Carole Baldwin is the curator in charge of the Fish Division at the Museum of Natural History, so it's fitting that she and twin sister Camille Richardson chose to enter Top Tomato 2012 with a seafood dish.
Here, tomato water provides a nice acidic balance to the rich scallops and butter. After draining the liquid, don't throw out the chopped pulp: You can put it to use in any number of other recipes (or just eat it as is with a little salt and pepper).
- 1 large very ripe tomato, about 8 ounces, or more as needed
- 1 medium leek, white and light-green parts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 4 large dry-pack sea scallops (see NOTE), each halved horizontally to yield 8 pieces total
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced parsley
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees or to the lowest possible temperature.
Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Core and coarsely chop the tomato and transfer it to the strainer, trying not to lose any of the juices. Let the tomato water drain into the bowl, occasionally using the back of a large spoon to press lightly on the tomato, to help release the liquid. After about 30 minutes, you should have at least 1/4 cup of liquid.
Meanwhile, trim the root end of the leek. Slice the leek in half lengthwise, beginning at the base end, but don't cut all the way through; this will allow you to loosen the layers of leek with your fingers as you rinse it thoroughly under cool running water. Shake the leek dry and pat it dry with paper towels. Slice it crosswise into thin half-moons.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leek and cook for 1 minute, stirring, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the leek softens and just begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Divide between 2 small ovenproof serving plates and transfer to the oven to stay warm.
Wipe any remaining bits of leek and oil from the skillet, then add the butter and heat over medium-high heat. Lightly season one side of each scallop half with salt and pepper. When the butter has melted and heated for a minute or so, add the scallops and cook for about 30 seconds on each side, until barely opaque and lightly browned.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Remove the serving plates from the oven and arrange 4 scallop halves on top of the leek on each plate. Return the plates to the oven.
Return the skillet to the heat, add at least 1/4 cup and up to 1/2 cup of the tomato water and cook until the liquid in the pan has reduced to about 2 tablespoons.
Remove the plates from the oven and drizzle half of the sauce over the scallops and leek on each plate. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately, or hold briefly in the warm oven.
NOTE: Dry-pack scallops have been packaged without additives that can make them absorb excess moisture. They are usually ivory or beige in color, whereas wet-pack scallops are bright white.
From Top Tomato 2012 finalists Carole Baldwin and Camille Richardson, identical twins from Alexandria and Beaufort, S.C., respectively.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.