Adventures in Culinary Arts

Many of you may know I have a slight obsession with food… and more importantly, the act of cooking it.  This week I decided to make a mini-resolution of trying out new recipes, and I wanted to share what I’ve created the last two days.

Before I traveled home to California in December, I went through my fridge and pantry to use up any perishables, and randomly came up with a bombastic homemade tomato sauce with roma tomatoes, lotsa lotsa garlic, sweet onions, red bell peppers, a dash of cream and some cheese (plus many other ingredients I can’t recall at this time).  So I pulled it out of the freezer to defrost and make way for an awesome Margherita pizza.  Since I already made the homemade sauce, I felt I should go for “l’ultimo” and use homemade pizza dough too…  I had never made this before, so I browsed Epicurious (my favorite cooking website) until I found this fantastic recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis.  Go ahead, laugh at me… YES, I like celebrity chefs, okay?  Anyhow… fresh dough, homemade sauce, topped with mozzarella, dollops of ricotta, and basil – this pizza turned out fantastic!  The crust is thin yet doughy, slightly crisped on the bottom and offers a great blank canvas for a creative cook.  I’m not sure my cheese pizza was Brian’s favorite (he’s lactose-intolerant), but I loved it!  I’d love to try this pizza dough again with some variations, possibly with whole-wheat flour or Italian herbs.

Pizza Dough
3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil.  Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor.  Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball.  Transfer to lightly floured surface.  KNEAD dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute.  Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.  PUNCH down dough.  DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead.  Store in airtight container in refrigerator.  ROLL out dough according to recipe instructions.  (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.)  From here, top with whatever you sauce, cheese, and toppings your heart desires, then pop into the oven at 475°F for about 15 minutes.  Oh, by the way, this makes enough for two pizzas, so you can refrigerate or freeze the other half of the dough if you’re only cooking for 1-3 people. 

So after my delicious Italian meal (and yes, I made pizza again for lunch today) I decided that I would try something a little different… sea scallops.  I had never made them before, so I was a little nervous, but they turned out great!  I got the recipe from a Rachel Ray cookbook I had on the shelf (again, I KNOW) and modified the volume of ingredients for a one-person serving.  I served it along a green salad with cucumber, carrots, scallions and more of those tasty golden raisins.  And check out the awesome picture I took below… you know you’re obsessed with cooking when you do things like this…
Sweet Sea Scallops in a Caper Raisin Sauce
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
salt and fresh-ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup golden raisins
16 sea scallops, drained and trimmed
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the chopped shallots.  Cook the shallots for a minute or so, season with salt and pepper, and combine with the parsley and capers.  Add the wine and golden raisins.  Simmer for 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and reserve.  Wipe out the pan and return to the heat, raising the heat to high.  Season the scallops with salt and pepper.  Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the very hot pan and immediately place the scallops in the pan.  Sear the scallops in a single layer, allowing them to caramelize, 2 minutes on each side.  Add the reserved caper-raisin mixture along with the lemon juice.  Turn the heat back a bit and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the scallops from the pan and arrange on a serving platter.  Remove the pan from the stove, add the butter, and shake the skillet until the butter has completely melted.  Pour the sauce over the scallops.

Like I said, I had never cooked scallops before.  But thanks to watching many cooking shows which covered the techniques, I knew that you needed to let the scallops alone while they developed that nice crust.  I timed it, and two minutes on each side was absolutely perfect.  To cook the scallops, I actually used my cast-iron skillet, which I think works really nicely in searing.  Sure enough, it did the trick and gave me a picture-worthy crust.   And the caper-raisin sauce on top of these babies was INCREDIBLE.  Make sure you are using a decent white wine, and then you can drink a glass with your perfectly crafted meal.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings, though with my improv rehearsals the next two days, I imagine it might be a little simplistic.  Happy cooking!

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Culinary Arts

  1. Linda January 15, 2008 / 2:13 am

    YUMMY! the picture of the scallops is magazine worthy- much like the little bundt cakes from the summer. you are a creative genius . . . you must get that from your Mother (haha)xxoo Mom

  2. Lore January 15, 2008 / 12:17 pm

    Wow, I am impressed. It is great that you venture into all these different foods. The pictures are great, good thing I just had breakfast or I might go into the kitchen to snack on something. I like how you work with yeast dough, many people my age are still shying away from it. Anyway, great job all around. Love Oma

  3. Ingrid January 15, 2008 / 2:12 pm

    I can’t wait to try the scallops! Have never cooked them myself, partly because I didn’t have a recipe. You and Hannah are definitely cut from the same cooking cloth!

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