Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Scallops with double carrots

I've liked scallops for as long as I can remember. When I was little, my dad would make the smaller bay scallops, cooked in a scampi style with butter and garlic and served over rice. I developed quite a taste for them at a young age, which is funny, looking back--how many kids who don't live in France shovel in mouthfuls of scallops soaked in butter and wine?

I thought the little ones were special enough, but when I got older and was introduced to the majestic sea scallop, the bay scallop's bigger and more elegant cousin, I wondered why I'd been deprived for so long.

These days, I don't cook scallops too often, and not just because they are expensive. They're rich, and, I suspect, not too good for you. But here's the funny thing: we've got a little scallop luck at our local market. Two times in a row now, the husband has gone to pick up a few scallops. The first time, we were doing surf 'n' turf and so only needed four scallops to go alongside our steak. The butcher gave him six--then charged the wrong price by half.

The second time, the scallops were the main event. The husband asked for 8. Once again, the butcher--a different one this time around--gave him more--10!--at half the price.

(Although a scallop lover, I do not need to eat five. And so, as you might guess, Sophie, the farm dog from Idaho, got her first taste of scallops that evening. Her eyes transformed into spinning scallops and have not stopped since.)

While for the moment we are scalloped out, I wanted to share this unusual recipe, courtesy of Dorie Greenspan, so that you too might indulge your scallop love. It's from her French book and is called Monkfish with Double Carrots.

"Hey, dummy, monkfish isn't another name for scallops," you're saying. Totally.  I actually know that. But, monkfish isn't available in my market--or maybe even in California. I have no idea. I just know I never see it. Dorie suggested a few other options, including scallops.

This is a lovely recipe, super simple but deceptively refined.  The rosemary adds an herby dimension to keep the carrots from being too sweet but the real star (besides the scallops) is the bacon. As you know, bacon and scallops are the savory equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter. I couldn't find plain carrot juice so I used carrot-orange and I think Dorie would agree no harm was done.

Monday, February 18, 2013

For those you love

I'm a bit late, but who says you can only bake something sweet for your sweeties on Valentine's Day? This is surely not the case in my house, and so although I'm four days past the holiday, why not whip up these cookies for someone you love? Better yet, have someone make them for you.

If you're a person, you'll want the salty dark chocolate hearts.

If you're of the canine persuasion, you'll prefer these peanut butter pumpkin biscuits.

I decided to make the biscuits because we recently discovered that our svelte little Soph had gained about 12 pounds since last June,  getting her up to a hefty 83! While it's generally indelicate to divulge a lady's weight, I actually think dogs really do adhere to the bigger is better philosophy. But, it was decided that in addition to more walks (good for all parties involved), we should cut down on her kibble, and give her some healthy, homemade snacks. Sophie was not happy when we told her about the diet...

but has been pleased by the addition of these cute biscuits, which I felt might be a novel if short-lived distraction for her grumbling belly. I'm 100% sure she doesn't appreciate the bone, heart, and dog-shaped cookie cutters the way I do, but the cook's happiness is not irrelevant.

The chocolate hearts can, naturally, be eaten on their own, but they are particularly delicious served alongside coffee ice cream. The biscuits are best literally snatched from the hand that feeds you, carried to another room, and crunched into a thousand crumbs over the rug that some moron just pointlessly vacuumed.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Granola nation

While my favorite thing to eat for breakfast remains good toast with avocado and salt, it's not always an option. There's a certain type of bread I like best--La Boulange's multigrain levain--and while we buy a quarter loaf on the weekends, that only lasts a couple of days. Anyway, I also have the feeling I'm not supposed to eat bread every day for breakfast. So, I force myself to eat yogurt.

While yogurt overall sickens me, I can tolerate Greek yogurt reasonably well and now that I've learned to make granola, I will go so far as to say I sort of almost like it. But this has everything to do with how delicious the granola is and how well it masks the sour gloppiness of the yogurt.

I started making this granola around the end of last year and now I make a batch a week. The husband is completely obsessed with it and brings a big container to work each Monday.  I work my way through the remainder.

The secret to this granola is that it calls for whipping an egg white to break it down, then tossing it with the rest of the ingredients. It results in a lovely, clumpy, not too sweet granola that I just adore.

I've modified the original recipe, which you may find here (strangely, couldn't find it on the Smitten Kitchen website--I got it from her book). I use honey instead of maple, almonds instead of walnuts, reduce the coconut by half, and skip toasting the wheatgerm. I also leave the fruit out of the husband's portion and add it to my own, favoring chopped dried apricots or cranberries.

As Deb Perelman says, once you've made your own granola, you'll never go back to the store-bought junk. It is so simple and so much better. Everyone should make this granola! Everyone!

The granola does bake for the full 55 minutes in my oven. I like to get it nice and dark golden brown, makes it taste better and more fun to break up.

Friday, February 1, 2013

If it's working, keep it going

View from our back window.

The start of the year had me feeling restless. People around us are doing stuff. Buying houses. Moving across country. Having babies. Changing jobs.  I started to feel like we should be doing something new. I guess as independent as I am, there's a little of the lemming in me.

One day while fussing to myself about this, I was reminded of a waiter we met in Kauai a few years ago. We'd stopped in at his sushi bar for a drink and snack after a good long day at our favorite beach, with the intention of moving on to another place for dinner. But the longer we stayed, watching the sun set over a misty waterfall, we decided we were content where we were. (Though truthfully, only an imbecile wouldn't be content sitting with their true love, drinking cocktails and looking at a waterfall.)

We informed our waiter, Chase, that we'd opted to stay. He nodded. "If it's working, keep it going," he said and handed us the dinner menus.

Chase dropped some wisdom on us that day and we often invoke this phrase in our house, applying it, only sometimes tongue-in-cheek, to both the mundane and the significant. I have to admit, we've got a pretty good set up here. Someday, of course, we'll move. At least out of this apartment, and possibly out the city or state (or country, if the French will have us!). We won't always have these same jobs. But for now, this is good.

So, these shrimp tacos are a nod to Chase, Kauai, and the total lack of restlessness I feel whenever I'm there. Although a little restlessness can be a good thing (it's driven me to travel, start my own business,  and one time, visit a faraway friend where I met my future husband), it's not a feeling you want to linger too long.

While tacos may originate in South America, they are also very common in Hawaii. Usually we get fish tacos at Tropical Taco, but I've eaten a shrimp taco or two in my time on the islands. I can't really post a recipe because there isn't one. I cooked the shrimp quickly in a pan (grilling would be ideal) in some olive oil, then, after taking them off the heat, squeezed some lime juice over. I put a few shrimp in a warmed corn tortilla, then topped them with shredded red cabbage, tomatoes, radishes, avocado, and some crumbled cortija cheese, which, if you haven't had it, is sort of like ricotta salata or a super dry feta.

You could serve it with a refried beans or chips, but I opted for Mexican rice. I've made it many times before and it's always a bestseller. As they say, if it's working...