warm scallop and watercress salad with bacon vinaigrette

May 14th, 2008 · 42 Comments

i’m a book buyer.  which doesn’t necessarily mean that i’m always a book reader.  of course each book is carefully chosen with varying degrees of hope, excitement and promise, and the contents of my cyber cart are always just one quick click away from being all mine…  but then the books arrive only to be relegated to any number of stacks or shelves throughout my home.  and from there the books taunt me, filling me with guilt, making me once again realize that they have yet to fulfill their destiny.  and destiny is big….

so yesterday morning the latest book hit my doorstep. i don’t recall how or even why i’d heard about this one, but i had, for some good reason, sought it out – and now here we were, together.  but this time, instead of adding it to the closest pile, i immediately opened to a random page and began to flip through, until my eyes rested upon what was to become – dinner.  smiling, i grabbed the scallops and bacon from the freezer and jotted down the word ‘watercress’ on my days shopping list.  this was going to be magically delicious and made in 15 minutes – tops.

the book is called ‘secret ingredients – the magical process of combining flavors’ by michael roberts.  and the more i read about mr. roberts, who died an untimely death 3 years ago, the more i like him.  in his ny times obituary he is noted as "a restaurateur and chef whose playful and astonishingly successful marriages of preposterous ingredients helped forge the California culinary revolution of the 1980′s".  he was a risk taker when it came to flavor.  and i happen to like that in a guy.  he writes of flavor marriages as in ‘sherry and brandy’ and ‘chili and curry’, and of flavor oppositions such as ‘apples and cheese’ and ‘salt and sugar’ or ‘sugar and vinegar’, and from there he discusses flavor juxtaposition – as in garlic masking the bitterness of rosemary but allowing the herbalness to come through. or cocktail sauce, unfolding in layers, first the tomato and then the horseradish – married by the lemon…

i haven’t read a novel in too long because lately, i just get lost in this kind of thing.  when i’m reading about food i am focused.  pennies drop.  i proverbially clap out loud and gasp and nod and moan and laugh.  food just entertains the hell outa me.  better than fast cars, heroin or sky diving, i suppose.

warm scallop and watercress salad with bacon vinaigrette
adapted from
‘secret ingredients’ by michael roberts

i opted to not leave the bacon fat in the dish and reflected this in my adaptation.  it just seemed so pointless, but it’s your life and you can drink bacon grease all day long.  choosing longevity, i decided to use more grapeseed oil and drain the pig fat.  i also upped the apple slices just because..

2 bunches of watercress
1 medium granny smith apple
lemon juice to keep the apple slices from oxidizing
1/2 cup salad oil (i like grapeseed for this)
3/4 lb bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 lb sea scallops
2 T finely minced shallots
2/3 cup sherry vinegar

mound the watercress leaves onto 4 plates
core the apple without peeling, cut into quarters and slice thin
sprinkle with the lemon juice
arrange the apples around the watercress – set aside
add bacon to a 9 or 10 inch cold skillet – sauté over medium heat 4 minutes
drain most of the bacon fat from the pan and add scallops, searing until brown on each side
be sure they stay rare in the center
add the shallots and vinegar and cook for a minute longer
remove from heat and add the oil
then drizzle with the remaining dressing in the pan
portion the scallops and bacon onto the plates

there is something so very sexy, even powerful about being able to whip out a solid dish with very little effort… especially when it’s this good.

Tags: bacon · salad · seafood

42 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert // May 14, 2008 at 10:07 pm


    But how did it taste?

  • 2 Peter // May 14, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Claudia, the dish looks great and scallops and bacon are long-time partners in dishes…I’m in!

  • 3 Marc @ No Recipes // May 14, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Looks fantastic! I love playing with seemingly “preposterous” combo’s of flavors.

  • 4 evil chef mom // May 14, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    what do you mean i can’t drink bacon fat all day long? you mean i will die?

    you are so right about there being something sexy and powerful about whipping out a solid dish with little effort. i think tht’s why my husband fell in love with me. i am a chef dominatrix.

