Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A New Twist

Until now, the recipes we post have either been old favorites we've cooked for years, things we've individually come up with since beginning this project, or family and friends' classics. But now we are entering a new phase: starting this week, we are going to work together to come up with new recipes. We will post our results on Wednesdays. From time to time, if one of us feels inspired, we will post something on our usual days (Renée on Monday, Keja on Thursday).

We began this new phase with one ingredient, a la Iron Chef: scallops. They are in season, so that fit the bill. A friend of Keja's lives in China and went to our local Asian market to stock up on ingredients when she last visited. So, we decided to go for a Chinese style dinner. We winged it, something we both enjoy in the kitchen, and came up with a really nice meal. The broccoli should be served as part of the meal, as it complements the spiciness of the scallops. We are going to tweak it to be a stand-alone veggie, as it's a bit bland without the spice of the scallops, so stay tuned.

And just so no one thinks we are absolute geniuses at this, there were many tweaks we did during this whole process; you are getting the final result.

Chinese Style Scallops with Root Veggie Purée
serves 4 

Serve scallops over the purée. Have broccoli on the side.

1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
3 inch nub fresh ginger, peeled and grated on large holes of a box grater
2 TBSP sesame paste (tahini will substitute well)
1 TBSP brown sugar 
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. red chili bean paste (we used Youki brand shisen toban jan)

Sauce add-ins:
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 lb. bay scallops
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup white wine

Mix paste ingredients together in a medium bowl. You may have to use your hands to get it really incorporated. Add scallops, gently rubbing paste evenly on them. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes.

Take scallops out and gently wipe the biggest chunks of paste back into bowl. Put scallops in a separate bowl. Reserve paste.

Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add oil. When oil is shimmering but not smoking, add scallops. Cook for 2 minutes on first side. Using a spatula, turn them over and cook another 1 - 2 minutes until they start to split. Remove from pan and put on a plate.

Get a blender ready to use.

Add rice wine vinegar to the pan and deglaze, scraping until all stuck bits are off from the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes then add white wine and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Scrape everything in the pan into the blender. Blend until smooth. This can either be served over the scallops and root veggie purée (recipe to follow) or - our preference - served in a small bowl on the side and used as a dipping sauce.

Root  Veggie Purée

This was inspired by the need to clean out both of our refrigerator vegetable drawers of the odd and end root veggies lurking there. What a delightful way to reconstitute them!

4 cups peeled white root veggies (we used rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, and dikon), cut into 1/2 - 3/4" cubes
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth or water
1/4 cup coconut milk
juice of two limes
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP rice cooking wine
1/2 teas. powdered ginger
1/2 teas. powdered garlic
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. crushed Szechuan pepper

Steam root veggies until they are very soft, ~ 20 minutes.

Put roots and all other ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If it needs to be reheated, do so over very low heat, stirring frequently.

Garlicky Broccoli

As we said above, this works really well to counterbalance the spiciness of the scallops. Alone, it tastes bland, so don't be disappointed when you taste test!

2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
2 TBSP minced garlic
4 oz. Wood Ear mushrooms, torn into 1/2" pieces
1 lb. broccoli florets
1 TBSP rice vinegar

In a wok over medium-low heat, heat oil and then add garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant, ~ 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add broccoli and using tongs or two wooden spoons, continuously stir, lifting broccoli up from the bottom to evenly cook it. Do this until the broccoli is bright green, ~ 5 minutes. 

Add rice vinegar and put the top on the wok. Let it steam for 3 - 5 minutes, until broccoli is cooked through but still crunchy.

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