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Seared Scallops with Romesco and Sweet Eggplant

scallops & romesco
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Though succulent sea scallops are the star of the show, peppery Romesco sauce and flash fried eggplant with honey (berenjenas con miel) make for some fine back-ups on this stage.

Romesco sauce is a garlicky, pepper and nut based sauce originating from Northeast Spain.  Use this with any protein, as a dip for vegetables or as a spread for toast or sandwiches.  Almonds, pine nuts or hazelnuts (all indigenous to Spain) can be used for this recipe as can stale bread or flour as a thickener.  But I will skip that in order to achieve a lighter, thinner sauce.

Fried eggplant with honey is a traditional tapa from Andalucía in Southeast Spain.  Eggplant is cut into circles, fried in a light dredge of egg and flour and drizzled with honey.  My version uses cubed eggplant, skips the dredge and incorporates garlic, rosemary and hot Spanish paprika for a little kick.

If you are looking to start your year off right, this meal will help you; Full of satisfying, monounsaturated fats shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

scallops & romesco4

Ingredients & Method (serves 4)

For Romesco:

  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 7 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 3 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 dried guajillo peppers, seeds and stems removed
  • 1-2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • ¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a pan on medium-high heat, toast almonds and guajillos until fragrant and guajillos begin to soften slightly.  Add tomatoes, onions and garlic and toast for a few more minutes and garlic is aromatic but does not achieve any color.  Add enough water to cover mixture about half way and let simmer for about 10 minutes and guajillos are very soft and garlic cloves are tender.  Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until very smooth.  Season with salt, pepper and sherry to taste and blend again.  Pass through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl and set aside.

For Eggplant with Honey (berenjenas con miel):

  • 1 Chinese or Japanese eggplant (or Sicilian if in season) cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 3 Medjool dates, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs of Rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced (use a mandolin if available)
  • ¼ teaspoon hot Spanish paprika
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Cups canola or grape seed oil

In a cast iron or heavy bottom pan, heat oil to 350 degrees.   Working in batches (if pan is too small to accommodate all of the eggplant), fry eggplant and rosemary and until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Sprinkle with salt and hot paprika to taste.  Repeat if necessary.  Fry sliced garlic until golden brown, about 30 seconds, transfer to eggplant.  Toss in dates and place in a serving dish.  Drizzle with honey.

For the Scallops:

  • 12 sea scallops, excess moisture drained, if any
  • 3 Tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • Salt
  • Squeeze of lemon

Heat oil in pan on medium-high heat.  Season scallops with salt.  Place scallops in pan when it’s ripping hot and oil is shimmering.  Sear about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown and tender in the middle.  Remove from pan and give a squeeze of lemon juice.

To assemble, spoon Romesco sauce onto each plate.  Place 3 scallops on top of sauce and sprinkle with eggplant mixture.  If you have leftover sauce, save it to jazz up chicken or as a sandwich spread.

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