Toots & Kakes Explore Post-Grad Boredom

Culinary Adventures by Amateur Chefs

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Tadka Walla Risotto

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Toots made a joke when she saw this post in our drafts section. She said, “You always post risotto!” On the contrary I have only posted one risotto recipe which was these scrumptious Risotto Cakes. But, it does show that I always cook risotto. Irregardless, when I found this recipe and it’s non-traditional ingredients I wanted it in my mouth. This recipe also proves that you can add just about any ingredients and risotto will always be a supper treat. 

Side note..

Maneet Chauhan and The Food Network came to my friend’s new restaurant, Bida Manda, to promote the culinary achievements of the Laotian restaurant. Saying this enviously, another friend of mine was invited to the event and got to eat a meal prepared by Maneet herself. To finish the night she also got a signed copy of her cookbook, Flavors of My Wold. As we have acquired this culinary treasure, we are attempting to cook as many of her global-indian food fusions as we can. 

Considering many of these ingredients are hard to find, we did our best to substitute authentically. This is not Maneet’s exact recipe but the variation we prepared.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted, unsalted peanuts, crushed 
  • 1 whole red chili pepper, cut below the stem 
  • 4 basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed 
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Serves 2 with hungry stomachs (and leftovers) or 4 with normal appetite. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan and add the brown mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Cook until sizzling. My sizzled right away, if your oil is just as hot, just watch that the seeds don’t burn. 

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Add the chopped peanuts. Cook until golden brown. 

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Add the onions. Cut the stem of the pepper and toss in whole. Add the basil and squeeze half a lemon. Cook until onions are translucent. 

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Add cilantro. Stir around all the spices, herbs, and onions. Smell the goodness. 

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Add the rice. Stir to coat with onion mixture and cook for a couple minutes. 

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Pour in the skim milk and heavy cream. I would have used whole milk and heavy cream, but we only had skim on hand. The skim milk didn’t seem to cause any problems.   

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Sit until milk mixture is absorbed. 

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Eyeball about 1 cup of vegetable stock and stir rice until absorbed. Continue adding stock until rice is fully cooked. About 20-30 minutes. Remember to stir continuously to ensure the rice doesn’t burn. 

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Turn off the heat and add the parmesan, mozzarella, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. 

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Now eat your gooey cheesy spicy herby food-gasm. 

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Love and thanks Maneet Chauhan, 

Toots and Kakes

Filed under dinner recipe risotto italian indian fusionfood

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Pizza Dough

Yay for a belated reunion post! During Kake’s visit back to the East coast a few months ago we decided to teach ourselves how to make pizza from scratch.  Pizza, being our favorite hangover and comfort food, seemed like the obvious choice for how to spend our few weeks back together cooking.  We started out with a simple but time intensive pizza dough (making it a day in advance).  In making our dough, we used the “Sponge” method where the yeast is allowed to ferment overnight, giving the dough that extra doughy and tangy flavor.  This dough recipe made enough for about four medium pizzas, giving us plenty of room to experiment.  We topped one with a homemade roasted garlic spread and piled on yummy ingredients like proscuitto, zucchini, goat cheese and balsamic glazed onions.  Our other favorite was topped with buffalo chicken and crumbled blue cheese.  We mixed and matched these ingredients for the other two pizzas.  Lucky for you we described how to mimic our favorite flavor combinations after the dough recipe.

Ingredients:

Sponge

  • 1 cup luke warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast, divided 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, divided  
Dough
  • 1 1/2 cups luke warm water
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 6 cups all purpose flour 
  • olive oil
Pizza Toppings

Buffalo Chicken
  • 2 breast chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 3 TBS buffalo hot sauce, we used Frank’s
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup high quality crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
Prosciutto and Caramelized Onion 
  • 3 garlic bulbs
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese (or parmigiano)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 lb proscuitto
  • 3-4 oz goat cheese
To prepare the sponge, first put luke warm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon yeast and 1/4 teaspoon flour on top of water. Let stand 5-10 minutes or until mixture looks spongy. 

Add remaining flour and whisk until smooth. 

Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and put in a draft free area. Then let sit overnight or 12 hours. 

Next, add 1 1/2 cups luke warm water, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 envelope yeast and remaining yeast left over from the sponge. 

Then,1 cup at a time, mix in the flour using a dough hook. Beat until dough is smooth and only slightly sticky to touch. 

Scrape dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball.  Brush a large bowl with oil and transfer the dough then cover. Chill for about 6 hours. 

