A Sarcastic Appetite

Scallops with Cauliflower, Dried Cherries & Capers
January 16, 2011, 11:52 pm
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Sounds weird, right? It’s one of those magical dishes where the sum of its [very disparate] parts equals something really delicious. I made this awhile ago, when the threat of that diet loomed, and I was trying to figure out what we could eat without killing each other. Of course, if he were really following it now, I am pretty sure a fair number of these ingredients would be verboten anyway. Thankfully, he just seems to be doing some kind of abbreviated version, cutting out most junk but without getting too anal about it. Yet.

And though I had been eyeing this number as a possible new “diet dinner” in the new year, I’m really just fooling myself; the only sauce here is butter. (Don’t get me wrong – it’s amazing.)

It’s from Michael Psilakis’ excellent How to Roast a Lamb, and he tells you everything you need to know in the recipe’s headnote; it’s almost a kind of stir-fry, so have everything all set before you get started. It comes together fairly quickly, though it does require several pans.

The end result, though, is delicious; all the veggies trick you into thinking you’re eating something healthy, but the outrageous sauce and the sweet-salty combination of cherries and capers remind you that no, in fact, you’re not. Which of course counts as success in my book.

Scallops with Cauliflower, Dried Cherries & Capers

Barely adapted from How to Roast a Lamb. Serves 2 as an entree.

1 small cauliflower head, chopped into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 big handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
1 large shallot, finely chopped, divided
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
1 stick butter, divided
6 large sage leaves, sliced thinly
3 tbsp. dried tart cherries
2 tbsp. drained capers

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the cauliflower until tender, about 6-7 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Add half the minced shallot and saute for a few minutes; add the cauliflower, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cook for about 4 minutes, until the cauliflower caramelizes slightly.  Add the rest of the olive oil, then add the spinach leaves and toss until wilted, about another 3. Divide among 2 plates. Heat 2 tbsp. of the butter in a large pan, then cook the scallops on medium-high heat, seasoned with salt and pepper, for about 2 minutes per side; don’t crowd them or they’ll steam. Pile 4 scallops on top of the cauliflower mixture on each plate.

In a small saucepan, heat the rest of the butter (6 tbsp.) over low heat. Add the rest of the shallots; once the foam subsides, add the sage leaves, cherries, and capers. Heat through – don’t let the butter burn – before spooning over the finished plates.

Butternut Squash Soup
November 21, 2010, 10:20 pm
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As usual, I’m late to the party. November’s almost out the door and I only just managed to purchase my first butternut squash of the season today. It was lying forlornly among the acorn squash, a rather pitiful specimen that will nevertheless be put to a delicious end: soup.

This delicate soup comes courtesy of Michael Psilakis, he of various Greek restaurants in New York and now Miami, from How to Roast a Lamb. The recipe is classic and simple: the aforementioned squash, an onion, some thyme, heavy cream, and a bit of white wine come together in what Psilakis describes as a “juicy” soup. He’s right. While it won’t steal the show – I think the John Dory and Crab-Yogurt-Orzo salad it’s paired with would take care of that – it is a light and lovely soup.

The reason I love this particular recipe? It doesn’t require peeling the squash (annoying) or cubing it (tedious). Roast the halved squash with some thyme and then scoop the flesh out and let it do its thing in the soup pot. Use this as your blank slate and add headier spices and flavors if you want. (I just added more nutmeg and some ginger.) Or leave it be, and just top with some chopped chives and a hefty dollop of crème fraiche, which will add a nice creaminess. Then again, what isn’t improved by crème fraiche?

Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis. Serves 4.

1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded, but unpeeled

about 3 tbsp. nice olive oil

8 sprigs thyme

lots of salt and pepper

1/2 an onion, chopped

1 c. dry white wine

2 1/2 c. chicken stock

1 c. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

a pinch of ground cloves

1 tbsp. honey

crème fraiche and chives, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375º. Brush olive oil onto the cut sides of the squash. Season with lots of salt and pepper, then stuff the cavities with the thyme. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, until very tender. Discard the thyme, then scoop the flesh out and set aside.

In a stockpot, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and saute until tender and wilted, about ten minutes. Deglaze with the wine and allow it to evaporate completely – about 15-20 minutes or so. Stir in the pulp, the chicken stock, cream, spices, and honey. Bring it to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then use an immersion blender to purée until smooth. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped chives.