I am not so humble about my scallops, which I can cook to perfection in no time, in half a dozen different ways, depending on season and ingredient. But truly, they’re so easy to cook, anyone can do this.
They are, however, one food my kids really don’t like–it’s a texture thing. They like the flavor well enough, but confronting a pillowy, tender sea scallop on their plate is just too much for them. Plus, scallops are expensive, so they make appearances in our house as appetizers, or for special occasions, and once in a while the kids will get just one as a side dish.
My basic technique–like so many scallop recipes–involves a quick pan sear, removing the scallops from the pan, deglazing the pan with a seasonal alcohol that will compliment the scallops (think wine in summer, cider in fall….), and serving them over a starch (potatoes are classic, but I’ve used pumpkin and all sorts of squashes, which can be really beautiful).
This version I made earlier in the summer involves fresh corn, handfuls of herbs, and quickly cooked scallops. If you can get your whole family to partake, they really are a good weeknight dinner because they cook so very quickly.
Seared Scallops with Herbed Corn and Prosecco
- 3 ears fresh corn
- a handful of leafy mixed herbs (basil, cilantro, tarragon, parsley–whatever you love, but keep it fragrant)
- scallops, figure on 3-4 per person
- Prosecco or white wine
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, turn off the heat, let cook corn for five minutes. Remove corn from pot. When corn is cool enough to handle, removed kernals the cob. This can be done several hours ahead of time.
- In a large pan, melt about 3 tablespoons of butter, add corn and herbs and quickly toss to coat corn.
- Set corn aside on a large family style serving platter, or in a separate bowl. Wipe out pan.
- Melt another 2T of butter in pan over medium high heat. When sizzling has stopped, add scallops. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, but be careful not to over cook. The scallops should be nicely browned, but not overcooked. If you poke one with your finger, they should feel tender-firm. Too firm and they’re over done.
- Remove scallops from pan and set aside on a small plate.
- Deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup of the Prosecco, scraping up any brown bits.
- Add a scant tablespoon or so of butter to the pan. When it’s melted and sauce is coming together, taste for seasoning.
- Return the scallops and any accumulated juices very briefly to the pan, just to heat through.
- Serve scallops on top of corn, with a spoonful of the wine/butter sauce.
These salads are so simple that they hardly deserve a post, but they have become very popular in our family this summer, and since we write about all the ways that we eat here–the simple and the fancy–they are getting the attention they deserve.
If you’ve followed me for any time at all, you know I’m a purist. I like food that looks like food–impeccable, fresh, seasonal ingredients, prepared so we can (generally speaking) identify them on our plate. Simply prepared, simply dressed, simply presented. I think this helps kids to know what they’re eating, develop a range of taste, and connect more closely with what their food is and where it comes from.
So most nights our salads are simple–1 green lettuce–dressed with olive oil and a vinegar and maybe a fancy salt. But with the abundance of fresh herbs in our garden and at the market–especially basil, mint, chives, and cilantro–I’ve taken to tossing whole and chopped herbs into the salad, basically treating the fresh herbs like another green. I was inspired by Green Goddess dressing, which is basically a vinaigrette-ish concoction of many different herbs and a creamy avocado. Why not throw the herbs in whole? or in a fine chiffonade (thin slice) or roughly torn? So I did, and it was terrific–summery and surprising.
A tender butter lettuce works best, and I dress this herb-filled salad it with a simple vinaigrette of 3 parts olive oil to 1 part white balsamic and there you have it–a fresh, aromatic plate of greens. The kids love it, but if you’re are ways, you can start slowly, with just one herb they love. You can even add a chopped avocado to make it more closely hew to a true green goddess dressing. My favorite green goddess dressing is from here, and we use it also to top grilled fish.
This was one of the salads we served on Saturday with the wings. The other was a country potato salad, which suddenly this summer the kids have decided they love.
Country Mustard Potato Salad
- Potatoes (To serve 8 (we had leftovers) I used 3 red potatoes, and 4 large bintje potatoes–which are exceptionally tender, sweet, and creamy. If you can’t find them, any kind you like will do.)
- Country mustard
- White vinegar (rice, white balasamic…or whatever you prefer)
- Olive oil
- Boil the potatoes whole in a large pot of well-salted water until tender but still holding their shape.
- When cool enough to handle, peel.
- Cut potatoes into large chunks (about 6-8 pieces per potato).
- In a measuring cup mix together 1 T country mustard, 1 T white vinegar, 1/4 cup vegetable oil.
- Pour dressing over potatoes and gently toss to coat.
