Scallops are here! Scallops are here!
They’re early this year and the prediction is there will be few on the market because the price of oil is keeping boats in the dock. I hope this is not true. There was plenty for all at the Le Neubourg market this morning, and I hope it stays that way all season.
I actually couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the beloved pink and white-shelled mollusks; usually we wait for them until Novmember, when the air is cracking crisp. As I approached, I feared they’d be skinny and dry from the warm waters but no, they were plump, gorgeous, and shiny.
I must have looked rapturous, because my friend-the-fishmonger, Bruno, said “How many?” I said four, and he put eight in a bag and gave them to me, waving away my money. “Anyone who looks that happy for a scallop deserves them as a gift.”
Fiona wandered in from school at noon. I told her we had scallops for lunch and her face lit up. She is the only person I know who loves them as much as I do. I shucked two, cut them into paper-thin slices, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with fleur de sel. We ate them slowly, savoring each second, bowing to this very first moment of the scallop season.
Then I sautéed a handful of knobby “ratte” potatoes that I’d cut very thin, and two fat heirloom tomatoes that were so soft they were about to explode. I added garlic and basil, and at the very last minute, put the remaining scallops on top and covered the mix. Four minutes later, I carefully spooned this blend of the season onto our plates, along with some farm-fresh, steamed broccoli. It was a true market lunch, with a small host of ingredients we were eating for the first time in the season.
I can’t describe the feeling. It’s nothing, really, aside from a vague sensation that all is right with the world. Of course, nothing seems right with the world yet stop and think about it. The broccoli tastes so rich and good; the scallops are abundant and sweet; the potatoes are firm and shouty with flavor; the garlic and basil lift everything close to heaven. That big world out there is wavering; our small world, the one where we eat, sleep, work, study, and live, is ticking along.
Don’t feel I’m a snob when I talk of food this way. I’m not. I just know what I can control, and what I cannot. I cannot control the headlines (though I’d like to). But I can control what I bring into my kitchen and serve to my family and friends. I’m lucky. I’ve got a fabulous group on my team, from farmers to fishmongers, cheese makers and mushroom growers.
But you’ve all got what I’ve got. So, let’s enjoy. Maybe all the good feeling, and the support for farmers and fishermen and all the really important people, will make a difference and change those headlines for the better. You never know! Enjoy!
Repas de Midi du Marché
Simple Market Lunch
1 head broccoli, florets removed from the stem and cut into bite-sized pieces, stem peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces (250g) fingerling potatoes, washed and sliced into thin rounds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 fat, ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
6 fresh scallops, rinsed and refrigerated
1. Place the broccoli in a steamer set over 3 cups water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat so the water is boiling, cover, and steam until the broccoli is tender through but still bright green, about 6 minutes.
2. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl with 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel.
3. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes to the skillet, toss so they are coated with the oil, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook until they are golden on one side, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. toss the potatoes and re-season, then add the tomatoes. Shake the pan, cover, and cook until the potatoes are nearly soft through, about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the garlic over the mixture, season with salt and pepper and shake the pan. Strew the basil leaves over all, and set the scallops atop the vegetables. Cover, and cook until the scallops are just barely translucent, about 4 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, transfer the broccoli from the steamer to the bowl with the olive oil and toss.
6. When the scallops are cooked, transfer the mixture to 4 warmed plates. Divide the broccoli among the plates, season all with salt and a bit of pepper if desired, and serve.
4 small servings (This will serve two, amply)