Scallops, Arugula & Tomato-Olive Vinaigrette

This weekend was Beth and Don’s annual epic barbecue in Baltimore. In March Neil and I tagged along on a road trip down to Lang BBQ Smokers in Nahunta, Georgia to collect Don’s new baby.

Lang BBQ Smoker

Don spent the past couple of months seasoning his new cooker with lard and taking it on a few dry runs. But Sunday the beast fulfilled its true calling when a couple hundred people descended on Beth and Don’s home for a twelve-hour festival of meat. Tending the cooker was serious work, as I learned during my six-hour stint. I’ve got a handful of mystery bruises and what I can only assume is heat rash on my chest. When I blew my nose yesterday, it yielded something familiar in texture but black as, um, charcoal. Two days and two showers later, I still have a faint dirt ring in the crease in my neck. And the lovely dress pictured below will likely never be the same.

Jasmine on the BBQ

I got home around 8:00 last night and depart for my next adventure around noon tomorrow. Tonight I was craving some time on my couch and a light supper that required minimal heat. I swung by Mermaid’s Garden on my way home from the office and picked up some large and luscious dayboat scallops. Half an hour later, I was sitting down to this delicious salad and cuing up Sunday’s episode of Mad Men.

Scallops, Arugula & Tomato-Olive Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon or so hot Spanish paprika
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 8 assorted good quality olives (seasoned, stuffed, etc.), finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato or 8 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon small capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/2 pound dayboat scallops
  • 1/4 cup leftover white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups arugula 
  1. Whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a bowl and then slowly whisk in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil until emulsified. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon or more of the paprika, the shallot, olives, tomatoes, capers, parsley, sugar and a good dose of black pepper. Allow this to marinate while you move on to your scallops.
  2. Bring 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil up to medium heat in a small heavy-bottomed skillet. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and sprinkle on both sides with salt, pepper and more of the paprika. Once the skillet is thoroughly heated, place the scallops in gently and resist the urge to touch them for about three minutes. Peek under one and, if it has some nice brown color, flip them all over and give them another three minutes or so. Remove the scallops, return the pan to the heat, add the white wine and stir, making sure to scrape up any crusty bits on the bottom. Reduce the wine to a couple of tablespoons.
  3. Lay your arugula on a plate, spoon the vinaigrette over the greens, place the scallops on top and drizzle them with the reduced wine.

Scallops, Arugula and Tomato Olive Vinaigrette

This would be great with some crusty bread. Alas, I had none.

The Art of Assembly

This time of year one’s cooking skills are a bit of a fifth wheel. The produce is so varied and abundant that the real challenge is narrowing it all down to a single meal. From there, it’s mere assembly.

I’m hosting a fancy fundraiser in the Hamptons next weekend, which necessitated a midweek trip to Sagaponack. Turns out that the drive out isn’t so bad if you hit the road at 10:00pm on a Tuesday. By midnight I was in bed munching the last of my blueberries and perusing a magazine.

The next morning was a flurry of espresso and emails. I knocked off in time to hit the amazing Breadzilla for lunch before my noon meeting. In my experience, the Hamptons is rife with overpriced and lackluster food. But I happily forked over $16.50 for the best lobster roll of my life, which I ate on a bench in the adjacent garden. I also picked up a baguette, assuming it would play a roll in the evening’s dinner.

The afternoon was back-to-back meetings. I selected flatware and linens, discussed the logistics of transporting a baby grand piano, and wandered around Wölffer Estate Vineyard with a tape measure while vacationers enjoyed wine flights. I did manage to squeeze in a stop at a farm stand, picking up Italian eggplant, zucchini, young shallots with the green shoots still attached, basil, and some unimaginably sweet small yellow tomatoes. I was saved from buying even more by their cash-only policy. This is what I could get for the $16.50 in my wallet.

Veggies

I got a bit lost trying to take the back roads home, but was rewarded when I passed a fish shop selling all sorts of local delights. Mercifully, they took credit cards, so I was able to pick up a pound of wild sea scallops, a couple of balls of burrata, and a lemon for good measure. I still didn’t know what I was going to make, but it would be hard to go wrong with these ingredients.

The day was a hot one and my last meeting had been on an unshaded terrace. I got back to the house where I was staying around 5:00 and rewarded myself with a dip in the pool.

Another hour of furious emailing and it was off to collect my dear friend Louis at the train station. On the way home, we picked up the two final ingredients for our evening meal: rosé and rosé. We made short work of the first bottle, a Côtes de Provence, while gabbing poolside as the sun set.

Sunset

Time to uncork the next bottle and start assembling dinner. I cut the shallots in half, leaving the green ends intact, and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. The scallops got the same treatment, minus the slicing. (Had I been able to locate a grater of some sort, they would have gotten some lemon zest too.) I cut the eggplant and zucchini on the diagonal and added fish sauce and tamari to my simple marinade.

While I fired up the grill, Louis got busy halving the tomatoes, chiffonading a bunch of basil, and pouring another round of wine. Once they were ready, I arranged the grilled veggies and scallops in stripes alongside the tomatoes and burrata, which I tore into hunks. The whole platter got a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some fresh cracked pepper.

This being a casual and intimate meal, we dined at the kitchen table, each armed with a soup spoon to ladle things onto our plate, a lemon wedge to dress our meal, and a baguette hunk to sop up the juices.

Summer DinnerThe evening concluded with a midnight swim.

The next morning found us back at the kitchen table, where we worked until lunchtime. Then it was off to Breadzilla, where Louis enjoyed the lobster roll while I moved on to the delightful shrimp salad. In the afternoon, I downed an espresso and swam laps, which was a shockingly pleasing combination. A few more hours of work and it was time to bid the pool adieu and head back to the city. But first, one more farm stand…

Louis Melons

Jasmine Melons