Vegetable Orzo with Seared Sea Scallops

A while ago I purchased vegetable dyed orzo but hadn’t used it until now.  That’s the problem with limited cupboard space in that things get pushed to the back or under a pile.  I was going through the small island cabinet for something else when I found the orzo.  It just so happened that Peter from Kalofagas posted this recipe from his blog.  He used monkfish which I would have gladly bought if it was available.  Not to worry, I could have used other fish but decided to go with fresh local scallops…they had just arrived!

Serves 4
inspired by Kalofagas

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, sliced
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced fennel
1/3 cup diced eggplant
1/3 cup diced red pepper
1 /3 cup diced zucchini
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup orzo
2 1/2 cups hot water
chopped parsley, to sprinkle over orzo
salt and pepper to taste
sea scallops (pat dry with paper towel)

Place a pot over medium heat and add olive oil, scallions, carrots, fennel, eggplant with a pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute then add orzo. Stir constantly for 5 minutes. Add the hot water and cover. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until most of liquid has been absorbed. Add zucchini, adjust seasoning, cover and keep warm.

To sear the scallops: heat a nonstick sauté pan over a high heat, and add a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil.  The butter/oil mixture needs to be very hot before you add the scallops — you should actually see just the tiniest bit of smoke.  Place the scallops flat-side down in the hot pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan, or you’ll lower the pan temperature, causing the scallops to be steamed rather than seared.  Once you’ve placed the scallops in the pan, don’t touch them! If you do, you won’t get a nice brown crust. 

Because of variation in scallop thickness, pan temperatures etc. it’s not easy to pinpoint an exact cooking time. But after a couple of minutes, it’s OK to peek underneath. If you see a nice, caramel-colored crust on the underside, they’re ready to flip.

Scallops should be removed from the pan and served while their centers are still slightly translucent (you can check this by viewing them from the side), because they’ll continue to cook after you take them off the heat.   They should still be quite springy if you press them with your finger. If they are very firm or stiff, they’re already overcooked.  Scallops start to turn rubbery if you wait too long to serve them, so get them on the plate right away

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  You can omit the scallops and serve this with chicken, fish or by itself for a true vegetarian meal.  Enjoy!

1 Comment

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