09 January 2007

On Seasonality and Scallops

I am fascinated how things come into season in winter. And by into season, I don't mean the strawberries they've trucked up from Guatemala or another warmer clime. Unfortunately, we have all gotten used to being able to buy whatever produce we want when we want it, at the sacrifice for taste and flavor. Living the past year in Damascus, fruit was only available in season, which meant if you wanted strawberries in July you were out of luck. However, no one was thinking about strawberries in July because we were busy gorging ourselves on the glorious peaches whose juice would roll down our chins daily until we moved on to pears, then figs, and so on. The seasons may be shorter, but I can tell you that you haven't tasted sweeter fruit or better tomatoes and squash in your life.

But back to New York, where it is winter, and you can have all the strawberries you want. But winter doesn't mean things are out of season, round globes of persimmons beckon from vendors and scallops and shrimp glisten in the market. Isn't it amazing that little bay scallops somewhere in the frigid waters off of Nantucket, reach maturity just now as winter slides into lifeless doldrums- Nature, my friends, provides for us.

I adore scallops of any type, so I scooped up these little beauties while they were fresh. A small amount goes a long way, so I hope you will forgive me if we go a bit scallop-crazy here for a moment. Here's the first of our installments, the scallops nestled in an artichoke cup making a perfect first course.

Bay Scallops in Artichoke Cups

2 tbl olive oil
1/2 lb bay scallops
2 leeks, root and green parts trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbl minced parsley plus more for garnish
4 artichoke bottoms*

- Place the artichoke bottoms in a small pan of simmering water and let simmer while you prepare the scallops.

- Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over high heat. Add the scallops and toss until one side is seared, only 1-2 minutes. Removee the scallops and set aside. If necessary, add some more oil to the same pan, add half the leeks and saute until softened. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the white wine, scraping up any brown bits. Add about a cup of water (or stock), the remaining leeks, the chopped parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the scallops and their juices back to the pan and toss to combine. Remove pan from the heat.

- Place a warm artichoke bottom on a serving plate. Place some of the scallop mixture onto the artichoke bottom and spoon some of the sauce over. Garnish with parsley. Repeat with remaining four plates.

* I use canned artichoke bottoms, such as Roland brand, for convenience. If you prefer, you can prep fresh artichokes: trim away the leaves and scoop out the furry choke to reveal the meaty bottom, you will need to cook the bottoms for about 45 minutes until they are tender.

Sincerest apologies for the delay in posting- I even planned out posts ahead of time, but I have been travelling and the server would not support blogger, despite many frustrated attempts, including yelling at the computer screen.

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