Sauce As A Condiment – Broccoli Cream Sauce

Hello everyone! Remember me? It’s been a summer of activity so far. Many trips, many dependencies, many stories. Not a whole lot of cooking, I must confess. Besides the usual heat that does its best to discourage culinary experimentation, times have just been packed. But we are not dead; not by a long shot!

Shallots and Garlic Cooking Shallots and Garlic

Broccoli is, by far, my favorite vegetables (don’t ask Heather what hers is. one cannot have one if one hates vegetables) and often stars in last-minute dinner dishes, as have been the trend as of late. This pasta dish is in the traditional Italian style, meaning this isn’t some spaghetti with gobs and gobs of sauce on it. The sauce, while prominent in flavor and texture, is a condiment to the delicious pasta. In hindsight, I would go with a larger noodle; perhaps farfelle (bow ties) or conchiglie (shells). The broccoli separate rather easily from the strands of thin spaghetti I used.

Pasta with Broccoli Cream Sauce

Broccoli Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot; chopped
2 large garlic cloves; minced
5 tablespoons cream
1 head of broccoli; chopped into small florets
salt and pepper

Steam your broccoli for about five minutes and set aside. You can also parboil if you’d like.

Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan, then cook your shallot and garlic in medium to medium-high heat until softened; about 4 minutes. Reduce to medium, add your cream and cook for a few minutes. Be sure to stir semi-constantly to prevent burning. Add the broccoli along with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Add your pasta (or vice versa), serve and enjoy.

If you don’t like red bell peppers (what is wrong with you!?!), then you’re probably not a fan of me either right now. Today’s recipe is following along that vein with even more of that red gold (does that fit?). I was at the local Trader Joes, being reminded how much I love that store (and their prices), and picked up some tofu. The great thing about tofu is that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own, taking on whatever flavor of it’s fellow ingredients. The horrible thing about tofu is that it doesn’t have much taste of it’s own, taking on whatever flavor of it’s fellow ingredients.

Red Pepper and Cabbage

So what do I do? I add cabbage; another ingredient that is not well known for it’s vibrant flavor. Red pepper takes the save, with help from its trusty side kick, the caraway seed. Not something one often cooks with, all I can think of is bread, but it worked out well.

Red Pepper and Onions

Oh, and use a big pan for this. This, I learned the hard way.

Tofu and Cabbage Stir Fry with Red Pepper

Tofu And Cabbage Stir Fry With Red Bell Pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion; chopped
16oz extra firm tofu; cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 lb cabbage; roughly chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine

In a large pan, sauté the onions in oil under medium heat until translucent; approximately 10 minutes. Raise to medium-high, add the red bell peppers and caraway seeds, cooking for another five minutes, then add tofu and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, toss to combine well, cover, and cook for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally.

Uncover, add the rice wine, soy sauce, half a cup of water and cook for another 10 minutes. Cabbage will be tender but still have a bit of bite to to it. Serve and enjoy.

Red Pepper And Broccoli Cous Cous Pilaf

Red Pepper and Broccoli Couscous Pilaf

I really love couscous. It’s so simple, almost flavorless, but I love the fluffy texture, the fact that it fills you up like grains without weighing you down, how well it seems to work with other ingredients, oh and how good it is for you. It’s gotta be the grain with the least amount of calories. 😉 Even when you go whole grain, you gain extra nutrition and lose nothing in flavor. Kickin’

Steamy Broccoli Red Pepper and Onion

I love the colors of this dish the bright reds and greens of the vegetables pairing very well with the earthy tone of whole wheat couscous; creating a well balanced work of art that sustains tastefully and visually. While I wouldn’t call this a heavy dish, couscous is a grain and pushes this to the upper echelon of the “light” scale. Serve as a main course that won’t weigh down or as a side dish, paired with some protein. I can see some sort of chicken dish as an excellent accompaniment.

Aromatics and Herbs

Red Pepper And Broccoli Cous Cous Pilaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper; diced
1 yellow onion; chopped
2 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper (or an entire on depending on your heat limits)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
generous pinch of salt (optional)

6 oz broccoli; chopped into small florets (2-3 cuts depending on the size)
1/2 couscous

Steam your broccoli until only slightly tender, about five minutes and remove from your steaming water source. Set aside. Bring a bit more than half a cup of water to a boil i a small pot, add couscous, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for at least five minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Cook your onions (with the oil) in a large pan at medium heat for one minute. Add the red bell pepper and cook until the onions become partially translucent and the red pepper has become slightly soft; approximately 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Reduce to medium heat, add your garlic, jalapeño and herbs and cook until the garlic is fragrant; approximately 1 minute.

Reduce to medium-low heat and add your broccoli, couscous, tamari and salt. Mix well and cook until the broccoli is tender. Remove from heat, serve and enjoy.

