I made a pretty great meal last night and thought I would tell y’all about it here. It’s finally spring here in New England and the farmers markets have mostly all started up again. I love going to the one in Union Square on Saturday mornings. There’s the hustle and bustle of vendors mixing with people, saying hello after the winter break. This year, along with some other new vendors, Jordan Brothers Seafood started selling their fresh fish. I’ll tell you something I don’t admit often, I’ve never been a big seafood fan. I’m starting to like it a lot, but I still don’t have a lot of experience cooking it. No time like the present, I thought, as I bought a pound of fresh scallops.
What to do with them though? At first, I thought of making Angels on Horseback–that’s basically wrapping bacon around them and pan frying–but decided to do something a bit different. I remember eating a dish at The Mermaid Inn in NYC a few years back. It was a memorable dinner, not least because I literally ran into Keanu Reeves there. I had an entree of scallops on top of linguine with a spicy sauce. After a little research, I learned that it’s called Pasta fra Diavolo and was pretty simple to make. I even cheated a little by using some jarred tomato sauce, sacrilege maybe, but I was also making a complicated salad and focaccia from scratch.
For the pasta, I sautéed an onion, added a few cloves of minced garlic, then some red pepper flakes for a bit of kick and fresh oregano from my porch. When the onions were nice and translucent, I added about 1 1/2 TBSPs of tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups of the jarred sauce. I tossed in a bay leaf, also from my front porch, mostly because the bay leaf bush is getting out of control and I need to use it more! Meanwhile, I had a pot of salted water boiling to which I added the pasta. I used gemelli pasta though linguine seems more traditional with this dish. In a separate pan, I heated up a pan, added some olive oil, and then the scallops once the oil heated up to almost smoking. I’ve read that it’s really important to make sure they’re dry before cooking and to not crowd them in the pan. Scallops cook very quickly, about 2 minutes per side. Once nicely browned, I added them to the simmering sauce I had made. With the pasta cooked, I drained it and served it in bowls topped with the sauce and scallops.
For the salad, I wanted to recreate one I had eaten at Posto, a Neapolitan style pizza place in Davis Square. It was green beans, watercress, olives, and feta with a vinaigrette. I’ve tried to make it before with a little success. I think I hit it last night though as I’m realizing it’s all in the choice of olives. I blanched some green beans in water and shocked them in an ice bath. I’ve got a whole bin full of young salad growing on my porch, so I harvested some of those in place of the watercress. I used a French feta and French green olives. For the vinaigrette, I pulled some of my thyme, added some dijon mustard, s&p, olive oil and champagne vinegar.
The focaccia was an attempt to make Jim Lahey’s no knead version using my bread starter whom I call Pierre. I substituted Pierre for some of the water and let it rise all day. I think it needed more time and a bit more water as it didn’t rise that much. I baked it in a cast iron skillet which produced a really nice crust, but the texture was too dense, sort of brick-like, a tasty brick of course.
We served the whole thing with a bottle of French ros&e. All in all, I thought the dinner turned out fantastically. Mr. Bookdwarf cleaned his plate as well!