- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ever since I wrote “Seriously Simple” in 2002, I have made sure my recipes follow three rules — they must be easy to prepare, intensely flavored and made with the freshest ingredients possible, given my time and energy restrictions. I am, after all, a working mom.

I love good food. Through the years, I have hosted a food and wine radio show and written 18 cookbooks. Along the way, I developed a long list of cooking shortcuts and techniques that help make dinner preparation easy.

The recipes you will read in my Seriously Simple column each week are designed to reduce prep time and streamline cooking yet retain a high standard of quality. I will also share my “Help is on the Way” tips, which will tout handy tools, twists on techniques and my fascination with good-quality ready-made ingredients.

All of this said, the meal that follows is the essence of Seriously Simple cooking. It is made by combining sea scallops with my homemade pesto — although I certainly have prepared this a multitude of times using commercial pesto. Alongside, I will serve whole-wheat pasta, a vegetable, a French baguette, crisp Pink Lady apples and a container of mascarpone cheese.

I prepare the pesto-marinated scallops in one of my favorite pans: a ridged nonstick skillet, my new favorite indoor grilling tool. Skewering the scallops on short wooden sticks makes them easier to cook evenly on both sides. They are finished with a ribbon of balsamic glaze — again, store-bought or homemade.

This sophisticated dinner is good enough for family or guests. It’s easy, it’s creative and it’s satisfying. I promise to have many more of these simple meals for you during the weeks to come. So think of me as your friend in the kitchen. I’ll be here to guide and inspire you.

Help is on the way: I love balsamic glaze or syrup and use it on any number of dishes. It can be found in the supermarket next to balsamic vinegar, in with the salad dressings, or you can make it yourself. In a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, boil down inexpensive balsamic vinegar by half, or until it becomes syrupy and slightly thickened but not burned. Store it in a glass container with a spout in the refrigerator. Use it on salads, as a sauce or as a flavor enhancer.

Grilled pesto scallops with balsamic glaze

Marinade:

1 tablespoons all-purpose basil pesto (recipe follows) or favorite commercially made pesto

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds large sea scallops

2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (homemade or commercially made)

Cooked whole-wheat pasta, optional

Combine pesto, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place scallops in a resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Make sure marinade is evenly distributed. Close bag and refrigerate for to 2 hours.

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in cold water for 1 hour to prevent them from burning while grilling. When ready to grill, thread scallops onto skewers

Prepare barbecue or grill pan for medium-high heat grilling. Grill scallops about 3 inches from flame for 3 to 4 minutes per side until cooked as desired. (They could be seared on the outside and just cooked in the center.) Place shrimp on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately with whole wheat pasta, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

ALL-PURPOSE BASIL PESTO:

2 medium garlic cloves

2 cups medium-packed fresh basil leaves (about 2 medium bunches)

cup parsley leaves

2 tablespoons pine nuts

cup olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

While the motor is running, add garlic cloves to food processor and process until pureed. Add the basil and parsley and process until finely chopped. Add the pine nuts and finely chop. With the blades turning, slowly pour in the olive oil in a fine stream. Add pepper. Just before serving, add cheese and process until well blended. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate the pesto in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week or until ready to use. Makes about 11/4 cups.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple.” To contact her, visit www.seriouslysimple.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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