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Salad:

Blistered Spring Peas, Burrata, & Arugula Salad
Recommended Wine Pairing:
2019 Domaine de Triennes Rose Mediterranee IGP

Main:

Seared Scallops (Or Shrimp) with White Truffle Vinaigrette, Asparagus Tips, and Parmesan Grits
Recommended Wine Pairing:
2017 Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Noirs Brut North Coast California or
2017 Louis Latour Les Pierres Dorées Pinot Noir Burgundy

Dessert:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Recommended Wine Pairing:
2016 Pocas Junior Vintage Port or
Brachetto d’Acqui

The recipes below serve 2, so imply increase by half for each additional person you may have.
Time to Prepare: 30-45 Minutes

This menu comes from a few different sources of inspiration.

The strongest inspiration is that spring is finally here! Cold snaps were wreaking havoc across the country, but it’s finally warming up! That means two very, very fresh ingredients are coming soon: peas and asparagus!

You may already be seeing them in your grocery stores (these days it seems they never go out of season, merely imported from some other location) but you’ll notice a bit more vibrancy in them compared to a few months ago. Ah! As I write this I can taste a juicy, flavorful bite of raw asparagus, the most perfect taste of spring.

The key to making this menu effortless is simply timing. Think about what you do every Thanksgiving dinner – you time out when to put everything in the oven. The longest (Turkey) first, and then the sides. This time, you don’t have to cook a whole turkey, and your protein (the scallops) are actually SO EASY AND FAST (4 minutes) to cook (because I have a secret for you).

So looking a the whole meal, if you decide to make the entire meal, start with making the strawberries. They can be made a day ahead and stored in your refrigerator so all you have to do after cooking a marvelous dinner is simply plate them. Your guest/partner/spouse will be thinking, “When did Martha Stewart come from?” These will take you about 5-10 minutes depending on how many strawberries you’ll need (er.. want?). Really! It’s that fast!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
1 Bag of Melting Chocolate (start with melting half and add more as needed), optional add on of white chocolate for drizzle
1 Pint of Fresh Strawberries,
dried very well with a paper towel
1 Wooden Skewer
(optional, alternatively use a fork) for dipping

These days the baking aisle should have melting chips of wafers as they are sometimes called, thin discs of chocolate that are designed to be coating chocolate. Look for something called “coating chocolate” or “melting chocolate” in the baking aisle and follow your package directions. Then all that’s left to do is dry your strawberries very well with a paper towel before dipping, dip using fingers holding the green part (or a skewer inserted into the green stem side), and place on a parchment sheet to cool. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. If you like, melt some white melting chocolate and cut a teeny-tiny hole in a ziplock bag. Fill and drizzle over your chocolate-covered strawberries.

You’re done! Now for the meal….

This meal looks gourmet but can be made in a cinch! A fairly confident cook could make this in 30 minutes, an entry-level cook may want to move slower and take 45. Either way is fine! Move at your own speed.

Ingredient List for Salad
Spring Peas in Shell, 1 bag or 8oz
1-2 Tablespoons Canola or Grapeseed Oil
8oz Burrata
, 2 4oz balls is preferred, but one 8oz is fine, just cut in half
1 Box / 6oz Arugula (if you can find a smaller package, you’ll only need a handful per person)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to drizzle)

Ingredient List for the Main Course
8 U-10* Scallops (estimate 4/person) OR 2-4 Shrimp/person (I did half small scallops and half shrimp so you can see what it looks like either way).
1/2-2 Tbsp White Truffle Oil (White Truffle flavored olive oil is also acceptable for this purpose)
1 Tbsp Champagne Vinegar
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Bunch of Asparagus, cut 2 inches below the tips
1/2 Cup Grits
1 1/2+ Cups Milk
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

*U-10 means the number of units (scallops) in a pound. You’ll see this for other seafood items like shrimp (often 26-30 meaning there are 26-30 in a pound) or other scallops (which also have much higher numbers for much smaller scallops). Make sure to ask your butcher/fishmonger for the best ones, you don’t want any broken scallops and you’re paying a premium for them, so you deserve it!

To start making the dinner, get out the peas and the asparagus.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the asparagus 2-3 inches below the bottom of the tip (where the stalk meets the tip). Place on a sheet tray and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside until oven has pre-heated.

2. While the oven is heating, grab your spring peas and wash well if needed.
Heat a skillet on high heat with grapeseed oil. Once the oil is hot enough to start sizzling the second you put a pea pod in, drop them all in. Don’t stir for two minutes! Let them be, and brown. This is important. After 2 minutes, gently toss them and then, let them be for another 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make the dressing for the main course. Measure out 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of white truffle oil. Mix and taste, if you desire more truffle oil add. If the truffle is too strong, add more olive oil or a touch of grapeseed oil for a neutral flavor.

4. Measure out the grits and add to a small sauce pot (remember it will expand so not too small!).
Add in milk and bring to a simmer. Once the milk begins to slowly simmer, whisk very well, continuously.

5. Take your peas off the heat but keep in your saute pan.

6. Place asparagus in the oven. Cook until just slightly al dente, about 15 minutes.

7. Once your grits have soaked up all the milk, add another 1/4 cup. Whisk well and turn the heat down to low.

8. Heat a larger saute pan with just enough grapeseed oil to lightly coat the bottom. Get it very, very hot again.

9. Once hot, salt and pepper the scallops and place in the saute pan.

10. Stir polenta and add more milk as needed.

11. Check asparagus, and turn the oven up to 400 F, it’s okay if the asparagus are not done yet.

12. Once the scallops look like they are 1/4-1/2 way cooked from the bottom up (after about 2 minutes depending on size), take your saute pan and place it in the oven along with the asparagus. At this point your asparagus should be almost done, you want it hot and roasted but still a nice bite.

13. Check your polenta, add in 1/4 cup more milk if needed and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Whisk well.

14. After 3 minutes, remove your scallops from the oven. Breathe a sigh of relief because you have PERFECTLY cooked scallops, not rubbery, but melt-in-your-mouth goodness. They may even look a touch underdone on the bottom (current the side that’s facing up, not on the pan). If so, flip ’em over and let the residual heat from the pan cook them. But don’t put them back in the oven, and don’t put them back on a hot burner. Trust yourself and the process.

Plate your salad and your entrees. Alternatively, you can plate the salad first and wait to put the scallops in the oven until you are ready to eat them (still sear them beforehand but remove from heat. The polenta can stay on low heat for 15-20 minutes as long as there’s enough liquid.

For salads:
Start with a small handful of arugula on each plate.
Top with the burrata and gently separate to expose the curds inside.
Top with the still warm blistered pea pods.
Drizzle with olive oil and top with sea salt.

For the main:
Dish the grits into a bowl.
Place 4-5 Asparagus tips on top of the grits.
Place 4 scallops on top, shingled if you can.
Drizzle the Truffle vinaigrette on top and around. You only need a bit!

Voila!! You are a gourmet cook. Take pictures of your meal and post on instagram! Tag me so I can see how your menus turned out.

Thanks for following!