2.28.2010

Dear Diary,


I have kept journals almost all of my life. I only stopped a few years ago (probably because of this blog), but I still have boxes of them. I don’t often go back through them – or, at least, it’s been quite a while. The other night, knowing I was going to have a busy week of work, I stole a night to myself and treated me to a dinner at Cheebo. With one of my old journals. And a few glasses of sauvignon blanc, a bowl of creamy artichoke soup and their signature chopped salad. Before I continue I will say that the food was very, very good. In fact, I will try to recreate the soup at home soon.

Here’s what’s wild: while reading my words from over a decade ago, it didn’t seem that I’ve changed as much as I would have hoped, or at least thought. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a really good person. What I noticed, though, is all of the things that got me dithered out, all of the promises I used to make to myself – are all the same dithers and promises of today.

Yet reading the entries still makes me miss something. Staying up until dawn? Dying may hair a new color and not to cover grays? Being able to do shots? Looking good in spandex?

I imagine it would be youth. Or at least the version of youth that allows us to fear little. The feeling of being invincible.

I wonder why that changes as we get older. Don’t get me wrong – I have no interest in going back in time. I don’t feel a need to recreate or relive any of the moments of my past. I am happy with the present and look brightly into the future. But I do find it interesting that, while looking through my words from all the years past that the more things change the more they stay the same. I can’t tell if I take comfort or concern in this little phenomenon.

I still spend too much time worrying about boys, friends, money, success and my hair. At least I don’t feel compelled to pierce anything or toy with the idea of getting a tattoo anymore. I’ve never liked doing shots, so I’m glad the pressure is off there. And I have little to no interest in wearing spandex (although it would be nice if it looked better on me).

Some of my old journals are filled with stories of my life, some are filled with watercolors, some have little taped scrawls and scraps from friends and the world, and some are simply filled with lists. Some parts are sad and some are happy, but they all mirror the trajectory of my life. They track the people who have moved in and out of my life, who have stayed, who have passed on. There is love, loss, elation, heartbreak, failure and triumph. I found them all to have beauty.


Last night, as I was trapped in the canyon, with my car needing a jump, my only phone dead and in a majorly crabby mood, I decided to make something that made me comfortable. Cozy. Something we all have eaten all of our lives in some form or another. A dish that, the more it changes, the more it stays the same. Something that can be colorful or monochromatic. Something that can be ornate or bare bones. Something that can taste both simple and complex.  Something that everyone perceives differently. Something that most of us have an opinion about. Something that, like the phases of our lives, seems to be ever morphing – moving forward while suspended in time.

Chili.

I have never used a recipe for chili. Rather, I like to toss all sorts of things in there each time and see what comes out. I never measure spices or concentrate very hard on it (except this time, so I could document the recipe for you). This go ‘round, I sautéed the onion in rendered bacon fat and kept the smoky bacon bits in. I always like to use lots of different kinds of beans for color and texture. It turned out great: thick, bold, good heat, smoky and rich. The sour cream and green onion on top add a splash of bright color and round out the spice.

And then I wrote everything you just read.



Chili with Beef & Bacon


2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
1 red onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
1 ½ tbsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp Hungarian paprika
1 bay leaf
15 oz can of tomato sauce
15 oz can of plum tomatoes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp red wine
20 oz can of red kidney beans
15 oz can of pinto beans
15 oz can of cannellini beans
Salt
Sour cream and chopped scallions for garnish

Directions
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaf, and Worcestershire, wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.
3. Add beans and cook 30 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with additional salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.



*This post is part of the Denny's and/or Foodbuzz BACONALIA challenge and is an entry.

2.22.2010

Strata


We all have so many interesting layers. We all have so many interesting phases within ourselves - with how we understand others, and with our relationships. I had a friend that referred to my dog as an onion – you had to peel back the layers, she would say. As he is a Chihuahua, I would say he’s more like a shallot. While she is correct about Besito, it’s also a really fantastic phrase.

Yes, upon first meeting Besito he will bark at you until he is hoarse. It’s immensely irritating. But once he gets to know you he will squeal and scream and pee pee on you – because he loves you! I don’t know which is worse.

Me: upon meeting me a lot of people think I’m too serious. Or crabby. Or British. But in reality I am quite silly and happy and fun. And obviously both Besito and I have more layers than those, but you get the idea.

