Stir-fried scallops with spinach and forbidden rice.

I keep thinking one of these days would be the perfect day to stay home from work and bask in my own laziness. I don’t know which day yet, but I feel like Seattle’s gloomy, fall-like weather calls for at least one long, slovenly day of laying on the couch in front of the fire, watching old movies. Doesn’t that sound cozy? And baking pies. Pumpkin pies. Lots of ’em.

Contrary to some of my less-than-angelic foodie tendencies, last night’s dinner, while very special and preceded by an oh-so-deserved lazy Sunday, was quite nutritious, not to mention thoroughly delicious. After much pondering and searching of the vast interwebs, I decided on a recipe out of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, a cookbook by fellow blogger Grace Young. Although I had purchased the cookbook many months ago (during my stir-frying kick back in April), I had had yet to test out a recipe. Last night was the night. I bring you: Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy¬†Spinach. (I did not happen to have baby bok choy on hand at the time.)

Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Spinach

Ingredients

6 ounces medium fresh sea scallops
1 tablespoon chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon chili bean sauce
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (about 1 cup)
2 chopped scallions

Directions

1. Rinse the scallops under cold water, removing the muscle and any visible bits of shell or grit, and set on paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the scallops dry. Cut the scallops horizontally in half so all the pieces are about 1/2 inch thick. In a small bowl combine the broth, chili bean sauce, soy sauce, and cornstarch.

2. Heat 12-inch skillet over high heat until very hot. Swirl in 1/2 tablespoon of the oil, add the ginger and garlic, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry for 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the aromatics to the sides of the skillet. Carefully add the scallops and spread them evenly in one layer in the pan. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the scallops begin to sear. Sprinkle on 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the scallops are opaque but not cooked through. Transfer the scallops to a plate.

3. Swirl the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the spinach and bell peppers, sprinkle on the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the spinach just begins to wilt. Return the scallops with any juices that have accumulated to the wok. Restir the broth mixture, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the scallops are just cooked. Stir in the scallions.

4. Serve over 1/2 cup cooked forbidden rice. Yes, I added this step. Forbidden rice is kinda my new favorite thing.

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Sunshine!

It was a beautiful day in Seattle – finally. We’ve had a bit of an extended winter, with only a handful of somewhat sunny days, which have conveniently mostly taken place on the weekends. So when I woke up this morning to the sun shining in my window, I was thrilled to be going up to Ballard for my hair appointment.

My hair looks awesome, by the way. I love my hairdresser – I’ve been going to her for a few years now and, not only does she consistently do an amazing job, but she always tells me how much she loves my hair (I’m a total sucker for compliments). And I kind of like visiting Ballard, too – it’s got a quaint feel to it. I’d been meaning to try one of the restaurants up there, so after my appointment, I went off in search of good eats.

I searched for a long time. 1) I wasn’t hungry because I’d had a late breakfast, and 2) it is very¬†difficult – though not impossible – to find a restaurant that serves reasonably sized portions that don’t leave me either uncomfortably full or with leftovers. I walked… and walked… and took a bus… and walked some more… and took another bus… and ended up at U Village. That’s four miles from my hairdresser. I probably walked about three and a half miles, and all in search of food.

Here’s where I ate:

Don’t be fooled by the name – Pasta & Co has quite a few options that don’t have anything to do with pasta, and they’re all delicious, at least the ones I’ve tried. Today, I had 4 ounces of “Gobble It Up” (a turkey/Italian chicken sausage meatloaf) and a black eyed peas and mustard greens salad.

I will admit, I felt a little ridiculous asking the server for 4 ounces of the meatloaf instead of just taking a whole slice like everyone else, but the I realized – I don’t know her. I don’t care what she thinks. I may be an American, but that doesn’t mean I have to eat like Americans are expected to eat (at least, judging by how much restaurants serve). Portion control is a concept that many of us haven’t mastered because there haven’t been good examples of it. Sure, I grew up eating my mom’s cooking, and she always seemed to have a good grasp of how much to eat, but I never really grasped the concept – so when I got to college, I just ate everything, and as much of it as I wanted. I also didn’t cook, so I’d go out to eat a lot. It’s a miracle (and a sign that I won the genetic lottery) that I wasn’t absolutely huge as a college student.

I would also like to know why it is that the cheaper the food, the more of it they give you. This is counterintuitive. You’d think if you paid for smaller portions, you’d be paying less, but that’s only the case at places where they charge based on food weight (which makes total sense, doesn’t it?). If you go to, say, a Thai restaurant and order pad kee mao and crab rangoon, you’d need at least one other person to split it with, and you still end up feeling a little overstuffed. I like the concept of eating tiny portions of many different things, like at kaiten sushi restaurants.

Which brings me to tonight’s dinner. After the delightful lunch, I ventured over to QFC to pick up a few grocery items (mostly fruit). While there, I noticed they had unagi in their seafood case. Pre-cooked, pre-flavored unagi strips, without evil white rice, staring up at me, begging me to take it home. So I did.

