Google Groups
Subscribe to The Culinary Creative
Visit this group

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Good and Good For You: Scallops

I know I usually do this the other way around...first tell you how good something is for you THEN do a recipe for it, but I figure we know each other well enough now that I can switch things up a bit.  Plus that pesky travel schedule got in the way and here we are.


So...scallops, good stuff them.  Not so pretty to look out before they are appealingly laid out for purchase display in the store.  The white, meaty treat, aka "nut" that you buy is actually the adductor muscle of the creature, but not the only edible part.  In other world cultures, the reddish-pink "coral" (reproductive gland) is also considered a delectable sea treat.

Scallops have a mild sweet flavor and are not very fishy (for those of us who don't really like super fishy fish).  Scallops are low in calorie (4 oz. = 100 calories) and low in fat.  They are very high in protein (lean protein) and while they are known to be a bit high in cholesterol, that is offset by all the good minerals and vitamins they do contain.

Scallops are a good source of phosphorus, needed for strong bones and teeth. as well as a good source of cysteine, an amino acid needed to maintain healthy skin, bone and hair.

Scallops are particularly good for your cardio health.  They contain lots of vitamin B12 which breakdown chemicals that can cause damage to your heart valves.  They are chocked full of omega-3 fatty acids (which helps with a smooth blood flow), magnesium (which helps lower blood pressure), and potassium (which helps maintain normal blood pressure).

They can be prepared many different ways, but seared is usually a quick and easy way to fix them up.  Then you can add them to salads or pasta.  Lightly cooked with some oil and lemon (or served up in a tasty b├ęchamel sauce), they are always a treat.

When you buy scallops, you want those that are uniform in color (pearly white) with firm, moist flesh.  Scallops do cook up pretty fast and if you overcook them, they tend to get a little chewy so your best bet is to undercook them a bit.  They'll still be very edible.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Scallops Bechamel on Toast

Since I'm in Maine visiting relatives, I figured it would be an act of sacrilege to leave the state without whipping up a little fresh seafood something-something.  Fortunately I have a generous family who stepped up to be my taste testers.  :)

I was going to call this "Chipped Scallops on Toast" a la "Chipped Beef on Toast" but my retired military uncle reminded me of the no-so-flattering nickname given to that taste treat, so I went with something a little more appealing.  No matter what you call it though, it is D-lish!

Scallops Bechamel on Toast

bechamel sauce
2 cups milk
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg

scallops mix
1 lb. fresh sea scallops, cut in half (or quarters depending on their size)
1 cup shitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup ham steak, small diced
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil

soft crusted French baguette, sliced
1-2 tsbp parmesan cheese

To make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, scald milk (aka heat to almost but not boiling).

In another heavy bottom saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and blend until it forms a roux, cook for 1 minute then remove from heat.

Pour in half of the heated milk and mix until the roux is incorporated.

Return to low heat and stir until it thickens.  Add in rest of heated milk with white pepper, salt, and nutmeg.  You can adjust the seasoning to taste.

Remove from heat and set aside.

To prepare the scallop mix: 

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add in onions and garlic.  Cook 2-3 minutes or until the onions start to turn translucent.

Add in the scallops and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the scallops start turning opaque white (half cooked).

Add in the diced ham, and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add in chopped shitake and cook for 1-2 minutes.

When the scallops are completely cooked, reduce the heat to low and pour in the prepared bechamel sauce.  Mix well, the sauce will thicken as it sits.

Remove from heat.

Slice the baguette into 1" thick slices (cut on a diagonal to make larger pieces).

Place the slices on a cookie sheet covered with foil.  Place the cookie sheet in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees.  Toast until the top half starts to crisp up, then turn them all over and continue to toast until the second side is crispy as well.

Remove from oven.  Cover each slice with a generous spoonful of the scallop bechamel.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Set the oven to broil and place the cookie sheet under the broiler.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until tops are toasted.  Remove and serve.


Want to send a special shout out to my favorite Maine-iacs for letting me commandeer the kitchen and use them as my guinea pigs.

From the oohs and aahs and happy grunting noises, I took that to mean the family thought it was pretty good.  It is fairly rich so be warned.

You want a soft bread to toast so that it will be crunchy (versus chewy). 

All of the chops and dices were small so that biting into the toast would be easy and not messy.

These can be made into appetizers or a meal, depending on how big you cut your bread.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Broiled Salmon with Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

So the other part of Guinea Pig Dad's Happy Pappy Day feast on Sunday was a little Southern Seas-inspired fish dish that I whipped up for the seafood lover in him.

This taste treat was the result of a conversation I had with my friend Cooper who told me his family makes this delicious grilled salmon with a Hawaiian BBQ sauce.  But since he couldn't remember exactly what all the ingredients were and in what quantity they were used, we brainstormed a list of potential things that could work (in case he forgot to send me the recipe, which he did forget to do, silly Cooper!) and I just ran with it up from there.  I love it when a culinary experiments comes together!