Relationships, in any context, are no different. In fact, they are even more complex, constantly morphing and often appearing different each time you look at them from a new perspective.

One of my best friends for the better part of a decade and I met each other when I first moved to Los Angeles. We had so much in common at the time. We were also both younger, more energetic, more adventurous, were having an absolute blast learning about each other, and always had a cooking night about once a week. We would take turns cooking or just cook together. We also loved the wine. Well, we still both love the wine.

Lamentably, while I see him regularly enough, it’s not the same. It’s more formal, less inspired, hardly adventurous, and we don’t cook together much anymore. Anyway, I’m sure it’s a phase. We all grow together and apart at times.

Last night he came over to my house for dinner. I actually don’t think he’s ever been to this particular house of mine for one of our old-school cooking nights. Day of, he mentioned that he was tired and that he probably wouldn’t be up for a “whole cooking thing”. So I said I’d cook and he could just kick it.

He showed up an hour late, sans wine, and appeared bedraggled. This is unusual. He proceeded to passively denigrate many of the things of importance to me: this blog, photography, art, you name it. He just seemed like such the downy clowny. I guess it just felt like he really didn't want to be there. Which, of course, made me feel the same.

Worst thing, he hardly mentioned anything about the Persian cucumber salad, cream of broccoli soup with Parmesan croutons - or the lasagna Bolognese I spent about 5 hours making (which was DELICIOUS). Stinker.

He probably stayed about 2 hours. Once the red wine was gone so was he. He didn’t even want to take any leftover soup or lasagna with him. Double stinker.

It’s fine. Well, it’s sad, but it’s also fine. He’s going through one of his layers, his phases. Perhaps I am as well. And so must we. Kind of like an onion. Or lasagna.

I know he’s not going anywhere. I know we’ll find our groove again. Until then, I’m going to hang back and let it figure itself out along the long road that is our future. Our friendship.

And when we do, we will have yet another layer peeled.


My Lasagna Bolognese

Serves 10-12

Bolognese Sauce

1 ½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled & diced
1 cup Crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 lb ground sirloin
2 cups milk
1 cup red wine
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup tomato sauce
1 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tsp salt
¾ tsp pepper
2 tbsp crème fraiche

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large cast-iron or enamel pot over medium heat.

Add the onions, and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, celery, carrot, and mushrooms, and cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the ground sirloin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the milk, and cook at a gentle simmer, skimming fat from surface, until the liquid has reduced by half, about 45 minutes.

Add the wine and bay leaf, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half again, about 30 minutes.

Add stock, tomato paste, tomato sauce, salt, and pepper; simmer gently until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes. Stir in crème fraiche.


Lasagna

Bolognese sauce
1 16 oz container ricotta cheese
3 egg yolks
1 cup grated Parmesan
½ cup grated mozzarella
1 ½ tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

Bring the sauce to room temperature. In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, egg yolks, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Chill filling until ready to assemble lasagna.

Spread about 2 cups of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place a single layer of noodles over the sauce, overlapping them slightly. Spread about 2 more cups of sauce over the noodles, and about ½ of the ricotta mixture over the sauce.

Top with a layer of noodles, again slightly overlapping. Repeat with more sauce and the remaining ricotta mixture. Top with a final layer of lasagna noodles. Spread a layer of sauce over the noodles, and finish with the grated mozzarella.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if the cheese starts to brown to early. Let lasagna stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

2.18.2010

Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay.


My astrological sign is Cancer. The crab. I really don’t know much about the whole astrology thing, but I read that we are supposed to be crab-like emotionally: we have a tough exterior but a soft and sensitive interior. We have a little suit of armor to protect us for when we could get hurt.

I guess that seems like me.

The funny thing about the crab: I have never been pinched by one in all my years of going in the ocean. Not even in the Chesapeake Bay. As a result I have built up an irrational fear of how scary and painful it must be to be bitten by one and am very, very afraid of going into any salt water unless the water is crystal clear and I can see all the way to the bottom. That and I have the same issue with jellyfish. So you can only imagine the army of monsters I fear are lurking around any part of my submerged body in the abyss that is The Ocean.