Red bell peppers! I’m totally rockin’ the whatever’s-on-sale cooking mentality right now and, of course, with all the veggies coming in it is going quite well. It’s a bit wild how red bell peppers and green peppers are only different by how ripe they are. Mother nature, you are full of surprises.

Peeled Red Peppers Soup - Almost Ready

This recipe’s a little more involved with the roasting, but the process really extracts some great flavor and the richness of the cream works well. I personally think bisques (like many soups) are better the day after. Not that I waited that long, of course.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Bisque
4 red bell peppers
2-3 tablespoon oil
1 onion
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/2-1 cup cream

Roast your peppers, peel, and set aside. With the oil, sauté your onion and carrot until translucent; about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the bell pepper, enough stock to cover and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Let cool briefly and blend in 2-3 batches and strain back into the pot. Add the cream, gently reheat and add salt & pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Experimentation – Orange Reduction Sauce

Broccoli Florets
Orange Juice Simmering Reduced

I had a hankering for something with a citrus taste to it, which is fitting given the plethora of oranges available lately. At first I tried something similar to what I’ve done with lemon: a little oil, a little tarragon, a couple tablespoons orange juice and some minced ginger. The results were lackluster, with very little of the individual flavors coming out and completely missing my citrus-like goal. Sadness.

Broccoli Tossed With Reduction

After mulling it over, thinking of some of the asian-inspired citrus dishes I’ve had (orange chicken), I decided to give it another go. Instead of a splash of orange juice I decided to make an orange reduction sauce. Reductions are great for intensifying flavor, which was really what I wanted, and allowed me to avoid adding too much liquid. I didn’t want it “wet” for fear of lousy roasting.

1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons corn starch
160 grams (~5 1/2 ounces) broccoli florets; cut small

I brought everything from juice to vinegar to a boil in a small pot and simmered until I reduced it by a little more than half; about 20 minutes. I was hoping for the powdered sugar to do a one-two combo, sweetening and thickening, and added additional corn starch after a while when I wasn’t getting the viscosity I wanted. Massive clumping action ensued, reminding me to always prep thickeners in a bit of liquid on the side. Alas.

Tossed And Ready To Roast

This wasn’t a lot of broccoli, which became quite apparent when I tossed it with my reduced sauce. I threw it all in a small 8×8 glass baking pan and roasted for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli was tender. Actually, I could have stopped earlier but there was a lot of liquid.

The result? Mostly positive. This go ’round the orange flavor was preserved and was a major component in the overall taste. The sweetening of the various ingredients was mostly positive, but perhaps a bit too sweet.  though I think it could have been scaled back a bit, maybe with only one tablespoon of honey. I’m not sure what role the ginger and rice vinegar played, whether they were subtle agents in the background or merely ineffectual add ons.

Broccoli in Orange Reduction Sauce

The broccoli was a wee bit chewy and I’m curious if this was a result of the lack of oil or just the wonders of mega mart food quality. I’ve never really sat down and thought hard about exactly what oil does. Something worth exploring.

Overall happy with the results and progress made, and I will be sure to revisit and tweak in future meals.

Chicken-Spinach Wraps with Zucchini Fries

What? I’m supposed to go back to posting recipes now?!

Thanks for hanging in with me while I posted a weeks worth of Jeopardy updates. It was a close and hard fought game last night, one that I know my husband would love the chance to play again, but he had a fantastic run! Thank you for watching him and for all the support and enthusiasm!


Food wise, the last week has consisted of night after night of Jeopardy viewing parties. Chips, pizza, cakes… and all my work on food moderation flew out the door.


I’ve been noticing what some of my fellow grad students bring to class to eat or have at cookouts – yogurt/oatmeal/fruit mixture breakfasts, brie/bread/fruit lunches and lentil/brown rice/goat cheese sides for dinner with freshly baked wheat bread. The way they eat blows my mind, and I’m envious. On a weeknight when I’m strapped for time, my fall backs are spaghetti & marinara or a quickly thrown together chicken dish. I just never default to vegetarian dishes; I would have no clue how to make a filling meal out of it.. yet their dishes always look hearty, healthy, natural and delicious. I guess I have to reprogram my meat and potatoes brain?


So this meal was something I was able to throw together quickly, but I did try to venture somewhat outside the box. The zucchini fries don’t taste like french fries, but they are good. They’re crunchy and non-greasy, and depending on the spice you give them they can take on a couple different flavors. The original recipe for them is from Weight Watchers, but I kicked it up with some cayenne because I found the original to be a tad bland. I don’t do fake substitutes for fatty things (sorry dad, you can keep your cheeseless cheese), so I found these fries to be a nice compromise.


