Simple scallops with tangy orange sauce

scallops

When it comes to scallops, I like to keep it simple. I don’t remember where I first came across the recipe for the orange sauce, but it’s one of the few I have memorized.

Scallops can be tricky to cook. If you overcook them, they get a rubbery texture. They should be cooked all the way through, but not so much that they crack all the way through. I prefer to quickly sear them. I went through the trial-and-error process when I first tried making them, and it took a few sacrificed scallops to get it just right.

This orange reduction sauce is my favorite thing to have with scallops because, though it adds a flavorful punch, it complements the scallops instead of overwhelming them.

Enjoy!

Ingredients
8-10 sea scallops
1 cup orange juice
Dash of white pepper
Pinch of salt

Pour orange juice into a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and let simmer until juice is reduced to about 1/2 cup. It should have a slightly syrupy consistency.

Meanwhile, put a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, add scallops. Do not crowd. Sear for about two minutes, or until scallops are lightly browned on one side. Turn over and sear for another two minutes, or until scallops are opaque all the way through. Turn off heat.

Add salt and pepper to orange juice. Stir.

Serve scallops with sauce.

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Celebrating Easter with traditional Greek bread

GreekEasterbread

Most cultures have a special bread associated with religious holidays. St. Patrick’s Day has Irish soda bread, Christmas has stollen and Easter has Tsoureki Paschalino — Greek Easter bread.

I first saw a recipe for this sweet holiday bread in a San Francisco Chronicle food section in 2010. I liked the sound of the bread, but I didn’t want to make anything that produced three to four loaves and included a hard-to-find ingredient such as mahlepi, a fruity Greek spice. I opted to search for a more accessible version and found this.

Traditional versions of the bread call for cardamom and mahlepi, but I don’t like cardamom and mahlepi isn’t something most grocery stores carry. The version I made may be less traditional, but I had all the ingredients on hand and I enjoyed the flavor of the final product. I decided to make two 12-inch loaves instead of a 24-inch loaf so I could store one and serve the other one. Everyone enjoyed this sweet bread, especially warm with a bit of butter on it. It has a nice orange spice flavor and the egg adds a nice splash of color.

Regardless of what you eat today, I hope you have a happy Easter.

Ingredients
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 package instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 large orange
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup milk whole milk, warmed to room temperature
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten slightly; set 1 tablespoon aside for glazing
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt, zest, nutmeg and cinnamon.

In another large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer combine milk, butter, all but 1 tablespoon of eggs, orange juice and vanilla. Add flour mixture and combine well using a large spoon or the paddle attachment on the stand mixer.

If mixing by hand, scoop dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for at least 15 minutes. Adding more flour if needed.

If using a stand mixer, swap to the dough hook. Knead for at least 10 minutes at medium speed, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from becoming too sticky, although it will be somewhat tacky if kneaded in a mixer. Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface.

Form dough into a ball by folding edges into the center, turning over and forcing into a ball shape using your palms and fingers to shape.

Clean and dry the largest bowl, then spray lightly with cooking spray. Place dough, seam-side down, in bowl and spray top lightly with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk — 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and scoop onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for 3-5 minutes.

Shape the dough into a rope 24 inches long, fold in half, and braid. If you wish, place dyed, uncooked eggs in center of the fold before braiding. They’ll end up perfectly hard-cooked but difficult to peel.

Place the loaf on a greased cookie sheet or baking pan, spritz lightly with oil, and cover with plastic. Let rise until doubled in bulk — 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Thirty to 45 minutes before dough has completely risen, heat oven to 350 degrees.

Make an egg wash using the remaining egg and one tablespoon of water. Brush loaf with the wash. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. You can tell the bread is done in the center by tapping the top of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the loaf is finished. Cool on a rack.

Who knew applesauce could be so good?

applesauce1

Until recently, I had never made applesauce. My only experience with it was the kind spooned from the Mott’s jar with a yellow lid. I never found it impressive. It was something I might eat with pork chops, but not much else. That is, until I made my own.

While figuring out what to make next, I remembered I had bookmarked Ina Garten’s recipe for applesauce. Then I saw that it was baked in a Dutch oven, which is perfect since I’ve been using mine nonstop since I received it.

The recipe is straightforward, which is what I’ve come to expect from the Barefoot Contessa. That she keeps things simple is what I most like about her attitude toward cooking. Her recipe for applesauce is no exception. I had no idea applesauce could be so good until I made her flavor-packed version. applesauce2After baking the ingredients, her recipe calls for whisking them together. I left small chunks of apple in mine instead of making it the same consistency as the store-bought stuff.

Over the course of a week, I devoured the pot. It’s great for breakfast, a snack or as a dessert — and healthier than many alternatives. This applesauce may become a regular item in my refrigerator. I doubt I’ll ever purchase a jar of applesauce from the store again.

Ingredients
Zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 pounds Granny Smith apples (6-8 apples)
3 pounds sweet red apples, such as Macoun, McIntosh or Winesap (6-8 apples)applesauce3
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a large bowl. Peel, quarter and core the apples and toss them in the juice. Pour the apples and juice into a nonreactive Dutch oven or enameled iron pot. Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and allspice and cover the pot. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until all the apples are soft. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fall baking is a piece of cake

ACcoffeecake

As lower temperatures enter the weather forecast, my thoughts have turned to fall baking — apples, pumpkin, soups and comfort foods.

I joined Pinterest a couple months ago and have built up quite the board of recipes I want to try. Last week I saw a pin for this apple coffee cake. I added it to my “Recipes to try” board and actually got around to it. The recipe calls for two layers of apples, one in the middle and one on top. The apples in the middle stayed moist and provided a nice fresh layer to break up what would otherwise just be a piece of moist cake. The apples on top got a bit dry in the baking process so, if you want them to stay moist, you could save some of the batter for a third layer on top of the second layer of apples.

Though it smelled delicious while it was baking, I wasn’t crazy about this coffee cake at first; but it grew on me the next day after reheating a piece for breakfast. The flavors had time to come together. The cake had a nice crumb, the apples had just the right balance of sweetness and tartness and the cinnamon added a welcome dose of spice. It wasn’t overpowering; it was light enough without being devoid of flavor.

I took the coffee cake to work the next day and my coworkers devoured it. I don’t know if anything I’ve bought to work has received such rave reviews. It must have hit the spot for them.

Ingredients
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven at 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, toss sliced apples, 1/3 cup of sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. If you’re at high altitude, cook the apples, cinnamon and sugar in a pan over medium heat until the apples are soft. I’ve found that fruit doesn’t bake the same and often comes out too crisp in the final product, so cooking them beforehand ensures that they’ll be the consistency you prefer. Remember to use half the amount of baking powder, too.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, salt, orange juice, apple sauce and vegetable oil. Mix well. Pour half the batter into baking dish and arrange apple slices on top. Pour and spread the rest of the batter on top of the apples. Bake for 60 minutes or until done. Cut coffee cake into squares and serve warm.

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