After the first 2 hours of chilling, take out and punch the air out. One solid punch is all that is needed. Re-cover and continue chilling. 

1 1/2 hours before baking, cut the dough into four equal pieces and knead into smooth balls. Then cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another hour to 1 1/2. 

After the 4 rounds of dough have risen its time to make the pizza! 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If using a pizza stone place that in the oven. 

Remove the pizza stone when heated. Using flour stretch the dough over the stone. 

Place all your toppings.

Bake pizza for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and sauce is bubbling.

Skip the next steps if you want to improvise your own pizzas or continue with our recipe if you want our combinations. Hint: Ours are YUM. 

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

First, season the chicken breast with a grill seasoning of your choice and grill until cooked through.  Remove, let cool for a minute or two, then shred the chicken by pulling two forks across the meat in opposite directions. Next, heat skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter and stir in the soy sauce, tomato sauce and hot sauce.  Place shredded chicken in the sauce to coat.  

Spread chicken mixture over pizza dough, top with shredded cheese and crumble blue cheese on top.  Add scallions the last few minutes of baking to ensure they do not burn.  

Proscuitto and Glazed Onion Pizza

Early prepartions: 

Start by preparing the garlic and cheese spread that will become the base of the pizza (do this in advance).  Roast olive oil coated garlic bulbs in an oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or better yet jump to our post about roasted garlic).  Remove the bulbs and squeeze out the golden cloves.  Throw the cloves in a food processor with the cheese.  Use olive oil to thin out the sauce if it looks to thick.  

Next prepare the onions by heating a pan with a few TBS of olive oil.  Throw in the onions and let them soften.  After a few minutes, toss in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Let the mixture reduce until the sauce is the consistency of syrup. 

For the pizza!  Spread the garlicky goodness sauce all over the pizza, top with the mozzarella cheese.  Decorate the rest of the pizza with the proscuitto, onion, zucchini and crumbled goat cheese.   

Love and pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza, pizza, pizza,

Toots and Kakes  

Filed under pizza recipe dough

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Braised Lamb Shank with Gremolata

So as the weather cools down on the East Coast cuddle up with this rich lamb shank.  Topping it with the light gremolata makes you feel less fatty when you look down and realize you only have bone left on your plate.  Make the sauce richer by throwing in a pad of butter at the end, because nothing says fall like extra butter. 

Ingredients (for four - will have extra yummy sauce):

Lamb:

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 vidalia onions, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup celery (and leaves), chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 6 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 2 TBS fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves

Gremolata:

  • 2 TBS fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 TBS lemon zest (zest from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 large garlic clove

Start by prepping all the veggies that will be needed for the sauce: onions, carrots, celery & garlic.  Next, heat oil in a deep soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating up, season the lamb all over with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour.  Add lamb to pot, and brown on all sides until nice and luxuriously brown.  Once browned, remove to a separate container that will catch all the juices.

Next, add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and cook until soft, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in the minced garlic and tomato paste, allowing the flavors to blend for no more than a minute to ensure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Stir in the wine, chicken broth, parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaves.  Make sure to use your spoon to scrape up any flavor bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

Place the lamb back into the pot and bring up to a boil.  Reduce the heat to let simmer, cover and let cook away for 2-3 hours, or until the lamb is falling off the bone.  Flip the shanks occasionally during this time. 

TIME TO MAKE THE GREMOLATA!  While the lamb is cooking away in its fatty flavor bath, go ahead and make the gremolata.  Simply zest the lemon into a bowl, toss in the minced mint and garlic and combine with a fork.  Let sit until the lamb is ready.

After the 3 hours, remove the shanks to a plate.  Remove the parsley sprigs and bay leaves.  Spoon off any visible fat from the pan liquid.  Use a potato masher or immersion blender to bring sauce to your desired consistency.  I was going for a more rustic feel.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle Sauce over the lamb, sprinkle with gremolata and enjoy!

Love and last minute deposits,

Toots & Kakes

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Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Sauce

One lonely evening, feeling particularly broke but also resourceful, I was hungry.

I had already depleted all of my produce except half a red bell pepper and everything else listed in the ingredients. And not wanting to order take out considering $$$, I had to get savvy in the kitchen. What was born was this wonderfully easy sauce. Just plop it over some pasta and add whatever cooked veggies. 

If I had had white wine laying around, I probably would have tossed the red pepper puree into a small sauce pan and reduced a splash of vino. Also If I had had cream, I would have incorporated a little crema after the wine for that smooth and comforting flavor. 

