Sauce Vierge

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I’ve mentioned how I plan my personal meals around condiments, and I’m not exaggerating! In fact, a condiment will inspire a whole meal for me. I guess it’s no different than a BBQ lover who sees BBQ sauce and immediately wants brisket, beans, and cole slaw.

Basic condiments like home-made aioli, mustards and ketchups are wonderful, but so are romesco, chimichurri, charmoula, persillade, harissa, chutney, and confit. So many condiments, so little time!

Recently I came across another sauce – Sauce Vierge – that is almost like a marriage of a fresh tomato salsa and persillade, loosely speaking.

I discovered the sauce on Food 52. Sauce Vierge translates to virgin sauce, and was created in 1976 by Michel Guérard, “one of the forces behind the lighter, fresher nouvelle cuisine that sprang up in reaction to cuisine classique, dripping with all its hefty mother sauces.”

I got excited when I read about the sauce, which includes tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, because it’s a perfect sauce to make in the summer. And it’s summer!

Sauce Vierge

4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then roughly chop and place in a medium bowl.


Add the oil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and coriander.

Then add the fresh herbs. I used chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover the bowl, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the cloves of garlic, and serve warm or room temperature.

To use the sauce, I grilled tilapia, and served the sauce at room temperature.

I wanted the sauce ingredients to really stand out.


I served the tilapia with boiled potatoes, on which I drizzled some of the herby oil. You can tell I’m not scared of a plate of olive oil!

In reality, is Sauce Vierge a condiment or a sauce? Where does a condiment start and end, and a sauce or paste begin?

My answer is “who cares?!!”

verdict: I will continue to make this sauce/condiment during summer months when I can get my hands on ripe tomatoes. It is exquisite. Over fish it was a great pairing, but I can see this on scallops, chicken, lamb, bread…

Note: Instead of using the ingredients at room temperature, you can alternatively mix the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer the sauce slowly over low heat for 30 minutes.

Chorizo and Scallop Skewers

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My mother gave me the cookbook Charcuterie for my birthday. She knows me so well!
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The book is mostly recipes, but also contains a chapter on making charcuterie from scratch. I’m in awe of people who make prosciutto and pancetta, but I live in too humid of a region in the U.S. to hang hams in my basement.

The recipes are wonderful, mostly focusing on Spanish, French, and Italian cured meats. The first recipe that caught my attention was a simple skewer of scallops and chorizo. Simple yet total perfection!

If you can’t get your hands on Spanish chorizo, check out my favorite website, La Tienda, for chorizo and all other Spanish foods. If you scroll through chorizo, and you will discover so many different varieties – some for slicing, some for cooking, some for grilling.

The recipe in the book just referred to cubes of chorizo, but I got carried away and purchased Ibérico de Bellota Butifarra Sausage because it intrigued me.

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It is sausage made from Iberian pigs, which are supposedly fed acorns as babies. This raw sausage wasn’t quite firm enough to cube, and not red like authentic chorizo, but it was really good!

When we were in Spain many years, my husband and I would order both jamon Serrano and Ibérico (similar to Prosciutto) and we could not tell the difference. Maybe they just knew we were Americans and didn’t bother giving us the real stuff, I don’t know! But we gave up after a few tries, and stuck to the fabulous but much less expensive Serrano.

In any case, in spite of not having used real chorizo, these scallop and sausage skewers were wonderful. I will paraphrase the recipe from Charcuterie because it’s so simple.

Chorizo and Scallop Skewers

12 – 1″ cubes chorizo or firm spicy sausage
12 scallops, approximately the same size
Olive oil
Ground paprika
Coarsely ground pepper

Heat a small amount of oil in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Brown the cubes or slices of sausage on all sides, then lower the heat and cook thoroughly. Place them on paper towels to drain.

Using the same fat from the olive oil and sausage, sear the scallops in the hot oil, then lower the heat to cook through. Place the scallops on paper towels to drain.

Let the chorizo and scallops cool, then skewer them together, with the scallop first, followed by the chorizo.
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Sprinkle on a generous amount of paprika and ground pepper.


