Cooking

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Assembling Ingredients for Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

This weekend, we were in the middle of the first real snowstorm in Chicago’s 2014-2015 winter season!  So far, we have received about 19″ of snow.  Yesterday and again this morning, my husband and I went outside to finish shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.  The snow is the heavy, “packing” kind,  perfect for kids wanting to make snowmen and forts, but really irritating for adults trying to clear footpaths!  Stella was jumping around like a kangaroo in the snow!  This was before it got too deep for her.  After a few more hours, we ended up clearing a path in the backyard so she could walk without having the snow reach up past her   fluffy tail!

Stella Bear Braving Chicago's Big Winter Snow       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Stella Bear Braving Chicago’s Big Winter Snow

When we got inside from shoveling, I wanted something quick, simple and a lot like buttered noodles.  I made this ridiculously simple dish that does not even need a recipe once you make it a few times.   I put 1/2 a box of orzo in a pot of salted, boiling water.  I drained the orzo and made my butter-olive oil blend fancy by flavoring it with lemon peel and sliced garlic cloves.  Then, I stirred in some lemon juice, Romano cheese and parsley to finish the dish.  Easy!

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

serves 2

1 c. orzo
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 2″ lemon peel
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 c. parsley, minced
1/3 c. Romano cheese + extra for serving
sea salt & pepper to taste

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add Orzo. Cook according to package directions until ‘al dente.’ You are better off undercooking the orzo at this point. Drain into a colander and transfer to a medium glass or heat-safe bowl*. Return pot to medium heat. Melt butter in pan and add olive oil. Gently place the sliced garlic and lemon peel in the butter/oil and stir a little bit. BE CAREFUL! Let bubble until garlic just barely starts to turn golden, ~30-60 seconds.  (It will go from golden to burned quickly) Remove garlic and lemon peel from pan with slotted spoon. Let cool on a plate before discarding.

Pour flavored butter/olive oil over the orzo. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and Romano cheese. Season to taste with sea and freshly ground black pepper.  Enjoy!

 

*Note: You can keep the cooked orzo in the colander and just stir it into the saucepan once the butter/oil has been flavored and the garlic/lemon peel is removed. I do this to minimize dirty dishes. The problem is the orzo can stick to the hot sides of the pan if you do not stir vigorously and immediately. The choice is yours.

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

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Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter, Sautéed Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter, Sautéed Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter, Sautéed Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Simple and delicious.  If you like scallops, try this recipe.  If you’ve never eaten scallops before, start with this recipe.  The trick is to use high quality scallops that are free from additives.  One of the local grocery stores had a special on Peruvian Bay Scallops, so I used them instead of the traditional kind.  (These are smaller than regular scallops -think the size of a nickel-quarter instead of a half dollar) and cook very quickly.  I found several recipe variations using a simple combination of butter, olive oil, lemon juice & thyme, but the best one was from Bon Appetit.

Try to space the scallops out in the pan so they are not overly crowded or touching when you first sauté them.  I should have cooked up the scallops below in two batches to obtain a better crust, but I was impatient.  (Note:  they still turned out fine and tasted incredible).

Dinner - not too fancy, but really good     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Dinner – not too fancy, but really good

If you like pairing your food with wine, there are two New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc labels that I really like right now.  One is “90+”, which is like the Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s private label brand for the wine world.  The other wine is called “Wild South.”  I tried both of them at wine tastings first and then with these scallops.  Delicious!

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

I made these scallops for dinner on a Sunday night and they took me less than 10 minutes to prepare.  I served these with sautéed spinach, lemon orzo & a roasted red pepper sauce.  Everything was excellent (except the orzo)!   The recipe for the roasted red pepper sauce is coming soon!

