We’ve come to learn that the same friendly, French-speaking man that works at Ina Garten’s preferred seafood shop in Sagaponack, NY does not work at our local Shaw’s Supermarket. When Ina goes to the supermarket, she pulls up in her BMW coupe convertible, wearing a custom made button down and a little scarf from Hermes. She walks up to the counter and smiles at Jacques over a sea of fresh haddock, swordfish and mahi mahi.
“Bonjour, Jacques,” Ina exclaims in her breathy alto, “I’m having a great dinner tonight for my multitude of gay friends and I need one pound of those fresh scallops.”
Jacques smiles back, straightens up his pinstripe apron and loads the perfect amount of fresh scallops into some parchment paper and hands it back to Ina.
“Sounds great, Ina. I’ve got some great ones in here. Brought in this morning!”
They air kiss each other, wish one another a great weekend, and off she goes into culinary fabulousness. Thanks in part to Jacques of course, the sommelier of seafood.
That is Ina’s life. This is ours:
It’s was Columbus Day so we are in mesh shorts, hats, tshirts and flip-flops. It’s October, but a balmy 80 degrees, so everyone is in a generally unpleasant mood since we are being robbed of the best season in New England. As we strut up to the counter, clearly amateurs in the fresh seafood world, Jason turns to the seafood man (who most likely worked the deli the day before and the pharmacy the day before that) and asked, “Can you show me what ½ pound of scallops looks like?” When the man loads four scallops onto the scale, it is evident that two relatively hungry men wouldn’t fill up on that. “I’d better go with one pound,” Jason added.
It was as if we insulted his wife. He turned from the scale, and proclaimed, “Are you awarrrre of how much these are per pound?”
This was not Jacques from Sagaponack. This was Dick from Waltham.
Forget the fact that they are $19 a pound. Forget the fact that that is a horrifying number and that Dick was probably right to assume that we would never pay that. It was the principle! So he handed us our ½ pound of scallops in a plastic container and we strutted away from his counter carrying our bruised egos and a bag of quinoa.
KEEN-wah is how you pronounce it and it has been everywhere lately. People are eating it dried with granola, or cold in salads with roasted tomatoes on the vine. They are all the rage in the health food community and are shipped in from mostly South American countries. It is a rice-couscous love child.
We were inspired to make this dish after seeing a recipe for risotto using quinoa, but we weren’t interested in adding stock and flour for thickening to actually make a risotto, so we took the lazy way out.
It was still good. So good we’d like to share it with you if you wouldn’t mind.
½ pound of fresh scallops (or 1 pound if you have Beyonce’s money)
1 cup of whole-wheat quinoa
2 cups of marinara sauce
1 bouquet of asparagus
¼ cup of Italian style breadcrumbs
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (grate it yourself, please!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 450. This is for the asparagus. Don’t forget to do this first or you will find yourself with cold scallops in your hand waiting for the asparagus to roast.
Second step is to measure out one cup of quinoa. It might not look like much, but one cup of dried quinoa can yield about 4 cups cooked, so unless you haven’t eaten since Monday, start with only one cup. Make the quinoa according to the package directions and set aside.
Wash and clip the asparagus and lay out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Using your hands (duh) roll around the asparagus until the oil and dry ingredients are evenly coated throughout.
Toss in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, heat your marinara sauce on low.
Once your asparagus is about halfway done, start heating up a sauté pan for the scallops. Use medium heat so you don’t burn the hell out of the little fish. They are fragile and pissy and will turn against you in a minute.
Lay your scallops in a bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs. Toss together carefully until evenly coated.
Transfer the scallops to the pan and DON’T TURN YOUR BACK FOR A SECOND. Treat these scallops as if they were the Chucky Doll. Remember the Chucky Doll in the movie Child’s Play? Would you turn your back on him?
Scallops cook really quickly and go from raw, fleshy discs to shriveled, dry balls in minutes. Start by cooking for 1 minute per side until they are opaque and browned to perfection. They might expel some liquid, but don’t freak out. All is well. They are not sick or rancid.
Then, combine asparagus, scallops, quinoa and marinara and enjoy!
And whatever you do, don’t offer any to Dick from the seafood counter. He won’t appreciate them the way you will.