This week has not been my best in the kitchen. All the hubbub and activity of late has me off my game. My pantry and fridge are not adequately stocked for the meals I had planned. Somehow I overlooked a fundamental part of meal planning – making sure I have the ingredients for what I intend to make. I don’t mean things that I can fudge like an onion or spices. That would be too easy. I mean that if I figure on making hamburgers, it would be helpful to actually have ground beef.
What’s a girl to do when she realizes that she is out of food? The smart answer would be to go to the store. But when this realization comes to you in the middle of preparing dinner, that’s not so easy.
I won’t lie. This has happened twice this week already. The first time, I just jumped ahead on the week’s menu. But then that left me with a gaping hole on another night. And somehow, that knowledge didn’t really sink in. So, presented with the prospect of nothing but roasted vegetables for dinner, I fell back into pre-South Beach ways; I ordered carry out.
As good as that chicken cheesesteak tasted, its a slippery slope. Poor planning today can lead to “bending” the rules tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And before too long, we’re back at where we started. Not the best plan.
This article in the Food section of today’s Baltimore Sun caught my eye. The notion of fast food doesn’t have to equal a super value meal. And good food doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel.
But it does mean that you have to plan ahead. Will I be cross checking my grocery list this week? You betcha! Because after making some SB adjustments, I plan to try these:
From “More Fast Food My Way,” by Jacques Pepin
- 2 slices white bread
- 2 1/2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil (divided use)
- 1 lemon
- 1 pound large scallops (about 16), rinsed under cold water to remove any sand
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 6 tablespoons ( 3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup diced ( 1/2 -inch) white mushrooms (about 3)
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into 1/2 -inch dice and toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Set aside.
Peel the lemon, removing the skin and the white pith underneath. Cut between the membranes to remove totally clean segments of lemon flesh. Cut into 1/2 -inch pieces until you have about 2 tablespoons diced lemon flesh.
Remove any adductor muscles still attached to the scallops. Sprinkle scallops with the salt, pepper and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil.
Heat a large, nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot, then add the scallops. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. They should be nicely browned. Arrange 4 scallops on each of 4 serving plates and sprinkle on the lemon pieces, capers and bread cubes.
Heat the butter in a small skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the butter browns lightly. Add the vinegar. Spoon the sauce over the scallops, sprinkle the parsley on top and serve.
Cinnamon-scented Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake
From “The Modern Baker,” by Nick Malgieri
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, plus more for buttering the pan
- 14 ounces bittersweet (but not unsweetened) chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 7 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter an 8-inch round cake pan, 2 inches deep, and line the bottom with a disc of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. At the boil, add the cut-up stick of butter and stir occasionally until the butter is completely melted.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to submerge all the chocolate in the hot liquid. Let the mixture stand for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and cinnamon to break them up. Whisk in the chocolate mixture in a stream, taking care not to over-mix, or the batter will be riddled with bubbles and not bake to a smooth texture.
Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Place the cake pan in another larger pan, such as a small roasting pan, and place it on the oven rack. Pour in warm water to come halfway up the side of the cake pan.
Bake the cake until it is set, slightly firm and no longer liquid in the center, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove the large pan from the oven, being careful not to tilt it, which would cause hot water to slosh out of it. Place it on the work surface and use oven mitts and a wide spatula to remove the cake pan from the hot water. Cool the cake pan on a rack.
Unmold the cake onto a platter. If the cake has cooled for a long time, it might be necessary to heat the bottom of the pan to slightly loosen it. Cut the cake into wedges and serve it with some sweetened whipped cream.
The cake is best just cooled to room temperature and not refrigerated before it is served. If you must prepare it prior to the day you intend to serve it, refrigerate it, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to a month. Bring it to room temperature for several hours before serving.