AVOCADO AND ORANGE SALAD WITH CHARRED JALAPENO DRESSING

No hesitation to jump on the preparation of this salad: from the moment I saw the post at Fer’s site to enjoying it as our dinner only 20 hours  elapsed.  Keep in mind that most recipes sit on my “to make soon” folder for months, not hours.  Some have been waiting there for a decade! The protein quotient of this salad was increased by the addition of seared scallops on top, with a delicate drizzle of this amazing dressing.  One word: awesome.

Scallops, Orange and Avocado Salad
AVOCADO AND ORANGE SALAD WITH CHARRED JALAPENO DRESSING
(adapted from Chucrute com Salsicha, original recipe from Bon Appetit)

1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 jalapeño
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 avocados, sliced
2 oranges, cut in segments
mixed greens
6 large sea scallops (optional)

Simmer orange juice in a small saucepan until syrupy and reduced to about 2 Tbsp.  It should take a little over 5 minutes. Let cool.

Roast jalapeño directly over a gas flame, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides.  Let cool; remove stem, skin, and seeds, then finely chop.

Whisk shallot, vinegar, reduced orange juice, and the jalapeño in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in vegetable oil, then olive oil. Set vinaigrette aside.

Toss avocados, orange segments, salad greens,  and vinaigrette in a bowl.  Serve with seared scallops on top, if so desired.

ENJOY! (I know you will….)

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  You might be tempted to use store-bought orange juice for the dressing, but fresh is best, since it will be concentrated by cooking.  Also, I wimped out and used only half the jalapeño, but it would be even better with the whole pepper.  Go for it and you won’t be disappointed. What a great twist the charring of the jalapeno!  I do that all the time with bell peppers, but had never seen a recipe applying the same treatment to a much smaller (and hotter) pepper.

For the scallops, I used a sprinkle of Mycryo to help get that nice sear, but use whatever method you like.  Just do not over-cook them.   The salad will stand on its own without the scallops, it is very flavorful. Great combination of ingredients, plus a dressing that will be made often in the Bewitching Kitchen.  I can see it would be wonderful spooned over a thick piece of grilled salmon…

ONE YEAR AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

THREE YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version

SEA SCALLOPS WITH PEA PUREE & CILANTRO GREMOLATA

Preparing this dinner was not easy.  It was probably not very wise to make it during the kitchen hellnovation, but I was craving a nicer meal to make our Sunday evening feel special.  It can be very stressful to be in a house undergoing renovation, so having a slightly fancier meal seemed like a good idea.  However, what used to be a kitchen is now an almost empty space with no finished floors or appliances.  We are lucky to be able to keep the fridge turned on in our garage, and to have improvised two cooking areas: one in the laundry room, another in our enclosed patio.  Still, pantry items are in boxes, a few dishes are piled in the dining room for our daily use, a few pans at close reach, but not that many.  I wish you could see a video of me preparing this meal.  Actually, I am very glad there is no video documenting the process.  It involved me dashing a few times across rooms, forgetting that some passages are blocked by heavy plastic.  It involved a mildly twisted ankle while balancing scallops on a baking dish and “almost” losing them all to a floor covered in rough concrete bits. It also involved a scorched pan,  but the pea puree, even after subjected to torture tasted absolutely awesome!  So, allow me to share with you one of the toughest meals I prepared in the past year, a recipe that I first saw on a favorite food blog of mine, Taste Food.  Yes, I cooked from Lynda’s blog before…  😉

served1

SEA SCALLOPS WITH GINGERED PEA PUREE AND CILANTRO GREMOLATA
(adapted from Taste Food)

for the scallops:
12 sea scallops
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of Mycryo

for the pea puree:
2 cups shelled English peas
salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne

for the gremolata:
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the gremolata by combining the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the peas. Cook until peas are tender. Remove from heat and drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine peas, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne in bowl of food processor. Purée until smooth. Add some of the reserved water (approximately 1/4 cup) to thin to desired consistency; the purée should not be too thin. Discard remaining water. Transfer purée to a bowl and keep warm. Pat scallops dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Add a sprinkle of Mycryo right before cooking. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the scallops, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, turning once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining scallops.  No need to add any oil to the pan, just the sprinkle of Mycryo will be enough.

