dinner monologues

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Pan-seared Scallops w. Risotto and Green Herb Sauce
I created this dish for a dinner party my employers’ were hosting. The dinner consisted of three courses so I made the portions smaller, as there would be plenty to eat during the course of the party. I also used a much simpler recipe for risotto as it usually requires loads of work and attention. I was to feed 15 guests, and I was unsure I could devote all my time to one thing. The green sauce is very similar to the Argentine Chimichurri steak sauce. However, as I was serving seafood, I implemented fish sauce into the recipe and simplified it overall. 
Risotto:
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
*I usually add Parmesan to my risotto, however, there are many different flavours in this dish, so I tried to simplify and be cautious of the saltiness factor. 
Method:
Preheat the oven to 175 C.
Place the rice and 4 cups of stock in a Dutch oven and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of stock, wine, butter, and salt, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy.
Green Herb Sauce:
6 tbs. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3/4 c. fresh broad leafed parsley
1/2 c. fresh coriander
2 tsp. red chili flakes
1-1.5 tbs. fish sauce
Method:
Saute garlic gloves in olive oil until golden, making sure the cloves do not burn. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, put parsley, coriander, and red chili flakes into blender or food processor. After the olive oil and garlic have cooled for a few minutes, pour directly into herb mixture. Blend until smooth. Stir in fish sauce as desired. 
Scallops:
*The scallops do not require much cooking time, and should be done last. However, make sure they are prepared before the risotto is done. Prepare the scallops by allowing them to reach room temperature, rinsing, and then patting them dry with a kitchen cloth.
*Clarified butter is recommended in order to obtain a golden, crispy crust, as the milk fat solids have been removed. 
 In a frying pan, heat butter on high heat (200g). When the butter almost begins to reach its smoking point (approx. 200 C), place the scallops in the pan and spoon the excess butter over the tops of the scallops. Make sure not to crowd scallops in pan, as they release liquid (you won’t get the nice golden crust with an excessive amount of liquid in the pan). Sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, remove from heat, and plate along with the risotto. Drizzle with the green herb sauce liberally.Enjoy!

Pan-seared Scallops w. Risotto and Green Herb Sauce

I created this dish for a dinner party my employers’ were hosting. The dinner consisted of three courses so I made the portions smaller, as there would be plenty to eat during the course of the party. I also used a much simpler recipe for risotto as it usually requires loads of work and attention. I was to feed 15 guests, and I was unsure I could devote all my time to one thing. The green sauce is very similar to the Argentine Chimichurri steak sauce. However, as I was serving seafood, I implemented fish sauce into the recipe and simplified it overall. 

Risotto:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

5 cups simmering chicken or vegetable stock, divided

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

*I usually add Parmesan to my risotto, however, there are many different flavours in this dish, so I tried to simplify and be cautious of the saltiness factor. 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 175 C.

Place the rice and 4 cups of stock in a Dutch oven and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of stock, wine, butter, and salt, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy.

Green Herb Sauce:

6 tbs. olive oil

4 cloves garlic

3/4 c. fresh broad leafed parsley

1/2 c. fresh coriander

2 tsp. red chili flakes

1-1.5 tbs. fish sauce

Method:

Saute garlic gloves in olive oil until golden, making sure the cloves do not burn. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, put parsley, coriander, and red chili flakes into blender or food processor. After the olive oil and garlic have cooled for a few minutes, pour directly into herb mixture. Blend until smooth. Stir in fish sauce as desired. 

Scallops:

*The scallops do not require much cooking time, and should be done last. However, make sure they are prepared before the risotto is done. Prepare the scallops by allowing them to reach room temperature, rinsing, and then patting them dry with a kitchen cloth.

*Clarified butter is recommended in order to obtain a golden, crispy crust, as the milk fat solids have been removed. 

 In a frying pan, heat butter on high heat (200g). When the butter almost begins to reach its smoking point (approx. 200 C), place the scallops in the pan and spoon the excess butter over the tops of the scallops. Make sure not to crowd scallops in pan, as they release liquid (you won’t get the nice golden crust with an excessive amount of liquid in the pan). Sear for 2-3 minutes on each side, remove from heat, and plate along with the risotto. Drizzle with the green herb sauce liberally.Enjoy!

Fettuccine Carbonara
Traditionally, Carbonara is made with Spaghetti, but I prefer a broader noodle, such as Fettuccine or Linguine. For this recipe I used Fettuccine, as I cook for children and it is much more manageable for them, and most importantly (for me), less messy!
Ingredients:
1 pound dry fettuccine (whole wheat as healthier option)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Method:
Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the fettuccine will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes  or until it is al dente. Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute until the bacon is crisp. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften, making sure it does not burn.
Add the hot, drained fettuccine to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Serve the pasta into pasta bowls, and garnish with parsley and Parmesan liberally. Buon Appetito !

