Recipe: Pomegranate Risotto With Bay Scallops Alla Veneziana
By Susan Simon
Commercial bay scalloping season opened on Nov. 1 in just about all the areas in the northeast where the sweet, bivalve mollusk is fished. While the area that we call home isn’t on a coast, popular – and anxiously awaited – bay scallops are available for sale in many local markets. None is more precious than the Nantucket bay scallop that grows in the pure water of the island’s bays. I know, I’m prejudiced. I spend as much time as possible in what I refer to as the “other whaling town” when I’m at home in Hudson. And when I’m on island, Hudson becomes the “other whaling town.”
Decades ago, before I moved to New York City and then eventually to Hudson, I lived on Nantucket year ‘round. I went scalloping in the cold winter months with my brother-in-law. It was one of the most appealing occupations I’ve had in my life. We’d leave the dock at an unreasonable morning hour and head straight into the sunrise where the only detectable sound was the soft putt-putt of our little boat. Big reward.
Once we reached the legal limit of scallops allowed per person, per day, we headed back to the dock and unloaded our bushels. Then I went off to a shanty to open them. The day ended when we sold the pearly white shellfish to a wholesaler. The scallops that didn’t stay on island went off to the fish markets in the big Northeastern cities.
I enjoy scallops in every way possible – just keep them simple and barely cooked. Ceviche is a favorite preparation: marinate the scallops with lime zest and juice; minced, fresh hot pepper; chopped scallions and chopped cilantro.
There’s also this.
Pomegranate Risotto with Bay Scallops alla Veneziana
I put together this combination after sampling a pomegranate and Prosecco risotto during a visit to the Veneto region of Italy where the tiny-bubbled white wine is one of the area’s most famous products.
The tart, ruby-bejeweled risotto was just asking for a sweet, bay scallop topping. It worked. I used a simple, all-purpose Venetian-style seafood recipe for the scallops – which can be cooked during the last few minutes of the risotto – resulting in not only a dish with surprising flavor but also a beautiful and festive one. Serve this at any of your winter holiday parties and wait for the kudos.
For the risotto:
3 tablespoons grape seed oil (a neutral flavor that won’t compete with the other ingredients)
1¼ cups finely chopped onions
1½ cups vialone nano or carnaroli (or any short, fat rice)
1 cup Prosecco or dry white wine
6 - 7 cups hot water
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Seeds from one pomegranate *
For the scallops:
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon finely minced fresh red hot pepper such as Thai, cayenne or jalapeno
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup dry white vermouth
1 lb bay scallops
¼ cup firmly packed, finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Add the grapeseed oil and the onions to a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they become translucent but not brown, about 6 -8 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the wine and cook until the rice has absorbed it. Keep a pot of hot water on a burner near the skillet and add two cups of water and stir continuously until all the liquid is absorbed. Keep adding the water, 2 cups at a time until the rice is tender and a bit of liquid remains in the skillet, about 18 minutes. During the addition of the last 2 cups of water, add the grated cheese. Turn down the heat to a faint simmer, add the butter and pomegranate seeds. Stir to combine. Add salt to taste.
In a skillet, over medium heat, sauté the garlic and hot pepper in olive oil. Just as the garlic starts to turn gold, add lemon juice and vermouth. Lower the heat a notch and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add the scallops and cook until opaque, 1½ - 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the scallops will become rubbery in an instant. Stir in the parsley. Add the risotto to a large, warm serving platter. Cover with scallops and serve immediately.
*To remove pomegranate seeds from its shell: Roll the fruit on a hard surface to begin to loosen the seeds. Cut the fruit in half, place the halves in a baking dish or another container with sides. Press on the pomegranate sides as if you were squeezing juice from a lemon. Some seeds will automatically fall out. The skin will break, allowing you to reach all the seeds. Gently pull them away from the pith. The seeds will keep, refrigerated, for up to a week.
Susan Simon is the author of a James Beard award-winning book and a shopping guide to Marrakech, and has translated a culinary guide to Italy. She writes a weekly food column for the Hudson-Greene Media Group. She also writes the What We Eat Now series for Nantucket Today magazine. She lives in Hudson, N.Y.