Even in the Desert, You Can Get a Craving for Seafood

When you live about 1,000 miles from the coast, seafood is something exotic.  We know about shrimp and sometimes see live lobsters can be found in a tank at the grocery store.  We get salt cod and a few varieties of frozen “fresh” fish are good, but pretty mundane.  Now that we have a Whole Foods market, we see different varieties of seafood that I hope to learn how to cook someday. In the meantime, I fall back on the tried and true.  I do grill the occasional swordfish steak and I love to sear ahi tuna with a crust of crushed wasabi peas when I’m feeling exotic. I’m more likely to do a soup or stew or to try a version of baked cod.  I found a new baked cod recipe in an article on sheet pan suppers and, of course I had to try it and am happy to share it.  It was a recipe for four servings that I was able to reduce to one serving successfully in keeping with my new search for how to make one or two serving meals.  I’m including the full recipe below, but have added a couple of notes about my experience

Sheet pan Provençal Cod, Potatoes and String Beans fulfill a desert craving for seafood!

 

Provençal Cod, Potatoes and String Beans

 Ingredients:

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp herbes de Provence, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 oz yellow wax beans and/or green beans, trimmed

2 small tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

2Tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 6-oz cod fillets (1 to ½ inch thick)

Chopped fresh parsley for topping

Method:

Put a rimmed baking sheet in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 475°. Combine potatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp herbes de Provence in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, combine the beans, 1 Tbsp oilive oil and the remaining ½ tsp herbes de Provence; season generously with salt and pepper.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven; add the potatoes in a single layer on one side of the pan and the beans on the other side.  Roast until the potatoes and browned and the beans are tender – about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, olives, remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, the lemon juice. ½ tsp salt and pinch of pepper in a small bowl; set aside. Season the cod all over with salt.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven. If potatoes and beans are done, remove and keep warm. If not done, push to their sides leaving a space in the middle.  Place the cod in the middle of the pan and top with half of the tomato mixture. Roast until the cod is opaque – 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle the potatoes with parsley. Serve with the remaining tomato mixture.

   Notes: In my oven, the beans and potatoes were done at 20 minutes.  I left them on the the cod and the beans were a bit overdone by the time the cods was done. Check them while the cod is cooking, to be safe.

I could only find a long filet of cod with a narrow end. I folded the narrow end under the thick end sandwiching some of the olive and tomato mix in between.  It worked fine and was colorful and tasty.

This recipe reduced easily to one serving with a single cod filet and smaller portions of beans and potatoes.  I did the full recipe of the olive, tomato lemon mix and enjoyed what didn’t fit on the cod right out of the bowl with a spoon!

 

 

Adventures of a Salad Barfly

Have you ever scored a pickup at a salad bar?  It can happen.  Flattering lighting, arrays of exotic beauties calling for a closer look. Taking them all in with your eyes and finally choosing one to take home.  Once you score, you’ll find yourself hanging out at the salad bar more and more often… and maybe venturing to the hot foods bar, the olive bar, the ceviche bar and on and on.

With a focus on cooking for one or two, it is easy to get hooked on the salad bar scene.  No need to worry about planning for leftovers, pick up something fresh in a useable amount and enjoy.  It is a nice way to get variety in your side dishes and concentrate on a great main dish. It makes mealtime a pleasure instead of a chore and sure beats take out fast food or yet another sandwich supper.

For example…

A craving for cruciforms, but not for whole heads of cauliflower, romanesco or broccoli is satisfied by a few florets of each from the salad bar. Take them home, roast them on a sheet pan and your side dish delimma is solved.

Florets of cauliflower, romanesco (a green cauliflower) and broccoli pan roasted in the oven provided a healthy fiber-rich side dish without a ton of leftovers in the crisper.  Since the oven was hot, a small oven-roasted sirloin steak was a wonderful main dish treat. A bonus was the discovery of a watermelon, feta, mint and jalapeño salad that could not be passed up!  What more could a salad barfly ask?