But what I did have was goat cheese. I crumbled that atop my red pepper puree with sauteed mushrooms and onions all over mini shells. I loved it. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted 
  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Roast the garlic. Let cool.
Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. 
Roast the red bell pepper for 30 minutes or until charred on all sides. Rotate a few times while roasting. Then put in a shallow bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes. Remove skin. 
OR while garlic is roasting, char the red pepper over an open flame or on the grill.
In a small sauté pan over low heat, toast the almonds. Let cool. Then toss into food processor. 
Remove garlic skins by squeezing out the garlic. Toss into the food processor. 
Roughly chop the red pepper and toss into food processor. 

Process until almost smooth then squeeze in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Note that the puree will never be perfectly smooth. 

That’s it! 

Note: I only had half a red bell pepper to use and would have liked more sauce for myself! Adding additional red peppers would be a wise choice if you are cooking for more than one. 

I cooked mini shells. Use whatever pasta you’d like, but I’d advise any pasta with ridges for the sauce to hide and stick to. 

Love and one day we will have a salary, 

Toots and Kakes

Filed under red pepper sauce recipe dinner pasta food foodie

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Seared Sea Scallops with a Lemon Spice Vinaigrette

Scallops have got to be one of my favorite types of seafood - i mean you cannot beat a perfectly seared sea scallop.  The sad part is, before this recipe I had never taken it upon myself to learn to master the perfect scallop.  Welp, now I have and it is extremely easy!  All you have to do is fight the urge to fiddle with it once it is in the pan and DO NOT let it overcook!  I couldn’t believe that these gargantuan sea scallops only required 30 seconds on the second side, but if I would have left them on any longer they would have been ruined - because nothing is worse than a rubbery scallop.  Finish with a drizzle of spice and lemon vinaigrette and serve on a bed of greens and you have yourself a nice little pre-dinner teaser.  Or you can always make a lot, and say to hell with dinner.  

Ingredients:

Lemon Spice Vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh ground black peppercorns plus extra for seasoning 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon fresh


Scallops:

  • Dash Vegetable oil
  • 1 lb large sea scallops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup spring greens 
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, torn
  • Olive oil (for drizzling)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lemon and Spice Vinaigrette :

Start by adding all of the dry spices to a small saute pan over medium-low.  Add olive oil to spice mixture and allow to cook on low for a few minutes.  Add minced garlic and lemon zest, allowing to cook just long enough for the flavors to infuse into the oil (no more than 1 minute).  After oil has cooled slightly, add 1 TBS lemon juice.  Whisk vinaigrette together and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To sear the scallops, first heat a few TBS olive oil in a pan on high heat until oil begins to slightly smoke.  Season scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place scallops in the pan, making sure not to move once placed.  Sear until well browned on first side, about 3 minutes. Turn and continue to cook until just cooked through, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. 

Mix greens and parsley together and drizzle with remaining lemon juice and olive oil. 

Split the scallops between the plates and spoon the spice vinaigrette over top. 

Enjoy!

Love and High-waisted shorts on men are sexy,

Toots and Kakes

Filed under scallops dinner recipe tootsandkakes

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Cider-Braised Chicken Legs with Apples and Raisins

The fall has come as expected once again and with it my autumn time cravings for all things warm and cozy. Except I live in the bay area and the past two days have been the hottest of the year! Although considering I came here all the way from North Carolina, I have been loving the heat and want more days that I can wear my shorts into the night. Luckily for this post, when I made this meal it was on a typical chilly evening, pre-october heat wave, which set up a perfect atmosphere for this fall inspired dish. 

I found the original recipe at FoodandWine.com but spiced it up with some modifications. I cut what the recipe called for, which is 20 whole chicken legs, down to only 2. I also added apples and carrots to create a chunkier more complex sauce. With this recipe, I also took a culinary risk due to the fact that I don’t normally include raisons in my diet. Also I could only find spiced cider during my grocery shopping so I used that instead of regular cider. But oh my gosh, even with all my guestimations this dish was so scrumptious! All the flavors of fall just melt into your mouth in yumminess. Hope you all enjoy. Cheers to fall! 

Note: This meal takes about 2 1/2 hours of prep, so ensure to set aside ample time to cook! Worth the time? Yes. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole chicken legs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 large fuji apple, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dark raisins
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins 
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 2 cups spiced apple cider 
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Salt and pepper the chicken legs. Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Cook the chicken until golden on the botton. About 6 minutes. Flip the legs and cook another 3-5 minutes until skin is also golden brown on the other side. Then transfer legs to a plate and reserve oil. 

