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Sorry folks, no recipe here today, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the most delicious scallops I’ve ever had. I’m a huge fan of most seafood, but scallops have never been my favorite. That is, until I tasted the most succulent, melt-in-your mouth, sweet scallops ever. Ever.

In recent months, we’ve given up on buying seafood in the regular grocery store. In this land-locked state, it just never seemed that fresh (even though 99 percent of the seafood around here is frozen anyway). Plus, we had a few experiences where we ended up throwing fish out because it just didn’t smell or look that great, and that’s one food we definitely don’t want to take risks with. Enter our new favorite fish monger: Nantucket Shoals Seafood Market in Albuquerque. A friend of my family suggested this place to us for the freshest fish you’d ever find in this state, and he wasn’t messing around. It’s a little bit of a drive from our house, but it’s conveniently on my way home from work. Needless to say, I’ve been stopping on my way home at least once a week for the last two or three months.

While putting together our menu last weekend, we decided on throwing together a shrimp and scallop pasta. Little did I know that I would soon be eating the best darn scallops I’ve ever eaten. We bought a bunch of bay scallops, since the little guys always seem to taste better than the big guys (at least around these parts) from our new fish monger and cooked them that night to go along with our favorite alfredo sauce and a nice thick spaghetti. (We ended up scratching the shrimp because the scallops looked amazing.) Since the alfredo sauce packs a lot of flavor, we just sauteed the scallops in a little garlic and olive oil for about three minutes. Honestly, they didn’t need any help in the flavor department.

Scallop Alfredo Pasta

I honestly never have tasted a scallop this good in my entire life. These little guys literally melt in your mouth as soon as you bite in to them, not to mention how sweet they were. They paired perfectly with the alfredo sauce, but totally could have stood on their own with just that simple saute. After eating these, I’m a scallop fan for life! Thank you Nantucket Shoals!

For any of you in the Albuquerque/Rio Rancho area, make sure to check out Nantucket Shoals for the best (and freshest) fish around. The address is 5415 Academy, just east of Academy and San Mateo (right next door to Trombino’s). And if you’re not convinced yet, a ton of restaurants in the area get their fish from Nantucket’s wholesale market — so they must be doing something right!

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For our first anniversary, we spent the day in Santa Fe, which is known for some really good restaurants (among other things) in this part of the world. We hard time deciding where to grub, but we knew we wanted something different that we couldn’t get around here. We ended up at Amavi, a regional Mediterranean restaurant. Our entire meal was delicious, but one thing in particular stuck with us — our appetizer of steamed clams, mussels and Spanish chorizo. Every bite was delicious, including the crusty bread that sopped up all the juices. We were determined to recreate the dish, and this was our attempt.

Our biggest task was finding Spanish style chorizo. Mexican style (ground, uncooked, seasoned pork) is everywhere around here, but we really struggled to find Spanish style (dried, cured, seasoned pork). We ended up finding some at Talin Market, so we picked up two packages and were on the hunt for sample recipes and ideas. We weren’t sure what else was in the appetizer we h ad at Amavi other than the obvious contenders — clams, mussels, chorizo and some kind of broth. We searched for a lot of recipes, and ended up using this one we found on another food blog (which I have subsequently fallen in love with), giving it our own little spin. (I’m the only fan of mussels in our house, so we used more clams in their place.)

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4 (BTW, I’ve decided it probably makes a lot of sense to tell you how much of something you’re cooking, so I’m now including servings in my posts!)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 3 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 or 2 fennel bulb(s), thinly sliced
– salt and pepper
– red pepper flakes
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 lb Spanish style chorizo, sliced
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 1 cup clam juics
– 3 dozen clams (you can use pre-cooked frozen clams)
– 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
– juice of 1/2 lemon

In a high-sided saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for one to two minutes until they begin to sweat out, then add the garlic and fennel. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and paprika. Continue to saute until the onion becomes translucent and the fennel starts cooking down. Add the chorizo to the pan and stir to combine (you don’t have to worry about cooking time here because Spanish chorizo is already cooked). We let the chorizo brown a little, but it didn’t cook for more than five minutes.