And on another night at the salad bar…

Sometimes, it is hard to decide between two toothsome beauties, so take them both home and enjoy!  Rainbow carrots with a mix of kale and radicchio were terrific with a light vinaigrette.   And the house rule of three tiny roasted potatoes provided the starch for the meal.

Rainbow carrots atop kale and radicchio brighten up a steak and potatoes supper. By the way, steak is not an every night protein here.

 

 

Cooking for one? Play with the salad bar.

It is fun to reduce the servings in a given recipe and succeed.  We’ll be doing a lot of that in the new category “A New Season.” Still, there are those days when you just don’t want the bother of reducing, prepping and cooking. There are alternatives. A visit to Whole Foods turned up a chilled bar featuring different takes on ceviche, a cold salad in which seafood is “cooked” in acid such as a vinegar or citrus juice.  A ceviche of shrimp and scallops called my name and resulted in the creation of a cold salad supper just right for a triple digit temperature day.  A small container of the ceviche – enough for topping two tostadas,  a few large cooked shrimp for garnish, a mango for color and sweet balance to the ceviche,  and an avocado for a third tostada featuring guacamole tostada completed shopping for dinner. Since the ceviche is sold by the pound, getting just enough for two tostadas didn’t require a bank loan for shopping at Whole Foods.  There were enough other ingredients in the fridge at home to complete the meal.

Shrimp and scallops ceviche, guacamole and mango – a cool treat to beat the heat.

 

Ingredients (made without an actual recipe)

Three corn tortillas (or more if you want tortilla chips)

About four or five tablespoons of deli bar ceviche

One medium to large avocado

Five or six grape tomatoes

One or two scallions

One or two lettuce leaves

One ripe mango

Garlic powder, to taste, or one small finely minced garlic clove mushed into a paste with a sprinkle of salt and the side of a chef’s knife.

One lime, halved

Salt to taste

Olive oil or neutral oil cooking spray

Method

Tostadas, flat, crisp tortillas.  These may be bought in a package, fried in a quantity usually too big for one or two servings.  You can fry them at home or bake them in the oven for a “healthyish” version.  I’m stealing this term from Bon Appètit because they have been publish lighter recipes in the magazine and online. Sprinkle your chips lightly with salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Place three tortillas on sheet, and spritz lightly with cooking spray.  If you want to make chips, cut a couple of tortillas into wedges and place on sheet with whole tortillas and spritz the, with cooking spray. Place in heated oven.  Check after 10 minutes, turn tortillas and chips over and spritz again.  After 10 minutes, check again and turn.  Return to oven.  Check every five minutes or so to make sure tortillas and chips are toasting crisp – no soft spots in middle or edges when done and not burned edges.  Rotate the sheet pan in the oven to help with even cooking. Remove from oven and let cool.

Guacamole, an avocado dip or spread that every cook swears that his/hers is best.  I assure you, mine is the absolute best!  This version is for a single guacamole tostada and slices of avocado for garnish.  If you want to use the whole avocado and sue some for dip on your tortilla chips, go right ahead.

Chop grape tomatoes into small pieces; slice scallion very thinly at an angle. Slice all the white and an inch or inch and a half of the gree.  Mince and mash garlic clove into a paste.  A pinch of salt helps to break up the garlic as you mash it.  If you wish, you may use a light sprinkle of garlic powder (not garlic salt) instead of the garlic clove paste.

One avocado, halved.  Lay one half cut side down to prevent oxidation (turning brown). Spoon the flesh from the other have into a small bowl. Cut it up with the side of a fork, then mash it.  I like to leave a little texture when I mash it with the fork.  When I’m by myself, I squish it between my fingers and then get to lick my fingers clean – chef’s bonus!  I don’t do that when making guacamole for guests – at least not where they can see me. Stir tomato, some of the scallion, garlic paste or powder and some of the juice of lime.  The lime will delay oxidation, but you don’t want to overdo the lime juice when making this small quality of guacamole. Scoop flesh from remaining half of avocado, cut into six slices for garnish and sprinkle lightly with lime juice.

