Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Rainbow Connection

This is about the time of year when my oven goes into overdrive. As the weather gets colder and I happily bring the oven back into the fold, I sometimes manage to cook an entire meal right in the oven, without ever turning on the stove top. The other day I roasted a whole chicken for an hour and during the last fifteen minutes of cooking chucked a tray of olive oil-coated brussels sprouts onto the top oven rack. It was such a low maintenance meal that I managed to fold laundry, reply to a few emails and watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother before the timer ever went off. 

But not all meals are quite that hands-off, which is why earlier this week I turned back to the oven for a little help. It's no secret that roasting vegetables is the way to go this time of year (unless you own a deep fryer and can make due with all the calories), and I'm a big advocate of roasting…well, just about everything. It uses less oil than frying but still gives you great flavor. And as far as I'm concerned, the more dark and crunchy bits there are, the better, which is why I roast veggies in a super high oven (400-450 degrees). Classically over-cooked vegetables like brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli are especially tasty done this way, the idea being to maximize the color (i.e. flavor) on the outside, while making sure the inside is just barely cooked. 

If you're looking for a super fast dinner that will encourage the kids (and maybe a spouse or two) to eat their veggies, try making rainbow cauliflower. Aside from the common white variety there's purple, yellow and beautiful spiky green romanesco, and they all taste great (and you get a ton of vitamin C, to boot). I like to buy a small head of each and roast them together for a beautiful side dish that goes well with any protein. I served mine with gorgeous seared sea scallops that only took a minute and a half to cook on each side. Altogether the meal was healthy, fast and delicious. At under half an hour to prepare, this meal is a stunner, and helps you catch up on your veggies (just don't tell everyone else at the table). 

Seared Sea Scallops with Roasted Rainbow Cauliflower

1 lb sea scallops
1 tsp smoked paprika, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
3 small heads of cauliflower, cut into florets (assorted colors if possible)
1 Tablespoon vegetable, canola or peanut oil
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat scallops dry and set aside on a paper towel lined plate or platter.

2. Toss cauliflower florets with 1/2 teaspoon of the smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp of the cayenne pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to coat (about 1 Tablespoon). Season with salt and pepper. Spread cauliflower onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until nicely browned and just crisp-tender.

3. Brush scallops with oil on one side and season with half of the cumin and half of the remaining paprika and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add scallops seasoned and oiled side down. Brush top side with oil and remaining cumin, paprika and cayenne. Cook on each side until browned and crusted, about one minute per side. 

4. Serve scallops hot and topped with roasted cauliflower and a light drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!


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