The other thing about crabs and me is that I love to eat them. I can very vaguely remember sitting on the end of a pier on the Chesapeake Bay with newspapers spread carefully on the wooden planks replete with fresh, steamed crabs yanked right from the water. I must have been really young, maybe 6 years old. I can’t recall if I was with a Mom or a Dad group of people. I just remember the metal crab pot that was brought up from the water, brimming with live crabs, steaming them on site, and eating them with our hands - making a huge mess. I remember how free it felt to give into the mess and how fresh and wonderful those little buggers tasted.

I have never done that since. But I do eat a lot of crabs. I particularly like the steamed Alaskan king crab leg with grain mustard butter and toast at Hungry Cat. I love crab cakes. I’m not a big fan of soft-shell crab, though. About 10 years ago, when I was living in Atlanta, I visited a friend who was working at Watershed for lunch. I had a memorable hangover. She brought me a soft-shell crab sandwich. I don’t rattle easily in the food department but this looked like an alien spider, or something from Starship Troopers, crawling out of a bun. I’ve never been able to hang with them since. Clearly I blame the hangover.

I had a pile of crabmeat leftover from the red pepper soup garnish and didn’t want it to go bad. And as I had a relatively light real work day, I thought I’d find something fun to do with it. 

And as you guys must know by now, my brain will beeline straight to soup.

I was remembering the fated soft-shell crab sandwich that day and thinking about how huge Watershed is today. The chef, Scott Peacock, is a major player in the Southern food world and was very close with one of my heroes, Edna Lewis (who also made a lot of she crab soup in her day)!

So, of course I started missing the South again, y’all.

The choice quickly became clear: the she-crab soup, a recipe heralding from Charleston, South Carolina - an unabashedly Southern mecca. I prepared this soup, but re-imagined, with a California twist. It was like Ghost meets Manchurian Candidate. With a heart. In the right spot.

I am actually more proud of this soup than I’ve been of anything I’ve made in some time. Partially because I made it entirely from the hip.  Or maybe because it was so pretty. But most likely because it was simply divine.

The soup is a cross between a bisque and a chowder. It is creamy, rich and elegant with a delicate and smooth texture. It was also Soupy Sales’ favorite soup.

And hey, I promise I’ll try to bond with my fellow crabs this Summer and get into the ocean at least once, and maybe even all the way… Perhaps they have never hurt me, and never plan to, as I am one of them. I just won’t let them know that I’d eat them right there if I could.


She-Crab Soup, Re-imagined, with Avocado - Crème Fraiche Puree

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 cups flaked crabmeat
½ cup dry sherry

2 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped


1 tsp fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, peeled & chopped
¼ cup of flour
1/2 cup milk
2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp red (cayenne) pepper

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste


For the Avocado, Crème Fraiche Puree

½ avocado
1 tbsp crème fraiche
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in food processor until smooth and creamy.


Directions:

Marinate crabmeat in the sherry and refrigerate for about an hour.

Sautee shallot, thyme, and garlic in butter until soft, approximately 15 minutes. Add tomato and cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.

Add flour and chicken stock, whisk until smooth, and cook on medium high heat for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add milk, Worcestershire, lemon zest, and cayenne pepper.

When somewhat cool, puree the soup in a blender. Note: If using an immersion blender or food processor you will need to strain and press the soup through a chinois or sieve.

Return to pot on medium low heat. Add cream, and crab with sherry and cook for about 20 minutes longer. Salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of the avocado crème fraiche puree, and a crust of bread.

Printable Recipe


2.14.2010

Full of Hot Air


I generally act as though I’m too cool, or too tough to be a fan of, or want, bold romantic gestures. But it’s all a load of crap.

I used to work at a flower shop and one day, while lamenting that I didn’t think anyone had ever sent me flowers in my life, the owner turned to me and said, “You’re not the kind of girl that would get flowers sent to her.” It totally crushed me. But then I see myself doing things to repel that sort of gesture. Last night, while out with some friends, a man came over selling roses and I immediately declared, “I hate roses.”

What? Who hates roses? What an idiotic thing to say. In reality, cheesy as it may be, I’m sure I wanted someone to hand me a rose, but, thinking that would never happen anyway - I tried to control the moment and protect my pride.

My dad has always been really sharp with the bold romantic gestures with the loves in his life. He gave someone a star for Christmas one year. He had it named after her. A STAR. Of course, I don’t know what one does with their star, but my word, she has a star!