  • 5 Vincent // May 15, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Heheheh, evilchefmom gives a new meaning to the words “whipped cream”

    Looks great – it’s beats the stale popcorn and $6 soda my son and I had at the movies tonight, that is fo sho. Roberts was a wunderkind – everyone pairs lobster and vanilla now as well as others he brought forward.

  • 6 giz // May 15, 2008 at 5:40 am

    The description of the book arriving at the door and it’s journey through the stacks rings oh so familiar. There are stacks – neatly placed – in nearly every room of the house. It’s a pathetic obsession that will one day cause the foundation of my house to completely collapse.
    But, one good recipe makes up for it all, right and this one could be it. Scallops and watercress – what a great combo.

  • 7 kate // May 15, 2008 at 5:56 am

    Looks fantastic! I think I will have to make this when my mom is in town next week. She loves scallops and of course believes anything is made better with bacon

  • 8 Donald // May 15, 2008 at 6:28 am

    I know what you mean. I have 4 new books whose spines haven’t been cracked! Now the Stephen King books, OTH, lots of recipes for terror in them!

    This dish is on the ToDo list. Quick easy, and lots of flavor. Well, as soon as I can eat shellfish again, that is!

  • 9 Mary Coleman // May 15, 2008 at 7:09 am

    I have got to get that book! You’re right…it is sexy and powerful to make something incredible with a minimum of effort.

  • 10 Stephanie // May 15, 2008 at 7:16 am

    That’s it! I’m sending you my credit card bill! Because now I am too intrigued by Mr. Roberts book not to buy it. I just bought “Will Write for Food” and actually took a day off from work to be able to read it…

    And I can’t find my cat sometimes because she gets lost in all the books I bought…thank God she meows on occasion.

  • 11 diva // May 15, 2008 at 7:43 am

    i loooove scallops. scallops and apples?? what a combination! yummy.
    also, i loove books. well i need them for study but i’m constantly finding it a massive struggle for space for all my books – literature, scholarly material, cookbooks, and all that jazz. :)

  • 12 dan // May 15, 2008 at 8:43 am

    mmmmm, i loooooove scallops. (hah! you thought i’d start with bacon…foooooled you). but really, i love bacon too, and more. so this meal speaks to me and says…eeeeeeat me.

    as you can tell, my brain is mush after the primary election here and the lack of my own kitchen as ‘apartment not ready gate’ rolls toward it’s third weekend. i promise to reeeeally try hard to use only the letters that are supposed to be in words the next time i pop in and comment!

  • 13 Chris // May 15, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Simple, easy, seafoodie, I am sold.

  • 14 Heather // May 15, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Bacon and apples are best mates. Dan’s right, though, everyone loves bacon but those scallops look divine. If God didn’t want us to eat ‘em, why’d he make ‘em bite-sized?

  • 15 Natalie // May 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Apples and cheese….so good. That was my lunch of choice in high school, I just may have to resurrect that combo and buy the book. Flavor oppositions are the best.

  • 16 Peter // May 15, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    …these are a few of my favorite things…

  • 17 michelle @ TNS // May 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    is there anything that the sweet kiss of bacon does not improve? i submit that there is not. also, i want this cookbook.

  • 18 lisa // May 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I too am a food book addict, and I also enjoy opting for longevity in recipes.

  • 19 We Are Never Full // May 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I totally agree with you about how reading about food stimulates you more than reading a novel. we’re the same way! i’m sure you’ve read books by peter maile and jeffery steingarten! with these two you get a story about stuff and food! it’s a double punch of excitement (did i just write that?).

    warm bacon dressing – haven’t had that in awhile!

  • 20 joycooks // May 15, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    claudia – I love reading about food too, almost as much as I love cooking and eating it. And watercress has been on my mind lately too…. I once made a dish with scallops, lentils and bacon and it was a wonderful combo which I didn’t expect!

  • 21 Kevin // May 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    That looks good! I like the sound of the scallop, bacon, granny smith apple and watercress combo.

