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GOOD COOKING

Scalloping Into Spring

March 25, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

The shift from winter to spring marks the traditional end of long-cooked, richly flavored dishes and the beginning of quickly cooked, light foods.

In this menu, marinated asparagus flavored with sesame oil and served with diced peppers, fennel and cilantro open the meal with tremendous flavor and color.

The main course is a quick saute of scallops, leeks and spinach, served on a bed of thin pasta tossed with leeks and fresh basil. The final preparation must be done at the last minute, but it takes so little time it can easily be finished during the pause between courses.

Dessert features sliced strawberries and bananas prepared in the simplest manner. The sliced fruit is tossed in a syrup and allowed to macerate about two hours before being spooned over scoops of lemon sorbet or gelato , with fresh mint as the garnish. Crisp butter cookies can be passed separately.

SESAME ASPARAGUS WITH DICED PEPPERS AND FENNEL

1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed

1/2 tablespoon peanut oil

2 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 medium head fennel, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 sweet red peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 sweet yellow peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 large green onion, thinly sliced

Salt

Red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Cook asparagus in large skillet of boiling salted water until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to keep green color. Set aside.

Heat peanut and sesame oils in same skillet over medium-high heat. When very hot, add fennel and red and yellow peppers. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and asparagus. Heat through, about 2 more minutes, tossing ingredients in pan. Remove from heat.

Toss with green onion and season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes. Garnish with cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

145 calories; 93 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.30 grams fiber.

*

For those who prefer a stronger orange flavor, grated orange zest can be added to the scallops. Otherwise, the orange flavor is intentionally mild--as is the mustard.

SCALLOPS AND SPINACH ON CAPELLINI

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound large scallops (about 12), split horizontally, washed, patted dry with paper towels

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 small leeks, dark green end trimmed, white and light-green parts thinly sliced

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

2 bunches young spinach, stems trimmed

3/4 cup orange juice

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Capellini With Leeks and Basil

4 orange slices

Heat oil in deep-sided 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Season scallops to taste with salt and pepper. When skillet is very hot, add scallops. Cook until browned, about 5 seconds, then turn over with spatula.

Add leeks, garlic and spinach. Use spatula to bring scallops to surface to prevent overcooking. Add orange juice, chicken broth and mustard. Simmer until spinach is tender, about 3 minutes, gently tossing ingredients to cook evenly. Stir in butter until melted. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Divide hot Capellini With Leeks and Basil among 4 warm dinner plates. Spoon scallop mixture over, dividing evenly. Garnish each with orange slice. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

580 calories; 518 mg sodium; 49 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 73 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 3.16 grams fiber.

Capellini With Leeks and Basil

1/2 pound capellini or other thin pasta

2 small leeks, dark-green ends trimmed, white and light-green parts thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Red pepper flakes

1/4 cup finely julienned basil leaves

Cook capellini until al dente in boiling pot of water. Drain capellini, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set aside.

Put sliced leeks and olive oil into large pasta dish. Add hot capellini and 1/2 cup hot pasta cooking liquid. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes. Toss with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

SLICED STRAWBERRIES AND BANANAS

3 tablespoons strawberry fruit spread

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons dark rum

2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, sliced

2 firm bananas, sliced

2 cups lemon sorbet or gelato

1 tablespoon julienned fresh mint

Fresh mint sprigs

Gently heat strawberry fruit spread, corn syrup and lemon juice in small saucepan or in microwave oven. Add rum. Put sliced fruit in large bowl. Add syrup. Toss to combine. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.

When chilled, spoon over scoops of lemon sorbet. Sprinkle with julienned mint. Garnish with mint sprigs. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

311 calories; 46 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 70 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.71 gram fiber.

Note: Fruit spread is similar to jam but contains less sugar.

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