Valentine’s Day draws near, which means that love is in the air- Or is that just the aroma of a luxurious meal for two coming from the kitchen? There’s no better way to show you care than with a thoughtfully crafted dinner, if you ask me. It doesn’t even have to be about romantic love either.
Let’s not forget there’s…
- Familial love
- Platonic (friendship) love
- And perhaps most importantly, self love
…Just for starters. That’s why it’s especially important to take the day to lavish someone, anyone, with a bit of extra attention. Yes, you can totally make this gourmet plate of plant-based scallops all for yourself, and even eat it in bed, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, too.
Trumpet mushroom scallops are an uncanny substitute for seafood, bearing a similar meaty yet delicate texture, subtle umami flavor, and equivalent rarity that make them a treat for special occasions. Forget about fussy preparation though; this vegan version comes together with minimal effort. You don’t even need to worry about them sticking to the pan while attempting that perfect high-heat sear. After marinating them in a simple, savory broth, just pop them into the air fryer, and dinner is served in no time!
Beautifully golden brown on the outside and buttery all the way through, each mock mollusk is further accentuated by a bright beet puree at the base, spiked with a touch of peppery horseradish. Green peas and pistachios lend both a gorgeous color and textural contrast to create the perfect bite.
Love Is Love
All love is valid, full stop, no excuses. Go forth and love what you eat, too.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled holiday programming for a tropical breath of fresh air.
Let’s be honest: Who hasn’t dreamed of escaping from this so-called winter wonderland in search of greener pastures? Feeling the warm sunshine beat down on bare skin, palm trees gently swaying in the wind, can instantly undo weeks of built up stress. Since jumping on an airplane isn’t an option for most of us, I have the next best thing: Mango-Pineapple Fried Rice.
Purely fusion cuisine that exists in no authentic culinary tradition, there are elements of many southeast cultures mashed up into one hot bowl of whole grains.
- Chinese sweet and sour sauce comes through from the combination of tangy pineapple and salty soy sauce.
- Thai inspiration is found in juicy bites of mango, in sharp contrast to hot fresh chilies.
- Indonesian elements like coconut oil and peanuts add body, depth, and richness.
The secret to creating such a harmonious yet complex balance of disparate flavors is to start with salsa.
Yes, you heard me right! Sam’s Fresh Mango Pineapple Salsa is a perfect companion to chips and guacamole, of course, but also a brilliant meal starter. Instead of shopping and chopping each individual component, this intensely flavorful base is ready to go right away. You can purchase Sam’s Fresh Salsa at ShopRite, Acme, and Safeway. If they are not in your local store, ask them to carry Sam’s Fresh Salsa products!
It’s easy to make the best fried rice with a few quick tips:
- Most American or Americanized recipes use long grain white rice for stir fries. There’s nothing wrong with this, and you’re welcome to substitute your favorite, but I prefer medium or short grain, such as arborio or sushi rice. I find it stays chewier without drying out, and forms very satisfying little clumps that are easy to pick up with chopsticks.
- Ideally, cook the rice a day or a few hours in advance to make sure it’s completely cool, if not downright cold. You want the starch to congeal a bit, which is what browns so nicely on the outside when you saute it.
- Use very, very high heat. The cooking process is very fast since you just want to sear the rice that’s already fully cooked and otherwise ready to eat.
Wish me luck, because this fiery little entree is my entry Sam’s Fresh Salsa Blogger Recipe Challenge! Contest aside, I can already tell you this recipe is a real winner.
Of all the pasta shapes in the world, which do you think is the worst, and why is it always angel hair? Meant to approximate the gossamer-thin strands of hair that only an angel could boast, such a divine name is entirely antithetical to its behavior on the plate. Let cooked noodles sit for just a second too long and all hell will break loose. Suddenly, those golden threads transform into bloated, tangled knots of dough. Gummy, gluey, supersaturated with sauce, it’s like they never even knew the term “al dente.”
Angel hair, AKA capellini, has never been my first choice. Nor would it be my second, third, fourth… I think you get the picture. It barely even registers on my hierarchy of pasta, and yet, I recently ended up with a box in my pantry. My trusty pasta maker went down at exactly the same time there was an apparent pasta shortage in local stores, so my choice was angel hair or nothing. Out of desperation, I said my prayers and tried to trust in fate.
One benefit to angel hair is that it does cook quickly; even more quickly than most manufacturers suggest. Start testing it after one minute at a full boil, leaving it on the heat for no longer than two. Then, overall success depends entirely on not just draining out the hot liquid, but then rinsing it in cold water. While this would be a sin for most noodles, stripping away the excess starch necessary for making rich sauces that cling as a velvety coating, it’s a sacrifice we must make for preserving any toothsome texture.
General advice is to pair angel hair with only the lightest, most delicate of sauces, such as pesto or plain olive oil. I’m sorry, but is an eternity in heaven supposed to be this boring? If we have to eat angel hair, I think it’s time we embrace a more devilish approach.
Seitan is the obvious protein of choice; what else is as wickedly savory, heart, and downright decadent in the right sauce? Speaking of which, this one is scant, just barely coating each strand while cranking up the flavor to full blast. There’s no need to drown the noodles in a watered-down dressing when this concentrated, fiery seasoning mix does the trick. Spiked with gochujang and smoked paprika, it glows a demonic shade of red, balancing out heat with nuanced flavor.
To embrace angel hair is to accept a more fiendish path to salvation. Don’t be afraid; a little seitan worship never hurt anyone.
Did your parents ever admonish you for watching too much TV as a kid? Did Saturday morning cartoons become a thing of the past once you grew up, relegated to memories of simpler days?
Not me. I would consume animated series like water, greedily drinking them in one after another without pausing for a breath of air. Slumber parties consisted of staying up into the wee AM hours to binge watch entire seasons back to back, staying glued to the screen until the lines looked blurry and the words seemed to echo.
After a long period of my life where I took myself too seriously and gave up such pleasures, I’m hooked again, back with a vengeance. My thirst remains unquenchable, but this time around, I fixate on very different details than in my youth. Unsurprisingly, it almost always relates to food.
食戟のソーマ (Food Wars) seems like it should have been an instant hit, being all about one young upstart trying to stake his claim as the best cook in an elite culinary school, but it’s definitely not for everyone. If you can get past the gratuitous nudity and unnecessary sexual innuendo, however, there’s ample inspiration to be found. One of the first dishes that really caught my eye was the Chaliapin Steak.
Despite its western name, this is an original Japanese preparation. Conceived in 1936 for the Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin when he visited Japan, it was created to accommodate a terrible toothache. At the time, he was suffering considerably and wanted only the most tender meat so it was easier to chew. By cooking a prime cut smothered with caramelized onions, the result was just what the dentist would have ordered, if one might have been consulted.
Translated into vegan terms, I thought a hamburger steak made from meatless ground might be even more appropriate. A loosely bound patty turned out to be even juicier, practically melting in your mouth. Plus, this is yet another Japanese innovation, distinctly different from conventional hamburgers and Salisbury steak.
Transforming humble, unremarkable ingredients into a 5-star dish worthy of high honors, the key is patience. It takes time to properly caramelize the onions, not just brown or sauté, to fully extract their natural sweetness.
I chose to serve mine over rice, donburi-style, in keeping with the inspiration, but traditionally this would be presented without much fanfare, perhaps a green vegetable or salad on the side. You can’t go wrong with a basic buttery mashed potato or thick-cut fries, too.
Even if anime isn’t your thing, you’ll still find your stomach growling after this episode.