Tag Archives: Fish & Seafood

Diets Don’t Have to Be Torture (but they usually are) & Mexican Spiced Shrimp

Mexican Spiced Shrimp with Black Beans topped with a dollop of Greek Yogurt

Mexican Spiced Shrimp with Black Beans topped with a dollop of Greek Yogurt

I’ve mentioned once or twice a million times that I’ve been on a diet.  How exciting?!  Actually, I’m trying to think of it more as a lifestyle change.  I’m not depriving myself, I’m just not over-doing it, either.

My new way of eating really focuses on portion sizes and eating more frequently.  Truthfully, it sucks.  That being said, it works.

Most of the food I’ve been cooking lately has been incredibly unexciting.  Because I’ve been busier than usual the past couple months, Continue reading

French Cooking Demonstration with Bret Bannon

Bret Bannon French cooking

Bret Bannon teaching the class how to peel tomatoes

I haven’t felt very inspired lately.  The lack of recent blog posts probably makes that incredibly obvious (sorry, folks!).  But now I’m here to tell you, I think I’m gettin’ my groove back!  Not only are the temperatures increasing (FINALLY!) but tonight Piyush and I attended a French cooking demonstration given by fellow blogger, Bret Bannon (Check out his blog, Bret’s Table, HERE).

It was my first time meeting Bret and I’ve got to tell you, he’s fantastic!  Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable about food Continue reading

Besan Chillas: Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Veggies & Shrimp (can be made vegan!)

**This recipe can easily be made Vegetarian or Vegan**

I mentioned, a few days ago, about using leftover Indian Spiced Shrimp (recipe HERE) to make my husband a special, savory Indian-inspired breakfast.  Now, if you don’t eat shrimp, are looking for a vegan option, or are hoping to find a gluten-free alternative to pancakes, this recipe is very flexible and will definitely suit your needs–and your taste-buds!

This recipe came about because I was craving carbs.  That’s the simple truth.  I wanted carbs, and I wanted them now.  More specifically, I wanted pancakes.  Big, fluffy pancakes.  But, because I’m trying to eat healthy and watch my waistline (a never ending battle!), I thought I’d replace regular flour with besan flour (flour made from ground chickpeas).

Chickpeas are healthy, right?  I am always so amazed by how many different things you can make with the humble chickpea!  I’ve made everything from Indian spiced hummus, to curries, to pies!  Yes, a pie made out of chickpeas!  A chai-flavored chickpea pie, to be exact.

bean pie

recipe not yet posted…sorry! It will be eventually. :)

I wanted to increase the protein and fiber in my pancake, so I added chopped left-over shrimp and vegetables.  It was settled, I knew what was for breakfast.  Even better, I had left-over garlic and coriander raita to slather on top!

Indian chickpea pancake, chickpea pancake, besan pancake, besan flour pancake, savory pancake, Indian pancake with raita

Besan Chilla…smothered in garlic and cilantro raita and sprinkled with chopped coriander

Continue reading

Easy Indian Spiced Shrimp with Garlic and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Yogurt, Garlic and Cilantro Dipping Sauce (Raita)

Yogurt, Garlic and Cilantro Dipping Sauce (Raita)

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful time celebrating the New Year!  2012 was a pretty good year for Piyush and I; and I’m so excited to see what 2013 has in store for us!

I’m also stoked (yes, I said “stoked!”) about what’s in store for My Fancy Pantry in 2013!  Thank you all for taking time out of your day to read what I write, cook what I cook, and especially for sharing your thoughts and comments with me.  I appreciate it more than I can even express! Continue reading

mussels and rice

Indian Inspired Mussel Pilaf

I’m not a huge fan of seafood, but the other night while I was paging through one of my cookbooks (Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape: India) I noticed a beautiful photo of a whole sea bass cooked in banana leaves.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.  It’s pretty much embedded.

I’ve had Mr. Ramsay’s cookbook for quite some time now, but have yet to cook anything out of it; so I was really excited to give this recipe a go.  Unfortunately for me, buying a whole sea bass in Rochester is absolutely impossible.  I can’t even have it ordered from our local grocery stores.  Seriously.

Luckily, the man behind the fish counter was very knowledgeable and extremely helpful.  He called his supplier to see what they could offer me.  They had a few options, and he suggested I try the strawberry grouper.  I ordered a couple fish and should be able to pick them up tomorrow.

