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Seared Scallops and Corn and giveaway winner

I was at a restaurant recently with an out-of-town friend who ordered scallops for dinner. They arrived looking pale, small, and sitting in a pool of insipid liquid, which was almost unforgivable, given how easy it is to get a good sear and add flavor to scallops with some butter and seasonings.

I’d like to invite her back and cook this recipe for her, especially while corn is at its peak and the scallops at our fish market are particularly fresh right now. We’ve had great corn this summer in New Jersey, but we purchased this delicious sweet corn at a farm stand in upstate New York last week, on our way home from the Glimmerglass Music Festival (where we also got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, but that’s another story).

We could have eaten like normal humans and limited ourselves to one ear of corn each, but what the heck – why not cook all four ears of corn. We could always reheat the leftovers, right? (Wrong, we scarfed them all down in one sitting!)

It’s easy enough to slice the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife.

Sauté the peppers, corn and tomatoes in a skillet with some butter and olive oil, along with the seasonings.

Meanwhile, use a large cast iron skillet to sear the scallops. Heat it until it’s screaming hot, then add the oil and butter. By the way, try to find the largest scallops you can. That way, you’ll be able to get a nice sear on the outside without overcooking the inside. Make sure you dry the scallops thoroughly with paper towels to avoid any moisture from oozing out. If your scallops have too much moisture, or if you crowd too many in a pan, you could end up “steaming” them instead of searing them.

Sometimes, the scallops you buy are so filled with moisture, you wonder if the fish sellers injected them with water to make them weigh more. But these scallops, from our local fish market at the Jersey shore, were large, exceedingly fresh, and not at all weighted down with water. They sautéed beautifully in a minimal amount of fat (about 1 tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil). But feel free to add a little more butter if you’re feeling indulgent. There are few things as delicious as browned butter over sautéed scallops.

The whole dish takes less than 30 minutes to put together, from scraping the corn off the cob to presenting it at table. We ate this as a regular weeknight dinner, but it’s certainly company worthy too.

Don’t you agree?

The inside of the scallop is still moist, while the outside is well seared to a buttery goodness.

And now, for the winner of the giveaway in my last post about lobster fra diavolo  and as my way of saying thank you to one of my readers as I celebrate 10 years of blogging, ta da … drum roll please!!!  Sarah Zimmerman, you’re the winner of the $100 Lobstergram gift certificate, selected by a computer driven, random number generator. Look for the gift certificate in your email.

Thanks to all of you who left comments and have been reading Ciao Chow Linda through the years. To see what’s cooking in my kitchen, or what other adventures I’m up to, connect with me on my Instagram page here.

Seared Scallops and Corn
 
 
Ingredients
  • 10 large scallops (or about ¾ pound)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. butter (or more if you like)
  • salt, pepper
  • 4 ears corn (or two unless you are a glutton like us)
  • ½ green bell pepper, mined
  • about a dozen red and yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half.
  • fresh chives
  • fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Strip the corn off the cob using a knife.
  2. Add one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon oil to a skillet and add the minced green pepper.
  3. Saute for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes and corn kernels.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and snippets of fresh chives and add another tablespoon of butter if desired.
  5. Cook the corn mixture over low to medium heat for two or three minutes while you sear the scallops.
  6. Make sure you buy the largest scallops you can find to ensure you get a good sear without overcooking the interior.
  7. Dry the scallops on all sides with a paper towel.
  8. Heat a large cast iron skillet until it's really, really hot.
  9. Add one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon butter to the pan, then add the thoroughly dried scallops.
  10. Do not overcrowd or you risk "steaming" the scallops.
  11. Let them sear on one side for a couple of minutes only.
  12. Then flip and sear on the other side.
  13. When the scallops are almost finished cooking, transfer the corn mixture to a platter.
  14. Remove scallops from skillet and place over the corn.
  15. Pour any butter/oil left in the pan over the scallops.
  16. Decorate with a couple of strands of fresh chives.
 

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Domenica Marchetti’s “Preserving Italy”

Domenica Marchetti’s “Preserving Italy”

I was predisposed to love this book as soon as I heard the title. “Preserving Italy” speaks not only to the time-honored methods of putting foods by that Italians have done for centuries — but to holding on to traditions that face extinction if it weren’t for people like Domenica Marchetti.

