Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gansu to the Garden: Grilling Season (Citrus Basil Scallop Skewers and Pesto Stuffed Portabellas)

For those of you residing beyond the Great Lakes' finest grid, Chicago just wrapped up a banner weekend. It was this beautiful, sunny bit-o-glory that glittered like a preview of a fine season to come. Saturday was spent harvesting compost, spreading that fertile wormy goodness out on the new vegetable patch, planting onions and garlic, breaking up peat moss and the like. I was devoutly rank by the end of it and it felt like pure perfection.

Sunday opened up to much the same but I don't regret investing most of it in a bar-tending class with the Martini Queen of the South Side- pretty sure you'll see some of those skills popping up as the summer works its way forward. That being said, we were determined to squeeze a few additional outdoor hours in once class wrapped. Time to christen that grill.

Sorry for all the we-talk but it was the usual suspects. Molly, Jaime, Dave and Lisa- with all the travel schedules it legitimately felt like we were all variations on the Goldilocks bears, creaking out of hibernation. Dave is freshly returned from a month in China (hence the Gansu reference) and Lisa is still so excited that she's cooking. "She who brings the wine" has discovered quite a cook's streak and I don't see her slowing down anytime soon. In fact she's quite eloquently laid out her approach to both of these recipes over at Elle Michelle.

Lucky us:

Sharing the screen time above was my main contribution- Citrus Basil Scallop Skewers. Cooks Illustrated has a handy how-to on grilling scallops in their May/June issue and I just so happened to have a bag of the frozen bay variety in the freezer. I love it when that happens.

The recipe tasted pretty great but I think it might have looked even better. Keep your Skittles, this is the much-preferred method of tasting the rainbow.

Just above the skewers themselves was another grill friendly creation. It is a non-secret that I love mushrooms. A friendlier food never did exist in my opinion and, by the by, I held that opinion long before my Mushroom Channel days (client). That being said, those lovely caps were a riff on my first favorite stuffed portabella recipe from a couple summers ago.

Seeing as there was less Oberon involved this time, I had the good sense to simplify. That recipe accompanies the skewers below. I also just have to note that Oberon season is upon us again and it's the equivalent of being grateful for the sunshine only you can drink it. I said it. Bell's Oberon is drinkable sunshine.

In the midst of the grilling process, there was plenty of time for Dave to chase his favorite tail around the garden (not literally though, my timing was just funny for that one on the left). Typically HC has sprinted in the opposite direction whenever Dave comes over. His affection for her is that powerful. I think she must have missed him though because that Hocat was feeling quite coquettish, a reminder of the season.

We finished off dinner with a baby apple pie a la mode- a 7 inch pie dish is the perfect amount for six eaters. That brings my tally up to four pies in two weeks. In case you needed another reminder that the season is changing.

Citrus Basil Scallop Skewers
5 wood skewers that have been soaking in water for at least 30 minutes

2lbs bay scallops, rinsed and dried (And thawed if they were frozen. Come on, guys.)
1 blood orange cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 tangerine cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 cup whole basil leaves
15 brightly colored sweet bonnet peppers

1 TB flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp citrus salt (kosher salt will be just fine but go fancy if you're feelin it)
Lots of fresh ground pepper
1 TB citrus zest (I used orange but anything would work here)
2 1/2 TB vegetable oil

First, put your skewers together. Take one pre-soaked skewer and stab one of your bigger peppers. From there the order is as follows: folded up basil leaf, 2 scallops, blood orange slice, 2 scallops, basil leaf, tangerine slice, 2 scallops, pepper and repeat one more time till you get to the end of the skewer and it looks about as pictured.

Second, mix all of your grill marinade ingredients in a small bowl (makes a loose paste) and brush both sides of your completed skewers.

Grill at a medium flame for about 4-5 minutes per side or until they've have a nice, even char grill lines. Enjoy!

Pesto Stuffed Portabellas
1/4 cup prepared pesto (I defrosted some from last summer)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
3 portabella mushroom caps, excess dirt brushed off and stem removed
Cooking spray (I am a new convert to the Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Spray)
Your favorite goat cheese (Prairie Fruits for me, please)

I actually found that the easiest way to start was to give each mushroom cap a light coating of olive oil all the way around then season it generously with fresh pepper. Then I felt ready to start filling.

Stir the pesto and Dijon together and spread an even amount at the base of each mushroom. It's only a small amount of mustard so it doesn't disrupt the pesto flavor but does add a nice bite. You could also achieve this with some fresh lemon juice. From there, start alternating layers of basil and spinach leaves. Three of each is more than enough but it will wilt down. From there, press your goat cheese into the the top leaves to secure all the filling. Top with chopped leftover greens.

These are on the grill the same amount of time as the scallop skewers, though please don't flip them :) 8-10 minutes total (with lid on) or ready when the cap turns dark brown and the goat cheese is getting golden on the top.


elle michelle said...

Those mushrooms = to die for

Meg Blocker said...

Your pies are so perfect that they make me weep with jealousy. And the skewers look pretty damn good, too.

TKTC said...

EM- Any time you want a mushroom, you come to my house. I will make you mushrooms all of the days.

Meg- I feel like I need to start shaking it up with the lattice. Pinterest is giving me an inferiority complex but I will likely forget about that by the time the real fruit comes knocking. Do you get Cooks Illustrated? The whole strawberry pie they had in the most recent issue may need to happen.