A few weeks back my co-worker Jeff and I were suffering through a terribly slow start to our Friday night dinner shift and to keep ourselves motivated, we challenged each other to a serving contest. The first one to sell every dessert on our menu was entitled to a home-made dinner slaved over by the other. I like to think I had it in the bag, but my loyal obsession to one particular dessert was my big downfall and I ended up selling primarily that one over and over as always. Needless to say, I was due in the kitchen.
I found some beautiful organic pesto at a local market, and had a half a head of purple cabbage left over, so I decided to make a pesto and substitute strips of cabbage for noodles. In a food processor, I mixed about 1 1/2 cups washed basil, a cup of cashews, several cloves of garlic, some fresh ginger, salt, olive oil, cayenne and lemon juice. I like my pesto really spicy, so I always add a lot of garlic (no surprise there) but you can definitely tone it down with less. Traditionally pesto has parmesan cheese as well but Jeff and I both tend to stay away from dairy.
I also found some gorgeous scallops while shopping with Ariel, so I decided to make a type of salsa to go on top of them. Since I already had green and purple planned on my plate with the pesto dish, I wanted to find red and yellow produce to use. I was thinking I was going to find strawberries or something to mix with the yellow bell pepper I picked, until I saw a beautiful stem of rhubarb calling my name. I have never cooked much with rhubarb, so I decided this was the perfect chance to start.
I chopped up the rhubarb, bell pepper, garlic and ginger and mixed it with fresh lemon, salt, olive oil, braggs, cinnamon, and agave. I made this salsa hours beforehand so it could soak in the liquids and the tartness of the rhubard would mellow out. It had a sweet, almost pickled flavor by mealtime and Jeff and myself had to stop ourselves from eating it by the spoonful!
Next, I had been craving cooked cauliflower so I bought a lovely head of it and searched for something sweet and orange to add to the growing palate of colors. Thank heavens for kumquat season! I boiled the cauliflower until it was slightly soft and when it was drained and cooled, I began sauteing it with onions, garlic and the sliced kumquats. I added my usual assortment of spices and agave to balance the sweetness and acidity. I simmered this all for quite sometime to make sure the bitterness of the kumquat skins would soften and the cauliflower would be as juicy and flavorful as possible.
Lastly, I moved to the precious sea scallops. I had never cooked scallops on my own before, but I knew that you don't have to do much to them at all. In fact, it would be a crime to mask their natural, succulent flavor with too much spicing or altering. All you need is a really hot pan, butter (or in my case olive oil), maybe a sprinkle of salt any cayenne, and a minute or two on each side until they are golden brown and juicy! I squeezed a slice of lemon over them and flames came up at least 2 feet which added a lot of unexpected excitement to the moment!