Summer in the City-Scallop Basil Skillet

My friend Lani and I hit the St. Paul Farmer’s Market last weekend and came home with more than summer’s bounty; we arrived back with the crown jewels. Summer in the furnished apartment began to look somewhat more attractive. The market is the perfect place to grab just exactly how much you need for a yummy, packed with nutrition meal. Have a look at those baby red potatoes freshly dug the morning I bought them. Not only potatoes, but I also snagged bunches of fresh basil, baskets of the first tomatoes of the season, zucchini, Amish Sheep Cheese, carrots with foot and a half green tops, rhubarb (we’re up north, remember), raspberries –“no spray”–for my yogurt (and instant pleasure) and, perhaps a couple of other things I ate along the way.

Stands full of flowers, both cut and plantable, fresh meats, hand-made soaps and buckets upon buckets of you-name-it fresh produce filled the landmark market. To sell in this market, you must have grown (made, created) your sellables within 50 miles of St. Paul. No South American fruit here. Many organic lovelies to chomp at will. A brilliant sight to behold early on a Saturday morning. And, NO, you needn’t have had breakfast. You can grab a freshly-made bagel with egg and your choice of toppings and, of course, your favorite cup of coffee. (I’ll bring my camera some visit. Had smartly left my compact flash in the printer in Colorado.)

I struggled back to the third-floor walkup apartment toting my heavy load and spread it out all over the counter. Well, it had all looked stunning at the market, but what the – – – was I to do with it once I was home? I ‘m guessing this happens to a lot of people, and, friends, this stuff doesn’t hold forever. Nor is it cheap. It’s a bargain because it’s top quality fresh produce that will nourish your body and soul, but it is not inexpensive. Well, first I would wash it and store it; that seemed like an intelligent plan. While I filled the sink with water and dug out a scrubby (zucchini and carrots are filthy from any place), I began having pictures in my head of different meals.

A fresh pasta pesto with an uncooked tomato sauce. Well, possible, but I hadn’t bought enough basil for pesto, nor enough tomatoes for sauce. I could make enough for a half portion maybe. What else? Oh! I had carrots, potatoes, onions; what about pot roast? Actually, Alyce, it’s summer, honey, and….there’s just you for dinner. Not that I mind leftovers, which may be the most creative place in cooking. But, leaving that oven or stove on for hours in Minnesota summer? Probably not.

Now, I don’t mind cooking nearly anything for one. There was a time when I only made scrambled eggs (maybe with smoked salmon) and toast or grilled cheese and sliced tomatoes if on my own. “It’s just me.” Those days are long gone; I cook whatever I please. I set the dining room table. I put out wine; I light the candle. It’s a great venue for prayer and my long days end in a positive way. Somehow, you just finally decide to eat right even if alone. (A friend or neighbor will tell you they are sometimes invited to that table as well… “I have too much dinner, come eat.”)

Still, this meal appeared to be one that should be quickly made, using little heat and keeping things as fresh as possible. You guessed it, I had to run to the fishmonger (Coastal Seafood, two blocks away) for a few scallops. I had in mind a quick saute of the veg, adding some shallot and garlic with lots of freshly-ground pepper and then throwing the scallops in at the end for something resembling a Minnesota Fish Stir-fry. So, here it is; I increased the amounts for a meal for two and you can try it yourself. An inventive kitchen lover might use shrimp in place of the scallops or even catfish nuggets if you are a hearty, hearty soul.

I used a 14″ skillet with 4″ sides.

A wok would probably suffice.

The one-skillet deal appealed to the “I hate to wash dishes” Alyce.

Don’t bother to chop the basil, just throw it in whole like spinach. You could use both if you had them–or either.

2 c tiny baby red potatoes (cut into ½” pieces if larger)
2T butter
1 large zucchini, sliced into ¼” rounds
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t dried oregano (1t if fresh)
Kosher salt and Freshly- ground pepper
¾-1# fresh sea scallops
2 medium tomatoes, diced
½ c fresh basil leaves, whole
1 lemon, cut in half (use first half; cut second one into fourths for serving)

**Place baby red potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl or plate with ¼c water. Cover and microwave on high 3 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
**Heat large skillet over medium heat and add butter. When melted, add zucchini, shallot, garlic, oregano and season with Kosher salt and pepper. Cook until zucchini starts to wilt; add drained potatoes. Saute together until zucchini begins to brown (remove garlic temporarily if it starts to burn) and then push vegetables to the side of the skillet.
**Add scallops and cook about a minute before sprinkling pan with chopped tomatoes and whole basil leaves. Cook another minute or so until scallops are light brown on one side. Turn scallops and stir vegetables. Cook until scallops are almost golden on the other side. Check for doneness; they should be tender, juicy, but opaque. (Return garlic to pan if needed.)
**Squeeze lemon over all and give the entire meal a sprinkle of pepper. Turn out onto plates and serve with the rest of the lemon.

Wine: Summer super: Ugni-Blanc Colombard (2007)Outstanding Another option: Aussie or French Viognier–You need something to stand up to lots of pepper and the depth of a meal with garlic, tomatoes and potatoes.

I don’t know anyone (except those who dislike seafood) who wouldn’t enjoy this meal. It’s light enough for folks who are into fish and salad, but is also deep enough for someone with a “I wanted steak” appetite. It’s fast, but not really furious. I made it again for friend Sue, (just to test the recipe once written) who pronounced it “delicious, delicious!” I think she was also pretty happy to have someone else cooking in her kitchen.

This week also marks our Emily’s entrance into seminary at Princeton Theological Seminary. It’s a big week for everyone in our family, especially for her Dad, who shared the cross-country drive with her last weekend while I schlepped all over the Farmer’s Market. Bear with me as I add the pics……………………..

We pray for you, Emi!

Sing a new song,

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