After spending over half of July traveling through Europe, I came back home to the States determined to foster that Spanish villa vacation vibe throughout the rest of my summer.
It is much easier in Spain and England to find healthy foods in the market, to get a fresh, hot cafe con leche whenever the mood hits, and to not be worried about eating a bunch of genetically modified soy products at every turn.
Luckily, August in New England means we have access to a huge bounty of fresh foods and long warm easy days. Here’s how I intend to prolong my European summer with local and seasonal foods…
- To maintain that Mediterranean Spa feeling around my house, there will be a beautiful glass pitcher of water with cucumbers and mint available at all times. How easy is this? If you have mint growing in your garden or your yard there is just no excuse to not toss a few mint leaves into your water. Think of it as aromatherapy. It is incredibly refreshing and it also makes getting your daily water intake much more glamorous.
- Speaking of glamorous, I am experimenting with creating the perfect fruit combination in my sangria. Since they are in season here now I am using raspberries and blackberries, although kiwis are high up there on the list now as well. Often when I order Sangria at a restaurant I end up being served a syrupy sweet wine cooler type beverage. For me, the best Sangria comes from using fairly inexpensive Spanish Rioja wine, Cointreau, Brandy, and club soda. The addition of citrus (lemons, limes, oranges) and the berries add the requisite sweetness and I find there is no need for additional sugar. Make sure you actually pour the fruit into your glass, too. Don’t just leave it there floating in your pitcher!
- While you probably won’t find me slaving over a Paella pan, I am eating more seafood. Tonight, sustainably-sourced scallops are what’s on the menu. Scallops are sea molluscs, and can be found across most of the world’s sea floor. They live in shells, but don’t panic – they’re always sold pre-shucked and ready to cook. Did you know you can tell how old a scallop is by counting the number of annuli (rings) on their shells (kind of like counting tree rings on a stump). With six controlled areas in the Mid to North Atlantic, you can purchase your local scallops knowing that you are supporting the sustainable harvesting practices that have been in place now for the past decade. This means your scallops will have been harvested after they have 3-4 annuli and their populations will continue to grow at a healthy rate.
- I am working on eating less food but with bigger taste…like prosciutto with melon. It is a classic Italian summer appetizer that requires little effort and is absolutely delicious. Doesn’t prosciutto wrapped melon on an antipasto platter with olives, cheeses, and bread sound perfect? Maybe a glass of vino from a local vineyard?
- Remember, presentation is everything. Part of feeling satiated and content with a meal comes from how it is served to you…so, go ahead and use the special pitcher you usually reserve for parties. Take the time to garnish your dish with some fresh herbs. See if you can incorporate as many colors and textures into your salads and other dishes as possible.
Life is short, why not make it beautiful?
Seared Sea Scallops with White beans and Wilted Spinach
2 strips bacon, chopped into small pieces (you can skip this, but its only 18 calories and adds a lot of flavor!)
½ red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ cans white beans (14 oz each), rinsed and drained
4 cups baby spinach
1 lb large sea scallops
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter
juice of 1 lemon
- Heat a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook the bacon until it has begun to crisp. Add the onion and garlic; saute until the onion is soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white beans and spinach and simmer until the beans are hot and the spinach is wilted. Keep warm.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Blot the scallops dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the butter and the scallops to the pan and sear the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until deeply caramelized.
- Before serving, add the lemon juice to the beans. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the beans among 4 warm bowls or plates and top with scallops.
Prosciutto with Melon
1 large cantaloupe
12 slices of Italian prosciutto
lime or lemon wedges
Cut melon in half. Remove seeds. Slice wedges of melon. Remove rinds. Arrange on small plates. Drape 2 slices prosciutto over melon on each plate. Garnish with lemon or lime wedges.