I usually go to the Farmers’ Market or grocery store with a shopping list in hand, otherwise I’m sure to forget something. If it’s Sunday, this list is derived from the meals I’ve planned out for the week. A portion of Sunday evening is usually spent in the kitchen making lunches or prepping ingredients for dinners; it’s a relaxing way to wrap up the weekend and makes for a smoother week ahead.
Spring is a little different. We never know what we’ll find at the Farmers’ Market, so we end up planning in reverse by letting what’s available determine our shopping list. This past Sunday was a funny scene as we stood huddled to the side after a walk-through of the market, excitedly planning our next couple of meals based on what we saw.
For the immediate future caprese salad with tomatoes from Toigo Orchards and basil from Jersey Farm Produce. For the next night’s dinner we decided to try our hand at nettles, a springtime green leaf vegetable that doesn't make its way into our kitchen often, perhaps for fear of the “stinging” adjective in its name. The vendor at Rogowski Farm assured us that stinging nettles are safe once cooked. Our idea was to make a nettle puree and top with scallops, roasted spring onions (which get swooped up at the market in the blink of an eye), and radishes in some form. This was an exciting meal to plan and cook together, as we were trying something brand new to both of us and were also able to use all local and seasonal products (including the scallops, from Seatuck Fish Company out of Long Island).
Although I love scallops I avoid cooking them at home for fear of under or overcooking them, so often order them at restaurants if they’re on the menu. Prem is more comfortable in the fish department, and does a wonderful job with scallops in our cast iron skillet. The nettle “puree” wasn’t coming out as smooth as we hoped, so we turned it into a pesto of sorts by adding toasted walnuts. As I’m typing this I realize we didn’t add any cheese, a key ingredient in pesto. Oops. It was still delicious. As for the radishes, we decided to quick-pickle some of them, which cut out the richness of the pesto. Not only was the dish well balanced and delicious, it cured our fear of working with nettles.
RECIPE: Scallops with Nettle Pesto & Spring Onions
- 2 radishes, 1 thinly sliced with mandolin and 1 quartered
- 1 Tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
- 2 ounces of nettle leaves, washed and dried*
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
- 2 spring onions
- 8 scallops, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides
- ¼ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon olive oil + more for drizzling
- 1 ½ Tablespoons ghee, separated
- salt & pepper
- Quick-pickle the radishes: Soak the sliced radishes in the vinegar, set aside.
- Make the nettle pesto**: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan, then add garlic and shallots. Once fragrant, add the nettle leaves, season with salt and pepper, and saute until wilted. Let cool down a bit and then puree in a food processor with the toasted walnuts, slowly adding the ¼ cup olive oil until it reaches a pesto-like consistency. Set aside.
- Cook the vegetables: Set the broiler on high. Drizzle the spring onions with olive oil and broil for 5-6 minutes, turning halfway. In the meantime, heat ½ tablespoon ghee on medium in a sauce pan. Once heated add the quartered radishes, toss to coat, and season with salt. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 3 minutes or until just starting to turn color, tossing frequently. Set aside.
- Cook the scallops: Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a cast iron skillet until a drop of water sizzles in it. Carefully place scallops in the pan without crowding. Cook 2-3 minutes on either side. Scallops are done when browned on both sides and somewhat firm to the touch.
- Plate by spreading ¼ of the pesto each on two plates. Top each plate of pesto with half the scallops, spring onions, and sauteed radishes. Add a few pickled radish slices to each plate.
*A note on nettles: The leaves do sting if you touch them bare handed when they’re raw, so make sure to use gloves and tongs until cooked, whether boiled in water or sauteed in oil.
**You will have too much pesto for this recipe. The leftovers will be delicious over pasta or veggie noodles, with a fried egg, or on a sandwich, for example.