- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

By August, temperatures are soaring in inland Massachusetts, where we live, so to elude the heat, we, like countless others all along the East Coast, head for the shore. We find refuge on Cape Cod with good friends who have a small cottage near the water.

From the minute we arrive for a long weekend, I am in heaven. Ocean breezes keep the temperatures noticeably cooler, the beaches are irresistible, and there are countless charming towns to visit.

Most of all, though, I look forward to the incredible variety of fresh seafood.

You can indulge in crab rolls made with delectable crab salad mounded onto toasted and buttered rolls, splurge on a 3-pound lobster, order dozens of mussels, or opt for clams and oysters.

Our hosts love to cook and eat as much as we do, so we always go to a nearby fish store together to purchase each night’s supper. Because scallops are my favorite shellfish, I am taking with me this year a new recipe that features these tender morsels.

Pan-seared scallops and tomatoes with basil beurre blanc takes only a few minutes to assemble and makes a striking visual impression.

Beurre blanc, a classic French sauce made by whisking bits of butter into a mixture of shallots, white wine and wine vinegar, makes a perfect partner to seafood and can be prepared a half-hour in advance.

In this version, chopped basil and a hint of hot red pepper flakes add color and heat, respectively, to the finished sauce, which is drizzled over sauteed scallops and grape tomatoes.

Couscous, a green salad and corn on the cob would make fine accompaniments to these scallops, which, by the way, will be delicious whether you eat them at the shore or in the heartland.

Pan-seared scallops and tomatoes with basil beurre blanc

BASIL BEURRE BLANC:

1½ tablespoons finely chopped shallot

3 tablespoons dry white wine

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil, plus several sprigs for garnish

SCALLOPS AND TOMATOES:

1½ pounds large fresh sea scallops, side muscles removed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3/4 cup grape tomatoes

Kosher salt

To make the basil beurre blanc, place shallots, wine and vinegar in a small, nonreactive, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, watching carefully, until almost all the liquids have evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in 6 tablespoons butter half a tablespoon at a time. Sauce will thicken and become creamy and smooth. Remove from heat and place pan with sauce in a skillet of warm water to keep warm. Season sauce with ½ teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. (The sauce can be prepared 30 minutes ahead. If sauce needs reheating, place the skillet of water over low heat and whisk sauce until just warm.)

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel. Heat 1 tablespoon each butter and oil in a medium-large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add tomatoes; saute, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes to soften slightly. (Do not overcook or tomatoes will burst.) Remove to a large plate and season with salt, then cover loosely with foil.

In the same skillet, add enough scallops to fit comfortably in a single layer, and saute them about 2 minutes per side, until rich golden brown on both sides. Remove to plate with tomatoes and cover with foil. Repeat using remaining butter and oil to finish cooking scallops. Add scallops to plate with tomatoes and season with salt.

To serve, divide scallops and tomatoes evenly on four dinner plates. Stir chopped basil into warm butter sauce, and drizzle each serving with about 2 tablespoons of the basil beurre blanc. Garnish each plate with a basil sprig. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

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