This was tonight’s dinner:

That’s a mixed greens salad with a few cherry tomatoes and Japanese black sesame dressing, miso soup, the rest of the noodle salad, about an ounce of unagi, and the salmon cakes and ponzu sauce from last night. I warmed up the salmon cakes in the oven because I was afraid nuking them would cause a loss of crispiness. It was a delicious and light dinner, even though it looks like a lot of food. I really like my meals bento-like.

For my bedtime snack, which has quickly morphed into dessert (go figure), I perfected my baked apple recipe. Or at least, I’m getting closer. The almond milk works really well, I’ve found – complements the apple and spices nicely. I drowned the apple pieces in it this time and I think it made all the difference.

I’m also currently working on a frozen yogurt recipe… will let you know how that one turns out tomorrow (it’s currently in the freezer).

The cure for impending illness? Japanese food.

My throat is getting scratchy. My head is foggy. Miso soup? Yes, please!

I’ve been craving sushi all day anyway, so a Japanese dinner seemed the only possible solution. I also didn’t want to go grocery shopping again (I went yesterday for the quesadilla accoutrements), so I did something I rarely do: I used ingredients I already had. And after a day of perusing food blogs working really hard, I was ready to get creative.

The end result:

The menu:

Wild Salmon Cakes with Ponzu Sauce (I didn’t have kaffir leaves or wasabi paste; I used Splenda instead of brown sugar for the ponzu sauce, and shoyu for the soy sauce; I used a 14.5-ounce can of wild salmon instead of fresh. It still ended up being nothing short of amazing – good thing I have leftovers!)

Spinach Gomae (again, used shoyu; made half the recipe for the sauce, since I am only one person; used about half a clamshell case of spinach, which was all I had left. Also delicious, and really very easy to make.)

Japanese Sesame Noodles (with shirataki noodles instead of soba – have you tried them? They are little zero-calorie miracles! I get them at Uwajimaya, an Asian supermarket in the International District.)

Miso Soup (also from Uwajimaya)

It was a lovely meal – both pretty and tasty. It helps that all my plates have a Japanese-influenced design. I don’t know why, but I’ve always preferred Asian food. Don’t get me wrong, I will scarf down spaghetti with Italian sausage (on spaghetti squash, of course) and you know how I feel about Russian food, but there’s something about Asian flavors that really appeals to me. Except Indian. For some reason, it’s always been my least favorite.

Then there was dessert, which was not Japanese at all…

That’s a baked apple concoction, with Splenda instead of sugar, gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose and almond milk instead of whole milk. And right next to it is cottage cheese with vanilla extract, cinnamon, and Splenda. Oh, and the cinnamon almonds. Clearly there was a cinnamon theme.

And then I had a piece of 72% Godiva dark chocolate… because dark chocolate is good for you. What? It’s true!

Spicy Scallops with Lime & Chile

Tonight’s meal plan called for a Perricone recipe involving scallops (Scallops with Garlic and Parsley, if you’re curious). His recipe was incredibly simple and involved a frying pan, so I decided to liven it up a bit by instead using a recipe from my current favorite stir-fry cookbook, aptly titled Wok and Stir-Fry. (And after finding that link on Amazon, I continued on to search for more cookbooks… I’m such a dedicated consumer.)

Ingredients

16 large scallops, shelled
1 tbsp butter (I used coconut oil)
1 tbsp vegetable oil (again, I used coconut oil)
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
1 bunch of scallions, finely sliced
finely grated rind of 1 lime
1 small fresh red chile, seeded and very finely chopped
3 tbsp lime juice
lime wedges, to garnish
freshly cooked rice, to serve (I don’t usually eat rice, so I didn’t serve with it, but this was from the original recipe)

Directions

Using a sharp knife, trim the scallops to remove any black intestine, then wash and pat dry with paper towels. Separate the corals from the white parts, then slice each white part in half horizontally, making 2 circles.

Heat the butter and oil (or just the oil) in a preheated wok. Add the garlic and gingerroot and stir-fry for 1 minute without browning. Add the scallions and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Add the scallops and continue stir-frying over high heat for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the lime rind, chile, and lime juice and cook for an additional 1 minute.

Transfer the scallops to serving plates, then spoon over the cooking juices and garnish with lime wedges. Serve hot with freshly cooked rice.

And now, for the final product (drumroll please)…

Vietnamese-Style Caramel-Braised Chicken

Serves four.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fish sauce
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce and 1/4 cup water. In another small bowl, mix the shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Put the sugar and 2 tbsp water in a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Let the melted sugar come to a boil and cook, swirling the pan occasionally at first and more frequently as the sugar browns, until it has caramelized to a deep amber color, 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and, standing back to avoid spatters, slowly add the fish sauce mixture to the pan. Swirl the pan to combine, return to medium heat, and bring to a boil. Add the shallot mixture and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the shallots soften, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces to the pan in a single layer, reduce the heat to medium-low or low, cover, and cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Et voila.