Brunch for Two: Spinach Salad with Scallops, Mango, Avocado and Candied Macadamia Nuts

scallop salad 1

Brunch is my new favorite way to entertain.  In the past I have hosted big, somewhat lavish brunches — tables full of friends and family, noshes to nibble with a Blood Mary or Brandy Milk Punch  before the main event, dessert and coffee afterwards, much fun but a lot of work.

My brstrawberriesunches these days are much more relaxed — one guest, fresh fruit and bubbly, a dish which can be mostly be made beforehand, more fruit and bubbly for dessert.

This Spinach Salad with Scallops, Mango, Avocado and Candied Macadamia Nut is perfect.  The nuts can be candied and the dressing blended the night before leaving you free to sip champagne and enjoy your guest until just before you are ready to serve.
Spinach Salad with Scallops, Mango, Avocado and Candied Macadamia Nuts


For the Macadamia nuts:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup whole Macadamia nuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cooking spray

For the dressing :

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup sliced peeled mango
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the scallops and salad:

  • 2/3 pound sea scallops
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 2/3 cup diced avocado
  • 2/3 cup diced mango
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion


For the Macadamia nuts:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Combine the sugar and tablespoon of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the macadamia nuts. Toss so that the nuts are thoroughly coated.
  4. Spread the nuts onto the baking sheet  and sprinkle with the salt.
  5. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, stirring once.
  6. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray.
  7. Remove the nuts from the oven and immediately scrape them onto the sheet of foil. Spread  the nuts evenly on the foil.  When completely cooled, lightly chop the nuts and set them aside.

For the dressing:

  1. Combine  the the water with the mango, lime juice, olive oil, ginger, and cilantro in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Set dressing aside. Note that this will make more dressing than needed for two servings of salad.

For the scallops and salad:

  1. Dry the scallops gently but thoroughly between two layers of paper towels.
  2. Sprinkle the scallops with the salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the scallops and sear for about 2 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcook!
  5. Arrange 2 cups spinach on each plate. Top the spinach with half the scallops, 1/3 cup mango, 1/3 cup avocado and 1/8 cup red onion.
  6. Drizzle each salad with 3 tablespoons of the dressing and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped nuts.

Yield: 2 servings

Cook time: 12 minutes                                                                                  

Prep time: 30 minutes

Makin’ Bacon

This post is a bit of an experiment — can I pull content, recipes, photos, etc. of my favorite posts on Another Marvelous Meal and plonk them down here?  The answer appears to be yes.

Homemade bacon…  not something you made in a 1970s home economics class, but how hard could it be?  Answer: ridiculously easy.
Making bacon is one of those things I likely never would have tried had it not been for 2011’s Charcutepalooza Challenge and the charcuterie bible,  Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.
I cut my big slab of locally-sourced pork belly  into three pieces (one 2 pound piece and two 3 pound pieces) so I would be able to fit each into a regular 1-gallon zip-lock and ultimately, into my Char-Broil Vertical Gas Smoker.  I stashed the 2 pound chunk in the freezer for a future project (Bahn Mi!).
I mixed up a cure for the bacon using my pink salt and Ruhlman’s basic cure:

Ruhlman’s Basic Cure

  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 2 ounces pink salt
Whisk together the salts and the sugar.
For one of the 3-pound pieces of pork belly, I made a sweeter cure by adding 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar to 1/4 cup of the salt mixture. Then, I dredged the pork belly in the cure and bagged it in the zip-lock, squeezing out the extra air.
For the other 3-pound slab, I made a savory cure by adding 3 crushed bay leaves, 5 smashed cloves of garlic, and a tablespoons of crushed black peppercorns to 1/4 cup of the salt mixture. After dredging the pork belly in the cure, I bagged it in a separate zip-lock and squeezed out the extra air.
The two bags then spent a week in the fridge. I flipped the bags daily to redistribute the cure.  After 7 days, I rested.  Not really — I took  the chunks of pork belly out and rinsed off the cure. Then I fired up the smoker, using whatever I had on hand — 3-4 pounds of mesquite-flavored charcoal along with some hickory chunks and chips and smoked the bacon on a very low heat — around 125 degrees — for about 7 hours.
Sweet bacon:
Savory bacon:

This isn’t necessarily the kind of bacon you want to slice thin and fry up for Sunday morning breakfast — although that will work.  This is special bacon.

