Poblanos Peppers Stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche

Poblano Peppers stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche

Inspiration: Growing up, my parents always let us kids choose whatever dinner that we wanted my Mom to cook for our birthdays. I always got so excited about that and loved the tradition, so I plan to do the same for my kids one day. For now, I keep the tradition alive by letting Brandon pick a special dinner, and for his birthday a few days ago, he chose quite the meal – this fabulous recipe from a local chef, Eve Aronoff. We just bought her cookbook from her old restaurant, Eve (so sad that it closed down!), and the recipes in that book all sound so good that I’m tempted to cook from no other source for a couple of months. I’m sure that the husband would not object. Happy 28th, Brandon!

What We Loved: Everything. There was not a single aspect of this dish that was anything less than perfect, so I don’t really even know where to start. The concept of the meal is awesome in its own right – a sort of Indian/Mexican fusion – and the end result has great components of each of those cuisines that work perfectly together. The poblano peppers have that spicy, earthy flavor that I’ve come to associate with Mexican food, and the filling is flavored with both Mexican and Indian spices. To top everything off, melted smoked mozzarella and creme fraiche bring back that Mexican feel, while the carrot puree is again something that I would more closely associate with an Indian dish. Fantastic! As for the flavors of the meal, we were completely blown away by all of the layers and how well everything worked together. The seafood was perfectly succulent and tender (which really surprised me – I was worried about the seafood overcooking since it is sauteed and then baked), the andouille provided just a little heat, and the rest of the seasonings and spices added this rich, intense flavor that I can only describe as a Mexican curry. The carrot puree on top was another surprising aspect of the dish, because it didn’t have a strong carrot flavor in the slightest (and for two people like us who don’t love carrots, that’s a great thing). Instead, it had a very mellow vegetable flavor that was very crisp and refreshing atop the stronger, bolder flavors of the stuffed peppers. The dollop of cool creme fraiche (I just love how it melted down into the hot peppers like it did!) was the perfect finishing touch. This meal as a whole is quite truthfully one of the best things that I have ever made.

Tips: The original recipe calls for two separate seasoning mixes. Instead of making the mixes in big batches as they’re written in the cookbook and having a lot of leftovers, I basically just sprinkled the spices into the pan in what I thought were the appropriate proportions (to total about 2-3 teaspoons of spice). I’ll list the spices below that I included, but as a general guideline I went heavy on the curry powder, chili powder, and paprika, with smaller sprinklings of the rest of the seasonings. I used the same method with the carrot puree, scaling everything down to make about 1/2 cup. I’ll list the approximate amounts that I used, but the amounts are very rough estimates. It would be best to taste test as you go along, and adjust the levels as you see fit.

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and Topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche 
Source: Eve The Cookbook

3 poblano peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small jalapeno, minced
Curry powder
Chili powder
Garlic powder
4 fresh jumbo gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, finely chopped
4 large fresh sea scallops, finely chopped
1 andouille sausage link, finely chopped
1 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon sriracha
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Carrot lime puree, recipe follows
Creme fraiche

1. Drizzle the halved poblanos with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos, and cook for about 3-4 minutes on low until softened. Season with Kosher salt, black pepper, curry powder, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano (to total about 2-3 teaspoons of spice).

3. Add the seafood and andouille, and saute until the seafood just barely loses translucency.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the contents to a mixing bowl. Add the green onions and sriracha, and stir to combine. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

5. Divide the stuffing between the six poblano halves. Sprinkle each with shredded smoked mozzarella. Bake in a 425 oven for 15 minutes.

6. Serve topped with a dollop of carrot lime puree and creme fraiche.

Carrot Lime Puree
1/3 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/8 – 1/4 cup onions, roughly chopped
Juice from 1 small lime
1 larger carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Place the bell peppers, onions, lime juice, carrot, and garlic in a food processor.

2. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is running to emulsify.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Sea Scallops with Jalapeno Cream Sauce

Seared Sea Scallops with Jalapeno Cream

*Photo updated March 2012*

Inspiration: Brandon and I love stopping at our favorite wine/beer/cheese store after work and perusing around, picking up a case of seasonal beer from a local brewery or a cold white wine for dinner that night.  But as for our regular grocery shopping, I’m not a huge fan, so I try to limit it to a quick trip once a week on an uncrowded weekday. Lately, I’ve been planning a fresh seafood recipe for my grocery shopping nights each week. Since you really need to cook fresh seafood on the day that you buy it, I used to avoid buying it and instead stocked up on frozen seafood. Planning seafood for my grocery shopping nights has been a great way for me to get more fresh seafood into our meal plans.

What we Loved: As always with Rick Bayless, this recipe definitely didn’t disappoint. He compares the sauce to a sort of Mexican alfredo, and I don’t think that I could describe it better. It’s spicy and garlicy, with the wonderful tomato flavors of a creamy Mexican salsa. Unlike other Rick Bayless recipes that I’ve prepared, this one is perfect for a weeknight because it only takes a minute or two to prepare (aside from marinating time). We really loved this dish served with fresh avocado slices, which were perfect topped with Kosher salt and dipped into the rich sauce.

Helpful Hints: The sauce in this recipe would really work well on just about any protein that you’d like. Rick Bayless recommends shrimp as an alternative, but I also think it’d work great on a pan-seared chicken breast or with a nice white fish like mahi-mahi. I also think that you could try this recipe with all different kinds of salsa (Rick Bayless has a good handful of Frontera varieties) to find which one that you like the best as the basis for the sauce.

Seared Sea Scallops with Jalapeno Cream
Source: Rick Bayless

I adjusted the ingredient amounts to serve two. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

8 large sea scallops
Juice of 1 small lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 bottle Frontera Jalapeño-Cilantro Salsa
1/4 cup cream
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Rinse the scallops, and place them in a bowl with the lime juice and a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Remove the scallops from the marinade and pat dry.

2. Heat a good pat of butter over medium high heat in a saute pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the scallops, making sure that they’re not crowded, which will cause them to steam instead of sear.  If necessary, cook the scallops in two batches. Saute the scallops until they’re browned on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and sear for only 2-3 minutes more. Remove the scallops to a foil-covered plate.

3. Return the pan to the heat and add the salsa. Stir for a couple of minutes to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the cream. Cook until heated through and thickened, and season to taste with salt.

4. Serve the scallops and sauce topped with cilantro.

Cumin-Crusted Scallops over Pepperjack Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Cumin-Crusted Scallops over Pepperjack Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Inspiration: Whenever I’m out eating somewhere, I always take note of things that I love. At a restaurant here in town a few months back, I ordered scallops that were coated in cumin and blackened, and I really enjoyed them. While in Austria, one of my dishes came with a side of tiny cubes of roasted zucchini and peppers, and B and I both thought that the vegetables tasted amazing. One of my favorite new ways to cook is to store up little odds and ends that I enjoy from other places, and then throw them into my own meals at home.

What we Loved: I thought that the flavors and textures of this dish all combined really well. I loved the mixture of the creamy, pepperjack polenta with the crispy roasted flavor of the vegetables and the soft cumin scallops. The vegetables added a surprising amount of flavor to the meal, which I was really happy about. All together, this meal was really great for a healthy summer evening.

Helpful Hints: I always think that the most important thing about cooking scallops is to make sure that you don’t overcook them. If they’re overcooked, they end up getting really stiff and rubbery, and to me, it ruins the meal. When searing the scallops for this dish, they only need about 2 minutes per side. My biggest piece of advice is to take the scallops off of the heat just when you’re starting to question if they’re done yet. They will be!

Cumin-Crusted Scallops over Pepperjack Polenta with Roasted Vegetables
Source: Original Recipe

For the scallops
8 sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For the polenta
1 cup polenta
3 cups water
2-3 oz cubed pepperjack cheese

For the Vegetables
1 small zucchini, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the zucchini and red pepper on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, spreading the vegetables in an even layer. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until browned, flipping the vegetables a few times for even cooking.

