The recipe was supposed to be family friendly and quick…

and I think it still is…but in addition to being a story about what constitutes fast cooking, this is the story of the beauty of opportunity and an odd place to find a really great ingredient.

The Tuesday Menu

  • Moroccan Spiced Scallops
  • Roast Cauliflower with Cumin
  • Steamed Haricot Vert
  • Couscous or Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Todays menu started out in a decidedly different direction. My sister Lisa had asked me to write about the recipes I feed my kids. You know, the quick ones. Stuff you can make right out of the pantry. Right! – I thought – That sounds like the chickpea and pasta soup from Marcella Hazan. Unlike the barley soup, this is one of her many excellent recipes that I turn to over and over again. As it turned out, just as I sat down to write, I got a call. My neighbor. She was heading over to Costco. Costco?! It’s easy to loathe Costco but there is one thing that I love. Wild dry scallops. I scrapped the soup idea immediately.

I was reading about scallops a few months ago and according to one article, Costco is the place for wild dry scallops. Dry scallops are what you need to look for because they are untreated. They brown beautifully and remain silky, velvety and sweet. Wild scallops are as delicious as anything you might ever hope to eat. Wet scallops, on the other hand, are icky and processed; they are pumped full of water and phosphates which act as a preservative. When you try to cook them, all they do is leak that nasty brine and refuse to brown. Instead wet scallops become rubbery little white blobs. Yuck. So, since my neighbor was going to Costco, and I never go because I hate to, I jumped on the chance for big wild scallops. We decided to share 2 pounds.

Since I discovered the source for these high quality shell fish early this fall, I have been making a bit of a pig of myself. I like scallops a la diavola, a spicy dish of scallops, tomatoes, chilies and linguine and for awhile there I was making it every time my dad went to Costco, bribing him with dinner. But now I am trying not to eat pasta all the time so I found this recipe: Moroccan Spiced Seared Scallops. Since scallops are naturally sweet and have a very appealing texture, I am hoping the kids are really going to like this.

Game Plan:

For the fast version, use the couscous menu variation. Baking sweet potatoes takes an hour at 375 – the same temperature that you roast the cauliflower – if you have the time. You would start the sweet potato half an hour before putting the cauliflower in the oven, and skip the couscous step.

  1. Start the cauliflower first.
  2. Follow the directions on a package of couscous.
  3. Mix the spices for the scallops
  4. Set up a steamer for the beans and fire up the stove
  5. Begin cooking the scallops.
  6. Toss the beans with unsalted butter and sea salt when they are just tender (5 minutes or so) – I just put a tbsp of butter into the serving bowl, and let the hot beans do the melting and give them a squirt of lemon juice and a dusting of sea salt just before serving (any earlier and the lemon will turn them brown!)

Anyway, Lisa, I still think this is fast. Definitely less than a half hour of work – couscous version! AND, the bonus is, even though neither of us ever wants to go to Costco, Dad will happily go and get scallops if you promise him a wonderful meal for his efforts!

Moroccan-Spiced Scallops – from Fine Cooking

  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds large natural dry sea scallops, little muscle on the side removed. This is so easy – just pull it right off.
  • Ground pepper

In a small bowl combine the cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.

Pat the scallops dry and season them with kosher salt and black pepper. Then coat them with the spice mixture.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add half the scallops – DO NOT CROWD! – they won’t brown properly – I’d give an inch or so between each one, turning once, until seared on the outside. Give 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a warm plate and repeat until all scallops are done. Serve with lemon wedges.

Roast Cauliflower

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp good tasting olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 375.

Remove the outer green leaves of the cauliflower and cut the head into florets, toss out the stems. Place cauliflower on rimmed sheet pan and toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. To avoid annoying clumping of the cumin, take pinches of it and rub your fingers together over the cauliflower. Toss again. Place in oven for 30 minutes. This can be served hot or warm and it will turn even the most rabid hater of cauliflower into a devotee!

I’ll let you know how it turns out – I have high hopes. Maybe I’ll get to the Chickpea and Pasta soup later in the week. I’ll have to see what comes my way!

Ok. It’s 4 hours later. The kitchen is clean, the kids are asleep and the votes are in. I liked the scallops although I must say that they really don’t need anything more than unsalted butter and salt and pepper. Martin liked them, but he likes them a la diavola more. The little guy refused to try them, the middle one ate one but really went to town on the green beans and the big one ate mostly cauliflower. I say there was something here for everyone.

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