  • 22 S for Kitchen Confit // May 15, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Yum, I will have to try this recipe. Apples pair so well with a number of unexpected foods. This salad looks great.

  • 23 Lauren // May 15, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    bacon…mmmm- bacon…everything tastes better with bacon.

  • 24 RecipeGirl // May 15, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I’m a book buyer too :)

    Watercress is one of my favorite things. I find that most of the time it’s tough to find a nice, fresh bunch around here.

    This salad looks great- and I love the no-fuss quality about it!

  • 25 Jessica // May 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Looks delicious! I am also a book buyer, I have lots of books stacked in the corner of my room.hehe

  • 26 The Spotted Apron // May 15, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    umm…amazing! i need to try this salad. i absolutely love scallops and i’m sure they would go really well with watercress and apples. i’m glad you adapted the recipe for longevity.

  • 27 canarygirl // May 16, 2008 at 4:52 am

    mmm, mmmm, MMMMHH! Gawd that looks good. :)

  • 28 aforkfulofspaghetti // May 16, 2008 at 6:44 am

    sounds like a great book – thanks for the heads up. Salad looks scrummy, too, especially those big, fat scallops. Yum!

  • 29 nina // May 16, 2008 at 9:20 am

    You have a lot of great flavors lined up here…..very tempting indeed.

  • 30 fluffernutter // May 16, 2008 at 9:49 am

    This book sounds like your soulmate! I thought we had a copy in the office library, but we don’t. I’m really intrigued.

  • 31 Lynn // May 16, 2008 at 10:37 am

    This recipe is precisely why I’m moving in with you. Let’s be lesbians.


    I will be perusing your site as to what to do with the morels that just plopped on my doorstep from Iowa.

  • 32 Becky And The Beanstock // May 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Oh, this is the kind of book I’ve been wishing someone would write. I’m glad you pointed out that someone HAS! It’s been ordered, so watch out world.

    I ordered a flatbread with watercress at a restaurant last week. Flatbread showed up — no watercress. So I asked the waitress. She shrugged. No, really, I wasn’t just curious — I wanted the watercress. It’s why I ordered the darn flatbread. So she got the cook to come out. He says, “Eh, menu error. No one has ever asked before”.

    I’ve been craving watercress ever since. Thanks for the inspiration. Not sure it would have worked on pizzetta anyway…

  • 33 Kim // May 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I am so proud that you whipped this up in as much time as it would take an average person to put in a tv dinner!
    I am so allergic to scallops it is not funny! Too bad as it looks so good…….

  • 34 Hillary // May 16, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Scallops are amazing…nice preparation.

  • 35 melissa // May 16, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I don’t have room for more books, yet I keep buying them. cookbooks and otherwise. though with “regular” books, it takes me forever to get to them. kind of sad, considering I probably read hundreds of books up through my early 20s.

    need to do warm bacon dressing. hm.

  • 36 feeding maybelle // May 16, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I was very sad at michael roberts’ death–I am a total believer in varied taste combinations; particularly the opposites. And, this looks delicious–we used bacon the other night as well.

  • 37 NOBLE PIG // May 16, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Step aside, I’m coming in with my fork!

    To die for I tell you! To die for!

  • 38 Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good? // May 17, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Oh, dear sweet bacon, darling scallops, I miss you both. The raw diet sends its regards.

  • 39 Ethel // May 18, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    My kind of food. I just wish calories don’t count.
    I loved the combinations of flavors. Keep on writing and cooking. No need to fret.

  • 40 Claudia // May 18, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I think I need that book. To add to the other cookbooks I have, of course. Tried the salad last night, with a few modifications. The market didn’t have watercress, so I picked some arugula from my garden for a substitute. Also eliminated the bacon, but was still terrific. Nice contrast of ingredients.

  • 41 lifeinrecipes // May 20, 2008 at 10:11 am

    In the 80′s I worked with a very talented unsung chef who had worked with Michael Roberts in the kitchen at Trump’s, and maintained many of Chef Robert’s culinary sensibilities. I own this book and refer to it constantly. A treasure.

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