Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sumo Oranges

It's been a while since I did a food review, and since the couple weeks leading up to Valentine's Day were a little hectic, I decided to take it a bit easier on myself and review the only piece of citrus I enjoy eating out of hand more than a clementine: the Sumo orange.

First, a little history courtesy of Sumo oranges are a tangerine-orange hybrid that is extremely popular in Japan, where it is called the Dekopon. Apparently in Japan they sell for as much $8 a piece. The American variety is grown in California where it is called the Sumo because of its distinctive "top-knot".

As you can see, sumo oranges have a really thick skin that is really easy to peel. The fruit is sweeter than you would expect from an orange and it is seedless.

Now, the growers claim that it sections easily, and, while it isn't exactly hard to separate the sections, I don't find it easier than a clementine or other tangerines.

Sumos are pretty expensive, so I don't usually buy them that frequently, I tend to just pick up one box at the beginning of the season. Also, they aren't exactly easy to find yet, but if you can pick some up, and it makes sense in your budget to do so, give it a try. I think you will really enjoy them.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Roasted Sea Bass with Herbed Quinoa

This is my last recommended meal for Valentine's Day. Like my beef and vegetarian suggestions, I've provided instructions on how to get both parts of the meal out at the same time. This dish is another show stopper that will be sure to impress your significant other this Valentine's Day.


Sea Bass:

12 oz sea bass filet
1 t of salt
1 T of shredded dill
Lemon slices
1 T of butter


½ C of quinoa
1 C of vegetable stock
1 T of shredded dill
Zest of 1 lemon


Preheat oven to 350. Start with zesting the lemon you are using for the sea bass since you can use that lemon zest for the quinoa. Butter the bottom of an oven proof dish, be it skillet, casserole, or baking dish, and place the sea bass, skin side down, on the dish. Evenly salt the sea bass and evenly distribute the dill and the lemon slices on top of the sea bass.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the fish flakes easily or reaches an internal temp of 145.

While the sea bass cooks, boil the quinoa in the vegetable stock until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the dill and the lemon zest and salt to taste.

To serve, portion the sea bass and the quinoa and enjoy a pescaterian dinner for two.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pan Seared Filet Mignon with Herbed Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Filet mignon is always a show stopper. It comes in these nice easy portions, it's low fat (for beef), with little to no connective tissue. It can stand up to almost any cooking method, including one of my favorites, high heat! A finishing butter adds a little fat to the steak which, since it contains little fat itself, helps it taste juicier. Using the same finishing butter to flavor your potatoes helps pull your dish together and helps it really impress.


Herbed Creamy Mashed Potatoes:

1 lb of butter potatoes
¼ C of herbed finishing butter
½ C of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Filet Mignon:

2 ¼ lb filets
2 T of olive oil
2 T herbed finishing butter


To get everything on this plate out at the same time, let's start with prep. First, peel and chop your potatoes into small even chunks, then coat your 2 filets in olive oil and salt liberally. Start your cooking by placing the potatoes in a saucepan and covering with two inches of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 15-20 minutes or until the chunks are easily pierced by a fork or crushed with tongs.

While the water heats up, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, until water boils off instantly when spritzed on the surface. Sear your steaks for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until desired internal temp is reached. Remember that some heat will carry over and so they will continue to cook for a little bit once removed from heat.

Once the steaks are finished cooking, the potatoes should be nearly done, so cover the steaks and let them rest while you finish up the potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and place them in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add the butter and the cream and whip until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, portion the potatoes on the plate, place each steak on one plate and put a 1 tablespoon slice of butter on top of each steak. I served my plates with a side salad dressed with a citrus dressing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Seared Tofu with Creamy Mushroom Risotto

This is my menu for a vegetarian Valentine's Day dinner. I think that the umami in the marinade on the tofu pairs well with the similar flavors in the mushrooms, and both components have complimentary creamy textures.

This meal makes it pretty easy to get everything out at about the same time, with just the risotto warming while you finish the tofu.