Add the wine and clam juice to the pan and bring to a boil. As soon as the wine and clam juice comes to a rolling boil, add the clams. Stir to combine and immediately cover the pan. Steam for three to five minutes, or until all the clams have opened up, discarding any that may not have opened. Remove from the heat, stir in parsley and lemon juice and serve over freshly cooked spaghetti (make sure to get plenty of juice to soak up with a good loaf of bread).

Pasta with Clams and Chorizo

This wasn’t a replica of our amazing appetizer (I think we may have been missing some kind of tomato product?), but it was pretty damn good. The fennel, which wasn’t in the original, added a great crunch and flavor to the dish. The clams absorbed all the wonderful flavors of the wine and chorizo and were perfectly cooked. And the broth…it was amazing. The mixture of wine, clam juice and lemon juice really worked well together, not to mention all the flavors it picked up from the chorizo and fennel. It made a great light sauce for the pasta and was perfect for soaking up with bread — lots of bread. We’ll definitely be making this again, but next time there will be some type of tomato involved.

Make sure to check out Las Vegas Food Adventures for this and other great recipes (and restaurant reviews). And if you’re in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area, make sure to plan a meal at Amavi, you won’t regret it.

Ever since trying it for the first time a few weeks ago, we’ve been on a quinoa kick! It’s a pretty tasty, easy alternative to rice or other grains — plus, it’s (supposedly) healthier for you. You can’t beat healthy food that tastes good, right? In the last month or so, we’ve used it as a rice alternative in a few dishes. In the stuffed peppers, I found the quinoa was a better vehicle than the rice. It was more flavorful and the texture it gave to the dish as a whole was better than any stuffed pepper I’ve ever had (sorry mom!).

There are probably a million different ways to make stuffed peppers, but Billy and I usually make a fairly Italian version.
Here’s a list of what we like to use
– Sweet bell peppers (red, yellow and orange usually work best)
– Onion
– Shrimp
– Tomato Sauce and Paste
– Quinoa (or rice)

After cutting the top off the bell peppers and cleaning them out, we like to chop the meat of the pepper that won’t be used to saute it with onions as part of the stuffing. You can skip this step and probably won’t miss out on much, but we like to use it since it would just be thrown away. Anyway, I digress. We like to saute the onion with the extra bell peppers so they cook all the way through and also get a little flavor boost. Once they’ve cooked about half-way through, add about a tablespoon of tomato paste (and a little bit of water to help break it up), salt, pepper and a few red pepper flakes. Let the tomato paste reduce a little and set it aside to let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the stuffing, cut the shrimp into bite sized pieces and mix together with the quinoa and sauteed onions and peppers. Add about 1/3 of a small can of tomato sauce to the mixture for moisture and to help everything bind together. Stir to combine and you’re ready to stuff the peppers! Spoon the stuffing into the peppers, filling to the top. Place the peppers in a deep casserole dish and fill about 2/3 of the way with water and the rest of the tomato sauce.

Bake at 375 for about an hour, basting with the water surrounding the peppers often (every 10 or 15 minutes). The cooking time can vary based on how stuffed your peppers are and how often you baste them. Once the quinoa and shrimp are cooked, they’re ready to eat.

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After trying stuffed peppers with quinoa, I’m pretty confident that I won’t ever stuff them with rice again. Something about the taste and texture of the quinoa really made the dish. Sauteing the onions and peppers with the tomato paste and adding the tomato sauce to the mixture really gave the stuffing a great flavor. Despite the cooking time, the shrimp didn’t end up overcooked…which is a total plus! These stuffed peppers will most definitely be a repeat recipe!

By the way, until fairly recently we had never heard of quinoa, but it seems that it’s becoming more and more common. We have found it in our regular grocery store as well as in specialty stores like Wild Oats and Sunflower. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would really recommend it

Lately, Billy and I have been paying extra attention to what we eat. Not necessarily to make big changes in our diet, but to be aware of what we’re eating and to try to stay on a healthy track. My opinion has always been, if you’re cooking it…it’s probably a lot healthier than going out to eat. Which is true, for the most part. But, I decided to go out and buy a few healthy-eating cookbooks anyway to make sure that we are actually on the right page.

