A hub for all things to do with design, furniture painting, photography, style, event planning [and some foodie bits for good measure].  

I'm on a BOAT*, living the good life, eating lobster salad.

To say I was spoiled on my trip to Alaska would be an understatement.  I've never been on a cruise [unless you count the slightly sketchy boat I went around Greece in- I definitely don't put them in the same category] so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew that every facet of our stay would be planned; from where we visited, the food, the entertainment and so on. I'm incredibly independent when I travel and I hate being overly scheduled and planned.  I love having the freedom to jump in a car and discover places on my own [or if I'm in a city- walking is the preferred mode of transport], so I was really skeptical of this cruise business.

But a free trip is a free trip. There are some definite perks to being the daughter of a doctor. I don't know any other profession that pays to send their employees on cushy vacations all over the world [but usually to Florida] and all they need to do in return is sit in a conference room for a few hours listening to a lecture [this one was on allergies, which according to my Mom, is extremely fascinating- no sarcasm intended]. So I'm happy to forego my independence for a week and live the easy life on a boat [an exceptionally swanky boat].

Far and away the best part of being on this cruise was the food. I'm a foodie [the kind that photographs basically everything she cooks or eats] and I loaded up the camera on this trip.  Every dinner, we were treated to a five course meal at the ship's restaurant, Blu [our cabin was in some section of the ship that allowed us exclusive access to this restaurant- it was an upgrade to foodie-town and I wasn't complaining].  I made friends with the sommelier who was from the Philippines [it helps that 70% of the ship's crew was Filipino, so me and my Mom were a big hit] and he taught me about pairing so many of these dishes with wines.  I was on vacation, but I definitely learned a thing or two. 

One of the first things I ate on the trip turned out to be one of the most delicious. It was a very simple first course: a lobster salad, infused with lemon, chives [chives being one of my top ten ingredients to cook with], and a hint of garlic. Instead of using mayonnaise like you would traditionally in a lobster roll [God, I miss Boston], this was very light, with just a hint of oil. It was a light oil, maybe grapeseed? and this allowed the flavors of the lobster and seasonings to come through. The salad sat on top of sliced jicama [another ingredient I love- so crunchy]. The plate was garnished with microgreens and  the salad was topped with salmon roe, which I'm not usually a big fan of, but it worked well since the lobster wasn't heavily seasoned, so it imparted a little salty bite to the mix.

The wine I had with this was a Kendall Jackson 2010 Chardonnay, which had notes of lemon oil [according to my sommelier friend] that paired beautifully with the lobster.  

My normal 'foodie' behavior is very rustic, unfussed with food, and although all these ingredients were high-brow, I still found it to be a very simple, pure dish. I know that the wealthier set rarely eats everything off their plate [even though the food seems to come in miniature portions] but I had no shame, and would have licked the plate clean [if I was in the privacy of my own home, of course].  

I don't know the last time I ever purchased lobster for cooking- it must have been a Christmas or two ago, but I'm seriously considering attempting to recreate this dish.  I just need a good excuse to celebrate something worthy of such a big-ticket meal...hmm.

*Note: If you don't know the reference made in the title of this post, see for yourself here.

Zucchini Pasta with Seared Scallops in a Chive Cream Sauce.

If you haven't noticed, I love Italian food.  I feel like there's this recurring trend of pasta and pizza in my posts.  It's a love affair I can't seem to quit. The family I cook for [have I mentioned I cook for a family?] wants to omit carbs as much as possible from their diet, which is commendable, but also torture for me.  90% of what I love to cook involves pasta, and it's something I've had to actively phase out of my repertoire.  It takes some creative work to come up with alternatives for such a major food group, but sometimes, the results can be delicious.

I recently tried a recipe for "zucchini spaghetti" and of course it was absolutely nothing like a traditional pasta. That being said, I was really impressed with how it tasted.  I've made spaghetti squash plenty of times, but zucchini is something I'd be more likely to have on hand.

My mom found this recipe on Martha Stewart's site, and I tweaked it to make it a bit more healthy. Don't get me wrong, I love me some heavy cream and there is absolutely a time and a place for it, I just try to keep it to a minimum. I also opted not to slice the zucchini as narrow as I paired this with seared scallops [something I've grown to love in recent years].

Zucchini Pasta with Seared Scallops in a Chive Cream Sauce

For the Zucchini:
1lb. zucchini, both ends cut off
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mandoline [but this can also be done with a vegetable peeler, or a knife if you've got expert skills]

Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise.  Then, slice lengthwise in long, thin strips [if done this way, the thickness is similar to that of pappardelle pasta]. Combine zucchini with salt and allow it to sit in a colander for 15 minutes.

Lay on paper towels to remove any excess water [the salt naturally draws out water from foods FYI].

