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How Scallops Saved My Life

March 26, 1997|BETTY ROSBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of "American Favorites" (Chapters Publishing, 1996)

When I give a dinner party, I typically start cooking a day or two before, but lately I have been involved with several projects and have found myself with no time to work ahead in the kitchen. So I need distinctive main courses that can be prepared from start to finish in less than an hour and served immediately.

Several days ago, I prepared sesame and orange scallops over ginger-scented cabbage. The dish was delicious and fit my time frame with minutes to spare.

I simply sauteed strips of cabbage and shredded carrots in a little butter along with a generous amount of fresh ginger and garlic. A hint of sesame oil, some rice vinegar and grated orange peel made admirable seasonings. I then sauteed the scallops until golden and added fresh orange juice, grated peel and sesame oil to the skillet to make a quick sauce. To serve, I sprinkled the scallops with toasted sesame seeds and parsley and served them over mounds of the cabbage.

Blanched snow peas, tossed in butter and sprinkled with minced green onions, make a fine side dish to surround the scallops and cabbage. For dessert, slices of store-bought pound cake topped with scoops of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and garnished with fresh strawberries work well.

This entree is best for small groups. Although the recipe serves four, it can be increased by half to serve six if you have very large skillets. If you have the time, you can cook the cabbage an hour or two ahead and reheat it when needed.

ORANGE-SESAME SCALLOPS OVER GINGERED CABBAGE

CABBAGE

2 pounds cabbage (8 cups sliced)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup shredded carrots (about 3 carrots)

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger root

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

4 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

2 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Salt

SCALLOPS

1 to 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon oil

Salt

1 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

4 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

To toast sesame seeds, place them in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Shake pan back and forth until seeds are light golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

CABBAGE

Cut cabbage into quarters and cut out and discard core. Cut quartered cabbage into 1/4-inch strips.

Melt butter in large heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1/3 of cabbage, waiting until cabbage in pan wilts slightly before adding more, until all has been added. Add carrots and cook, stirring constantly, 4 minutes. Add ginger root and cook, tossing constantly, 4 minutes, taking care that cabbage does not brown.

Add garlic and stir and toss 30 seconds. Add sesame oil, orange peel and vinegar and stir well. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, taste and add more if desired. Set aside and keep warm.

SCALLOPS

Rinse scallops, pat dry and remove and discard connective tissue.

Melt butter and oil over medium-high heat in another large heavy skillet. Make sure scallops are dried well before adding to skillet in one layer. Cook 2 minutes on one side until golden brown, then turn and cook until other sides are brown and scallops are cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Salt lightly. Remove to side dish and keep warm.

Add orange juice to pan in which scallops were cooked and boil over high heat, stirring up brown bits, until juice is reduced by half and starts to thicken and become syrupy. Remove from heat. Add orange peel and sesame oil and stir well to combine.

To serve, stir 1/4 cup orange sauce into cabbage and season to taste. Divide cabbage among 4 plates. Top each with 1/4 of scallops. Drizzle remaining orange sauce over scallops. Sprinkle each portion with 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and 1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley.

4 servings. Each serving:

354 calories; 428 mg sodium; 53 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 1.98 grams fiber.

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