Our basic rule for preparing and eating food in our home is that a significant portion of it be homegrown or local, with organic or free range from farther away as something we’ll accept for a much smaller proportion. I also usually follow the old Southern rule of “meat and three”: a small portion of some kind of flesh (fowl or fish in our house) accompanied by a bean, a grain, and a leafy green or other high-nutrient vegetable. Sometimes we skip the “meat” altogether and just do the latter three.
Tonight, after a big time out in town yesterday, I decided to change the formula a bit. I wanted the lightest meal I could put together with big flavor. Our “meat” tonight was a splurge in two ways: it was sea scallops, which are costly, and, while they were a US product, they certainly did not come from the Ozarks. I paired them with local broccoli and homegrown butternut squash, all organic.
The question was how to get big flavor with a light treatment. Somehow I thought Asian, but I didn’t want to pull anything standard out of my repertoire. I began by peeling, dicing, and baking the butternut squash with a generous dose of ginger and a light application of honey.
I started the broccoli (about two cups of florets) by putting it in a fry pan with water sufficient for it to go about half way up each piece. I sprinkled salt on the top, put on a lid, and turned the burner on high to start a combination steam-boil. As soon as the broccoli turned bright green, I removed the lid, tossed around the broccoli, and added a couple of tablespoons of orange preserves (no, not local, but at least organic). Then I starting cooking off the small amount of water that remained, finally adding about 2/3 cup chopped chives with white bottoms (like scallions)* to the top of the mixture after the last toss. I was working, by the way, in a 9-inch saute pan. That meant that all the broccoli was in a single layer, and the liquid had plenty of surface area to cook down.
Last, while I was working on the broccoli, I sauteed four cloves of chopped garlic in a bit of organic spray oil, added a little sherry, and cooked the garlic until it started to soften, all in a 7-inch saute pan. Then I added the scallops (11 total) and started cooking off the liquid. I turned the scallops three times each to let the thickening garlic-sherry sauce coat them and then removed them for the final cook-off of the sauce.
Although all of the main ingredients in tonight’s dinner are common enough on Euro-American tables, I tried to bring out the Asian potential of each dish without screaming, “I’m making Chinese tonight,” something I do attempt pretty often. The chives and orange preserves in the broccoli hinted at Chinese food. The garlic uplifted the scallops and added another common Asian ingredient. And the ginger, which could have been prominent in every dish in Asian cuisines, brightened the butternut squash. Ah, homestyle fusion! Best of all after yesterday’s hedonism, tonight’s dinner was full of flavor and nutrients but virtually fat free.
This same dinner with minor variations could have gone Italian. Keep the garlic with the scallops but change the seasoning with the broccoli and squash, and you could be along the Mediterranean coast.
*I have scallions in the garden right now but did not want to use them tonight. On the other hand, I have way too many chives and thought this would be a great opportunity for thinning them. I pulled 5 or 6 chives and stripped off the dried leaves, damaged ends, and roots. Ah, scallions with a bit milder flavor!
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