Sliced mango, sweet, but not too sweet taste to balance the acidity of the ceviche.  Remove pit from mango, slice flesh and plate on a bed of lettuce leaf.  You might enjoy a couple of drops of lime juice on the mango. (The OXO mango slicer actually works and is well with a little drawer space in your kitchen.)

Serving, spread guacamole on one crips tostada, garnish with slices of avocado and a couple of large shrimp.  Place on plate.  Spoon ceviche on tostadas, place on either side of guacamole tostada and garnish with large shrimp and avocado slices.  Add lettuce leaf and mango carefully to the plate and enjoy your cool meal at the end of a hot day.

A Detour on Memory Lane

Remember the wedge salad from the late 50′ and early 70’s? A wedge of iceberg lettuce, that must have been a quarter of a head, drenched in creamy chunky bleu cheese dressing, and if you were lucky enough to be in the right restaurant, heavily sprinkled with crumbled crispy bacon. It still appears on the occasional menu.  When it does, I look for beef carpaccio to be there, too.  Creamy bleu cheese and delicately thin sliced raw lean beef! Forget the rest of the menu, these two appetizers become my meal, and no, you cannot have a taste!

I am addicted to food magazines and websites.  When I saw a new take on a wedge salad in one, I was up and off the the grocery store.  Actually it turned out to be two stores were needed to find all the ingredients.

My excitement was a grilled bok choi wedge salad.  One small to medium bok choi, split in half and spritzed with olive oil, then grilled over low heat until the leaves wilt and get a little char and the stem is warmed through, but still retains it crunch. I topped the bok choi with halved yellow grape tomatoes, thinly sliced raw ripe shishito peppers and marinated Peruvian peppers.  Then I drenched the salad with creamy bleu cheese dressing and lots of extra crumbles.  The salad was served with a small sirloin steak, grilled to 145 and tented to rest for five minutes. It was a perfect medium rare.  I wish I had sliced and photographed it, but I couldn’t wait do dig into the plate.

My standard three baby potatoes halved and grilled provided a bit of starch for the meal.  Because I am still working on my bag of shishito peppers, I grilled a few of the ripe ones.  Their caramelized sweetness was a great foil for the slight saltiness of the bleu cheese!

I cooked this on the grill last night after the temperature dropped to 100.

Grilled bok choi wedge salad with “sides” of beef sirloin, baby potatoes and grilled ripe shishito peppers.

Something New on the Plate!

Last fall, the Master Gardeners were looking at some new ideas to enhance the varieties of produce at their market garden. They were looking at eliminating some that were not the best for us such as okra which does’t respect our work and market day schedules.  It  grows too fast and gets woody before we can harvest and market it. For something different, I suggested shishito peppers (enunciate the name carefully). They are a  mild wrinkled green Asian snacking pepper that is usually sautéed. I found them at a local grocery store last year, tried them and really enjoyed them as something good and different! About one in ten has a kick which adds to the excitement of eating them. I have been tossing a few on the grill until they are tender and pick up a hint of char.

Last weekend, one of the garden co-chairs brought me a bag if shishitos to try.  It had both green peppers and some that had ripened to a bright red.  On the drive home, I had to taste one of each – a green one, with the expected not quite raw bitter flavor, rather than pepper heat, and a red one which was surprisingly sweet!

I grilled a couple of chicken thighs and a few green peppers. I also made a salad of mache greens, yellow cherry tomato slices and slices of red shishitos with a light vinaigrette.  It was a wonderful salad!

Visit Ardovino’s Farmers Market on Saturdays and give the shishitos a try. You’ll enjoy them green or red.

Grilled chicken thighs with grilled green shishito peppers and a salad mache rosettes yellow grape tomatoes and sliced raw ripe shishito peppers in a light vinaigrette. Dinner cooked on an outdoor gas grill after the temperature dropped below 100.

