Monday, October 26, 2015

Guest Post at Simply Healthy Family: Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, Carrot Purée, Sautéed Ham and Mushrooms

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, Carrot Purée, Sautéed Ham and Mushrooms

Right around Labor Day, my friend Gwen of Simple Healthy Family put out a request for guest posts for her blog because her family recently purchased a home and her life was going to get rather busy with a full time job in addition to moving, but she didn't want to neglect her blog. Having moved several times in the last decade, I could empathize so I volunteered. Unfortunately, my life also got busy and I only recently prepared the dish I promised her, so I offer my apologies to her for the delay.

From the standpoint of the dish itself I've prepared for Gwen, I'll just note that it's not my first time preparing scallops for the website. I wasn't satisfied with my first attempt primarily because I used inferior scallops and didn't achieve the sear I wanted. Last year, I had to severely alter the preparation of a Martha Stewart scallop appetizer because I had a different professional opinion regarding the techniques utilized and I also prepared a scallops entrée that used seasonal ingredients but the best scallops dish, in my opinion, is the one I prepared for #SundaySupper in February of 2014.

Before I send you to Simply Healthy Family for the recipe, please add her to your G+ circles, follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and twitter in addition to giving her Facebook page a Like.

So have I surpassed the #SundaySupper dish I prepared? Click here to go to Simply Healthy Family to find out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Eating Out at the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference #IFBC

As I noted in a preview couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference which was held on September 18th through the 20th here in Seattle so I thought I'd report back on my experiences.

The official conference activities didn't start until the evening of the 18th but I drove in early in the day to meet a bunch of attendees at Loulay for a mid-morning breakfast.

Later on that evening, a registration reception was held. At the beginning of it, sponsors gave away some swag.

It also provided an opportunity to network, not only with other attendees but with sponsors too. There were a couple who stood out. I was able to connect with Chef John Severson of Skillet Street Food. They served a kale Caesar salad with rockfish. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of it but the dish can be found on the recipes section on their website.

Another sponsor that stood out was Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar primarily because they served samples of their seven element broth. It looked like nothing but it packed a flavor punch so well balanced between sweet, salt, savory, sour and spice that it took me by surprise.

Inspired by the sample, my friends who also attended the conference, Bobbi of Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen and Dionne of Try Anything Once, and I went over to the Seattle location for dinner. When we arrived, we were disappointed to learn that they only serve the seven element broth for lunch service so we ordered Buddha Rolls, Mediterranean Mussels with Rayong and Seven Flavor Beef

Buddha Rolls

Mediterranean Mussels with Rayong. Photo courtesy of Dionne of Try Anything Once

Seven Flavor Beef. Photo courtesy of Bobbi of Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen

Probably the highlight of the meal was the mussels dish. Our server described it as a little spicy and I remembered telling Bobbi and Dionne that I didn't want to eat anything too spicy however when it was served, the broth did have a little spice to it but it was very well balanced by other flavors and was hardly noticeable. There was an issue with the beef served that evening, however I was impressed by their response: re-preparing not only that dish but the mussels too, then removing those items from our tab.

In addition to the informative sessions on Saturday, probably the highlight of my day taking a picture with Chef Thierry Rautureau, owner of Loulay and Luc who also competed on seasons 2 and 4 of Top Chef Masters in addition to other media appearances.

Chef Rautureau was able to affirm his position as a celebrity chef, as his hors d'oeuvres of braised short rib, parsnip and bacon foam was the best things I ate all evening.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Sunday because I could barely move when I got home Saturday evening. Overall, International Food Blogger's Conference was well worth the time and energy I spend making new local contacts I didn't know existed.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Light Stunt: Cacio e Pepe

Light Stunt: Cacio e Pepe

My sister-in-law recently celebrated her one year anniversary by taking a European vacation that took her and her husband through Rome. Before she left, I asked her to bring me back some dried pasta from Italy and she did!

Inspiration Behind the Dish

While she was in Europe, I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference where I met Sara Rosso who currently resides in Italy. Somehow we started to discuss Italian food when she asked what I knew about authentic Italian food. I replied that I was surprised to find the cuisine is so simple. To that end, I thought I'd demonstrate it using ingredients from Italy.

Dish Details

Cacio e pepe is Italian for cheese and pepper and refers to the sauce that accompanies this simple pasta dish I adapted from bon appétit.


Kosher salt
1 pound dried spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, cracked
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Pecorino cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped


1. Boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop the pasta into the water and return to a boil, stirring occasionally for two minutes less than the instructions on the package directs. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.

2. Prepare the sauce. While the pasta cooks, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper to toast and becomes fragrant, approximately one to two minutes. Add about half of the pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta with the remaining tablespoon of butter, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and toss with the two cheeses and serve in warmed bowls garnished with parsley.

Final Thoughts

I like this dish for several reasons. First and foremost, despite it's simplicity, it yielded incredible flavor. Second, there's some techniques demonstrated in this dish that might be missed if not highlighted. 1) Add salt to the pasta water. Pasta acts like a sponge and will add incredible flavor to the dish. 2) Undercook the pasta in the boiling water because 3) the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce in order to blend the flavors of the sauce and the pasta. 4) Reserve some of the pasta water to use in the sauce. The starchy water will bind and thicken the sauce, and in the case of this dish, can also act as an emulsifier.