Pour the oil from your saute pan into a large sauce pan (OR it may be easier to brown the chicken legs in the sauce pan to begin with). 

Add the onions, and mix to coat evenly with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. The kitchen already smells good at this point. 

Then add the apples, carrots, raisins, herbs and red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper to taste. Then cook for about 5 minutes or until onions start to stick the the pan. 

Add the spiced apple cider. Simmer on medium heat until syrupy. About 25 minutes. 

Add the vinegar and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes. Then pour in the chicken stock and season again with salt and pepper. 

I made too much sauce for the amount of chicken legs I cooked. So I had to pour out about 2 cups of liquid. But if you cook with a few more chicken legs you probably won’t have to toss any sauce. (If you want to reserve the liquid, I saved mine and used it the next day to cook Israeli couscous….I’d suggest doing the same). 

Add the chicken legs to the cider sauce. Then transfer to the oven. Decrease the heat to 350 degrees and cook for an 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is cooked through.  

Once chicken has fully cooked, transfer to serving plates and cover with foil to keep warm. Then boil the sauce on medium heat for about 10 more minutes to reduce. 

Then pour over chicken legs and voila! Dinner is served. 

Love and can’t wait to carve pumpkins, 

Toots and Kakes 

Filed under fall autumn dinner chicken recipe apples cider

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Spring Rolls with Jalapeno Coconut Brown Rice and Two Sauces

Before starting this endeavor we were thinking about making something quick and healthy for dinner. As it was already 7:00pm we thought we would be eating by 8:00pm. Well, we were very wrong. By 10:30 we were finally eating, but thank goodness the wait paid off because the spring rolls came out delicious! So when planning for spring rolls make sure you have an extra hour to chop and prep or do all that the day before. 

These spring rolls are great because you can put whatever veggies you want in them, keep them vegetarian or change up the meat, whisk up different sauces, or mix up the rice… Be creative!

The spring rolls and coconut rice recipes are our own creations but we have to thank Epicurious for the chili and peanut sauces. 

Ingredients:

Chili Sauce

  • 1 cup Asian sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, preferable fresh
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon serrano pepper, seeds included finely chopped

Peanut Sauce (not pictured)

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup water

Spring rolls- Makes 12

  • 1/4 pound steak
  • 1/4 pound scallops
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (not extra virgin) 
  • 1 napa cabbage bunch, slivered
  • 2 carrots, julienned 
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, julienned 
  • 1 package spring roll paper
  • 1/4 bag rice noodles, cooked and cooled

Coconut Jalapeno Brown Rice

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 16 oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
Start by preparing the rice. Bring 1 16 oz can of coconut milk, 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of brown rice, and 1 finally chopped, seeds included, jalapeno (discard seeds if you are heat sensitive). Bring to a boil then simmer for about 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside. 
Meanwhile, prepare the spicy chili sauce. Combine all ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Cover and set aside. The sauce can be made a day in advance if you wish. 
Next prepare the peanut sauce. In a small sauce pan, heat oil and cook garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat until garlic is golden (about 30 seconds). Then whisk in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then simmer until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and reserve. As the chili sauce, this sauce may also be prepared in advance, covered and chilled. 

Chop and reserve all vegetables and herbs to the side. 

We forgot to take a picture of the next step also. Eek! For this next step you will cook the rice noodles according to the package directions and set aside. 

Next cook the scallops.

Cooking the scallops is quit easy, but if you are intimidated by our squishy friends then refer to Alton Brown ’s video for a confidence boost or follow our instructions below. Or both. 

Remove the side muscle from the scallops if not already done. Rinse with cold water and pat dry. Ensure the scallops are completely dry for quality searing results. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. 

Heat a large saute pan to high heat. Add oil and melt butter until combined. At the first signes of smoke, add each scollop one by one. Do not let the scallops touch each other. Also, don’t move the scallops once placed on the saute pan. Cook the scallops for about 1 minutes 30 seconds. Then flip with a pair on tongs and cook for another 1 minute and 30 seconds on the opposite side. Set aside to cool. Once scallops are cool enough to handle, slice into thin strips and reserve. 

Next cook the steak. 

Honestly, our steak could have tasted better. We only cooked it a minute or two on each side but since our pieces were so thin, the steak still turned out a pretty tough. We then thought it would be a good idea to bathe the thinly sliced steak pieces in soy sauce to add moisture. Bad idea if you wanted to eat the steak plain, but actually once combined into the spring rolls, the saltiness was evened out and tasted really good! So you may follow our experimental directions or cook your own thickness or type of steak your way. 