A New Season Means New Experiments and New Favorites

Still making many adjustments to all the facets of a new season, but things are moving along…

It is fun to pare down a recipe, even when you know it might have been a little better at six or eight servings. Sometimes, it is great to whip up something from what you have on hand and enjoy the creativity.  And, at other times it is good to visit something from the past and reimagine it.

Being only slightly removed from generations of Texas and Arkansas farmers, I’m very fond of okra in many variations.

Back in May of 2014, I started grilling okra on skewers. I like that it retains some texture and that it loses the sticky secretion of boiled okra and doesn’t make the mess of fried okra.  I’ll love fried okra wherever I find it on a menu and am thrilled when I don’t have to clean up the mess of frying.

Grilling red okra in 2014. Heat changes the red chemical color and it turn out green. Threading on two skewers makes it easier to turn. Elevating the skewers on clean bricks get’s it off the grate and helps it cook more evenly.

I found okra at the grocery store the other night and, since I was grilling chicken thighs, thought it would be a good side.  I have a stainless steel thingy I put over my old grill grates and decided to try grilling okra on that  instead of on skewers. It occurred to me I should  grill some tomatoes and onion at the same time because I know that works!

I cut the stem ends off the okra, sliced some onion and washed some grape tomatoes.  If you feel you need a recipe here’s how I did it! I used a dozen pods of okra, two sliced of onion separated into ring and 10 grape tomatoes. I tossed it all with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. and put in on the grilling thingy over medium heat.  I kept an eye on it, tossed be veggies as the cooked and tested the okra’s doneness with a fork.  I wound up with a light char on tender vegetables. The tomatoes softened and wilted. When pierced with a fork, they yielded a hot delicious tomato juice to mix over the other vegetables. My chicken thighs cooked on another part of the grilling thingy at a higher temperature.

I like to have two or three very small potatoes as a side ( inch to inch and a half diameter). That satisfies my potato craving without a serving the size of a football.  I cheat with them. I microwave them for a few minutes (remember to pierce the skins or they will explode in your oven) then split them and finish them on the grill for a little color and extra flavor

Grilled chicken thighs, okra, onion and tomatoes with grill-finished potatoes. The okra was tender but with a little texture and now sticky secretion. Delicious with the onion and tomatoes and reminiscent of boiled tomatoes and okra without the slick texture.

The okra was so good, I decided to make it again the next evening.  The store where I bought my first batch, was out.  I went a sister store in the chain and found some.  It looked a little long and I was concerned about it being stringy and tough.  It was, but at least it photographed well.

I was a very hot evening. Still over 100 at 6:30 p.m.  Too hot to stand over a grill, so I decided to cook on a sheet pan in the oven.  That gave me a chance to try making a roasted onion flower I had been wanting to try.

Oven roasted onion flower, tomatoes and okra. Delicious and not sticky.

Pan roasting the vetables at 425 until tender worked.  I cut a thin slice off the stem end of a smallish onion, then carefully removed the roots.  I sliced the onion almost to its base six times to make reasonably narrow petals. I drizzled the vegetables with olive oil before cooking and a couple of times while they cooked. The okra was done before the tomatoes and onion, so I removed it and set it aside until time to plate.  I want to find small red onions next time I have guests and make little onion flowers to put on top of something. My white flower was tender and delicious with the okra and tomatoes and a pork chop. Left from the other night. Part of this New Season is cooking enough of a protein to have a second serving a couple of days later. I warmed the cooked pork chop for a few minutes while, the vegetables finished cooking.  In the upper right corner, you see the tip of a roasted ear of corn.  At eight ears for $1, I had to buy one for this meal.

I will be doing more grilled okra this summer but only using smaller tender pods.

Paring Down Can Foster Indulgence, so Play with Your Food!

