring herself to place them into the boiling water. (I had to help, and we let Brandan drop one, as he was begging to do it) She was afraid of them. And when it came time to eat, and Brandan had devoured every minute piece of lobster, John and I had our fair share, and Matt had his obligatory “bite” (he said he didn’t like it – but he doesn’t like seafood too much), Brittany was still working through hers. She finally gave up – while she said she enjoyed the taste, she couldn’t get over that the claw meat looked like a claw. Honestly, I’m not a squeamish person when it comes to food, so it’s hard for me to totally empathize, but I felt for her. She was so excited about this meal, but her fears got the best of her. She did try throughout the process, though, and I commended her for that. (We also thanked her for a lobster dinner, because it was delicious!)

If you can handle cooking live lobsters, then this is a very easy, straightforward process. The ingredient list is short (lobster, water, maybe some clarified butter), so the hardest part will be getting to the meat! It’s well worth it though – especially with the claw meat, which is so sweet. Yum!

How to Boil a Lobster

First, make sure you choose live lobsters, and choose those that look lively and healthy in the tank. (You don’t want sluggish or sickly lobsters – so make sure they’re moving around a bit, and their eyes look good.) Buy them as close to when you expect to cook them as possible. They can stay for a while in the refrigerator (they’ll go to sleep, more or less), but it shouldn’t be for more than a few hours. When you’re ready to cook, boil a large pot of water. You can put some salt in the water if you choose.

Once the water comes to a boil, remove the rubber bands from the lobster claws and grasp them by their abdomen (they won’t be able to reach around and pinch you this way). Place them head-down into the water and bring the water back up to a boil. (I had a pot large enough to cook all of our lobsters at once this way) Boil until the lobsters are completely done – their shell should be bright red all over. The meat will no longer be translucent at all. Here are the times for various sizes of lobsters:

1 lb lobsters – 5-7 minutes

1 1/4 lb lobsters – 8-10 minutes

1 1/2 lb lobsters – 10-12 minutes

2 lb lobsters  – 12-14 minutes

3 lb lobsters – 15-18 minutes

I cooked ours for about 10 minutes (each was about 1 1/4 lbs) and they were perfect.

Need help eating the lobster? Here’s a tutorial. I have found that a pair of kitchen shears makes getting through the shell quite easy as well. Enjoy lobster meat unadorned, dipped in clarified butter or ghee, or incorporate the meat into delicious recipes like lobster risotto, lobster bisque, or a salad.

Daring Cooks: Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.

While I am a fan of Japanese cuisine, truthfully, it’s something that has rarely made an appearance in my kitchen. I’ve made sushi before, but that’s about the extent of my experience. However, I was excited about this challenge – tempura is a tricky beast, and I thought this would be a wonderful chance to tackle it. As for cold soba salad – I was game for that! I’ve made soba a few times before, most successfully in a dish called ostu. It’s been a while though, and this was a new recipe, so it was also exciting.

How did I make the tempura gluten-free? This was perhaps one of the easiest adjustments so far with my Daring Cooks’ challenges. The original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of regular flour and 1/2 cup of cornstarch - so I substituted 1/2 cup of sweet white rice flour and 1/2 cup of tapioca starch. It came out beautifully – airy and crisp. We enjoyed sweet potatoes, green beans, and shrimp, dipped in the spicy dipping sauce (made gluten-free easily by substituting gluten-free soy sauce), and there wasn’t a bit left. While I loved this Japanese-style, I can easily imagine taking the tempura batter “process” over to other cuisines (onion rings, anyone?).

The soba salad was also delicious, so much so, I think I enjoyed it even more than the tempura. I served ours with a dashi sauce, green onions, eggs, grated daikon radish, pickled ginger, and some toasted nori. I am having leftovers for lunch today, and am pretty darn excited about it, if I do say so. While finding 100% buckwheat soba isn’t easy (I had to visit Whole Foods – most soba in the American groceries is a blend of wheat and buckwheat flour), I am definitely going to pick up some more when I find it again. I love the nutty, earthy flavor of the noodles.

All in all, another delicious Daring Cooks’ challenge completed! What’s even better – this has inspired me to dig further into Japanese cuisine. I’m overdue for an adventure!

Gluten-Free Tempura

1 egg yolk

1 c iced water

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c tapioca starch

1/2 t baking powder

Oil for deep frying

Ice water bath, for the tempura batter

Very cold vegetables and seafood – you can choose from: blanched and cooled sweet potato slices, green beans, mushrooms, carrots, pumpkin, onions, shrimp, etc.

Place the iced water in a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor. Serve immediately for best flavor.

Gluten-Free Spicy Dipping Sauce

¾ c spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
3 T gluten-free soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
½ t agave nectar
¼ t English mustard powder
1 T grape-seed oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 t ground  black pepper 

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

Gluten-Free Soba Salad

2 quarts + 1 c cold water, divided

12 oz 100% buckwheat noodles

Cooking the noodles:

  1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
  3. 

Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce

2 c Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.

1/3 c gluten-free soy sauce

1/3 c mirin (sweet rice wine)

Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I served the soba noodles by placing some cold noodles in a bowl, and ladling some of the sauce over. I topped with crumbled nori, egg omelet strips, grated raw daikon radish, pickled ginger, and some green onions. You can top with any of the following: thin omelet strips, boiled chicken breasts, ham, cucumber, boiled bean sprouts, tomatoes, toasted nori, green onions, wasabi powder, grated daikon, pickled ginger, etc. Everything should be finely grated, diced, or julienned.