Under Thai Sea: Thai Chili Scallops

By Michael Elmore

My fiance, Catie, loves scallops. If given the choice between some tender seared scallops and a rib eye, I think she would be hard pressed to choose. As a lawyer, she works pretty long days, and so I surprised her with dinner by combining her favorite flavors: tender, lush scallops with Thai flavors.

We had these as an appetizer with a steak dinner entree (hey, just cause I said she would choose one over the other, doesn’t mean I made her choose!), but the scallops were the real star. A balanced, controlled heat from the peppers, a lushness on the tongue from the butter, and a tangy acidity form the lime juice that brings all the flavors together made every bight scrumptious. So grab some seafood and enjoy this epic journey under the sea!

Ingredients:

  • 15 scallops
  • 1 Thai chili, minced (to lower heat, seed the chili; you can also use a jalapeno to drastically drop the heat level without sacrificing flavor).
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh mint, chopped

Directions:

  1. Put 2 tbsp vegetable oil into a large pan (just enough to coat) over medium high heat. While heating, pat the scallops as dry as possible with a paper towel on each side (this will help give a better sear). Cook the scallops approximately 3 minutes per side, making sure to flip only once, until cooked through and opaque. Remove from pan onto a paper towel to dry any excess oil and sprinkle with salt.
  2. To the same pan, add the chili pepper and ginger, stirring frequently until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.
  3. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce, and, using a wooden spoon, scrap the pan of any browned bits on the pan.
  4. Add the butter, cardamon, lime zest and juice along with a pinch of salt. Whisk and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure not to boil the butter (lower heat if required).
  5. Plate scallops then spoon on some of the sauce on top. Garnish with fresh, chopped mint if desired.

Short on Cake: Macerated Berries with Vanilla Cream

By Michael Elmore

Eliminating the shortcake from this traditional dessert drastically reduces the carb and sugar count allowing anyone to enjoy!

Every Fourth of July, my family traditionally went all out. We would grill out in true Middle Eastern American fashion (think kabobs and chicken in lieu of burgers and brats), enjoy some fireworks, and then, of course, came dessert. As a kid, this was always the same: strawberry shortcake.

Despite its origins in the United Kingdom, America, in time, evolved this dessert into the quintessential American dish with its biscuit-like cake, fruity, jam-like sauce, and, the piece-de-resistance, the whipped cream. Like all traditions, though, mine changed this year. Being diagnosed with diabetes this past October meant re-thinking this classic and pulling the essential components of this dessert and lightening it up significantly.

Enter: the cake-less “shortcake.” Omitting the delicious biscuit reduces the carb and sugar count in this recipe significantly so that even the most health conscious among us can enjoy dessert. The best part? For those not worried about health issues, you can still go ahead and serve this variation on top of biscuits, pound cake, or sponge cakes so that everyone is happy!

Macerated Berries with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 2 pints strawberries, stem removed and hulled, sliced
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla + 1 teaspoon
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, strawberries, sugar, zest and juice of the lime, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Stir gently until everything is coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
  2. Place the whipped cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on high until stiff peaks. If desired, add some powdered sugar to make a sweeter whipped cream. We purposely did not do this as we felt the berries were sweet enough!
  3. When ready to assemble, in a bowl, place a generous serving of the fruit mixture with a dollop of the whipped cream. In the alternative, serve on top of a shortcake or biscuit!

Summer Grilling Happened So Fast

By Michael Elmore

My dad’s birthday was a couple of weeks’ ago (Happy Birthday, dad!), and what better way to celebrate a summer birthday by grilling up a storm. We made a number of dishes, but the favorites may surprise you: grilled portabellas and cauliflower, and grilled whole fish.

While a rib eye maintained its well earned love by my mother and me, my father prefers lighter meats, such as fish, and has a passion for vegetables without rival. To be sure, between the tender flesh of the branzini and the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms, nobody will miss red meat if you decide to just go with those items for your next cook out and ahead of the Fourth.

Chili Spiced Portabella Caps

Ingredients:

  • 4 portabella caps, stems removed (reserve these for another use such as making vegetable stocks, or dicing and sauteing them as a topping for a burger).
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients except the mushrooms together in a bowl to make a thick paste – add more vegetable oil if needed.
  2. Slather the mushrooms evenly with the paste, and place in a plastic bag up to overnight so that they absorb the flavors.
  3. When ready to cook, on a hot, well-oiled grill, over direct heat, cook the mushrooms for approximately 3 minutes per side, trying to flip the mushroom as infrequently as possible as the flames allow.
  4. Serve immediately – if desired, squeeze some lime juice on top before serving.

