Mollusc. Funny word. Like moist, it’s slightly onomatopoeic, and not in a good way. It hints at squishiness and damp, with lurking tendencies. Scallops are by far my favourite mollusc, and by that I mean they’re the only ones I like. Mussels are so-so. Oysters are just plain nasty (and let’s be honest, if an oyster’s not good when it’s just been plucked from the lagoon a kilometre away and is served with local wine, it’s never going to be good, though I concede that it was more an issue of texture than taste). And snails, well, I’ve never tried them but they certainly don’t look too appetising. Scallops though are meaty and thus move up from the category of mollusc, and by association small, slimy and blech, to real food. Alas, real food or not, they’re ruinously expensive, at least when you buy hand-dived ones from the market, (even when the lovely fishmonger gives you a discount because he only counted out 10 the first time, and throws in the final 2 for free) so I don’t eat them all that often. Thus when I do I feel they deserve special treatment, and a dish in which they can play the starring role. Scallops with chorizo are lovely, but chorizo being the star that it is, it’s always going to eclipse whatever it’s put with. Here the scallops’ slightly minerally, slightly ocean-breezey taste is able to come through a little more.
Coriander scallops with orange and ginger dressing
From Bon Appetit, March 2011
12 medium scallops
2 teaspoons ground coriander
100g baby greens (watercress, spinach, rocket, whatever you like really)
1 large orange, supremed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1. Prepare the scallops; wash them, pat dry and remove the roe (weird orange bit). Season them thoroughly on both sides with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the ground coriander.
2. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large frying pan until it shimmers. Place the scallops in the pan, taking care not to crowd them (cook them in two batches if necessary). Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the size, so they are crisp and golden on the outside and just barely translucent in the very centre.
3. Meanwhile prepare the salad. Wash the greens and arrange on two plates. Supreme the orange, saving the peel to make orange rice with. Dot the orange pieces on top of the salad greens.
4. To make the dressing, whisk together the oil, vinegar, orange juice and chopped ginger with a little salt and pepper.
5. To serve, lay the scallops on the bed of greens. Pour the dressing over the top. Serve with orange-scented rice (rice cooked with orange peel).
Serves 2. I paired this with a nicely chilled sauvignon blanc which was a perfect match.