We’re in the final six weeks of winter where high quality fresh vegetables can be difficult to find. However, I’ve recently found beautiful fresh fennel in the market, which inspired a recipe that includes this vegetable/herb/spice most often used in Mediterranean food. Fennel is crunchy and slight sweet, made up of a white or pale green bulb (vegetable), stalks (also vegetable) and lacey green fronds (like a delicate herb), all of which are edible and useful in cooking. Beautiful yellow fennel flowers produce fennel pollen, a delicacy added to Tuscan dishes when in season. And if the flowers are let go to seed, the seeds are useful as a spice, with an aroma similar to licorice and anise. Fennel is a rich source of both Vitamin C and fiber. When paired with local scallops, or even a beautifully sautéed chicken breast, and oranges in a lovely sauce, this is a magical winter dinner!
sautéed scallops with orange, fennel & ginger
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 fennel bulb
- 4 tablespoons butter
- salt and white pepper to taste
- ½ cup fish or chicken stock
- 1 pound scallops, muscle removed, patted dry
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, plus a bit more for garnish
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- ½ cup white wine
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and cayenne pepper; set aside.
Remove the feathery fronds of the fennel; coarsely chop and set aside. Core the fennel and thinly slice.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter; add fennel and salt, and sauté 4 minutes. Add stock and cook until fennel is tender crisp. Set aside.
In large sauté pan over high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Sprinkle one side of the scallops very lightly with the salt/sugar/cayenne mixture. Place the scallops in the hot pan, seasoned side down. Sear the scallops until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the topside lightly with the salt/sugar/cayenne mixture, turn and cook until golden brown on second side, taking care not to over cook. Scallops should still be VERY soft! Transfer scallops to a warm plate.
Lower the heat to medium; add 1 teaspoon of the butter, shallot and salt. Cook until shallot begins to soften. Add the orange zest, ginger, wine and orange juice; raise heat to high. Reduce by half. Add fennel and scallops to the pan and quickly heat through. Transfer to warmed plates; sprinkle with fennel fronds and orange zest.
If you’re looking for a twist on a go-to Italian favorite salad, I strongly recommend Insalata Caprese al Inverno (Winter Caprese Salad). It’s marvelous and you now have a very special complete dinner.