You'll want to make the BBQ sauce about an hour before you plan to cook the salmon so that the flavors have time to sit together and blend.  It only take 10 minutes to prep and cook the salmon once the BBQ sauce is ready.

Broiled Salmon with Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lbs. salmon (with or without skin on one side)

the "rub"
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

Hawaiian BBQ Sauce
1 (15 oz.) can plain tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) can crushed or chunk pineapple
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar, loose not packed
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 cinnamon stick

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the BBQ sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When the sauce is ready, strain it into a saucepan and set aside.

Turn the oven broiler on and set the over rack on the 2nd level down from the top.

Take your salmon and cut it into 4-5 oz. individual fillets.  If you bought it with skin-on, leave it on during the cooking process, will be easier to remove once the fillets are cooked.

With the skin-side down, sprinkle the "rub" on the top half.

Place the fillets on a broiling pan and cover with a spoonful or two of the BBQ sauce.

Put on the rack in the oven and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the salmon flakes apart and is opaque in the center.

While the salmon is cooking, bring the rest of the BBQ sauce to a boil over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat and add to salmon once it's been served.

All done and yum.


Don't forget that there is a piece of skin under the salmon.  Once the fish is cooked, it is very easy to remove.

Special Dad Note:  if your daughter is serving the salmon over rice, put the cooked salmon sauce-side down on the pile of rice, remove skin from bottom, pour more sauce on top.  Less muss, less fuss, more sauce, all good.

In this recipe, you don't want to substitute regular Paprika for Smoked Paprika because you really want to bit of that smoked flavor.  The recipe that Cooper and his family use actually uses Liquid Smoke so if you had that instead, just substitute with a dash or two and you should be set.

Salmon goes really well with whole grain or brown rice.  Mom made a nice fruit & veggie Waldorf salad variation on the side (which I will try to make for another post).

If you don't like salmon, but want to use it on fish, make sure to use another heavier fish (versus a light white fish) so that it holds up to the sauce.  Anything lighter will just get overwhelmed.

The Hawaiian BBQ Sauce would go really well with grilled chicken or on pork, like pork ribs or pork chops.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Cake


Here is what I made for one of my favorite foodie guinea pigs tonight.  Something new and fun to eat.

You can make it all from scratch or use pre-made mix or pre-made icing depending on your time.  I went cake mix this time, but promise that the next time I'll share my famous made-from-scratch chocolate cake. Enjoy! 

Chocolate Cherry Cake

favorite chocolate cake recipe or mix
3/4 cup chopped fresh cherries

filling (makes enough for two cakes)
1-3/4 cups powder sugar
1 cup Philadelphia whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tsp. Kirsch or cherry liqueur
1/2 cup fresh cherries, pureed

icing & finishing
chocolate fudge icing
whipped cream
fresh cherries

Mix up your favorite chocolate cake mix/recipe.  Mix in 3/4 cup of chopped fresh cherries into the batter and bake up according to directions in two (2) 8" round pans.

Rough chopped the pre-pitted cherries.

In a small mixing bowl, blend together powder sugar, whipped cream cheese, softened butter and Kirsch until smooth and creamy.

Fold in cherry puree and mix until well blended. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

When the cake is done baking, let cool completely.

to assemble

Put the bottom layer on a plate. If you want, using a pastry brush pat the cake down with a layer of Kirsch and then slather on a layer of filling.

I made a ring of icing along the edge first to keep the filling from spilling over.

Top with the second layer. Brush with more Kirsch (if you want).  Cover with icing.

Dollop around the edges with whipped cream.  Cover each dollop with a cherry...or really cute tool candles...and present to dear ole dad.


To de-stone the cherries, I cut a circle around the outside, twisted them apart and then dug out the stone with my fingertip.  It took very little time.

The filling is really good by itself, FYI, would be tasty on some pound cake or a toasted bagel.

You can make this Kirsch-free.  Substitute water for the kirsch in the filling.

I used Cool Whip in lieu of real whipped cream because it holds it's shape longer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Stuff You Wanna Know

For part of his Father's Day gift, I have promised Guinea Pig Dad a new treat -- Chocolate Cherry Cake. Mmm-mmm-mmm, it's going to be great...once I figure out what I'm doing to make it. Sometimes I just make these things up as I go along.

Since I'm going to post it on Sunday, I thought I would ramp up the excitement by talking about how good and good for you cherries are since fresh cherries are going to be part of Sunday's dessert, but then I realized I've already told you how good cherries are. Hmmm...

So I thought I would talk about all the wonderfulness and variety of chocolate there is since there is going to be some chocolate action going on, but then I realized that I've already told you how wonderful and varietous chocolate is. Hrumph...

Maybe it's just the vacation-is-still-a-ways-away talking (which by the way is in Maine so be ready for some fresh seafood posts in the near future), but I'm drawing a blank on what to do tonight so I'm going to take this opportunity to put out a call for requests.