To assemble, spoon pea purée on serving plates. Top with scallops. Sprinkle scallops and purée with gremolata.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

peapuree

Comments:  Mycryo is a great product with a poorly chosen name, if you ask me.  The word –  Mycryo – makes me think of tears, sadness, despair.  But that could not be farther from the truth:  they gave sea scallops THE most perfect brown ever, even though they were prepared in THE most rudimentary cooking conditions available to a cook (the Drama Queen says hello). I even conducted a small experiment by preparing two batches of sea scallops.  One cost a small fortune, they were the ultra-special, huge dry sea scallops.  The other was a frozen type that while thawing released a gallon of white milky liquid.  No bueno.   With a light sprinkle of Mycryo (and no oil added to the non-stick pan), all scallops browned like a Brazilian under the tropical sun!   We could not tell the difference in texture or taste between the two types, which was quite amazing to me.   Great product! You can order here, they shipped very quickly, contrary to what I heard from customers who got it through amazon.com.

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The pea puree competed heavily with the scallops to win the spotlight of this meal.   Bright flavor with the ginger and just a slight heat from the cayenne.  Lynda really came up with a perfectly balanced side dish.

I close this post with a little snapshot of our laundry room.  In one side we installed the induction cooktop + microwave. On the other side, where we do have a large sink, we stuffed together the coffee machine, coffee grinder, and our beloved Penguin Sodastream.  It’s cozy in there, folks. Cozy.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Mediterranean Skewers with Balsamic Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY: HEIRLOOM TOMATOES STEAL THE SHOW

Ideally, my Wednesday special meal will catch Phil by complete surprise, but this time he had been snooping around the depths of our fridge. Just as I was getting ready to cook dinner, he asked me with a big smile “we’re having scallops tonight for dinner, aren’t we?”.  Bummer. Just could not get him this time.

I had the inspiration for this meal when I brought home a couple of heirloom tomatoes, and was blown away by how juicy and delicious they were.  I went right back to the store and bought some more.    They turned into a fantastic sauce, paired with leeks and a thinly sliced fennel bulb.  Scallops crowned the meal with their touch of class, always welcome. Another Wednesday evening made ultra-special!

PASTA WITH SCALLOPS IN HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND FENNEL SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 Tbsp olive oil (+ a little more for searing scallops)
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, frowns reserved
3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes, depending on their size
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp orange zest, divided
8 sea scallops
¼ tsp ground fennel
spaghetti, or pasta of your choice

Boil the water to cook the pasta.

Core the tomatoes and cut them in large chunks, but don’t seed them.  Reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, then saute the leeks and the sliced fennel for about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When they are soft and starting to get some golden color, add the tomatoes and half the orange zest. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes start to melt and release a lot of juice.  Cover the pan, and keep at a simmer.

Cook the pasta, and when it’s 5 minutes from being ready, heat a non-stick skillet on high heat, add olive oil just to coat the surface lightly.  Pat the scallops dry, season lightly with salt, pepper and ground fennel, and sear them, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Reserve some of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the tomato/fennel pan, increase the heat slightly, and let the pasta and the sauce cook for a minute or so together. If needed, add some of the pasta water to the sauce.  Add the remaining orange zest, the scallops on top, and sprinkle with minced fennel fronds right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you make this dish with “regular” tomatoes, it simply won’t be the same, so try to find these funky looking babies, they are superb, particularly the brown ones.  We could not get over the flavor of this dish, so few ingredients, but they work together beautifully, and the scallops (make sure you get a nice sear on the outside) are not overpowered by the sauce.

Normally I reserve the pasta water to adjust the consistency of a pan sauce, but in this case it was not necessary to add any.   The tomatoes did their job providing all the moisture to coat the pasta strands.

If you don’t like scallops,  shrimp could be a good option, or chicken breast filets.  If you want to keep it vegan,  maybe grilled tofu could work too.  But don’t mess with the heirloom tomatoes!

ONE YEAR AGO: Pain de Provence

TWO YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf

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BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL

A while ago I blogged about a special, romantic dinner for no particular reason other than…. it was Wednesday!  This is another example of a meal to brighten up any frantic week, and make the evening feel unique and special.   Phil was busy doing some carpentry work while I cooked, so he had no idea what would be on our menu. When I announced  (as casually as I could) that dinner was served, he was in complete awe…
SCALLOPS AND BLACK PASTA IN ORANGE CREAM SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

10 sea scallops, preferably “dry”
salt and pepper
sugar
black spaghetti (squid ink)
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 minced shallot
zest of 1 orange
1 to 2 Tbs orange juice
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
dash of nutmeg
fresh parsley leaves, minced

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.   Pat the scallops dry, and place them over paper towels to make sure any excess moisture is blotted out.  Reserve.

On a medium size skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the shallots, seasoning lightly with salt and black pepper.  When they are  soft and getting a light color, add the orange zest.  Saute for 1 minute, turn the heat off and close the pan.

