Scallops, Meyer Lemon Risotto and Parsley Oil

Most recipes in Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” are simple and the one for scallops is probably one of the shortest, but it uses a technique I probably never would’ve thought about. First the scallops, largest specimens I could find, are brined for about 10 minutes. After a rinse and a pat in paper towels to ensure they are dry, they are cooked in a very hot pan. To cook them, Keller heats clarified butter in a stainless steal skillet (I used my well-seasoned cast iron pan) until smoking hot. The scallops then cook for a relatively long time, about 4 minutes, on the first side in the hot fat. Once flipped, I cooked them for another 2 minutes. They came out perfect, moist and delicious with a wonderful texture.

To serve them I prepared a Meyer lemon risotto flavored with the juice and zest of the fruit. I made it a bit lighter by not adding any cheese and very little butter at the end. For a little richness, an herb flavor and color, I blanched parsley and shocked it in an ice bath. Then the parsley was blended with olive oil and strained to make a vibrant parsley oil.

VDP: Summer Risotto with Pesto and Ricotta

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This is the first risotto I made without using chicken stock. Instead if the customary butter in there I also used olive oil. The result was quiet good, but I did miss the goodness of a rich stock in there. Instead, I used some fresh vegetable stock to cook the risotto.

The process is classic. The onions and some celery get saut√©ed in fat (in this case olive oil), then in goes the risotto¬† rice (Arborio in my case). I make sure the grains are well coated with oil and after a minute or two they get a bit translucent around the edges. At that point I throw in some white wine and let it cook until evaporated. Now, hot stock gets added in ladlefuls until the rice is cooked. That’s a basic risotto and it can be flavored a hundred different ways. The most basic flavor is butter and Parm cheese added after the heat is turned off and allowed to mingle for a few minutes.

In this summery version, I added diced zucchini, peeled and chopped tomatoes and roasted red peppers. I also finished it up with Parmigiano cheese.

To serve it I topped the risotto with homemade ricotta cheese and almond-basil pesto. I have a bunch of basil in my garden, so pesto was a no-brainer. I had no pine nuts on hand so I used almonds instead in it. I bashed the herbs and nuts with garlic and salt in my mortar until fairly smooth, then mixed in olive oil, Parm cheese, and a touch of lemon juice. The sharp and deliciously fragrant pesto really made this dish perfect. I counter-balanced the sweetness of the peppers and the blandness of the zucchini perfectly.