Sunday, May 4, 2008

scallops português and spring fava bean salad

Sunday at Whole Foods is madness and mayhem. But for me (if I'm in the right mood), it's a form of meditation. I spent an hour shopping today, selecting a bunch of bananas with the perfect green-to-yellow ratio, slowly peeling back the husks on ears of corn, and sniffing through the plastic wrap of cheeses. Even when the enormous woman with the "WHERE'S MY ORGANIC COOKIES?!?" bug-eyes almost ran me over with her cart, I wasn't unnerved; I was far too enraptured by the lazy mood of the warm Sunday afternoon, and far too inspired by the food around me as the perfect dinner took shape in my mind.

May is "Explore Portugal" month at Whole Foods. Lucky for me, I don't need to explore it; I am Portugal (well, half-Portuguese, at least). Portuguese ingredients like chorizo, seafood, olive oil and sardines are part of my regular diet. I grew up on Portutalian meals made by my mother, whose self-taught cooking was always a spectacular gourmet amalgamation of my parents ethnicities, Italian and Portuguese. My Portuguese grandmother, however, was more of a purist; her signature dish was a very simple and delicious chicken and saffron rice. If she really persisted, she was allowed to make the delicious croquetas de bacalao that the made the whole house stink of salted cod (which freaked out my father). Her masterpiece however was rice pudding, which she made by the batch in a dozen little ramekins. We used to all hang around the kitchen, smelling the sweet, creamy rice cooking on the stove and eagerly waiting for her to serve it piping hot. We would eat a serving for breakfast, snacks, and for dessert at both lunch and dinner until the batch was gone. More often than not, we'd eat it cold, straight out of the fridge, without bothering to even re-heat it. If we were really lucky (read: obedient children), she'd whip up another batch and the rice pudding feast would commence again.

Last night I was feeling a bit nostalgic for family, my loved one, and my dear Nona (no longer here), so I decided to make myself a Portuguese dinner. My mother would have loved it, but my Nona would have called it decadent. I call it delicious, and worth the bit of a splurge for ingredients.

The Scallops Português are made using two Portuguese specialty ingredients: scallops and chorizo. At Whole Foods, I bought 1/4 lb (4 scallops) fresh scallops, which came out to just over $5. You can buy a whole bag of frozen scallops for $14.99 at Whole Foods, or for $10 at Trader Joe's. The chorizo cost $4.99 for five links. You can buy chorizo fresh or dried; if you buy it fresh, you can freeze the leftovers and then thaw them to use in a variety of dishes. Trader Joe's makes a great chicken chorizo for those of you who don't like pork. The Spring Fava Bean Salad makes use of this delightful seasonal vegetable, and is a nice way to cool off the heavy and spicy sauce of the scallops. I bought some fresh olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods, so I poured a bit of the briney juice into the salad, which gave it a really unique flavor.

Overall, the cost for ingredients in this dish is a bit more expensive than the rice and beans recipe. But the scallops are worth the price, just as the chorizo is a great thing to have in the house to add an extra dimension to just about any dish. You'll see.


Serves 4

For the Fava Bean Salad:

6 pods Fava Beans
1 handful String Beans
1/2 cup fresh Fennel, sliced thinly
1/4 cup chopped scallions or spring onion
1/4 cup fresh Parsley leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Water from Olives
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

For the Scallops:

1 link Chorizo
1 small shallot
1/4 c Red Wine (from the Portuguese wine you'll be drinking with dinner, i.e. Duoro or Ribatejo)
4 Large (Diver) Scallops
1/4 tsp minced Parsley
1/3 tsp Brown Sugar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Extract the fava beans by using your fingernails to pry open the thick pod around to the large beans. Remove the beans and set them aside. Rinse string beans, and cut them in half.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the fava beans. Cook for 1 minute, add string beans, and cook until string beans are just tender, not rubbery and overcooked, about 2 minutes max. Strain completely and immediately rinse with cold water to preserve color and to arrest cooking.

Slice fennel into paper-thin crescent shapes. Toss together in a serving bowl with beans and parsley leaves, lemon juice, olive water, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Remove outer skin from shallot. Slice shallot into thin circles. Set aside. Cut chorizo into thin slices or chunky dice pieces. Set aside.

Heat a small sauté pan. Add olive oil just to grease pan, add shallot and chorizo together. Sauté until chorizo is cooked and shallots start to brown. Add wine, bringing to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer and reduce until wine becomes a thick sauce. To reduce the potency of the flavor, add some chicken stock or water, and a touch of sugar or honey for sweetness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While sauce is reducing, pour a small circle of olive oil on a small dish. Add minced parsley, brown sugar, salt and pepper to make a rub. Dip or rub both flat sides of the scallops in the rub. Set them aside. Heat a sauté pan on high heat to make it very hot. Add a drizzle of olive oil to grease pan, then place scallops in pan on one of the seasoned sides. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then turn over to other side, about 1-2 minutes. If scallops are still undercooked, turn off heat and cover with a lid for another 3o seconds to 1 minute.

To plate, arrange scallops on plate with a serving of bean salad and some rice. Spoon a bit of chorizo and shallot on top of scallops and drizzle the wine reduction sauce on top and around dish. Serve immediately.

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