We made this shrimp curry recipe that’s featured in a book by the American Institute for Cancer Research called The New American Plate. The book is awesome! It’s more than a cookbook, actually. It’s got a pretty long introduction section that explains why American’s are more unhealthy and overweight than ever. It also explains how to prepare a “proper” meal with the right portions of meats and veggies. Anyway, the shrimp curry recipe was really good, and can easily be altered to include the meats and veggies you like most.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 tbsp cornstarch
– 2 tsp curry powder (or more if you like)
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– 1 tbsp (reduced-sodium) soy sauce
– 3/4 cup chicken broth
– 3 tsp oil (the recipe calls for canola or peanut, two of the healthiest oils, but whatever you have on hand is fine)
– 8 asparagus spears, cut into one inch pieces
– 1 bell pepper, diced
– 1/4 lb (about 20) sugar snap peas strings on both edges removed
– 2 tsp peeled ginger, minced
– 1 large garlic clove, minced
– 3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (the frozen package will do)
– rice or noodles

The first thing you’ll do is prepare the curry sauce. To do this, combine the cornstarch, curry powder and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Next, add the soy sauce and combine, then add the chicken broth and give it one final whisk. Set the mixture aside.

In a wok or high-sided skillet, heat 1 tsp of the oil over very high heat. Add all of the veggies (including the ginger and garlic) to the pan and saute until everything had turned bright, about two minutes. (If you like any of the veggies cooked through a little more, add those to the pan first.) Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil (2 tsp) in the same pan, still over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook on each side until they turn pink, about one minute per side. Return the veggies to the pan and pour in the curry sauce (stir it up if it’s separated a little). Bring to a boil and simmer for about two or three minutes until the shrimp is cooked through and the sauce thickens.

Shrimp Curry over Udon Noodles

Shrimp Curry over Udon Noodles

You’d never know this is a “healthy” meal. While we were cooking, I kept thinking, “This isn’t any different from a normal night for us….” Which is, of course, a good thing considering we’re trying to make sure to eat healthy meals. The biggest difference we did notice is the proportion of veggies compared to the shrimp. But, according to the book, your plate should be 2/3 veggies and starches and 1/3 meat…so I guess that’s how all recipes from this book will be. No big deal, really.

But really, the shrimp were so tender and all the veggies were perfectly cooked — still crunchy and fresh, but cooked enough to not have that raw taste. The curry sauce was so flavorful, and the Udon noodles we made on the side sopped it up nicely. I think next time we make it I would add more curry powder for a little extra flavor and maybe change up the veggies. But overall, a really great dish.

P.S. I also highly recommend The New American Plate Cookbook. It’s so informative and all of the recipes look really tasty. Plus, all of the nutritional information for the dishes is right there.

Apparently we’ve been in a grilling mood. I guess we’re trying to catch up on all the grilling we didn’t do over the summer. At least the weather is still good. It takes a pretty good chef to be able to call your dishes “the ultimate,” but I think Tyler Florence has the chops. His book, Tyler’s Ultimate, has “the ultimate” recipe for everything. Let me tell you, his grilled shrimp with lemon-basil butter stuffing were amazing.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 stick butter, softened (make sure it’s not melted)
– a large bunch of fresh basil
– the juice of 1 lemon
– salt and pepper
– 16 large jumbo shrimp, shells on and split down the back

This recipe is really easy, but it takes some time to individually stuff each shrimp. We ended up with a really good system where one of us would put a drop of butter under each shell and the other would rub it around a bit. However it gets done, make sure you’re not shy with the butter because it gives the shrimp so much flavor. To make the butter, throw the softened stick, basil, lemon juice and salt and pepper into a food processor and puree until smooth. Stuff the butter under the shells of the shrimp, about a half a teaspoon for each shrimp.

Lemon-Basil Butter

Lemon-Basil Butter

Heat the grill over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray so the shrimp don’t stick. Once the grill is hot, throw the shrimp on and don’t touch until they’re ready to flip, about three minutes. Baste them with more butter as they begin to cook, then flip. Baste again and let them cook through, about another three minutes. Simple as that!

The Ultimate Shrimp

The Ultimate Shrimp with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Leaving the shells on the shrimp while they’re grilling gives them so much extra flavor, but nothing can top the amazing flavor from the lemon-basil butter. The shrimp had such a buttery flavor, but the flavors of the lemon and basil resonated throughout the meat of the shrimp. I’ve had grilled shrimp before, but there’s no doubt that these are truly the ultimate grilled shrimp.