Me, I’ve always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon. With that special someone. With champagne. The whole world beneath the two of us, suspended in the air in our wicker basket under a gigantic billowy, rainbowy balloon watching the landscape slowly change under us.

See, I am a total dork.

A few nights ago a couple of friends came over for dinner. I knew I wanted to make a roasted red pepper soup and actually have a pretty standard recipe I usually use. But, for some reason, that night I felt like exploring other ideas. As I was poring through one of my cookbooks I stumbled upon a French red pepper soup recipe that caught my eye. This soup, I read, was one of the culinary delights awaiting balloonists when they would touch down after drifting with the breezes over vineyards, churches and villages in Burgundy, near Beaune, a small city southeast of Paris.

A tear formed.

Needless to say, with some modifications and variations (including a garnish of crème fraiche and lump crab) - and with my thoughts drifting into hot air balloon fantasies, I prepared my version of Potage Aux Poivrons Rouges.

It turned out beautifully. This is truly a beguiling soup because its lovely light red color suggests tomato but its taste is all pepper. It’s zingy but sweet. Both April and Chris had a second bowl.

I paired it with a burgundy and followed it with stuffed pork tenderloin medallions over rice. I imagine this soup would be equally delicious served cold with a glass of sancerre and a salad.

Funny thing: the next day I received an email containing a coupon for a hot air balloon ride. Perhaps it’s a sign that my fantasy may soon be realized. Perhaps I should also stop acting so haughty about the saccharin sweet, goopy romantic stuff.

Because, while I prefer peonies, I totally love roses.


French Red Pepper Soup 
(Potage Aux Poivrons Rouges)

Serves 2

2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
3 cups vegetable stock
2 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped coarsely
¾ cup milk
½ tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
¼ cup crème fraiche
2 tbsp lump crab meat

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan; drop in the chopped onions and cook over medium-low heat until they are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add the carrots, cover and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the stock, leave uncovered and bring to a boil over medium-high heat for 20 minutes to reduce the stock base in volume and to strengthen its flavor. Skim occasionally.

Add the pepper chunks and cook for an additional 20 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork or knife point. Remove from heat and add milk, salt, pepper and thyme.

When somewhat cool, puree the soup in a food processor or blender.

Reheat soup over low flame and add crème fraiche. Serve in heated bowls, topped with a dollop of crème fraiche and lump crab meat.


2.09.2010

My Little Chickapea


The mother of a friend of mine from my high school days referred to any inclement weather as weatherin’. So, for example, if it was raining or snowing out, it was weatherin’ outside. I am aware that this is strange as there is always a state of atmosphere, always weather at a place, whether it regards heat, cloudiness, dryness, sunshine, wind or rain. But you have to admit: it’s weatherin out really gets the point across.

Well, it has been weatherin’ more than usual here in the city of sunshine. In fact, it’s been weatherin’ so much I – not wanting to be out in the cold, wetness – whipped through my Netflix and had to hit the video store. Remember those? It had been so long since I had been in that they had to renew both my address and credit card information.

I rented 4 DVDs, more than usual, and the max one can rent at a time at my store. I then stopped to pick up some dinner to go from Greenblatt’s, a sufficient amount of wine (ahem) and headed back up the hill to put on my sweatpants and max out on the couch with mountains of movies. It seems like it has been a while since I’ve had an evening like that, being such a busy body. I often have to force myself to stop tinkering about and just veg out.

So, after finishing 500 Days of Summer and halfway through The Ugly Truth (Lay off! Everyone has guilty pleasures! Plus, have you seen Gerard Butler??) I got a hankering for some popcorn or some such thing.

I had no popcorn.

As you now know, I do so love a crunchy, salty snack. I also love to improvise and concoct with items in my refrigerator rather than going to the store with designed menus in mind. Time for some kitchen composition.

Although one might consider this a deviation from my chillaxed evening on the couch, with no tinkering allowed, it was so fast and easy that it hardly counts. Popcorn would have taken just as long.

And it was even better.

With this combination of elements, it can just keep on weatherin’ out there a little longer. Perhaps next time I will actually watch a W.C. Fields movie. Um, probably not. 


