bay scallops on garlic/rosemary/caper couscous; bok choy

The first of 2 carpal tunnel operations (not on the cook) tells us that for a while our meals must be of a kind that can be eaten with one hand, so it was a no-brainer when I looked over the selections of seafood I found in the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday: Peconic Bay scallops!

Also, I think I finally learned how to cook these sweet mollusks very minimally, even when I might not be serving them with some really wonderful couscous, as I did last night:

for about ten ounces (2/3 of a pound) of bay scallops: wash and pat them dry; sprinkle lightly with, or roll in, seasoned flour; heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet; briefly sauté a bit of sliced garlic in the pan; add the scallops; brown lightly on all sides, leaving them in the pan for about a minute and a half; serve

I think doing anything much beyond this would be like gilding lillies, although that may sometimes be a good thing, except for real lillies.

The result of my efforts this time was sublime, with the additional assistance of some aromatic couscous.

I found the basic recipe, created by Melissa Clark, from which I constructed my own, on this site. In the original, the scallops are cooked by simply adding them to the couscous as it finishes cooking, for “2 – 3 minutes”, a period which seemed to me a little excessive, and I wanted to enjoy them as an element separate from the semolina, with at least a bit of crunchiness, so I arranged my own version, in which they are cooked on the side, sautéed.

The vegetable I picked out shortly after leaving the fishers’ stall was an excellent compliment to the little mollusks and the pasta, and almost as special, particularly in New York in late February

I had briefly considered doing something extra to these greens, but then thought otherwise, since they were so fresh, and so perfect, and because, with the scallops and the couscous as featured actors, their minimalism would serve the meal best.

  • *two small rosemary branches from Stokes Farm that had first been bruised with the flat side of a heavy knife, were added to 2 tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ that had been melted inside a vintage medium-size heavy tin-lined copper pot, followed by 2 finely-chopped Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, a pinch or more of dried pepperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, cooked, stirring, for one minute, one third of a cup of white wine (an Italian white from the Marche, Le Salse, Verdicchio di Matelica, 2015, from Flatiron Wines) poured in and the heat increased to medium-high and simmered until the wine had reduced by half (2 minutes or so), then three quarters of a cup of hand-rolled, sun-dried M’hamsa Couscous from Tunisia, purchased at Whole Foods, boiled earlier for 3 minutes in a few quarts of salted water and drained, were stirred into the pot, along with 2 teaspoons of rinsed and drained salted Sicilian capers and a third of a teaspoon of sea salt, cooked for a minute or so, the rosemary branches removed, less than a teaspoon of organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market added, the couscous spread onto 2 plates and sautéed bay scallops, prepared as described below, arranged on the top
  • *ten ounces (2/3 of a pound) of Peconic Bay scallops from Pura Vida Seafood: washed and patted dry, rolled in a local whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills in the Union Square Greenmarket that had been seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, added to a large tin-lined heavy copper skillet in which a tablespoon or so of sliced Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had been briefly sautéed until colored, the mollusks left in the pan for about a minute and a half while being tossed about maybe once or twice, until they had browned lightly, placed on top of the couscous divided between 2 plates, garnished with chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • *one bunch or bok choy from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, washed, sliced into one-inch sections, wilted inside a large vintage, heavy tin-lined copper pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil after 2 halved Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm had already been heated there until they had begun to brown, starting with the thickest sections of this brassica chinensis, those closest to the stem, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, removed from the flame while still a little crunchy, drizzled with a little more olive oil
  • *the wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, from Naked Wines
  • *the music was Mozart’s 1787 opera, ‘Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni‘ (or, literally, ‘The Rake Punished, namely Don Giovanni or The Libertine Punished’), in a terrific recording, with Eirian James, Julian Clarkson, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Charlotte Margiono, Luba Orgonasova, Christoph Prégardien, Andrea Silvestrelli, and Rodney Gilfry, John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir