I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Cook's Reflections

As I step into the kitchen a sense of calm overcomes me. I am in my element--where I feel like I belong. Why is it something I love instead of just being a mundane, necessary task or something that feels like work?

First, I think there is something immensely gratifying about presenting others with something you have created with your own hands--whether that be art or food. Putting in the time and love into a dish that has your touch on it that will nourish (hopefully both the stomach and the soul). It's a gift that you can experience together sharing a sensory experience in tandem as you eat. Friendships are stronger when allowed to grow through communal cooking and/or dining.

There is also the joy of constantly learning something new, growing in culinary knowledge and ability. From knowing a recipe by heart and preparing the dish by feel and memory to the awareness that you can try a new recipe without fear. The thrill that comes from trying something exceptionally difficult or uncharted and the true pride when it turns out perfectly. The understanding and growth that comes when a dish turns out wrong.

Finally there is the comfort of feeding myself. Having a craving for something and being able to conjure that whole finished dish out of individual elements. Knowing I do not have to rely on prepared foods or chefs to feed me what I want or to feed me well. The gratification that comes when sitting down to a meal for one prepared just for me by me, for no special occasion.

Whatever the meal is, and whoever I am enjoying it with, as I sit down along with the smells of the food wafting around me and the first bite passing my lips I begin to look forward to my next journey to the kitchen and what it will bring.

What keeps you going back to the kitchen?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Apple Smoked Scallops

Sometimes not having a clue what to make for dinner can turn in happy results. Yesterday I went by the grocery store after my run to pick up something to make for supper but had no clue what I would be making. I decided the seafood was looking pretty good and so picked up some scallops. As I was waiting for the fishmonger, I noticed that they had different types of wood chips for sale in front of the fish counter. Hmm. Smoked scallops? Could I pull it off inside my kitchen? Why not try it out?

I decided to take advantage of the broiler pan that I have (that hasn't ever actually left the broiler of my oven). I pulled it out and washed it off, then laid the scallops in a single layer on the top slotted piece. I placed soaked applewood chips in the bottom, topped it off with aluminum foil to keep the smoke inside without getting out and placed it on the burners on my stove top. I have to say it worked pretty darn well. The scallops ended up with a lovely smoky flavor and were still wonderfully tender.And my house still smells like smoky scallops today (although is this a good thing or a bad thing? Everytime I walk in the door I am craving more...). I think I'll be using this method for a few different types of fish (oysters?, shrimp?, fish fillets?), but I doubt it would work too well for anything that needs hours of slow-smoking time like beef or pork.

I made a simple sauce of apple cider and oregano to drizzle over and add to the slightly sweet notes already present in the scallops and served them alongside bacon-sauteed ramps and teeny-tiny roasted patty pan squash. A pretty nice homage to spring if you ask me.

Apple Smoked Scallops with Cider Glaze
serves 2
1 lb. diver scallops, cleaned
2 c. applewood chips
salt and pepper
1 c. apple cider
1 t. dried oregano
1 TB butter

Place the applewood chips in a large bowl and cover with water. Allow to sit for at least one hour.
Bring the scallops out of the fridge about 15 minutes before cooking.

Drain the wood chips and place them into the base of a broiler pan. Grease the top piece of a broiler pan and lay out the scallops on the top. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place the top back onto the bottom of the broiler pan and then cover tightly with aluminum foil, leaving some space above the top of the scallops and the aluminum foil (try to make sure the smoke will stay inside the foil and not escape through any holes). Place the broiler pan over two burners on a gas stove and turn them both on to medium high heat. Cook the scallops until cooked through but not too tough, about 20 minutes (probably closer to 25 minutes for large scallops and 15 minutes for small ones).

While the scallops are smoking prepare the cider sauce. Heat the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the oregano and some salt and pepper, then stir in the butter until it is melted. Serve the sauce drizzled over top of the smoked scallops.