I used a mixed peppercorn combination.
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These hors d’oeuvres are best served warm. They could be prepared ahead of time if they were gently re-heated so as not to overcook the scallops and dry out the chorizo or sausage.
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I will definitely be making these again with real chorizo, but I can really see the scallop pairing with just about any kind of sausage!

note: For a handy comparison chart on Spanish vs. Mexican chorizo, check out this website.

Persillade

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Parsley in French is persil, so it’s not surprising that persillade is a parsley sauce, combining the freshness of parsley, with butter, garlic, and lemon. It is also called Sauce Persil.

Personally, I love all of the green sauces, like pesto, gremolata, and chimichurri, so I knew I’d love persillade.

I was inspired to make it because of my friend Stéphane’s blog My French Heaven, specifically the post is entitled “The Power of Love, Laughter, and Persillade.” (It’s one of my favorites!)

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On that post he has a recipe for grilled scallops with persillade, but it’s a wonderful addition to not only seafood but meat and poultry as well. I’m making it for roast lamb.

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Parsley, I feel is really an underused and appreciated herb, having filled the role in fine cuisine as primarily a decoration. But I use it in just about everything – vinaigrettes, pestos, marinades, and so forth.

There are many variations for persillade, I discovered. What I’ve noticed mostly is the use of olive oil instead of butter, and either lemon zest, lemon juice, or no lemon. But the parsley and garlic are always clearly the main players.

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Here’s what I did.

Persillade

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, patted dry
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
Squeeze of lemon

Place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and process. Add 3 ounces of melted butter and the salt and process, but don’t over process. You want to see the parsley and garlic bits.

Place the remaining butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Stir in the persillade and give the mixture a good stir, and once you smell the garlic, remove the saucepan from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon.

Serve immediately so the butter stays warm and melted. It’s challenging to keep the parsley and garlic in suspension in the butter, so the persillade ends up looking like a green blob.

With scallops and shrimp, they can be tossed in the persillade. I served the persillade with lamb slices and roasted tomatoes.

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Stéphane claims that no one really loves escargots. It’s all about the persillade. He might be right!

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

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In the past few years I have raved about a wonderful product made from Hungarian red bell peppers called Paprika Creme. I have also complained about not being able to find this product online. It’s typically a hit-and-miss situation on Amazon.

Then lo and behold, I experienced a Christmas miracle of the culinary kind. I was contacted in early December by a representative of Univer, the brand of paprika creme that I was originally introduced to by my Hungarian girlfriend!

His name is Gabriel Bicking, and he’s Univer’s technology director. Not only that, but he oversees a website called – For the Love of Paprika where all of the Univer products can be purchased! Univer sells much more than paprika creme.

His email to me was kind, because he knew that it had been challenging for me to find this fabulous paprika product. So not only did I discover the website thanks to him, I was sent four products.

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There is also a blog, where Mr. Bicking shared my most recent paprika creme-related post, paprika-smothered pork tenderloin, plus you can sign up to receive free recipes utilizing the Univer products.

For purchase, there’s an ebook entitled “For the Love of Paprika” by John Czingula, which is in PDF format. It’s 239 pages, and includes everything from appetizers to meat to sauces, incorporating Hungarian paprika.

I was quite intrigued by the cookbook, and decided to use paprika creme in bacon-wrapped scallops – a recipe that just jumped out at me. It sounded so delicious!
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Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Paprika Creme
based on the recipe from “For the Love of Paprika”

16 scallops
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 slices bacon, sliced in half crosswise
Univer Red Gold paprika creme, mild, about 2 tablespoons

First rinse the scallops and drain them in a colander.
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Then place them on paper towels to dry completely.
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Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat. It’s okay if the butter browns, but if it burns, turn down the heat slightly.

Add about four scallops at a time, and brown them on one side for about 3 minutes.
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The timing of course depends on the size of the scallops.

Turn them over and brown the other side.
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Remove them to a plate and continue browning the scallops.