Now that my dinner plans were officially and completely shot–yes, I am that dramatic–I decided to buy a pound of mussels and do something with those instead.

mussels: scrubbed and de-bearded

I brought my mussels home and sorted through them.  Any mussels that will not stay closed when they’re pressed on should be tossed aside.  They’re most likely dead.   The photo below shows a mussel that has not yet been cooked, but refuses to keep it’s shell fastened shut.

Mussel won’t close before cooking? Throw that sucker out!

Once the mussels were sorted and scrubbed, it was time to de-beard ‘em.

You see those nasty little string-like things poking out from the shell?  That’s the mussel’s beard.  I left this on until I was just about ready to toss them in my pot.  Removing them too soon could–and probably will–cause your mussel to die.

The easiest way to remove the beard is to just grab it and pull quickly.  I thought that some of the beards were really hard to remove, and patience is not something I’m known for, so I enlisted Piyush to help with this task.  I also don’t like killing things–not even mussels–but I guess that’s another issue all together.

After the mussels were cleaned, I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to make.  So I did what I always do when I don’t know what the heck I’m planning to make…

I diced an onion.

 

You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

I looked in the fridge and found a green pepper, carrots and thai chilies.  I grabbed a couple potatoes, some frozen peas and some peeled roma tomatoes.  It was right then that I decided to make a mussel stew, similar to my bouillabaisse recipe.

I added some Indian spices and on a whim I decided to toss in some raw basmati rice.  It was absolutely brilliant.

Modesty, like patience, is not something I possess in large quantities…

Indian Inspired Mussel Pilaf

The mussels had so much flavor and the rice was incredibly fragrant.  Not only did this dish taste amazing, it was also relatively quick to make.  The entire meal took approximately an hour from start to finish.

Indian Inspired Mussel Pilaf

Now, before I post this recipe, I have to say that it is not an authentic Indian preparation.  It’s just inspired by my love of spice. :)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. mussels– washed and de-bearded (see notes above)
  • 2 tbsp. oil (I used a mix of olive oil/ghee)
  • 1 large white onion- diced
  • 5 garlic cloves- crushed and minced (add less if you don’t like garlic a lot)
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger- peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 4 thai chilies- slit (you may remove the membrane/seeds if you don’t like heat)
  • 1 large green bell pepper- diced
  • 2 medium potatoes- diced
  • 2 carrots- diced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1″ small piece of cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamom pods- slightly crushed
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine*
  • 14.5 oz. peeled roma tomatoes- diced (equivalent to 1 can store bought tomatoes)
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • water- 1 c. to start
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 c. basmati rice- rinsed
  • salt- to taste
  • pepper- to taste
  • fresh coriander (cilantro)- 2 handfuls, chopped (one for recipe, one for garnish)

*If you do not wish to use wine, you can use water.  No problem.

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add black mustard seeds.  Once they start to sizzle, toss in the diced onion, green bell pepper, carrot, chili peppers and potatoes.  Lower heat to medium, and sweat the vegetables until they become soft and tender.
  • Add ginger and garlic. Also add the turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and 1 handful chopped coriander.  Cook for one to two minutes or until the raw smell disappears. Things should start sticking to the bottom of the pan, and you’ll notice things will turn a little brown.
  • De-glaze the pan with 2/3 cup of wine.  Stir everything really well and let this simmer for a few minutes or until the wine doesn’t smell so strong.  Add the tomatoes and cover the pan.  Let this cook for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes break down.
  • Add 1 c. water and a pinch of saffron.  Cover and let this simmer another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the uncooked mussels to the tomato mixture and put the lid back on the pot.  Let the mussels steam for 5 minutes, then remove the lid.  Using a tongs, remove any mussels that have opened their shells and set them aside.  If there are any unopened mussels, place the lid back on the pot and let them steam an additional 2 minutes.  If they still do not open, they are most likely bad.  Toss them out.
  • Add 1 c. frozen peas.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add 1 c. raw basmati rice and an additional cup of water.  Cover the pot and let the rice cook.  After 10 minutes, check your rice.  Add more water, if needed.  The rice will take anywhere from 10-20 minutes to fully cook.
  • Once the rice is properly cooked, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
  • Place the cooked mussels back into the pot of rice, place the lid back on the pot and turn off the heat.  Let the dish sit, covered for at least 3 to 4 minutes so the mussels re-heat.
  • Garnish with additional chopped coriander…and enjoy!

