A Bay State first course to please a congressman

Fresh scallops, local asparagus star in salad

April 27, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

This week we were invited to a small dinner to honor a U.S. congressman from a neighboring district. Eager to learn firsthand more about our country's current state of affairs, I quickly said yes and even volunteered to help with the meal. Our hosts accepted my offer to bring the first course, but after putting down the phone I wasn't certain what to cook. In the back of my mind, I had an idea to prepare my contribution with local ingredients from our state of Massachusetts.

As luck would have it, on the day of the dinner there were fresh sea scallops from the coastal town of Gloucester at the grocery. The produce section had bundles of native asparagus. I decided to combine the snowy white shellfish and the vibrant green spears in a salad.

The congressman didn't ask about the origin of the salad ingredients, but I noticed that he ate this Massachusetts creation with gusto.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.

Scallop, Asparagus and Bacon Salad

3/4 to 1 pound thin asparagus spears, tough ends cut off and spears cut into 2-inch diagonal pieces

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

18 sea scallops (about 14 ounces), side muscles removed

8 cups mixed greens such as mesclun

Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to boil and add asparagus. Cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Place asparagus in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Drain and pat dry. (Asparagus can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and leave at cool room temperature.)

Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. (Bacon can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature.) Pour out all but a thin coating of drippings in the skillet and set aside until you are ready to assemble salad.

To prepare dressing, mix lemon juice, mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a generous 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small nonreactive bowl. Whisk in 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. (Dressing can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and leave at cool room temperature. Whisk well before using.)

To finish salad, halve scallops horizontally. Pat slices dry with a paper towel. Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil to pan in which bacon was fried and place pan over medium high heat until hot. Saute scallops, turning, until light golden and cooked through, only 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Place greens in a mixing bowl and drizzle with half of the vinaigrette dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Mound salad on 6 salad plates. Toss scallops and asparagus in remaining dressing and sprinkle over the greens. Garnish each salad with some bacon. Serve immediately.

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