Cauliflower Risotto & Seared Sea Scallops

Well, safe to say I’m back in the swing of things…trudging to class with a backpack half my body weight (most likely coming late due to the massive clusterf*ck that they claim is the student parking lot) and just praying a cup of coffee will fall from the sky and land in my mouth.

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Hello, second year of grad school. Broke ass student life, we meet again.

When stress (and hunger…) strikes, all the more reason to get down and dirty in the kitchen for a healthy dinner, yas?

Sea scallops are often overlooked at the seafood counter. POR QUE?! I’m just gonna throw this out there: don’t skid passed the scallops because along with their buttery flavor and tender chew, they’re an excellent source of vitamin B12–a muy importante nutrient for keeping nerve and blood cells healthy, preventing dementia, assisting digestion, and providing energy. They’re also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, code for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are heavily praised for their protective role in heart health. These rich sea-dwelling little cushions are carefully seared and plated over creamy risotto, but hold le cream! Instead, cauliflower (rich in vitamin C, K, folate, and B vitamins) is whipped up with antibacterial garlic, vitamin B12-rich nutritional yeast, and detoxifying fresh lemon.

Rich, ohhhh so rich. But even a poor grad student like myself can enjoy. Win-win.

Cauliflower Risotto & Seared Sea Scallops

Makes 6-8 servings of risotto and 3-4 servings scallops

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 2 cups low sodium-veggie broth + 1 cup water
  • 1-2 T nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp black pepper + more for scallop seasoning
  • 2-3 tsp Miso paste (I used low-sodium red…you can leave this out and add more salt if ya want, but I like the umami flavor it brings)
  • 2 T unsweetened plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 of 1 fresh lemon (juice + zest)
  • 2 T fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium shallots, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, separated
  • 1/2 lb fresh dry-packed wild sea scallops
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • sea salt, to taste
  1. Before you do anything, place whole cloves of garlic in tin foil, pre heat the oven to 450 and put those suckers in there while you’re doing other kitchen-y thangs. Keep a timer on for 25-30 minutes, and remove when garlic is golden brown with a soft, creamy texture.
  2. Get the brown rice going: cook according to the package or using a rice cooker.
  3. In a large pot, bring veggie broth and water to a rapid boil.  Add cauliflower pieces and boil about 10 minutes, until cauliflower is tender. Drain.
  4. In a high speed blender, put the non-dairy milk in first, then add cauliflower pieces. Whirl until pureed.  Next add in the nutritional yeast, pepper, miso, roasted garlic, and juice from ONLY 1/4 of the lemon…Do not add in zest yet. If you’re too lazy to roast the garlic into toasty deliciousness, just add in 2 whole raw cloves. Toss in the fresh thyme and blend away until a thick, liquid consistency. Taste test to see if it needs salt; miso can be very different and if omitting completely, you will mos def need more salt.
  5. When the rice is done, pour the cauliflower cream sauce over it, add the peas, stir, and set aside.
  6. In a large skillet, heat 1 T oil over medium-high. Add the shallots (or onion, if using) and saute for 2-3 minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add the mushrooms and cook another 4-5 minutes, until mushrooms begin to shrivel and soften.
  7. Pour the rice/cream mixture over the shallots/mushrooms and stir well until fully mixed.
  8. Set aside.  Remove the tiny muscle on the side of the scallop first…if you have never cooked these tasty babies, click here for more detailed instructions!  Pat dry with a towel and rub with salt and pepper, to taste.
  9. Bring a skillet to medium high, heat remaining 1 T oil and then put the scallops in.  The pan should sizzle when you throw them in.  Cook each scallop about 2-3 minutes, until golden brown, then squeeze remaining lemon juice over, and flip over carefully.  Cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown.  Flesh should be soft but firm to touch, like well-set jello, tops and bottoms light brown, and sides still white…nommmms.
  10. Serve the scallops over the risotto immediately, garnishing each one with lemon zest and fresh thyme.

 

Pan Seared Halibut with Citrus Nutmeg Relish

If you’re a seafood lover, you understand the stinky fish struggle.

You make the fish. You eat the fish. Then you drop the fish into the trash and if (like me) your #1 most hated chore in the world is taking out the trash…you smell said fish in your kitchen for days afterwards. And it stinks up the ENTIRE house. Your roommate, your neighbors, and probably the whole block hate your (and your fish’s) guts and wish to have you both evicted immediately.

I pan seared and then oven finished this precious baby on an impromptu Thursday dinner date with myself. That is correct. I like to date myself sometimes. I even set the table and shit.

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Maybe I lit a candle or two.  Got some Barry White goin on the record player. And despite the lousy conversation and going a little heavy handed on the Pinot Gris pours…

10/10, would date myself again.

This is such an easy dinner to make, but looks fancy AF. Fresh juicy halibut (holla at the smelly seafood department at Whole Paycheck) is cooked to perfection with a soft inside and crispy, oil-drizzled skin and then served with a piquant, slightly sweet, spice forward relish. Halibut is an excellent source of protein and vitamin D. And omega-3’s….hubba hubba hot damn…studies show these play a role in healthy brain function, reducing your risk of chronic illness like cancer and heart disease, and reducing inflammation. Add some digestive promoting ginger and antioxidant rich cilantro and BOOM. Nemo, step aside.

