A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Scallops with tamarind-tomato sauce

This is a recipe I invented for the purpose of encouraging the use of Indian ingredients. The particular ones used here are as follows: 
Tamarind water: Tamarind is the fruit of a tree found in South Asia. It isn’t like to be found in your back yard around here, so you have to get tamarind pulp, tamarind paste, or tamarind juice. For the first two, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian shops will be your source. If you live in Green River, Utah, I’m sorry. The juice or nectar you may find in ordinary grocery stores in the section that has cans of Mexican-produced juices such as mango, papaya, etc. The brand name is Jumex, and it comes in 11.3 ounce cans. The first two options are much superior to the juice, since the juice is watered down. After you’ve procured one of them, consult the internet on how to make the water. If you must use the juice, pour two cans into a saucepan and reduce to one cup. By the way, tamarind is a primary ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce.
Cardamom pods: These can be black or green. Inside the pods are very small seeds which are frequently extracted and ground. If you have or can find it in ground form, that’s fine. Otherwise, simply put the pods themselves, either black or green, in the tamarind-tomato mixture when you reduce it. Be sure you remove them prior to placing it all in the food processor.
Fenugreek: One can find fenugreek leaves in Indian markets, but I refer here to ground fenugreek. When people smell Indian “curry”, this is much of what they smell. A reasonable substitute, which contains a number of additional spices, is curry powder as it’s found in almost any grocery store.
Garam masala: In Hindi, this means “spicy mixture”. It’s a mixture of several, and varying according to region, spices. Larger and better-stocked grocery stores may carry it. The commonly available Spice Islands brand produces it now. 
All right, what about the recipe? I like Indian food - one of the world’s great cuisines - and I like scallops. I generally prefer scallops prepared in a more “delicate”, less assertive way, but I decided to take a chance that the tamarind-tomato sauce and cardomoms wouldn’t overwhelm them. They don’t. Besides, there’s nothing spicy here in the sense of picante or hot. 
Cauliflower is a very common accompaniment in much Indian cooking, so I’ve included that for a bit of “crunch” and another hit of Indian spices.

The tamarind-tomato sauce:
Tamarind water, 1 c

Chopped or minced tomatoes, 16 oz can, drained (Muir Glen is good.)
Black or green cardamom pods, 4 - 6; or 1-2 Tbs ground
Shallot, 1, minced; or garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
Sultanas (golden raisins), 3-4 Tbs
Sugar, 1-2 Tbs according to your taste
Salt and pepper
The scallops:
Sea scallops, 10
Fenugreek, dried, crushed
Ground cumin
Canola or other vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
The cauliflower:
Head of cauliflower, cut into small to medium pieces
Mustard oil or canola
Garam masala, 1 Tbs
Cilantro for garnish
The sauce:
Combine the tamarind water, tomatoes, shallots, and carmamom pods in a saucepan and boil until reduced to a cup.
1.  Place in a food processor and puree.
2.  Return to the saucepan and add the sultanas, sugar, salt and pepper.
The cauliflower:
1.  Microwave the cauliflower pieces until they just begin to turn tender. Don’t parboil  
     unless you make sure they are completely dry before proceeding to the next step. 
2.  Heat the mustard oil over medium high heat, and place the cauliflower in the pan.
3. Saute until it starts to brown, then toss in the garam masala and mix. Stir about a bit 
     and remove from the heat.
The scallops:
1. Make sure they are dry. Then dust on both sides with the fenugreek, cumin, salt and pepper.
2. Heat a pan over medium high heat, add the oil, then the scallops. Sear on both sides. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes each side. Do not overcook any scallops ever.
Spread the tamarind-tomato sauce on a plate, and nestle the scallops atop. Place the cauliflower alongside, and garnish all with some cilantro.

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