Fettuccine Carbonara

Traditionally, Carbonara is made with Spaghetti, but I prefer a broader noodle, such as Fettuccine or Linguine. For this recipe I used Fettuccine, as I cook for children and it is much more manageable for them, and most importantly (for me), less messy!

Ingredients:

1 pound dry fettuccine (whole wheat as healthier option)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 large eggs

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

Freshly ground black pepper

1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Method:

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the fettuccine will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes  or until it is al dente. Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute until the bacon is crisp. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften, making sure it does not burn.

Add the hot, drained fettuccine to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Serve the pasta into pasta bowls, and garnish with parsley and Parmesan liberally. Buon Appetito !

SUMMER SALADS P. III

Salads are great any time of the year, but they are especially delicious during Summer. Here I have created some salads by improvising with what was available. I usually use a simple vinaigrette salad dressing, which as previously stated is healthy, easy, and very cost-effective. 

Salad 1: Black Bean and Caramelised Onion Spinach Salad

As salads can sometimes can leave you feeling hungry, I bulked this one up with black beans and grilled chicken. The ingredients are black beans, caramelised onions, and snow peas tossed in white wine vinaigrette atop baby spinach leaves. I added grilled chicken and goat cheese. The chicken and cheese is, of course, optional, and/or can be substituted for another protein.

Salad 2: Berries, Grapes and Bleu Cheese Spinach Salad

This was meant to be similar to a Waldorf salad but I didn’t have all the ingredients. Rather than going out to buy additional ingredients, I used bleu cheese, green grapes, pumpkin seeds. I then tossed the ingredients and baby spinach leaves in a vinaigrette (can be any of your choosing), and added raspberries for colour. 

Salad 3: Feta and Black Lentil Salad

This salad is possibly one of my favourite salads and is packed with protein. I adapted this recipe from Mary McCartney’s new vegetarian cookbook Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking.  This book is a fantastic reference and truly inspirational!

Take 200g black lentils and simmer gently (approx. 15-20 mins) in 600g vegetable stock. Allow to cool completely and drain of any additional vegetable stock. You can even rinse after cooking and store in the refrigerator, depending on preference. I like this salad chilled, rather than room temperature. Right before serving, crumble in 80g of feta cheese. I added the zest of one lemon, and a handful of spring onion and basil for freshness. The cherry tomatoes (one small package) are optional, but are added for colour and depth. 

travellingchefbecca:

COMBAT THE WINTER BLUES!
The winter in Denmark is long, dark, and cold. There is  approximately 5 hours of sunlight a day. Well, the sky is light—the sun seldom comes out. With this extreme climate comes a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as  winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression. SAD is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer. To offset these symptoms, I make sure here at the house we enrich our diet with Vitamin D, not only with supplements but mainly 4-5 fish meals per week. Herring, Cod, Sardines, Salmon, Cow’s milk, and yoghurt are a main part of our diet during these long winter months. 
This is a white fish called rødspætter. Lightly breaded (optional) and pan-fried in rapeseed oil. I paired it with bok choy (also high in Vitamin D), cooked with apples which I allowed to simmer in the juices of the apples. I then topped it off with an ever so appropriate yoghurt-based dill sauce.  Enjoy and take care!
1c bread crumbs
4 pieces rødspætter
2tbs oil
3c chopped bok choy
2 apples sliced
2c yoghurt
3 sprigs dill
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lemon (garnish)

travellingchefbecca:

COMBAT THE WINTER BLUES!

The winter in Denmark is long, dark, and cold. There is  approximately 5 hours of sunlight a day. Well, the sky is light—the sun seldom comes out. With this extreme climate comes a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as  winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression. SAD is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer. To offset these symptoms, I make sure here at the house we enrich our diet with Vitamin D, not only with supplements but mainly 4-5 fish meals per week. Herring, Cod, Sardines, Salmon, Cow’s milk, and yoghurt are a main part of our diet during these long winter months. 

This is a white fish called rødspætter. Lightly breaded (optional) and pan-fried in rapeseed oil. I paired it with bok choy (also high in Vitamin D), cooked with apples which I allowed to simmer in the juices of the apples. I then topped it off with an ever so appropriate yoghurt-based dill sauce.  Enjoy and take care!

1c bread crumbs

4 pieces rødspætter

2tbs oil

3c chopped bok choy

2 apples sliced

2c yoghurt

3 sprigs dill

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lemon (garnish)

It is not every day that I am able to enjoy Ancho sauce, so I made sure to use every last drop of the Ancho sauce that I used for the enchiladas. Getting back to a healthier cuisine, I decided to use the sauce on top of a grilled white fish called Rødspætter. I paired this dish with black bean soup and Mexican-style rice. I used the remaining tortillas (oven-toasted) as a garnish.This dish has all the flavours of Mexican food while maintaining healthy elements. The soup is simply pureed black beans, and the rice is prepared with chicken stock instead of water, along with cumin, garlic, and a splash of tomato puree. This dish is just another example of incorporating the local products with recipes from my upbringing. Buen Provecho!

