Monday, November 9, 2009

Solitary Pleasures

Some of you will be surprised to know that I am a woman of few words in the morning. It's simply not my best time of day, and just being upright is challenging enough for me without being required to make any kind of meaningful conversation within the first hour of being roused. Once my general reticence to start the day has subsided, the first words that I usually utter are "what would you like for dinner?". The response usually goes along the lines of "I don't know - I'm not even dressed yet". Whilst this might be a fairly predictable reply, I'm sure you'll agree it's not particularly helpful!

Occasionally though my partner will be working late, or might be in a totally different "food mood" to me and will suggest that I fix something for myself and he will organize his own dinner. I used to be totally hopeless at cooking just for myself - solo dining used to be something like a couple of boiled eggs or a few crackers and a piece of cheese. Now I love such opportunities - these are the times when I can make something for myself that my partner doesn't like, or indulge in something that might be too extravagent to cook for a crowd but which is a wonderful treat for one.

When just such an opportunity presented itself the other morning, my mind immediately leapt to thoughts of two of my spring time favourites - asparagus and scallops. Casting my mind around for inspiration on how to put them together I remembered something I had seen Giada de Laurentiis do on Food TV (have I mentioned that I am a Food TV addict?) - a grilled asparagus and melon salad.

Using that as my inspiration I decided to use peaches instead of melon - this is after all not the season for melon, and I knew that any melons in the shops at present would be watery and tasteless. I know it's not the season for peaches either, but I have a peach secret ... in my opinion, even when they are in season, peaches these days just seem to be usually flabby, thick skinned and horrible - they taste nothing like the peaches of my childhood. But I have discovered these fantastic tinned peaches from Spain, available from the Mediterranean Warehouse, which of course you can have all year round.

I drizzled the asparagus with a little olive oil, sprinkled them with a little flakey sea salt, put them on a hot grill pan, along with the peaches, until tender and charred.

Meanwhile, I popped a couple of slices of prosciutto in a hot oven until crisp. I treated the scallops to a tamarind and maple syrup glaze, which I marinated them in for a while, before then cooking them also on the hot grill pan. They literally take only a couple of minutes.

Some peppery wild rocket I had picked up at the organic vege market went into the final assembly, along with a little drizzle of very good extra virgin olive oil, and I have to say this was a taste sensation. I know that I will be making this again and again.

The quantities in the recipe following are for one serving, but you could easily just multiply that if you wanted to serve more people - this would be fantastic served on a big platter for a light but luxurious lunch.

Tamarind Glazed Scallops
with Grilled Asparagus & Peaches Recipe
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
Serves 1 or several

For each person:
6x asparagus spears
2x peach halves
6-8 scallops
1x slice of prosciutto
(I actually used 2 slices, because I am greedy)
handful of rocket leaves
extra virgin olive oil

Tamarind Glaze:
2T tamarind concentrate (refer Source Guide)
(you could use the pulp which you soak and then drain,
but I prefer to use the concentrate)
2T maple syrup
1tsp olive oil
salt & pepper
(this amount would easily be enough for 12x scallops)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees, with an empty baking tray in the oven while it heats.

Mix all ingredients for the Tamarind Glaze together in a small bowl. Add scallops to the bowl, making sure they are all completely covered with the glaze, and leave to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Place slice/s of prosciutto on the hot baking tray, and place in the oven until crispy - this will really only take a few minutes, so keep an eye on it.

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the asparagus spears, and place on a very hot grill pan. Place peach halves on the grill pan at the same time. Sprinkle a little flakey sea salt over the asparagus and cook until charred and tender.

Remove asparagus from the pan. Continue cooking the peaches. Shake excess marinade off the scallops and add them to the pan. Cook until caramelised on each side - this literally takes just seconds on each side.

To assemble, place asparagus on plate. Arrange peach halves and scallops over the top. Strew a few torn up rocket leaves over the top. Crumble the crispy prosciutto over the top of everything, and finish with a drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil you can lay your hands on.

I'm sharing this post at Food on Friday: Scallops, hosted by Carole at Carole's Chatter.