Friday, September 10, 2010

Seared Scallops with Sesame Panko Eggplant and Plum Salsa

I had already started drooling over Just Food's Let Us Eat Local tasting line-up next Thursday, September 16 when I saw Cathy at Not Eating Out in New York post a contest where an amateur cook could win a ticket and have their recipe published Just Food’s upcoming Veggie Tipsheets book. The idea of tasting food from restaurants I have tried and loved as well as many on my restaurant wish list in one night lured me into creating the recipe below, which I attempted to document with more meticulousness than usual.

What started as a Plum Salsa turned into a fairly seasonal festive tower that packs a lot of punch. The salsa mixes sweet and savory thanks to juicy plums, silky sesame oil and bright mint in addition to the usual salsa ingredients. Its soft texture contrasts pleasantly with the Scallops’ caramelized exterior and the crispy Sesame Panko Eggplant rounds. This dish melted in my mouth.

If you don’t enjoys Scallops or want to be frugal, this still tastes great without them. I had plenty of the Sesame Panko Eggplant topped only with Plum Salsa and can tell you with confidence that Scallops aren’t required to make this dish enjoyable though they certainly take the appearance and taste up a notch.

Plum Salsa
3/4 cup plums (approximately 4)
1/3 cup tomato (approximately 1 medium; I used yellow for color and the low acidity)
1 teaspoon mint
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 tsp jalapeño
1/4 cup white onion
1/4 tsp sesame oil
salt to taste

1. Rinse plums, then cut in half, remove pits and chop roughly into small dice. Place 3/4 cup of plums into a small bowl.
2. Rinse tomato, cut across the equator and remove seeds with your finger. Cut out the inner walls (which still taste great so eat them as you go) and then chop the outer skin into small dice. Add roughly 1/3 cup to the bowl.
3. Rinse mint and remove leaves from stem. Lay leaves on top of each other and chop it finely until you have 1 teaspoon. Repeat this step with cilantro until you have 2 tablespoons. Add both to the bowl.
4. Rinse the jalapeño, cut in half and remove stem and seeds. Mince enough for 1 teaspoon and add to the bowl.
5. Remove skin from outside of onion, cut in half through the root end. Dice half of the onion or enough to fill 1/4 cup and add to the bowl.
6. Measure out ¼ teaspoon sesame oil and add it the bowl. Stir everything together gently. Salt to taste. Put in the refrigerator to chill and develop the flavor.

Panko Sesame Eggplant
(based on Chef Richard Ruben’s methodology for baked, crispy eggplant)
1 eggplant

1 cup Panko (or bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
salt to taste

2 egg whites
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheight and cover a baking sheet in foil.
2. Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch rounds, discarding ends. Salt and place in a colander for 15 minutes.
3. While eggplant sits, combine Panko, black sesame seeds and salt on a small plate or in a shallow bowl.
4. In a separate bowl whisk together egg whites and olive oil.
5. Rinse eggplant and pat dry. Dip eggplant in egg white and olive oil mixture until coated. Then dip in the panko mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
6. Once all eggplant is resting on the baking sheet, place it in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy. (For me the top never browned though unbeknownst to me the bottom did.)
7. Remove from oven and set to the side.

Seared Scallops
Olive Oil
Scallops (I defrosted New England Scallops from Trader Joe’s)

1. Pat scallops dry and salt them.
2. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil. When the olive oil becomes fluid enough to spread through the pan, add scallops to it.
3. Cook 2-4 minutes on each side. The scallops are done on one side when they move easily when touched by the spatula.
4. Remove caramelized scallops to paper towel to drain.

To Assemble the final dish…
1. Place a scallop on the eggplant, then top with plum salsa.
2. Enjoy

*I actually tried a few ideas but this was my biggest success. One was so awful that I couldn’t even make myself eat the leftovers. Major fail.

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