People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
11/30/2005 Carpaccio of scallops with sea kale chiffonade (Carpaccio de St-Jacques à la chiffonade de chou de mer)
For 4 first course servings:
8-12 perfectly fresh sea scallops, preferably freshly shucked, with coral attached About 20 medium leaves of sea kale (Crambe maritima) or garden kale, especially cavalo nero Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 T. capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped 2 T. chopped chervil Finely ground piment d'Espelette or cayenne pepper One lemon Best quality extra virgin olive oil
Wash the kale leaves, and remove their stems by bending them backward at the juncture with the leaf and pulling them back along the central vein, which will pull out the tough fibers. Place several leaves one on top of the other, and using a very sharp knife, slice them crosswise into extremely fine ribbons. Place them in a colander and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sea salt. Massage the salt into the leaves for a few minutes, then leave to drain for half an hour.
Rinse the kale thoroughly under running water. Squeeze dry in several layers of paper towel and arrange in bouquets in the center of 4 plates.
Cut the scallops crosswise (across the grain) into the thinnest possible slices with a very sharp knife. Arrange the slices overlapping slightly around the chiffonade of kale. Shave a bit of zest from the lemon and sprinkle a few threads over the scallop slices and kale. Sprinkle the scallops with chopped capers and chervil. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over everything, saving the other half of the lemon and cutting it into thin wedges. Drizzle olive oil over scallops and kale, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, garnish with small wedge of lemon. Dust with a smidgen of red pepper. Serve immediately with crusty bread.
Note: This dish grew out of an impromptu assemblage of the ingredients: we had bought some scallops (in shell) direct off the boat in St.-Valéry-en-Caux, and walking near the beach afterward, I had gathered some leaves of the sea kale that grows abundantly on the headlands. Sea kale leaves have a clean, slightly pungent, almost salty flavor. The closest approximation is black Tuscan kale (cavalo nero), but Red Russian or common kale can also be used. Anyway, the duo of ingredients fresh from the sea inspired this dish, which turned out delicious. The clean, brisk flavor of the kale counterpoints the delicate, sweet, and almost unctuous quality of the scallops. Do not make this unless you are certain of the absolute freshness of the scallops, as the slightest off-taste will render the dish disagreeable.