Friday, May 15, 2015

Scallops with Ginger-Soy Aioli

by Sheila Connolly

You know you’re a foodie when the first thing you do when visiting the country’s great cities is find a market.

I just came back from a conference/research trip (the MWA Edgar Awards, Malice Domestic, and an upper-crust party in Philadelphia) that took twelve days and covered multiple states. I’m not complaining (except for the humongous suitcase that I came to hate and would gladly have tossed under a train), although I think I left my brain somewhere along the way. But worth it!

Grand Central Market

The first stop was New York, where the conference hotel sat literally atop Grand Central Station. While I had taken trains in and out of there in the past, I never realized there were other parts of the station I knew nothing about. Thanks to a friend who dragged me off to lunch, I discovered the Market and the Food Court. Oh joy.

I ended in Philadelphia, where I used to work. The first thing I did (after checking into my hotel and getting rid of that suitcase) was to head straight to the Reading Terminal Market and eat a cheese steak at the Down Home Diner. The market has been around for well over a century and has an amazing array of foods. I try to stop in every time I’m in town to buy mushrooms (did I mention that Pennsylvania is the mushroom capital of the world?) that I can’t get anywhere else. Chanterelles (you don’t want to know how much they cost), hen of the woods, beech mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, trumpet mushrooms—I snagged them all, and this week my husband and I are eating a lot of mushroom recipes (starting with a lovely risotto…).

Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market
Mushrooms--yes, I bought them all

But the recipe I wanted to share came from my hotel in Philadelphia, Morris House. A colleague alerted me to its existence a few years ago. It’s a tiny place (15 rooms) in an 18th century house in center city, close to all the historic monuments I want to visit. It has been lovingly restored, and each room is different. Where else can you find a real fire burning in the fireplace in the breakfast room?

It also has a restaurant called M. In last year’s book in the Museum Mysteries series, Razing the Dead, I set a romantic scene there, between my protagonist Nell Pratt and her FBI whatever-he-is James Morrison. Nell is sure he’s trying to break off their relationship (she was wrong). For details you’ll have to read Razing the Dead and the forthcoming Privy to the Dead.

I ate at the restaurant in honor of Nell and James. In the kitchen the woman chef called out orders to the kitchen staff, and I was reminded of Gordon Ramsay. I like to know how things work, including kitchens. Gordon came to mind again when I ordered the scallops (if the show Hell’s Kitchen is any indication, Gordon doesn’t think anyone in the world can cook scallops right).

I’m getting to the food, really. After all this, I’m giving you a quick and simple recipe.

Scallops with Ginger-Soy Aioli

I wish I could tell you that I went to the kitchen and demanded this recipe after the first bite, but I managed to restrain myself.

1/2 cup mayonnaise (if you’re a purist you can make your own—I used Hellman’s)
3 Tblsp soy sauce
1 Tblsp coarsely grated fresh ginger
1 Tblsp fresh chives, diced finely
Juice of half a small lemon

Simple, isn’t it? Just mix them together and you’re good to go. One piece of advice: taste as you add the ingredients. The amounts are suggestions, and you can tweak them as you like. You could also add garlic (with restraint!), or cayenne (just a dash) or horseradish (a pinch).

The aioli--looks so innocent, doesn't it?

Sauté your scallops briefly in butter, with the aioli on the side for dunking. Serve immediately with salad greens lightly tossed with vinaigrette. I found that the scallops are the perfect complement to the aioli, because their sweetness cuts the tartness just a bit. But you can use any white fish. Heck, use the stuff as a marinade for chicken—it’s that good.

Look, Gordon--I can cook scallops!

BTW, for a cheese course I ordered unpasteurized sheep cheese (which the menu described as “musty”), which came paired with a dollop of butterscotch sauce. I know, it sounds crazy—but the combination worked. That invisible chef has a wonderful sense for flavors.

Privy to the Dead (Museum Mystery #6), coming June 2nd!

Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, has something to smile about thanks to a generous donation from a major Philadelphia developer who’s willing to help update their museum. But renovations have barely begun when a man is struck by a car in front of the building and killed.

The victim is a construction worker who found a curious metal object while excavating an old privy in the museum’s basement. Nell thinks the death is somehow connected to the Society, and her suspicions are confirmed when an antiques expert reveals a link between the objects from the cellar and a fellow staff member’s family.

Now Nell must unearth a mystery with ties to the past and the present. Because when someone is willing to kill over scrap metal, there’s no telling what they’ll do next…

Available now for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. oh my Sheila, the food part of the trip sounds wonderful--and the scallops too!

    will you try traveling with a carry-on next time? the one thing we've figured out is you can get laundry done almost anywhere. And I usually don't use half of what I bring

    1. Next time I may travel with one pair of black pants and clean undies. Maybe an extra pair of shoes. Or mail clothes to the hotel. I've never tried sending out laundry--yet.

  2. I had no idea either that Grand Central Station held such delights (other than the Oyster Bar.) This looks wonderful--will have to try it.

    1. I had been hearing about the Oyster Bar for years but had no idea where it was. Now I know!

  3. While I can't make that dish in my partner's Kosher Kitchen, I could post it to my Pinterest page to save and share... Hopefully one day I'll be able to prepare it if one of my friends asks me to cook for a party in their home.

    I'm looking forward to reading Privy. I love the series and the cast of characters.

  4. What a beautiful presentation. Well done.

  5. It always breaks my heart to find all these wonderful foods while I'm traveling, with no kitchen to use them. The mushrooms survived the trip well, though. I had to pass on the giant artichokes because they weighed about three pounds each.

  6. So funny, I actually wrote a simalar post on my blog. The first thing I do on every trip is visit a supermarket. And the last thing we do is revisit the markets to bring stuff home.. Here we have 3 large chains, only one is very local/home grown (Price Chopper.) And then we have Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fresh Market and tons of Co-Ops, specialty markets and farmer's markets. Basically we have food every where you go in NYS's Capital District.
    And even tho we have more places to buy food than any human being could need, I love visiting other markets. I love bringing home and trying new things. Bonding over food is a part of my life, so I like having as much diversity as possible.
    Curious if you agree, I love the Big Y and Market Basket?

    1. I love the local Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and recently we've gotten a few Wegman's, which are amazing. There's also a truly unusual Russian market not far from here, with things I've never seen anywhere else (and I can't even translate the labels). Market Basket is a source of local pride, since the owners actually treat their employees fairly. I don't know Big Y. But markets are always fascinating, wherever you go.

  7. What did he find in the privvy? Hmm... And I do love to shop markets. I don't live near a Trader Joe's so that is always a treat for me. And I am always so tempted to buy things but then don't have time to use them before we leave again. But it's fun to look.
    Thanks for the post!

    1. You never know what you're going to find, Elaine. I embarrassed myself at our local farmers' market when I spied a whole pile of baby kohlrabi and bought them all. I'm pretty sure most of the people there had no idea what they were, or what to do with them, but I found a recipe. They were too cute to pass up.

  8. I feel like you took me with you! Thanks for all the wonderful photos, Sheila. I love tiny hotels like that. Must remember it.

    My favorite part of Gordon's Hell's Kitchen is when he blindfolds the chefs and makes them take a taste test. I bet you'd come through with flying colors. Your presentation is beautiful and I bet the scallops were delicious!