By Carolyne

Just a suggestion: Start the meal with an espresso cup on a saucer, offering a drinkable hot tester of my very special silky cream of celery soup.

Follow with the meal plan below.



To a pound of unsalted butter, add two tablespoons of second season maple syrup in solid form, crushed. Stir in two tablespoons of coarse mustard seed Dijon.

Roll the compound butter extra long and about an inch in diameter, into log shape in cling wrap, and refrigerate to firm up. Unwrap and use a thin serrated knife to cut the log in half and half again until you have half-inch-thick coins. Re-roll the log shape in cling wrap. Freeze. When needed to enhance any recipe, simply tap off a frozen compound butter coin.

Using a metal cutter that is about an inch in diameter, not larger (a forcing bag metal tip will work), cut rounds of store-bought butter puff pastry. Brush with unsalted butter or egg wash. Bake according to package directions’ heat temperature on a parchment-lined sheet pan on the middle oven rack, just until the pastry coins puff. Remove and rest on a cake rack to let air surround as the puffs cool.

Once cooled you can store these mini-puffs in an airtight container with a small sheet of fresh white paper towel.

Next, sear large sea scallops in sizzling unsalted butter until just barely cooked. Turn only once. Sprinkle with crushed thyme and just a pinch of salt and pepper. For large sea scallops, two minutes per side should be sufficient. Don’t move the scallops once they have skillet contact. Set your smart phone timer. You want the scallops to be a golden enhanced colour when finished.

Top each individual scallop with a pre-made mini-puff pastry. On top of the pastry, place a compound butter coin of your choice or use the above maple mustard compound butter coins. Your herb compound butter coins log would work. Or even your lobster compound butter coins would be delightful atop the seared sea scallops.

Sprinkle a little fresh minced tarragon around each plate; if you have a fresh pot, you will see how the delicate baby petal-like leaves are endearing. And drizzle each plate with a little special sauce made by melting a couple of the maple mustard compound butter coins.

For an amuse bouche, serve three bite-size puff-topped scallops on each plate.

At home or if you own a bed and breakfast, this is a wonderful, easy to make starter to any meal, because everything is pre-made except the scallops. How quick and easy is this?

And it’s perhaps a dish never seen by anyone previously. Some people like to wrap scallops in strips of bacon. I wouldn’t recommend it for this dish. Sometimes plain and simple is meaningful.

ALTERNATE: You could serve it on an oversize charger plate, on a coquille shell lined with delicate fragile microgreens as a bed for each scallop, then topped as above. Place a paper lace doily under each shell to stabilize it on the plate.

If this is a starter course, a nice follow-up might be homemade pasta linguine with cream clam sauce.

For dessert, make a sandwich using the stored puff pastry coins, with a melon-baller tiny scoop of homemade rock-hard ice cream in between. Again, three per pie plate should be adequate. Move quickly as the small ice cream balls melt fast. Drizzle the plate with reduced dark balsamic vinegar, just when ready to serve, or use second season liquid maple syrup in keeping with the initial serving. Three mini-puff ice cream filled sandwiches per plate should be sufficient, and perhaps a great conversation starter.

An amazing meal by anybody’s standards. Enjoy!

Noilly Prat smoked salmon cream pasta sauce

Thaw a cup of frozen, paper-thin Norwegian smoked salmon. Although it thaws quickly you might want to help the frozen salmon along using a serrated knife and trimming large squares. Rest on a glass platter, covered with a clean cotton tea towel.

Heat two cups of half and half cream and let the cream rise and fall three times to reduce and thicken, and in a separate pot heat gently 3/4 cup of Noilly Prat vermouth. Careful. Do not boil.

When the cream thickens add a quarter cup of LiteHouse brand fresh freeze-dried parsley, or a half cup of fresh chopped Italian flat leaf garden parsley.

Add a teaspoon of LiteHouse fresh freeze-dried basil, or a tablespoon of minced fresh basil. Mince a half cup of fresh dill because dill and salmon belong together. Save the dill to sprinkle over the pasta serving dish.

Add a pinch of nutmeg to the cream and a generous sprinkle of fresh tarragon. The petal-like leaves on a fresh potted plant are so delightfully delicate, and seafood loves tarragon. Grind generous fresh peppercorns and a tiny dash of salt.

Pulse the smoked salmon coarsely in your food processor. Into the reduced cream, add two tablespoons of my Watercress Hazelnut Pesto, and add the warmed Noilly Prat. Stir in the pulsed smoked salmon just when ready to serve.

Prepare tagliatelle, homemade or store-bought from an Italian shop.

If not available, buy ready-to-boil fresh lasagna napkins and slice them quite wide, instead. This pasta will cook in about four minutes in cold water, salted and brought to a boil. Then add the pasta to the boiling salted water.

Keep the sauce hot and serve the amazing Noilly Prat smoked salmon cream sauce just when ready to eat.

This dish could be garnished with a generous mound of delicate pea-greens just to add a little colour.

You might want a side plate of plain Italian bread cut on the diagonal and butter-grilled.

Enjoy! It’s simple and quick to make. Almost instant everyday-gourmet.

Prosecco pairs nicely with this meal, followed by a refreshing prosecco granita served in a wide martini glass on a see-through small glass plate atop a see-through pie service charger plate. Top the granita with citrus finger lime pearls or pomegranate pearls.

Seared scallops as made for the above recipe can be eaten cool or at room temperature when they are absolutely perfectly cooked.

For a little different sort of treat, top the martini glass Prosecco granita with a tiny Boston Bibb (butter) lettuce leaf in the shape of a tiny cup. Lay the seared scallop with the puff pastry coin topper on the lettuce leaf. Drizzle a little of the Noilly Prat cream sauce just over the seared scallop lettuce leaf.

That could be an amuse bouche salad mouthful. The start to any seafood meal, or even a different sort of salad dessert. If you think of the martini glass scallop as a salad, remember the French often eat salad as the finishing course.


© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” | Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. Her ebook, Gourmet Cooking - at Home with Carolyne is available here for $5.99 US. Email Carolyne.

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