Some of us subscribe to cooking and recipe sites on the web.  Interesting things appear that tantalize the eye and the appetite.  Some arouse curiosity and other demand to be made. All those happened when I ran across Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread.  My curiosity was peaked by the inclusion of chick peas (garbanzo beans) in the recipe.  I’m most familiar with chickpeas as hummus and don’t have much experience with them as whole beans.  What the heck, give it a try!  And this recipe for four servings appeared easy to reduce per my goals in this New Season of reduced quantities. It also was flexible enough to allow for loose measuring of ingredients. For instance, it called for 24 clams. Six clams per serving? Pikers!  I ordered 12 clams to make one serving. I love clams and had no guilt over this indulgence. When cooking for one, or som times two, indulge and enjoy! I used the recipe below as a guideline for this dish.  I played with parts of it, hence inclusion in the Play with Your Food Category.

Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes. As good as it was hoped it would be! A keeper.

The original recipe suggested cooking in a cast iron pan on a grill outside. Think this over… acid foods (including tomatoes)  cooked in cast iron can acquire a metallic taste and cause the pans to lose their carefully built up seasoned finish. I read that acidic foods cooked in cast iron for no more than 15 minutes will not acquire a metallic taste, nor will the harm the finish.  Not worth the risk on my older than I am cast iron hand-me-downs from early in the last century!

It has been unseasonably hot so far this spring and summer.  I’m convinced hot air from the Capitol fanned by Tweet kindling is the cause, but that’s a different rant. I chose to cook on the stovetop in an anodized aluminum pan that has a non-teflon, dishwasher safe non-stick finish.  I had to forgo grilled toast, but was satisfied with torn chunks of bread with a schemear of butter for sopping up the pan sauce with the meal. This photo is of the pan on the stovetop.  I knew a dozen clams in my serving bowl, would be too crowded for a good picture.  Indulge me and imagine chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

CHILE-LIME CLAMS WITH TOMATOES AND GRILLED BREAD

4 servings

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup beer

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed

2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek

24 littleneck clams, scrubbed

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

4 thick slices country-style bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems

Lime wedges (for serving)

METHOD

Prepare a grill for medium, indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off; for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill). Place a large cast-iron skillet on grill over direct heat (move it around to cooler part of grill as you cook if needed) and melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and sambal oelek, then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have opened; this could take from 5–10 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level. Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

 

 

 

Another Day in the New Season

This New Season is proving interesting.  Among the challenges is the fact that my refrigerator has a black hole. Leftovers saved with good intensions seem to be sucked into the depths of who knows where until eventually they  reappear in almost unrecognizable form that cannot be saved for any purpose.  My disdain of leftovers is not a new trait. When I had a leftover browser around, this was not much of a problem. They were devoured readily.

Now, I have to think ahead and work on downsizing recipes. One example was yesterday’s breakfast and a planned variation of a leftover that was almost perfect!  I’ll explain that after posting the recipe.

I’ll be posting recipes with original serving quantities. Sometimes my narrative will explain how portions were reduced.

If you’ve read this blog before you have probably discovered I love green chile cheese grits with eggs for breakfast. I’ve posted many variations of my love of the runny egg yolks of poached eggs and my new love, jammy eggs with a firmer white and slightly firmer yolk. Be warned, there will likely be more.

Polenta with jammy eggs and a couple of options. See below.

Ground corn can be found in many colors and textures.  We call a fine grind, corn meal.  Depending on geography and language, coarser grinds can be called grits or polenta (in Italian). Grits can be wet as a breakfast cereal or side dish in the southern U.S. They can be an odd texture and bland taste to the uninitiated. When I first discovered grits on a road trip, I had to mix in one of those little packets of jelly to eat them.  Before long, I graduated to butter and a light sprinkle of black pepper on grits.

Some of my back woods family introduced me to corn meal mush – very moist grits sometimes flavored with cane syrup, sometimes with a little red-eye gravy.  One morning they served fried cornmeal mush -grits that had been allowed to set a spell and firm up in a pan, then be sliced and fried in pan drippings to have a firm browned crust and tender moist center.  A perfect accompaniment to eggs and sausage as long as there were biscuits for sopping the plate.