Chicken-Spinach Wraps with Zucchini Fries

For the wraps –
low fat flour tortillas
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (cooked and seasoned like this, except heat oven to 400F and cook for 20 minutes)
1 can black beans, drained and warmed
1/3 package of frozen spinach, cooked according to package instructions

For the zucchini fries (adapted from Weight Watchers) –
olive oil cooking spray
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
dash of Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp table salt
3/4 cups dried panko bread crumbs
2 medium zucchini, cut into 4 chunks, then each chunk halved
2 large egg whites, whipped to almost soft peaks

Begin to make zucchini fries when chicken is about halfway done cooking (using suggested method above).
Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together Italian seasoning, Cayenne, Old Bay, flour and salt. Place panko in another small bowl.

Dredge a zucchini fry in flour mixture and then dip into egg whites followed by bread crumbs. Place coated zucchini on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining pieces; liberally coat with cooking spray and add to oven under the chicken (peaking at chicken for doneness). Turn once about halfway through. For crispier fries, cook longer.

When chicken is done, cool slight and cut into small pieces with a knife and fork. Add black beans, cooked spinach and chicken to wraps and fold. Serve zucchini fries immediately.

Pan Fried Curry Potatoes with Cauliflower

Potato Curry With Cauliflower

We interrupt your regular Jeopardy updates with a recipe. (Keep kicking butt, Morgan)

My mother almost never uses salt. She doesn’t think it’s necessary in a well prepared dish and practically swears against it, no matter the quantity. We often cook together when I visit and whenever we do you can guarantee that she’ll cut the salt from whatever recipe we’re working from (I must admit, often she’s right). I couldn’t help but think that she’d approve of this dish as I whipped it together, being very minimalist on not only salt, but spices in general. I did add salt while eating it, though. 😉

Yukon Gold Potatoes Sliced Onions

The weather has been amazing here lately and on top of climbing, grilling and just wearing less (bow chica bow wow), I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming bumper crop of vegetables and fruit. It’s going to rock! The roots are still kicking though, and after seeing cauliflower on sale at my local grocery store I decided it would be paired well with some yukon golds. Not a bad recipe, but I’d cut the potatoes smaller than shown in these photos.

Potatoes And Cauliflower

Pan Fried Curry Potatoes with Cauliflower

4 tablespoons olive oil
6 yukon gold potatoes; peeled and chopped (about half the size in photos!)
2 tablespoon butter
2 onions; cut into quarter slices
1 jalepeno; minced
3 cloves garlic; minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 head cauliflower; cut into bite size florets (a wee bit smaller than in photos)
1 1/2-2 teaspoons curry; quantity and type of your choosing
1/2 cup water

Cook the potatoes with four tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat (pan fry) for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain the potatoes on some paper towels and set aside. Reduce to medium heat, melt the butter and add the onions, cooking for 5 minutes until soft and lightly browned.

Add the pepper, garlic and ginger, cooking for another few minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Add the cauliflower, potatoes, curry and simmer covered (you may need to raise the heat briefly) until the the cauliflower is tender and the potatoes are easily pierced; approximately 15-20 minutes. Serve with salt and enjoy.

Bay Scallop Gratin

I love scallops, but until recently I had never made scallops. I repeat – never!

Why? Scallops are expensive, they have to be cooked just right and it’s so easy to cook them just wrong.

But we’ve got to learn sometime.. so, thank you sale at Harris Teeter, you finally gave me that little push to buy and cook scallops.


First, here’s a helpful little article about scallop selection and storage. Some things to note in particular:

  • they shouldn’t be pure white
  • don’t store them in water
  • they should look moist but not soggy
  • refrigerate immediately after purchase, and preferably cook them within 1 day
  • The best cooking methods are brief, to avoid overcooking. these include: sauteing, grilling, broiling or poaching. overcooked scallops are tough and rubbery. Prior to cooking, you’ll want to pat the scallops dry. Large sea scallops (what I purchased) will take 3 to 5 minutes, while the smaller bay scallops will take only 1 to 2 minutes. But this is not a hard and fast rule – always remember it’s easy to overcook them!


    I adapted a recipe for Bay Scallop Gratin from the Barefoot Contessa. I took out some of the frills (like shallots, Pernod, and prosciutto) and tried to make it a little more accessible to busy folks like you and me!

    These scallops are cooked in butter – not Paula Deen style butter but yep, it’s still butter. I used two tablespoons of regular unsalted butter and one tablespoon of Smart Balance butter in an attempt to moderate just a little bit of the fat. The butter, white wine and lemon juice add a nice, delicate flavor that doesn’t overpower the scallops – but my favorite part is the panko sprinkled on top to give it just a little bit of crunch.

