Friday, March 16, 2012

Salad with pan seared scallops, crispy pancetta and toasted corn muffin crumbs (with Thai-inspired dressing)

Don't ask me how my corn muffins turned into a mare e monti salad (the Italian equivalent of surf'n'turf), but they did. 

Oh, you want to know?

You sure?

Ok, you asked for it.

My son is in the "playing with food stage", which is extremely annoying for a variety of reasons:

a) I like table manners and civilized meals
b) he totally, completely and utterly ignores us when we tell him to stop demolishing everything on his plate or throwing morsels he doesn't like on the floor (or on our plates. Mr, keep that little piece of chewed up connective tissue on your plate, thank you very much!)
c) because his sticky, greasy little fingers dirty everything on and around (us) the table 
d) last but definitely not least, because I hate food waste.

Which means, I and F are the ones who usually ends up eating the leftover bits and pieces of his meal strewn across the whole kitchen.

Now, it is true that us moms do disgusting things like eat chewed and spit out morsels, food rolled-into-balls our children's leftovers.

And yes, we do clean what every orifice of their little bodies produce, sometimes with our bare hands - boogers/snot anyone?

Or how about when you are in the middle of the street and they decide they don't like that wasabi pea/nut/piece of licorice/... (insert any type of food that you are eating and that they insisted they wanted to try for about two hours non-stop) and spit it out into your hand?

Even if we do this kind of stuff, it doesn't mean we actually enjoy it.

But I digress.

You don't want to read this while thinking of a possible recipe. 

Back to food and waste.

The morning of the day I made this salad, my son demolished the last corn muffin and then decided he didn't want it anymore. And that is how it all started.

Do you still want to know about this salad?

Are you still in the mood for food?

If I promise you can use corn bread or muffin left overs (you can even freeze the crumbs so you have them handy when you need them the next time you bake some) that were not manipulated by dimply fingers, will you try this salad?

Was that a yes?

 Ok, then here goes.

This is a simple yet sophisticated salad you can make as an appetizer for a dinner party or for a weekend lunch. The thing that makes it interesting is the contrast between flavors (the sweetness of the scallops and the saltiness of the pork, the fresh greens), textures (the crisp salad, the tender seafood and the crunchy morsels of pancetta) and the colors.

I dressed it with a Thai-inspired vinaigrette, infusing olive oil with ginger, lemon grass and adding some fish sauce and lime juice. I also chopped up some coriander and mixed it in with the greens.

Last but not least, to add another layer of texture and flavor, I toasted some corn muffin crumbs and sprinkled them on top. Oh, but you knew that already.

It turned out pretty delicious, even my son didn't throw too much of it on the floor.

Ingredients (for 4 servings)
8 scallops (the actual scallop and the roe, or coral)
1/2 diced pancetta (chopped bacon is fine too)
mixed tender greens
1/4 cup toasted corn muffin crumbs

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
 juice from 1/2 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp soy sauce
1 or two stems lemon grass
1 small knob of ginger
1 clove garlic
pepper to taste

This recipe is very simple to put together once you have prepared the separate ingredients. Not that the food prep is difficult in the least, it just takes a few steps.

The first thing to do is make the vinaigrette, so the ingredients can flavor the olive oil a bit (I waited till the last minute and you could not taste the lemon grass as much as I had hoped). Bruise the lemon grass, garlic and ginger (I used a rolling pin) and put in a jar with a lid, covered in oil. Mix in the other ingredients making sure to taste as you go along, you might like more acidity, less saltiness etc. Put on the lid and shake well.

The next step is frying up the pancetta in a pan (use a large one so you don't have to wash multiple pans - you will be using this for the scallops) until it is nice and crunchy. Put aside, saving the fat.

Now, take the scallops out of the shells, clean them and dry them with a paper towel. Sear them in the hot pork fat until golden on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes, making sure you don't overcook them because they can turn rubbery.

Next, toast the corn muffin crumbs in a non stick pan until golden brown and crunchy. Set aside.

Chop the coriander leaves and mix into the salad (I used pre-mixed salad from a bag), mix in the pancetta cubes and dress it with the vinaigrette while the scallops cool off.

Put the salad on plate, top it with the scallops, the corn muffin crumbs, some freshly ground pepper, a drizzle of vinaigrette if you have any left and serve.

This would be delicious with other greens like fennel and scallions. Other herbs come to mind, like fresh mint. Go crazy.


  1. It sounds amazing! Funny, I was just writing about the joooooooyyyyyyys of parenting a toddler!

  2. Looks like having a toddler around to play with food is really good for your creativity! This salad is really unusual, and sounds seriously good.

  3. I'm the same as you in terms of what I don't like to see at the table (and on the floor) so I can imagine that not having this dish strewn about would be a very good endorsement indeed! :D

  4. I hate food waste too, so I feel your pain! This is a genius way of reusing the demolished muffin though! It looks lovely!

  5. Haha I have to admit, not having kids, your opening lines slightly put me off my food ;-) but reading on this recipe sounds delicious. I love scallops and the additional crispy crunch makes it even more so. Yum.

    1. I know :o)
      I do promise that the crumbs I used were neither collected from the floor nor spit out

  6. My mum used to warn me that one day I ll have children who have the same habit of not eating their vegetable soup (we had it every day!). I dont think so I d be so brave to eat my kids food rests as u do, of course I hate wasting but hoenstly I am not a rest eater...

    On the otherside I am for your awesome sophisticated salad. The flavoures hint that it will be my next new meal.

  7. my first comment was eaten up by the web...

    anyway I said that I wouldnt be so brave as u r to eat my kids food I am not the type to eat rests ( cant imagine to pop in saliva rests!)My mum used to tell me always that my kids would do that one day to me, I dont have kids yet but siriously I doubt! (we used to have vegetable soup everyday!)

    I am in for your sophisticated salad though! Thats my type of food and my soon to be next meal.

    1. I am not really the kind to eat spit out morsels, that is a little too much, but I have finished a variety of half eaten foods, ranging from fruit to meat to bread etc. And it is not appealing, especially after they have been handled by a toddler!

  8. This looks interesting and it's something I've never made before. So, I look forward to giving this a try later in the week for me and my husband.


    Grandma Kat

  9. Hi Grandma Kat, welcome over! Let me know how you like it.


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