Sunday, August 20, 2023

Foolproof Fudge.

Sometimes I have an itch for chocolate and I just have to scratch it.
Here's my scratch:

This is the easiest, simplest fudge recipe ever.  And it's foolproof.



  • 3 cups combination semisweet chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate chips
    (You could use one or the other, but I like using the combination.)

  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

    Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl set over simmering water.
    Let melt, stirring occasionally.
    Line a buttered 8 x 8-inch pan with buttered parchment paper and pour melted chocolate mixture into pan.  If you like, press pecan halves where each fudge slice will be or you can crush pecans and cover the whole top with nuts.  Refrigerate several hours until set.  Cut into pieces.


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Seared Scallops With A Strawberry And Blood Orange Gastrique.












Today, I’m taking my favorite bivalve mollusks – sea scallops - and pan-searing them in a combination of butter and oil and then accenting them with a basic gastrique sauce.  A gastrique is simply a sweet and sour sauce, starring some sort of fruit (or fruits), tweaked with sugar, and balanced out with a vinegar.  I’m using strawberries and blood oranges for the fruits and a good quality balsamic vinegar for the tartness to complement.


The scallops are only going to take a few minutes to cook, so it’s important to have any side dishes prepared and ready to serve.  I have a few suggestions for accompaniments - asparagus and pistachios, a simple condiment of diced cucumbers and red onions, accented with fresh basil, and also wild rice enhanced with orange zest to subtly echo the orange in the gastrique.


Let’s start with making the gastrique.  As I said, a gastrique is a sweet and sour sauce, slightly thickened, with the sweetness typically coming from fruit and sugar and the sour from vinegar.  The beauty of a gastrique is in its versatility – you can experiment with different fruits and vinegars and create limitless flavor variations to pair with all types of meats – from delicate seafoods and chicken to more robust meats like pork and beef.  For my gastrique to complement the scallops, I’m using strawberries and blood oranges for my fruits along with a balsamic vinegar.  Balsamic vinegars can vary in quality and price and some are even  labeled “balsamic” but aren’t true balsamic vinegars.  Don’t go with a cheap, knock-off balsamic vinegar, which would be comparable to using “Parmesan” from the green can instead of a true Parmegiano Reggiano cheese.  When looking for a good balsamic vinegar, you might want to visit a market that lets you taste test before buying. 


Rosie Note:  Authentic balsamic vinegars are made from grapes harvested only in the Reggio Emilia or Modena regions of Italy.  The production of traditional balsamic vinegars is tightly defined and highly regulated, the entirety of which is overseen from beginning to end by a special certification committee, so these vinegars can be quite expensive.  They are marked with a DOP stamp (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or protected designation of origin) which guarantees the ingredient’s quality, production, and place of origin.  A balsamic vinegar with a DOP stamp is too expensive and not necessary for a gastrique.  This is more of a “tasting” vinegar.


What I look for is a balsamic vinegar with an IGP stamp (indicazione geographic protetta or protected geographical indication).  It indicates the product is not as stringently regulated as the DOP vinegars, but is still a high-quality vinegar, having undergone a controlled standard of production.








For the gastrique:

zest and juice of 1 blood orange
½ cup strawberries, chopped
2 TB sugar
2 TB balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients except pepper in a small saucepan and heat over very low heat until reduced to almost half and thickened.  Remove from heat and season with pepper, to taste.

 For the cucumber salad:
 ¼ cup diced cucumber
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup peeled, seeded, and diced tomato, if desired
2 tsp  sugar
1 TB cider vinegar
1-2 basil leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

 Combine all ingredients. 

Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Taste test before serving.






For the asparagus and pistachios:
 Heat skillet over medium high heat with butter.  When foamy, add in the pistachios and cook, stirring, until slightly browned.  Add in the asparagus spears (cut into halves or thirds) and pour in about ¼ cup water and let it steam off,  cooking about 30 seconds.  Remove asparagus and pistachios.  Asparagus should be al dente, firm but crisp-tender.
 For the wild rice:
 I used a white, brown, red, and wild rice blend.  Cook 1 cup rice according to directions.  Stir in 2 TB unsalted butter and a tablespoon or more of orange zest.
 For the scallops:
 I’m using large ocean scallops, not the smaller bay scallops.  









To prepare the scallops, first remove that tough side muscle on the scallops.  It’s a rectangular tag with the muscle fibers running opposite the fibers in the scallop and you can just pinch it off.  Feed it to your cat or discard.   Next, rinse scallops under cool, running water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.  Season with a few twists of freshly ground pepper.

  When searing a delicate seafood like scallops, I use both butter and oil in a hot pan.  The butter is for flavor and the oil is to raise the smoke point so the milk solids in the butter don’t burn.

Heat a heavy skillet with a tablespoon each of oil and unsalted butter to 375°.


Add scallops one at a time, placing at least an inch apart from each other.  Do NOT crowd the pan.  Usually, you’ll need to cook the scallops in batches, giving the oil and butter time to come back to temperature in between.  Cook about 90 seconds on the first side, turn the scallops over, and cook for about 45 seconds on the second side.  Remove from pan.












To serve: 

Pour a small pool of the gastrique and place scallops in the sauce.  You can drizzle a little of the gastrique over top if you like.  You might want to chiffonade some basil to sprinkle over the scallops.  (Chiffonade is simply a cutting technique.  Stack your basil leaves, roll them tightly lengthwise, and thinly slice perpendicular to the roll.)  I also like to add sliced oranges and strawberries on the plate to allude to the flavors in the gastrique.  Serve with asparagus, wild rice, cucumber salad, and mixed salad greens.