I am a huge fan of scallops, any time of year, but I especially like cooking with them during the Summer months - pairing them with light sauces and sides as a main entree, or simply searing them and serving as a protein atop a bright salad filled bursting with citrus flavors.
And yesterday, my craving for these lovely mollusks came a' calling. After picking out a few fantastic ingredients at Whole Foods, I knew what my dinner was going to be.
May I introduce you to the above ingredients that truly made one of the best salads I have ever created, and, to my surprise, that I have ever had.
(I only cooked this salad for myself, hence the 4 scallops, but you can vary the amounts of the ingredients to your taste and liking. If you are allergic to shellfish, chicken would be a great addition or any other whitefish, or go without a protein and crumble some goat cheese on top!)
* fresh chives, chopped
* 1/2 shallot, finely minced
* 1 ruby red grapefruit, 1 tablespoon juiced and about 6 segments of fruit (explained below)
* 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
* 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (remember the better the oil the better flavor of vinaigrette)
* baby romaine lettuce (or butter lettuce)
* 1/2 avocado, sliced to your liking
* 1 heart of palm, sliced
* 1/8 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
* handful of pinenuts
* 4 scallops, preferably U10 size, dry packed, never been frozen (see asterisk at bottom)*** olive oil (for cooking the scallops)
* sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
OK, first, don't be intimidated by the use of ingredients or techniques listed - honestly, I was so surprised by how easy this turned out! And though most are intimidated by cooking scallops, it is a lot easier than you think.
First, start with the grapefruit, as you will need some juice for the vinaigrette.
Segmenting the grapefruit: slice both ends off of the grapefruit so it sits flat on your cutting board. Then, using a knife, start to remove the outer skin or pith of the fruit by cutting around the fruit in a rounded motion:
Continue to do this around the grapefruit to remove all of the outside so you are left with only the inner fruit. Segmenting is pretty simple, just slice around the inner membranes that hold the segments together to remove the fruit (I couldn't take a pic b/c my hands were totally full!)
Next, the vinaigrette. Lately I have been keeping my vinaigrettes super simple, heavily focusing on how fresh citrus juice really heightens the salad. Here, I combine in a bowl the chives, shallots, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I don't even whisk this, just simply mix together with a spoon.
Before I start the scallops, I get all of my other ingredients prepped:
Ok, onto the scallops. I simply sprinkle sea salt and pepper on them as I bring my skillet up to high heat and wait for the olive oil to get really hot. A key to perfectly cooked scallops is to have the pan and oil REALLY hot so that they don't stick. The scallops are really only cooking 3-4 minutes a side, if that, so in order to create the color or crust that you want it's best to have everything as hot as possible.
I chose to use my non-stick skillet, but you can use a stainless steel as well. I just find it is easier to cook them in non-stick.
When cooking scallops, there is a common tendency to overcook them. The perfect scallop is slightly still opaque in the middle when you slice into it, and in this case it was 4 minutes on the first side, flipped them, and then 2 minutes on the other side. And, boy, were these scallops perfectly cooked.
Then, to plate. Toss the lettuces, hearts of palm, and Vidalia onion with the vinaigrette and place on plate. Scatter avocado, grapefruit, and pinenuts on salad and top with scallops...
The acid from the citrus (both vinaigrette and grapefruit segments) really balances well with the buttery-ness of the avocado and the natural sweetness of the scallops. Plus, the welcomed pungency from the shallots, chives, and Vidalia onions really put the "roundness" on all of the flavors, enticing every one of my taste buds.
Oh, and I picked up a fantastic, inexpensive Riesling that paired beautifully. Plow and Stars - Columbia Valley 2008 Riesling, and it was made with organic grapes!
This salad was wholesomely delicious and took about 15 minutes to make. Though it was just a simple dinner "in" for me, it would be a great starter or entree salad for any event this Summer. Cheers and enjoy!
**about scallops: U10 means that less than 10 will equal one pound, so they are larger in size. You can use any size, but I prefer to use larger scallops always. Dry packed: this means that the scallops haven't been soaked in a phosphate solution that makes them whiter and absorb more water. When you cook with "wet" scallops, this solution leaches out, so technically you end up steaming them rather than ever getting a true sear on them. Plus, this phosphate solution is a common ingredient in soaps and detergents, so better to "steer clear" of "wet" scallops and only look for "dry packed" or "chemical free". Look for scallops that have not been previously frozen; fresh scallops will not retain water as frozen scallops will - the frozen scallops will leach a lot of liquid when you are cooking them and will also steam rather than get a good crust on them. For more information, please click on this link: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/fishseafood/p/freshscallops.htm