Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Scallop Challenge

I haven't had a "DANG!" moment in the kitchen like this for a while.  A "DANG!" moment is when I make something that is soooo tasty that I literally say "DANG!" when I take that first bite.  It's usually followed by what one class of former students at Bauman College called "the growl"...... I think it's more like a purr, but who am I to say.

This particular Dang Moment came from a recipe I developed for a book that a nutritionist I work for has coming out later this year.  I was tasked with developing 25 recipes, in specific categories, with specific considerations: no gluten, dairy, soy for one (or three, I guess).

One request was for a seafood recipe, preferably shrimp or scallops.  I'm allergic to shrimp, so if I can't taste it, I don't want to put it in a book.  So I went, lovingly, with scallops.  I DIG scallops, but I usually like to cook them in some kind of a cream sauce.  But I can't use cream for this assignment.  So.....let's use coconut milk.  Oh how I love a challenge!

I must confess I got the idea for the sauce from my friend Francesca when we made a roasted red pepper coconut and pea sauce for a chicken dish we made at The Ceres Community Project. I played around with it a smidge, and made a sauce perfect for delicate scallops.

Let's start with roasting a couple yellow bell peppers....

You can do this a few ways.  My favorite is to place them on my gas flame and keep turning them until fully (or as best you can get) blackened.  You can also place them under the broiler, if you don't have a gas stove, and also keep turning until blackened, or you can roast them at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes, turning occasionally until blackened.  Do you get the goal here...."blackened."

Once your peppers are sufficiently roasted, place them in a  bowl and cover with a plate to "sweat" them, or place them in a paper bag and fold the bag down tight to  capture the heat.  Let it sit for at least 20 minutes, and the skin will slide right off.  Take out the seeds , stem and membrane and chop them up.

While the peppers are roasting, cook diced onion in oil until soft and lightly browned.  Then put the onion, chopped peppers and coconut milk in a blender and puree.  Add a little lime juice and salt and you're all set with the sauce.

You want to wait til that's ready before you start cooking your scallops, because scallops cook so quickly....

Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season with sea salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large skillet (cast iron gives you the best sear - crispy edges) and wait til oil is good and hot - I wet my hand and spritz a little water in the skillet; if it sizzles, you're good to go.  Place the scallops in skillet, careful not to overcrowd the pan - work in batches or use 2 skillets.  Sear for about 3 minutes, flip and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until crispy outside and soft inside.

Remove scallops to plate and tent with foil to keep warm.  Pour coconut-pepper mixture in the skillet  and along with some basil leaves and cook a few minutes until warm.

Peel one zucchini per person and mound into individual bowls.  Add three scallops and pour some sauce (to your liking) over the whole dish.

I made this the other night when a friend came over who "hates" coconut.  Sorry, but this is what I'm testing.  I offered to make something else for him, but he didn't want me to go to the trouble (got to love that!), so he tried it...... he asked for seconds!!  I think that says it all..... well, plus a "DANG!"

Seared Scallops in Sweet Pepper-Coconut Sauce
Serves 4 

2 yellow bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 dozen large sea scallops
Sea salt &freshly cracked pepper
¼ cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
4 zucchini
·         Preheat broiler with a rack in the upper third position (not directly under the broiler, but the next rung down) 
·         Line a baking sheet with foil and broil peppers, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides, about 20 minutes. (Alternately, if you have a gas stove, you can roast each pepper over the flames, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides, about 10-12 minutes.
·         Remove peppers and place in a large bowl and cover with a plate to sweat the peppers for 15-20 minutes, or place in a paper bag and fold & tighten the bag to sweat them.
·         Meanwhile heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet – preferable cast iron – over medium meat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and lightly browned, about 4- 5 minutes.  
·         Remove onions from skillet and place in a bowl.  Wipe out skillet, removing all onion pieces.  Set aside.
·         Remove skin, stem and seeds from peppers, chop roughly and add to bowl with onions.
·         Transfer onions and peppers to blender and add coconut milk, lime juice and a pinch of salt.  Blend for about 30-45 seconds or until smooth.   Set aside
·         Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and season one side with salt and pepper.
·         Heat remaining tablespoon oil in skillet over medium high heat.  When hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle, add half the scallops, seasoned side down, and season the remaining side with salt and pepper.  Cook 3-4 minutes per side, until a crisp, brown crust forms.
·         Transfer cooked scallops to a pate and tent with foil to keep warm
·        Add remaining 6 scallops, adding more oil if necessary.  Remove to tented plate.
·       Add coconut-pepper mixture and basil leaves to skillet to warm, just 2-3 minutes.  Meanwhile peel the zucchini into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler and place in on individual plates or bowls.
·         Place 3 scallops on each of the zucchini “noodles” and top with sauce.
Cook Happy!

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