2. Meanwhile, add the water to a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan often. When the polenta is done, add the pepperjack cheese, stir to combine, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep warm until serving.

3. Mix together the flour, cumin, chili powder, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Dip each side of the scallops into the mixture. Heat a stainless steel saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Wait until the oil starts to smoke, then add the scallops. To allow the crust to form, do not move the scallops once you’ve placed them in the pan. Using a pair of kitchen tongs, flip the scallops after approximately 2 minutes. The scallops should release from the pan when they are ready to be flipped. Cook for an additional 2 minutes on the other side.

4. Serve the vegetables and the scallops atop the polenta.

Bay Scallops with Avocado Puree and Jalapeno Pesto

This is a Bobby Flay recipe for a grilled appetizer that I made into a main course. What was interesting to me about the recipe was that there were two sauces….a really tart and smooth avocado sauce and a spicy pesto sauce. I was going to coat the bay scallops in a paprika/cumin spice mixture, too, but I thought that it might be overkill with all of the flavors, so I simply sauteed them up really quickly with a bit of black pepper. This is the second time that I’ve made this recipe…the first time, I used a seafood mixture of scallops, shrimp, and calamari, and that was just as good. The sauces are definitely what make the dish, though…they’re very unique, and they compliment each other really, really well. I love the green!

Bay Scallops with Avocado Puree and Jalapeno Pesto
Source: Adapted from Bobby Flay

I made a lot of changes to this recipe. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

Approximately 30 small bay scallops (This amount serves two. The sauce recipes make enough sauce to serve more, so you could up the amount of scallops for more people)
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
Avocado puree (recipe follows)
Jalapeno pesto (recipe follows)

1. Heat a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Sprinkle the scallops with black pepper, and saute until they are cooked through. This should only take approximately 2 minutes.

2. Spread some of the avocado puree on a plate, top with the sauteed scallops, and then top the scallops with some of the pesto sauce. Serve immediately.

Avocado Puree

1 avocado, peeled and pitted
3 tablespoons chopped onion
2 small limes, juiced (this is about 1/4 cup of lime juice, and it results in a very tart sauce. Use less if desired.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.

Jalapeno Pesto

1 cup cilantro leaves
2 jalapenos, seeded and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
A pinch of salt
A pinch of black pepper
1/8 – 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor, and process until coarsely chopped.  Slowly add the oil, using as much as you need to make a smooth sauce.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops

Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops

I love scallops, and this is one of my favorite ways to eat them. The scallops are tossed in a sauce made from sundried tomatoes, black olives, and basil, and then they’re wrapped in prosciutto. Baked in the oven, they’re nice and tender with a bit of saltiness from the prosciutto and a lot of olive-oily goodness from the sauce.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops
Source: Giada De Laurentiis

Making this recipe, I only use a drizzle of olive oil in the sauce rather than the 1/4 cup called for. Since this leaves the sauce thicker than it should be, it doesn’t stick as well to the scallops, so I pat the leftover sauce atop each scallop.  This way, you still get all of the flavor from the sauce, without so much oil.  I also omit the salt called for in the recipe, because prosciutto is plenty salty on its own. Actually, I reduce the amount of prosciutto for this reason as well. Here’s the recipe as I make it.

1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
2 tablespooons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablesppons chopped black olives
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (I used the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes)
8 medium scallops
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 slices prosciutto, each sliced in half

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. In a food processor, add the tomatoes, basil, olives and olive oil and process until finely chopped.

3. Season both sides of the scallops with pepper. Rub each scallop with the sauce mixture. Wrap each scallop in a half slice of prosciutto. Place the wrapped scallops in a greased baking dish, and top with the leftover sauce mixture.

4. Bake until the scallops are cooked through, about 15 minutes.