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I love entertaining but I don’t always have the time to create elaborate meals. And that’s okay, because not all dinner parties call for dishes that take days to prepare. Plus, I have a freezer full of all kinds of goodies suitable for both weeknight eating and guests alike. I always cook in bulk for exactly this reason so I’m able to call on my BFF for help whenever I need a hand getting dinner on the table.
(My freezer, that is.)
Enter today’s fabulous dish.
It began with a soul-warming red lentil and sweet potato soup I had in the freezer, a favorite that’s rich, filling, and packed in nutrition. I’m so excited about this soup that I even have a cooking video here to show you the how-to. Super easy to prepare—and it’s almost magical to watch your red lentils break down into a thick soup right before your very eyes! Inexpensive to make, too.
While terrific on is own perhaps with a spinach and pomegranate salad for a regular meal, it needed a bit of gussying up to make it suitable for a party, even if just a casual dinner and games get-together with friends. A succulent scallop would be the perfect addition, I decided.
To keep things simple, you can just give the mollusks a quick sear on a hot skillet after seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Alternatively, you could create one of my favorite spice mixtures with Middle Eastern and North African flavors that I use on all kinds of seafood.
In small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon each of cumin, paprika, chili powder, dry mustard powder, 1-2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/2-3/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and white pepper; a pinch or two of cayenne is optional for kick. (I’ve also added 1 teaspoon of dried ginger to this mix on occasion.) Go ahead, taste it. What you’re looking for are hints of sweetness, spice, and heat. If it’s not the right proportion for you, adjust to make it your own. It should be yummy, obviously, though keep in mind the spices are powdered and they won’t really show their true colors come until they are seared onto the scallops and the sugar caramelizes.
Pour the spices onto a plate and dip both sides of the scallop into the mixture to form a thin coat. (You’ll have enough spice for 6-8 scallops.) Sear in a bit of olive oil on a hot pan for about 2-3 minutes per side depending on size. Easy as can be. Just don’t overcook, lest you have something more akin to a rubber ball than a juicy scallop.
(If you’ve never seared scallops, learn more on how to cook seafood and check out two other recipes with seared scallops here and here.)
Ladle the lentil soup into a shallow bowl and set the scallop in the center. Garnish with a few micro greens—purple radish are what I used for color—chives, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for a beautiful presentation.
You could create a different proportion of soup to scallop if you like, treating the soup as more of a sauce at the bottom of the bowl and serving each guest three scallops instead of one. However you plate it, this dish is definitely dinner-party worthy. Especially when served with a beet, arugula, and orange salad and lemon and garlic roasted asparagus, and followed by stewed rhubarb and blackberries with mascarpone cream and toasted pine nuts.
I mean, hey, it was still a party.
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Dr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time.
© 2014 P. K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor. All Rights Reserved.