Friday, May 18, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Scallops Three Ways

I picked up a bag of bay scallops - one pound - and then couldn't decide exactly what I wanted to do with them. I mean, there are so many options.

Everywhere I looked, there were recipes for grilling scallops, but I think the bigger sea scallops are much better suited for that sort of treatment. The little bay scallops don't offer as much surface area, nor are they the best choice when you want impressive presentation.

And threading a bunch of little scallops on a skewer didn't seem like a good use of my time. There are plenty of other ways to cook them.

But even though bay scallops aren't that impressive to look at, they still taste good.

On the raw side

I started with a cold preparation: ceviche. Some people would say that ceviche is raw, since there's no heat applied, but others would tell you that the seafood is "cooked" by the acid. It looks cooked, and the texture changes. I guess it's actually pickled rather than truly cooked. But it's not like a raw scallop any more.

If you're one of the folks who thinks cilantro tastes like soap, you can omit it, or use parsley instead. The parsley won't give you the same flavor, but it will add a nice punch of green color and flavor.

As for the pepper, it depends on how much heat you like. Jalapenos are milder (but larger) than serranos. To tame the heat of either one, remove the seeds and the ribs. If you want more heat, leave those seeds and ribs in place.

Scallop Ceviche

1/4 pound bay scallops
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Quarter the scallops - or, if they're larger, cut them again - you want pieces about the size of a small pea. Combine all the ingredients in a small non-reactive container and refrigerate at least 20 minutes, until the scallops have turned white and feel a little firmer.

Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

This can also be made a day in advance.

Poached!

Poaching is all about cooking something slowly in a liquid. In many cases, that liquid is a stock or perhaps water fortified with wine and herbs.

In this case we're poaching in butter. Yes, butter.

The key here is to keep the temperature very low - you don't want the butter to burn. The thyme infuses the butter with its flavor, and that flavors the scallops as well.

And nothing goes to waste. The butter dresses the pasta.

Butter-Poached Scallops with Tricolor Orzo

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1/4 pound bay scallops
1 cup tricolor orzo
1 small tomato, diced
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper, to taste

In the narrowest pot you have, melt the butter - ideally the scallops should be submerged in the butter as they cook. I used a 2-cup metal measuring cup that's stovetop-safe. They didn't all stay completely submerged, so I had to move them around as they cooked.

Add the thyme to the melted butter, then add the scallops. Turn the heat down as low as it will go - you want the butter to just barely bubble once in a while - not quite a simmer. Cook the scallops, stirring as needed so they cook evenly, until they are evenly white.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water until cooked to your taste.

Add the scallops and all the butter to the pasta, then add the tomato and zucchini. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as needed. Serve warm.

You cooked what?

Did you know that the leaves on cauliflower - those leaves you usually trim off and throw away - are edible?

Sure, you might not buy cauliflower just for those leaves, but this is a great way to use them up. Cooked, they look - and taste - a bit like bok choy.

Of course, if you don't happen to have cauliflower leaves on hand, you could use bok choy or celery instead.

The radishes, cooked just a little bit, add a bright pop of pink and bright white. The cooking mutes their sharpness a bit, so even folks who don't like raw radishes might like these.

Pan-Fried Bay Scallops and Vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Leaves from 1 cauliflower, trimmed of tough or damaged bits, thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound bay scallops

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the cauliflower leaves and cook for a minute or two until they begin to soften.

Add the yellow squash and cook, stirring as needed, until the squash wilts a bit - it's fine if some of them brown a bit.

Add the radishes and cook very briefly, just until they wilt. Add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice, stir to combine, and transfer to a serving plate.

Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the scallops until they are white and cooked just though. If you can get them to brown a bit in spots, that's great, but don't overcook them or they'll get rubbery.

Serve the scallops on top of the vegetables. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and another squeeze of lemon, if desired.

For more information about Whole Foods Friday, see the tab at the top.
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