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If the scallops are too greasy, you can always place them on paper towels to dry.

Cook the 16 slices of bacon until slightly browned, yet still pliable. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Place some paprika creme in a small bowl. I chose the “delikat,” or mild paprika creme. Use a small brush to coat one side of the scallops generously.

While the bacon is still warm, place a piece on a cutting board and place a scallop on top, with the paprika creme on the top. Cover the scallop with both ends of the bacon and use a toothpick to secure the scallop in place. You can always use two at first; once the bacon has “molded” to the scallop you can remove the second toothpick.


Continue until all 16 scallops have been wrapped.

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Serve immediately.

The combination of the bacon and paprika creme is incredible, but adding the sweet scallop to the mix puts this appetizer over the top!

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And so I continue to rave about paprika creme. And now I have a source for it! Plus, I can’t wait to try the other Univer products.

Univer suggests using paprika creme in the following:
• Add a spicy boost to stews, soups
• Glaze a sizzling steak or chop
• Mix into ground meats
• Add to marinades
• Sauté onions and vegetables
• Create wonderful dips
• Mix into salsa
• Add to ranch dressing
• Lightly brush onto hot grilled pineapple
• Add to oil or butter when sautéing any vegetable
• Glaze sizzling meats
• Create delicious dips
• Mix into ground meats
• Lightly toss with cooked pasta before dressing with sauce
• Add a little to boiling water when cooking hot dogs
• Stir into hot fluffy rice, or add to water when preparing
• Add a little to scrambled eggs

Scallops and Veggies

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This dish is easy and healthy, and a nice change from all of the heavy meals typically served during the holidays. It’s simply seared sea scallops on top of layers of vegetables. What could be better!! So, here’s the recipe.

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Scallops and Veggies
serves 2 hearty eaters, or 4

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash, baked
1 pound sea scallops, of uniform size
2 leeks, white part only
Olive oil
1 large purple onion, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
Butter, for the scallops
Cayenne pepper flakes

Bake the squash using this recent recipe here. Then, after it’s cooled down, use a fork and scrape out all of the strands of spaghetti squash onto a serving platter; keep it warm.
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Rinse the scallops, and place them on paper towels to dry off; set aside.
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The next step is to clean the leeks. Leeks grow in soil, so they always contain dirt and silt that you need to avoid.
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Slice the white ends cross-wise. Place them in a medium bowl and fill the bowl with water. Separate the rings of leeks so that any silt sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Then remove the leeks from the water and place them on paper towels to dry.


Using a large skillet or work, heat the oil over high heat, and add the red peppers and onion when it’s hot. Allow some caramelization, then reduce the heat slightly to cook the vegetables through. Add a little salt and pepper, then place them over the cooked spaghetti squash. Keep warm.

Add a couple more tablespoons of oil and using the same technique, caramelize and then cook the leeks. Add a little salt and pepper, then place the leeks over the red bell pepper and onions.

Switch to a clean, flat skillet to cook the scallops, which should be completely dry. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 tablespoon of butter and heat over high heat. The butter will brown, which only adds flavor.

Sear half of the scallops in the oil and butter mixture, for at least one minute. Then turn them over using tongs and sear the other side. Make sure to also season them with salt and pepper, and even garlic pepper if you so desire.


Turn down the heat a little if you feel they’re not completely cook through. Place them on a plate, and continue with the remaining scallops.

When you’re ready to serve, make sure your vegetables are still warm, then top them with the scallops.
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Serve from the platter, making sure every serving includes squash, peppers, onions, leeks, and scallops.

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I love cayenne pepper flakes on this dish, and you can also offer Sriracha for extra spiciness!
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I have also smothered the cooked scallops in chile paste before, and you could always create a sauce with a Thai curry paste for an alternative flavor profile.

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But even straight forward, with salt and pepper, the scallop on the vegetables, all cooked to perfection, creates a fabulous dish!


I served this dish with an Albariño, and it was a lovely combination.

note: I could imagine this dish with also lovely sausages or grilled shrimp!