CILANTRO JALAPENO MARGARITA

We started working on the Cape house again. It's amazing the amount we've done... the kitchen has been demoed, electrical work is mostly complete, rooms are starting to get painted. We have a vision and as we accomplish each task, we see it begin to take shape.  However, it feels that with every project completed, another problem comes up. It's all fixable, just a little frustrating. I have to remind myself that one day we won't even remember how exhausting it all is. We'll just enjoy the experience of sharing this home. We'll create memories there that will make all this hard work worth it. 

I had my first cilantro drink the other week, and I realized it'd be the perfect addition to a spicy margarita. Now, I know a "perfect margarita" is just tequila, lime and Cointreau, but this is my idea of the perfect margarita: herbal, spicy, savory, tangy and just a little sweet.

Cilantro jalapeno margarita

SERVINGS
1 drink (but can easily be multiplied)

GLASSWARE
Rocks glass

INGREDIENTS
2 oz tequila
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Cointreau
1 slice jalapeno (with or without seeds, depending on how spicy you'd like it)
5 cilantro leaves

Lime wedge (a used one will do just fine, it just needs some juice in it)
Salt (I used Tajin Clasico with Lime, but Kosher salt works fine)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Pour salt onto a plate. Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and then dip the rim into the salt, spin slowly until rim is lightly coated in salt.

2. Pour tequila, lime juice, Cointreau into a mixing glass, along with the jalapeno and cilantro.

3. Using a muddler, mash the jalapeno and cilantro until it's thoroughly broken up. 

4. Fill rimmed glass with ice and strain drink into the glass.

SEARED SCALLOPS WITH PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Before my parents left for a recent trip to Italy, they asked us what we wanted them to bring back. Immediately, my mind went in the direction of food. Olive oil, maybe? Could they grab all the cheese? Then my mom suggested leather gloves and we agreed that'd be a very useful gift (this was in February when the temps kept dropping and the snow piled high). We sent them off with drawings of our hands and they returned with stunning, lamb's wool-lined gloves. Of course, now it's 70 degrees and I'm sitting here wearing shorts and flip-flops, so we'll have to wait until the fall to bust them out. My mom was generous enough to also split a bag of dried porcini mushrooms she procured during their travels.  "They said it'd be great in a risotto." And as soon as she said it, I couldn't get it out of my head. That perfect spring-time dish... warm and hearty for those cooler nights. If you wanted to simplify the meal (and keep it vegetarian), the scallops can certainly be omitted, but I was craving seafood (ok, I'm always craving seafood) and that sweet ocean flavor meshed perfectly with the lemony risotto. 

SEARED SCALLOPS WITH PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO

SERVINGS
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3 1/2 cups boiling water
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Place porcini mushrooms in a large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over mushrooms and soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Strain the liquid into a large pot. Chop mushrooms and set aside.

2. Add the vegetable broth to the same pot containing the mushroom liquid and set over medium-high heat. 

3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large sauce pan (or risotto pan) set over medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic, thyme, and porcini mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.  

4. Stir in the Arborio rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and give it a stir. Cook until the wine is fully absorbed. 

5. Add the broth to the pan one ladle at a time, making sure to stir the risotto frequently. When the broth has been absorbed, add another. Continue with the remaining broth and cook risotto until it's tender. Once cooked, stir in peas. 

6. Mix the lemon zest and most of the Parmesan into the risotto.

7. Dry the sea scallops with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper.

8. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter on high heat.  Once it begins to smoke, add the scallops and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until it has browned on one side.  Using tongs, flip the scallops and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the size of the scallops.

9. Divide risotto into bowls. Top with scallops and garnish with more chopped parsley and lemon zest. 

RADISH AND FENNEL SALAD WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND SHRIMP

Anyone else ready for spring? I know I am. While February was, for the most part, unseasonably warm, March became the month to escape. It got cold... very cold. And the snow fell, then melted, then fell again. Mother Nature, can you please stop messing with our heads? Please and thank you. I'm pretty sure we're moving on to warmer times, but it looks like it'll be wet for a while before we get to enjoy some much-deserved sunshine. 

I've had very few free moments these last couple of weeks, which means zero effort has been made to putting together recipes for the blog. I've sort of accepted it. If nothing happens, oh well. I can't force it and I certainly don't feel like it's worth stressing out over. That's why there were some lulls last month. Hoping to spend more time creating content in the coming weeks.

We just returned from New Jersey, where we celebrated my grandmother's birthday, and I got to see my nieces, both of whom recently celebrated theirs, and my mom, whose birthday is on Thursday. Eric and I arrived bearing lots of gifts for the little ones. Of course, the most exciting thing was a spinwheel like contraption I picked up from the Harvard Museum of Natural History. That and a ladybug umbrella. Both were a big hit. 

I've had the last few days free (meaning that I've been home working, editing photos that I should've done over the weekend). To break up the excessive amounts of computer time, recipes were crafted.  It's funny what a little kitchen time can do to raise one's spirits. I definitely needed that. And, here we have one of those creations... a bridge from winter to spring. Crispy vegetables tossed with roasted Brussels sprouts and shrimp and drizzled with a bright lemony, Dijon dressing. We scarfed this down for dinner the other night and I'm planning on making this (and variations on it), throughout the season. 

radish and fennel salad with bRUSSELS SPROUTS AND SHRIMP

SOURCE
Radish salad adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe in The New York TImes

TOOLS
Mandoline
Cut-resistant kitchen gloves

SERVINGS
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ounce lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Extra ­virgin olive oil
3 cups fresh parsley leaves
2 celery stalks, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (1 cup)
6 radishes, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (1 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline (1 cup)
2 teaspoons drained capers
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), as needed
Black pepper, as needed

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim the ends of the Brussels sprouts and cut each in half lengthwise. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt. Spread Brussels sprouts on baking sheet in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and roast for approximately 20 minutes, flipping half way through, until they are browned evenly (some leaves may burn and that's ok). Once cooked, transfer to a bowl to let cool. 

2. Again, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread a small amount of oil on the foil and place the shrimp in a single layer on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook for 7-8 minutes, until cooked through. 

3. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, Dijon mustard, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in shallot. 

4. Put the sliced celery, radish, and fennel in a mixing bowl. Mix in the Brussels sprouts and the parsley. Transfer to a serving platter.

5. Distribute cooked shrimp over salad. Spoon dressing over the dish and then sprinkle cappers on top. Season with sea salt and black pepper.