Girl + Fire = Food



Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oysters Smoked & Skewered

Turns out straight out of the can isn't the only thing to do with the alien-looking smoked oysters (and remain on the elimination challenge diet). They're also really good with tomatoes. Especially baby heirloom tomatoes. On sticks.

I got the idea from the good people over at Group Recipes. But they recommended toothpicks, and I like my sticks a bit longer.

There's something perfect about the combination of baby tomatoes and smoked oysters together. Like peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, or an old scotch and a fine cigar, they are absolutely delicious together.

And far easier than shucking your own oysters.

print recipe
Smoked Oysters & Tomato Skewers
An easy snack
1 tin (3.5 ounces) smoked oysters1 basket mini heirloom tomatoes
1. Alternate spearing oysters and tomatoes on a skewer. Use about 4 tomatoes and 3 oysters per skewer. Be careful, the oysters are delicate and tend to fall apart easily.

2. Repeat until all tomatoes and oysters have been used.

3. Eat.
Yield: about 10 skewers

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oysters Two Ways

Another four days doing this damn elimination experiment and I can go back to drinking and smoking and...well, I don't actually smoke. But drinking, yes. And eating CHEESE!

But first, more fish. Or, oysters. Which are great raw. I truly love raw oysters. And I have been known to pay far too much money in one sitting to have someone else clean, shuck, and serve them to me. Because how else am I supposed to enjoy two dozen oysters all to myself?

My parents, who are exceptionally awesome, bought me my own shucking knife. But shucking oysters is time consuming. I know this, because it took my dad and I way too long to shuck a dozen. And we ate them far too quickly. But they sure were delicious.

So when I discovered that you can get them smoked in a can, kind of like Prince Albert (another tobacco joke! I'm on a roll...), I was intrigued.

But what does one do with a tin of oily oysters? Well, the exact same thing you do with raw ones: smother them in lemon juice, horseradish, and cocktail sauce. Or if you're like my family, you trade out the cocktail sauce for sriracha or some other pique (pronounced pee-ke).

And then you go to town. Mmmm.

Yeah, they look like weird, oily creatures. Or, if you're squinting, like dates. But they're good. 

And that's what I need to get through the next four days.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crockpot Lentil Soup

I bought myself a crockpot over a year ago and have used it all of two times. Once was to make a recipe very similar to this, but left it cooking too long while I ran errands...and came home to burnt lentils. Burnt lentils are not yummy.

The second time was to make caramelized onions. Best thing I ever made. Check out Dorothy's post for how easy it really is. I even threw in some shallots. They're the exact opposite of burnt lentils: yummy.

So I went into this experiment with a 1-1 record of success. And since I had much photo processing and article writing to do, figured it was safest to stay home to keep an eye on the timer.

Want to torture yourself all day while the smells of wonderful flavors meld together and waft through your house? Make this soup and then stay home while it cooks.

I should have left the house. Should have taken the laptop out by the pool and soaked up some Vitamin D, at least for the middle hours. It would have been far less torturous than the constant reminder that dinner wasn't ready yet.

So I've learned my lesson there.

Before anyone points out that there are tortillas in the picture below, this is probably also a good time to confess that I cheated on my elimination challenge diet this weekend too. There was wine and pizza at my parents' house, ice cream with my niece and nephew, and chocolate somewhere in between. And then there were tortillas with my lentil soup. And you know what? Not a single headache! So apparently none of those things are at the root of my problem. Yippee!!

My crockpot is only 4 quarts, so I had to scale the recipe back a bit. Half the lentils (and in two different colors) and about half of the rest of the ingredients cooked for a total of 7 hours. 7 very looooong hours.

But damn if my house didn't smell good!

The original recipe creator suggests adding bacon or sausage. Since I'm on that special diet, I can't comment on said additions, but I imagine they would be delicious!

Only 5 more days!!

print recipe
Crockpot Lentil Soup
Adapted from Crockpot Recipes 101
1/4 pound each red and green, picked over and rinsed lentils1 large onion, minced3 cloves garlic, quartered2 medium carrots, grated fine2 tablespoons tomato paste2 large bay leaves1 tablespoon salt1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes2 quarts boiling water4 tablespoons olive oil4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Put all the ingredients except for olive oil and balsamic vinegar into your crockpot. Cook on low for 5 hours.

2. At the 5 hour mark, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and cook another 2 hours.

3. Check the soup in the last few hours and adjust the flavor as needed. I found I needed another tablespoon of vinegar for my palette.
Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seared Scallops in Sweet Smoked Paprika & Orange Sauce

I love scallops. Having a seafood-heavy meal plan isn't bad when you can eat yummy bivalves almost to your heart's content.

Add in some paprika and oranges (I can eat fruits too!), and what's not to like? And the fact that it cooks up in a total of 5 minutes? Quite fabulous.

The original recipe calls for blood oranges. But my blood oranges were sacrificed to my morning breakfast shake, so I had to rely on normal orange oranges. They worked well.

I cannot eat yummy things like butter, so I left it out. I didn't feel like it was missing anything.

I also completely ignored the list of suggested spices. Despite being Mexican, I don't really care for cumin. It's too smoky for me, and since I was using sweet smoked paprika, why take away from that? Instead, I used a blend courtesy of our favorite Tuscan restaurant Rosti made up of sage, sea salt, black pepper, garlic, and rosemary. And added turmeric. Because it fights cancer and turns everything yellow.

(Seriously, everything. It has to be washed off immediately or things become permanently neon yellow. I think that's how it kills cancer, by yellowizing it to death!)

6 medium sea scallops are about enough for a single serving. Add some veggies and you have a full meal.

