Don’t be shellfish, share your scallops
June celebrates the rich bounty of oceanic offerings with a designated National Seafood Month. The king of the mollusk family, the mighty scallop dates back to biblical times. It is a symbol of fertility and pilgrimage with its gorgeous symmetrical shell incorporated into classical art (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus), Greek mythology, ancient religious ceremonies and architecture.
The Shell Game
The word “scallop” is derived from the Old French escalope, meaning “shell.” The scallop’s fan-shaped shell with radiating ridges from a pair of auricles tells many clues about this animal’s life. Each ring marks a scallop’s birthday or a traumatic event. The Methuselah of scallops has lived up to 20 years. Scallops are bivalve mollusks, close cousins to oysters, clams and mussels, with their digs ranging from the intertidal zone to the salty deep seas around the globe.
Buoys will be Buoys
While there are boy and girl scallops, some are also hermaphrodites having both male and female sex organs. The gender of the scallop not only determines the color,
but the flavor and texture. The hue of the scallop ranges from milky white to rosy pink. Knowledgeable fishmongers can advise you of the choicest picks, the pinky ones being female and also the sweetest and most tender of the harvest.
The Muscular Mollusk
The scallop is an unusual bivalve endowed with athletic prowess as a free- swimmer. By rapidly clapping its shells together with its strong adductor muscle, a stream of water over the shell hinge propels the scallop. This round, fleshy muscle or the “nut” is the edible part of the scallop. As you are eating the muscle, it has to be gingerly prepared, not overcooked into a rubbery jaw workout.
Three types of scallops are consumed in the United States:
n Sea scallops are the meaty, larger “nuts,” sometimes two inches or more in diameter, and 1-inch thick.
n Bay scallops are much smaller than their sea scallop siblings, but have the same circular shape and oceanic nuances, and are even sweeter and more tender.
n Calicos, harvested from the Gulf and
South Atlantic coasts, unlike their Northern counterparts, have to be steamed open as their shells are sealed shut.
Scallops are harvested by either randomly scouring the sea floor (trawling), or the more sustainable method of sending divers to handpick mature scallops from the bed of the ocean, ergo the name “Diver” scallops.
In for the Count
Scallops are usually sold by “count-per- pound.” The large sea scallops are typically 10/20, or between 10 and 20 per pound. Colossal scallops are marked U/10 or U/15 meaning less than 10 or 15 per pound. Smaller Bay scallops are sold 30 to 50 or even higher per pound — the greater the number, the smaller the scallop.
When buying scallops, trust your nose, discarding fishy smelling ones, while choosing those bursting with fresh flavors of the sea. They should also be firm
without cracks or breaks in the muscle. As they are extremely perishable, use the same day or opt for frozen “dry pack” without harmful additives.
Scallop is a lean, low fat, high-protein powerhouse. Packed with heart-healthy omega-3s, magnesium and selenium, bone boosting vitamin D, nerve and blood cell strengthening B-12s, A’s for skin and ocular health and potassium, scallops are as tasty and versatile as they are healthful. Sauté sea scallops in white wine, grill or sear with a balsamic glaze or poach in a miso broth. Toss tender bay scallops in a chilled buckwheat noodle salad, quinoa tabouleh or your favorite pasta dish. Stir fry with snow peas, broccollini and red peppers.
Southwest Scallop Cocktail
Inspired by Herringbone Chef Jordan Davis
• Serves 2
• 1/2 pound each bay scallops and medium-sized sea scallops (halved), steamed
• 1 cup vegetable juice
• 1/3 cup tomato juice
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
• 1 tablespoon sweet onion, minced
• 1 Persian cucumber, minced
• 1 teaspoon minced cilantro
• 1 Roma tomato, minced
• 1/2 firm avocado, diced
• 1/4 cup Absolut Peppar Vodka (optional)
• Lemon twists and cilantro for garnish
• Method: In a medium-size glass bowl combine all the sauce ingredients. Add scallops to the sauce and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Evenly distribute the mixture into 2 cocktail glasses or glass ramekins. Garnish with lemon twists or cilantro sprigs and serve with flat bread.
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