Boxcar and Cured…A Recipe for Success

exterior-of-boxcar-and-cured

After several challenging first months here in Boulder, things are lightening up a bit, and life is beginning to soften, to be more fun, and to present me with unexpected possibilities.  It has a lot to do with the fact that I kicked my own butt to join numerous meet-up groups and attend a few events (much better odds for meeting people than lounging on my love seat with my cat and my longtime companion, Netflix).  Since I have now connected with a few new actual human friends, life feels so much more warm, welcoming and fun, and Boulder is starting to feel more like the home I remember it to be.

When my new sweet friend, Marisa Greengold (also my creative, energetic and talented social media manager–marisa.greengold@gmail.com), suggested we meet for coffee at Boxcar to launch an afternoon of strolling along Pearl Street, the epicenter of Boulder, I was excited to try a new place which I had zoomed by several times but hadn’t yet stopped in to explore.  I never expected that it would also launch my destiny.

From the moment I stepped inside this culinary wonderland, I was transfixed—practically glued to the floor, as I attempted to take it all in.  The woman at the cash register to my right (Jules, as I found out later) observed my paralysis, and informed me that there are two businesses sharing the space:  Boxcar Coffee Roasters to the left, and Cured (offering gourmet packaged goods, cheese, charcuterie and sandwiches to order, and wine shop) on the right.  The charming historic exterior, the rustic exposed brick in the interior and the slightly industrial vibe, warmed with large paintings and leafy plants and trees, seduced me instantly.

After I ordered my cappuccino, Marisa joined me inside, and I reported to her how much I appreciated her suggesting this place.  It was not long before I had the urge to take photos of the endless selection of visual treats enticing me all around.

croissants-display

A few years ago, my friend Janine Miller in Sedona, AZ (where I used to live), who is the most gifted psychic I have ever encountered (https://www.facebook.com/janine.miller.56), had given me a reading, which, among other things, catalyzed the writing/creating of my cookbook, Love On The Table, crafting ecstasy in the kitchen, which I will soon be publishing.  Much later, she texted to inform me that she had gotten a massive psychic download for me, which turned out to be a sweeping and colorfully detailed depiction of my life to come, specifically, how my work will express itself and unfold, and what it is meant to become.  As she began sharing all of this with me, it occurred to me that she was talking about me creating an online cooking magazine of sorts.  It felt perfectly right, and I starting seeing how I would really love traveling, having adventures, and encountering people, places and things, mostly food and wine related, and then reporting about them on my blog, recommending my favorites.  I saw also how these experiences would inspire me to prepare my own creations at home, and inform my cooking classes and future cookbooks.

It had occurred to me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start exploring like this in Boulder, a town famous for being a foodie mecca, one of the best in the country.  Yet, for some reason, I wasn’t feeling inspired.  But that was about to change.

cappucino-and-croissant

While sipping on my delicious cappuccino in this lovely environment, I suddenly realized that the time was NOW.  I needed to stop imagining my website “eventually morphing into an online cooking magazine,” as I had explained to many friends over the last year or so, which clearly placed this potentiality as something perpetually in the future, and therefore never actually happening.  At long last, my destiny was undeniably right in front of my face.

freshly-baked-breads-display

Marisa was kind to allow me some space to leave our conversation for moments at a time to take photos and connect with some of the staff at both establishments.  It was during and after these encounters when I was moved to tears, as I realized how much joy this brought me, and how everybody’s smiles showed that they were enjoying the attention and appreciation as well.  I could definitely see myself doing this type of thing more and more.  It was not only good for me to get exposure for my business and blog, etc., but it was great on a personal level as well, as I was meeting more great people this way.

Clockwise, from top left:  Sean making espresso at Boxcar; Jules, at Cured; baristas Joe, Sean, Emily and Joe at Boxcar; Marcus, behind the cheese counter at Cured; Amelia at the Cured register; Phillip at Cured
Ariana and wine distributor in the wine shop at Cured; Amelia at Cured

I returned the following day to get more photos of things I had missed.  And I took the opportunity to sample a couple of the delicious, expertly prepared baked goods at Boxcar and some of exquisite cheeses at Cured.  It definitely will become a place I will return to often, and when I do, I will know people there.

hazelnut-orange-blossom-double-baked-croissant

cardamom-and-earl-grey-donut
Hazelnut Orange Blossom Double-Baked Croissant and Cardamom Earl Grey Donut at Boxcar
freshly-made-sandwich-at-cured
Freshly made sandwich at Cured
my-internal-compass-reflected-externally
My own inner compass, reflected externally…

And this was just our first stop of the day.  So we ventured on, falling into shops spontaneously, enjoying our conversations with the people we met.  While at Alex and Ani, we met two women working there, one of whom, Emily, was wearing killer cowboy boots, pictured below.

