Homemade Paella

I haven't really had a chance to try something new in the kitchen for a while. So I thought, "Hmm, who wouldn't love some paella tonight?" And there was paella.

I cooked the rice in a rice cooker; it's white rice with turmeric, because apparently saffron is unavailable in my local supermarket. I did a quick Google search in the spice aisle, and discovered turmeric is "the poor man's saffron." Good enough, I guess. It was tasty anyway.

While the rice was cooking I had two other items on the stove:

• A pan with diced onion, diced red pepper, hot sausage and bay scallops, seasoned with black pepper and dried parsley sautéing in olive oil
• A pot with littleneck clams and shrimp (I also got two cherrystones to serve as a strong visual, for presentation – that's the big clam you see on the right).

When the rice was done, I mixed in some peas. I drained the sausage/scallop mixture and added it, then the clams and shrimp and tossed the whole lot together.

We enjoyed it with this year's Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, which is probably the best vintage in a few years. I always forget how much I like this wine.

Recipe: Tropical fruit pork

This one was real easy and really tasty. I'm not actually sure how much pork I used; I got a huge tenderloin and cut it into a few parts and froze most of it. But you could use this on any amount of pork that fits in a 9x13 casserole dish.

- Pork, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 bananas, sliced
- 1 can apricot nectar
- 1 can banana nectar

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until fully cooked.

I did this with steamed baby carrots.

Mushroomed Steak and Scallops Over Rice

I'm getting really good at the one-pan thing. Sure, I did the rice in a cooker, but here was last night's dinner.

I used chuck steak and bay scallops to keep the cost down. The chuck steak gets soft enough if you cook it in enough liquid, and it turned out that the bay scallops were the right choice here, since sea scallops would have taken over the flavor of this dish and made the creativity part of it moot.

We started by sautéing some sliced baby bellas, then poured some condensed mushroom soup in there. We had some leftover sun-dried tomato marinade we had used on some chicken, and of course added a healthy amount of the best stuff on earth (Sriracha).

We added some diced red bell pepper, then the bay scallops and cubed chuck steak, poured the whole thing over some jasmine rice, and enjoyed it with a Gnarly Head Cab.

Recipe: Catfish with Mushroom AwesomeSauce

Let me tell you about this catfish I made last week. And the sauce that went on it. Holy heck it was amazing.

I sautéed the catfish (2 fillets) in butter, mustard seed and a splash of drinking (not cooking) sherry. Specifically, I used Harvey's Bristol Cream.

The sauce, which is where the real magic was:

1. Sauté five large sliced mushrooms in butter and mustard seed
2. Pour some Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry on it (probably about 1/8 of a cup)
3. Add 2 tablespoons of half & half
4. Let simmer until there's just enough liquid left to pour over the fish (with the mushrooms, of course)

It's more of a hearty, winter sort of sauce, but it was delicious. Give it a shot, let me know what you think.

Recipe: Late summer salmon

It's a little out of season for this, but my baby sister (OK, she's in her late 20s, but she's still the youngest of the three of us) requested it. This is a recipe for salmon at that time of year when the apples first come out, but it's warm enough to want to cool off with a peach during the day. You'll need to plan ahead for this.

Overnight, soak salmon fillets in apple cider (or apple juice and cinnamon, but if you can do the cider, all the better). In the refrigerator, of course. You don't want to give anybody food poisoning.

You'll cook the fillets in the cider (fish side down first; the pan will get hot enough to deal with the skin side later). But the magic here is in the topping.

In another pan, melt some butter, then soften some chopped walnuts. Add chopped peaches, raisins, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Drain the liquid before you serve it over the fish.

Food week: Leftovers omelet

What else would you do with a week's worth of leftovers except start making omelets? And, of course, apologizing for the hideousness of the photo you took with your cell phone.

I'm going to just run on the assumption that you know how to make an omelet. If not, here's a reasonable primer.

My Sunday morning breakfast was made with roasted peppers, catfish and pineapple chunks left over from the catfish bites we went over yesterday, along with some mozzarella I had left over from the eggplant caprese from Wednesday.

And since I'm a dork, that's cinnamon toast. And you won't be surprised to hear there was coffee nearby.

Food week: Catfish bites

This was the unexpected winner of the night. I kind of went out on a limb with this but it worked out.

First, roast some peppers and let them cool.

Next, sautée two catfish fillets in butter, lime juice and peppermint, and let them cool.

I used canned pineapple for this, but you could certainly cut up some fresh pineapple. Your call.

Cut the peppers and catfish into bite-sized pieces. Stack a bite of catfish on top of a bite of pepper, and top it with a piece of pineapple. A toothpick goes a long way toward holding it all together.

Refrigerate and serve cold.

Food week: Eggplant caprese

We're taking a break from the roasted peppers today, but don't worry, they'll be back Thursday and Friday!

This is an easy one, and pretty darn delicious.

• 1 large eggplant
• 2 large beefsteak tomatoes
• 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
• fresh basil leaves

I prefer to draw some of the liquid out of the eggplant. To do that, slice the eggplant, arrange the slices on a paper towel, lightly salt the slices, and put another paper towel on top. You can do this in multiple layers as long as you keep a paper towel between the layers. Come back in about an hour; your eggplant will have dried a bunch and your paper towels will be soaked.

You can slice the tomatoes and mozzarella (matching the number of slices is the way to go) while you wait.

Start with the eggplant, then add a slice of tomato on top of that, then a slice of cheese, then a basil leaf.

The end. See how easy that was?

Food week: Roasted pepper hummus

Food week continues here on the blog with a roasted pepper hummus you can dip pretty much anything into.

First, you should roast some peppers and let them cool.

Next, get out your blender. This recipe is scalable, so I'll just give you the ratios I used based on one can of garbanzo beans (also called chick peas).

• 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
• water (just have your sink nearby)
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 8 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1/4 roasted pepper

Purée the beans, adding water as you go to help. Add oil and garlic; blend. Add pepper last.

Note: If you wind up adding too much water, you can boil some of the liquid off.

Food week: Roasted pepper salsa

I hosted a small gathering over the weekend and, as usual, cooked too much. So, I'm taking the week to offer up my recipes on the blog.

The theme of the night wound up being roasted peppers. It turns out that roasting six of them gives you more than you need to work with. If you've never roasted your own peppers, you're missing out. As you know – because you've bought the jarred ones – roasting brings out the sweetness. But jarred roasted peppers tend to be salty and briny.

Roasted bell peppers

I used orange, yellow and red peppers (they're all sweeter than green). Seed and wash the peppers and cut them in quarters. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. I added rosemary and basil; I've been known to use clove on occasion, as well.

Place the peppers in the pan, drizzle lightly with more olive oil. After about 8 minutes, flip the peppers, roast for another 5-6 minutes.

Line a plate with paper towels, then put the peppers on the plate to cool, but don't let them dry completely. These will last in the refrigerator for a few days.

Salsa

Now for the salsa. Ingredients:

• 1 roasted pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 1 medium onion, sliced
• 4 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into eighths
• 6 cloves garlic
• 3 jalapeño peppers, sliced
• 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 cup water

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion and jalapeño pepper. Add tomato and water, turn heat down to medium and cover. Bring to a boil.

Add remaining ingredients. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Drain some liquid if desired (I prefer my salsa on the thick/chunky side).

Makes about 3 quarts, and would qualify as a mass-market medium salsa. A tablespoon of cayenne pepper or another three jalapeños would kick up the heat a bit.