Capturing the Flavors of Winter

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.

Serves 8.

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.

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