    My husband and I each got two large bay scallops with some couscous on the side, and we were satisfied and very happy at the end of dinner. Though I know it seems scary at first, seafood can be so easy (and FAST) to cook! It could really be your new best friend; why not start with scallops (the least “fishy”)?


    Bay Scallop Gratin
    adapted from Ina Garten

    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used 2 Tbs. of regular unsalted and 1 Tbs. of Smart Balance butter)
    3 medium-large garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 small onion, thinly sliced and minced
    2 tablespoons parsley, plus extra for garnish
    1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3 tablespoons olive oil (I used Smart Balance oil)
    1/4 cup panko (do use this instead of regular bread crumbs; panko is great for seafood)
    3 tablespoons dry white wine
    1/2 to 3/4 pound large fresh bay scallops (equivalent of about 4)

    Preheat the oven to 425F. Place four ramekins on a cookie sheet.

    To make the topping – place room temperature butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or use a hand mixer. Beat in garlic, onion, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper on low until combined. Add in oil slowly; the mixture should resemble mayonnaise. Fold in panko with a rubber spatula and set aside.

    Evenly divide the white wine on the bottom of each ramekin. Cut the small muscle/membrane from the side of each scallop if present (here’s a handy how-to video – but my scallops didn’t have it). Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and distribute evenly in the ramekins. Spoons the garlic/butter mixture over the scallops and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the topping is golden and sizzling. The scallops should be barely done at this point, as they will continue to cook for a few moments outside the oven.

    Sprinkle with extra lemon juice and parsley for garnish. Serve in ramekins immediately.

    Asparagus In Wine, Balsamic and Soy Reduction

    In my quest to appreciate the fungus known as mushrooms, I’ve been perusing some of the cookbooks at the local library. On amazing dish I came across was for roasted Portabello mushrooms from the book Veganomicon. By far the best mushroom dish I’ve had.

    Fresh Asparagus Asparagus

    I decided to try a variant of this with asparagus, as this vegetable is showing up in markets quite heavily as spring begins to roll in. While not as tasty as the original recipe, I like how the reduction works with this vegetable. There is plenty of liquid, which I sopped with couscous, but consider this as optional.

    Asparagus and Balsamic Soy Wine

    Asparagus In Wine, Balsamic and Soy Reduction

    1/2 cup cooking wine (red)
    2 tablespoon soy sauce
    2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cloves garlic; minced
    1 pound asparagus; woody ends removed and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces.

    Preheat the oven to 400. Combine and mix everything but the asparagus. Place the asparagus in a large baking pan and pour in your “sauce”. Roast for 20 minutes, serve and enjoy.

    The first signs of Spring came out in style this past weekend with some excellent sun, a light breeze and warm temperatures that helped you forgot the horror that snowpacolypse. On Sunday a group of of us went on our first outdoor climb of the new year at Great Falls. Despite rather high water levels we had a blast and got some excellent climbs in.

    Apples And Pears Pot Pouri

    Inspired by the weather, I ventured out to the Falls Church Farmers Market on Saturday, which has actually been open since January. Props to that. There’s something calming about Farmers Markets; centering. Scores of people walking about just talking, sampling food; no rush, no place they have to be. It’s just a contrast from the usual everyday life in DC where actually forget about how much stress and urgency we’re practically swimming in.

    Yukon Golds Yukon Golds - Quartered

    With us being on the tale end of winter, I honed in on the root vegetables; beets, leeks, potatoes… and a few apples of course (huuuuge Fuji’s. yum!) The leeks ended up in a nice simple, but delicious potato leek soup and I have visions of a small batch of borscht for the beets. The potatoes, yukon golds to be exact, had their own destiny.

    Oven Baked Yukon Golds

    A very smart person once said that the secret to good food is to use fresh ingredients and do very little to them. While it’s easy to to consider the potato as nothing more than bland, there is an essence of flavor somewhere and simplicity is the best way to draw that out. Local fresh is key here. Potatoes start with a rather thin skin when just yanked out of the ground and this thing tends to get thicker as the months roll by (which I can promise you is happening with spuds at your local megamart). When looking for potatoes at your local market, look for paper thin and you won’t be disappointed. Then, toss with a bit of oil, some salt and pepper and then whatever herbs you may like (fresh if you got em but dried if you don’t).

    Oven Baked Yukon Golds
    Consider this a guideline. Throw out the cookbook (or, put it back on the shelf).

    Yukon Gold potatoes
    herbs (rosemary, thyme…)

    Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut your potatoes into 1.5 piece cubes, most likely just in half unless there notably large; in which case quarter them. Toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Start with one and add more if necessary for a light coating. Throw in a tablespoon of fresh herbs or a teaspoon of dried and set on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes until the pieces are easily pierced but still firm. Let cool briefly, serve and enjoy.