A nice short trip to the mountains always seems to put things back in place for us. Sometimes I think that I should get a couple of jobs in the summertime so that we can save enough for nice winter vacations.
I imagine that a typical predicament for those of us who live at the beach is that we would want to get away from the wet flatlands. People from the other side of ‘The Crick’ come to the beach for vacation, so it would only make sense that we would want to go hither and yon, significantly higher in altitude, to get away.
Amid the 8-degree days, one tends to lean towards the warming comfort foods such as pot roast, roasted chicken et al.
Yet, as I looked around at the crisp and pristine mountains, visually and spiritually absorbing the flurries as they fell, somehow it put me in the mood for zesty, fresh food with a little kick. Seafood struck a chord immediately so it was off to find the local market.
Thirty minutes later, armed with a bag of food, it was time to make zesty and spicy seared tuna and scallops over a mélange of roasted pepper, roasted lemon and fennel. Incredibly easy, and full of flavor this is a simple dish to add to your recipe rolodex.
Fennel is said to have good healing properties, and this could be a reason as to why it has been such a formidable staple in the European kitchen, namely in The Med, for centuries. Also in the recipe is dried red chili, which provides heat, an obviously warming trait.
The capsaicin in the chili lends itself to the body to increase circulation and give us a chance to warm our structure from the inside out.
Truth be told, I originally headed to the market to get some fresh shrimp for a little Fra Diavolo. I was dismayed to learn that only precooked shrimp were available. Undeterred, it was but a short glance to the left to realize that the tuna looked perfect, so a quick adjustment yielded what you see in the picture. Fresh, dry scallops finished the protein portion of the plate and it was on to produce.
Before I go any further, I want to write about the dry scallops. I believe that I have written about them before, but it would be presumptuous of me to assume that you read every blasted article, so onward and upward.
Have you ever purchased scallops the size of silver dollars only to get home and cook them down to the size of silver dimes? The reason is that the scallop is wet, a processing term for full of brine. This pumps up the scallop in the raw state, making it look more appealing, but more importantly for the processor, making it heavier for weigh-in. The water simply cooks out with the application of heat. Thus, dry scallops are much-preferred.
I’m happy that the fra diavolo was a no-go, and that we had to suffer through the adjustment. Now I just need to find a reason to call in sick tomorrow wo I can stay in the mountains for another day.
Seared Tuna & Scallops
2 oz. Fresh Tuna 2 ea. Fresh Sea scallops S&P to taste EV Olive Oil & Butter as needed
Get a pan very hot and then add your oil and butter. Season the seafood with salt & pepper
Let this cook until it stops sizzling. This means that the liquid in the butter (butter is an emulsion of oil and water) has evaporated
Carefully add the seasoned seafood and let sit until darkened on the first side. Don’t rush this and don’t move them around in the pan
Turn and remove the pan from the heat. The carryover cooking will take the tuna to medium rare or medium, and the scallops to just-done
Serve atop the mélange of vegetables in the recipe below
Mélange of Vegetables
EV Olive oil and butter as needed
1 dried chili 1 ea. Red pepper, stripped of seeds and stem
1 head fennel, shaved
3 cloves fresh garlic ½ ea. Yellow onion, fine julienne 1 c. Dry white wine 2 ea. Fresh lemons, halved 8 halves of sundried tomato 2 sprigs marjoram 1 sprig Rosemary S&P to taste
Heat the oil and butter in a hot pan until the sizzling subsides
Roast the lemons, cut side down, until dark brown. This adds a gorgeous flavor to the vegetables
Add the chili and red pepper and allow to blister
Remove the lemon and the peppers and set aside
Remove the chili (This you can now discard)
Add the fennel, onion and garlic and stir to coat with the fats in the pan
Deglaze the pan with white wine, turn down the heat and cook until everything is tender
Add the sundried tomatoes and add the lemons & peppers back to the pan
If this is too acidic, simply add a chunk of butter to add some creaminess and adjust your seasonings
**This may seem like a lot of steps, but it truly is simple to accomplish as long as your vegetables are cut and you are set up and ready to go (in French Culinary we call this “mise en place”)