Grilled Whole Branzini

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole branzini – ask your fishmonger to clean and gut these for you.
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, trimmed and cleaned
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper, divided,
  • 1 tbsp cumin, divided
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Several hours before you wish to grill, take the whole branzini and rinse them under cold water, making sure the fishmonger did not leave any remnants of unpleasantness in them and that the fish is entirely de-scaled. If not, de-scale the fish by running the back of a knife against the fish to get any missed scales.
  2. Make sure you have everything prepped ahead of time. Squeeze some vegetable oil throughout the fish (we did this previously out of video).
  3. With your CLEAN hand, sprinkle the seasonings evenly among both fish and the cavities of both fish. Stuff the fish with lemon slices and cilantro sprigs – as many as you can fit without the herbs and fruit spilling out.
  4. Wrap butcher’s twine around the fish to keep everything inside of it. Place covered in fridge until ready to grill and up to overnight.
  5. When grilling, make sure you oil the fish (again) very liberally, that the grill is very well oiled, and that you are working on high, direct heat. This will all prevent the fish from sticking. Grill for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish should not stick when you flip it over if it is cooked and you’ve done all these steps. If you do not feel like dealing with risk of a sticky fish, use a cedar or other wood plank pursuant to their directions and cook the fish on top of that. This will take longer but will still be delicious.
  6. Remove the fish and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Remember to be wary of bones!

Lasagna Odyssey 2020

By Michael Elmore

I love lasagna. By far, it is my favorite Italian dish with its rows of hearty pasta, pools of tomato and bechamel sauces, with bursts of meaty goodness. Growing up, it was the one dish I would demand not be altered in any way, shape or form because, to me, it was the perfect dish as imagined. It required no modernizing or changes.

This is all to say that sometimes we all must eat our words, and this time deliciously so. Lasagna is not exactly a diabetic friendly recipe, so we found a way to lighten up the dish and make it slightly more healthy at least. Extra perk? It would be easy to turn this into a vegan dish – just omit the first steps featuring the meat. There’s so many vegetables in this hearty dish that you won’t miss it if you do.

So while traditions are good, moving forward into the future of better awareness of our health, and with no further adieu, we give you or vegetable boosted lasagna! Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

  1. 6 lasagna noodles, cooked per box directions to al dente
  2. 1 pound of ground beef (choose leaner if you want to lighten this up even further)
  3. 1 onion, diced
  4. 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 2 celery stalks, diced
  6. 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. Salt
  8. 1 cup diced bell peppers
  9. 2 pints mushrooms, cleaned and cut into slices (we used white button mushrooms)
  10. 28 oz favorite marinara sauce (use homemade if you can but it’s perfectly okay to use your favorite jarred sauce).
  11. 1/2 bunch of kale, stems removed (discard), and leaves chopped
  12. 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  13. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  14. 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  15. 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat up approximately 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the ground beef, and cook most of the way through, approximately 8 minutes depending on stove top and stirring frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a bowl and set aside. Drain some of the liquid on top of the beef but leave enough in the pan to begin the vegetables.
  3. Add the onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the bell peppers. Cook down another 3-4 minutes. During this time, add the Italian seasoning and cayenne pepper.
  4. Add the mushrooms. Continuing to stir occasionally, cook them down until they are approximately half in size from when you started.
  5. Add the sauce along with the meat and juices. Incorporate everything thoroughly. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer. We are going to stay here the rest of the way.
  6. After about 10 minutes, add the kale, once again incorporating it well and stirring frequently. This will cook down significantly. Cook another 10 minutes on simmer.
  7. Adjust seasonings then allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.

For Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, put some of the tomato liquid on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and spread along the bottom.
  2. Add 2 lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the filling onto the noodles, flattening it with a spatula. Sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella.
  3. Add the next 2 noodles and repeat step 2.
  4. For the top layer, once again, spoon some of the liquid from the sauce mixture onto the noodles. Top with more Parmesan and mozzarella.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, covered with foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking oil. At 40 minutes, remove foil, boost temperature to 400, and cook another 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes so that it will not fall apart when you cut the lasagna into slices. Serve and enjoy!

Hashing a Plot: Southwest Sweet Potato Hash

Looking for ideas for Sunday brunch? A hash can be a great way to use up some leftovers from the week and a great way to experiment in the kitchen!

By Michael Elmore

Few things remind me of my childhood more than a Sunday brunch. Growing up, it became a weekly tradition to have a large brunch after mass on Sunday morning. While my brunches all these years later do not always consist of hummus, falafel, and a glorious over abundance of cheeses, meats, and olives, it is a tradition I continue to try to maintain.

Being diabetic certainly led to some of my favorites having to be modified, however. Gone are the days of the buttermilk biscuit (though keep an eye out for a lighter version coming soon!) smothered in sausage gravy, but some things never changed. This hash is one of them. Have some leftover vegetables from the week? They may go well in a hash. We had some leftover sweet potatoes that we did not get around to finishing earlier this week, an onion and some potatoes on the cusp of their final days. Enter: the hash.