There was a deck of numerology cards on the counter there, and after admiring some of the jewelry, both Marisa and I calculated the numerological values of our birth names, and looked at the corresponding cards.  This is what I got:

a-good-reminder-from-the-numerolical-divination-deck-at-alex-and-ani

If the shoe fits…

Our final stop of the day was at El Loro, where I found not only the thing I was looking for, a piece of rose quartz, but two lovely and inexpensive beaded bracelets.  While Marisa was looking for her own gemstones, I was enjoying the sweetness and warm hospitality of Mary, who had helped me make my bracelet selections.  Another reminder of how wonderful the local people of Boulder can be, if you just go slightly beneath the surface.

I now have a full heart of gratitude to the universe for bringing me this magical and pivotal day, and to Marisa Greengold, whose idea it was to go to Boxcar for coffee that afternoon.

So, readers, this is just the beginning of a great adventure for all of us!  Not only will I be posting my own original recipes on this blog, but I will be sharing all of my special discoveries with you as I encounter them.   I hope that you get much pleasure from learning about these gems.  And if I can inspire you to experience them for yourselves, that would truly be an honor.  Ultimately, I just want to share the love!!!  And that is what Love On The Table is all about.

I would like to give special credit to Ellen Sirena, of merangeltherapy.com, whose powerful meditation/exercise of rewriting your life story helped me to clear the way for this magical day to happen.  I have been enjoying all of her wonderful guided meditations on youtube for the last few months.  They have helped me remain positive in a difficult time, and have connected me more deeply to my life’s purpose.  The life story exercise was sent to me by her because I signed up for her email list.  I definitely recommend doing this, since there are many free treasures that will show up in your inbox at the precise moment you need them.

And that’s Love On The Table!!!

A Sensuous and Romantic Dinner for You and Your Valentine: Five-Spice Seared Sea Scallops with Purple Potato Cauliflower Puree, Glazed Baby Spinach and Arugula, and Port and Red Wine Reduction with Brown Butter

single-plated-valentines-dish-copy

Five-Spice Seared Sea Scallops with Purple Potato Cauliflower Puree, Glazed Baby Spinach and Arugula, and Port and Red Wine Reduction with Brown Butter

 

purple-potatoes

Recently, I shared with a friend how gorgeous Peruvian purple potatoes are, and that when you cook and mash them, they turn a lovely shade of lavender, a surprising color to find on a plate.  When I was trying to come up with an idea for a Valentine’s dinner for this blog, that conversation came to mind, and I imagined that a delicate purple puree would be the perfect romantic accent in a Valentine’s Day themed dish.

     This aphrodisiacal treat was designed with sea scallops as the focus, but you can substitute medallions of steamed or grilled lobster tail, seared shrimp, filet of halibut, monkfish, or sea bass, if you prefer.  Encrusted with Chinese five-spice powder, the scallops have a slightly sweet and spicy exotic accent.

I pureed the purple potatoes with cauliflower to lighten them up, and accompanied the dish with butter-glazed baby spinach and arugula.  Everything is brought together by an orgasmic Port and red wine reduction, emulsified with delicious, nutty, brown butter, which I swirl around each plate, since it is absolutely heavenly with each of the elements of the dish.

Wash it all down with some Champagne, Prosecco or your favorite sparkling wine, eat it slowly and luxuriously with your lover, preferably feeding each other, and see what unfolds…at your own risk!!!

 

valentines-flowers

Five-Spice Crusted Sea Scallops with Purple Potato Cauliflower Puree, Glazed Baby Spinach and Arugula and Port and Red Wine Reduction with Brown Butter
(for two servings)

 

For the brown butter:

2 tablespoons premium unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled till cold and firm

 

For the Port and red wine reduction:

1 cup Port

1 cup dry, full-bodied red wine, like Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel or Cabernet

 

To finish the sauce:

2 tablespoons chilled and cubed brown butter (see below)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or pinch of fine salt

 

making-brown-butter

 

Prepare the brown butter.  Place a small pot over medium-high heat for a minute or so, until is gets very hot.  Add the chilled butter, swirling the pan over the heat, for about a minute or so.  Allow it to get brown in color, being careful not to let it burn.  Remove pan from heat, transfer brown butter to a small ramekin, and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, until firm and cold.

 

 

When brown butter is cold, run a paring knife on the inside of the ramekin to release the butter onto a cutting board, and cut it into small pieces.  Return it to the refrigerator until just before serving.

