Tuesday, March 16, 2010


We're spoiled here in the Northwest. We have an abundance of amazing farmer's markets, great restaurants (including gluten free, vegan, organic, etc.) trendsetting food-based businesses (Fran's Smoked Salt Caramels get their props in this month's issue of Martha Stewart Living) and we have an abundance of fresh seafood options at the ready. Spoiled, indeed.

Tonight I whipped up one of my favorite seafood dishes, Sea Scallops with Capers. I made a simple salad of wild greens and baby spinach with sliced almonds and dried cranberries. A little goat or blue cheese would have been a nice compliment but I didn't have any in the house. The star of that salad, however, was a delicious vinaigrette made with my favorite flavored balsamic.

The balsamic is Tart Cherry Zinfandel Balsamic from Earth and Vine Provisions and I picked it up at one of our local wineries. Oh yeah, we're ridiculously spoiled with a lot of those in the Washington State area, as well. I love this balsamic whisked with olive oil for a simple and highly flavorful vinaigrette.

Finally, complimenting the cooking and dining experience this evening was Diana Krall's The Look of Love.

Sea Scallops with Capers
3/4 pound fresh or frozen scallops (About 10-12 medium to large scallops)
2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
The zest of one large lemon
The juice of half of one large lemon
2 heaping tablespoons of capers, rinsed
Sea salt
Grapeseed oil

When choosing scallops, choose the pinker ones. Those are the female scallops and they're sweeter and tastier. Once again, females are just better. Also, buy dry-packed scallops, as they don't have phosphate added. Rinse the scallops, dry them very well and set aside. In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the shallots until just before they start to brown. Add the wine, lemon zest, lemon juice and capers. Reduce the heat a bit and simmer until the wine cooks off and the sauce thickens, about 6 to 7 minutes. If the sauce isn't as thick as you'd like, go ahead add a little more butter...it's only better, after all!

You'll be cooking your scallops in a separate saute pan, or a cast iron pan if you have one. Be sure your scallops are completely dry and salt them with sea salt. Coat the pan with grapeseed oil. You don't need too much oil, just one generous coating on the pan will suffice. I like grapeseed oil as it's a flavorless, neutral oil and it has a high smoke point, making it perfect for searing scallops at high heat. Set your burner to high heat and once your oil is hot, add the scallops - flat side down. Be careful, as the oil will "pop", so long sleeves are wise. Don't crowd the scallops in the pan and cook them for 2 minutes on the first side. Don't do anything during those two minutes...don't move the scallops in the pan, don't peek to see if they're getting a nice sear, don't answer the phone...just be patient! After two minutes, flip them over gently with tongs and cook them for just 30 seconds on the second side. Immediately plate them and spoon the sauce over the scallops and dig in!

Afterthoughts: Note that the photo above does not show the scallops with the lovely sear you'll achieve if you follow the directions above. That's because I updated the instructions after I took a class in which I learned how to perfectly sear scallops after I posted this recipe, so I know that next time I make this dish , it will be even better now that I've perfected my technique for cooking scallops correctly!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I'm a Throwback

No, I'm not talking catch and release fishing...or dating. Dating in Seattle is a lot like catch and release fishing - dating the ones your girlfriends "threw back" or accidentally going out with a guy you've gone out with before and had long since forgotten. But you really don't want to get me started on that.

I'm talking eras. I think I'm a throwback to another era, and I've often thought I was born a few decades too late. I love all things retro. I drool over women's fashions and accessories from the 40's, 50's and 60's. In college, Patty (my BFF at the time) and I would search Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul secondhand stores for these treasures and we readily found them. If it was good enough for the Go-Go's, it was good enough for us. That should give you a hint of how very long ago I was in college. This was before dressing vintage was the trend and I was also, uh um, more petite in college. Weren't we all? And I wasn't in love with food back then the way I am now. Well, everything is a trade-off and besides these days it's harder to find clothes of those eras easily and on the cheap and if you do, they are really teeny tiny! I think the normal-sized girls wore the hell out of their clothes in the 40's, 50's and 60's.

Old Mason jars of buttons and marbles make me happy. My classic Schwinn makes me happy. There are times this very independent, single, city girl wishes she could transport herself back in time to a small town when life was much simpler and everyone knew their neighbors (and liked them). Throw in a big flower and veggie garden, a hubby, a few kids, a few of animals and an old, creaky, sunny, farmhouse with a big porch and I'm in heaven...canning, baking, crafting, chasing kidlets all day.

Ok, back to reality. I can still transport myself in time once in a while, as I did on a recent lazy, Sunday morning. I whipped up a batch of cornbread muffins. As I mentioned in my previous post, music that fits the mood normally accompanies my baking adventures. That morning a collection of torch songs from Ella, Patsy, Judy, Lena and their gal pals seemed most fitting.

So, I hope you'll transport yourself back to a simpler place and time with an old school favorite, updated to be gluten-free, of course. For full classic effect, be sure to eat these muffins hot out of the oven with butter and a drizzle of honey.

Cornbread Muffins
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup medium grind cornmeal
1 cup brown rice flower
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1 and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another. Mix each set of ingredients until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in two batches, mixing well to incorporate after each addition.

Spoon mixture into muffin pans. I use silicone muffin pans, so I don't use non-stick spray or muffin papers. One or the other is likely necessary for conventional pans or your muffins will stick. I love all my silicone bakeware and highly recommend it for avid bakers. Bake 19 minutes or until golden. Oddly, this recipe only makes 10-11 muffins. What is that, the baker's anti-dozen? Oh well.

Afterthoughts: I've read that corn is the most genetically modified crop in the U.S. (followed by soy and rice), so I always try to buy organic corn products. The bulk section in health food stores is a good place to find this. This is also the best place to find xanthan gum, which is essential for gluten-free baking. Xanthan gum is made by fermenting corn sugar with a microbial. It's used extensively in the food industry to make products thicker and it's a common ingredient in gluten-free recipes because it binds ingredients together. It is expensive and most recipes call for small amounts, so I always buy a small amount as needed from the bulk section.

I've made these muffins with and without the cinnamon and enjoyed them both times. The first batch, without the cinnamon, was paired with a friend's pot of homemade turkey chili for a party. Next time, I think I'll try the recipe with the cinnamon again, fresh blueberries folded into the batter and a topping of melted butter and sprinkling of chopped pecans. I like this recipe because you can play around with it, adding green chilies and cheddar for savory muffins or any other exotic mix-ins you come up with. The buttermilk makes the muffins really moist and light, even up against medium grind cornmeal and brown rice flour.