Thursday, May 23, 2024

Scallops and Baby Artichokes over Polenta

It's unusual to find baby artichokes in the market, so when I saw them, I snapped them up immediately. I couldn't wait to cook with these tender gems that were the size of Brussels sprouts. I thought they'd pair well with scallops and the combo did not disappoint. I enjoyed the artichokes so much, I quickly went back to the store for more so I could use them in a risotto. 

It won't be easy to find baby artichokes, and the season is almost over, so don't hesitate for long. If you can't find baby artichokes, you can try the recipe with frozen artichoke quarters instead. There isn't much trimming to do with baby artichokes, since there's barely any choke at all. Just slice the top portion, trim a bit of the bottom stem and pull off the first layer or two of leaves. Cut in half and place them in a bowl of water with some lemon juice or vinegar so they don't discolor too much.

Once you've cooked the scallops and the artichokes separately, bring them together in one pan and finish the recipe. If there isn't enough sauce to your liking, you can always add a little more water, wine and/or lemon juice. If polenta isn't your thing, this dish is great with rice too.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Scallops and Baby Artichokes over Polenta

12 large sea scallops (generously serves 2 people)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter)

salt, pepper to season the scallops

7 or 8 baby artichokes, cleaned and halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot

1 clove garlic minced

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon capers

minced parsley

juice of half a lemon

1 cup polenta

4 cups water

1 cup milk

salt, to taste

Trim the artichokes by cutting off the top portion where the prickly tips are, the bottom edge of the stem, then pulling off the toughest leaves. With baby artichokes, there isn't as much waste as on large artichokes so you won't need to pull off that many leaves. There isn't much of a choke either, so you don't have to clean out the middle. Place in a container with water and either lemon juice or vinegar.

Dry the scallops well. Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet till it's screaming hot. Add the olive oil and sear the scallops on both sides, to give them a good brown color. You don't want to fully cook them just yet. Remove them and set them aside, and let the pan cool down a little. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and cook the minced shallots until they are transparent, then add the garlic and cook till softened. Drain the artichokes from the water and add to the pan with the shallots. Add the 2 tablespoons of water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. If you need to, add more water.

Place the scallops back in the pan with the artichokes and turn up the heat, adding the wine. Add the capers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes or less, until the scallops are cooked through. Add the lemon juice and parsley and serve over polenta.

You can use either instant polenta or long cooking cornmeal. I find starting with cold water makes the polenta less likely to be lumpy. Cook over medium heat and stir with a whisk until it gets too thick, then switch to a wooden spoon. Add the water and milk all at once in the beginning, but if it's too thick, add more water or milk till you get the desired consistency you want.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Pasta E Fagioli Soup Redux

The calendar may say it's spring, but here in central New Jersey, it's a cool, drizzly day -- perfect for a bowl of this pasta e fagioli soup. There are as many variations of this dish as there are regions of Italy and I've posted another recipe or two in the past that you can find here and here. They're all delicious, but I really enjoyed this latest version that included a special pasta called rombetti my son found for me. They were just perfect for this soup, but may be difficult to find if you don't have a specialty Italian store near you. Feel free to substitute any small pasta shape -- even broken up spaghetti -- just make sure it's a good product, made with quality ingredients and slow drying techniques.

A good sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese will take this dish over the top.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Pasta & Fagioli Soup

1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced carrot
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth (or water)
1 or more cups water
2 cups diced potatoes 
2 cans chick peas
2 cans cannellini beans or small white beans
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
a sprig of fresh rosemary and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, finely minced
1 pound small pastas, boiled separately (I used a pasta called rombetti)
parmesan or pecorino cheese to sprinkle on top

Sautè the vegetables in the olive oil till softened. Add the chicken broth, the potatoes, one can of chick peas and one can of beans. Add the seasonings. Cook everything together for about 45 minutes, then using a stick blender, blend most of the soup to a puree. If it's too thick, add more water. Add the other can of chick peas and the other can of beans, and cook till heated through. Add the drained and boiled pasta and serve with grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.