I grew up in a family that foraged for wild asparagus and broccoli rabe in the spring, that canned summer’s bounty of peaches and tomatoes, that made its own wine in the fall and that mixed its own spicy sausages to hang and cure during the winter. Those, and other traditions to preserve food are deeply engrained in my genes and I try to not only maintain those traditions, but to enrich them with newfound ways of preserving my heritage and passing it onto younger family members and friends. So I was thrilled when Domenica’s book arrived, (including my family’s recipe for salt-preserved green tomatoes) bringing these old customs to a whole new audience.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
Aside from her wonderful recipes, Domenica leaves her imprint with her beautiful writing. Her first sentence grabbed me right away:
“When my grandmother passed away in 1971, she left behind four grieving daughters and a large jar of her liquor-soaked cherries.”

photo from “Preserving Italy”
That sentence evoked my own memories of loved ones passed on, who had left behind their own culinary mementos: the foods my father ate for weeks after my mother died — peppers and tomatoes she had prepared and stored in the freezer and cupboards; and the grappa-soaked cherries and salted green tomatoes my late husband had made – another bittersweet and tangible reminder of his absence in the months following his death.
With every bite of those cherries, roasted peppers, or canned tomatoes, we bring back past memories and at the same time, expose a younger generation to a taste they might pass onto future generations.

“We’re seeing more and more of these traditional methods being used today,” Domenica said. “Some people are putting modern spins on it and putting in new flavors.”
Italy has long been a country where people, especially those living in the country with substantial gardens, put up their own food for the leaner winter months, but there are a lot more artisanal items on store shelves in Italy now too, she said.
“It’s a way for regions to stand out in terms of culinary trends and I feel like we are in some ways going back. You see it not just with preserves, but in interest in old traditional recipes, like the sour dough bread baking movement, for example. These techniques that were in danger of being lost, are finding a new audience. I also try to find recipes that are in danger of being lost. I don’t want these traditional recipes to fall by the wayside.”

photo from “Preserving Italy”

The book contains instructions not only on the techniques of making and preserving vegetables, meats and fruits, jams and liqueurs, but also many ideas on how to use those items in various recipes.

From foods preserved in oil, like eggplants, zucchini and butternut squash; to foods preserved in vinegar, like cauliflower, carrots and fennel; to sweet jams and jellies; to tomatoes and sauce; to cheeses, cured meats; liqueurs and syrups, the book provides a step-by-step guide to creating a bountiful pantry.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
After you’ve finished seasoning and curing that guanciale, you can use it to flavor the pasta alla gricia recipe from the book; or try your hand at making mint syrup, then incorporate it in the book’s recipe for mint chocolate chip cake.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
There’s something for even the busiest working man or woman, including easy-to-make porchetta salt that will elevate your next pork shoulder to new heights. Domenica also includes the recipe for making a simplified home version of porchetta that anyone can make.
“The porchetta is simple because it’s just a matter of making the salt, rubbing it into the meat and then it’s hands off while the roast is in the oven.

from “Preserving Italy”

Most of the recipes in the book are “small batch” and just enough for a small family, she said.
“They
don’t produce quarts and quarts of food – just enough for you to have
something on hand. I like the feeling of having a larder with jars of
food stocked in it. If you do a little bit of work on the front end,
then you can just open a jar of tomato sauce and have a quick and easy
great pasta dinner for example,” she said.
Although Domenica has been making
limoncello and other liqueurs for years, as well as jams, fresh cheeses
and yogurt, many of the techniques in the book were new to her. “There
was definitely a learning curve, which made the book all the more fun,”
she said.

photo from “Preserving Italy”

Writing a cookbook where you are first preserving the raw
ingredients does takes a bit longer than just creating a recipe alone,
but it was a labor of love, Domenica said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the
process,” she said, although the tight deadline imposed by Houghton
Mifflin presented a challenge. The original six months stretched to a
year in order to include ingredients from all four seasons of the year.
“I
had a lot of fun sourcing the different things,” she said including
finding wine grapes she could use to create the syrupy liquid called
mosto cotto in her kitchen in Virginia.
photo from “Preserving Italy”
“I put out a tweet asking winemakers to share some fresh grape must and I got a reply from one of Virginia’s oldest winemakers – Horton Vineyards – who gave me a few jars.”
Winemakers in general are the most generous people, she said, but “As I started working on this book, it became clear to me that there are so many talented and hard-working food artisans in Italy.”
As a result, the book includes essays on many of the people she met while conducting research for the book.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
“They do what they do because it’s their livelihood and they love it and maybe they’re doing it to bring back those traditions. I really wanted to showcase the work they are doing. But it doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the whole country and the number of food artisans there.”