Salt and pepper the steak. Heat a large saute pan to high heat and add oil. Sear the steak on both sides for about one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool enough to handle cut into thin slices and reserve. 

Next rolls the spring rolls!

Create a warm water bath in a large shallow pan. We used a 13 x 9 baking pan. Dip a spring roll paper in the bath until soft and flimsy. Be careful because the papers tear very easily. 

Place a rag topped with a damp paper towel next to the water bath. Transfer the spring roll papper from the water bath to the towels. Top with a pinch cabbage, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers and chives. Add a small pinch of rice noodles.  Then add either the scallops or steak. We prepared half of the rolls wrapped with scallops and remaining half with steak. 

Then wrap up the spring rolls following our picture guides below. 

Then plate gorgeously and pair with our rice and two sauces! 

Love and lots of cats, 

Toots and Kakes 

Filed under dinner recipe tootsandkakes springrolls lunch healthy food

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Salmon with Pearl Couscous, Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Lemon Oregano Oil

Considering this meal is dairy free, it is actually sublime. Not even a shaving of parmigiano is needed. Also, I have never tired pearl couscous before, but after this recipe I will be preparing and serving it in many of my meals. I was delightfully surprised by its creamy texture, which mimics a cream based pasta dish. Am I going vegan now? Although, I have to attribute the divine taste of the couscous to the Lemon Oregano Oil, a simple and elegant sauce. 

Each element, salmon, couscous, and tomatoes were fantastic on their own, but when scooped up in the same bite the flavors created magic in your mouth. Please enjoy this recipe and love it. I found the recipe again at Epicurious.com. Visit their website for the original recipe and the rave reviews. 

Ingredients:

Tomatoes and Lemon Oregano Oil

  • 1 lb organic grape tomatoes 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 12 fresh oregano leaves, plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest, removed in strips with vegetable grater and minced 
  • 1 large lemon or two tablespoons fresh lemon juice (use the same lemon for the zest) 
Couscous
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cup pearl couscous or 12 oz. Also known as Israeli or Middle Eastern couscous if you buy it from Whole Foods. 
  • 1 3/4 or 1 16 oz can of organic chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
Salmon
  • 6 6oz pieces or salmon filet with skin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to season 
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives 
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. 
Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side down on a large baking sheet. 
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup olive oil and heat to just before a smoking point. Toss in garlic and cook until golden. About 1 minute. Add the whole fresh basil and oregano leaves. Then cook for about a minute to incorporate. 

Remove from heat and pour oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Slow roast tomatoes for about 1 1/2 hours. 

Once tomatoes are tender but not falling apart use a spatula and transfer to a plate and cover. Pour the leftover oil mixture from the baking pan into a small bowl and discard solids. 

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons finely chopped oregano, and reserved oil. Season with salt. Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. 

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Heat a medium pot and add oil. Add the couscous and mix until a light golden color. About 1 minute. Then add chicken stock, water and salt. Bring to a boil then let simmer for 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Let couscous stand for about 10 minutes. Then finish by mixing the lemon oregano oil throughout. 

Salt and pepper the salmon. Squeeze lemon juice then drizzle olive oil over the salmon filets. Top with kalamata olives. 

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Then plate next to tomatoes and couscous. Eat. 

Love and Netflix nights, 

Toots and Kakes 

Filed under dinner recipe epicurious salmon healthy

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Seafood Paella

First, I want to apologize for our lack of frequent posts.  Real life has gotten in the way of our culinary adventures - and I hate life for that.  To make up for how little free time I have had lately I decided to challenge myself in the kitchen and make this intricate dish.  I will be the first to admit that making this dish is tricky. You will have to balance adequately cooking the rice while avoiding overcooking the seafood.  This may be easy for some but my weakness in the kitchen is time management.  My ADD kicks in, I get distracted, I start watching TV, I start thinking about things I need to do this week, I ponder what movie is next on Sergio’s netflix queue…and the trend continues.  With that said, it is worth the trouble and is definitely easier if you have someone to help you in the kitchen!  Depending on where you live, squid and mussels may be hard to find at your local grocery store.  We were lucky enough to find the squid at the local Asian market which was an experience in itself.  Play around with what seafood you use to better suit what you are able to find as well as what you are craving!  

