Seafood Provençal and Chocolate for Health!

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Cowlooking Get out of the way you stupid cows!

I can't see a thing!

Move!

I said Moooooove!

I have no idea why there are brown cows in this herd.  Charolais are almost universally raised here in the Vendée.   Pretty brown cows, though, aren't they?

But a bit too tall for the short-legged Charolais to see over.

Excuse me a minute…..

Okay, I'm back.  I just had to run downstairs and out to the back pantry for a piece of chocolate.  I can't keep it by my computer for obvious reasons.

The chocolate is out in full force in the supermarkets now.  The first sign of Christmas here in France is when the fall housewares display is replaced by chocolate.  The French, indeed, most Europeans are very serious about their chocolate and December is the month to indulge.

And indulge they do!  There are an additional 2 full aisles devoted to chocolate at my local hypermarket right now; one aisle just for truffles!

Different cultures have different candy holidays.   

In Ireland the supermarkets overflowed with chocolate in the weeks leading up to Easter; mainly milk chocolate and mainly Quality Street, with the requisite chocolate bunnies, eggs, and lambs.

In the U.S., fall starts out with caramel apples and is topped off with the big candy meltdown at Halloween.  A special thank you to someone at Hershey's for inventing miniatures!
Actually, the U.S. likes candy at Easter, as well….. starting with the awful Peeps! 
Now that I think about it, the U.S. holidays are a salute to bad candy (with the exception of aforementioned miniatures): Candy Corn (or is it Kandy Korn?), Peeps and other various sugar-coated marshmallow atrocities, usually tasteless jellybeans and, for the most part, bad chocolate.

The French, on the other hand, believe, (and rightly so, as they are told by the health ministry and their doctors) that dark chocolate is good for you.  And the darker the chocolate the healthier it is.  Today, I was trying to decide between Dark, Extra Dark, Intense, and Black.  Such decisions.  Thankfully they were all on sale.

So, those huge chocolaty displays are not encouraging us to eat yet more sweet treats during the holidays; they are meant to kindly remind us to take care of ourselves.  I hear and obey.

I bought four bars of luscious dark chocolate of varying intensity.  I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, you see…. 
And my doctor says to eat at least one 'square' a day…. 
And I am an American, so if some is good, more must be better, right?  Right??  RIGHT????

Excuse me again…

I'll be really good and have fish for dinner.

Weekend Herb Blogging is back home with our talented and lovely founder, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Whbtwoyearicon I dearly love using my fresh tarragon all summer long.  It's perfect with fish, seafood, chicken and salads. 

But now, it's winter.  The lovely bed of tarragon is just a distant memory.  Except for that nice bag of frozen leaves I happen to have in my freezer.

Tarragon imparts a light anise flavor to dishes.  It is an essential ingredient in Bearnaise sauce as well as the French 'Fines Herbes'. 

One is always told to use it sparingly…much the same as rosemary and sage.  I must admit I happily ignore that advice and have never been disappointed or overwhelmed!

Scallops Provençal

8 oz (250 gr) scallops
5 oz (150 gr) small shrimp (prawns) Scallopsprovencal_2
4 tsp olive oil
2 shallots
4 oz (125gr) mushrooms
1 clove garlic
15oz (450gr) whole tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs fresh or frozen tarragon
1 1/2  tsp fresh or frozen thyme
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Finely chop the shallot and garlic.  Open and drain tomatoes.  Roughly chop tomatoes. Clean and slice mushrooms.  Heat 2 tsp oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add scallops and sauté until light brown and opaque, being careful not to crowd.  They sometimes have a lot of water in them and you want them sautéed, not steamed.  As they brown remove them and put them into 2 individual, shallow casseroles or one larger one.  In same pan sauté shrimp until they start to curl and turn opaque.  Put into casseroles with scallops.  Add remaining 2 tsp oil to pan along with the shallot, garlic and mushrooms.  Sauté until shallots are tender and starting to brown.  Add tomatoes, wine, tomato paste and herbs.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.  Add vinegar to sauce and stir.  Spoon sauce over scallops and shrimp.  Bake at 400F (200C) for 10 minutes, until heated through.  Serve directly from casseroles.

What did I serve with the Scallops?

Something with pumpkin, naturally.

Kevin, at Closet Cooking. inspired me to try my hand at Pumpkin Gnocchi.

And it was good!  Thank you, Kevin!

Pumpkin Gnocchi Pumpkingnocchi

1 cup pumpkin purée
1 – 2 cups flour

For the dough: Mix the pumpkin with 1 cup of the flour; using a wooden spoon or large fork to start.  As it comes together add more of the flour until it forms a ball and is difficult to work with.  Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on the flour.  Knead by hand, adding flour, until dough is not too sticky to work with.  If you are using fresh pumpkin purée you will be adding more flour than if using purchased.  When you can form the dough into a nice, soft, smooth ball you're done.  Cover with a towel and let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
For the gnocchi:  Pinch off a small piece of dough, about the size of a golf ball.  On a floured surface, using the flat of your hands, roll it into a cylinder 3/4 – 1" (2cm) thick.  Slice off pieces about 1/2" (1.25cm) thick.  Press the tines of a fork into each piece to flatten slightly and give ridges; dipping the fork into flour first if the cut pieces are sticky.  Repeat until all the dough is used.
To cook: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the gnocchi, about 1/3 at a time and cook until they float, 2 – 3 minutes.  As soon as they float remove and place in a colander to drain.
The gnocchi can be made to this point at any time.  If not using right away, toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
To finish:
1 1/2 tbs butter
1 tbs olive or truffle oil
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
black pepper
salt, fresh sea salt if you have it