It is not every day that I am able to enjoy Ancho sauce, so I made sure to use every last drop of the Ancho sauce that I used for the enchiladas. Getting back to a healthier cuisine, I decided to use the sauce on top of a grilled white fish called Rødspætter. I paired this dish with black bean soup and Mexican-style rice. I used the remaining tortillas (oven-toasted) as a garnish.This dish has all the flavours of Mexican food while maintaining healthy elements. The soup is simply pureed black beans, and the rice is prepared with chicken stock instead of water, along with cumin, garlic, and a splash of tomato puree. This dish is just another example of incorporating the local products with recipes from my upbringing. Buen Provecho!

My father sent me some ingredients from back home (Texas) that are no where to be found in Denmark.He sent some sauces, Mexican hot chocolate, tortillas, and some dried chilies. Authentic white corn tortillas from Mexico is a key ingredient in many Mexican dishes. I made enchiladas-a favourite from my childhood. 

To make the sauce, re-hydrate and boil the peppers (of your choice) in a pot, along with onion, garlic, salt and cumin.  After bringing this to a boil, pour all the ingredients into the blender. Blend until smooth. You may need to add a bit more salt or cumin, depending on your palate. Also, if the sauce is too strong, adding tomato sauce can be used to dilute it.

Pour the slightest bit of oil into a pan on low heat. (I don’t like my food to be too greasy as it takes away from the flavour of the other ingredients). Lightly toast the tortillas on both sides in the oil. Have a few toasted before you start filling them with cheese. Having the tortillas warm prevents them from cracking, and they are much easier to handle. Put 2-3 tbs of cheese in the center of the tortilla and roll it up.Place rolled tortillas filled with cheese on a baking dish. They should be placed right next to each other, tightly packed. Repeat this process until desired number of enchiladas are made,keeping in mind some cheese will go on top just before baking. Pour a generous layer of sauce on top and around the enchiladas and top with cheese. Place into preheated oven (175 C) and bake until cheese is melted and crispy (approx 13 minutes). Buen Provecho! 

Sauce:

3-4 dried peppers (Ancho)

4 cloves garlic

1 onion

salt  (to taste)

1 tbs cumin

1 can tomato sauce (optional)

Other ingredients:

corn tortillas

2c grated Cheddar

3 tbs vegetable oil

Reinventing Flæskesteg: Flæskesteg is a traditional Danish dish and also one of the most popular cuts of meat in Scandinavia. It is simply the Danish version of pork roast. I prepared the meal for the family’s Christmas party. They requested that I cook traditional Swedish and Danish dishes; this was such a delight for me, as I was eager to see if my skills would measure up to such traditional recipes. I adhered to a Scandinavian cookbook for the most part, however, I did go out on a limb by ‘reinventing’ the pork roast. Normally, the flæskesteg is prepared with salt, pepper, and bay leaves. I decided to stuff the roast with lemon, garlic, thyme, and finish it off with truffle oil. It was a conglomeration of old and new. And, it was a great success! 
Preheat the oven to 150 Celsius and make sure the pork is at room temperature before cooking. Grate the zest from the lemon, and then thinly slice the lemon. In a bowl, mix the zest, slices, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and truffle oil. 
Cut just under the rind, leaving it connected, opening up the roast (like a book). Rub the pork with the lemon-herb mixture, and place the rind flap back over the pork. You can use toothpicks to keep the rind down, or leave as is. Place in a baking dish and roast for 90 minutes at 150 C. Turn the heat to 225 and roast until the rind has become crispy and brown (approx. 15 minutes) You may need to keep a close eye on the last minutes of cooking. The goal is to keep the meat moist while the rind becomes crispy, which is why we cook it at a lower heat, and then raise the temperature towards the end. 
Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle the roast with a bit more truffle oil and carve it into slices, making sure there is a piece of crisp rind with ever slice. Enjoy!
1 lemon
6  thyme sprigs
5 garlic cloves, diced
salt and pepper
2 tbs. truffle oil, plus some for drizzling
2.5 kg pork foreloin

Reinventing Flæskesteg: Flæskesteg is a traditional Danish dish and also one of the most popular cuts of meat in Scandinavia. It is simply the Danish version of pork roast. I prepared the meal for the family’s Christmas party. They requested that I cook traditional Swedish and Danish dishes; this was such a delight for me, as I was eager to see if my skills would measure up to such traditional recipes. I adhered to a Scandinavian cookbook for the most part, however, I did go out on a limb by ‘reinventing’ the pork roast. Normally, the flæskesteg is prepared with salt, pepper, and bay leaves. I decided to stuff the roast with lemon, garlic, thyme, and finish it off with truffle oil. It was a conglomeration of old and new. And, it was a great success! 