**NOTE**  I leave the whole spices in my dish, but if you would like you can remove them.  This can be difficult, but if you put all the whole spices in a little bag of cheesecloth before adding them to the pot it will make this task a lot easier.

I’ll get the printer-friendly recipe posted soon!

The only bad thing about this meal?

The lingering smell of the mussels.  Now my house is going to smell fishy for about a week.  Yuck.

Pan Seared Scallops With Sweet Pea, Tarragon and Lemon Risotto

Pan Seared Scallops With Sweet Pea, Tarragon and Lemon Risotto

Pan Seared Scallops With Sweet Pea, Tarragon and Lemon Risotto

Sometimes figuring out what to make for dinner can be quite the challenge.

You see, I have this terrible problem of never knowing exactly what I want.  Then, when I think I have it all figured out…BAM!…it changes, and doesn’t sound interesting anymore.  (Haha!  Kind of like my career-path, now that I think about it.  I never could decide exactly what it was that I wanted to be…).

So today, like most days, I wandered off to the supermarket to buy ingredients for an Indian-inspired dish using scallops.  Small problem.  I didn’t really feel like eating Indian.

I wanted something flavorful, but not spicy.  Something that was both hearty and filling.  I wanted to eat out!

I knew Piyush would not be happy if I told him I wanted to go out tonight, especially because our refrigerator was well stocked and I had just spent a small fortune on fresh scallops.  So I opened up the pantry doors and hoped for a little inspiration.

And then I saw it.  A big jar of arborio rice, sitting right in front of me.  I decided to try my hand at making risotto.

I’ve never attempted to make risotto before, and have actually only tried it once.  I remembered it being a little crunchy and dry and I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, really.

But now that the idea was in my head, I had to have risotto.  And I had to have it now.  That’s just how I am, I guess.

After searching online and getting a little inspiration from Gordon Ramsay, random youtube people and the lovely Angela @ Madame Croquette (truthfully it was probably reading her post on saffron risotto with tiger prawns that sparked tonight’s dinner), I got to work.

I found a recipe from Cooking Light that sounded like it would taste spectacular (It did!)–and I had all the ingredients on hand.  From start to finish, making the risotto took about a half hour–with at least 25 of those minutes spent stirring the rice.  It was tedious, but zen-like at the same time.  I liked it.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the risotto making process.  It really is a process, and I was too involved with stirring (and day-dreaming) to even think about clicking photos.  Sorry!

I’ll pass on a little risotto-makin’ knowledge though…

First, make sure you have all your stuff ready.  Usually I run around like a crazy person, digging through cupboards and raiding the refrigerator; but this time I had everything pre-chopped and pre-measured.  I think this was the biggest contributor to my risotto success!

Second, make sure to taste your rice as you cook.  Each time I tossed in a ladle of stock, I tried a grain or two of the rice.  You don’t want it to be crunchy, but it shouldn’t be mushy either.  Aim for your rice to be cooked al dente.  A little “bite” is a good thing!

Once the risotto was finished, I set it aside and got started on the scallops.  I learned to cook scallops last year, and I’ve got to tell you…it’s simple!  They look intimidating…but looks are deceiving!  I really have no idea how all those cooks on the “reality” cooking shows can screw them up.  Honestly.  It’s crazy.

One thing I love about scallops is that they cook really, really fast–which make them an ideal match for risotto (you don’t want the risotto to go cold).  On the other hand, one thing I hate about scallops is that they stink up your house.  Completely.

Brown Butter Pan Seared Scallops–garnished with a little radish sprout

To cook the scallops I used a non-stick pan.  I usually always use my cast iron pan, but I was feeling lazy and I didn’t want to have to scrub it out when I was done.  The non-stick pan gave a nice sear, but I really think I get a much better color on the scallops when I use the cast iron pan.

You win some.  You lose some.

I tossed a tablespoon–or so–of olive oil in the pan and waited for it to get hot.  Real hot.  That’s important.  Then, I placed the scallops–which I generously seasoned with salt and pepper– in the pan and let them cook for a minute or so before flipping.  After flipping, I let them cook for another 30 seconds before tossing in a “butter bomb.”