I love doing food research and finding out new things, so let me know what's been eating at ya?

What do you gotta to know more about?

Got an ingredient you don't know what to do with?  Let me know and I'll figure something out for you.

Help me to help you. Please.

So send me some subject matter ideas to and I'll do a look-see and come up with something fun to make or test or do or whatever.  Did I mention please?  And thank you!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mint Strawberry Shortcake

Was talking with my friend Julie (Hi Julie!) yesterday about post ideas for today.  I said I still had a fridge full of berries and thought about doing something with those again.  She suggested doing a write-up about the proper way to make strawberry shortcake because depending on who you talk to, the make-up is different, some people do biscuits, some people do sponge cake, was there a reason for the difference, what was the what?

After doing some research, I discovered that there's really not much to it, but as not to leave you hanging, here's what I discovered in a nut shell.

In the 1840s, someone decided hey, if I cut open a shortcake (rich biscuit) and fill it with mooshed strawberries and throw some icing on it, it tastes pretty good.  Mmm.

Then somewhere down the line, someone decided, hey, instead of a biscuit, what if I put mooshed strawberries on some sponge cake/lady fingers/angel food cake and top it with whipped cream, it tastes pretty good.  Mmm.

Then somewhere further down the line, someone decided, hey, I think I want mooshed strawberries on a split biscuit with whipped cream.  Mmm.

The end.

So I dug through my old cookbooks and found this shortcake recipe in my 1941 Magic Chef Cooking cookbook.  Added some mint to the strawberries and voila!

Mint Strawberry Shortcake

1 qt. fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

1-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4-1/2 tbsp. butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup milk

Leaving 2-3 whole, hull and chop the rest of the strawberries. Mix in a bowl with the sugar and mint, then set in the fridge until ready to use.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Chop the butter into small cubes, then using a pastry blender or fork, work into the flour mixture until evenly distributed.  Will have a crumbly appearance, don't want it to be smooth.

Make a well in the middle of the mixture, then pour in the milk.  Using a fork, incorporate the milk until a sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured mat and roll out to 3/4" thickness.

Cut dough with a biscuit cutter.  Dough can be re-rolled to make more biscuits.  You can get about eight 2-1/2" biscuits or six 3" biscuits from the dough.

Place biscuits on a greased or baking paper lined cookie sheet and brush with milk.

Bake at 450 degrees for 13-15 minutes until a golden brown color.

Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  Cool to room temperature or you can eat them warm.  Though it might melt your whipped cream.

Split biscuits in half and cover bottom with berries.  Add a dollop of whipped cream before putting the biscuit top back on. A little more whipped cream, a strawberry slice or two to garnish and you are ready to go.


The original recipe called for 4-1/2 tbsp. fat, so you could use shortening instead of butter if you wanted.

The sugar will bring out the strawberry juices, which soaks into the biscuit nicely.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Blackberry-Raspberry Almond Crumbly Cake

This time of year my fridge is stocked with berries. I usually eat them plain and by the handfuls since they make a quick easy snack, but tonight I felt like doing something a little different with them.

Was rifling through some recipes using berries and saw one for a golden raspberry crumb cake. Since my raspberries are just the plain Jane red ones, I thought I'd change up the recipe a bit, make a few K2 modifications, and come up with something new.

May I just say mmm, mmm, mmm.

Blackberry-Raspberry Almond Crumbly Cake

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted and room temp
2 tbsp. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sour cream

crumbly top
3/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, chopped into small pieces
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped up a bit

pan prep
baking spray or shortening
flour for dusting

Lightly grease an 8 x 8" baking pan with either baking spray or shortening.  Dust with flour, shaking off any excess, and then place in the refrigerator.  Don't ask questions, just do it.

In a large bowl mix together 1/4 cup flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add in 1/2 stick melted (and cooled) butter, vanilla and eggs.  Whisk together until smooth.

Set aside and let sit for 10 minutes.  The batter will thicken up while it sits.

In the meantime, in another bowl, mix together the brown sugar and chopped butter bits. Do NOT over-mix.  You don't want them blended, just pulled together more than not.

Add in the flour and using a pastry blender or fork, mash together until the mixture forms crumbs, lots of no-bigger-than-a-pea sized crumbs.

Add in the chopped almonds and mix until evenly distributed.

When the batter's 10 minutes are up, fold in the berries and sour cream.

Remove pan from the fridge and pour the batter into the bottom.

Sprinkle the crumbly top on top of the batter, spreading it out evenly.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.



Like I did, you can substitute your favorite berry or non-berry fruit.  I think fresh peaches or apricots would be quite tasty in this form too.

If you don't like almonds, this is also an interchangeable ingredient...or can be left out entirely if you have any nut allergies.  It will still be crumbly delicious.

The cake is equally fabulous straight from the oven or at room temperature.  Makes a great companion for coffee, or a little scoop of ice cream if you wanted to fancy it up for a dessert dish.