As much as I love dining out, the huz and I have a few chef skillz up our sleeves (or so we like to think) which means we are capable of producing some pretty fantastic meals at home, too. For our wedding anniversary this year, we planned a “staycation” (much less epic than last year’s trip to the Czech Republic, but fun and relaxing, nonetheless!). For our staycation, we planned to cook ourselves a gourmet meal at home one evening, using only the best ingredients.
To start, a pair of refreshing drinks will be needed. First up, the mocktail. Recently while watching the Food Network we saw Bobby Flay blend up a batch of this two-ingredient Brazilian Limeade (three ingredients if you include water) and were completely intrigued. We had to try it.
You won’t believe how easy this is. Wash four whole limes, and cut into quarters. Throw the limes into a blender (peel and all) with six cups of water and blend until completely smooth, up to two minutes. PEEL AND ALL. I know. Weird, right?? But you know what? It works.
FFfffyyyyuuueewwhh. Yes, that is the sound of my mind being blown.
After blending the limes and water, pour the mixture through a sieve to strain out the solids. Having a date/sous chef to hold the sieve in place while you pour is really helpful here. Discard the solids. Stir 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk into the limeade, chill, and serve. Yep, that’s it! Pretty cool, right? Yes.
Now, I imagined this drink would be very sweet and creamy but it’s actually a tart (uh, yeah, limes… who’d have thunk it), only very mildly sweet, and the creaminess is very light. It was good, but not quite as luscious as I’d imagined. But shoot, it cost like $2 to make a big pitcher of it – try it out!
Of course we wanted a boozy drink too, so we made Cooking Light’s Watermelon Margaritas. This is a fantastic recipe! Only 105 calories per drink, and hey, it’s mostly fruit, between the watermelon and fresh lime juice. So semi-healthy? Minus the tequila and sugar rim. So yeah. These were fun, summery, and so pretty!
Grilled Panzanella Salad
First we prepped several ingredients for the grill:
- tomatoes – halved
- bell peppers – seeded, halved,
- zuke – halved lengthwise
- ciabatta bread – halved lengthwise
Drizzle everything with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and head out to the grill.
We grilled the bread and all of these veggies on the grill for 2-4 minutes each. This was our first time grilling both tomatoes and scallions and both were fantastic on the grill! I’m fully convinced that any vegetable can be grilled to produce delicious results at this point in life.
After grilling, the veggies and bread are cut into bite size pieces, sprinkled with fresh herbs like basil and parsley, and tossed with a simple homemade vinaigrette dressing. The crispy grilled bread soaks up the vinaigrette and all of those luscious veggie juices. Perfect!
Steak on the Grill
Of course the huz’s #1 request for the weekend was steak, and his wish was granted. We picked up a giant t-bone steak from Knight’s Market, an Ann Arbor institution, earlier in the day.
Grilled to perfection by the huz. And yes, it tasted just as amazing as it looks.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops
For the “surf” portion of the meal, we picked up a quad of jumbo sea scallops at Monahan’s Seafood Market. See, I told you – nothing but the best ingredients for this meal! Ann Arbor’s finest, folks.
These sea scallops smelled like the ocean. For the first time in my life I literally had the urge to eat raw meat. I just wanted to take a big chomp out of these scallops because they smelled so incredible.
Scallops are one of my very favorite foods, but this was the first time cooking them at home. I consulted an Alton Brown video prior to trying it out, and he provided the following guidelines:
- start with fresh, bone-dry scallops
- use a mixture of butter and oil (something with a high smoke point) in a sauté pan
- get your pan screamin’ hot
- season with salt and pepper, lightly
- sear 1.5 minutes per side – don’t overcook!
- don’t agitate the scallops while they cook – let a crust form
- nom nom!
I cooked my four scallops two at a time; just in case something happened with the first batch, I didn’t want to lose all four scallops! Those things ain’t cheap.
Fortunately, Alton Brown’s method worked like a charm! These were some of the best scallops I’ve ever had. And I made them – woot woot!
And of course, to finish off our meal, we sourced a local box of desserts from The Lunch Room, also picked up earlier in the day during our visit to Kerrytown. I present to you a Magic Bar and a Mexican hot chocolate cookie. They make some wicked good desserts over at The Lunch Room, I tell ya.
Now is that a good lookin’ plate of food or what!? Friends, I give you Ann Arbor’s finest Surf ‘n’ Turf.