- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Out-of-town friends recently sent an e-mail at the last minute to say they would be in my city for a few days, so my first thought was to plan a small dinner party. After looking at my calendar and finding it marked with commitments, I sent back a message asking our friends to stop by for wine and hors d’oeuvres.

I wondered what I might serve. To keep it simple, I decided to prepare one special appetizer and buy some nibbles to go along. A recipe for delectable mushroom and scallop toasts that I had just prepared for a cooking class would be the star attraction, and a creamy little goat cheese, herbed Mediterranean olives and toasted almonds, all available at my local supermarket, would complete the offerings.

The mushroom and scallop toasts were an instant hit and could be assembled mostly in advance. Early on the day of the get-together, I brushed baguette slices with olive oil, then lightly toasted them in the oven. I also sauteed shiitake mushrooms, shallots and garlic together, seasoned them with rosemary and then simmered the mixture in wine.

At serving time, I spread the toasts with the flavorful mushrooms and popped them into the oven to stay warm while I quickly (in less than 3 minutes) sauteed thinly sliced sea scallops for a topping. The crispy toasts were a perfect foil for the velvety smooth scallops and tender mushrooms. Each bite seemed to deliver a blissful combo of varying textures and tastes.

Our friends stayed almost two hours, and once the wine was poured and the wild-mushroom and scallop toasts and other appetizers were set out, I didn’t need to return to the kitchen. My husband took on the responsibility of refilling glasses while I sat and soaked up the lively conversation.

Wild-mushroom and scallop toasts

12 baguette slices cut 1/4-inch thick

Olive oil

6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded and mushrooms coarsely chopped

1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

teaspoon dried crushed rosemary (see note)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons dry white wine

4 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley, divided

4 large (about 1 ounce each) sea scallops, patted dry with side muscles removed

Place baguette slices on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush each side with olive oil. Bake on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven 4 minutes, then turn and bake 2 minutes more until golden and just crisp.

Remove and cool. (Toasts can be prepared 6 hours ahead; place in a self-sealing plastic bag and store at room temperature.) Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy nonreactive skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add mushrooms and shallots; saute, stirring, until both are softened and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grindings of pepper. Cook 1 minute, then add wine and cook until all liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes or more.

Taste mushrooms and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. (Mushrooms can be prepared 6 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat.) Stir in half of the chopped parsley.

When ready to serve, top each toast with some warm mushroom mixture and arrange toasts on a baking sheet. Place on center rack of preheated 350-degree oven to warm for 5 minutes while you prepare the scallops.

Slice each scallop horizontally into 3 rounds and pat them dry. In a large, heavy skillet set over high heat, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom well. When hot, add sliced scallops and saute until golden, about 1 minute.

Turn and cook on other side until golden and cooked through, about 1 minute. Salt and pepper scallops. Top each toast with a scallop slice and a sprinkle of some of the remaining parsley. Arrange on a platter and serve warm. Makes 12 toasts, 4 to 6 servings.

Note: McCormick sells dried crushed rosemary. If you can’t find dried crushed rosemary, crush regular dried rosemary in an electric spice mill or place it in a self-sealing plastic bag and roll over it with a rolling pin.




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