In an early experience in a big city Italian restaurant several steps above the spaghetti and meat balls I knew as Italian food, I experienced polenta with a meaty marinara sauce topped with parmesan, and I don’t mean the cheese flavored sawdust in a green can.  It was an epiphany . I swore off fried mush and devoted my palate to polenta and all the variations I could try or invent.

El Paso is not know for Polenta.  Our ground corn becomes masa and is delectable in its own right in Mexican food.

I can get Bob’s Red Mill Polenta here and always pick some up when I find it.  It comes in both yellow and white varieties.  I personally prefer the yellow for the color on the plate

Basic Polenta with Gringo Gourmet OPTIONS

6 cups water

about… 1 tsp salt

2 cups polenta

about… 3 Tbsp butter NEVER MARGARINE

Method

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large, deep pan. Gradually stir in polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently. Stir frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes). Use a long-handled spoon because mixture bubbles and pops. It is hot if it pops on you! Taste periodically to make sure polenta has softened; add liquid if it becomes too thick.  You want it to be tender and thick, not sloppy wet.

Package recipe says: Stir in butter and add salt if needed. Oil a deep medium sized bowl. Spoon polenta into bowl and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate. Polenta will unmold and hold shape of bowl. Slice into thick slices and serve hot. Top with your favorite pasta sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Gringo Gourmet Options

When adding liquid to thin polenta, I use milk or, if feeling wicked, half and half and a little extra butter for a richer taste.

I like polenta and Jammy Eggs with cheese and green chile for breakfast.  I thin the polenta a bit more, don’t let is set up, and, just before serving, stir in shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green chile or a good green jarred salsa, then top it with the eggs.

Sometimes, I just stir in some shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese before serving. Polenta is a great and flexible base for many toppings.

Remember the ratio is 3 measures of water to one measure of dry polenta so you can vary the amount you make at any given time.  1 1/2 cups water:1/2 cup polenta makes one generous serving.

In times of desperation, when I don’t have polenta in the house, I’ve been know to use plain corn meal to make a very smooth “polenta” or if a surprise guest arrives, I’ve stretched a pot of polenta by adding corn meal and extra liquid because the corn meal cooks faster.

Now, you ask (don’t you?),  “What happened to the left over polenta?”

Too small roasted salmon portion with lemon, fried polenta topped with jarred tomato pesto and pan blistered grape tomatoes. On the side as spinach with mushrooms and garlic slivers.

I saved the left over polenta. I put it in two oiled ramekins and topped it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until time to prep dinner.

The polenta had set up very firm while I enjoyed breakfast.  I added a little water to thin it out so I could spoon it into a pair of ramekins.  I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until time to prep dinner.

MISTAE! MISTAKE! MISTAKE!  I should have left it out to set up again and I should not have put plastic wrap on it.  This was polenta, not a custard that might develop a skin without the plastic wrap.

I coddled the “not quite set” polenta into an oiled pan and began cooking it over medium heat.  It was taking a long time to dry out and I kept having to reshape it as it cooked.  I finally was able to flip it over and work on the other side.

It browned somewhat and I was able to top it with the jarred sun dried tomato pesto, my pan blistered grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.  I transferred the patties to my plate and moved forward with plating the spinach and salmon.

I seasoned the salmon with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon slices.  The store portion was more narrow than the lemon slices, so I had to manipulate them to fit.

No gripes about the greens and mushrooms.  I did add a light sprinkle of Fred’s Red Hot Sauce.  That’s what we southerners do with our greens!

On the New Season adventure, I’ve decided it is better to pick up a serving a greens at a salad bar than to buy a large bag or tub of greens that won’t be used up.  Better economics in the long haul.  I choose a small jar of tomato pesto that I can finish over a larger jar of pasta sauce that would be destined for the black hole in the fridge.

 

A New Season

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

3:1To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which was planted;

3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;

3:5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

3:6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

3:7 A time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence. And a time to speak;

3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war. And a time of peace.