I ate this standing up in the kitchen, straight out of the pan. The smell while it was cooking was that intoxicating, it was hard to wait! And since it scales so easily, this is going to be one of those dishes that can be whip up for unexpected company (use a pound of scallops for 4 people and a full cup of juice) or after a long day at the office.

print recipe
Seared Scallops in Smoked Paprika & Orange Sauce
Adapted from Whole Foods Recipes
3 ounces blood orange juice (yield from 2 medium oranges, use regular oranges if blood oranges are unavailable)6 medium or 4 large wild frozen scallops, thawed 1 teaspoon Rosti Tuscan Kitchen spice mix (or any spice mix you like)1 teaspoon turmeric1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika, divided 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt & pepper to taste (if your spice mix doesn't include them)
1. Heat orange juice in a medium saucepan over low heat. Simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Rinse scallops and pat completely dry. Mix half the sweet smoked paprika and rest of the spices together and dredge the scallops so they are completely covered.

3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Add oil to skillet and sear scallops, about 1 to 2 minutes per side, until they develop a golden-brown crust and are just cooked through. Be very careful not to overcook and create inedible rubber.

4. While scallops are searing, whisk the remaining sweet smoked paprika into the warm reduced orange juice. Enjoy the aroma.

5. Place the scallops on a plate and spoon the sauce over them. Serve immediately. Cold scallops aren't quite as delicious.
Yield: 1 serving

Monday, April 11, 2011

Choking Down Sardines

I'm now on the 9th day of this cleanse to determine what is causing my searing headaches. I kind of feel like a chemistry experiment. The special diet my doctor has me following requires at least one serving of fish per day. Ingesting that much fish might make normal people wonder about mercury. And I'm normal people.

But nature has genius ways of getting around mercury poisoning, in the form of teeny fish like sardines. The little oily fishies are high in the good stuff and low in the bad stuff. They are not, however, like dew drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, among my favorite things.

You could say I hate them. Yup. I hate them. They are, in a word, gross.

But in the battle between having a life free of the voodoo doll stabbing pain and risking death by heavy metal-induced disease, I'm opted for the lesser of two evils and tried making friends with what fishermen refer to as bait.

It was not easy. Their little bones stick to your teeth and seriously? Ick! But I persevered.

You can do funny things to the little Clupeids. Like smash them up and throw them in tomato sauce and curry powder with a bunch of sautéed veggies. They're less obvious that way (except for the smashed bones in your teeth...ick!) and actually not all that bad.

The original recipe calls for 3 whole cans of the little fishies, but that would have made enough to feed me for all 21 days of this elimination challenge, and I sure as hell do not want to be eating sardines forever, so no. It is also very clear to not break the sardines. Ooops.

I took a lot of liberties with the recipe. Like omitting the squash, swapping out scallions for green garlic (right now is the time to do it!), adding way more curry powder than called for (it's yummy), and generally turning it into a soup. In fact, that's what I'm calling it: Tomato Sardine Soup.

But it was edible. And made 2 servings worth, so I got to repeat the whole experience again at lunch the next day. Lucky me.

print recipe
Tomato Sardine Soup

1 can sardines (packed in water or oil or tomato sauce)
1 tablespoon olive oil (or use the oil from the can, if using oil-packed fish)
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 sweet red onion, chopped
3 stalks of green garlic, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon curry powder (more to taste)
Fresh thyme
1. In medium saucepan heat the oil and sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add tomato sauce and sardines to the same saucepan. Smash up the fish to hide them from your eyes. Let simmer a few minutes until fish are heated through. 

3. Return vegetables back to the saucepan. Add the curry powder. Throw in some more, it won't hurt you. Simmer again for 5-8 minutes.

4. Serve in a warm bowl. Sprinkle some thyme in for added flavor and pretty color.
Yield: 2 servings

Monday, April 4, 2011

Elimination Challenge

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know two things:

1. I love scotch, and
2. I develop random food allergies out of the blue.

What you might not know is that once in a while, if I blog about said weird allergies, they seem to go away. As if I purge them via my keyboard. Remember the wheat/egg post a while back? Almost immediately after that post, my sensitivity to both disappeared. I went in for testing, and sure enough, no allergies.

That's a bit nuts. And also makes me wonder about my powers of self-suggestion. So I'm going to try it here again.

For the better part of the last few months, I've been suffering from extremely painful, but very short-lived, stabbing headaches. They'll last all of a few seconds, but the pain is so very bad. Like an ice pick to the brain. They are completely incapacitating for the short span of time they hit, but then they disappear as if nothing ever happened. Off to become mere bad memories...until the next one comes along. 

Thankfully enough, they have been infrequent. In fact, I hadn't had one in a while when they suddenly returned. And this time brought their friend nausea to the party. For anyone who has ever been hungover or pregnant or just plain sick, you know how much fun nausea can be. The mere sight of food was enough to bring on the dry heaves.

I didn't dare eat for an entire week. That proved counterproductive. Turns out you need food to do stuff. Like live.

So what's a girl to do? The doctors, in their infinite wisdom, are currently inspecting pictures of my brain. They made me sit in a big magnet that sounded a bit like a jet engine and a bit like the Three Stooges fighting for 20 very long minutes. While I wait for the MRI results, I'm also on a strict diet/cleanse. I'm only allowed fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, and a variety of supplements for the next 3 weeks. 

Remember how I gave up cheese? It's a good thing I cheated a few times (this is me confessing), because now I really can't have it again until Easter Sunday (comically enough, that is day 21). Nor any alcohol, red meat, chocolate, truffles, popcorn, or even hot cocoa. I'm being punished for crimes in a previous life, methinks.

Today is Day 2. Let's see how this goes. If it cures the headaches, it's absolutely worth it. If it doesn't, I'm going to be pretty upset about all these days I could have had cheese.