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Torched to perfection

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Blowtorch Scallops With Spinach and Heirloom Tomato Water

(4 servings)

THE Washington Post recently challenged D.C.-area chefs to come up with recipes that feature at least two superfoods. Stunning yet simple, this entree from Bryan Voltaggio, chef-owner and Jeffrey Stoneberger, sous-chef, at Range and Aggio in D.C., is a foolproof way to give scallops a sear without overcooking them. Superfood components beyond the pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and honey: tomato, olive oil.


PLANNING AHEAD: The tomato water needs to ferment/rest for 24 hours. The scallops need to cure for 45 minutes. The pickled leek (a necessary garnish) can be used as soon as it's cooled, but tastes best when you allow 2 days' rest in the refrigerator.

A small culinary torch is the surprise cooking implement needed here, but a 14-ounce propane torch from the hardware store is less expensive and what many professional chefs use.

White soy sauce (shiro shoyu) has a less-earthy flavor and is lighter colour than regular soy sauce. It can be hard to find; light-coloured soy sauce may be substituted and is available at large Asian markets.



For the tomato water

265 ml (9 oz) heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunks

6 ml (11/4 tsp) white or light-coloured soy sauce, plus more for garnish (see headnote)

1 ml (1/4 tsp) extra-virgin olive oil

1 ml (1/4 tsp) pumpkin seed oil, plus more for garnish

2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) fish sauce



10 stem-on baby spinach leaves

15 ml (1 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 ml (1 tsp) Old Bay Seasoning



2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) honey

2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) Old Bay Seasoning

8 dry-pack U-10 scallops, each cut in half horizontally

Pickled leek rings, for garnish*

Roasted, unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds, for garnish



For the tomato water: Line a fine-mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth; suspend it over a bowl.

Combine the tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil, the 1 ml (1/4 tsp) pumpkin seed oil and the fish sauce in a food processor. Pulse until liquified; transfer to the strainer to drain (at room temperature) for 24 hours.

For the spinach: Pinch off any tough stem ends on the spinach.

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant and warm, then add the spinach and sprinkle with the Old Bay. Cook just until the spinach is shiny and starts to become translucent; it should not be totally wilted. Remove from the heat.

For the scallops: Whisk together the honey and Old Bay until well blended; pour into a shallow dish large enough to hold the scallop halves in a single layer. Turn the scallops to coat all over. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Place the marinated scallops in a metal baking pan or on a surface that won't be harmed by the flame of a torch; discard any remaining marinade. Use the torch to sear each scallop for 6 1/2 to 7 seconds; they will look charred but not cooked through. Turn them over and torch the second side for a second or two; the scallops will contract a bit but still will look mostly uncooked.

Line up individual plates. Arrange 4 scallop halves on each plate, first-torched side up. Spoon equal amounts of the tomato water on and around them. Drizzle a few drops of pumpkin seed oil around each plate. Place a few of the cooked spinach leaves on each plate, then scatter the pickled leek rings and pumpkin seeds over each portion. Serve right away.


* To pickle the leek (without added salt), combine 125 ml (1/2 cup) red wine vinegar, 125 ml (1/2 cup) apple cider vinegar, 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar, 125 ml (1/2 cup) water, 5 whole black peppercorns and 2 green cardamom pods in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil over medium heat, then remove from the heat. Cut the white part of a young leek crosswise into very thin slices; add to the pickling liquid and stir to separate the slices into rings. Cool completely. Use right away, or, preferably, transfer with liquid to a container, cover and refrigerate for 2 days.


-- The Washington Post

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2014 D14

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