Dinner for one

There are all forms of entertaining.  Of course there are the big parties, dinners and events.  There are also smaller and more intimate settings when you have another couple over or it’s a special dinner just for the two of you. You plan, you do the shopping, the preparation and then hope everyone oohs and ahhs.  It’s validation for the work and time you put into it and you go to sleep thinking everything was worth all the effort.  But have you ever thought of putting that same effort into a dinner for one?

What do people do when they eat alone?  I know when I was single and just starting out, dinner usually consisted of a bowl of cereal or a bag of popcorn.  I never thought of making an effort for myself.  I’m going to assume that a lot of single people have the same way of looking at things as I do.  We just do whatever is the easiest.

Tonight however, I changed my mind about things.  My husband was going to play cards with the guys and I was going to be alone for the evening.  In the past I would have eaten something I could just grab.   Not that there is anything wrong with a bowl of cereal or grabbing what ever is in the refrigerator at the moment, but I decided with the lifestyle changes we are making in our home I should make the effort and do the same for myself as I would anyone else that would be eating dinner in my home.  I was going to make myself a real dinner.

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I was inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit that sounded so good, but my husband wasn’t as excited about this meal as I was.  It calls for adding lobster to pasta.  What was I thinking?  Doing something with it other than boil it and dip it in butter?  It was the perfect opportunity to try this…and I’m so glad I did!   Not only was this very tasty, it was also relatively easy.  The lobster was still tender and sweet with a nice spicy complement from the pasta and sauce.

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You could of course do this meal for your guests and still get the oohs and ahhs.  They won’t know how easy it was or that most of it could be done in advance.  Or you could wait until that one night when you’re sitting all alone and don’t want a bag of popcorn for dinner.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your own company.  It’s worth the oohs and ahhs you’re going to give yourself.

 

Scallops, Mushrooms, and Scallions

Last weekend I was getting ready to go out to breakfast with my husband and in the background was a show on PBS that I was semi listening to.  Did you ever have one of those moments when suddenly what you aren’t paying attention to suddenly becomes your entire focal point?  Lydia Bastianich was pointing a finger at me and telling me I should pay attention because it was the dinner I had waited for.  Ok,, she didn’t really call out my name but it was a dinner I could have waited for.  I could have literally licked the TV screen.  She had put together a dish of mushrooms and scallions and scallops with a beautifully caramelized crust to them and it had my name written all over it.

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Later that morning, we were out eating breakfast and I’m telling my husband about this dish.  He had the same reaction I did.   Conveniently, the bookstore was right next to where we were  (I know it was fate) and we ran over.  On the spot we bought her new cookbook, “Lydia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking”.  Not only did it have this recipe, but several others I will try soon.  It’s a great addition to your cookbook collection.

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One thing I do want to note on this recipe is that you want dry scallops.  You have to ask for them when you go to the market.  Typically you get the scallops that have sat in some chemical brine and they are slimy and won’t caramelize well.  It’s definitely worth the extra effort and your scallops taste so much better because they haven’t absorbed that chemical brine.

I also added brown rice to this recipe as a starch base.  You don’t need it, but it did add a little substance to the meal.  I just placed a large spoonful under the mushrooms before serving.

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I will definitely make this again.  The mushroom combination hit a home run with the garlic and butter flavors hanging on discretely to every mushroom.  The crunch of the scallion was a nice sharp bite in comparison to the sweet softness of the scallop.

The next time someone yells at you from the TV to pay attention, do it.  This really hit a 4 star YUM rating on my palate.  You need to try this!

Scallops, Mushrooms, and Scallions

Course Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 8 cups sliced mixed mushrooms, (buttons, shitake, cremini and chanterelles)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and lightly chopped (approximately 2 cups)
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter I used 4 Tablespoons
  • 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops, foot or side muscle removed
  • good quality balsamic vinegar for optional drizzling

Instructions

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, over medium high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

  2. Add garlic.

  3. Once garlic begins to sizzle, add the mushrooms and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

  4. Cook until mushrooms begin to wilt, about 6 to 7 minutes.

  5. Add the scallions, thyme sprigs and butter and cook until the mushrooms are tender, another 3 to 4 minutes.

  6. Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm, removing thyme sprigs.

