1.19.2019

The Five Food Groups

And now abide the food groups... pasta, cheese, chocolate, wine, and butter, these five. But the greatest of these is butter.

We arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire around 7:00pm to visit Susan and Towny, and Towny’s sister Lisa; we were there to say a sad farewell to their daughter, Alex, who, last August, left this world too early. Wanting to help, I called Susan from the airport to see if we could pick up ingredients for dinner.

“No,” she said, “I’ll go across the street and get some pasta and scallops.”

After hugs and stowing our luggage, we headed back to the kitchen, the warm and inviting nucleus of their home. Susan looked at me rather sheepishly and semi-whispered, “I was kind of hoping you would make dinner.”

As if that was even a slight imposition... It was comforting to be at the helm (stove) of their kitchen again and, honestly, when people are hurting I like cooking for them, nurturing them with food and love. It’s my way.

The dish started with a big skillet and an obscene slab of butter. You see, they had this incredible log of fresh, creamy butter. What was I supposed to do? Ignore it? Besides, butter is emotionally good for you. It is comfort at the highest level.

The butter melted to the most beautiful golden color and, to that, I added shallots and ribbons of carrot, fresh from their friend Claire’s garden.

It began to turn a saffron color from the carrot. A light bulb went on. “Towny?? Do you have any saffron?” I called to the other room. He sure did...

After the saffron, I added a splash of wine (it was rosé, of course), let it cook down a bit, and then added the scallops. In went the al dente pasta.

I was concerned that the pasta would be swimming in butter but I was pleasantly surprised that the pasta soaked up every bit of the butter... The only thing I could do now was add a bit of cream, which I did.

One might think this would have caused toxic butter shock, but it didn’t. We all slept well, the lingering warmth of our dinner still with us as the next day as we walked to church... to celebrate Alex’s life.

~ David

Spaghetti with Buttery Scallops

1 pound spaghetti
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably European
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 carrots cut into ribbons
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch Piment d’Esplette or red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1/3 cup wine - rosé or white wine
1 pound sea scallops, halved into discs
1/3 cup heavy cream
bottarga, for garnish (optional)
parsley, for garnish


Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the shallots and the carrot strips. Sauté until both are softened; the shallots should be clear but not brown. Season with a little salt, generously with freshly ground pepper, then add the Piment d’Esplette and saffron, and cook for 1 minute.

Raise the heat to medium-high and the wine, cooking until slightly reduced. Add in scallops and cook for a couple of minutes until the scallops are just opaque.

Add the spaghetti to the pan (reserving cooking water) and continue to cook until the pasta has absorbed most of the sauce. Add the cream and mix it through. If too thick, add the pasta water a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Divide among 4 warmed plates and sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4.



39 comments:

  1. You gave your friends comfort and love by cooking them such a delicious meal.

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    1. Being there is the best thing anyone can do. Feeding them comes next, in my mind,

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    2. Indeed, he did. We were immensely grateful.

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  2. what a baroque dish D - 8 tbsp butter!! :) stef

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    1. That made me laugh out loud! I have to tell you, Stefano, the amount of butter is severely reduced from the original! :)

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  3. Comforting dish. Thoughful words. I'm sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Greg. Alex was like a daughter to Mark and me. We miss her a lot.

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  4. Huh? The five food groups - how did I learn mine all that wrong :) ? Absolutely love scallops and can make bottarga appear from the nether regions . . .oh, love that photo . . .

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    1. Glad you can get bottarga, Eha - do they produce it in Australia? That is one of my favorite photos of Alex - taken her last day here in Arizona. It is a cherished moment.

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  5. Eight tablespoons of butter is never too much! This is comfort food in more ways than one.

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    1. Thanks for that, John - more butter is always better!

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  6. You are so correct that gathering in the kitchen and cooking is likely the best place one can be when they are hurting. Such a lovely post David.

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    1. Thank you so much, Ron. The kitchen is truly the heart of the home, and being together there is pure love.

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    2. So true. The kitchen and coming to the table.

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    3. It brings everyone together through thick and thin!

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  7. You are a good man David. Respect.

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  8. What a wonderful way to give to friends who are hurting. It reminded me of Susan's column about what pairs with grief. You are all fortunate to have one another during such tough times.

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    1. Susan's post was truly beautiful, Kirsten - I am sure it took a lot of courage and strength to write that. It was wonderful to have them here for the holidays...

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    2. Towny and I are moving (mostly) forward with baby steps and a lot of support from dear friends such as David and Mark. We are blessed to be surrounded by such love and support...and great food.

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  9. So sorry for your loss. How comforting it is to share love and a good meal. Lovely dish!

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    1. Thank you, Kelly. Alex was - and always will be - an amazing woman who inspired us all the time.

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  10. This sounds soooo good, David. I think my five food groups would be just about the same, although I'd put cheese before butter. (I'm a cheese-aholic.) Just sorry the enjoyment had to come as such a sad moment. All the best, Frank

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    1. Frank - I almost lumped them together as one "dairy" group, but decided they are both worthy of their own space on the list. And I think I can almost agree about cheese... but then there is butter. :)

      Life throws us some of the cruelest curve balls as we go along... they are constant reminders of what and who matters in our lives.

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  11. I'm so very sorry for the loss of your friends' daughter. I can only imagine their pain. So heartbreaking.
    What a comfort it must have been for the family to have you cook, and then eat this beautiful and delicious meal. Glad it brought you some comfort too. ~Valentina

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    1. Thank you, Valentina - I know Susan and Towny will read this and appreciate your kind words. Mark and I do, for certain.

      Doesn't cooking for your father bring you the same kind of comfort? I can only imagine...

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  12. Touching post. Sorry for loss and the grief you are feeling. In situations like this, I'm always glad when people ask me to cook, too -- it's a good way to ignore pain for a few minutes, and cooking is what I do best, so it's the best I can give. Anyway, good dish. And life without butter isn't worth living.

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    1. Thanks, John - I guess when you and I are a lot alike in that respect. I never know what do to, so cooking seems to be a good answer.

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  13. Food certainly is comforting, especially with the way your dish was prepared. What about the chocolate (one of my super comforting foods)? You mentioned chocolate at the beginning and it looks like there is a photo of it. (Or maybe the chocolate wouldn't fit with the other ingredients)? Anyway, nice job!

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    1. The chocolate came after, Fran - and you should know I begin every day with a big bowl of cocoa!

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  14. The comfort of being with those you love around a table is most welcome. I know that Susan and Towny appreciated not only your company but the delicious food that was prepared. I know because of a tragic loss that we experienced in August as well.

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    1. I am so sorry for you and your husband, Karen. I hope you are doing okay... hugs from Tucson.

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  15. How lovely David. There is no sharing quite like being together around the dinner table. Interestingly, we were visiting friends in Captiva earlier this month and I made dinner for their friend group (with a couple add-ins from others) on our last night. It does feel good...

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    1. Thank you, Inger - sharing meals with friends and family - whether in happiness or sorrow - is my favorite thing.

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  16. What a beautiful meal to remember a loved one over.

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    1. We think of her so much every day... so many reminders everywhere in our world. And that is a good thing!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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