Start by getting together all the ingredients you will need for making the Mushroom Risotto and the Marinated Tofu. This will make assembling the dishes, faster, easier, and way less stressful.

Prep the tofu, place it in the marinade, and set it in the fridge to marinade while you make the risotto. Once the risotto is finished, place it on your smallest burner over the lowest heat to just keep it warm, then pan sear the tofu.

Arrange the seared tofu on your plates, portion out the risotto, and enjoy a nice romantic evening with your significant other. Pro tip; serve the dinner with the same wine you used in the risotto, it will tie the flavors together nicely.

Sage and Garlic Finishing Butter

Finishing butter is a basic way to add tons of flavor to a dish. Many herbs and seasonings have fat soluble flavors and smells that butter helps extract for your tasting pleasure. You can easily customize your butter to fit the dish you are making, from steak, to seafood, to pasta. This one is a basic herb butter that goes great on steak.


1 stick of butter
1 t dried sage
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried thyme
1 clove of garlic


Soften the butter in the microwave, fold the herbs and garlic into it, then wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap and stash in the freezer for an hour before using. This allows for good flavor extraction and makes it easier to portion the butter for the dish you are putting it on.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Seared Marinated Tofu

Generally, I don't like tofu, but in my quest for a good vegan protein for a Valentine's Day meal, I was inspired to make tofu with an Asian style marinade. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and the experience really expanded me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


1 lb of tofu
1 T honey
1 T of rice vinegar
1 T of plum sauce
1T of sesame oil
2 T of low sodium soy sauce
1 T of olive oil
Sesame seeds


Pat the tofu dry with paper towels and then slice into half inch pieces. Thoroughly combine the honey, rice vinegar, plum sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Place the tofu in a ziptop bag and pour in the marinade, making sure to remove all the air you can, and stash in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once the tofu is done marinated, heat the oil in a skillet and sear the tofu on each side, about 1 minute, till golden brown. Serve garnished with sesame seeds and chives, if desired.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mushroom Risotto

Let's kick off February with a vegetarian side dish perfect for your Valentine's Day plans. I have sized all of my Valentine's Day recipes to serve two, but they should be easy to scale up if you are cooking for more.

A risotto is creamy rice dish, that doesn't have any cream in it. The key to this phenomenon is medium grain rice, which thickens the cooking liquid to a creamy consistency. Some amature cooks find risottos to be an intimidating challenge, I know I did, but trust me when I say that all it takes is some patience and attention to detail to make a scrumptious dish to wow your significant other.


2 T of olive oil, divided
½ lb of assorted mushrooms, chopped
⅓ C of leeks, sliced
½ C of Arborio or risotto rice
3 T of dry white wine
2 C of low sodium vegetable stock, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T of butter
Shredded parmesan


In a saucepan or skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat and and brown the mushrooms until they have reduced in size and become soft. I used a mixture of shiitake, portobello, and crimini mushrooms, but you can use whatever you prefer or is readily available to you. Remove them from the pan and saute the leeks in the remaining tablespoon of oil. Once the leeks are lightly browned add in the rice, stirring to coat with oil. Toast the rice until it has taken on a light golden color and then add the wine. I used a vidal, which is a blended white wine, but I would also recommend a good dry riesling for this application. Stir the rice constantly until the wine is absorbed.

Now comes the technical part. Add a ½ cup of the vegetable stock and stir until it is fully absorbed. Repeat this with the remaining vegetable stock, adding ½ cup at a time and cooking until that batch is absorbed before adding the next portion. This will take almost 20 minutes and you need to be stirring frequently to make sure none of the rice sticks to the bottom and burns and to get the cooking liquid to a creamy texture.

Once the last batch of broth has been absorbed, remove from heat, stir in the mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste and add the butter and parmesan. Feel free to substitute these for vegan options, or to leave them out entirely. The consistency won't be as creamy, but you will have a vegan version of this dish.

Congratulations, you have made risotto. I know that took a lot of stirring, but hopefully your Valentine is worth it!