A trip to the market provides inspiration

September 09, 2001|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

My inspiration for a dinner for out-of-town friends came from a trip to the market. "What's really fresh?" I asked the fish-counter man, and he replied, "The sea scallops." That night I made lime butter for flavoring the scallops. I decided to make saffron rice to accompany the seafood. Tender young green beans dusted with sea salt made a perfect accompaniment. I added a salad of leaf lettuce and heirloom tomatoes tossed in a red-wine dressing, and for dessert big wine glasses filled with sliced peaches and berries in a bourbon custard sauce.

Betty Rosbottom writes for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Scallops in Lime Butter With Saffron Rice

Makes 4 servings

SCALLOPS

3 to 4 limes

1 / 4 cup unsalted butter, softened

salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 1 / 4 pounds fresh sea scallops, connective tissue removed and discarded

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil plus more if needed

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

SAFFRON RICE:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup long-grain rice (see note)

2 cups water

1 / 8 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

To prepare scallops, reserve 1 lime for garnish, and grate enough zest from remaining limes to make 2 teaspoons. Juice limes to yield 6 teaspoons. In small nonreactive bowl, combine butter, lime zest, 2 teaspoons of the lime juice, 1 / 4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and mix well.

(Butter can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using. Store remaining lime juice in nonreactive bowl and cover and refrigerate.)

To prepare saffron rice, heat butter in medium, heavy saucepan (with lid) over medium heat until hot. Add rice and stir a few seconds until all grains are lightly coated. Stir in water, crushed saffron and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. (Rice can stand covered for 30 minutes.)

When ready to cook scallops, pat them dry. Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough scallops to fit comfortably in a single layer. Saute quickly, turning once or twice, until scallops are golden-brown on both sides and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes total, depending on thickness of scallops. Do not overcook, or scallops will be tough.

Remove to side dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Continue, adding more oil if needed, until all scallops are cooked.

Return all scallops to pan. Toss with lime butter and with remaining 4 teaspoons lime juice and cook only a few seconds. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place mound of saffron rice on each of 4 dinner plates. Arrange some scallops on top of each and sprinkle with cilantro. Slice remaining lime into 8 wedges and garnish each serving with 2 slices. Squeeze a little lime juice from wedges over each serving.

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