Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jammin': Pesto Seared Scallops and Kale

David Chang once said that it's easy to cook delicious food with high quality ingredients. What's challenging is to make delicious food with low quality ingredients.* And definitely, I find that the better your ingredients, the less you have to do to make things taste great. Here in Sacramento,** the produce is so much fresher than in D.C.,*** and I'm continually pleasantly surprised at how flavorful everything I make seems to come out, even with very simple preparation. Well, I'm sure I'll get used to it soon, and come to expect it, ha.

*Sorry, I can't find a link to the quote--it was several years ago.
**Wow, this is now my fourth cross-country move, not to mention a trans-Pacific move and back.
***Which stands for District of Columbia, and not David Chang, despite its being his hometown.

Pictured above is a seared scallop dish I made, with a simple parsley pesto* and sautéed kale. The scallops and produce came from one of the local farmers markets. I was particularly impressed with the savory flavor of the scallop deglazing, which went fantastically with the sautéed kale.

*I don't add nuts or cheese to my pestos due to reactions. But, interestingly enough, it looks like my nut- and cheese-less variations of pestos are like pistou from Provencal, France. Looks like I'm really going to have to write that blog post I said I would previously, about similar pastes in different culinary traditions.

This is still a work in progress (isn't everything?)--so, like posting a sketch. I haven't actually tried making seared scallops before (they're expensive), so there are more variations I'd want to try in terms of technique, like not cooking the seared scallops in the sauce in order to keep the surface crisp. But in case you're interested, I'm posting what I did below.

Pesto Seared Scallops with Sautéed Kale
Serves 2

½ lb. large scallops, defrosted, patted dry
¼ cup white wine vinegar
parsley pesto (recipe below—makes more than is needed for this recipe, so you can save extra for other uses)

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (about 6 cups, loose)

vegetable oil

  1. Season scallops with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the oil flows quickly over the surface of the pan. Add scallops to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Let them cook undisturbed until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 1 to 1.5 minutes. Flip scallops and cook on other side until similarly browned.
  3. While the scallops are searing on their second side, add small dollops of pesto to the tops of each scallop. Once the second side is done, turn down the heat to medium-low and flip the scallops again so that the pesto’ed side is down. Add white wine vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits and mix with the vinegar and pesto. Cook for another minute, spooning the sauce in the pan over the scallops. Remove scallops from pan and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan.
  4. Turn heat back up to medium. Add chopped kale to the pan and toss until it wilts and is a vibrant green color. You may have to do this in two batches. With the second batch, add a little more pesto and white wine vinegar to the pan so that the kale is seasoned and has some steam to wilt it. Once wilted, toss all the kale together. Divide kale into individually portioned bowls or plates, top with scallops and serve immediately. If desired, serve with freshly steamed rice with scallop and kale cooking sauces spooned over the rice.

Simple Parsley Pesto

1 cup parsley (loose, not packed), chopped
8 cloves garlic
½ - 1 tsp salt (if 1 tsp, the pesto will be too salty to just eat spread directly on a filet of fish, but great to use as a seasoning paste while cooking a dish)
1 tsp Korean chili powder (if you use a different kind of chili powder, you may want to reduce the quantity since Korean chilies are mild, unless you want more heat)
extra virgin olive oil, enough to form a paste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process in bursts, scraping down sides and adding olive oil as needed, until paste is formed.


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