The butter bomb is simply a pat of butter (about 1 1/2 tbsp–give or take) with fresh herbs stuck into it.  I toss it right in and let the butter brown up.  It adds a delicious nutty flavor to the scallops.

After the scallops get “bombed,” they really only take about a minute longer to fully cook through.  Watch them closely, scallops are very easy to overcook; and nobody likes rubbery scallops!  It’s much better to have them slightly underdone.

This dinner was fantastic!  I think risotto might be my new favorite thing.  Seriously.

It’s weird, but for some reason it really reminded me of macaroni and cheese.  It must have been the creaminess or how comforting the dish is, I don’t know.  It didn’t taste like macaroni and cheese…

I’m so excited to try other variations.  In fact, I was thinking I’d find a way to “Indianize” it…

Until then, I’ll leave you with this recipe!

Pan Seared Scallops With Sweet Pea, Tarragon and Lemon Risotto

Makes approximately 8 servings — 1/2 c. each (each serving is around 210 calories)

Recipe adapted and modified from Cooking Light 

Ingredients for Risotto:
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen sweet peas (If using fresh, be sure to blanch them.  If using frozen, simply let thaw)
  • 4 to 5 c. Vegetable Stock (I used 2 c. homemade chicken stock and 3 c. store bought veggie stock)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves- minced
  • 3 shallots- chopped
  • 1 c. uncooked Arborio rice
  • 3 tbsp. dry white wine (I used a dry marsala)
  • 1/2 c. fresh Parmesan cheese- grated
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon (I used a meyer lemon)
  • salt- to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper- to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese (may substitute butter)
Directions for Risotto:

  • Bring Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  • Pour 2 tbsp. olive oil into a heavy bottomed pan (I used my dutch oven) and heat over medium-high flame.  Once the oil is hot, add the shallot and garlic–stirring constantly.  You don’t want the shallot to take on a brown color, but you want it to be cooked through and semi-translucent –approximately 3 to 4 minutes.  
  • Once the shallot and garlic are cooked, add the chopped tarragon and thyme.  Stir to combine. 
  • Add the uncooked rice to the pot and cook (stirring constantly) for about a minute.  Add 3 tbsp. wine to deglaze. Keep stirring the rice until all the wine seems to be absorbed and the pan is looking dry. 
  • Add one ladle of stock (approximately 1/2 c.) and stir until nearly all of it is absorbed by the rice.  Keep stirring and adding stock 1/2 c. at a time as the rice absorbs it.  I ended up using about 5 cups of stock, but it will really depend on how long your rice takes to cook (you want the rice to be al dente –it should have a little bite to it) and how creamy you like your risotto. This process will take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. 
  • Stir in peas and cook the risotto for about 1 minute before adding the cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep cooking and stirring until the cheese is melted and is no longer “stringy.”  The risotto should have a nice thick, creamy consistency at this point. Remove from heat.  Stir in the 1 tbsp. mascarpone cheese to finish.  
  • Serve as soon as possible for best flavor.

Ingredients for Scallops:
(increase as needed for more servings.  This will make 2 servings of 3 scallops each)

  • 6 wild caught sea scallops (dry packed)
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 large sprig of fresh tarragon
  • salt- to season
  • pepper- to season
Directions for Scallops:
  • Dry scallops with a paper towel and set aside on a plate.  Season the scallops with salt and pepper.  Don’t be shy with the seasoning, most of it will get lost in the pan and won’t stick to the scallop.
  • Heat 1/2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium sized non-stick pan.  Once the oil is hot add the scallops one at a time in a circular position.  (Imagine a clock.  You’ll want to place the scallops at approximately 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00 and 10:00–this will ensure the scallops cook evenly).  
  • Scallops cook quickly.  Sear the first side for about a minute.  When you notice some nice color, flip the scallops.  Cook for 30 seconds and then add the butter and fresh herbs to the center of the pan.  Let the butter cook for about a minute.
  • You’ll notice the butter will begin to brown and smell a little nutty.  Spoon the butter over each of the scallops, and cook for about 30 seconds more.  
  • Remove the scallops from the pan and place them on a plate with paper towels.  You can drizzle the left over browned butter over the scallops if you’d like.  
  • Serve immediately on top of the risotto. 