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter www.morewinelesswhines.com

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

 

Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

Many variations on this recipe exist, but I will give credit for this one to Bon Appetit

1 lb. sea scallops, side muscle removed
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
juice from 1/2 a lemon

Place sea scallops on a paper towel lined dish. Top with a second paper towel to draw out any excess moisture. Let sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle tops of scallops with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add oil. Once hot, add scallops, salt & pepper side down. Cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes. Sprinkle tops of scallops with sea salt & pepper. Turn scallops using tongs. Add butter and thyme to pan. Continue cooking, spooning pan sauce over scallops, until scallops are cooked through, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in lemon juice. Serve scallops with the pan sauce.

Easy Prep for Brown Butter Scallops      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Easy Prep for Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

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Cooking, Gardening

Porterhouse Steak, Mashed Potatoes & Chive Oil

Chives from the Garden   www.morewineless.whines.com

Chives from the Garden

This weekend I did a deep dive into the cookbook, Jean-Georges Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten & Mark Bittman.

Below is what I have planned on the menu for this week:

Mushroom Soup with Greens (I already made the mushroom broth.  It is waiting patiently in my refrigerator.)

Gently Cooked Salmon with Mashed Potatoes

Sautéed Chicken with Green Olives and Cilantro

Sunday’s Dinner:

Steak with Red Wine Reduction & Carrot Puree

Let me begin by saying that I do not eat a lot of red meat.  I save it for special occasions (such as making meatballs and sausage for Sunday tomato sauce, beef tenderloin skewers with cognac mustard dipping sauce or marinaded beef kabobs).  Occasionally, I will ‘splurge’ on a good cut of beef.  This past weekend was one of those occasions.

Chive Oil     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Getting Ready to Make the Chive Oil

I made this steak recipe for the first time on Sunday.  It involved 3 ingredients:  porterhouse steak, red wine & carrots (plus sea salt, pepper & H2O).

Chive Oil     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Chive Oil

The grilled steak turned out perfectly, but the sauce did not work for me.   We let the steak sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, preheated the grilll,  sprinkled the steak with sea salt & pepper, and cooked the porterhouse 4-5 minutes per side over medium heat.

Porterhouse Steak - soon to be topped with chive oil    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Porterhouse Steak – soon to be topped with chive oil

I used an inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon for my red wine reduction.  While the wine tasted fine in a glass on its own, by the time I reduced it for almost 30 minutes, it was very apparent that there was little nuance in flavor.   All that hit my palate were peppery, bitter notes.   I plan to re-make this recipe in the future with a different wine.

Grilling a Porterhouse Steak    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Grilling a Porterhouse Steak

While the wine reduced, I thought I would make the chive oil ahead of time for Tuesday’s salmon dinner.  This oil is so easy – chives, canola oil & sea salt.  The most time consuming part of making this flavored oil was cutting and washing the chives from my garden.  I made the oil by whirling all the ingredients together in the mini food processor.  Voila!  Magic!  I tried the flavored oil and just said “wow.”  I ended up drizzling this on my porterhouse steak and mashed potatoes instead of the red wine reduction that I (conveniently) botched.  It was so good that all attempts at taking photos of the finished product were forgotten.

Porterhouse Steak - soon to be topped with Chive Oil      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Porterhouse Steak – soon to be topped with Chive Oil

I still have a little bit left for the salmon we are having Tuesday evening!

If you can, please try making and serving this flavored oil with fish, vegetables, rice, chicken or steak.  It is excellent and I will be making it often in the future.  I can see adding this simple recipe to both my Thanksgiving and Easter menus.

Chive Oil
Original Recipe from Jean-Georges Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef

20 chives, cut into 2″ pieces
4 tsp. canola oil (or other neutral flavored oil such as grapeseed)
pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor.  Pulse 10-15 seconds or until mixture begins to get creamy.  Scrape sides of bowl down with spatula if needed.  Pulse one last time prior to serving.

Spoon atop your favorite vegetables, fish or meat.  Store in sealed container in fridge no more than 5 days.

Enjoy!