Cut it into thick lardons and serve it withsalad with lardons and soft eggsartisinal greens and soft  eggs.

Or make a lovely hash with sweet potatoes and apple.

Next up: Irish bacon.

My unofficial review of knife & fork

knifeandforklogomenuI didn’t take any pictures.  I don’t have a copy of the menu, although it changes daily so would only be illustrative anyway. I can’t remember the name of our charming and knowledgeable server.   I do know that I’ve been to Knife & Fork twice in the past couple of months, once for dinner and once for brunch, and that  most every morsel that I’ve put into my mouth has been divine.

The Spruce Pine, NC restaurant is owned by Nate Allen, the chef, and his wife Wendy.  I first heard of it a couple of years ago at the Asheville Food & Wine Festival where the finals of the WNC Chef Challenge, which Nate won, were being held.  A month or so later, I read about the chef and his restaurant  in Cooking Light magazine when he was given their Small-town Chef Award for 2011.  I’d been wanting to visit the restaurant and try his very inventive, farm-to-table food since.

Chef Nate clearly shares my fascination with charcuterie.  At Sunday’s brunch, I couldn’t help but order his confit chicken neck with asparagus, poached egg and grainy mustard. Everything about the dish was done well — the confit was meltingly tender and finished so that there were plenty of crispy bits.  The split stalks of asparagus were cooked perfectly, bright green and tender, sauced with the yolk of the poached egg.  With a slice of grilled bread and some grainy mustard, I was one happy diner.

On both visits, I’ve ordered the excellent house made charcuterie which comes with three varieties, a little salad and some grilled bread with spicy honey mustard.  I can’t decide which was my favorite — the  grilled rabbit liver or the pork terrine.  Both the pork rillettes and the rabbit rillettes were also heavenly.

The restaurant’s wine list has a carefully chosen selection of reasonably-priced bottles as well as a nice selection of wines by the glass.  You can’t order alcohol before noon on Sunday in Spruce Pine, but the charcuterie platter arrived just in time for a glass of a nice red blend of Paso Robles varietals, Troublemaker Blend 6.

I am looking forward to visiting this place often.  Hopefully my next trip —  during which I’ll order a number of new dishes, take lots of pictures and try another glass of wine or two so that I can write my official review — will be soon!

Knife & Fork on Urbanspoon

Getting back to good routines

One of the many things I love about my job is the way that the beginning and ending of semesters demarcate time.  With the end of each semester, there is a break and an opportunity for a new beginning.  And with the start of each semester, there is the chance to begin anew.  I am wrapping up the tail end of my Spring semester today — a few random make-up and early exams to grade and I’ll be done for six weeks.  With this new beginning, I am looking forward to getting back into some of my “good” routines — meal planning, blogging, and exercising.

I’ve been pretty slack about meal planning this year, which means more money is getting spent for less healthy meals and a bunch of produce lands in the compost bin.  It’s generally a good idea to start planning the week’s dinner by checking out what is in your produce drawer…  Mine is pretty full with lots of salad makings, a couple of big artichokes, some root vegetables and asparagus.  Next I look at my schedule to see which nights I’ll have more or less time to spend on dinner and which nights I’m planning to go out.  Then I check out the weather to see which nights are likely to be nice ones to grill.   And finally, I peruse the freezer, bread box, deli drawer, etc. to see what else I have on hand that needs to get eaten sooner rather than later.  My general idea is to start with Meatless Monday, try to have at least one fish night and not more than one red meat night, and, accept the fact that we’ll likely have pizza for dinner when I have plans to go out.  So, incorporating some other things which need to get eaten, here’s what I’ve come up with for this week’s dinners:

Monday – Rösti casserole with baked eggs and roasted asparagus

Tuesday – Grilled flank steak and roasted root vegetablesartichoke2

Wednesday – Chicken souvlaki with tzaziki sauce, greek salad, pita

Thursday – Pizza and steamed artichokes with red wine-roasted garlic sauce

Friday – Dinner at the lake

The links take you back to my old blog, Another Marvelous Meal.

It is an absolutely gorgeous day in the High Country.  Carolina blue skies and it is finally beginning to look like Spring. I’m thinking of hiking one of the trails out at Cone Manor this afternoon or at least do four miles on the Greenway.  It is a bit chilly this morning, but according to Ray should be in the mid-fifties this afternoon.  Pat on my back for a great start in re-establishing my good routines!  Next I can start working on getting rid of some of the bad ones I’ve settled into lately…