While it’s still technically spring, the sweltering temps have made it feel like summer. And when it’s hot, my seafood cravings kick into overdrive. Fish is quick and virtual mess-free to cook and eat outside. But what if you don’t have access to a grill? Or if the all too frequent thunderstorms threaten to rain on your parade? That’s what happened to me the other night after I purchased some plump sea scallops and jumbo gulf shrimp (yes, they’re safe to eat). Rooting around in the pantry I found a can of coconut milk and decided to change the plan. In a few minutes I had a wonderfully fragrant and spicy soup, perfect for any summer night (or a cold winter day when you want to invoke summer). You can feel free to use any type of fish you want — shrimp, bay or sea scallops (if you use sea, I’d cook them separately as in the recipe below), squid, clams, mussels and crab or add some fish. As you know, I love to see what’s on sale and what looks good at the market and encourage you to do the same. This dish is excellent with a dry Riesling or glass of rose. Almost any seasonal craft beer would be a nice accompaniment too. But if you want a cocktail option, as I usually do, try a jalapeno-infused spirit with some fruit, maybe some tangerine juice mixed into a tequila. The fruit will cut the spice in the liquor and complement the sweetness and heat in the broth. This dish is hard to mess up, so have fun experimenting with your cooking and beverage choice. Whatever you choose, make it fun!
Thai-Inspired Shrimp & Scallop Coconut Curry (serves 2)
1/2 can of coconut milk
1/2 lb of fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lb of bay or sea scallops
1/2 lb of cleaned squid, sliced into rings and tentacles cut (optional)
1 tbsp of chopped scallions
8 oz of shitake mushrooms
1 tbsp of curry (yellow, red, or green)
1/2 tbsp of fresh grated ginger (or 1 tsp of powder), plus extra for sea scallops
A few pieces of lemongrass, fresh or dried, if available
A few pieces of dried galangal, if available
1 tsp of sambal sauce
Juice of half a lime
Heat coconut milk in a medium saucepan. Add scallions and spices to taste. Then add lime juice as needed. (Note: I like things spicy, so adjust the seasonings to your liking – if it’s too spicy, just add more coconut milk and citrus. If you want it spicier, add more curry, ginger or sambal.) If using squid, add that first. Then add shrimp and bay scallops, if using, after the sauce is thoroughly heated (the shrimp and bay scallops take about 3 minutes to cook, so don’t put them in too soon). Add shitakes with or after the shrimp depending on how tender you want them. After the flavors have merged, taste again and adjust the spice level if needed.
For sea scallops: Separately, pan sear the sea scallops in a hot pan with the butter. Dust the scallops with fresh ginger, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice and fresh ground pepper (or white pepper if you prefer). When nicely seared on each side (about 2-3 minutes per side depending on size of the scallops), you’re ready to plate.
You can serve this as a soup, over rice or over some fresh greens, like arugula or spinach.