i’m a book buyer. which doesn’t necessarily mean that i’m always a book reader. of course each book is carefully chosen with varying degrees of hope, excitement and promise, and the contents of my cyber cart are always just one quick click away from being all mine… but then the books arrive only to be relegated to any number of stacks or shelves throughout my home. and from there the books taunt me, filling me with guilt, making me once again realize that they have yet to fulfill their destiny. and destiny is big….
so yesterday morning the latest book hit my doorstep. i don’t recall how or even why i’d heard about this one, but i had, for some good reason, sought it out – and now here we were, together. but this time, instead of adding it to the closest pile, i immediately opened to a random page and began to flip through, until my eyes rested upon what was to become – dinner. smiling, i grabbed the scallops and bacon from the freezer and jotted down the word ‘watercress’ on my days shopping list. this was going to be magically delicious and made in 15 minutes – tops.
the book is called ‘secret ingredients – the magical process of combining flavors’ by michael roberts. and the more i read about mr. roberts, who died an untimely death 3 years ago, the more i like him. in his ny times obituary he is noted as "a restaurateur and chef whose playful and astonishingly successful marriages of preposterous ingredients helped forge the California culinary revolution of the 1980′s". he was a risk taker when it came to flavor. and i happen to like that in a guy. he writes of flavor marriages as in ‘sherry and brandy’ and ‘chili and curry’, and of flavor oppositions such as ‘apples and cheese’ and ‘salt and sugar’ or ‘sugar and vinegar’, and from there he discusses flavor juxtaposition – as in garlic masking the bitterness of rosemary but allowing the herbalness to come through. or cocktail sauce, unfolding in layers, first the tomato and then the horseradish – married by the lemon…
i haven’t read a novel in too long because lately, i just get lost in this kind of thing. when i’m reading about food i am focused. pennies drop. i proverbially clap out loud and gasp and nod and moan and laugh. food just entertains the hell outa me. better than fast cars, heroin or sky diving, i suppose.
warm scallop and watercress salad with bacon vinaigrette
adapted from ‘secret ingredients’ by michael roberts
i opted to not leave the bacon fat in the dish and reflected this in my adaptation. it just seemed so pointless, but it’s your life and you can drink bacon grease all day long. choosing longevity, i decided to use more grapeseed oil and drain the pig fat. i also upped the apple slices just because..
2 bunches of watercress
1 medium granny smith apple
lemon juice to keep the apple slices from oxidizing
1/2 cup salad oil (i like grapeseed for this)
3/4 lb bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 lb sea scallops
2 T finely minced shallots
2/3 cup sherry vinegar
mound the watercress leaves onto 4 plates
core the apple without peeling, cut into quarters and slice thin
sprinkle with the lemon juice
arrange the apples around the watercress – set aside
add bacon to a 9 or 10 inch cold skillet – sauté over medium heat 4 minutes
drain most of the bacon fat from the pan and add scallops, searing until brown on each side
be sure they stay rare in the center
add the shallots and vinegar and cook for a minute longer
remove from heat and add the oil
then drizzle with the remaining dressing in the pan
portion the scallops and bacon onto the plates
there is something so very sexy, even powerful about being able to whip out a solid dish with very little effort… especially when it’s this good.