Roasted Chickpeas with Garlic and Sage
Serves 2


Ingredients:

2 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, very coarsely chopped
6-8 sage leaves

½ lemon 
coarse sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil. Add the chickpeas, garlic and a pinch of salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Be sure the beans are well coated with the oil, then add the sage, and remove the pan from the stove.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast, giving it a shake every so often. Roast until the chickpeas begin to turn brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

When the chickpeas are still hot, sprinkle with a little additional olive oil, a little extra pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon.


2.07.2010

Love Street

 
I have never liked The Doors. In fact I am lightning fast changing the radio station if I hear so much as one note from Light My Fire or Break on Through. But, ironically, not only do I live in their old neighborhood, and have an original print of Jim & Pam prominently displayed on my wall, and I have also recently decided that Love Street is a very, well, lovely song.

She lives on Love Street. Lingers long on Love Street. She has a house and garden. I would like to see what happens.

Yes, I certainly would. It’s unfortunate that I am so tremendously impatient, though.

It’s true: patience, timing, restraint and discipline are not my strong suits. To my credit, there are a few situations in which I have exhibited extraordinary discipline over the past two years. Well, really only one. And this was a situation I couldn’t control anyway. So I guess I didn’t exercise extraordinary discipline. But I showed strength with aplomb. I promise.

Very recently, in the situation mentioned above, my fortitude was put to the test because the external elements controlling things were no longer applicable. The driving force that I resisted and then buried was resurrected. I didn’t even know the force was still so strong. I thought I had conquered it. Or, at least, I assumed my mercurial heart had found sufficient distractions over time to keep a thick enough layer of dust on the matter to keep me from noticing.

So, here it is again. Staring me in the damned face. Getting me all dithered out. Forcing me to act patiently. Making me exert discipline. This, in the wake of the wall having crumbled. The rulebook and the game plan, as I understood it, out the window.

I know everything will be fine. I will be fine. You will be fine. But it seems like it’s been a long time since I just got what I wanted. Well, in this category of life anyway. I’m actually really lucky in most other departments.

Perhaps I simply prefer being the superintendent of a given situation. I cherish my (tenuous) control (or control issues) of most things in my life. I proudly wear my OCD badge.

I even asked the Runes for advice (No, I am not a magic kid). I drew Gebo, the partnership rune, yet it told me to “let the winds of Heaven dance between you.” Stupid Rune. Needless to say, I won’t be watching An Officer & A Gentleman or An Affair to Remember for a while. Heck, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy had me sobbing last week.

But I have been cooking. I have been going hog-wild in that little kitchen of mine. Spending a lot of time in the house and garden, so to speak. Perhaps because Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’ve been getting so many restaurants’ special menus emailed to me, I have been compelled to make unusual and (what I consider to be) sensual dishes.

I asked April over lunch yesterday what she considered a sexy dish. She mentioned a lavendar pasta. Intriguing. Then I was reading a fellow blogger’s post entitled Bread, Truffles and Champagne and nearly swooned with excitement. Truffles are rare, earthy, musty, sensual, powerful and incomparable to any other taste. I think they are wicked sexy. I also think B.O. (also musty) can be really sexy. So sue me.


What else do I think is sexy, you ask? Brunch. It is my most favoritest meal. I like to make it last hours and hours. I like it to be spent with the people I can have comfortable silences with. Those are also sexy.

So, up in my little canyon, in my house with garden, interestingly, a marble’s roll away from the real Love Street, with a mind filled with swirls of certain uncertainties, a mimosa in hand and Sarah Vaughan cooing in my ears, I prepared this and thought to myself: Patience, Grasshopper.


Eggs with Black Truffles (Brouillade de Truffes)


Serves 2

Cook’s note: Take care to continue whisking the eggs as they cook to produce this recipe’s signature curd-like texture. If you allow the eggs to cook without stirring, they will produce a scrambled egg texture - not the intended result.

Ingredients:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 ounce black truffles, finely chopped or shaved
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Preparation:
Heat water to simmering in a double boiler. Whisk together the eggs and truffles in the top portion of the double boiler and add the butter. Continue whisking the eggs over the simmering water until they form small curds resembling cottage cheese. Remove the eggs from the heat, season with the salt and pepper, and then serve immediately, while hot.

2.02.2010

What's this? A seahorse-seashell party?