- Add 1 large T mayonnaise directly to dressed potatoes. Toss gently to coat.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
It may be the end of September, but it’s still summer weather here. So when we had friends over for dinner on Saturday, the only thing to do was barbeque. In retrospect, I might have chosen to do something other than stand in front of the grill in 90+ degree heat grilling wings, but it was a great meal and pretty perfect for the weather. These wings have been a hit in our family for years, and they actually work really well for weeknights if you follow the original instructions and broil them instead of grilling. It’s a lot faster and requires less tending. The sauce/glaze takes about 2 minutes to make if you use bottled lime juice, which works just fine. These wings are sweet and a little spicy and completely messy and addictive–just likes they should be. We had 4 adults, 2 8-year-old girls, a 5-year-old boy and a 6-year-old boy. We ate nearly 8 lbs of wings. I had the genius idea to give the kids their own little table, a little apart from ours, under the shade of the orange tree, and their own plate of wings to dig into. We served them their salads restaurant style, and refilled their wings plate 3 times.
The grown-ups sat here.
Alongside our wings were a Green Goddess salad, a mustard-chive country potato salad (recipes for these TK this week!), a cooling cucumber salad, and a mixed up caprese with grape tomatoes and fresh mozzerella. But maybe the best side of all was the Aspasie champagne my friend Dena brought, which was the perfect drink for the wings. I would have been happy to eat wings and drink champagne all night long.
The original recipe is here but I’ve also copied it below, substituting drumettes which I find easier to cook and eat, reducing the cayenne (you can adjust to your taste), and added grilling instructions.
Apricot Glazed Chicken Wings
- 4 1/2 lb chicken drumettes
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Toss wings with oil, black pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. These can stay covered in the refrigerator for a few hours, or until you are nearly read to grill. It’s a good idea to take them out a little ahead of time so they’re not ice cold when you put them on the grill.
- Blend preserves, lime juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. This sauce will keep, covered, at room temperature until you are read to use it.
- Heat grill to high, then lower heat to medium and place wings evenly on grill. Grill for about 10 minutes, then turn over and grill for about 10 more minutes, until wings are nearly cooked through.
- Brush 1/4 cup sauce on cooked wings and grill 2 to 3 minutes. Turn wings, and brush with 1/4 cup sauce again, and grill 2-3 minutes. Turn wings over and brush with another 1/4 cup sauce. Grill for another 2-3 minutes. Repeat the basting & turning until the wings are deeply browned and fully cooked through. I find wings (like lots of bone-in chicken) can be tricky on the grill. I go for slow and lower heat, to ensure even and thorough cooking without charring the skin.
- Brush with remaining sauce before serving.
We make pizza often–close to once a week and usually on the grill, usually with more or less traditional italian toppings. But this pizza was one of those dishes that came together because of what we had on hand: 1/2 a red pepper, a few ears of corn, a bag of herbed pizza dough from Trader Joe’s, and a good Irish cheddar. It has become one of my new favorite pizzas. Afterwards I discovered that my creation is not unusual, but that’s all the more reason for you to try it. It’s a fast and easy pie full of late summer’s bounty: sweet white corn, bright red peppers, fresh herbs layered over a not-too-sharp cheddar cheese. It’s deliciously savory pie, tempered by the sweetness of the corn and peppers, and the colors are beautiful. It’s a perfect way end to these days that hover lovingly between summer and fall.
Of course, you can do this with any dough, but an herbed dough works especially well. Try adding oregano, basil, marjoram, etc. to your own, or find a premade one that you love.
- 1 recipe herbed pizza dough
- 2 ears sweet white or yellow corn
- 1/2 red pepper, very thinly sliced
- polenta or coarse corn meal for sprinkling pan
- a few ounces, to taste, white cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cook the corn for about one minute in boiling water, then turn off the heat and let the corn sit for 5 minutes. Cool and then cut the kernals off the cob.
Lightly sprinkle cooking surface (pizza stone or cookie sheet) with corn meal or polenta.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, then transfer to pizza stones or cookie sheet.
Top with a light layer of cheddar cheese, sliced red peppers and corn. Be careful not to add too much cheese–you want the cheese to blend the ingredients, not overpower them.
Bake at 450 degrees until cheese is melted and crust is nicely crisp and brown.
The table on the Lanai
For some reason, things are easier on Kauai. Take dinner for instance: grilled fresh fish, rice, local vegetables or salad. Fast, easy, delicious. Both Ella and Finn insisted on maybe our second night that things tasted better in Hawaii. They had a point. It might have been the weather. It might have been the lanai. It might have been the ease of it all, or having all of us together, or the pre-dinner watercolor painting in the secret spot. Regardless–family dinners are a highpoint of vacation partly for the new food (ono, fiddlehead ferns, local pork and beef from just a few miles up the road) but mostly because we all gathered happily together on our garden lanai.
And more to the point: every night we ate at home, the kids happily and eagerly set the table. Can I repeat? They set. the. table. With alacrity. Without complaining. With lovely care to attention and detail. They worked peacefully together. They cooperated. They set the table at home, too, with some regularity, but not nearly with such good cheer and eagerness. At home, this is a chore that interrupts the very ebb and flow of their life. But on the Island? It’s a Fun Thing To Do. Go figure. Personally, I think we need more orchids on the table. Perhaps that would do it.