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chevre tomatoes
Baked Goat Cheese on Tomatoes

scallop risotto
Scallop and Saffron

spinach gratin
Simple Spinach Gratin

Menu Plan for the week of March 1, 2013: Friday's Recipes

Baked Tomatoes and Chevre
Scallop and Saffron Risotto
Simple Fresh Spinach Gratin

Cooking time:  45 minutes for menu          Cooking schedule: see below for instructions

   Saffron is an expensive spice; the stigmas of a species of crocus.  It has a slightly bitter taste and imparts a bright yellow-orange color to food.  It's used in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central Asian cuisines.  I don't use it often - but occasionally. You can leave it out of the risotto if you like... The risotto will still be fantastic, but with a slightly different flavor and won't have the vibrant color.  

Baked Tomatoes and Chevre                           Preparation and cooking time:   10 minutes
     In summer we have fresh Mozzarella di Bufala with garden ripened tomatoes.  This is the late winter substitute.

3.5oz (100gr) aged goat cheese, with white rind 
2 medium tomatoes  
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
3 tbs olive oil

Slice cheese into 6 rounds. Each round should be between 1/4 and 1/3" (.75 - 1cm) thick.
Cut 3 slices from each tomato.
Mix bread crumbs, garlic, basil and put onto a plate. Put olive oil on another plate. Dip both sides of the tomato slices in the oil, then the crumbs and place on a nonstick baking sheet - leaving room for the cheese slices.  Bake, 400F (200C) for 10 minutes.  Remove baking sheet, leaving tomatoes in place.
Dip both sides of the cheese in the oil, then the crumbs and place on baking sheet.  Return sheet to oven and bake 2 - 4 minutes longer, just until you see the tops of the cheese sink slightly.
Remove the tomatoes to 2 plates. Carefully remove the cheese and place on top of the tomatoes. Serve. 

Scallop and Saffron Risotto                                Preparation and cooking time:   30 minutes
     The crème fraiche makes this a very creamy risotto; the saffron (optional) makes it a very pretty risotto. The secret to easy risotto is not to stir constantly, but to stir a bit vigorously after each addition of liquid. You can use either Bay or Sea scallops.

2/3 cup Arborio rice (or other rice specifically for risotto - Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1/3 cup (3oz, 90ml) dry, white wine
2 1/8 cups (17oz, 510ml) fish, seafood or chicken stock
1 shallot
1 tbs butter
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) Parmesan cheese - freshly grated

Heat stock and keep hot over low heat. 
Finely chop shallot.  In medium saucepan heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add shallot and sauté until transparent, then add rice and sauté, stirring, for 2 - 3 minutes until rice has white center.  Add white wine and stir. 
Start condimenti
When wine is almost absorbed add a 1/3 cup of stock, stir.  (No need to stir constantly but do stir from time to time.)  When stock is almost absorbed add another 1/3 cup and continue adding 1/3 cup at a time and stirring.  Before the last 1/3 cup taste a few kernels of rice.  They should be just 'al dente' - slightly resistant to the tooth but fully cooked.  If more stock is needed add it, a few tbs at a time, and waiting until almost completely absorbed. 
At this point risotto will be thick but not stiff - there will still be visible liquid and it will not hold it's shape on a plate. 
Add the Parmesan and the condimenti, stir well, pour into a bowl or risotto platter and serve immediately.  It will continue to absorb liquid and the leftovers (if any) will be quite stiff. 


8oz (240gr) scallops
2 shallots 
1 medium tomato, peeled  
1/3 cup (3oz, 90ml) dry, white wine
1/2 tsp saffron, crushed   use 1/4 tsp if powdered
1/3 cup (3oz, 90gr) crème fraiche
3 tsp olive oil

Peel tomato: blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds; rinse in cold water, peel.
Chop shallots and tomato.  Crush saffron, lightly, either using mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon on a plate.  You just want to break it down a bit.
While risotto is cooking:  Heat 2 tsp oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add scallops and sauté quickly until just cooked through, turning once.  Remove and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium, add remaining 1 tsp oil and shallots.  Sauté until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add tomato, wine, saffron and simmer, reducing slightly.
Select 2 nice scallops for garnish and set aside. If using sea scallops cut the remainder in half or fourths, depending on size.  Add crème fraiche and scallops to skillet and heat through.  Remove from heat, cover and keep warm until needed for risotto.
To serve:  Divide risotto between 2 plates or soup plates, top with reserved scallops and serve.

Simple Fresh Spinach Gratin                           Preparation and cooking time:  45 minutes
   Fresh spinach cooks quickly, with a bit of stock to keep it moist.  It's topped with a seasoned mix of bread crumbs and shredded cheese for a quick, healthy side dish.

8oz (250gr) fresh spinach
1/2 cup (4oz, 120ml) chicken stock
1/3 cup (1.5oz, 45gr) shredded cheese
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp olive oil

Remove thick stems from spinach and roughly chop: pile the leaves up and cut through 2 or 3 times. Put spinach in oiled baking dish just large enough to hold it.  I used my 8 X 11 inch (20 X 27.5cm) oval ceramic dish.  Heat stock and pour stock over spinach.  Mix bread crumbs, thyme and cheese and sprinkle over spinach.  Cover with foil and bake at 375F (190C) for 30 minutes. Uncover for last few minutes to brown top.  Serve from baking dish.

Note:  I could barely get all the spinach in my dish; I had to press it down. Heating the stock helped wilt it so that it wasn't higher than the sides of the baking dish.  As it bakes, it collapses, and the gratin topping comes together.

Cooking Schedule: 45 minutes for menu
Assemble all ingredients and utensils
Utensils: measuring cups, spoons, knives,
2 medium saucepans, (1 used 2 X) medium skillet
with lid, ladle, 2 plates, baking sheet, baking dish,
grater, foil
Bring 1 saucepan half full of water to boil, high heat
Heat stock for spinach
Turn oven on, 400F (200C), arrange 2 shelves
Chop shallots
Grate Parmesan
Crush saffron
Trim, chop spinach
Mix crumbs, cheese, thyme
Oil baking dish, add spinach
Pour stock over, top with crumbs, cover, bake
Heat stock for risotto
Sauté shallots for rice
Blanch tomato in boiling water, remove, peel, chop
Add rice, to shallot, sauté
Heat oil for scallops
Add wine to rice, stir
Sauté scallops
Slice goat cheese
Slice tomatoes
Add stock to risotto, stir

Turn scallops
Stir risotto
Mix crumbs, garlic, basil, put on plate
Put oil on plate
Add stock to risotto, stir
Remove scallops, set aside
Reduce heat, add shallots, sauté
Dip tomatoes - oil, crumbs, put on sheet, bake
Add stock to risotto, stir
Add tomato, wine, saffron, to shallots, simmer
Cut scallops, reserving 2
Remove tomatoes
Bread cheese, add to tomatoes, return to oven
Add stock to rice, stir
Turn heat off under tomato/shallot
Add 2/3 cup stock to risotto, stir, reduce heat very low
Remove tomatoes, cheese, plate and serve
    Interrupt once to stir, check risotto, uncover spinach
Done with the starter?
Add stock to risotto, stir very well, test rice
Return tomato/shallot to heat
Remove spinach
Add crème fraiche, scallops, heat through
Add more stock to rice if needed
Add Condimenti to Risotto, stir well
Add Parmesan to Risotto, stir well, serve

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