Ingredients:

  • 4 small squid, cleaned and sliced into rings
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, shells taken off, tails left on
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tomatoes, diced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch Saffron (disregard if you use saffron rice - the cheaper option)
  • 2 cups arborio rice (some already include saffron)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 16 mussels, cleaned 

First, prep the seafood.  Start by cleaning the squid.  Rather than going through an extremely long description, you can find an easy tutorial here if you are unfamiliar with squid.  

Cut the squid into rings. Shell and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. 

Dice the onions, red peppers and tomatoes and mince the garlic.  It is best to accompany this activity with beers. 

Now for the cooking!  Start by heating a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the onions and red peppers and cook until softened.  Once softened, add the garlic.   

When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the tomatoes, sugar, paprika and saffron.  Stir to  combine and cook until the vegetables thicken into a jam-like sauce.  

While you are waiting for the vegetables to thicken heat the chicken stock and wine in a separate saucepan to be used in a few minutes.   

After the tomatoes have cooked down, add the squid and cook, stirring the squid into the mixture, for a minute or two.  

Next, add the rice and combine until the rice grains are coated with the tomato mixture. 

When the stock and wine mixture reaches a boil, pour over the rice and bring back to a boil.  Add salt to taste at this point.  Stir the rice mixture well and spread the rice evenly throughout the pan.  Do not stir the rice again until it is done.  Turn the heat down to low and heat for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  During this time, swirl the pan to evenly cook the rice. 

While the rice is cooking, season the shrimp with salt and saute in a separate pan.  Once done, remove and cover with foil.  Also, this is the best time to cook the mussels. To do this steam the mussels by placing them in a pot with a lid and filling the pot with a 1/2 inch of water.  Heat until the mussels open.  Discard any that refuse to open for you!  

Once the rice is done, top with shrimp and mussels. Serve and enjoy. 

Love and Weekend Warrior Photo Shoots,

Toots and Kakes 

Filed under seafood spanish paella dinner recipe

22 notes

Risotto Cakes

Post study abroad in Florence, Italy, I came back to the states with an unabashed love affair with cooking, Chianti, Italian food, and especially risotto. If you read my last post, Three Cheese & Veggie Baked Penne, I have been on a cheese and carb kick. So naturally, I was craving my infamous risotto. I learned how to cook the Italian delicacy while enrolled in “Paring wine and Food” during my semester in Florence. Ever since then, risotto has been one of my favorite dishes to cook for family and friends. Considering the numerous times I have prepared the dish, when I found the recipe for these risotto cakes on Epicurious.com, I knew I had to take my risotto to the next level: Fried.

Ingredients: 

  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice 
  • 1 glass dry white wine, plus more to sip on
  • 2 quarts chicken stock 
  • 1/4 cup parmigiana, grated 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs, divided 
  • 1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chives, chopped 
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Canola oil, for frying 
  • Extra parmigiano & fresh chives for garnish 
In a large large sauce pan heat the chicken stock and keep on a low heat through the duration of cooking the risotto.  
Heat a large saute pan to medium high. Melt 4 tablespoons butter. 

Toss in onions and cook until translucent. 

Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. 

Add rice and stir to coat evenly with onion and garlic. 

Pour in about one glass of wine and stir until wine is fully absorbed into rice. Don’t forget to pour yourself a glass too. This helps to ease the pain of stirring for 20 minutes! 

Add one ladle of chicken stock. Stir evenly until fully absorbed by rice. Repeat the process for about 20 minutes or until rice is al dente. I always pour and stir in one extra ladle of chicken stock when my rice is done for good luck. 

Your rice should look puffy and creamy like show below.

Transfer risotto to a 13 x 9 baking pan. Stir in 1/4 cup parmigiano and season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely. I transfered my risotto to the fridge for a faster cooling process.

FYI: Here you have a perfect basic risotto! If you are tired of standing at the stove after that laborious 20 minutes of stirring, you can call it quits and serve dinner now with no regrets. 

Combine and mix 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, fontina cheese, parsley, chives and egg yolk. Then mix evenly throughout the cooled risotto.

Heat oven to 250 degrees. 

Shape risotto into 1 1/2 inch balls. 

Whisk two large eggs in a small shallow dish. In a separate shallow dish add the remaining cup of panko bread crumbs. Roll each risotto cake in the egg wash then thoroughly coat with the panko. 

Heat a medium saute pan with enough oil to half way cover the risotto cakes to medium high. 

Then fry the risotto cakes for about 1 minute per side or until golden brown.

Transfer finished risotto cakes to a baking pan in the oven to keep warm before serving.

Plate and devour. 

Love and tomorrow I’ll start my diet, 

Toots and Kakes

Filed under italian risotto recipe dinner yum