First Drafts

I went to buy some fish, since I had scallops on the brain, but they had some good ahi, so I got both. The challenge then became how to turn four scallops and a smallish tuna steak into enough dinner for all three of us. I had intended to tea-smoke the scallops in the wok, but when I was ripping out the frost-ravaged basil stalks in the garden, I realized how aromatic they still were despite being completely brown. So I smoked the scallops over dead lime basil stems and flowers for a couple of minutes, or just long enough to completely fill the house with smoke (our hood sucks as badly as our stove.)

I juiced some carrots and red pepper (our nightshades are kaput as well) and reduced the juice with saffron and black pepper. Sautéed diced red pepper, added back in, gave the sauce a nice textural component. I seared the scallops quickly and garnished them with the foam from the juicer plus some chervil and paprika. They did the smoky-sweet-earthy thing really well; I was shooting for the essence of paella, and got pretty close. To really get there, I would add a little shrimp broth to the juice, and sear the scallops in chorizo oil.

For the tuna, I was trying for essence of salade Niçoise, but I took more liberties. We were out of eggs, so that part went away. The other problem was that the idea arrived late, after I had already started cooking. In place of potatoes, I steamed red and black radishes and a chioggia beet, then puréed them with the grain/nut/mushroom broth from the other night, plus black olives and tomato paste. I wilted chard and sorrel with garlic and lemon, and dressed some frisée with oil and lemon. The tuna just got a sear with salt and pepper. As with the first dish, next time I do this it will be a winner; this one tasted good, but now I know exactly how to make it perfect. Stay tuned.

6 comments to First Drafts

  • Zoomie

    Your presentations blow my socks off!

  • Heather

    I thought the scallops had a lightly-broiled quail egg yolk on top (the foam’s lovely).

    Your frisee looks like escarole.

    Can’t wait to see the next iteration of these. You are a font of inspirado.

  • cook eat FRET

    really really impressive food
    and beautiful. did the scallops taste basil smoked?

    i am such a boring cook next to you… it’s almost disheartening

    so now i am never going to cook again as long as i live

  • peter

    Zoomie: You wear socks? Why live in California?

    Heather: I’ve got a bunch of seeds in the frisée/endive/escarole family, unhelpfully labeled, but these are definitely frisée. Galia endive is the best of all for making mash- it’s tall and crinkly, and grows fast.

    Claudia: They tasted smoked, but not so basil-y.

  • Zoomie

    Metaphorical socks. Mostly I wear go-aheads and love them.

  • Jen of A2eatwrite

    Um… these are just things that would never happen in my kitchen. I knew I shouldn’t have left art school.

    Darn.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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