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The Easiest (& Best!) Banana Bread…and a Weekend Away

After a change in our plans, Piyush and I decided to take a weekend trip to Grand Marais, MN.

Grand Marais is a small town located on Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota.  It holds a very special spot in my heart; and, in my opinion, just might be among the most beautiful places on this Earth.

Riding the waves of Lake Superior…

When I was a teenager, my parents purchased a cabin in Grand Marais–off the famous Gunflint Trail.  Now, if you’re from Minnesota–or even Wisconsin–you’re probably pretty familiar with the term “cabin.”  If you’re not, “cabin” is a term that usually describes a second piece of property and can mean anything from a rustic shack in the woods to a magnificent mansion on the banks of Lake Superior.

My family’s cabin is definitely not a mansion, but it’s no shack either.  It’s more like a charming cottage, hidden along the banks of a beautiful lake about 10 miles away from Lake Superior.

I absolutely love it there, and it really does feel like a second home.

View from the dock at the cabin. It’s so peaceful!

Unfortunately, Piyush and I only seem to venture to Grand Marais about one or two times a year.  I wish we could go more often, but it’s 6 hours away…and there just aren’t enough weekends in the summer (and there is way too much snow in the winter!).

Piyush and I left Friday morning and decided to take our time.  Usually we’re in such a rush to get to the cabin that we don’t really stop or enjoy any of the sights along the way (excluding Duluth.  We always stop in Duluth).

This time we stopped at a few antique shops, played 18  holes of golf, and even stopped for some pie.

Betty’s Pies is a relatively famous Minnesota destination.  Personally, I think it’s history is more interesting than the pie, but  I’m not much of a pie person.  We picked up a Bumbleberry pie (raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and blueberry) to share with my parents.  When I opened the box, this is what I saw:

Isn’t that the maddest pie you’ve ever seen?  I got such a kick out of the pies angry-face!  It still makes me giggle.

pie in the woods!

The filling was yummy! …the crust, meh.  It was pretty dry.  But I guess dry pie is better than no pie, right?  …Right?

Piyush and I also stopped for dinner at The Angry Trout.  The food was amazing, and I wish there was an Angry Trout clone in Rochester!

Fresh grilled trout (caught in Lake Superior), Minnesota wild rice, and a big veggie salad

The trout was fresh caught in Lake Superior, and the taste was incredible.  I don’t usually enjoy fish all that much, but I think I could eat this everyday!!!  YUM!

The view from the restaurant was pretty incredible too…

The Angry Trout Restaurant: Grand Marais, MN

Once we finished with dinner and began driving north on the Gunflint Trail, I noticed all the beautiful wild flowers were beginning to bloom.  Lupine, roses, and blackberries (among other things) grow wild along the roads.  It’s such a lovely welcome, and I always look forward to it.

Wild Lupine

Wild Roses

Lake Superior

The weekend was so relaxing, but unfortunately it rained all of Saturday.  We didn’t get to spend much time on the water, but that’s okay.  Just being in Grand Marais was good enough for me!

Now…on to the banana bread!  

This recipe for banana bread is the easiest version I’ve ever come across.  It is also probably the first thing I really learned to bake myself.

The recipe allows for all sorts of variation, and a lot of times I’ll toss in some dark chocolate or dried cranberries.  It always turns out incredible, and I’ve never baked a dry loaf.  There really isn’t anything worse than dry banana bread.  Yuck!

This recipe makes amazing muffins!

I couldn’t tell you where this recipe came from.  I don’t know if it was from a book, my grandma, or maybe I found it online.  I don’t know.  I’ve had it for well over 15 years.

What I do know is that if you make this banana bread…you won’t regret it!

Easy Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 browned bananas- smashed
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. butter- melted
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together smashed banana, and the melted butter.  Once everything is combined, add the egg and mix again.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is combined–but don’t over-stir.  Add any mix-ins (chocolate, dried fruits, nuts…) and stir until they are evenly distributed.
  • Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 325 degrees F.
  • Remove from oven, let cool a couple minutes and remove from loaf pan.  Let the bread cool on a rack for about a half hour or so.  Enjoy!
**I sometimes sprinkle the top with raw sugar crystals before baking.  It makes the crust have a pretty shine.  :) **

This recipe freezes extremely well!