Scallops with Almond Gazpacho

July 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

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There is a wonderful little restaurant just down the block from our house. It’s close, it’s cozy, and it boasts enough booths that there’s never any need to fight with the neighbors for a prime spot, to say nothing of the ample and well laid-out bar. But laudable though the layout may be, it ain’t got nothing on the scallops with almond gazpacho.

Over the course of many months, I have found myself thinking about this dish constantly. It is on this dish’s account that I have tried to justify semi-weekly visits to said restaurant. It is the stuff dreams are made of. I have, quite literally, dreamt about this dish.

If, for whatever reason, I have yet to make myself clear: Trusty sidekick asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. I told him that I wanted the proprietors to cough up the recipe, but then, days later, grew impatient and figured it out for myself. You are welcome.

THE STUFF:

(Scallops)
sea scallops- approximately 3 per person
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil

(Gazpacho)
1 (3-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 lb whole maracona almonds (3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon (+) sherry vinegar (“reserva” if available)
1/2 cup mild EVOO
2T ice water
Garnish: 1 handfull seedless green grapes, halved or quartered

The how-to:

Scrape the inside of the baguette (I’ve found a knife works well for this) and discard the crust. Soak the bread insides in 1/2 cup of water for 1 minute. Squeeze dry and discard soaking water. (In the alternative, this tedious task becomes a breeze if you keep baguettes on hand in the freezer. Just saw off an appropriately sized hunk and saw off the crusty bits. You can soak what remains straight away in warm water).

Mash garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle until it resembles a paste. Or give up because it isn’t getting pasty and throw it all in the food processor. Blend garlic/salt mash and almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add bread and 1 tablespoon vinegar (or more, if you’re so inclined. As I am a devoted fan of the sherry vinegar flavor in this dish, I am rather more heavy-handed– I usually end up putting in 2-3T of vinegar, and then sprinkling additional vinegar on the serving plate, for good measure). image2

Create an emulsion by adding oil in a slow stream with the motor running. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time (depending on the texture, I will use 1-2T) until the gazpacho has reached the desired consistency (think a well-whipped hummus).

Refrigerate gazpacho until ready to serve.

While the gazpacho is chilling, prepare the scallops. Remove the side muscle from the scallops, rinse with cold water, dry, and salt and pepper.

Add the butter and oil to a skillet over high heat. When the oil and butter just begin to smoke, CAREFULLY add the scallops to the fat, making sure they do not touch one another. Sear the scallops for 90 seconds on each side. (I will say that this is where kitchen tongs will come in particularly handy, since splashing liquid-laden scallops into a bath of bubbling fat = significant risk of burns of the not-messing-around variety). When the scallops have finished searing, they should have a golden crust on each side of approximately a quarter inch, but should still be translucent in the center.

Smear the gazpacho on a plate and scatter halved grapes about. Plate three scallops per plate atop the gazpacho. Sprinkle with salt and an additional dash or two of vinegar. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Gazpacho can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge, in which case this becomes the world’s quickest dinner to pull together.

2. The almond “gazpacho” is derived from a soup, as the name suggests. If you’re interested in giving that a try, replace the 2T of ice water with 2 cups of ice water and strain the soup through a sieve. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.

3. If you’re not a scallop person, shrimp or a whitefish of your choice will also work quite nicely.

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