Versatility of scallop makes it a treasure

Entree: Flavorful seafood stars in nourishing one-dish meal featuring red and yellow bell peppers.

April 12, 2000|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Of all the seafood available, sea scallops are the most versatile. They have the meaty texture of fish steaks, the sweet taste of the finest lobster and the cooking speed of the most delicate fillet of sole.

Fortunately, most fish departments carry good-quality sea scallops year-round. Most likely, the product that you buy is commercially frozen and thawed. The quality is still excellent. However, the freezing and thawing process makes scallops especially perishable. You should prepare scallops within 24 hours of purchase.

That's no problem. The challenge is settling on one recipe. My vote is for a nourishing and attractive one-dish meal of sauteed Scallops on a Bed of Peppers.

Red and yellow bell peppers are sauteed in olive oil, then tossed with herbs and vinegar. The vegetable mixture can be kept warm or chilled so it's more like a salad. The scallops are coated with tarragon, chili powder and flour and sauteed. The result is golden scallop coins with a flavor as rich as their color.

Round out the luxurious entree with a great-tasting, easy-to-make cracker of pepper and Parmesan cheese. If you prefer, make these in advance. The crackers keep well in the freezer and thaw in minutes at room temperature.

Parmesan-Pepper-Cheese Crackers

Makes 12 crackers

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

6 tablespoons flour

1 to 2 tablespoons milk, optional

In a medium bowl, blend together butter and cheese. Add pepper. Add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If dough doesn't hold together, stir in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Gather mixture into a dough that holds together. Shape into a cylinder 1-inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.

Slice dough 1/4 inch thick. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until firm, lightly browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Scallops on a Bed of Peppers

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon minced chives

1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

salt, freshly ground white pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed dried tarragon

1/2 pound sea scallops, cut into 1/2 -inch-thick slices

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add peppers and saute over medium heat until tender, 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Place in a bowl. Add chives, parsley, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil.

On a plate, combine flour, chili powder, tarragon, / teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Dust scallops with flour mixture, then add scallops to skillet. Do not crowd. If necessary, saute in 2 batches, cooking over medium heat until golden and firm, about 2 minutes per side. Remove when done.

To serve, arrange peppers on serving plate and top with scallops.

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