Monday, January 28, 2008

Warm Scallops and Tatsoi "Salad" with Mustard Vinegarette

Tatsoi, also known as spinach mustard, spoon cabbage or Chinese flat cabbage, has dark green, oval leaves, with a lighter-tinged stem. It looks a bit similiar to baby Bok Choy (no surprise, it's also in the same family as bok choy, mizuna, and rapini), but it looks much more full and lush. It's often used for salad or sandwich greens, but is always great sauteed with garlic or wilted. And just like all those other healthy green veggies, tatsoi is full of vitamins A and C, calcium and folate.

I much prefer vegetables like Bok Choy cooked to take away some bitterness, so I took the same route when adapting Gourmet's Tatsoi and Warm Scallop salad to more of a standard meat/vegetable/starch dinner. This meal amazed both AB and me as well as confirmed that locally grown produce IS that much superior to what you buy in the grocery store.

The Gourmet recipe mixes seared scallops with tatsoi, avocado, and spicy pecan praline with a light mustard almost vinegarette. I left out the pecan praline because there was just so much going on already (plus I ate half the container from Whole Foods while cooking). The next time I try this, I may crush the pecan praline and mix it with the dipping flour used to coat the scallops to give the scallops even more of a crispy texture on the outside.

Most of the reviews on the Gourmet website suggest using spinach as a substitute for tatsoi. While this is surely tasty, I'd advise using baby bok choy or bok choy instead to give it that slightly bitter/mustardy flavor.

Warm Scallops and Tatsoi "Salad" with Mustard Vinegarette

3/4 pound sea scallops
1 T all-purpose flour
1 t sea salt
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t cayenne
1 T unsalted butter
2 T olive oil
3 t fresh lemon juice
3 t extra-virgin olive oil
1 t Dijon mustard
1 large firm-ripe avocado, sliced
7 cups tatsoi (thick, spoon-shaped Asian greens), baby spinach, baby boki choy or bok choy quickly blanched and immersed in cold water (to stop from cooking)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, wash the tatsoi very thoroughly. Quickly blanch the tatsoi (no more than 30 seconds), then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and to keep the vegetable crunch.

2. Rinse and pat dry scallops. Combine flour, sea salt, cumin and cayenne pepper in a small bowl or dish. Lightly coat the top and bottom of the scallops in the flour mixture.

3. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan over medium high. Cook the scallops on both sides until golden brown.

4. In a medium size bowl, whisk lemon juice , extra-virgin olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste until emulsified.

5. Assemble the dish, putting the tatsoi on the bottom, then scallops, and finally topped with avocado. Drizzle the mustard sauce over the dish.

Adapted from Gourmet's Tatsoi and Warm Scallop Salad with Spiced Pecan Praline

Coming Up Next: Broccoli Romanesco (aka space age broccoli)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mysterious Thursdays

A little week until Super Sunday and my fridge looks like I tried to cram a farm into it, which come to think of it, is essentially what I've done. Yesterday was my first Mysterious Thursday with Marquita Farms. A week prior, I sent an email reserving my box. We exchange cell numbers. I make a withdrawal from the bank. I pull up to the back of the restaurant on a dark rainy night, cash and vegetables are exchanged and I'm on my (cold and slightly damp) merry way. Finally, at home, I examined my bounty:

- Baby Carrots

- Red Carrots
- Parsley Root

- Tatsoi

- Celery Root

- Potatoes

- Little Gem Lettuces
- Romanesco

- Sibley Winter Squash

- Puntarelle

- Escarole

I'll admit - I had to do some research online just be able to match the list to the vegetables. The roommate and the boy just shook their heads in amazement at my craziness, although boy DID admit it sure tasted better fresh. I have my work cut out for me - I must consume all these vegetables in the next 5 or 6 days (minus three for the Tahoe trip) so I can prep for Super Sunday.

If this works out, I may give in and subscribe to Two Small Farms' CSA, something I've been dying to try out, but had a hard time justifying with a consulting gig that you never know where you could end up. This could also help me towards my goal of using local and seasonal ingredients, cooking more often and healthier, and saving money by bringing lunch to work (aka leftovers).

Being unfamiliar with many of the vegetables, I welcome any recipes or suggestions! Or a friendly volunteer to come over for dinner :)

What I'm thinking of trying:

Tatsoi and Warm Scallop Salad with Spicy Pecan Praline from Gourmet
How to prepare puntarelle
Puntarelle from Becks and Posh
Moroccan Baby Carrot Salad from 101 Cookbooks
Celery Root and Potato Mash with Horseradish from Tyler Florence
Escalore and Pine Nuts from Mario Batali
Braised Escarole with Garlic and Lemon from Tyler Florence
Escarole and Bean Soup from Giada

P.S. Current pictures courtesy of Marquita Farms. My own to come as I use the vegetables.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ready, Set...

Last year's Superbowl party was my first party to host entirely on my own. Since then, I've had the Fourth of July and the Second Annual Fleet week, both of which were pretty successful. This year's party should be even more of a success, just judging by the fact that people were asking me before I even had a chance to get the invite out if I were still having the Superbowl...because if I was, they were going to be there for sure. I'm pretty stoked.

I'm still working on how to manage to feed a hungry lot of people with a wide variety of pseudo-gourmet food without 1. going broke 2. spending all my time in the kitchen during the party and 3. not completely exhausting myself. I'm learning to balance home-made with store bought and I'm attempting to learn how to delegate tasks in the kitchen (I've had a pretty nice handful of volunteers this go around).

1. Going broke - I'll quote the party invitation (which was a premade one from Evite, btw...not my not-so-subtle hint that I created myself). Show Up. Bring beer. Lauren has also suggested a "tip" jar by the food. Something along the lines of a threat of no more future parties due to a chef gone broke. That should encourage them!

2. Spending all the time in the kitchen - I am the proud new owner of two Vollrath Trimline II chafing dishes. These things mean business. I've also made sure to balance the menu (see below) with cold, hot and room temperature foods.

3. Not completely exhausting myself - OK, this is probably not possible because I derive my fun out of overwhelming and stressing myself out. Pseudo-masochistic, I know. But heeding my mother's advice, I'm attempting to plan ahead for once, which brings me to the party menu:

Chips with roasted salsa and guacamole
Hot spinach artichoke dip
Ranch dip, hummus, onion dip
Shrimp spring rolls with peanut sauce
Shrimp ceviche
Deviled Eggs
Pepperoncini/salami and ham/cheese rollups

Chipotle chicken skewers
Pigs in a blanket
Meatballs in Bourbon sauce
Crabcakes with mango salsa
Roasted potato fries
Buffalo wings
Mac n cheese

Room temp

PB chocolate cookies
Chocolate chip cookies

Of course, I'm open to suggestions and always looking for new things to serve...