For the Chive Cream Sauce:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup half and half [you can also use whole milk, but it's much thinner and affects the texture of the sauce]
1/3 cup freshly minced chives 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt [plus more to taste]

Whisk together all ingredients and allow it to sit [can sit covered in the fridge for an hour if need be]

For the Scallops:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
6-8 diver scallops, rinsed and dried
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Heat butter and oil on medium high heat [making sure not to burn butter].  Season scallops and cook for two minutes per side.  The scallops will turn golden brown, while staying a creamy white at the center. 

To assemble:

Combine 1/4 cup of sauce with zucchini.  Place 2-3 diver scallops [per person] on top of a half cup of zucchini.  Drizzle top with additional sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with chives.

Serves 3-4

This is a perfect, simple, light summer meal. Enjoy!

Update on recipe testing + cooking classic eats.

This weekend was a marathon of cooking and eating [mostly to do with Mother's Day, which is a good excuse as any to go full-on foodie]. I'll detail the weekend's eats soon, but first I wanted to give an update to my Thursday dinner post that involved roasted baby carrots with shaved sunchokes, chives and truffle oil.  Along with testing that recipe, I also went with two staples of my cooking repertoire: quick roasted chicken with herbs and sour cream mashed potatoes with parsley and chives.

Normally I like to roast carrots alongside my chicken, since doing so imparts such great caramelization and flavor to the carrots [or other good roasting veggies].  But, since I wasn't sure how the sunchokes and truffle oil would fare in the high temperatures roasting a chicken needs, I cooked them separately. 

The carrots took much less time than I expected, only around 15-20 minutes.  The sunchokes immediately crisped up, just a shy longer than I would have liked.  My friend, Katy couldn't get enough of the slightly charred 'chokes.  They had a great savory, almost spicy flavor, and of course that great crunch you get when combining oil and heat.

The chicken I like to roast is super simple:

1 3-4lb. chicken [this one is a heritage organic- you definitely can taste the difference]
1 lemon, halved
several sprigs rosemary
salt, pepper
1/2 tsp lavender
3 TBsp. Olive oil

All you need to do is season the inside and out of your chicken, stuff the bird with the lemon and rosemary, and drizzle the skin liberally with olive oil.  Then place it in a 450F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the skin crisps up.  Then lower the heat to 375F until the breast of the bird reaches 155-160, which should take another 30 minutes or so. The results are fool-proof and delicious.

Finally, my sour cream mashed potatoes were whipped up at the last minute. The basic ingredients are yukon gold potatoes, sour cream, chicken stock, chives, parsley, salt and pepper.  I didn't write down the measurements for this, since I always do it by taste, but I'll post it some other time. 

This has to be one of my most favorite meals.  It's so simple, but hearty and flavorful.  You can change up the herbs and seasonings so easily to create an entirely different meal, but as long as you have the basics down, you'll end up with good food on the other end.

what's cooking tonight: roasted baby carrots with shaved sunchokes & chives in truffle oil.

I'm an ad-hoc cook in every way.  I cook with whatever happens to be in my fridge, pantry, or garden.  I'm an expert at taking foods that are on their last breath, and giving them a nudge in the right direction [a direction that usually ends in something delicious]. 

Yesterday, while cleaning out the fridge, I discovered a couple bags of baby carrots that I'd completely forgotten about.  They looked surprisingly okay, but just a bit dry.  There was also a hunk of sunchoke [also known as the Jerusalem Artichoke- for more on the etymology, check this out] that's been sitting in my fridge for a while now and desperately needed to be used [I hate wasting anything, especially weird vegetables I spend too much money on].  I took a peek at the garden y chive plant needed a haircut- she was starting to get split ends, so that got added to the jumble. You can see a the chives in the navy pot at the bottom of this photo, though they've since been moved to a sunnier spot on the deck. I just wanted to use this shot because it has Maggie crying in the background. Finally, I've been craving anything with truffle oil for the last few days [a little odd, yes] since the talk of truffle mac and cheese has come up in conversation recently, so I thought I'd figure out a way to incorporate it into tonight's meal [without making the mac, since I'm pathetically out of pasta]. 

I've never cooked with this combination of ingredients before, but figured with four ingredients, you can't go too far in the wrong direction.  I decided to shave the sunchoke, since it was a bit on the soft side, and it reminded me of ginger, which is always good with this application. 

All that was left to be done was to mince the chives [a task made even easier with a pair of kitchen shears] and toss everything together.  Here are the measurements:

2 packages baby carrots [approximately 1lb]
1 knob of sunchoke, thick outer layer removed and the rest shaved with a veggie peeler or mandoline [about 1/4 cup]
1 bunch chives, minced [about 3-4 TBsp]
1 TBsp White Truffle Oil [pricey, but a small bottle will last you an entire year I promise]
Salt & Pepper to taste

I preheated the oven to just 375F. Because I shaved the sunchoke, I wasn't sure how quick it would roast, so I lowered my usual roasting temperature to compensate.  I'm going to watch this recipe closely and see how long it takes to cook, but I'm assuming 30-45 minutes. Since I haven't made this before, I'll update this post with how it goes and any changes I'd make to the recipe.

In the meantime, I'm off to record something called 'Jitterbug Zombies' with some friends.  [details to follow].