Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moroccan-Spiced Seared Scallops with Green Grape and Lemon Relish

First of all, I have to confess that I didn’t make this entire recipe. There is a huge controversy in the comments section over the “preserved-lemon shortcut”, some saying that it works and others that it is totally implausible. Add in the fact that I am not a huge fan of grapes and you are left with spicy scallops. Which is all that I wanted anyways.

I learned my lesson with the shrimp salad and instead of ordering 1½ lbs of scallops at the seafood counter, I asked for 8 scallops. They weighed 0.8 lbs. Doubled, that would be 1.6 lbs. The recipe makes 4 servings and I was looking for two servings. So I would have to say that 1½ lbs of scallops is exactly right if you are cooking for four people.

I made a huge error with the spices. I wasn’t paying much attention to the directions and added a full teaspoon of cinnamon, instead of the ¼ teaspoon called for. I tried to remove some of the cinnamon (don’t ask). After the scallops were cooked, I was very disappointed that the seasonings seemed bland. I had been expecting something that would make my tongue dance, but all I got was vaguely cinnamon-y chalk. I blamed it on the excess cinnamon until I ate the leftovers the next day. People who hate cumin say that it tastes like a smelly armpit. I happen to love cumin so I couldn’t even imagine what they were talking about. I can now. Overnight, the cumin had successfully wrested control of the flavor from the cinnamon and I can truthfully say that the second time around the scallops tasted like a smelly armpit.

Much like the controversial “preserved-lemon shortcut”, the cooking instructions for the scallops are completely implausible. If you sear a scallop on the outside, leaving the center translucent and repeat the same operation on the other side, you end up with a scallop that is cooked on the outside and raw on the inside. That’s what translucency means in a scallop: raw. Raw scallops don’t have much flavor and I’m not even sure that they are safe to eat that way so I would recommend ignoring the cooking instructions and cooking the scallops until they are white all the way around.

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Moroccan-Spiced Seared Scallops with Green Grape and Lemon Relish
(source: Fine Cooking)

1 medium lemon
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups seedless green grapes, quartered lengthwise and at room temperature
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. ground turmeric
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 ½ lb. large all-natural “dry” sea scallops, side muscles removed
Freshly ground black pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemon in strips (yellow part only). Reserve the lemon. In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest with ½ cup water and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until the liquid reduces to about 1 Tbs., about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, drain again, and pat dry. Finely mince the lemon zest and combine it with the grapes, 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, scallions, cilantro, and mint in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.

Pat the scallops dry. Season them liberally with salt and pepper and coat them with the spice mixture.

Heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the scallops and cook, turning once, until seared on the outside but still translucent in the center, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a warm plate. Repeat with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and scallops.

Divide the scallops among 4 plates and serve with the relish. Cut the reserved lemon into quarters and squeeze over the scallops and relish. Serve immediately.

Recycle: olive oil bottle

Compost: lemon peel, roots and ends of scallions, cilantro stems, mint stems,