Pan Seared Halibut with Citrus Nutmeg Relish

Serves 2

  • 2 5-oz fresh Halibut fillets, skin intact
  • juice from 1 fresh lime
  • 1 1/2-in piece fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 tsp orange zest, grated
  • 1/2 serrano pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 slices fresh daikon (optional)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • 3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Pre heat the oven to 350 degree$$$.
  2. Heat skillet over medium high.  Place fillets, skin side down, and cook until lightly brown (about 2-3 minutes). Flip over and cook another 2-3 minutes, until both sides are lightly brown.
  3. Remove from the stove and place fish in a cast iron pan or other oven-safe pan. Sprinkle with another teaspoon of olive oil and some salt n’ peppa.
  4. Finish off the fish in the oven by baking about 5-6 minutes, until flesh becomes opaque.
  5. While the fish is getting baked (heh) combine lime juice, ginger, orange zest, and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk lightly.
  6. When the fish is done, pour the mixture in the bowl over each fillet.  Sprinkle each before serving with: cilantro, serrano slices, daikon slices, and toasted sesame seed$$$. Yee.

Tropical Salmon with Coconut Black Rice

Coming home from vacation is always bittersweet.  One second you’re skipping along singing kumbaya because it was so beautiful and the sun was so pretty and that IPA was so frosty and then the next, you’re ready to break down into tears when you see that leaning tower of pisa pile of laundry and the 18 unopened bills smashed into your mailbox.  I must say, though, that the good always outweighs the bad and I feel rejuvenated and blissful.

I hiked, I laughed, I climbed more than a few trees.  Life is good:)  Culinarily speaking, it was hit or miss.  My brother decided Top Ramen was good trail food and so I ended up eating my body weight in Sweet & Salty granola bars.  But, we did go out to a few fancy shmancy restaurants in Los Angeles and I had some delicious seared tuna one night and some sushi another. Naturally, it evoked in me a burning desire to cast out my fishing pole and catch what I could for dinner at home.  Hah.  And by that I mean defrost some frozen fish and get to cookin’. I may get down down in the kitchen from time to time but this isn’t Cast Away, mkay?

I don’t cook fish very often because I usually prefer it grilled in the summertime.  Whatta’ snob. But because the grill and I got more beef than Biggie and 2Pac, this means a person who knows how to properly use the grill is a necessity.  I usually cook alone. This renders me hopeless, and also lame.

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A fish dish for me most likely translates into throwing some olive oil on a fillet of salmon, dousing it in a hefty cloud of salt and pepper, and throwing it in the oven for 10 minutes. Nothing very fancy and nothing worth posting. However, this past summer I remember someone who was grill-certified (hint: not me) grilling up some mahi mahi one evening and I paired it with a mango chutney and brown rice cooked in coconut milk.  It turned out pretty groovy to say the least. I wanted to incorporate something equally interesting with the salmon I bought at Trader Joe’s months ago that is about to transpire into fillet-o-freezer-burn.

Enter: marinated salmon with a tropical fruit relish and ginger coconut forbidden black rice.

Welcome, welcome.

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Sounds legit, right? This salmon is also cooked in a pan and not on the grill so it is dummy-proof.  Unless you are more of a dummy than me (who is still unable to beat anyone at a game of Candy Land) which is pretty much, I have decided, a physical impossibility.

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Moving ahead.  Sorta obsessed with this recipe. In this refreshing take on glazed salmon, the rich tropical fruit pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the glaze and also against the nutty chewiness of the black rice.  If you have never tried black “forbidden” rice, which actually cooks up sort of purple, you won’t be disappointed. Find it by the normal rice (duh) or in the bulk bins! 

Tropical Salmon with Coconut Black Rice

For the salmon:

  • about 1 lb or two decent-sized fillets of salmon
  • 1 T honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce or wheat-free tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • juice from half a lime

For the fruit relish:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 ripe kiwi
  • 1 or 2 large strawberries
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed, if possible)

For the rice:

  • 1/2 cup black “forbidden” rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • juice from half a lime
  1. Begin by making the rice!  From the rice section of the ingredient list, heat up the coconut oil over medium in a decent sized pot. Once it’s melted, add the T of ginger and cook until fragrant (a couple minutes).  Add in the rice and salt and stir well, stir like you mean it. Then add in the water and stir, bringing the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and boil for about 45 minutes, stirring throughout.
  2. While the rice is cooking, marinate those salmon steaks. Place the first 7 ingredients from the salmon section of the recipe in a plastic bag or baking dish and toss salmon steaks…sufficiently coating each one.  Seal the bag or cover the baking dish and let marinade for up to 30 minutes in the fridge, turning pretty frequently so they soak up the maximum amount of glaze!
  3. When the water from the rice is sufficiently evaporated, turn off the heat, let stand 5 minutes, and fluff with a fork.  Stir in juice from 1/2 a lime and 1/4 cup cilantro.  The rice will still be relatively sticky so don’t look all surprised when it comes out wetter than something like Basmati rice. Basmati is old school, baby.
  4. When the salmon is marinated, whip out a frying pan.  Throw in some some olive oil or cooking spray and heat up to medium.  Drop the salmon steaks in and cook thoroughly on each side. Unless you’re into the whole raw fish thing, which is great, except that this salmon is not sushi grade and therefore I do not recommend indulging in your inner grizzly bear. Should take about 5 minutes of cooking on each side…you will see the really pink middle turn opaque when done.
  5. While you’ve got this goin’ on, chop up all the fruit from the fruit relish part of the ingredient list.  Stir in the orange juice and cilantro.  I would really recommend fresh squeezed OJ, however snobby that sounds. It’s flavor is so refreshing and tart over the standard taste of the orange juice in a box. But I digress….
  6. Top the salmon with the fruit and pair it with the rice. Not only does your plate look like the rainbow, the way it tastes is sure to win over every salmon-skeptic. You’re welcome.

 

I’ve got a sweet, creamy, dreamy song for you today.  This pop-synth jam is by an up and coming band called Young Summer. Listen to “Waves That Rolled You Under” and let it trickle into your ears on a hot night. Once you taste this dish, you’ll want to take a drive and blast this with the windows rolled all the way down.