Start cooking the black spaghetti, the amount you would normally make for you and your lucky partner. Depending on the thickness of the pasta and the brand, it should take about 8 minutes.   While the pasta cooks,  heat a skillet on high heat, add a smidgen of olive oil, and once the oil is very hot, pat dry the scallops once more, season them with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar.   Sear the scallops about 2 minutes per side, making sure the pan is not too crowded.  Don’t touch them as they cook, they will release from the pan once a nice golden crust is formed.  Reserve (or place in a very low oven – 200 F) to keep them warm).

As the scallops cook, finish the sauce.   Heat the orange/shallot mixture,  add 1/4 cup of heavy cream, season with a dash of nutmeg.  Add 1/8 cup of orange juice and warm the sauce swirling the pan gently over medium low heat.

Once the pasta is cooked, remove a small amount of the cooking liquid, add the pasta to the orange-cream sauce,  add some of the pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce.   Sprinkle fresh parsley over the dish, and serve with the cooked scallops on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Black pasta is made by incorporating squid ink in the dough, so I like to serve it with seafood. It can be a bit tricky to pair with a sauce, but I opted for a mild, creamy sauce with a citric component.  It worked very well.

This is a quick meal to put together, but it could seem a little rushed, as everything must come to a glorious end at the same time.  If you feel insecure about multi-tasking, consider making the orange cream sauce before you do anything else.   Start boiling the pasta, and sear the scallops when the pasta is midway through cooking.    All you have to do is re-warm the orange sauce quickly, incorporate with the pasta and dinner is served!  A salad to round out the meal, and you are ready to celebrate the fact that it’s Wednesday, and you love the person sitting across from you…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TWO YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar and Chive Torpedo (this bread is a complete winner!)

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THIRD TIME IS A CHARM

I’ve made this recipe three times in the past 9 months, with the firm intention of blogging about it.  The photos never did it justice, and even though I’m still not satisfied with the way the pictures turned out, I must go ahead with the post:  this recipe is too good to keep  secret! 😉

Cooking scallops can be intimidating, they are expensive and easy to mess up.   A few seconds longer in the pan, and their delicate texture is ruined.  Dorie Greenspan, in her book “Around my French Table,” offers a great take on scallops, with a sauce that was born to embrace them.


SCALLOPS IN ORANGE-CARAMEL SAUCE
(from Dorie Greenspan)

2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup orange juice
1 lb sea scallops
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into 3 pieces

First, make the sauce. Mix the orange juice and white wine in a small bowl and reserve. Sprinkle the sugar into a small saucepan (see my comments on the type of pan I like to use for this).  Place the pan over medium-high heat and warm the sugar until it starts to melt and color. As soon as you see the caramel in the pan turning brown, begin to gently swirl the pan. About 3 minutes into the cooking time, when the sugar is deep caramel in color, stand back and add the orange/wine mixture.   It will bubble and spatter, just keep stirring with a wooden spoon, and boil until the sauce is reduced by half — you should have about 1/3 cup. Pull the pan from the heat and set it aside.  If not using the sauce immediately, you can keep it for a couple of days in the fridge.

Pat the scallops dry between two paper towels.  Put the saucepan with the caramel sauce over very low heat so that it can warm while you cook the scallops.

Put a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in 1 tsp  olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the scallops, season them with salt and pepper, add a little more oil if needed, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the scallops are firm on the outside and just barely opaque in the center. Transfer the scallops to a serving platter.

Check that the caramel sauce is hot, remove the pan from the heat and toss in the butter, bit by bit, swirling the pan until the butter is melted and the sauce is glistening. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, then drizzle some over the scallops, serving additional sauce at the table.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

To make the sauce, my favorite pan is this cute little red skillet from Bialetti.   I bought it when we were in Los Angeles because our electric cooking stovetop was so tiny, I had no pan that would fit nicely on it.   Since the pan is white, it’s very easy to see the caramel color, no need to guess or transfer a small amount to a white plate.

I strongly advise you to make a double batch of the sauce, I never seem to have enough, it’s so delicious!   It would go well on shrimp, and even chicken breasts or pork tenderloin.   Slightly sweet, slightly sour, feels complex even though it is made with only a few ingredients.

These scallops are elegant enough to serve for company, although  depending on the number of guests I would offer it as a small first course.   Everything happens pretty quickly with this recipe, I don’t quite picture myself handling too many for a main dish for more than 2 couples.  I know my limitations!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Fire-Roasted Tomato Risotto

TWO YEARS AGO:  A Special Dinner for Two

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