During our honeymoon in Durango, Billy and I went to a restaurant/brewery called Steamworks. There, they are known for (well, besides their beer of course) their Cajun seafood boils. When you order one, they come out and put a huge sheet of wax paper on your table and about five minutes later they come with a huge bowl of seafood, sausage, potatoes and corn and dump it all in front of you on the wax paper covered table. No utensils, no plates…just napkins and the 10 fingers that God gave you. This was seriously one of the best meals we had ever eaten. It was a lot of fun to eat, but also amazingly delicious. The Cajun spices flavored all of the seafood and other ingredients but the heat didn’t overpower everything. Immediately after clearing the whole table, we were wondering how we could do this ourselves. Well, we figured it out and man, is it worth it….

You can use any kind of seafood you like, but the “classic” mixture is crab, shrimp and crayfish. We use crab knuckles because they’re cheaper than legs, they have a lot of meat and they’re easier to crack with your hands. We use about a pound of each kind of seafood (it sounds like a lot, but for four people, it’s the perfect amount). Make sure to leave the shells on all of the seafood, but you want to devein the shrimp and clean everything up before boiling. You’ll also need about a pound of small red (or white, whatever you prefer) potatoes, four cobs of corn, and a pound of smoked sausage. You can leave the potatoes whole (they won’t fall apart this way), cut the cobs of corn in half, and cut the sausage into about 1/2 inch pieces. And, that’s it! Very simple.

Zatarain’s makes a Cajun seafood boil spice mixture that comes in a little bag that you just throw in the boiling water. This little package of heaven has everything to need to flavor your seafood boil. Throw it in the water after it comes to a boil and the water will turn a translucent red in a matter of minutes. (By the way, you need enough water to fit all the the ingredients without crowding the pot. That means you need a pretty huge pot.) Throw the potatoes into the pot and let them boil away for about 15 minutes. Next, add the corn and the sausage and continue to boil for another 10 or so minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Now, take the potatoes, corn and sausage out of the pot and put on a big cookie sheet with tinted aluminum foil to keep warm. Throw in all the seafood and let boil for about five minutes, or until everything is cooked through. Add the seafood to the cookie sheet with the veggies and sausage and dig in (literally)!

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Be prepared to eat more food than you’ve ever eaten before because it’s nearly impossible to stop if there’s still food in front of you. It may just look like a pile of stuff, but I promise it’s absolutely delicious.

On Friday (yikes, I’m behind) we planned on making a surf-n-turf kind of meal — steak and lobster. Billy wanted to grill the steak so I suggested that we also grill the lobster tail. Oh. My. God. Best decision we made all week. We split the tail in half length-wise by flipping it on it’s back (softer side up) and splitting it down the middle with a hefty knife. If you do this, try not to cut all the way through, you want the tail to stay intact while on the grill, but it’s not the end of the world if you have two pieces instead of just one. We stuck two skewers through the butterflied tail to keep it butterflied and to prevent it from curling up during cooking on the grill.

Lobster Tail Ready for the Grill

Lobster Tail Ready for the Grill

We seasoned the lobster with salt, pepper, and a little Cayenne pepper. The steaks got the same, but also some steak seasoning. The steak and lobster went onto the grill at the same time (we like our steak medium, so if you’re cooking it to rare you might want to hold off on the lobster tail for a few) and were cooked perfectly. And that’s it!

Steak and Lobster Grilling Away

Steak and Lobster Grilling Away

Nothing too special or out of the ordinary here, but the meal was so delicious that I had to share. The lobster tail took on a whole different flavor being grilled instead of boiled. The char from the grill gave it that classic summer-grilled taste with a little crunch on the outside, but the meat was so tender, juicy, and tasty. The steak was, well…steak, but it was cooked perfectly and very tender. (Billy gets all the credit for the grilled masterpieces. I just prepare everything and then watch him handle the grill like a pro.) I must say, if you’ve never had a grilled lobster tail, now is the time to try it.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

By the way, we paired the steak and lobster tail with some garlic mashed potatoes and a grilled onion. (We just peeled the onion, cut it in half, put each half in a little aluminum foil pouch with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and threw it on the grill — yum.) Until next time, happy eating!