Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil

Scallops, peas and chervil-5962

If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back.  Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor.  When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop.  Most haven’t.  This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil.  The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.

Lasagna with Pistachio Pesto and Prosciutto

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I eat a tomato lasagna about twice a year.  When it appears in caveman portions, as it usually does, the sight of it fills me with a kind of anticipatory fatigue.  Oh, no…  Am I really up for this?  It doesn’t have to be this way.  A Ligurian lasagna redolent of basil and pine nuts is seductively lighter, a Wilma Flintstone to Fred’s red version.  No need to clean the Augean stables or capture the Cretan bull to work up an appetite before you can eat it.  Ordinary hunger will do just fine for Lasagna with Pistachio Pesto and Prosciutto.

Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies

Spaghetti with Bottarga and Preserved Lemon-2667

For the last two years we’ve posted spring recipes for shad roe, a seasonal reward for surviving winter. We’re still rolling with roe this year, but of a dramatically different kind: Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies. Bottarga is the salted dried roe of gray mullet or bluefin tuna. Grated over pasta or served in very thin slices, it may be even more of an umami bomb than garum. Until recently only Americans fortunate enough to travel to Sicily, Sardinia or parts of Calabria were likely to encounter bottarga. But about ten years ago lumps of bottarga began showing up in a few American chefs’ hands. Its rich, funky flavor provokes either love or hate, but at twelve to fifteen dollars an ounce, it’s pricey enough to keep all but the curious or committed from seeking it out and trying it. Two ounces is more than enough for pasta for 4. Be forwarned: the curious have a way of morphing into bottarga zealots after their initial taste experience. Think guanciale of the sea. Armed with a small amount of bottarga and prep so rudimentary it makes bolognese look like a kidney transplant, you can make a pasta dish fit for the gods.

Layla and Mohammed’s Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout

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The little piles of sesame seeds atop the prunes are the traditional way of garnishing the dish.

We’re baaaaaaacccckkkkk….  with a dish that’s great for a winter that refuses to die–Moroccan Short Ribs of Beef with Prunes and Ras el Hanout.  Before we stumbled through an invisible portal into the Gehenna of wiring, longtime Rialto employee Mohammed Karachi and his family spent a morning cooking with us.  Mohammed’s wife Layla walked us through their Moroccan family recipe for braised short ribs, using ras el hanout from Mohammed’s mother.  What a treat!  Layla’s ribs easily earned a place in my personal pantheon of great braised dishes.  The spicy and sweet components are kept separate until the dish is served.  Do you want a forkful of beef with Moroccan seasoning and a bit of prune at the same time?  Or first the spicy, then the sweet?  (My preference.)  It’s comforting either way.

Print this recipe – Shrimp Scampi with Orange Bitters

Food bloggers and their readers tend to be a supportive, upbeat, crowd (“Kale!  Wow!  Double thumbs-up!”).  We don’t get many complaints, helpful suggestions for improving the site, but every few months this plea arrives: “Can’t you do something so we don’t have to cut and paste your recipes?”  Never let it be said The Garum Factory …

Glazed and Enthused – Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad

Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Fennel - Blood Orange Salad-1

Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad.  If you make nothing else from us this year, make this.  It’s crazy delicious, one of my contenders for the tastiest thing Jody’s cooked in the past year, and it’s easy. Contrary to what you may think, the recipe doesn’t involve filleting your own mackerel.  Unless you want to.  If so, have it.  That’s what we did, but only because the whole fish were so gorgeous I couldn’t bear not photographing them, so I spared our fishmonger the hassle of filleting them for us.  You’ll also notice that there are three fish and only four fillets, when you’d expect six.  That’s because we roasted the third mackerel whole.  If Spanish mackerel’s around, we can’t get enough of it.  Make this dish.

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

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Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.  Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken.  Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl.  I growled and stomped around.  I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie.  Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.

Eggs Baked in Avocado

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Eggs Baked in Avocado is as easy and foolproof a brunch as you’re likely to find, unless your local patissière delivers bags of warm fresh-baked croissants.  If you happen to come into some warm croissants or decent bread to serve with the eggs and avocados, all the better.  Baked avocadoes are delicious, but it’s hardly surprising most people have never eaten one, not when a ripe avocado is so good with just a squeeze of lime and a bit of salt.  A baked avocado has a rich, deep flavor that loves complimentary fat, like an egg yolk or cream, or the acidic contrast of a salad.  As we were pulling the elements of this post together I suggested topping the eggs with a spoonful of crème fraîche and calling it a day.  Not Jody.  The rule in our house is, once you open an avocado, you eat it–or you make sure someone else does–that same day, so just setting aside the cup of avocado flesh leftover from making a bit of room for the eggs was completely unacceptable.  You’re the lucky beneficiaries – you get eggs baked in avocados, served with a spicy avocado salad and crème fraîche.

Swiss Chard Tart with Gruyère and Anchovies

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Ceci n’est pas une quiche.  It’s a Swiss Chard Tart with Gruyère and Anchovies.  Quiche sounds so seventies, like the ubiquitous anonymous “white wine” that came into vogue as an alternative to cocktails during the same Swiss Chard Tart-6674culinary epoch.  Boring.  White.  Food.  But a tart, a tart can play.  Sweet or savory, rich or light, it has no rules beyond the obligatory crust, and inclination to use whatever looks good in the market that day.  And what looked good to us was the Swiss chard. So, yes, this is a savory custard tart, but it’s really about the chard. Oh, and the anchovies. The tart doesn’t taste like anchovies–it tastes like chard, with cream and cheese, and something salty and elusively delicious in the background.

GOAT CHEESE PIZZA WITH PORCINI SALAD

Pizza with Porcini Salad-35

What happens in our kitchen owes as much to happenstance as deliberate intention and sometimes the alignment of culinary planets all but makes a certain dish inevitable. Baby arugula arrived from Allendale Farms last week; Ben, the go-to guy for mushrooms for Rialto, came into a batch of fresh porcini. Jody and her staff paid a visit to Valley View Farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts for a close look at how artisanal goat cheese is made (and came home with lots of chevre). And finally [cue trumpet flourish] my new Baking Steel arrived. Let’s see: great ingredients + Baking Steel (the industrial steel world’s answer to a pizza stone). Was there really any choice other than to make Pizza with a Porcini Salad?