Speaking of the International Food Bloggers Conference, I'll have a fuller review of my experiences hopefully next week.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Balsamic Steak and Arugula Pizza for a National Pizza Month #SundaySupper with #GalloFamily

Balsamic Steak and Arugula Pizza for a National Pizza Month #SundaySupper with #GalloFamily

I suppose you could cross this off my culinary bucket list. I must admit that pizza seems like a rather pedestrian dish to be placed there, given my style, but I had a rather unusual version. There are few factors preventing me from preparing it but chief among them is the fact that, according to the recipe developer, the entire pie weighs in at ten to twelve pounds which is excessive for three people in my family. Possibly next February for a Super Bowl party...

For this dish, I decided to place the focus onto the flavor profile.

Inspiration Behind the Dish

Gallo Family Vineyards has decided to use this opportunity to challenge the team at #SundaySupper to pair its wines with pizza toppings in celebration of National Pizza Month, which is October in the United States. For it, each participant was able to select two wines to pair so I chose chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, primarily because I'm most familiar with them, so it would theoretically result in better pairings, but also because they are my favorite wines to drink. Not familiar with Gallo Family Vineyards? Well, they have provided a store locator so you can find their wines. Also, please consider giving them a 'Like' on Facebook, following them on twitter and instagram in addition to subscribing to their YouTube channel. Compensation was provided by Gallo Family Vineyards via Sunday Supper, LLC. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Gallo Family Vineyards.

When I was conceptualizing the dish, I thought I might pair the chardonnay with French flavors that complement chicken but it looked like many of my peers were also preparing chicken pizzas so I thought I'd pair the cabernet sauvignon. My favorite way to pair it is with beef so, per what has become my standard operating procedure, I consulted The Flavor Bible and was reminded of a flavor pairing I used a couple of years ago with a New York steak dish. It suggested to pair steak with arugula, Parmesan and balsamic vinegar. It has become one of my favorite flavor profiles and I knew it would pair nicely with the cabernet sauvignon so I used it again.

Dish Details

I adapted a number of different sources to create this dish. I used the pizza dough recipe found on page 31 of Fabio's Italian Kitchen by Fabio Viviani with Melanie Rehak with the pizza sauce found on For the toppings, I used the balsamic marinade found at and paired it with Ina Garten's arugula topping found on


For the balsamic steak:
1 3/4-to-1 pound flank steak
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
Freshly ground black pepper

For the pizza dough:
1/4-ounce (1 packet) dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups water at a temperature of 100° Fahrenheit to 110° Fahrenheit
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the pizza sauce:
1 28-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese

For the arugula:
5 ounces arugula
Juice from 1 lemon
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Prepare the flank steak. Place the steak in a resealable plastic bag, then combine the garlic, balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil in a small bowl and season with pepper. Pour the marinade over the steak and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove the steaks from the marinade 30 minutes before searing it and discard the marinade. Pat the steak dry and heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Once it starts to smoke, sear the steak, approximately 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes, then slice the steak into thin strips. It may also be necessary to cut each strip into bite size pieces. Set aside while you prepare the pizza dough.

2. Prepare the pizza dough and pizza sauce. Using a mixer with the dough hook attachments, combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour in small amounts, mixing well in between each addition until the dough is tacky but not sticky. Remove the dough from the bowl using olive oil if necessary and place on a lightly floured a flat surface. Cover the dough with a dry towel and let it rise for 30 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit then combine the first three ingredients in a blender and drizzle in approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil. Blend the sauce, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Assemble the pizza. Once the dough has risen, Roll the dough, shape it and transfer it to a sheet pan or pizza pan. Spoon some pizza sauce onto the dough, leaving three quarters of an inch space from the edge of the dough. Shower the pizza sauce evenly with the cheeses then top the cheese with the balsamic steak. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is crispy and the cheese has melted, approximately 9 to 10 minutes.

4. Prepare the arugula and finish the dish. While the pizza bakes, combine the lemon juice and olive oil in equal parts in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Toss the arugula with just enough to dampen, a scant couple of teaspoons. Once the pizza is finished in the oven, top it with the dressed arugula, slice and serve with your favorite Gallo Family Vineyard wine.

Final Thoughts

There are a couple of execution issues I'd like to discuss. First, my source recipe for the instructs to marinate the steak for only 30 minutes to 1 hour but I actually let it sit in the marinade overnight for a stronger balsamic flavor. Secondly, I wanted to specify here that my first attempt at pizza dough failed because I didn't measure the flour. Furthermore I had trouble mixing the flour after a few additions so I might add it all in at once the next time I attempt it. Overall, I was fairly satisfied with the dough because it was comparable to some pizzas I have had delivered. Honestly, pairing wine with pizza initially seemed unnatural to me, however the cabernet did pair with the flavors of the pizza exceptionally well so I will probably do so again the next time I make pizza at home.

Lastly, I'm not the only National Pizza Month celebrant, so be sure to review the others listed below.

Sweet Pizzas
Savory Pizzas
Also Featured: Simple Tips for Wine Cheese Pairings plus Pizza Recipes #SundaySupper with Gallo Family Vineyards.
Need more ideas for celebrating National Pizza Month? Check out Gallo Family Vineyards’ blog.

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