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Friday, September 28, 2012

Look at my scallops, look

I encourage you all to get your hands on some fresh seafood ASAP, before the season is officially over. I recently had a craving for scallops, and had a vision in my head of the big, juicy jumbo ones that you get from Granville Island. So I took myself down there and discovered that about 4 of those fat beauties will set you back $20 before tax. Ouch.

Of course, a whole world of affordable seafood opens itself up to you if you are willing to consider frozen. Now, of course we know fresh tastes better. But unless you are a fisherman yourself it's going to be hard to maintain that kind of diet. So you may want to do what I do, which is treat fresh as an absolute treat and have frozen the rest of the time. And well frozen (on the boat as caught, never previously thawed then frozen again) fish and seafood can be delicious. So I settled for a considerable smaller scallop and about 80 of his brothers and sisters from Qualicum Bay in a frozen, vacuum-sealed bag.

Here's something I learned from the writings of a five star chef from South Carolina: nuts bring out the flavour of many seafoods like prawns, scallops and oysters. I was pretty skeptical but thought I would try his almond vinaigrette to dress my butter-grilled Bay beauties in our last seafood days:

Seared Scallops with Almond Vinaigrette

1/4 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
8 large sea scallops or 1/2 bag of small ones
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp fresh peaches, mashed in a mortar and pestle, or peach preserves
fresh microgreens

Finely chop almonds into small pieces but not into a powder. Mix almonds and 4 tbsps oil in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1 tbsp vinegar and chives, season with salt, pepper and more vinegar if desired. Set vinaigrette aside.

Heat the leftover oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Add to skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes. Turn scallops, add butter and thyme. Cook, frequently tilting skillet and spooning butter over, until scallops are just cooked through, 2-3 minutes longer.

For plating, place peach preserves or mixture (I added pomegranate seeds) in the centre of the plate, and surround with grilled scallops. Drizzle vinaigrette over top of scallops, top with microgreens. Serve immediately.

There is an extraordinary flavour that is added by creamy almonds to the tender, delicate scallops, but the full experience is not just about the flavour, it's also about the texture. The crunch made tart by the vinegar sets off the well-seasoned scallops. Easy to prepare and cheap, I recommend you cook these for yourself and enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine to say a proper goodbye to summer.

(recipe with my variations from Bon Appetit)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Great or Gross? Skinny Girl Margarita

I generally avoid tequila for one very simple reason: the first time I drank it I woke up under a very heavy and expensive-looking oriental rug in a mansion in Shaunessy, the owners of which I did not know. I figured that was a sign.

Good tequila is delicious, but be careful; it's got hallucinogenic properties, and a few shots will get you drunker than you expect. Give yourself a side-eye while you're consuming and you should be okay. I've been hearing good things about this Skinny Girl line, particularly about the margarita. So I bought it. Made with decent-quality agave tequila pre-mixed, it's got a good price point at $15.99 if you consider you only need to add ice. Cheers:

Skinny Girl line has been marketed as low-cal alternatives for classic, high-cal drinks that we all enjoy getting hammered on. Brilliant idea. Drinking makes you fat and that is a tragic fact, so good for this company for trying to let us eat our cake (or shot) and have it too.

+ GREAT for the taste. Not too sweet and reminiscent of real margaritas I've had in Mexico. You can taste good quality tequila and citrus. Smooth.

+ GREAT for the presence of an ingredient list, even though ingredient lists on alcohol are not required by law. + ANOTHER GREAT for an impressive ingredient list:

Nothing nasty here. Good job. I think much of the lack of calories is due to the agave being used as a sweetener rather than sugar. And it works beautifully.

+ GREAT for clever marketing. They sell a "ladylike" image to consumers, and I see why it's attractive. The notion of a ladylike drinker has become more mainstream along with the popularity of shows like Mad Men. Who doesn't want to feel like a lady? (I only want to feel like one sometimes, myself. I would rather feel badass the majority of the time. Badass doesn't have a gender). They also sell quality ingredients as part of their alluring copy, and I like that. We need more quality ingredients and products that incorporate them to be a part of our regular consumption. Just sayin'.

+ GROSS for the dumb logo. I get that it fits with the rest of the strategy, but how tired are you of seeing the line-drawing-with-a-ponytail depicting a trendy woman? It reminds me too much of this:

Sure, Barbie has her usefulness, but she was launched in 1959. Surely by now we can come up with another way of graphically representing women?

ANALYSIS: GREAT. This is a great drink, bring it to a party or save it for Friday night in the tub. Or drink the whole thing really fast like I just did. Haters gonna hate. Potatoes gonna potate. AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.