curried carrot soup and scallops

While perusing the aisles and putzing my way around my second home, I was, as per usual, very enthused by what my fishmonger had in store! And by that I mean I came across some beautiful in-shell diver scallops!  As you all may know, I try to be as economical as possible, so why NOT purchase something that you can eat, and then utilize parts of it later as random serving pieces as well - more bang for your buck if you know what I mean. Clearly, the scallops were a necessary purchase. Along with some cockles. And some other things.  I proceeded to tell Mr. Fishmonger that I have a long history of battles with seafood - in that they always like to attack me.  We all know the score : Crustaceans/Mollusks/Sea Creatures - 3, Kitty Kat = 0.  Although, I suppose the whole process of creating a dish and dining on said seafood trumps all of that anyway. Moving on!

I also made the all important stop at Kalustyan's.  Which I've decided - I am only allowed to go there once per quarter, otherwise I would be broke as a joke.  I have NO self control whatsoever when I go there to stop myself from purchasing EVERYTHING because it is all so amazing! I now have in my possessions trillions of various dried beans, random spices all over the place, and the world's hottest pepper - Naga Jolokia...the ghost pepper. Really? How is that necessary? On a side note, my good friend informed me that "naga" in Hindi means cobra. Therefore, it is the Cobra Pepper. That actually substantiated my purchase more, because who DOESN'T need to have something called Cobra Peppers in their life? But I digress.  The scallop and Kalustyan's combination led my culinary intentions down the road to the land of spice! Scallops, carrot, and curry, oh my!

Seared Diver Scallops in a Curried Carrot Broth with Buna-Shimeji Mushrooms
For 2 servings
4 large sea scallops (really, purchase however many you deem appropriate depending on the size!)
1 cup carrot juice, home-juiced or store bought
One small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 apple, chopped
2 T curry powder
1 t turmeric
1 t paprika, more or less depending on your spice preference - and if it's hot or sweet paprika
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 bunch Buna-Shimeji mushroom, broken up (about 1 cup)
A few tablespoons of olive oil 

If you like to do as much as possible at once like me, you can start off by having dueling pans - one saucepan to boil the carrot juice, and another to make your improvised "curry paste". For the carrot juice, just bring it to a boil, and pour through cheesecloth into another bowl/sauce pan, and keep warm on the stove  This step takes out all of the carrot solids and leaves you with pure carrot broth! Yum!  In the saute pan, heat about 2 T of olive oil over medium heat.  Toss in the onions, and sweet for a few minutes.  Next, add in your garlic and apple, stirring occasionally - let this cook until the apples are warmed through and a bit soft.  Finally, add in the spices, about 1 t of salt and pepper, and mix until combined.  

*Side bar: Careful with turmeric, it stains EVERYTHING! I, of course, had a Three Stooges moment, and my spoon of turmeric did a perfect 520 backflip and landed all over me and my typical NY black attire - fortunately it wasn't white!  Appropriately, my Indian friend claimed that I looked like I could be partaking in Holi - the festival of color. I would be totally down with that. Touche!*

Puree this whole, sweet-smelling mish-mash of goodness, and pass through a sieve to get all of the large chunks out.  This curry paste is sweeter than it is spicy because of the apples, but it's a great combination with the carrot juice!  Whisk in about 1 T of the curry paste to the warm carrot broth - taste for seasoning, and even add a bit more curry paste if you like.  Keep this mixture warm for plating later.

Set both the carrot juice and the curry paste aside.  Heat up another/the same, but cleaned, saute pan over medium heat and swirl in about 1-2 T of olive oil and bring up to heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add in the mushrooms and saute until tender and cooked through.  These little mushrooms really are quite delicious with no added seasonings, but you may want to add a bit of salt and pepper to your liking.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and reserve for later.  

Using the same pan, add in a bit more olive oil, if necessary, and bring the heat up to medium-high.  Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan - make sure not to crowd the scallops.  You want to sear them, not steam them!  When the scallop is golden brown on one side (it will let you know by "letting go" of the pan when you try to move it!), flip it and sear on the final side.  Depending on the true size of your scallop this should only take a few minutes - you can even leave it a tad bit rare in the center, or until it is just cooked through.

Fortunately, even though there may seem to be a few steps involved in this process, it really is not too much of an involved dish!  Once all of your various parts of the dish are prepared, it's time to plate.  In a shallow bowl, place a bunch of the sauteed mushrooms in the center.  Place two of the scallops atop the mushrooms, and gently pour the curried carrot soup around them.  Serve immediately, and garnish with some chervil if you're into some greenery!  Kick back, and enjoy!

Scallops, as always, are quite delicious on their own, but the carrot-curry combination plays quite well with them.  Although it is a curry, because it has a minimal amount of spice (comparatively to other curries) as well as the inclusion of apples, the flavoring is rather subtle, and each component really has it's chance to shine.  The mushrooms are delicate in flavor as well, but add a nice earthiness to the dish as a whole to round it out.  Oh, that and the color of the soup is quite beautiful!

Frankly, I could just eat the curried carrot portion all by itself as a soup - it could probably be transformed into a fantastic vegetarian meal in itself - but that's a task for next time!


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