Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sea Scallops Alla Caprese

Fresh ingredients – tomatoes and scallops – made such a refreshing dinner on a steamy, hot summer night. The heat index this day was well over 100.
This was so simple and such an impressive dish to cook for a crowd. Key: Make sure you use a variety of fresh tomatoes to achieve the look.

Scoring the scallops before grilling makes them open up and the contrast between the gold and the stark white interior is prominent. Cook the scallops 90 percent on the first side then give them a speedy finish when you flip them. This recipe is adapted from Mario Batali who was recently a guest chef at Taste of Chicago.

Note: Cooking on a piastra is an Italian tradition that has withstood the test of time. Piastra is a flat griddle stone used over a hot fire. They run about $50.

2 pounds mixed great heirloom tomatoes

24 fresh basil leaves

3 medium red onions, cut into 1-inch-thick slices

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 giant scallops (about 2 ounces each)

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1 lemon, cut in half

Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Place a piastra on the grill to preheat.

Slice the tomatoes creatively (leave very small ones whole, or halve them) and lay out on a platter. Tear the basil leaves over the tomatoes, strewing them about. Set aside.

Season the onion slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot dry piastra and cook, unmoved, for 7 to 10 minutes, until well charred on the first side.

Using tongs, carefully turn the slices over and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on the second side, until well charred and softened. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly, then separate the onion slices into smaller rings and scatter them over the tomatoes. Drizzle the whole mess with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.

While the onions cook, carve a checkerboard pattern about 1/4 inch deep into one side of each scallop. Season them all over with salt and pepper, toss them in a bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and stir gently to coat.

Place the scallops on the dry clean piastra, design side down, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, unmoved, until almost cooked (they should be opaque almost all the way through). Flip them over and sear for just 30 seconds, then remove and arrange on the tomato salad.

Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt, squeeze the lemon halves over the scallops and tomatoes, and serve.