Thursday, March 02, 2006

The pleasure of one

J's rigorous travel schedule, which would probably be detrimental to a normal relationship, is surprisingly well-tolerated in ours. It may have something to do with the fact that both J and I are rather independent spirits who enjoy plenty of alone time to do exactly what we please without having to utter a word of explanation to another. While doing exactly what he pleases usually means taking a long drive to somewhere scenic and then going to a lounge to listen to music, I generally prefer a relaxing long dinner for one, either at a nice restaurant or at home with a glass of good wine. With that said, I am not at all averse to taking a leisurely long drive to another locale for the above-mentioned long meal with wine.

J left this past Sunday for his fourth long trip of the year. And yes, it is only the beginning of March. Unlike every other time that I am left to my own devise, this time I have been so caught up with the stuff that I have to do to pay for my gastronomical pleasures, I have not been able to enjoy my alone time very much at all. So tonight I made a point to correct this completely unacceptable lack of self love and made a satisfying meal for one.

My definition of a satisfying meal changes with the seasons and my moods. Usually in the winter, when it’s awfully cold outside, well, by Atlanta standard anyway, nothing warms my insides quite like a hearty bowl of beef stew. When I am depressed, okay, maybe just a little sad as I am pretty much incapable of being depressed these days, I love nothing more than a grilled cheese sandwich. But today is not one of those days, it’s a spring-like day and I am just tired, hungry, and in need of something fast but special. Without an idea in mind, I wondered into my neighborhood Whole Foods barely before it closed.

Mangos were displayed at the door at $.99/ea. I picked up a ripe one for breakfast the next morning. At the seafood counter, a jolly man, who I have never seen before, gave me a big toothy smile and belted out “hi there, little lady, what can I do for you?” Giggles came out before I could silence them and seal the deal for dinner, it will be seafood. I scanned the colorful display case and settled on some succulent looking diver scallops. A little hesitant, I said to the jolly man “could you pick out just four big scallops for me?” If the request shocked him at all, he did not show it. Instead, he discriminately selected four of the biggest from the bunch and carefully wrapped them for me in a double layered bag. If it is possible not to be happy when you are driving home with four perfectly chubby scallops parked in the trunk of your mini screaming for the pan, I can’t understand it. So I felt infinitely lucky to be just across the street from the Whole Foods. Within seconds, I was in my lovely red kitchen. I took a moment to remember how much I loved the man who bought this place simply because his little lady went nuts for the kitchen.

I didn’t want to follow a recipe today. Something simple would be just divine and nothing could be bad when I have a glass of good red sitting on the kitchen counter. First, I dressed my peppery baby arugula with a mixture of olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, parmesano-regiano, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. It tasted great but looked a bit plain. A few pieces of artichoke hearts cured that. Then I turned my attention to the scallops. They looked so perfect in the raw, all I wanted to do was to keep them that way. In a bowl I mixed a tablespoon or so of a syrupy balsamic vinegar that E so graciously gave me and added a bit of salt and some more pepper. Then I dipped my scallops in the thick balsamic concoction while I heated up a bit of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. When the oil was just below smoking, I lowered the scallops in, careful not to break them. A few minutes on each side caramelized them beautifully. All that was left to do at that point was to stack everything on a simply white plate and dig in.


Erwin Dink said...

Migawd woman you've created the perfect meal! There isn't any finer food than a lightly cooked diver scallop. It's a shame that Whole Paycheck charges $5-6 more per pound than the dekalb Farmer's Market, though. Like you, I live very near WP and so shop there frequently but I do so prefer to drive out to Decatur for the same quality at more realistic prices.

Cathy said...

Thanks Erwin. It was a pretty tasty meal. I also love the farmer's market, but can't stand the crowd during the weekend. Most week nights, I am simply too tired to fight the traffic going that way.