I have always been taken by these Bible verses and found peace and comfort in them during times of stress and hurt. I hope to find recordings of the versions of the verses turned in to song by Pete Seeger in 1952 and by the Byrds in 1965.

It may seem odd that I am sharing these verses here. I do so to introduce a new recipe category in the Gringo Gourmet blog.  It is called “A New Season”.  It will consist of recipes pared down to one or two servings and new creations in smaller portions.  There will still be entries in the other recipe categories. I do hope readers will comment on the new category and the narratives that will accompany them.

This new approach is one way I am adjusting to the death, May 23, of my beloved best friend and partner, Jack Gibbs Makepeace, Jr. following a very rapid 11 day course after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. His family and I were with him and are thankful that we could be there for him. We now are now beginning a new season in our lives.

Paring down in a new season:

Seared Scallops with Mint, Peas and Bacon

Things to consider when paring down:

Don’t give up cooking and enjoying good food.  It can be therapeutic.

Find a recipe that divides evenly.  This recipe was for four servings of three scallops each.  I was too embarrassed to ask for three scallops, so I asked for six. I’m very glad I did.

On the subject of reduction… my waffle recipe makes 6 – 8 waffles and calls for one egg.  I’m wondering how to made one or two waffles by dividing the dry and liquid ingredients, but dividing a beaten egg seem intimidating.  Maybe I should use egg beaters instead and do the arithmetic

Use what needs to be used from the fridge or freezer and find a recipe that works for it.  I had a small fillet from Omaha Steak that needed to be used, so I suddenly had a new twist on Surf ‘n’ Turf. If you have to buy expensive fresh herbs for a recipe, find another recipe that helps you use the rest of the herb.

Use the right shortcut tools.  I didn’t want to bother cleaning a blender, so I used a small electric food chopper.  It is very good at chopping, but not so good at puréeing.  Maybe the immersion stick blender instead next time.

All are doable, it just takes a little thinking and planning.

The base of puréed peas, lemon and mint was delicious; the topping of whole peas and bacon was attractive and good.  The chunky purée base took away from the accent o the whole peas.

I had to have lemon juice and grated zest for the purée so I cut a few strips of lemon peel for garnish before grating.  I plated the scallops with the lemon zest strips and some tiny mint leaves.

It was 106º the evening I made this, so my little steak was pan broiled in the kitchen instead of out on the grill.

Below is the original recipe for four.  Buy more scallops if you are cooking for four, three each just wouldn’t be enough.

Scallops with Mint, Peas and Bacon

Ingredients:

12 large sea scallops (preferably dry packed), with side muscle removed (about 1 1/2 pounds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 1 1/2 pods) or frozen peas

3 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), or cut crosswise into 1/3 inch strips

1 medium shallot, cut crosswise into thin rings

1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp (or more) olive oil

3 Tbsp mint leves, coarse chopped, divided

Method

Place scallops on a paper towel lined plate and pat very dry with additional paper towels.  Season both sides with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper total.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small pot, covered. Add peas and 1/2 tsp. salt; cook until peas are bright green and tender, about two minutes for fresh  and 4 minutes for frozen. Drain peas through a strainer set over a small bowl and reserve cooking liquid.

Add bacon to a large skillet and heat over medium-high. Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until fat starts to render, about 3 minutes. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned and bacon is crisp, about three minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon and shallot to a small bowl, reserving fat in skillet. Add 1/2 cup cooked peas to bacon mixture.

Purée lemon juice, 1/8 tsp salt an 1/8 tsp pepper, the remaining 1 1/2 cups peas and 1/2 cup reserved pea cooking liquid in a blender.  Add oil and purée until smooth.  Add 2 Tbsp mint leaves and purée until just combined, but pieces of int are still visible.  Divide pea purée among 4 plates.

Heat skillet with reserved fat over high until just barely smoking.  Working in batches and adding more oil if needed, sear scallops until a golden brown cut has formed and scallop releases from skillet, about 3 minutes per side. Top pea purée with scallops and bacon- pea mixture, then sprinkle with remaining 1Tbsp of mint.