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?
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.