Mashed Potatoes

Peel and chop 2 lbs small yellow potatoes.  Place in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Cover with water by 2″.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly and allow potatoes to boil for 30 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain.   Immediately transfer potatoes to stand of a MixMaster.  Using paddle attachment, beat on speed 4 (medium) until smooth.  Mix in up to 4 T. unsalted butter, 1 T at a time, up to 3/4 c milk (we use skim) and a pinch of sea salt to taste.   Serve warm.  These are excellent with a little chive oil drizzled on top.

 

Grilled Porterhouse Steak

Let the steak sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.   Preheat the grill.   Sprinkle the steak with sea salt & pepper, and cook the porterhouse 4-5 minutes per side over medium heat or to desired doneness.

 

Serve the above meal with a mixed greens salad.

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Roasted BLT Salad

Roasted BLT Salad   www.morewinelesswhines.com

Roasted BLT Salad

This is another recipe I found in my “paper” archives.  It hails from the January 2013 issue of Better Homes & Gardens.  I have made this meal several times the past two summers.  It is a great way to use up some extra cherry tomatoes, which are abundant in my garden right now.  It is also a great dish to make when it is not summer.  Why?  You can do everything in the oven!  You don’t need fancy or delicate lettuce – just a sturdy romaine!  You don’t need garden fresh tomatoes, as roasting intensifies and sweetens their flavor.  I just happen to have a lot of tomatoes I am trying to use up from my garden.

I hope you enjoy this meal!

Roasted Weeknight BLT Salad        www.morewinelesswhines.com

Roasted Weeknight BLT Salad

Roasted Weeknight BLT Salad

6 slices cooked center cut bacon, broken into pieces (I used Applewood Smoked Bacon)
1 c. cherry tomatoes
2 T. fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 baguette, cut into 1″ cubes
1 head romaine lettuce, quartered lengthwise
sea salt, garlic salt & freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

1/4 c. romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray. Toss cherry tomatoes with garlic, 1 T olive oil, oregano, some sea salt & pepper. Spread onto pan. Roast 20 minutes. Transfer tomatoes and juices to a medium bowl.

Toss bread cubes with a 2 T. olive oil, sea salt, garlic salt & pepper. Spread on pan. Bake 5-8 minutes. Drizzle romaine with a little olive oil, move bread to edges of pan and place romaine in middle of pan. Roast 3-5 minutes.

Toss bread with tomatoes and let sit for a little bit to absorb juices.

To serve:
Place 2 “quarters” of Romaine on each plate. Spoon bread and tomatoes over romaine. Top with bacon. Drizzle with a little olive oil (optional) and sprinkle with Romano cheese.

Enjoy!

Roasted Weeknight BLT Salad      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Roasted Weeknight BLT Salad

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Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Bread Crumbs

Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Bread Crumbs    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Bread Crumbs

One evening, while exploring a new grocery store, I came across a pre-chopped, ready-to-eat package of rainbow cauliflower.  I had previously only cooked with the white kind, so I thought I would give cauliflower’s orange, green and purple sisters a try!

Coincidentally, I had bookmarked a recipe in The Food 52 Cookbook Volume 2 for cauliflower that I have been patiently waiting to try out.

This is simply the best cauliflower recipe my husband and I have ever tasted.  For the original recipe, click HERE or see below.  I kept the panko breadcrumb topping amount the same, but halved the amount of cauliflower.

Enjoy!

Rainbow Colored Cauliflower   www.morewinelesswhines.com

Rainbow Colored Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Breadcrumbs

Barely adapted from recipe posted to Food 52 by TheThinChef

  • 1 lb cauliflower florets
  • 2 T + 2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided
  •  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Zest of 1 small organic lemon
  • cloves garlic, finely minced with sea salt
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Place cauliflower  in a large bowl. Add 2 T extra virgin olive oil,  a little sea salt and pepper for flavor; toss to coat.
  3. Spread cauliflower out on 1 large, rimmed baking sheets. Roast until edges start to brown, about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 T olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add panko and remaining sea salt and stir. Cook, stirring constantly, until bread crumbs are golden. Add lemon zest and garlic and toss until mixture is very fragrant and bread crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Place in a small bowl and add parsley, stirring to combine. Set aside.
  5. Remove cauliflower from oven and place on serving platter. Top with bread crumbs and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