  7. Wipe out the skillet, return to medium high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

  8. Season the scallops with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.

  9. Serve on mushrooms, drizzled with balsamic vinegar if desired.

A Toast Addiction

I watched a cooking show the other day.  There is nothing extraordinary about that, and in the opinion of my husband I probably watch them more than I should.  It was a show I had never seen before, and honestly I can’t even tell you the name of it.  What I can tell you is that after that show I acted like a pregnant woman out of control, on a quest to satisfy an overwhelming craving.  It was a craving for toast…..oh, but not just any toast.

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It was toast browned in a skillet with a mixture of maple syrup and butter. It was toast that was caramelized until it had a sugary, crunchy coating and then topped with a slice of creamy, yet savory cheese.  It was more than toast and I wanted to try it.

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I am not usually a maple syrup on anything kind of person.  Not even as a child did I like French toast or pancakes smothered in that syrupy sticky sweetness.  I do like the taste of maple syrup, but more in the one little bite kind of candy you get when you go back to New Hampshire or Vermont for a visit.

For some reason, however, this had really caught my eye.  For the next week I thought of nothing else and so finally over the weekend I decided I was actually going to make it.

I wish I hadn’t.  I was like a drug addict on crack I loved it so much.  I made it three times and went through a whole loaf of bread and a round of brie.  I did have a little help eating it all, but quite honestly,  if I didn’t have to share, I probably wouldn’t have.  It was just that good.

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I curse you and thank you Amy Thielen of the Food Channel.  I am now an official Maple Bread lover,  or otherwise known as a toast addict . My disclaimer is,  I cannot be responsible for you once you try this.  I will, however, welcome you with open arms to my support group.

It really is that good.

Spiced Honey Cake with Caramelized Figs

I was in Fresh Market the other day and saw they had fresh figs.  I’m not sure where they were from and honestly I didn’t care.  It was the last hurrah of summer and I was going to make something with them.

I brought my delicious little turkey figs home and immediately started looking through my hoard of recipes. (yes, I am a recipe hoarder). I had so many, but I wanted something different from the jam that I had made previously and I finally settled on this Spiced Honey Cake.  It was from CHOW.com and posted by Kate Ramos, although I’m unsure if she was the actual creator of this cake.  Whatever the case may be, this was an incredible looking cake and I was anxious to see if it was going to taste as good as I thought it might.

It did.

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I want to let you know that the honey liqueur that it requires is not the turkey honey whiskey stuff my husband likes to bring out at the boy’s card games.  There is a real honey liqueur and I would recommend Celtic Honey, a product from Ireland, or Bärenjäger.  Either one will work well.

This was a very nice, moist cake and the fig mixture on the top really enhanced the flavor of the cake.  If you love figs, you need to make this.  Well, even if you don’t like figs…you should still make this.  It’s that good.

I am already looking forward to next year’s crop of figs.  Yum.

Spiced Honey Cake with Carmelized Figs

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • Butter, for coating the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 2 pints figs, halved (you can use mission or brown turkey)
  • 1/2 cup honey liqueur
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 10-inch spring form pan with butter. Set aside.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and ground cloves in a large bowl to break up any lumps and aerate. Set aside. Whisk together honey, oil, coffee, sugar, and eggs in another large bowl until eggs are broken up and mixture is smooth and combined. Add dry mixture to wet and stir until combined.

  3. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out completely clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a rack and let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside perimeter of the pan and remove the springform ring.

FOR THE TOPPING

  1. While the cake is cooling, add the butter to a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the figs cut side down. Cook undisturbed until browned, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the liqueur and honey, stir to coat the figs, and cook until the syrup is golden brown and the figs are soft but still intact, about 10 minutes. Top the cake with the fig mixture and serve.

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