It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything here. I could blame writer’s block for zapping the ability to communicate. Instead, I’ll blame the wife… with an explanation, of course (so I don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight!) She’s a TV producer and has been on a shoot the past couple of weeks that has kept her working for up to 18 hours a day, leaving me alone for dinners. Since I tend to order in more and cook less when I’m forced into the bachelor lifestyle, opportunities to post our culinary adventures will naturally drop.
Fortunately, the crazy shoot is now done and we’re back to a normal-ish schedule. To celebrate this and, more importantly, mark our six-month wedding anniversary, I decided a good meal was finally in order. Inspiration hit after a trip to St. Lawrence Market. We needed something fresh. Something rejuvenating. Something spring. Seared fennel-dusted scallops on roasted carrot puree with sautéed ramps and baby bok choy.
I’ve seared scallops several times and am finally getting the hang of it, and pureeing veggies is child’s play (Note: don’t let your child play with the blender). But this was my first experience with cooking ramps, also known as wild leeks for their similar flavour to regular leeks (those ramps are a little more reminiscent of garlic and onions). They’re revered by chefs and foodies not only for their taste, but also for their relative scarcity – ramps are one of the first edibles to emerge from the ground in the spring, but have a growing season that can last mere weeks.
Ramps are also, I discovered, a pain in the ass to clean. You have to pull off the roots, soak them in water, remove the papery “skin” that covers each stalk. But once they’re clean, the whole thing – bulb and leaf – is edible and full of amazing flavour. While the whole meal turned out great, we both became devout ramp fans.
Read on for the recipe (serves two).
For carrot puree
- Preheat oven to 425 C.
- Zest 1 orange and juice half of it.
- Chop 3 large carrots into rounds and place into a bowl.
- Mix juice of half an orange with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and a generous pinch each of ground coriander and cumin; toss with carrots.
- Wrap carrots in a foil pouch and roast in oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Puree roasted carrots in blender with a pinch of orange zest, a couple grinds of salt and pepper and liquid from foil pack; add more water a little at a time as needed to achieve the right consistency.
For sauteed ramps and baby bok choy
- To prepare ramps, cut white bulb from green leaves; chop bulb into thin rounds as you would a green onion; slice leaves lengthwise into thin strands.
- To prepare baby bok choy, separate each individual stalk from the inner core; discard cores (or chop up cores and use, if you’d rather not toss them).
- Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat; add bok choy and sautee until it begins to turn translucent, a couple minutes.
- Add chopped ramp bulbs and stir with bok choy for a minute or so; add a grind or two of salt. Add ramp greens and sautee another minute or two, until they just begin to wilt; remove from heat
For the seared scallops
Pat scallops dry on all sides (the drier they are, the better they’ll sear).
Rub scallops with olive oil and dust on both sides with fennel pollen.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When oil starts smoking slightly add scallops. Cook until scallops achieve good sear, 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes on other side. Remove from heat.
For orange-infused olive oil
- Heat about 4 tablespoons olive oil in a small pan over medium-low heat; add remaining orange zest. Stir and let zest flavour oil for several minutes. Remove from heat and stir a couple teaspoons of fennel pollen into oil while it’s still hot.
To serve, spread a generous amount of carrot puree across plate. Place scallops on top of puree, then drizzle orange-infused oil over scallops and carrot puree. Place sautéed ramps and baby bok choy on plate.