Welcome to the new edition of I Heart Cooking Clubs! We spent the last six months cooking up recipes straight from and inspired by Nigella Lawson. For the next six, we'll be discovering the minimalism of Mark Bittman. As soon as I heart who our next subject was going to be, I immediately ran out (okay, hopped online) and picked out a couple of his books to use for reference.
My first selection was Bittman's How To Cook Everything, and let me tell you something....I may never need another cookbook.
Okay, so that's a little unrealistic.
But really, I didn't even make it through the appetizers and salad sections when I had to close the book. Because I wanted to make....EVERYTHING. Practically every single entry sounded good to me. How To Cook Everything is less a cookbook and more an instruction manual. The recipes are so simple that you feel more like you are dressing the plate instead of cooking a meal. The methods are so basic and clear that I would recommend this book to even the most freshman cook. Although the book is intimidating at first glance (ie, its bigger than my family bible), it only takes a few pages for you to realize that it is anything but.
*stepping down off the soapbox*
Okay, so lets get back to the food! Our first week's theme is "Bites of Bittman", meaning any small plate or starter. As Bittman indicates in the introduction to the appetizer section, most of the dishes in the book can be prepared as a starter, and, in fact, pasta is generally served as a first course in Italy (that's a man after my own heart). While I had a difficult time choosing a recipe to start with, I decided to go with this one simply because scallops are quite possibly my all time favorite seafood. Oh, that and I had a bag of sea scallops in the freezer.
Warm Salad of Scallops and Tender Greens
makes 4 servings
Time: about 15 minutes 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons peanut or other oil (I used olive)
1 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon water (I used white wine...since, you know, I had a glass handy)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound sea scallops, cut in half horizontally
6 cups torn tender greens (I used a nice herb mix of baby greens)
1. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, the shallot and the 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the remaining oil in a large, non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the scallops and sear until golden, 2-3 minutes per side.
3. Toss the greens with half of the dressing in a large bowl. Divide the salad among four plates, arrange the scallops over the salad, and drizzle the remaining dressing over them. Serve immediately.
Notes: For my purposes, I made less than half the recipe, since I would be the only one eating it last night. I do love me some scallops, and even though the recipe doesn't say anything about seasoning the scallops themselves, I couldn't keep myself from adding a little salt and pepper before searing them. I loved that the scallops straight out of the pan had a slight wilting effect on the greens and warmed the dressing somewhat. The flavors were complementary, subtle, and....kinda boring. Yes, I said it. Don't get me wrong, it was a very good salad. All I'm saying is that next time, I'll add some sesame oil or some red pepper, or some fresh herbs, or, well, SOMETHING to the dish to make it pop a little more. Definitely a salad I would eat again, with minor modifications. (and yes, if you were wondering, I did clean my plate.)