I spent the day by the ocean on Sunday. I live closer to an ocean now than I ever have in the past, yet I probably see it less than ever before. It’s probably because I’d rather not spend that much time in the car, in traffic. Or, perhaps because I know I have no interest in getting into the ocean. Or maybe because I have so few whole days free to meander. 

But every time I get out there there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

The salty, fresh smell in the air, the sandy breeze, the seagulls chirping and swirling around above, the laid back vibe, the cocktails… 

I don’t need to get over my irrational fear of jellyfish and get in the ocean, yet. I can appreciate it just fine from a wonky, old bar at the end of a pier with a mai tai in my hand and the sun melting into the ocean on the horizon. Watching the swells.

When I was finishing up high school and about to head off to college my dad, knowing I was interested in cooking, taught me a few basic recipes that were fairly simple, cheap and “guaranteed to wow anyone”. He taught me how to make a fabulous blanched green bean dish with only good salt, great olive oil and a squeeze of lemon (which I still make all the time, and have passed onto Heather who does the same). He taught me how to make the most decadent twice-baked potatoes with a super crispety outside and smoothest, richest insides, using 27,653 pounds of butter. He taught me building blocks, like how to make a roux for soup bases or a delicious cheese sauce to be poured over steamed broccoli. I learned to emulate his burgundy mushroom sauce served over a perfect medium-rare steak. 

And he taught me the recipe for a meal that can be made in the time that it takes for water to boil and pasta to cook. The dish’s broad strokes involve scallops and/or shrimp, white wine, garlic, a shallot and feta cheese. It’s inexpensive, fast, and everyone I have prepared it for has been tremendously impressed. And it is so easy.


My dad always told me “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. I suppose he did have a lot of (ahem) successful dates as a result of his own prowess in the kitchen. He also gave me a cookbook once in which he inscribed, “Feed someone a meal and they have a full stomach. Give someone a cookbook and they have a full stomach for life.” Ain’t he cute?

So off to college I went. And after my first year of losing 15 pounds as a result of the cafeteria’s food, my friends and I formed a food co-op. I would have been so excited to win my boyfriend’s heart through his stomach and cook all the wonderful meals I had learned, but the dude was a vegan. And so was his best friend, also in our food co-op. And his girlfriend. I believe there were about 2 or 3 vegetarians in there as well.

I honestly don’t recall any fun dishes I made during the entire 3 years of our food co-op. But I still always one-upped Frampy, who often brought a loaf of bread and pre-sliced pretend cheese (no dairy) for us to make our own sandwiches on his night to feed our gang.

Well, anyways that was ages (and ages) ago, and I have cooked for boyfriends and friends and, really, anyone who will eat my food. I don’t often teach people how to cook or even let anyone help me in the kitchen, for that matter. I like the food to magically appear before them, ready to be devoured. This dish, however, I do like to explain to my guests. The reason for this is that it is so astoundingly simple. And while I don’t often have dinners prepared for me (except in restaurants), I think everyone, especially people who claim to be unable to “boil water”, should be able to successfully execute this little gem. 


When I awoke yesterday morning my thoughts went immediately to my afternoon by the beach. I lamented not staying after the sunset to eat something beachy, yanked from the ocean. I think I was nervous that I was so unfamiliar with any of the restaurants there and didn’t want such a beautiful evening to be capped off with bad food.

So yesterday, as I filtered through the recipe box in my mind, searching for what I wished I had eaten for dinner after my day by the sea, it struck me: Dad’s Scallops & Shrimp over Linguine with Baked Feta!

So, I invited a friend over to try my dish last night. And I shared with him this recipe and technique. Perhaps he will be able to flex and make it for a date and wow her. He is, in fact, one of those people who never cooks (at least, not that I have seen) but does claim to make a mean enchilada…



Scallops & Shrimp over Linguine with Baked Feta

½ lb sea scallops
½ lb large shrimp, peeled and cleaned
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup of dry white wine
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves coarsely chopped garlic
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 Meyer lemon
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
8 oz linguine
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup crumbled feta

In skillet, sauté shallots and garlic in oil over medium heat. Add stock, wine, lemon juice, parsley, and cilantro. Bring to boil, add scallops first, then shrimp a couple of minutes later. Sauté until pink: about 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Salt & pepper to taste.
Pour seafood sauce over linguine in a casserole dish. Crumble feta over the dish and place in oven on broil for about 5 minutes or until feta is just browned.