Vowing to keep the dishes as simple as possible, I gave the seafood only the most basic of seasoning (salt, pepper, chopped mixed French herbs). Sautéed shrimp are of course no big deal, and neither really are scallops.
The trick to a good scallop is to resist the urge to touch it. The whole point is to give the delicate scallop a crusty skin, and if you move it around that isn’t going to happen. I feel like my house guest tried to touch one, and I literally hit her. Of course, you should also have the pan as hot as the oil it contains can handle, and be gentle with the scallops in general. Also, always remove the adductor muscle, which is that muscle the scallop ordinarily uses to hold its two shells together. Now its only job is to taunt you with its unpleasant texture. You so crazy, evolution! Just look for a little bit of what seems to be identical to the rest of the meat, but is hanging off of the side ready to be peeled off.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if the adductor muscle could be cooked separately and used for flavoring a sauce…
Foolishly I used cooking spray rather than olive oil and butter, because I was trying to keep the scallops healthy. Sadly that resulted in too much browning, and I wasn’t able to save as much of the fond as I would have wanted for the sauce. The sauce, by the way, was started with the aforementioned fond plus all of the shrimp shells. Those were stirred over medium heat for a minute or so, and then I added in white wine and any remaining herbs. This mixture was boiled for a few more minutes, strained, and then finally finished with some butter, salt, pepper, and any juices left over from the cooked shrimp and scallops. The result was definitely too brown (which again I blame on cooking spray and, indirectly, trying to be healthy), but the flavor was there.
Accompanying the main dishes was fresh zucchini from the farmers market. These were just barely sautéed and then covered and left on low heat to steam. And to finish out the meal was the black rice, which takes an inordinate amount of time to cook. I threw in some shiitake mushrooms and shredded parmesan for good measure. Somehow this was almost every guest’s first black rice, including mine. It has a really favorable texture, almost like popped rice. The mushrooms didn’t add much, but I appreciated their presence. A few days later I used it as the side dish with a tilapia filet, and then the next day it was the basis for a chicken soup.
Note to self: “Watching the Calories” sounds like a terrible reality show concept. Even still, copyright that.
P.S. Hope you like this money shot (in the gallery below) of Artemis, the house gypsy. She was interested in the new “dining room” arrangement, which is what I like to call four people squeezing into the corner of a tiny galley-style New York kitchen.