Pine Nut Finalist Number Three


So far this week, we’ve seen pine nuts get the bacon treatment and inventively paired with salmon.

Our third finalist is Matt, who some of you may know as the blogger behind wrightfood. Matt decided to pair his pine nuts with some tasty scallops. If you ask me, scallops are kind of like the bacon of the sea–it’s hard to lose a cooking contest if you’re using them. So this is gonna be interesting. Here’s what Matt has to say for himself:

The pine nuts here are used pretty basically. Not ground, boiled, stewed or set on fire. For me pine nuts add a wonderful textural quality that somewhat gets lost when you grind it up.

Add to that the slight smokey/oily taste that comes from them when they are lightly toasted – and they are just fantastic as they are. I have been known to just toast a few handfuls and eat them as a snack.

So – that is my entry: Pan Seared Scallops, Red Onion Confit, toasted pine nuts and sage oil. Here they were really used as a textural element, and to add a little smokiness to push the confit taste forward a bit.

Full recipe after the j.

Pan Seared Scallops, Red Onion Confit, toasted pine nuts and sage oil

1lb of fresh large sea scallops
5 to 6 medium sized red onions, peeled and finely sliced
6 tablespoons of red wine
6 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of thyme – chopped
1 teaspoon of sage – finely chopped (for the confit)
sea salt
really good first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
olive oil for cooking
1 small handful of pine nuts
5 sage leaves – finely sliced (for the sage oil)
a few sage flowers if you are feeling poncey.

Start by making the confit. In a really large saute pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. When hot, add in the onions. Cover and allow these to cook down slowly for about 10 minutes, until just soft. Add in the red wine, balsamic vinegar, sugar, thyme and teaspoon of sage. Gently mix. Let this cook slowly, so it is just bubbling for about 40 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing is sticking (especially important towards the end when a lot of liquid has reduced). Turn the heat off under the onions when they are nice and sticky, and little to no juice is free in the pan.

About 15 minutes before the onions are done, take the scallops out of the fridge. Gently wash, and dry really well on paper towels. Season both flat sides with sea salt. Let them get to room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile lets make the sage oil. Put the sliced sage leaves into the bowl of a pestle and mortar, and pour in a few good glugs of the decent olive oil. Pound this up for a 5 minutes, until the sage leaves have mashed up a bit, and released some of their oils. Strain this oil through a really fine mesh sieve.

Toast the pine nuts in a saute pan over a low heat, until lightly browned.

In a large pan (use two pans if you have to – we don’t want to crowd the scallops) heat a little olive oil. If you are using stainless steel, make sure there is enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. If you are using non-stick you can use less oil.

When the oil is really hot, but not smoking, place in your scallops, placing them as far apart from each other as possible. We need to give them room to release their juices. If they are crowded in, they end up steaming and not searing.

Let them cook for a minute or two on the first side, then flip them when nicely coloured. Cook on the other side for no more than a couple of minutes.

To plate – put down a layer of pine nuts on a plate. Top with half of the confit. Top with half of the scallops. Drizzle the sage oil around the dish. Top with sage flowers if using.

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