Cristina Cooks: Seared Scallops on Himalayan Salt Block
This recipe courtesy of Salt Block Cooking by Mark Bitterman
• 1 (9- to 10-inch) square salt block
• ¼ cup fresh lime juice • ¼ cup Thai fish sauce • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil • 1 garlic clove, minced • 1 hot chile pepper, such as bird chile, habanero, cayenne, or Scotch bonnet, stem and seeds removed, minced • ¼ cup finely shredded carrot • 1 ¼ pounds large, wild-caught sea scallops (about 16) • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Place the salt block over low heat on a gas grill or gas stovetop for 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and heat for 10 more minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and heat the block to about 600-degrees F for about 20 more minutes.
- To make the dipping sauce, mix the lime juice, fish sauce, ¼ cup water, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, chile pepper and carrot; set aside.
- Pat the scallops dry and pull off the small white muscle on the side of the scallop if not already removed. Season the scallops with the black pepper and let stand at room temperature until the salt block is hot.
- When the salt block is very hot (you should only be able to hold your hand above it for just a few seconds), place the scallops on the salt block and sear until browned and springy to the touch but still a little soft in the center, about 3 minutes per side. Work in batches if your salt block cannot comfortably fit all the scallops at once.
- Transfer scallops to a platter or plates and serve with the dipping sauce.
Salt Block Asparagus Rolled In Pancetta With Mostarda Dipping Sauce
Put yourself in a Fiat convertible en route to a salumeria off in the countryside outside of Bologna. A woman with a lead foot and hair like spun sugar is shouting in Italian about salt and pig, and you are shielding your face from the wind-whipped frenzy of her hair. You tilt your head back and look straight up at the sky, and the music from the radio and the sun wrap you up and lift you away. Later that night, drinking a cold beer on a crowded piazza, you open your bag and wrap fresh figs and raw string beans and Parmesan cheese chunks in cured pork, all slathered in the revelation that is mustard oil–infused fruit preserves. I am there with her now. Fry your bacon-wrapped asparagus on a salt block and dip it in homemade mostarda, and you won’t even wish you were there with us.
• 1 (8 to 10-inch) square or (9-inch) round salt block
• 2 tablespoons bitter orange marmalade • 2 tablespoons mustard oil (available in Indian groceries) • Juice of ½ orange (2 to 3 tablespoons) • 1 tablespoon chopped kalamata olives • 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives • 1 pound green asparagus spears (36 pencil-thin, 24 crayon-thick, or 12 very thick) • 12 pieces thinly sliced pancetta (3 ounces) • 2 tablespoons olive oil • Freshly ground black pepper
- Place the salt block over low heat on a gas grill grate, close the lid, and warm for 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium and heat for 10 more minutes. Its surface should be about 350°F.
- While the salt block is heating, mix the marmalade, mustard oil, orange juice, olives, mustard seeds, and chives in a small bowl suitable for dipping; set aside.
- Cut or snap the tough ends off the asparagus and wrap the asparagus in a piece of pancetta.
- If using thin asparagus, wrap in bundles of three; if using medium-thick, wrap in pairs; and if using thick mommas, wrap individually.
- Brush the wrapped asparagus with the olive oil and season with pepper.
- Put the asparagus bundles on the hot salt block, close the lid, and grill until the pancetta has rendered about one-quarter of its fat and is beginning to crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes.
- The asparagus will turn brighter green.
- Turn the bundles over, close the lid, and grill until the pancetta is cooked on the other side, about 3 more minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce.
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