Melt butter in nonstick skillet.  Cook, undisturbed through the bubbling stage to the brown stage.  Watch carefully as it can quickly burn.  When light brown add the oil.  Add the herbs and lots of pepper.  Mix well, then add gnocchi. Stir-fry quickly to reheat and lightly brown, about 3 – 5 minutes, depending on how cold the gnocchi is and how crunchy you want the outside to be. Remove, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Be sure to visit Kalyn's Kitchen on Monday for the complete re-cap!

SkeletonsAnd, don't forget to search your closet/pantry for skeletons.  Remember, confession is good for the soul.  It can be an actual recipe, or just the description of the, um, food or any food and holiday related debacle/story/mishap…. Really, any dirty little secret you feel like sharing!  You have until Christmas to post – the round-up will be just before Dec. 31.   The usual rules: post, link to me, send me an e-mail with permalink.  Click for details!

Come on, tell!  Share the pain…you'll feel better!  And so will we!

16 thoughts on “Seafood Provençal and Chocolate for Health!”

  1. I’m shoving you to the side so I can eat all of that Scallops dish…with lots of bread for dunking!
    Katie, thanks for the gnocchi recipe…I still have butternut squash at hand.

  2. My tarragon, too, is long gone from the herb garden, but squash is abundant at the farmstands, so I can definitely try this gnocchi. And about that chocolate…. well, if my market had two aisles of chocolate, I’d never leave empty-handed!

  3. I love the idea of tarragon with scallops. Never thought of that before, but I bet it’s a brilliant combination. I also have frozen tarragon in my freezer, as well as scallops, hmmm. (Scrolling back up to see if I do indeed have all the ingredients for this.) Not quite, but very close! (Now I just need more time to cook.)

  4. I wish I had a better selection of dark chocolate here, though maybe its better that I don’t… The scallops look tasty. Your gnocchi turned out great! They kept their bright orange colour too. Herb and browned butter sauce…mmm…

  5. Americans are finally catching on the idea that dark chocolate is good for you. But, the moderation thing, I’m not so sure about. 😉 I just made sweet potato gnocchi, which were similar to your pumpkin ones. They look quite festive for this holiday season!

  6. You always get me going Katie. Problem is after running down to check the pantry in Seattle here, I found no chocolate. Um, well at least I got the exercise! I am really a dark chocolate convert in the last 3 years! Really enjoy that.
    Your scallops look beautiful and next to the pumpkin gnocchi would be very festive!

  7. Katie, you crack me up – between the cows and chocolate theories! You alternate so easily between comedienne and professional chef. Wonderful looking recipes. (Oh, and I, too, am a believer in a square a day.)

  8. Katie, all looks delish, and why don’t you try a square of each chocolate, on the hour until the sypmptoms subside

  9. Chocolate everyday~not just around Christmas-time…the French have the best chocolate! I try to stock up on the baking bars when I can..it sure makes a difference in the taste!Your pumpkin gnocchi looked incredibly tasty~where do you find all this time?Take care of those cows, they are so cute!

  10. Peter, I’ll share…I promise. Butternut would work well, I just used the last of mine!
    They were good, Pille, and really a lot easier than I thought.
    Lydia, I wander through the aisles every trip, looking, and looking….
    Kalyn, I really love tarragon, and it does well with the tomatoes, too… I know, doesn’t seem right,
    Ashley, it really doesn’t take long, I made it along with the rest of dinner.
    Kevin, I really don’t need allof that chocolate temptation, either. And thanks, I thought the color was gorgeous….so thanks for the inspiration.
    Susan, moderation in all things…but chocolate! Sweet potato gnocchi…yum
    Tanna, the best part about dark chocolate is…. mon mari doesn’t like it 😉
    Jeni, those cows come running whenever we are outside, they are such a hoot! A square a day…surely, sometimes two..or three?!?
    AV, now you’re talking! A square (or 2) an hour! That I can do!
    Jann, yes, all of the lovely chocolate bars…so many kinds, so little room on the hips, sigh… The time? It’s called making dinner…believe me, it’s the only time I have for cooking! That’s why you don’t see any baking projects on my blog!

  11. Hi Katie,
    I wish that I had to make the decisions about which choc to have and I certainly wouldn’t mind an extra 3 aisle of chocolates in teh supermarkets, it will certainly make it more exciting for me.
    You meal sounds delicious. I saw the pumpkin gnocchi at Kevin’s blog also but haven’t gotten round to making it.
    Hope that you are having a nice weekend! It must be nice since it’s chocolate coated 😉
    Nora

  12. Thanks, Nora, and chocolate-y it was/is. I do love the quality of the chocolate here! The gnocchi was easier than I expected!
    Chris, thanks, they are darling cows! Sweet potato…yum!

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