Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Scallops and vegetables with Creamy Pesto Sauce





I have been spending most of my days at my Mom's house for the last few weeks. My very amazing Mom is not well right now so my sister my aunt some of my Mom's friends and I are spending as much time as we can with her. My Mom has always been a super hostess. She always has company all day and everyday.
For now we have taken over feeding the troupes for Mom. We have been eating like kings while we are there. My Mom's friend Carol who is staying with her has been keeping us very well fed. Carol is so considerate about finding ways to feed me even when my allergies prevent me from eating the same as everyone else. When most people hear the word diet they just assume that you eat salad all of the time, but Carol has been very wonderful about going out of her way to prepare many other foods that can be served with just a little tweak here and there to fit my allergies and Celiac disease. I really appreciate that such a nice person has come all the way to Campbell River from Reno Nevada to help my Mom in her time of need. Thank you Carol. We are all good cooks, so we have been enjoying a vast array of recipes. It has given all of us a chance to try new recipes that we would not normally prepare for ourselves. This recipe is one of my sisters. It was quick and easy to prepare and worth every moment spent.

It is rare as adults, moms, grandma's or aunties that we get to spend weeks together cooking, but it has been a treat to work together as a team cooking meals. You learn so much when working with other good cooks. Tonight my sister took the reigns for dinner and prepared an amazing dish of Scallops sauteed with pesto Cream Sauce. It was so good and the aroma from the food was wonderful. She added some left over chicken to the dish too, but it would be great served with just the scallops too. My sister says she has made this dish with prawns as well with great results. This was a really quick and easy meal. Everyone but myself had their sauce served over egg noodles, and I cooked some butternut squash as a base. I really like that even though this recipe used a few packaged foods, they are still foods that are on the side of good food still.

One of the best things about this meal was the wonderful aroma's that were coming from the kitchen. When you smell good food cooking it just increases your appetite. The scallops were a perfect seafood to serve as a few of our guests were not huge seafood fans. Scallops have such a mild seafood taste and smell they are perfect for someone who would not normally like seafood. The other benefit is they have no bones. I know my husband is no longer keen on eating fish that has bones as he swallowed a bone a few years ago and had to have his throat scraped to remove it. When I make fish now I spend hours removing all of the bones with tweezers. So I have come to appreciate boneless seafood as it is still very fast cooking and the preparation is easier.



If you have never had a scallop, they are a sort of solid white meat mollusks. They are not very flaky so they do not fall apart when cooked. They are part of a family of animals that include snails, sea slugs, octopi, squid, clams, mussels and oysters. Scallops are not like most others in their family as they are free-swimming. They clap their shells to propel themselves in the water. Scallops can be found in the oceans all over the world. They can grow anywhere from 4 to 9 inches across when fully grown. We eat the abductor muscle when it is removed from the shell. The abductor muscle is what controls the shell when the scallop is swimming. The scallop has a fan shaped shell that has a fluted pattern. They range in colour from white, to pink and orange. Many people remove the scallop from the shell to clean it and then serve their scallop in the saved shell.



So to now get down to the recipe, you will find this dish very quick and easy to prepare. One of the things I learnt while preparing the scallops was that after you remove them from the package and give them a little rinse with water you must always dry the surface of the scallops before cooking them. My sister very simply put them between two layers of paper towel and lightly blotted them.
If you cook muscles with out drying them they will not sear properly. Make sure your muscles are thawed before cooking if they are frozen. If they are in a white liquid in the bag be sure to rinse them well. Be sure not to overcook the scallops, they only take a few minutes to be done. The will turn opaque when they are done. If you overcook them they will get dry and tough. They cook so fast they are a perfect weeknight dinner.




Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen scallops, medium size, thawed and blotted in paper towel
cooking oil, I like to use avocado oil as it works at high heat
3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
2 cups of cleaned and sliced mushrooms
2 cups of fresh broccoli, cut into small trees
red or/and yellow peppers, sliced
2 cups of sugar snap peas, cleaned
1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 8 oz brick of cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons of whipping cream
1/2 a bottle of jarred pesto
salt & pepper to taste
*optional - a shake of dried chilies
4 cups of washed spinach
3 green onions, finely chopped
cooked egg noodles, or alternative "noodles" like spaghetti squash

The vegetables in this recipe are flexible, based on what is available at the time. So is the seafood, you can use chicken, prawns or scallops. The first step for this dish is too cook the noodles. These egg noodles take 20 minutes to cook in boiling salted water. My Mom gets these noodles in Arizona and brings them home with her. They keep their shape and consistency when cooking. I have not tried them for myself but I trust my Moms opinion. I am celiac and cannot eat wheat noodles, so I chose to serve my scallops over squash (which is what we had in the fridge). Most of the time I would exchange spaghetti squash for noodles. You can use any type of egg noodles that you choose.





Cook the noodles following the package directions. Drain and set aside until you are ready to serve.


The next step is to prepare and clean all of your vegetables. When I am doing a stir fry I like to arrange my vegetables on a plate in piles, based on cooking times. Heat a large pan or wok over high heat. Usually you start to add the vegetables that take the longest to cook first. In this case it would be broccoli florets and mushrooms first. Stir fry for about two minutes and then add the snow peas, red and or yellow peppers and snow peas. Fry about two minutes. Add the zucchini and fry about one minute. We had a little bit of cooked chicken to use up so we added it too. This is totally optional based on what you have in your fridge.

You only want to cook the vegetables to tender crisp and not overcooked and squishy.





Normally you would only use scallops in this recipe but chicken was a good addition. 




Cut the cream cheese into small blocks so it will melt more quickly. Add the 1/2 jar of prepared pesto and two or three tablespoons of whipping cream. The cream will help to break down the cream cheese and it will thin the sauce a little. Add two or three cloves of crushed garlic, salt and pepper to taste and if you like spice you can add a shake of dried chilies.



We added about four cups of spinach. Cook it just until it is wilted. 
By now you will be drooling, while you wait to be served, as the aroma coming from this dish is wonderful. Quickly add the dried scallops to the mix. Cook just until the scallops turn from translucent to white. Do not overcook the scallops or they will get chewy.





You are now ready to serve. Dish up some noodles or an alternative in your dish. We served ours in a pasta bowl. You could serve a few slices of french bread or a nice soft bun with your pasta to soak up any leftover sauce. Add a garnish of chopped green onion if desired. 



Before serving rinse the noodles with hot water just to loosen them up. Give them a gentle stir.
Serve a scoop of noodles in each dish and top with the scallop and vegetable mixture.




Enjoy! This was a really quick and easy meal to prepare and to cook. It was very good.


As you can see it was one of those meals when everyone cleans their plate. It was very fresh tasting and easy to clean up from too. It used very few dishes to prepare it too. One of the most important directions is to not overcook the scallops. When seafood is cooked properly it is tender and sweet, when it is overcooked it is tough and chewy. Normally I like my seafood without any sauce, but this recipe is one of the exceptions. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.










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