This hodgepodge dish delights the senses with its sweetness from the sweet potatoes being balanced with some heat from cayenne and chili powder reminiscent of flavors well known to Southwestern cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup diced bell peppers (feel free to use frozen if that’s what you’ve got!)
  • 1 Sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 3 tbsp cheddar, shredded
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. This recipe works well in a cast-iron pan as well but be prepared for more sticking (though crispier potatoes).
  2. Add the onions and peppers with a pinch of salt. Cook down until the onions are nearly translucent, approximately 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are crisp tender, approximately 15-20 minutes depending on stove top. Add the chili powder and smoked paprika while the potatoes are cooking.
  4. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the eggs, stirring frequently until the eggs are cooked. Add the cayenne pepper, another pinch of salt, and the black pepper to this step.
  5. Add the spinach, stirring frequently until it cooks down and is wilted. This will not take long. Turn off heat and add the cheddar cheese, mixing it in well so that it melts. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy. Optional: Serve some lime with it to brighten up the dish and have some acidity to play off the heat from the peppers and sweetness of the vegetables.

Can’t Run a-fowl: Keto Italian Chicken

By Michael Elmore

When my doctor first diagnosed me with diabetes, I was terrified. Not only for my health, but also the overwhelming changes to my diet that had now become mandates rather than recommendations. A good friend from law school often talked about eating keto and the benefits she found worked for her from cutting out some of her carb count.

This recipe is borne from that spirit. While I used to love roasted Italian seasoned chicken with heavier starches, this fills the craving with ease. In place of polenta or mashed potatoes, instead we have a medley of vegetables, a culinary parade of onions, fennel, and spinach. Throw in some tomatoes, and we even have the red, white, and green found throughout Italian cuisine. These vibrant flavors and colors please any day of the week. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel, stalks and outer leaves removed, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 18 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated finely
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions:

1. The night before, toss the chicken and Italian seasoning together. Cover and place in fridge to marinate overnight.

2. Take chicken out of fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. When ready to cook, heat up approximately 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to a large cast iron pan. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Stir occasionally so the chicken does not burn until the chicken is nearly completely cooked. Remove with slotted spoon.

3. To the remaining oil, add the onion with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the fennel. Sauté well for another 2-3 minutes before adding the garlic. Cook until fragrant, approximately 30-60 seconds.

4. Return chicken to pan along with the spinach. Add a pinch of salt. Cook down the spinach for 1-2 minutes, and then add the tomatoes. Add the red pepper flakes here if desired. Sauté another minute, until spinach has nearly completely wilted, and turn off the heat.

5. Stir in the cheeses until mixture is melted and fully incorporated. Adjust salt and seasonings to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Misson Ribs: Oven Styled

The final product – the roasted ribs are at the forefront while the steamed ribs are furthest away. Garnishes of parsley bring some green to the dish and echo with a parsley salad that can be served with heavy barbeque to cut through the richness of the meat.

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. I had intended to spend this weekend making a number of beef and vegetarian dishes as dictated by a fairly new habit I had formed in creating a twitter poll to dictate my food experimentation for the week. However, that was before the 8 inches of snow covering our yard and the emptied out grocery store shelves.

I started digging around and found some St. Louis style pork ribs, and a friend of mine had just had a conversation with me earlier in the week about her rib woes. Despite many trial and errors, she just could not seem to make her ribs tender.

I decided to try to methods to these ribs to see if I could assist in this problem (I even took notes, which, as many close family and friends would tell you is an exception rather than a rule in my cooking). I prepared one way using a steaming method, while the other slab, I prepared using a roasting method.

There are many decisions to make when making ribs: pork or beef, membrane or no membrane, dry rub or wet marinade. There are endless possibilities and even more preferences. Personally, I prefer a dry rub on pork ribs. I believe keeping the membrane intact, while making for slightly tougher eating, leads to a moister and more tender finished product.

Below, you will find the recipe for the dry rub as well as cooking instructions for both methods.

Dry Rub Recipe:

  1. Combine the above ingredients thoroughly. Store in spice cabinet if not in use.
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika (I used smoked here because I did not have access to my smoker due to the weather; if you opt to smoke the ribs, which we will discuss in a later article, you can use regular paprika)
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 4 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper (less for lower heat, more for higher heat)
  1. Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in spice cabinet when not in use.

Steamed Ribs:

  • 1 slab St. Louis ribs, pork or beef
  • Dry rub (see recipe above)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (approximately 2 cups)
  1. Cover ribs with dry rub on both sides until well coated. Do this at least two hours ahead of time or leave in fridge overnight for stronger flavor.
  2. Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Let sit at this temperature for at least 20 minutes so that the oven can conduct the heat.
  3. Place ribs in a pan on a roasting rack. Place the apple cider vinegar beneath it (not touching) and cover with foil. Place in oven for 4 hours.
  4. Remove foil and increase temperature to 350 degrees for 15 minutes to put some color on the ribs and caramelize the brown sugar on the ribs. Reserve the liquid. Cut ribs into servings (every 2nd or 3rd bone).

Roast Ribs:

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 of the Steamed Ribs. Instead of a roasting rack, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil paper. Place the ribs on it and cover with foil. At this point, follow steps 3 and 4 of the Steamed Ribs Recipe.