Our current scorching, almost 100 degree temperatures with no end in sight, call for a minimum of time cooking over a hot stove. This recipe, from Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column in the New York Times is just what I was looking for. Ginger cucumber salad with scallops combines sweet buttery scallops with a crisp refreshing cucumber salad.
The cucumber salad is very simple and good in it’s own right. To get the thinnest cucumber and onion slices possible, use a mandoline. Since I am using smaller just picked cucumbers from the garden, there is no need to seed them, but I do prefer to peel them and leave strips of green skin. A classic dressing of rice wine vinegar, fresh grated ginger, sugar and salt provides a quick pickle for the cucumber slices. Remember to use plain rice vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar is flavored with sugar, salt and sometimes MSG. Plain rice vinegar is just mildly acidic and allows the cook to choose the amount of seasoning in the dish. A two inch piece of ginger translates into about two tablespoons. That might seem to be a bit too much but it is mellowed out with the other ingredients. If you are not sure, hold back a little and taste first.
While the cucumbers are marinating, preferably in the fridge, sear the scallops. Use a large non stick pan and brush with two tablespoons of a neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola, olive oil would compete (and win) against the delicate flavor of the scallops. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the scallops like the numbers on a clock starting at the top and going around, putting any additional scallops in the middle. If your pan isn’t large enough to cook all the scallops in one batch, divide them into two. Give the scallops room to sear, if they are too close they will steam. Check the first scallop, (twelve o’clock) after two minutes, if there is a nice brown crust, it’s time to flip. Continue checking around the clock until all the scallops are flipped. Repeat the step for the second side, this time moving the finished scallops to a plate.
The remaining oil, thinly sliced onion and turmeric are added to the same pan, no need to wash in between. Turmeric is the spice that gives Indian curries their vibrant color and adds warmth and a slightly bitter taste to dishes. The medical component in turmeric, curcumin, is used to make a wide variety of medicines as an anti inflammatory agent. The addition of turmeric is optional but adds another dimension to the salad.
Don’t skip the toasted sesame seeds, they add their own fragrance and just a little crunch. Stir the sauteed onions into the cucumber salad, top with the scallops and serve.
Seared Scallops with Ginger Cucumber Salad
- 1 ¼ lbs small cucumbers
- ½ c rice vinegar (not flavored)
- 2-inch piece of ginger, minced or finely grated
- 2 T sugar
- 1 t salt
- 3 T canola oil
- 1 lb medium to large scallops
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- ½ t ground turmeric
- 2 T toasted sesame seeds
- Slice cucumbers thinly, a mandolin does the best job, if the cucumbers are large, peel and seed before slicing.
- Combine rice vinegar, ginger, sugar and salt and toss with cucumbers. Let stand 30 to 60 minutes.
- Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat. When the oil starts to sizzle add the scallops. Sear on first side for two minutes, flip to the other side and sear for about two minutes. Remove scallops to a plate.
- Add the remaining oil, then add the onions and turmeric. Cook until the onion softens, about five minutes.
- Toast sesame seeds in a small dry skillet until fragrant and brown, three to four minutes. Stir the onions into cucumbers, top with scallops, garnish with sesame seeds and serve.