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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Salad that Saved Scallops

On a slightly ambitious whim, I bought some scallops the other day.  Not just some. A pound.  Now this might not sound like a big deal, but:

A. There's only me and Ty.  And a pound  = 15 BIG scallops.
B. I've never cooked scallops in my life
C. I don't even really LIKE cooked scallops.

I mean, just look at them.

So you can see why this might have been a rash decision.

But they were on sale!  And it was a challenge!  Two things I can never say no to.

Truthfully, the only scallops I ever really enjoy are raw and tucked in sushi rolls with other stuff.  When they're cooked, they seem like sort of fishy, flavorless lumps of rubbery something-I'd-rather-not-think-about.  I've eaten them....but I have never really honestly enjoyed them.

Until maybe now.

Now I will admit something: cooking scallops is harder than it looks.  Sure, when you watch Hell's Kitchen and see Gordan Ramsey throw a pan of imperfect scallops across the dining room because a competitor has sent them raw up to the pass, you think, "Jesus, all you're doing is searing them in a little oil- how hard is it to watch them turn golden?"  Or at least I do.  But you DO have to have the heat just right- high enough to get a nice, browned exterior without leaving the inside underdone, yet low enough that you don't burn the oil and destroy a very nice, $100 all-clad skillet (like I nearly did).  Most of my scallops came out all right for it being my first time, but I had a few that were a little rubbery.  So I'm sorry Hell's Kitchen contestants- I will now only continue to judge you on your horrendous personalities, rather than your cooking abilities.

So this is the salad that saved scallops for me.  The best thing about it is that it is quick to prep and easy enough to make as a decadent lunch to impress someone special...or just treat yourself.  Hazelnut oil is my new-found love, and I plan to use this dressing in many other salads.  The balance of a hearty amount (and I do mean A LOT OF) blue cheese, crispy red onions, and fresh dill combined with the sweetness of the dressing compliments the simplicity of the scallops.  It just all comes together very nicely, and YES- Tyler and I did eat a whole pound of scallops for lunch.  And I liked it.

Seared Scallop Salad with Orange-Hazelnut Vinaigrette
adapted from Perfect Spanish Cookbook

1 lb fresh shelled scallops, (bay or sea)
1/4 red onion, sliced very thinly
6 oz blue cheese or gorgonzola
4 Tbsp orange juice
3 tsp hazelnut oil
4 tsp olive oil, divided
1/2 clove of garlic, pressed or chopped very finely
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
salad greens
salt and pepper

Whisk together orange juice and garlic.  Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in hazelnut oil and 1 tsp olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Rinse scallops and pat dry.  Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the scallops and cook over high heat until each side is golden brown.  Transfer scallops to a bed of salad greens, scatter blue cheese, dill and onions over the top, and drizzle with dressing.  Serve warm.