Contrast has been on my mind recently (among many other things, it’s pretty crowded up there!). It is such a key concept in the universe, isn’t it. As babies, contrast is the first thing we distinguish in the world. That’s why a baby will look at your hairline or eyebrows, because he can see the contrast. It is the way we learn, by contrasting things from one another. I see Pablo figure things out this way every day. That’s how our brain makes sense of the world (or tries to). Contrast is also what makes a beautiful photograph. Contrast of texture is what makes a perfect bite (for some reason, a bite of crunchy asparagus, warm rice and melt-in-your-mouth salmon sushi comes to mind). Cultural contrast is what gives countries, cities, families, all their richness.
I think contrast is also where gratitude and acknowledgement come from. We can only be truly thankful for the good things in our lives, if we have also allowed ourselves to acknowledge our pains, needs, frustrations and resentments. Perhaps contrast is just a fancy word for life’s ups and downs. It’s life’s duality. Yin and yang. Life and death. Past and present. Something and nothing. These things cannot exist without each other.
Encountering this idea so often, in parenting, in photography, in cooking, in learning, I’m beginning to realize understanding this is the necessary step to acceptance. And acceptance, the necessary step to serenity and inner balance and peace, things I have been longing for, for a long time. Wisdom would be to embrace all of life’s contrasts, to learn from them, to savor them the way we would savor that bite of asparagus salmon rice, or a beautiful image.
It’s the holidays, so I think of these things. Things I don’t have, wish I had in my life. Things I do have and am thankful for. What this year has brought me, what it has taken away. But instead of thinking of it as have/have not, or win/lose, or success/failure, I’m trying to think of it as the dual flow of my life. And I’m going with the flow.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this, is this idea of contrast and duality in your mind’s eye, or do you function differently in your life?
What brought on these thoughts today is this very festive dish which is my mother’s creation. She used to make this for dinner parties when I was little. And the very key to this dish is the hot and cold contrast between the chilled avocado dressing and the hot seared scallops (“chaudfroid” is a culinary term for that contrast). It really doesn’t work without that. This makes a lovely first course for a smaller dinner party, I hope you’ll get to try it some time.
Tomorrow… posting recipe for our roasted capon with apple chestnut stuffing…
(And since this week is a mini-holiday recipe marathon, if you haven’t already, go take a peek at some holiday appetizer ideas here, and check the recipe for my sunchoke chestnut vanilla soup here.)
Chaudfroid of seared scallops and avocado
Recipe by my mom
Prep time: 20 mn
Cook time: 5 mn
Age for babies: 12 months and up, since this is shellfish
12-16 scallops (depending on their size)
4 avocados (2 of which should be very very ripe)
1/4 cup chives
1/4 cup fresh tarragon and Italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil + 2 tbsp for searing the scallops
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Some mâche (or baby spinach or arugula)
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp butter
Mince the chives. Chop finely the tarragon and parsley.
In a food processor, mix the herbs, the 2 ripest avocados, oil and vinegar. Salt & pepper to taste.
Cover with a plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Shortly before serving, place the mâche on the serving platter. Slice the 2 remaining avocados and place over the mâche around the platter. Cover with plastic wrap to keep the avocado from browning.
Rinse the scallops and pat them dry.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan over high heat. Sear the scallops, about 3 mn on one side, and 1 mn on the other side, using tongs to turn them over.
Place the hot scallops on the bed of mâche and avocado, spoon the chilled avocado mixture over the scallops and serve immediately.