Preheat the oven to 150 Celsius and make sure the pork is at room temperature before cooking. Grate the zest from the lemon, and then thinly slice the lemon. In a bowl, mix the zest, slices, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and truffle oil. 

Cut just under the rind, leaving it connected, opening up the roast (like a book). Rub the pork with the lemon-herb mixture, and place the rind flap back over the pork. You can use toothpicks to keep the rind down, or leave as is. Place in a baking dish and roast for 90 minutes at 150 C. Turn the heat to 225 and roast until the rind has become crispy and brown (approx. 15 minutes) You may need to keep a close eye on the last minutes of cooking. The goal is to keep the meat moist while the rind becomes crispy, which is why we cook it at a lower heat, and then raise the temperature towards the end. 

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle the roast with a bit more truffle oil and carve it into slices, making sure there is a piece of crisp rind with ever slice. Enjoy!

1 lemon

6  thyme sprigs

5 garlic cloves, diced

salt and pepper

2 tbs. truffle oil, plus some for drizzling

2.5 kg pork foreloin

My employers had a few friends over to celebrate their 14th anniversary. They were to head into the city for drinks after all of them met up at the house. My employer wanted a simple, light meal to accompany ‘drinks at the house’ so they would, ‘Not end up with a headache in the morning.’ She was speaking euphemistically, of course. I only had a couple hours to prepare for this small dinner party so I thought of making something that was filling, easy to prepare, and festive: Beef-vegetable skewers.

You can use any meat or vegetable on skewers. For this dish I used sirloin for the cut of beef, along with peppers, onions, and mushrooms for the vegetables.  The sirloin came conveniently cubed, so I added a simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper to it. As the beef marinates, chop the onions and peppers into 1 inch pieces, not bothering with the mushrooms as they can be kept whole.Then, start cooking the rice, and put a small pot of water to boil for the green beans. While the rice cooks (20 min. or so), begin assembling the skewers. When the rice is ready, take off the heat and remove lid. I find it best to let the rice sit and cool for about 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. The green beans simultaneously should be be ready, drained and put to the side. 

We prefer medium rare-medium beef, so the skewers will not take too long to cook. I like to sear the skewers on each side for about 2-3 minutes. After,place them on a warm tray and cover with foil. The meat should rest for about ten minutes. This is the perfect opportunity to begin plating the rice and green beans. You can either put skewers on the table for everyone to serve themselves, or directly on the plate. Enjoy!

Approx.6 servings:

2 lbs.cubed sirloin

2 large onions

3 large peppers

1-2 packages mushrooms

2c. basmati rice (uncooked)

.5lbs. green beans 

Marinade:

3 tbs. olive oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

2tsp. salt

2tsp. cayenne pepper

Oct 3

I was given the opportunity to cater a wedding during my stay in Iceland. The Head Chef allowed me to create a menu for 100 people. My training from catering on tour required food for 100 people, twice a day, so this task was definitely something I felt confident in doing. It was to be an outdoor garden wedding. The food needed to be convenient and practical, yet gourmet. 

On the menu:

Grilled Asian-Latin fusion marinated shrimp, beef, and chicken skewers

Bacon-wrapped dates

Ceviche (individual servings)

Garbanzo salad w. sesame-garlic dressing

Cucumber, feta, kalamata olive salad w. oregano vinaigrette

Southwestern pasta and bean salad w. corriander-lime dressing

Caprese salad w. balsamic reduction

Sauces:

creamy garlic

spicy mango

citrus aioli

Sep 9

Last summer I took advantage of being in Continental Europe, so I did a bit of a tour of four countries. This year I was so fortunate to visit an amazing country:Iceland. A dear friend that I met in Denmark invited me to stay with her and her family in a small town in Iceland for the summer. That wasn’t even the best part. I also managed to get a summer job cooking in the local hotel/restaurant. Normally, you are supposed to relax during summer holiday, but we worked 6 days a week in this quaint kitchen—and I couldn’t have been happier.

The challenge was using the extremely local and seasonal ingredients. The produce and the dairy shipments came by on a weekly basis to the town we were living in.  In the U.S., everything we need is at our fingertips. Even in Denmark, I can usually find a wide variety of ingredients at the local shops. But here in this town in Iceland, supplies were limited. I really had to put in some thought about using what was available. 

In the restaurant, hotel guests and locals had the option of ordering ‘a la carte’. If it was a large reservation, the guests had the additional option of ordering a set 3 -course meal.The latter was my favourite. At least 5 times a week we had reservations of 20-30 hungry tourists. Usually the Head Chef would decide on the menu. However, he was always open to my suggestions and ideas, which enabled me to create some exciting,new dishes. I was elated with the support and knowledge I received working here this summer.