Friday, March 20, 2009

Ingredient Guru: The Bay Scallop

Gordon Ramsay fans and foodies around the world must surely know the Sea Scallop is a popular staple of fine dining around the world. That buttery, savory seafood taste that rolls off the tongue echoes through the palate like a Mozart concerto on a sunny day. It's a staple of most fine dining starter menus and tapas style restaurants in those tres chique parts of town.

But the Sea Scallops retarded younger brother is every bit as tasty, if not smaller, and I think less demanding on the stove. They're smaller but can be stir-fryed in butter and garlic much easier. They cook through much simpler and brown easier. They're great in pasta sauce and even go great in stuffing for chicken and other poultry.

I've tried both but find the bay scallops to be somewhat stronger in flavour. The Atlantic scallops I buy are small about a half an inch wide and are caught off the coast of Cape Breton Island. According to this site there are four distinct species.

One of my favourite recipes is the simplest:

Garlic Penne with Bay Scallops and Snap Peas


2 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (substitute 1 tsp of garlic powder)
1 tbsp of thyme leaves
1/2 lb of Bay scallops
1/2 cup each sugar snap peas, green beans, yellow zucchini
300 grams of Penne (or substitute any pasta)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Boil salted water and add Penne.
1. Heat olive oil and butter in a pan and add garlic over medium-low heat.
2. When the garlic is browned slightly, add teh thyme and the scallops. Saute until the scallops start to turn brown and lose their greyness.
3. Add the vegetables and stir until heated through and the vegetables are slightly tender but still slightly crunchy.
4. Drain the pasta when cooked al dente (or slightly more), and plate with the scallops and vegetables on top.
5. Season to taste.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Indian Food Made Easy

Here's a television show I wish I could see. Indian food has had a profound effect on British taste buds in the last twenty or so years. I have discovered my love for curry and Indian food which despite its reputation for being exotic and spicy, is as broad and varied as most national cuisines due to the country's size and unique regional cultures. My research for the book led me to appreciate Indian food more and I had included an "Indian Style Vegetable" recipe for that very reason.

The website will give you a good rundown like most BBC food show sites. There are recipes to try and video demonstrations. I also like the glossary. I had forgotten that tandoori meant the oven the food was cooked it.

In the UK, the word tandoori is frequently used to describe food that has been marinated in a spice paste made of ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric and cayenne mixed with puréed garlic, puréed ginger, lemon juice, oil and, frequently, yoghurt.

That is also my understanding of the term and how it is used locally.
Speaking of Yoghurt, that's one of the greatest low-fat cream substitutes I've been able to find.

If you're planning on exploring Indian food more closely I recommend you try this page that outlines the essential ingredients. The spices alone should be in every foodie's pantry.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Hate Cilantro too!

If we judge flavour by how edible and/or safe a food is then, Cilantro (or Chinese Parsley or Coriander) has to rank up somewhere in the near-poisonous zone. Turkish delight tastes like soap too, but at least it's sweet.

Now I'm somewhat comforted to learn that there is support for the few of us who would rather do without this garnish menace. Thanks to Larry Moran over at Sandwalk, I've learned there is a website dedicated to putting the hate on this herb from hell.

They have Haikus so you know it must be good:

Sometimes I forget...
Then it rears its ugly stench.
Please, someone kill me.

I will admit that I've used the dried spice version (technically Coriander Seed) as a spice on a few occasions, but the funky taste isn't as dominant and it has a sweeter aftertaste. I've never tasted it alone, so that might explain why I'm less hostile to it.

Some have suggested there might be genetic component involved in the perception of the taste, but it has never been established.

If you don't like the flavour of cilantro, I recommend you substitute Italian leafy parsley in a recipe instead. I've been doing that for some time and get a similar texture with an equally strong and more pleasant flavour.

Update: I just found this great piece in the Wall Street Journal.

At the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, Dr. Wysocki and fellow researchers asked 41 pairs of identical twins and 12 pairs of fraternal twins to rate the "pleasantness" of cilantro. His scale ranged from plus 11 to minus 11, with zero indicating "neither pleasant nor unpleasant." More than 80% of the identical twins gave ratings similar to their siblings, while only 42% of the fraternal twins did -- suggesting cilantro hatred may be a genetic trait. But Dr. Wysocki cautions that he hasn't yet analyzed enough fraternal twins to draw a firm conclusion.

Dr. Wysocki contends dislike of cilantro stems from its odor, not its taste. His hypothesis is that those who don't like it are unable to detect chemicals in the leaf that are pleasing to those who like the herb.

Interesting. Maybe that's why it's fine for me to use coriander seed, unless it's chemically different.