 

pouring-wine-and-port-into-measuring-cup

 

Prepare the Port and red wine reduction.  Pour the Port and red wine into a small or medium pot over high heat.  Bring wine mixture to a boil, lower heat slightly, and allow it to reduce for about ten minutes, until the bubbles get larger, and the reduction is almost as thick as a syrup.  Test the viscosity by dipping the back of a spoon into the reduction and tracing your finger across the spoon.  If it doesn’t bleed back together, it is done.  Cover and set aside.  This reduction can be prepared in advanced, and reheated just before serving to complete the sauce.

 

 

To finish the sauce, right before serving, reheat it over medium heat.  When hot, check for consistency; if it is too thick, whisk in a few drops of water until it is slightly thickened, but still runny.  When it comes to the boil, turn off heat, and add chilled brown butter pieces, two or three at a time, and swirl them into the sauce until they are completely dissolved, and repeat until all of the butter has been used.  Whisk in salt.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

 

 

When the scallops are ready, drizzle sauce onto plates.

 

purple-potatoes-and-cauliflower

 

For the purple potato cauliflower puree:

 

 

12 oz. Peruvian purple potatoes (make sure they are the kind that are purple on the inside as well as the outside), peeled and cut into small chunks

8 oz. cauliflower florets (from 1 cauliflower, cored, and thick stems and leaves removed), cut up into small pieces

 

3 tablespoons premium unsalted butter

3 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

 

Put a medium or large pot halfway filled with water up to boil on high heat.  Add the cut up potatoes and cauliflower.  Let it come to the boil, and lower heat slightly.  Allow vegetables to cook until they are very soft.  When they are done, pour contents of pot through a sieve in the sink.

 

cauliflower-and-potatoes-cooking

strained-potatoes-and-cauliflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pureed-potatoes

Transfer the cooked potatoes and cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor, and add the butter, creme fraiche and salt.  Process until a smooth, homogenous puree is formed.  You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a little, and process again for a few seconds until everything is incorporated evenly.  Using a rubber spatula, transfer contents into a small baking dish, cover with foil, and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.

 

For the glazed baby spinach and arugula:

 

raw-spinach-and-arugula

 

2 cups water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons premium unsalted butter

 

5 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and drained of excess water

2.5 oz baby arugula leaves, washed and drained of excess water

 

In a medium or large pot, bring water, salt and butter to a boil.  Cover and remove from heat.

boiling-buttered-and-salted-water-for-spinach-and-arugula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

braising-spinach-and-arugula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pressing-strained-spinach-and-arugula-through-sieve

 

Right before serving, when scallops are almost done, bring seasoned water to a boil over high heat, and place spinach and arugula into the water, pressing down with tongs to submerge the leaves.  When they are completely wilted, transfer greens to a sieve, in the sink or over a bowl, and press excess water out with the back of a spoon.

 

For the scallops:

6 large sea scallops, muscles on sides removed, dried thoroughly with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel

2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee) or vegetable oil

kosher salt to taste

Chinese five-spice powder (about a teaspoon or less)

 

For the garnish:

pink tea rose petals and tiny flowers

 

Turn on fan above stove.  Heat a large skillet (cast iron is best) on high for about two minutes, until it is very hot.

To coordinate the spinach and arugula, reheat the buttery water on medium high.  When it comes to the boil, lower heat until water is simmering lightly.

Season dried scallops with salt on both sides.  Sprinkle some five-spice powder on the tops of the scallops.

 

raw-seasoned-scallops

 

Add clarified butter or oil to the hot pan, and when it is hot and shimmering, add the scallops, spice side down, not touching, with plenty of space in between.  Using tongs, loosen them from the pan until they are not sticking, and let them cook until a brown crust forms on each.

 

searing-scallops-seasoned-side-down

 

Meanwhile, plunge spinach and arugula into the simmering buttery water.  Pour contents of pot through a sieve in the sink or over a bowl.  Press with tongs to drain out excess water.

When scallops are brown on one side, flip them over, and allow them to cook on the other side for a couple of minutes.

 

searing-scallops-with-crust-showing

 

Reheat the port and wine reduction over medium, and add the brown butter, as described above, and the salt.  Remove the purple potato/cauliflower puree from the oven.

Drizzle a generous amount of the sauce on two plates.  Scoop some of the purple potato/cauliflower puree onto each plate, and place a small heap of the spinach/arugula mix next to these.  Place three scallops, spice crust sides up onto the sauce on each plate, and garnish with tea rose petals and tiny flowers.  Serve with Champagne or sparkling wine, for a memorable, sensual, shared dinner experience for you and your loved one!

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  May there be much delicious love on your table!