launched: A Celebratory Dinner Al Fresco

Okay, so if we still lived in the Bay Area, we’d probably celebrate the launch of my book and the new website at Gary Danko’s, or Boulevard or even the old sentimental favorite Chez Panisse.

But we don’t.

Good news is no waiting one month for reservations, no major attitude. (I remember my mother rolling her eyes at Chez Panisse and drawling, “They act like I’ve never seen a candied violet before in my life.”)

However, if I want food that good I have to cook it. More good news. If you keep it very simple, it’s possible. (Okay, not the white corn and lobster soup that I had there that I will never forget, but still . . .)

As this was a celebration, I didn’t want to spend hours slaving. I’d already done that on the book and website. In Food and Wine Magazine, I found a great simple recipe I will save for all time.

Grilled Scallops in a Honeydew and Avocado Salsa


Finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 pounds honeydew melon, rind removed and melon cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 1/2 cups)
1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large sea scallops

In a large bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the diced honeydew melon and avocado. Season the salsa with salt and black pepper.

Light the grill. Drizzle the scallops with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until nicely charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. ( I used scallops from Whole Foods and grilled them 2 1/4 minutes total.) Transfer the scallops to plates, spoon the salsa alongside and serve.

The toasty flavors of a California Chardonnay would be delicious with the sweet and smoky scallops. We drank a bottle of Talley Rosemary Vineyard Chardonnay that we’d been saving for just such an occasion. Their Arroyo Grande Chardonnay is excellent with this, too.

I wish I had a picture of the patio with all the little twinkling lights and flickering candles and me and Dave happy, happy, but I don’t. I’ll put up this old picture of the patio.

This is just to say that you can have a Chez Panisse meal on a Wal Mart budget. Cost of ingredients maybe 10 dollars. The wine a splurge given the event, but my Italian friends love Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Can’t beat the price there.

For some reason, I’m on this mission to show all us 99 percenters that we can live like the 1 percent with a little creativity and work. Maybe if we’re all having a good time, are not angry and resentful, we won’t vote for mean, stingy people who cut food stamps for poor children. Maybe.

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