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Ras el Hanout-Seared Scallop with Carrot Broth and Wilted Spinach

While it seems clear to me that the human digestive tract and teeth are built for eating meat – setting aside increasingly relevant ethical and health concerns like ‘How often?’ and ‘From where?’ – I’m just not a big fan. I generally find the flavor and texture to be overwhelming and even unpleasant (Prosciutto, I wanted to love you).

That being said, I adore seafood. Exposing myself enough times to fish that I began to crave certain favorites has been an exciting journey, from salmon to oysters to uni. (Incidentally, reluctant scallop-eaters should try the amazing dish that a friend’s wife shared in her Contemporary Moroccan Cooking class at The Pantry at Delancey in Seattle: Ras el Hanout-Seared Scallops with Carrot Broth and Wilted Spinach. You sear the scallop after dredging it in a freshly toasted and ground mix of spices, then serve it in a pool of sauce with spinach wilted in a little olive oil. The sauce is the magic: you reduce 16oz of fresh carrot juice, 1/2 cup white wine, and minced shallots for 30 min, then whisk in 5 TBSP of butter very slowly, piece by piece.)

At the end of the day, though, there are certain foods I’m almost always in the mood for. Cheese is #1 – a modest hill of extra sharp cheddar and water crackers, spinach-green chile enchiladas, green pepper and olive Round Table pizza, etc. #2 is a family of side dishes that follow the formula of VEGGIE + NUT + FRUIT. Here are some of my favorite combos:

  • Broccoli, red grape, and almond salad

TossĀ halved grapes, broccoli florets (blanched for 1 min first if raw broccoli sounds like a lot of chewing), and toasted almondsĀ (slivered or sliced) with a mixture of mayo, yogurt, garlic salt, pepper and a dash of rice wine vinegar.

  • Swiss chard with pine nuts and raisins

Soak 1/4 cup raisins in 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar for at least 10 min. Cut the ribs from a bunch of Swiss chard and chop the leaves roughly. Heat 2 TBSP olive oil over medium heat and a minced clove of garlic and chard leaves, cooking for 2 min. Add the raisins and vinegar, cooking until leaves are fully wilted, about 2 min. Season, sprinkle with 3 TBSP toasted pine nuts, and serve hot.

  • Delicata squash with pecans and chives

Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the squash in half the long way, then cut each half into scalloped arches about 1/2 in thick (the skin is thin enough to eat). Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in the oven until softened and slightly brown. Toss with toasted pecan pieces, finely cut chives, and a little more olive oil.

  • Arugula, hazelnut, and strawberry salad

If not already toasted, put hazelnuts in a pan over medium heat and dry toast them (no oil or nonstick spray) until they are fragrant and beginning to color up, removing immediately from the pan to prevent burning. Whisk together a simple vinaigrette that won’t overwhelm the ingredients. Add the baby arugula, sliced strawberries, and hazelnuts and toss to combine.

What’s nice about the “fruit + veggie/herb + nut” approach is that you can turn most of these from side dish to light entree by introducing a grain. I like quinoa or bulgur since they cook quickly and have a good amount of fiber (and because I’m horrible at cooking rice).

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