There always seems to be time for certain meals in your cooking rotation. Perhaps yours are something like chicken tacos, lentils with roasted vegetables, veggie chili, pork tenderloin and potatoes, grilled salmon on salad, eggs and bacon, vegetable soup, burgers, or some such round up of goodies. Is it because these are the things you know best how to make off the top of your head? No recipe needed, eh? Are they the meals it’s easiest to shop for? The ones all five of you will eat or dishes providing the needed leftovers? Easiest on the budget? The ones you have time for?
Roast Chicken and Vegetables (one of my faves)
Now, my question is this: Does that list include your very favorite food or meal? Would it come even close? I ask this because one of my frequent questions of students or new friends, is, “What’s your favorite meal?” And, once they’ve answered, I want to know, “Do you cook that?” I can’t tell you how often the answer is, “No.” And I desire to know why. Why don’t we cook the things we love best?
Perhaps people save them for when they go out so they get to have a treat? (Banana Splits. Donuts. Cheesecake.) Or maybe certain items are simply too complex or messy to make at home? (Lobster. Tamales. French fries.) I hope we aren’t just too lazy to figure it out, but I’m unsure; there’s nothing you can’t find out how to do on the internet. Folks are funny about food. Way interesting.
A bucket list item on my cooking list: How to make croissants.
Fish and Chips (another tasty treat)
Ok, here’s one. Ice cream is the downfall of many a human being. If it’s your thing, do you make it? And if not, why not? Buy a small ice cream maker here.
Strawberry-Amaretto Ice Cream (I make ice cream all summer long.)
So I’m the same, though I make a lot of things I like –such as pizza, roast chicken, fried fish (not too often, though) and ice cream. I also order pizza from Papa Murphy’s more often than I make it. It’s that ten buck Tuesday thing or my lazy streak or…
And I adore scallops, but rarely buy them. It can’t be their expense because I buy steak. Restaurants are in my monthly budget, too. Are scallops difficult to cook or do they take a long time? No, they’re the simplest thing to cook and they take less time than anything but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or cheese and crackers. So why is it I make them so seldom? Availability might be one thing (I live in Colorado) and marketing could be another. Habit makes three. I swing through that meat department and right on past way too many items. How many of us are stuck in our routines? Good thing Lent comes around once a year and gets me out of my rut.
Make things you love because they help make who you are and keep you happy. Think about someone you know who adores… I don’t know, strawberry milkshakes. “Oh, my goodness; you wouldn’t believe how that girl loves strawberry milkshakes. She’d do anything to get one.” You know someone like that don’t you? And it’s part of what makes them…them. It’s what you remember forever. What you love is part of what defines you and that’s wonderful.
In the meantime, for Friday Fish, try this because scallops might be your thing, too. And if not, they sure are mine:
SCALLOPS ON TOMATO- BASIL RISOTTO with asparagus
With three elements to cook here and several items to chop, there is still ample time for all to be accomplished while you make the risotto, which takes about 30 minutes. Get it started, grill or sauté the asparagus and set it aside, covered. Next, grate the cheese and chop both the tomatoes and the basil, then pat dry and season the scallops. When the asparagus and the risotto are both done, leave the risotto on the burner to stay warm and cook the scallops. Et voilà, you’re ready to plate and garnish all with the lemon and pepper. If needed, I include links below for specifics and details about cooking asparagus, risotto, and scallops.
- Risotto: Recipe below.
- 1 pound asparagus: trimmed, seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil: grilled or sautéed over high heat for 3-4 minutes while risotto cooks. Cover and set aside.
- 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops, patted dry and cooked —seasoned with salt and pepper, pan-sauteed with butter/oil or oiled and grilled over high heat two minutes on each side or until just barely opaque and firm
- Zest of one lemon
- Fresh ground black pepper
BEFORE COOKING: Place shallow bowls or plates in a 200 degree oven to heat while preparing the meal.
TO PLATE: Spoon 3/4 cup or so of the risotto into each of four warm bowls, spreading rice out to make a bed for the scallops. Top each with 1/4 of the cooked scallops. Add a few spears of asparagus to the sides of the rice and scallops. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and basil from the risotto recipe. Grate a little black pepper and the lemon rind over all. Serve hot.
Basil and Tomato Risotto:
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock or broth*
- 2 tablespoons EACH: salted butter and olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely-chopped red onion or shallots
- Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper
- 1 cup Arbrorio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 30 cherry tomatoes, cut in half (about a cup full)
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil, divided — 1/2 goes into the risotto and 1/2 is for garnish
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup), divided — 1/2 goes into the risotto and 1/2 is for garnish
- Heat the chicken stock until very hot and place pot on a back burner.
- On a front burner, heat a 4-quart heavy pot over medium-low flame with butter and oil; add onion, season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and a good pinch of the crushed red pepper. Cook until quite tender, but without browning, and stirring often.
- Stir in rice and let cook for 2 minutes or so. Pour in wine. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Raise the flame to about medium.
- Stir in a couple of ladles of hot broth. Cook at a nice simmer, stirring regularly, until broth is nearly absorbed.
- Repeat #4 until nearly all broth is used and rice is tender with tad of a bite–a bit more than al dente.
- Stir in the halved cherry tomatoes, half of the basil, and half of the cheese gently to avoid breaking the grains of rice. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a little more broth if needed to be sure of a creamy texture. I like a little extra black pepper on top of my rice and it’s pretty, too. Cover to keep warm, if necessary, adding a little more liquid later if it’s too thick. It should be quite creamy.
*At altitude, you may need a little more broth to ensure tender rice; I sometimes add a half-cup of water to the broth to make sure I have plenty of liquid. At sea level, you may not need the entire quart of broth.
Cook’s Note: For oh-so very creamy risotto, add another 2 tablespoons of butter with the Parmesan at the end.
NEED MORE INFO ON COOKING AND FOOD THOUGHTS?
- How to pan sauté scallops
- How to grill asparagus
- Mark Bittman’s Laid-Back Risotto
- 10 Reasons Why I Love Food
- 8 Things You Should Never Say to Yourself About Food
- 25 Top Favorite American Homemade Meals
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