This is the first weekend we’ve had in Atlanta that really felt like spring, with temperatures warm enough to sit outside comfortably in the sunshine without shivering. There are trees and flowers bursting out with blooms and things are getting greener by the day. Nice time of year to be in the Southeast!
These plump sea scallops with thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini are so fresh and light – just like spring. They also only take minutes to cook! When buying scallops, make sure that you are getting “dry” scallops, and not scallops that have been treated with phosphates. Phosphates are used as a preservative, and cause the scallops to adsorb water – water that makes them weigh more (and cost you more per pound), and water that will leach out like crazy when you try to cook them. They will not sear, and you won’t get that tasty caramelized crust. Look for scallops with a pinkish color to them – the blindingly white scallops have been chemically treated.
I used a regular peeler to slice the zucchini into ribbons, but you could also use a mandolin slicer (or patience and a sharp knife). Just make long slices all around the zucchini until you get to the seedy part in the middle, which can be discarded. There you have it – zucchini ribbons!
To julienne the basil, roll up several leaves tightly together, like a cigar. Starting at one end of the “cigar”, cut into thin slices.
I neglected to measure the ingredients when I made this, so the amounts are approximate.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 8-10 sea scallops
- Oil suitable for high heat cooking (I used coconut oil)
- 2 good-sized zucchini, sliced thinly into ribbons
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- ~2 tablespoons butter (preferably from pastured cows)
- splash of extra-virgin olive oil
- ~1/4 cup light stock (I used chicken stock)
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 4 ounce log of soft, fresh goat cheese
- handful of basil leaves, julienned
- Coarse salt (sea salt or kosher salt) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pat the sea scallops dry with paper towels. If present, remove the adductor muscles (looks like a little “foot”) from the side of the scallops and discard. Those tend to be unpleasantly chewy, and they pull right off with a little tug. Lightly season with salt and pepper, and set the scallops aside.
In a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter with a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the shallots for about a minute – but not long enough to brown. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a simmer. Toss in the zucchini ribbons and cook for a few minutes, continuing to toss the zucchini, until it is just tender and the liquid in the pan has reduced a little. Stir in about 2 ounces of the goat cheese with the lemon juice, until the goat cheese has melted and the liquid in the pan is sauce-like. Stir in some of the basil, saving some for the final garnish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, but keep warm.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until VERY hot (cast iron is good, but any heavy-bottomed skillet will work). Add a very thin layer of coconut oil (or other high-heat oil) to the pan, swirl to coat, and immediately add scallops, flat side down. Do not crowd the pan – you may need to cook the scallops in two batches, depending on how big your skillet is. DO NOT move the scallops – sear them for 2 minutes, then turn and sear for about a minute (maybe 1 1/2 minutes) on the other side. It is important not to overcook the scallops or they will be rubbery and tough. They should be nicely seared on the outside, but should still be a little translucent-looking in the middle as you look at them from the side. They will feel a little springy to the touch – not stiff. When they are done, remove them from the pan and keep warm while you finish cooking them all.
To serve, place a mound of zucchini noodles on a plate, and place the scallops around it. Add a dollup of the remaining goat cheese to the top, and garnish with the rest of the julienned basil. Enjoy!
Two from Texas today! First up, the new album from songwriter and artist Terry Allen, Bottom of the World. Allen is one of those Lubbock lads- along with Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmy Dale Gilmore- who radically reshaped country music in the late ’70s. Allen doesn’t release music very often, but when he does its always an illuminating listen. Sample title…”Do They Dream Of Hell in Heaven?”. Thought-provoking country!
Billy Joe Shaver is another “outlaw” country performer, and his hits are legendary. The Complete Columbia Recordings gathers his mid-’80s Columbia output and puts them back in print, and high time they did! Shaver has a unique way of looking at the world, and once you get a taste, you’ll be back. Just like the scallops!