Eating to Cook: Sharing the Stage with Some Incredible Chefs

It’s true: I do love an audience. So when I was recently asked to do a cooking demonstration for the VIP reception at a fundraising event for Susan G. Komen For the Cure held at the Viking Cooking Center in Westwood, it was my honor to say yes. Especially knowing that some of the others chefs in attendance included Jose Duarte (Taranta), Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery + Café), and Nicole Coady (Finale). The last time I taught at the Viking Center, I accidentally “stole” 4 knives (they jumped into my knife kit and they came home with me — yes, I returned them, but I really didn’t want to).

As honored as I was feeling, I also had that “why’d-I-agree-to-this” attitude as I was stuck in traffic on Rt. 128. I have no kitchen staff to help prep, box, and label all the ingredients and cooking paraphernalia. No one to help load the car, let alone schlep it to the venue. But the amazingly warm and genuinely gracious reception I received from the Komen folks (as well as the Viking Center staff) erased any negativity I was brewing and I was more than good to go. With the help of Dana Reale and Meghan Reed (two lovely sophomores from Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island) and the divine Marissa Dana, I was set up and on my way with a big safety net to boot. I prepared pan-seared sea scallops with a cilantro and pistachio pesto (yeah, it rocks) and mini-lamb balls with spiced yogurt and pickled red onions (I thought the balls were sorta breast-shaped and that that would be cheeky — the audience laughed, perhaps out of courtesy).

My recipes are after the jump. Have fun and let me know how it turns out.

Pan-seared Scallops with Cilantro and Pistachio Pesto

Vegetable oil

8 medium sea scallops, side muscle removed

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cilantro and Pistachio Pesto

In a medium skillet over medium high heat add a thin layer of oil and heat until shimmering. Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place scallops in pan and brown well (about 1 minute). Turn and brown the other side. Remove and let rest 2 minutes. Spoon one teaspoon of sauce over the top and serve immediately.

Cilantro and Pistachio Pesto

¼ cup toasted pistachio nuts

2 cloves garlic

1 bunch cilantro (about 2 cups)

1 scallion, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

kosher or sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, combine pistachio and garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add cilantro, scallion, lime juice, and rice wine vinegar; process until smooth. With motor on, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lamb Balls with Yogurt Sauce

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground lamb

1 tablespoon dried oregano, Greek if possible

¾ cup panko bread crumbs

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

½ English cucumber, peeled and finely diced

3 scallions, finely chopped

2 cups Greek yogurt, drained

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Pickled red onions

24 small pita breads

For the lamb balls:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onion and garlic, let cool. In a medium mixing bowl, combine lamb, oregano, bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, and cream with your hands. Form into golf ball sized balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes.

For the yogurt sauce:
In a small bowl, combine mint, garlic, cucumber, scallion, yogurt, cayenne, olive oil, and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve:
Place pickled onions on pita, then add one lamb ball, then drizzle with sauce.

Pickled Red Onions

2 tablespoons coriander seed

1 teaspoon mustard seed

3 medium red onions, very thinly sliced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup honey

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs thyme

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Toast the coriander seed in a small, dry sauté pan over medium heat until its aroma is released, about 2 minutes. Add the mustard seed to the same pan and toast for 1 additional minute. In a small sauce pot, slowly bring the vinegars, honey, bay leaves, and thyme to a boil. Adjust the flavor with water if too acidic and season with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the onions in a medium, heat-proof bowl; allow to sit for 5 minutes. Let cool and store in fridge.