I am sharing a bit of exciting news — as of today, my good friend Sarah Yee and I are starting a little food business! As you all know, we both love to cook. Now, we’ll be channeling this passion and skills into cooking for our community through Josephine.
Josephine is an awesome community where approved cooks sell their home cooked meals to friends and neighbors. You order online, pick up the food from my kitchen and take it home to enjoy! Each meal, Sarah and I will be taking turns leading, all while we get to cook together and learn from each other’s recipes. Continue Reading
Recently, I had a chance to visit my fellow Minnesotan friend Tanya, her spouse Justin, and their daughter Mabel in Portland. They graciously had me over for dinner, and I got to see a demo of the Instant Pot. Apparently she was so excited about it she bought a second one when it was on sale on Amazon. My friend Candace in San Francisco had previously bothered messaging me about this device as a sped up way to make radish cakes, so it seemed only right that I listen to the universe’s repeated prodding to investigate this gadget.
Besides the amazing architecture of Al Andalus (the name of southern Spain during the times of the Islamic rule from ~700 – 1492, the area now known as Andalusia), the area is also known for tapas.
Tapas are generally served in most bars and restaurants. Some only serve tapas, and are known as a tapas bar. With each drink that you order, you get small bites of food that come with the drink. This is tapas. I described it to others as a Spanish dim sum while drinking. It’s a whole culture in Spain. And it’s fantastic.
The type of tapas that come with your drinks can vary widely. From the very basic potato chips with your beer to a small plate of calamari with your sangria.
I needed to whip up a nice backdrop for an easy but satisfying Sunday night dinner with a treat of seared scallops.* I had turkey bacon and egg on hand, and picked up some bucatini.
This one from Nook and Pantry has been sitting at the ‘bottom’ of my Evernote recipe box for a while, since the first time I tried my hand at carbonara with pancetta my arteries could hardly take it. However, turkey bacon took some of the punch out of it (so I could swap it out for butter & olive oil for the scallops).
Pasta alla Carbonara
+Optional Turkey Downgrade
Makes 2 servings for some one trying not to gorge, but only if you pack half of it away for the next day before you start eating.
Approximately 2 slices of thick-cut turkey bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch wide strips, chopped
1 eggs, beaten
1 ounce finely grated parmesan (or pecorino romano)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces bucatini
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it is crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a piece of paper towel.
Bring a large pot of water, salted generously, to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta according to package instructions, until it is al dente.
Temper the egg thus: with one hand beat the egg and with the other slowly drizzle approximately 1/8 cup of hot pasta water with a measuring scoop or cup into the egg mixture. Set aside.
Before draining the pasta, set aside about 1/4 cup of the boiling pasta water to loosen the pasta if needed.
Quick! When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta then return back into the hot pot. Keep the pot off heat. The residual heat in the pot and pasta will thicken the sauce. Add the drained bacon, ground pepper, pasta and with one hand, stir pasta while pouring in the tempered egg mixture.
Keep stirring to mix the cheese and egg evenly and the sauce will be thickened and silky smooth. Add a bit of the pasta water if needed.
Optional: top with extra freshly ground pepper and grated cheese before serving.
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars Likelihood of Repeat: 85%
The richness is definitely toned down with turkey bacon rather than pancetta, decide for yourself if you want that or not, of course.. Lesson Learned: How did I go so long without cooking bucatini all the time? The hollow noodles give the perfect al dente chewiness! Nom nom nom nom nom. This blends well with seared scallops, too. Due to the speedy timing, it’s definitely best to have everything else you want to eat ready before you sear scallops the Alton Way.
*I recently became allergic to some shellfish. The great news is, the allergist said to keep eating scallops regularly, to help prevent my body from identifying it as a foreign body. Most enjoyable medical advice worth following, ever!
That’s right, for the few of you who may have puzzled at the last post, I was in Milan last week a few weeks ago visiting my good friends, J & G. A confluence of events created a last minute opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, despite the usual work pressures. Sleeping in on Monday was all the sweeter for having worked so much extra before.
The last post was of delicious butternut squash risotto, compliments of J & G. There are few things sweeter than the hospitality of friends, in my opinion, and it’s even better when those friends are good cooks, as these two are! They even demonstrated in that last post that it is perfectly possible to cook a good meal with a kitchen the smaller than an American storage unit. Bam.
How did I repay their generous hospitality in sharing a one-bedroom loft apartment with me and my spouse for a week? More, food, of course!
A request for something somewhat light (and fast) was made, so I scaled down the portions of pasta (er, to what was in the pantry), and did one of my favorites -but only if you do it right: seared scallops. G did a great job slapping a salad together to go with, and we hunted up a delicious strawberry tart from pasticceria marchesi, a super old school classic pastry place.
Scallops in Milan
Got the scallops from the local fishmonger, and I was stoked to find they delivered each precious scallop still attached to the shell. I’ve seen it on tv, but never found sea scallops sold this was in the states. They did appear to already have some guttiness removed, though, which was a minor relief.
Pasta Timing Notes
First, I prepped the lemon garlic pasta, since if you cook them ‘the right way’ (er, the Wong way), it takes very little time and you want to be paying enough attention to get them off the pan before they are overcooked. This classic in my arsenal has remained largely unchanged since my (other) friend J and I started making it about 15 years ago, from a Byerly’s cookbook, of all things. The main thing different is just a little less oil, and more garlic (always):
Lemon Garlic Pasta
1/2 pound dry angel hair pasta
1/4 cup olive oil (or a smidge less, for a less oily product)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or TWO teaspons. go wild.)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. cook angel hair pasta according to package directions in boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; drain.
2. In small saucepan, heat oil and butter, stir in garlic, lemon peel, lemon juice, marjoram, salt and pepper, simmer 2 minutes.
3. transfer pasta to heated serving bowl. toss with oil mixture and parsley. serve immediately.
Similarly, 8+ years ago I decided I only liked sea scallops when they were seared in butter and olive oil, and just barely raw in the middle. I found Alton Brown’s recommendations the most useful: click here for Alton Brown’s Seared Scallops recipe. In this instance, I had one extra (exciting) step, to cut the scallops off the shell, which wasn’t really challenging but still entertainingly novel. My only other advice to myself in my notes on this recipe is just not to get distracted, but resist the urge to move the scallop until just the right time for the 90 second flip, and then removal after the second 90 seconds. Any more time and you’ve overcooked them, any less and you may not get that delicious sweet brown crust.
Voila! Dinner in ~under 30 minutes.
Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Very novel to get scallops still in their shells, and even better to serve it to friends living as expats. Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
Some part of this will be repeated, the lemon garlic pasta has been good for meals for co-workers with new babies and it keeps well enough to serve cold at picnics. Lesson Learned: Umm…everything is better with friends?