Friday, June 8, 2012

Cress Avocado Salad

Before Tossing the Cress Avocado Salad with Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette

This was a great combination for a salad:  peppery cress in contrast with velvety avocado and super sweet tomatoes, tossed with a mustard-shallot vinaigrette.

In the bottom of the bowl, I placed equal parts1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil and 1- 2 T. vinegar (use whatever you like.  I chose sherry vinegar.)  Add a teaspoon of mustard, and finely chopped shallots (2 small or one large).   Add salt and pepper.  Then whisk together until emulsified, i.e., the oil is blended with all of the other ingredients.

Add the washed cress.  On top, add sliced super sweet tomatoes and sliced ripe avocado.  Add salt and pepper directly on the avocado and tomatoes.  If you worry that your avocado will turn brown, you can squeeze some lemon or lime juice on it.

At the last minute, toss it all together and serve immediately.  The only thing I would change next time, is to remove the stalks from the cress. They were unwieldy to eat.
If you like arugula, then you will like cress.  Cress is very perishable. Best to get it at the farmer's market this time of year.  You can also get it at Wegman's in the salad section.  It comes with the roots attached. 

Fyi - cress leaves are packed with iron, calcium, folic acid and vitamins C and A. 

Cress is very strong, so you might want to mix it in with other greens, and still get its nutritional value and a punch of pepperiness.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Grilled Marinated Sea Scallops with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette by Tom

Grilled Sea Scallops with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette by Tom

Last Christmas, our kids gave us a gift certificate to the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, New York.  We had taken a knife skills class there several summers ago, and we were both very impressed with the physical location as well as the quality of our instructors.  So receiving this gift certificate to attend a class was a welcomed gift.

What we were able to sign up for was a class on preparing and cooking scallops.  We both love scallops but principally only prepare them in a skillet with hot oil with no prior preparation.  What we were looking for were both other preparations as well as cooking techniques.  We were not disappointed as we learned several new approaches to cooking scallops as well as several different recipes to try. 

The class consisted of 24 "student chefs" divided into 12 teams of two. Each of the six teams prepared a recipe and then we all shared each others recipes, along with a glass of wine, at the end of the two hour class. It was terrific and remarkably easy to prepare and cook each of the recipes.  The recipe we were assigned was grilled sea scallops with a lemon tarragon vinaigrette.

Grilled Marinated Sea Scallops with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette

1/2 pound sea scallops - dry and roughly U8 - U10 in size (U8 means roughly 8 scallops to the pound)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste and to season the scallops prior to grilling
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
light vegetable oil to coat the grill grates

The first technique we learned was to remove the muscle from the scallop.  This is the muscle that holds the body of the scallop to its shell.  Honestly, I am not sure we ever did that before attending this class.  The muscle is edible, but quite chewy.
After chopping the tarragon and creating the lemon zest from a fresh lemon, put these into a medium size mixing bowl with the white wine vinegar.  Add salt and pepper as well, and let stand for about 15-20 minutes for the flavors to infuse the vinegar.

Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil slowly to insure that the mixture emulsifies.  Beat the whisk against the side of the bowl while slowly pouring in the olive oil to aid in emulsification.  Add the scallops to the marinade and refrigerate until ready to grill.  Good idea to remove the scallops about 10 minutes before you want to grill to let them warm up a bit.
Grilling is easy, but what is required is a very hot grill.  So crank up your grill to "Very Hot"!

The second new technique for me to learn was the proper method of "oiling the grill grates".  Our chef instructor told us the easiest way to do this was to take an old dish towel that you are willing to sacrifice, roll it and put a couple of rubber bands around it to keep it tight.  Next using a light vegetable cooking oil, coat the top of the rolled towel.
Now rub the coated towel over the grill to grease the cooking grates where you will be cooking the scallops.  When done with the oiled towel, don't throw it away.  Instead put it in a zip lock bag and save it for another use.  I just stored mine under the grill where I keep other paraphernalia for the grill.
Technique number 3.  With the grill very hot and grates oiled, very lightly salt and pepper the scallops, then put the scallops onto the grill.  Once on the grill don't touch them or move them.  Let them cook for 4-5 minutes until you see the scallop turning somewhat white from the bottom up.
After the requisite 4-5 minutes, turn the scallops over with a pair of tongs and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Here you will have to judge how quickly they are cooking by determining how soft they are.  You really don't want to overcook scallops because they turn kind of rubbery.  So if they have a bit of resilience when you push on them, they are now probably done.
Remove from the grill and get ready to plate them.
I served this scallop preparation with Lundberg wild rice and steamed broccoli with a dash of garlic.  The scallops have a nice light lemony, peppery taste with this preparation.
Thanks to the kids for the culinary experience gift certificate!  We really enjoyed our experience, and the scallops.