Ally
"New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin."
-Mark Twain


Why hello there readers! Sorry for the lack of posts but I took a brief hiatus from cooking while in Kansas City. Unlike my December trip to KCMO, this month's trip was COOOOOOLD, however, I was lucky to get out before the snowfall got real (and deep!).

This is what the snow looked like while I was there:




This is what it looked like just a couple days after I left. The snow is up to two feet!



Anyhow, now I'm back in the milder climate of good ol' Sacramento but I've still been craving some pipin' hot meals to warm up my poor cold body...so this week, I decided to make a hearty batch of jambalaya. This down-home recipe is on the milder side of the spiciness scale but if you like heat, add a tad more cayenne and hot sauce (whoo-boy!) and you'll be set. I had to keep our batch toned down since the kidlets were eating with us. Also if you want to keep true to the holy trinity of Cajun cooking (onion, celery and green bell pepper) you can sub in a green bell pepper for the red. No one at our dinner table likes green bell peppers which is why I threw in a red one. ;)

This recipe makes enough jambalaya to feed a family of four and have enough the next day for a round of leftovers. It reheats well. Don't you love when you can get two meals out of one night's cooking? I know I do!

Now pour yourself a stiff drink, get cooking and... Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon Canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
5-6 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
1 large red bell pepper
3 stalks of celery, diced (use the tender stalks in the heart of the celery) & dice up those celery leaves as well
1 (10 oz) can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies- drained
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes- drained
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Frank's or Crystal)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups long grain white rice- uncooked, rinsed
1 lb. fresh large shrimp- rinsed, peeled and deveined
6 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
juice of 1/2 a lemon
flat-leaf parsley, chopped- for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat canola oil on medium-high heat. Add sliced sausage, cook until browned. Remove sausage, place in a bowl and set aside.

2. Leave the sausage drippings in the pot, heat 1 tablespoon of butter. Add in diced onions. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, saut√© a few minutes more until onions soften and become translucent.

3. Add celery, celery leaves and red bell pepper. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.



4. Add both cans of tomatoes, bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes.

5. Add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, hot sauce and sausage. Stir and allow to cook 5 minutes.

6. Add chicken stock. Bring ingredients to a rapid boil. Add smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, oregano and Louisiana Cajun seasoning. Stir thoroughly.



7. Add 2 cups of rinsed rice. Bring to a boil.

8. Lower heat to a simmer, cover tightly and allow to cook for about 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

9. Turn off heat. Add in uncooked shrimp and sliced scallions. Give it a good stir or two.

10. Replace lid. Let it sit, untouched, for 15 minutes. (The shrimp will cook up from the heat in the pot.)

11. Open. Removed bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

12. Squeeze lemon over jambalaya. Stir. Sprinkle with chopped parsley (optional). Serve.
Ally


This year unfortunately I'm 1800 miles away (literally) from Mr.S. for Valentine's Day. I have to admit I'm a wee bit bummed but to be honest everyday is Valentine's Day when you're with someone you're head over heels in love with so in the long run it's no big deal. I love that we do romantic things year round instead of only on a day that Hallmark dictates that we should. One of my favorite things to do with Mr.S. is cook dinner for him. Don't get me wrong, I love cooking with him too but sometimes it's nice to spoil your partner with a fabulous meal. In fact, Julia Child once said, "I think careful cooking is love, don't you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give,"...that Julia, she's a wise one-- and I think she was spot on.

Anyhow, before I left for my trip I made Mr.S. this recipe for scallops with carrot puree. The puree didn't come out quite as smooth as I would have liked (I was at Mr. S's so I was using a blender to puree the carrots and it kept crapping out every 10 seconds) but it didn't matter because he looked so happy when I placed the plate of  caramelized scallops before him. It sounds crazy but--- I'll take a romantic dinner on an average old Wednesday night any day over a box of chocolates or an expensive meal on February 14th.

So readers, please excuse the awful photo (I was more concerned about starting the meal then getting the perfect pic) and take the time to look over the recipe below. Then pick a night, any ol' normal night and surprise whomever you love by cooking this recipe. Light some candles, open a bottle of good wine and celebrate each other. You'll be glad you did.



Seared Scallops with Tangy Carrot Puree

Ingredients

1 lb. dry, large sea scallops
3 tablespoons clarified butter
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots- peeled & cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt (you can sub in sea salt)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup room temperature water
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
3-4 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Instructions for Puree

1. Place a large steel or cast-iron skillet, over medium heat. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil across the pan. Once the oil starts to shimmer, throw in the chopped shallots. Cook your shallots for about 3-4 minutes, until they get soft.

2. Add garlic, cook until fragrant. Add carrots, salt, cayenne and water.

3. Raise heat to high and bring it all to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes.

4. Once the carrots are tender, take the skillet off the heat and allow ingredients to cool for 5 minutes.

5. Move your mixture to a blender. Add your Meyer lemon juice and blend. Then add your Greek yogurt and butter and blend. Puree until smooth but thick.

Handy Tip: When using a blender to process hot foods/liquids- slightly release one corner of the blender's lid. This will prevent the vacuum effect that results in heat explosions. To safeguard against splatter, place a towel over the top of the machine, give it a few pulses after which you can process on high speed until smooth.

6. Season to taste with salt. Set aside and keep warm.


Instructions for Scallops

1. Place scallops on a large plate. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper on both sides.

2. Place a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Place a tablespoon and a half of butter on the skillet.

3. Place half of the scallops on the skillet, you want them spread apart so they have room to sear. Now here's the most important thing- don't touch them for 2 minutes. Don't nudge, peek or poke...you want to get that nice think layer of crunchy caramelization on them. At the end of 2 minutes, gently flip each scallop over and cook for another 1.5-2 minutes. Remove and place on a warmed plate.

4. Repeat with remaining butter and scallops.

5. Spoon carrot puree onto plate. Arrange the scallops on top of the puree. Pair with mixed greens salad or your favorite roasted veggies.


Ally

I'm sure most of us are familiar with Occam's Razor or as it's more affectionately known- the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. It's basically a line of reasoning that states that the simplest answer is usually correct. Well, sometimes I think that goes for cooking too. With two large Meyer lemon trees laden with fruit in the courtyard of my urban cottage, I'm always looking for new recipes to use the tangy lil suckers up as I can't stand to see them go to waste. Most of the recipes I come across usually involve tangling with a laundry list of ingredients and slaving over an oven. Well, this time I thought I'd go simple...and it turns out it was the best choice. I did a little experimenting and whipped up this delicious zingy Meyer lemon dressing. It's sweet, it's tangy...it elevates your plain everyday salad to a whole new level and uses stuff that you probably already have lolling about in your fridge and cupboards.

Fresh Meyer Lemon Dressing 
(enough for 2 large salads)

Ingredients

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard

1.5 teaspoon sea salt (I used Maldon)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.5 tablespoons finely diced shallot

1.5 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon honey


Instructions

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

2. Serve over your favorite salad.

3. You're done! Simple, huh?