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A Simple Polenta Dish with Fontina and Romano cheese

 

A Simple Polenta Dish

A Simple Polenta Dish with Fontina and Romano Cheese

A few months ago I visited Eataly in Chicago.  While there, I experienced Polenta for the first time.  It was smothered in cheese and a mushroom ragu.  After that trip, I promptly purchased a small package of dry Bob’s Red Mill polenta intent on crafting a memorable throwback to my Eataly adventure.  The bag of polenta sat on my pantry shelf, then my freezer shelf, for weeks…  The dirty truth is that polenta scared me – oh the time commitment!  the bag of ground up corn!  the thought of me standing over a stove for hours only to fail miserably!

I am writing this post to dispel the polenta fiction in the world.  Making polenta is actually quite simple.  I (sort of) followed the directions on the  package with a few of my own modifications.  The only ‘work’ involved is stirring.

 

A Simple Polenta Dish

A Simple Polenta Dish

A Simple Polenta Dish with Fontina and Romano Cheese

3 c. low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
1 c. polenta (stone ground – I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1.5 T unsalted butter
1/2 c. Fontina cheese
3 T. Romano cheese

Bring chicken broth and sea salt (if using) to a boil in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over high heat. Slowly, stir in polenta. Reduce heat to low and stir frequently, about 30 minutes. Stir in unsalted butter. Then, stir in the Fontina until melted.

Spray an 8″ pie plate or low, shallow bowl with cooking spray. Pour cheesy polenta into the greased pie plate and spread evenly. Let stand 10 minutes. If you would like to be fancy, invert the pie plate onto a flat serving plate or cutting board. Sprinkle with Romano cheese and slice into wedges.

Enjoy!

Notes:

I used Bob’s Red Mill Yellow “Corn Grits” also known as “Polenta.” I’m calling it Polenta because this is an Italian inspired dish.  The polenta I purchased includes the bran and the germ.  It is delicious!

 

A Simple Polenta Dish

A Simple Polenta Dish

 

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Asparagus with Champagne Vinaigrette and Feta

Asparagus with Feta and Champagne vinaigrette

Asparagus with Champagne Vinaigrette and Feta

Even though there was sleet in Chicagoland yesterday, snow two days ago and rain today, I really like this time of year.  Why? This time of year means asparagus season in my local produce aisles!  It is too early for the farmers markets to open, so I have to make due with the freshest products the supermarkets can offer.

I usually prepare asparagus simply with olive oil and either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar – grilled or baked – and top it with grated romano or parmesan cheese.  My very basic formula is below:

asparagus + vinegar/acid + olive oil  + cheese

Roasting the asparagus at 425 F in the oven gives it a nice sweetness, especially when the grill is still covered with snow.  I have tried making asparagus other ways.  For example, I made an elaborate leek and bacon topping once that tasted excellent, but the asparagus was lost.  If the asparagus is good and in season, you really don’t need to do much to it.

I found this particular recipe on Food Network.  It followed my asparagus + vinegar + olive oil + cheese rule, so I let it into my repertoire. I have decided that was a very good idea.  We had this asparagus with my Israeli couscous and foil packet Salmon.

Note:  For the longest time I found champagne vinegar to be elusive.  I could not find it anywhere.  I found it at Whole Foods for this recipe and it was maybe $3.00.  Not bad.

Asparagus with Champagne Vinegar and Feta

Asparagus with Champagne Vinegar and Feta

Asparagus with Champagne Vinaigrette and Feta

Original recipe from Food Network by Patrick & Gina Neely

2 bunches asparagus, tough ends snapped off
2 T olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T dijon mustard
2 T champagne vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Toss asparagus on a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 T olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer asparagus to serving dish.

While asparagus is roasting, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together dijon mustard, champagne vinegar and olive oil in a small measuring cup. Season to taste with a little sea salt and pepper.

Pour vinaigrette over asparagus. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

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