photo from “Preserving Italy”
Domenica will be promoting “Preserving Italy” in the next few months, starting with a book launch and dinner at Le Virtù restaurant in Philadelphia on June 15. She continues through the summer with appearances at bookstores, cooking schools and other sites throughout Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maine and North Carolina. For more details, click here.

Below is a recipe from Domenica’s book – a beautiful and delicious crostata using homemade jam:

photo from “Preserving Italy”

 

Favorite Jam Crostata
from Domenica Marchetti’s “Preserving Italy”
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting the crostata
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 to 2 cups rustic grape Jam, strawberry-apricot preserves, green tomato preserves (recipes in the book); or any favorite jam.
-Measure the flour, sugar, zests and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with at the metal blade. Process briefly to combine. Distribute the butter pieces around the bowl and process until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process just until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a disk. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Rewrap the smaller piece and set it aside. Roll the larger piece into an 11-or 12-inch circle. Carefully wrap the dough around the rolling pin and drape it over a 9- or 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
-Spoon the jam into the prepared hell and smooth it out with the back of your spoon. Roll out the remaining dough and cut it into 3/4-inch thick strips or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes such as flowers or stars. Place the strips in a lattice pattern on top of the jam or arrange the cutouts on top. (Save any excess dough to roll out later; you can cut out shapes and bake cookies) Fold the edge of the crust over the jam and lattice.
-Bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Let the crostata cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature. To serve, remove the rim of the pan, transfer the crostata to a decorative serving platter, and dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar.
Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad


It wouldn’t be August in New Jersey without tomatoes. With so much shade in our yard, it was hard to find a spot to plant a real vegetable garden – something my husband and I grew up with and missed. We both came from Italian families where the entire back yard was given over to a vegetable plot. We finally succumbed last year to our yearning and dug up the decades-old yew bushes along the side of our house — the only spot with sun at least five hours a day. We now have a bonafide vegetable garden in place of the shrubs.
Last year I saved some seeds from heirloom tomatoes we had eaten from a local organic farm, and we also planted some plum tomato seeds I had brought back from a trip to Italy. We nurtured the seedlings until they were strong enough to be planted indoors, covering them at night with plastic milk jugs whose bottoms were cut out, in essence creating little “greenhouses.” to protect the tender seedlings from the night-time frost.
Several months after planting, those little seedlings are like the plants that won’t stop growing, laden with tomatoes of all shapes and colors. It never ceases to amaze me how a teensy-weensy seed no bigger than a flea can produce a lush, sprawling plant bearing pounds and pounds of fruit (a tomato is a fruit after all). At this point, they threaten to consume us like the plants in “The Little Shop of Horrors.” But oh, do they taste divine.

Nothing could be simpler or easier than making a tomato salad, but with so few ingredients and no cooking involved, everything must of of top quality, starting with the tomatoes. If you’re not growing your own or don’t have a friend who has offered some of his bounty, go to a farmer’s market or the organic section of a good supermarket. For the first recipe of this blog, which is really more “assembling” rather than cooking, here is my version of a tomato salad. I have not indicated any amounts for the ingredients, since it really depends on how many people will be eating and what size tomatoes you have. In general, one large tomato and a quarter of an onion per person is plenty. For the vinaigrette, I use three parts oil to one part vinegar, but you can adjust as you want. Salt and pepper the tomatoes copiously. Preferably, basil should be ripped by hand, not minced with a knife, to avoid bruises and get the best flavor. If you really want to knock ’em over, add slices of hand-made mozzarella — not the rubbery stuff in the supermarket that pretends to be cheese, but the artisan kind you buy at good cheese stores and specialty shops.

Needless to say, don’t try this recipe in January.

Heirloom Tomato Salad
tomatoes, preferably heirloom varieties
fresh basil, torn by hand
kosher or sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
mozzarella, sliced