Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Scallops with basil puree and black olive couscous

I find it quite interesting how replacing one coworker with another totally changes the discussions we have in the office. For a while there, the talks in and out of the office were decidedly raunchy... not that there's anything wrong with that... but have certainly cleaned up in the last few weeks. It's now interesting how the discussion seems to turn back to food, cooking and recipes. Case in point, I walked in to the office last week after hearing a good recipe over the radio and proceeded to explain it in detail to Scott and Matt... sounding quite effeminate while doing it of course, describing purees and coulis and pan searing scallops... lol I have no problem with that, being quite secure in my heterosexuality, but it is amusing nonetheless. Matt's right into the cooking thing, quite a bit more than I am in fact since he's already made a few purchases to beef up his kitchen. I didn't make my first kitchen related purchased for 3-4 months!

Anywho, so I had the little lady over for dinner on Monday and I wanted to prepare something a little different so I decided on scallops. Having never done any cooking with scallops, I thought it would be a good idea to research it a little and found out some interesting facts about how to choose and cook them. For example, when picking your scallops, try to find some that aren't white which means they've been soaked in water to increase weight. So I headed off to Nagasakiya and sure enough of the two types of scallops, one of them was white, the other pink-ish, so I decided to opt for the full scallops, not the ones already shucked and cleaned. I also decided to bite the bullet and pick up enough basil to make the puree, no matter the cost!

So after a little prep time in the kitchen, here was the beginning of a meal.

The basil puree was easy... just olive oil with fresh basil leaves in the blender. The smell in my apartment from the time I brought in the basil until some time yesterday was amazing! That is one strong herb, and throwing it in the blender obviously releases quite the fragrance. The tomato-olive coulis is also simple... just olive oil and tomatos, salt and pepper to taste and blend that up as well. You can also see in this picture the little space I have to work with here in my apartment. The fact that a close up shot of a few ingredients include my single stovetop burner on the right and my sink on the left makes any culinary act quite an accomplishment! Next came the scallop shucking and cleaning, which was relatively easy. You must make sure to remove a small muscle from the side of the scallop otherwise you'll end up with a rubbery part after cooking, and the scallops proved to be rather delicate, but all in all, that part went well. I then threw together the cous cous with black olives and set it aside, prepared two salads, and waited to be notified of my dinner companion's impending arrival.

The last minute preparations were what made this a relatively difficult operationdue to my limited space. I needed to heat up the couscous, heat up the tomato coulis, cook the scallops and arrange everything together before it got cold. I started by coating the scallops in milk and flour to help with the consistency a bit so they wouldn't break up during cooking. Then put some butter and garlic in the pan and started cooking. I was concerned about what I'd read that scallops were quite easy to overcook, making them all rubbery. They were much more forgiving than I'd thought, and are ready when both sides are lightly browned and the colour is opaque.

The last minute coming together was a bit hectic, but everything ended up ok. Since my presentation sucked, this is the best picture I've got of the couscous in the middle, with the scallops placed around, dabbed with basil and then the coulis poured over the couscous It was quite yummy!

And of course, the leftover basil puree and tomato coulis of Monday became the spiral pasta of Tuesday. I had never cooked with fresh basil either, quite the nice flavour.

So that was my cooking adventure for this week. I am quite happy with the way things turned out, though I would change a few things. Here is the recipe.

Basil puree
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Combine in blender until very smooth, refridgerate.

Tomato coulis
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oiil
1-2 vine ripenned tomatos
salt and pepper to taste
Combine in blender until smooth, warm lightly before serving. (see how difficult this whole thing was? lol)

Black olive cous cous
1 cup chopped black olives
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Make couscous according to package directions. Add olive oil and olives, stire well with a fork. Set aside.

1 lb of scallops
Melt just enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan, cook scallops for about 2 minutes on the first side or until browned. Turn the scallops over and brown the second side for 2 minutes. When the scallops lose their transluscence and become an opaque white, they are ready to go.

Arrange the couscous in the center or the plate. Place the scallops around it. Dab each scallop with the basil puree, then pour a generous amount of the tomato coulis over the couscous. Goes well with a white wine.... and voila!

Mitchamaphonomotto-sensei's modifications...
Add half a clove of garlic to the basil puree, and roast a clove and a half of garlic in the butter before cooking the scallops. Dip the scallops in milk and then flour them if you find them to be too delicate. Add a splash of white wine to the pan in the last minute of cooking the scallops.

So that's that for the cooking section... on to Hockey! The Canadian men's team seems to have finally woken up a bit by beating the Czech team 3-2 after 2 very disapointing 2-0 losses against lesser teams. I can only hope this gets them motivated a bit for the quarter-final match against Russia. It is important to note that the Czechs are playing without their star Goalie who was injured in the first game of the tournament. Which brings me quite the sense of dread for the return of NHL hockey next week. The Czech's goalie was none other than Dominic Hasek, Star goaltender for my beloved Ottawa Senators. He has now injured his groin again, and is questionable for a return to the ice any time soon. Hasek has been a large part of the Sens' performance this year as they currently sit at the top of their division and 3rd overall. I wonder if we have to honour his contract since he was injured while playing for a different team? If we can free up his salary, maybe we can pick up somebody else??? I dunno.

On a happier note, the Canadian Women's ice hockey team succesfully defended their Gold Medal win in Salt Lake City with a 4-1 win over Sweden. You go girls! This brings Canada's medal count to 14 so far with many events to go, which is great since we won only 17 medals in 2002. Our most disapointing sport has been skiing, finishing just short of the podium about a half dozen times. This bodes well for Vancouver in 2010 however since all these 4th place finishers were participating in their first games, and can be expected to be very well motivated to finish the job next time around.

So that's that, I'd better throw together some quick breakfast and get ready for work. Ciao!

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Anonymous Joey said...

Gee little guy, you're getting to be quite the chef! Reading about the the food is so damn interesting!

As an FYI, add some garlic and pine nuts to your basil puree and viola, pesto...

9:35 PM  

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