Summer Squash, Scallops and Rice Pilaf with Balsamic Glaze

Nothing beats homegrown veggies straight out of the garden. Every time I’ve gone home to Indiana this summer, my mom – who inherited an impressive green thumb from her farming father, sends me back to Cleveland with a bounty of fresh produce, grown in the same rich soil my grandpa farmed for 60 years. This time, it was zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Zucchinis are classic – especially in grandma’s famous recipe for rice and zucchini, a common staple at our table growing up.  But some of my fondest zucchini memories have nothing at all to do with eating. See, when zucchinis would overgrow in the garden – sometimes more than a foot long and the circumference of a softball – they’d become too tough to eat. So we got crafty with our food and made Pickle Pigs – imagining the stem as the pig’s nose, and carving white lines into the zucchini’s dark green skin to make a face around it. We’d add little triangular slices of zucchini to resemble ears, and carve stripes, scales and other designs to decorate the body. The most fun was sticking in toothpicks as frail little pig legs, spikes of hair, or even a body full of spines – turning our Pickle Pigs into Pickle Porcupines.
Yes, I play with my food – which led to some experimentation with the yellow summer squash I brought home. Not to be confused with the golden zucchini (it’s OK, I’m a farm girl and I just learned the difference between yellow summer squash and yellow zucchini while writing this post), yellow summer squash joined rice pilaf and scallops in this experimental dish, adding some twists to my grandma’s old zuc & rice recipe. I’m sure grandma and grandma never ate squash this way:
Summer Squash, Scallops & Rice Pilaf with Balsamic Glaze
This is all the creation of my boyfriend/personal chef, who agreed to cook dinner if I washed the dishes. With the rice pilaf (box mix) cooking on the stove, he sliced and sauteed the yellow squash in olive oil over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper as they cooked. When they were cooked soft all the way through, he removed them from the stove top and covered them to stay warm while he moved onto the main attraction: the scallops.
He tossed thawed scallops in the skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter and began to sear them, then poured in enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan. He grated some Parmesan cheese into the skillet – making a mock Alfredo as the liquid began to bubble and cook any fishyness out of the scallops. When they were tender, he drained them, and began plating the plump scallops with the soft squash slices and the fluffy rice pilaf.
Over this, he drizzled a balsamic reduction, which I think gives a very artistic pizzazz to the final plate, and dresses up these summer squash to look like modern art. Bon appetit – I think Grandma would have been proud (as long as I didn’t tell her the rice came from a box).


Seafood Pizza

Seafood Pizza:
shrimp + scallops + crab + bacon + red onion + garlic + white asparagus + jalapeno hollandaise

Night on the Town: Pickwick and Frolic

Think crepes are just for breakfast? I did, and boy was I wrong.
Last night I finally had the pleasure of dining at Pickwick and Frolic on East 4th Street, downtown Cleveland, where my boyfriend serves and bartends. For a year, I’ve been listening to him rave about the scallops, so it was about time I put Pickwick’s food to the test, objectively, as someone who doesn’t receive a paycheck from them.
We started with the Caprese Salad, a starter that looks too pretty to eat. Slices of melt-in-your-mouth beets, fresh red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, and crispy-gooey fried mozzarella are layered atop a bed of greens and drizzled with EVOO and a balsamic reduction. The only bad thing is that it’s not big enough — I’d like a whole plateful of the fried mozzarella slices, please.
Then, much faster than I expected, our entrees were delivered. The Pan-Seared Diver Sea Scallops are seared to plump perfection, but what makes them delectable is the lemon-chive Beurre Blanc sauce. Really, I want to drink it. Another nice presentation, too, with the scallops arranged in a ring around a mound of orzo pilaf topped with spinach.
He ordered (and I tasted) the Tuscan Chicken, the closest thing to a French dish on Pickwick’s rustic menu. The meat rests on top of two crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and lavender, and that’s all topped off with a “rustic floral” tomato concasse sauce. I know, it seems like that game on Sesame Street: “Which of these does not belong?” I never would have thought to pair lavender-cheese crepes with a tomato-based chicken dish, but it works — quite well. It’s a nice, light floral accent to balance out the hearty tomatoes.  
I know I was supposed to be blown away by the scallops — and I was — but it’s those crepes I keep thinking about.
All in all, a terrifically delicious meal in a luxurious environment. Pickwick has a lot to offer, far beyond the excellent food. The Pickwick part is the actual restaurant, and then there’s also Frolic Cabaret, The Champagne Bar, Kevin’s Martini Bar, and Hilarities 4th Street Theatre — all in one building.The establishment suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, with each room claiming its own brand, but it’s in a good way — like if each of your multiple personalities was a beautiful, rich celebrity each with a distinct taste in alcohol and humor. Every room has a retro film noir feel, making it seem like a club that would be better suited for Hollywood than Cleveland. What better way to spend a night on the town than treating yourself to a magnificent dinner followed by a comedy show at Hilarities?
We ended the evening in loge seats for Adam Ferrara’s show. I can’t say that I watch him on either “Rescue Me” (Denis Leary frightens me) or “Top Gear” (I don’t care about cars), but I will say he was quite funny. I felt like I really got to know him during the show because of the personal family stories he told, often pausing for very serious moments to reflect on his father’s death or how much he loves his wife. A good blend of humor and poignancy, and a good way to end a great night.

Scallops & Tomatoes

This similar scallop recipe from Epicurious was my inspiration for simplified scallops and tomatoes.
scallops and cherry tomatoes recipe

Photo by Maren Caruso for epicurious

Fresh Domestic Scallops + Tomatoes Recipe:
1/2 cup scallops – rinse, pat dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes – washed and halved
1/4 cup red onions – chopped
olive oil
lemon juice
garlic salt, ground pepper, cayenne pepper

To thaw frozen scallops, give them a bath of cold water, changing often. Warm a couple teaspoons of olive oil in skillet at medium-high heat. Add scallops. Saute until they begin to brown, then remove to plate and cover. Add a little more oil and onions to skillet. Cook one minute, add tomatoes. Cook several minutes and add scallops back into skillet with about a teaspoon lemon juice.

Would be great served over angel hair pasta.