Many moons ago, my husband and I found ourselves in Italy, in the middle of a heat wave. The beautiful city of Rome is overflowing with fountains; cool, refreshing, swim-worthy fountains. Unfortunately, it’s also full of fountain police, whistles constantly in mouth, ready to blow at the first hint of a toe touching the water. When in Rome…don’t go in the fountains! Torture on such a hot day. But, sweet relief came in the form of little kiosks, selling big icy chunks of fresh, chilled coconut and iced bottles of water. I can still envision the towers of fresh coconut pieces, cool water running down over the artfully arranged displays. No coconut fountain police in sight. Sweet, sweet coconut relief.
So, whenever the weather gets hot, I think about coconut. It’s definitely hot out there today! I think a little coconut is in order.
Recently, my sister and brother-in-law posted pictures of a dinner they enjoyed at a fine restaurant on Skaneateles Lake. My sister had a juicy grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes, beets, carrots, and asparagus. The picture made me hungry. My brother-in-law’s selection didn’t have quite the same effect. The dish he ordered featured seared scallops alongside a bed of sautéed spinach and a strawberry pastry. Everything on the plate was drizzled in a bright pink sauce which looked like it was made of strawberry yogurt. I stared at the picture trying to make the dish work in my head. My brother-in-law said it was delicious and that the tart strawberries in the salty pastry complemented the sweetness of the scallops. Sounds sensible enough, but I’m still having a hard time with the dish. I love the combination of fruit and seafood, especially during the hot summer months. Strawberries with scallops makes sense to me. And, I like strawberries in spinach salad, so I guess that pairing makes sense too. I think my issue with the dish lies more with the creamy, sweet-looking sauce and the dessert-like appearance of the pastry sitting next to the scallops. But, what do I know??
In any case, I must still have scallops and fruit on my mind, because as I was trying to come up with an interesting way to use the coconut I was craving, scallops dominated my thoughts. I tossed around the idea of somehow cooking scallops in the fresh coconut water, but I didn’t imagine a very nice texture resulting from that preparation. So I decided to pan-sear the scallops and combine the coconut with a bit of pineapple, orange, and lime for a pina colada inspired salsa. Not wanting to let any of the yummy coconut go to waste, I reserved the sweet coconut water to use in cooking the rice. The result was a light, fresh dinner on a hot summer day.
Tending to the fresh pineapple and coconut take a little time, but it’s worth it. Though my vote definitely goes towards using the fresh fruits, you could easily substitute canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, and unsweetened shredded coconut for the salsa and canned coconut milk for the rice for a really quick, delicious summer meal.
Pan-seared Scallops with Pina Colada Salsa over Coconut Rice
For the Scallops:
- 1 pound Scallops
- 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
For the Salsa:
- 1 cup Pineapple, diced
- 1/2 cup Orange supremes, chopped*
- 1/2 cup fresh Coconut, grated
- 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- Juice of 1 Lime
*To supreme an orange, cut off the top and the bottom. Place it on a hard surface and cut off the skin and pith. Then, use a paring knife or other sharp knife to cut out each orange segment between the membranes.
To prepare the salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix to combine. Taste. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To cook the scallops, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium to medium-high heat. Pat the scallops dry and season with a little salt. Place the scallops in the pan. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes, without disturbing. Once they’ve formed a golden-brown crust, turn the scallops over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until fully cooked and translucent.
Prepare the rice according the package directions, substituting fresh coconut water for part of the water. Throw in a couple small chunks of coconut for added flavor.
Serve the scallops on a bed of the coconut rice and pina colada salsa.