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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Beluga Za'atar Scallops on Beet and Lentil Puree

I love the way the crispy black beluga lentils mimic caviar 

This is it. This is my final entry for the Lentil Recipe Revelations Challenge and I think it's a doozer. I had made some of this beluga lentil za'atar at the beginning of my recipe development phase and although I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, I knew they would make an appearance. They are perfect when you want to add a bit of crunch to something and the addition of the za'atar turns the lentils into an actual condiment. I have been sprinkling them on food and eating them straight out of the container for weeks now while I munch and I think. I munch and I think. What to do with these brilliant little black pearls?


I found a beet dip in the cookbook, Jerusalem and fell madly in love with it, making variations of it all the time. How you can not fall in love with anything this delicious that is also so bright and colourful? For this appetizer, I used less yogurt so that it is thicker- more of a proper puree. There is a more pronounced beet flavour and the colour is really intense ( it showed up a few days ago for these canapes  and it is one of my obsessions right now). I am so happy that while the colour really sets off these beautiful, black, shiny beluga lentils, the flavours work beautifully together.

This is the food equivalent of wearing bright pink shoes with your little black dress 
To serve this appetizer, make sure the beet puree is at room temperature and that the lentil puree is either room temperature or a little bit warm. It doesn't need to be hot but nothing on the plate should be cold either.

Everyone needs a real showstopper in their bag of tricks and nothing is better than a showstopper that is actually so much easier to make than it looks. You can make every element of this dish before hand and just sear the scallops and assemble the finished dish just before serving. As always, muss up your hair, dampen your brow and bash some pans around in the kitchen. Nobody has to know that something this pretty can also be this simple to throw together as well. WINNING!


Beluga Za'atar Scallops on Beet and Lentil Puree



Crispy Beluga Za'atar

1/2 cup beluga lentils
vegetable oil for deep frying
2 tbls za'atar

soak the beluga lentils in water for an hour. Drain them well and let them dry on a sheet of paper towel or a clean tea towel while for at least an hour - you want them completely dry.

Heat up some vegetable oil in a small pot (about 1" deep will do) until a lentil sizzles on contact when you drop it in. Drop in your lentils and deep fry them for about 1 minute, remove them with a fine slotted spoon and spread them out on another paper towel. Sprinkle them with za'atar while they are still hot and toss them around. Let cool and put aside. You can make them a week or so in advance and store them in an airtight container.

Beet Puree

1/2 lb of beets (about 3 medium sized beets)
1 clove garlic
1 small thai chili, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tbls maple syrup
1 tbls olive oil
1 tbls za'atar

cut the beets into quarters, wrap them securely in foil and roast in a 425F oven for an hour. Remove from the oven, let them sit for a few minutes in the foil and then peel them by running them under cold water while you rub the skin off with your fingers. Set aside (can be made a day or two in advance)

Chop the beets and put them in a food processor along with the garlic, chili and yogurt and puree until smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in the maple syrup, olive oil and za'atar and set aside. You can make it a couple of days in advance but make sure to bring it to room temperature before making the final dish.

Beluga Lentil Puree

1 cup dried beluga lentils
1 1/3 cup of chicken broth
water
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp squid ink (optional but it really makes it blacker and prettier)
kosher salt to taste

Put the lentils in a pot with 1 cup of chicken stock and then top up with water until they are covered by at least an inch. Bring to a boil and simmer lightly for 30 minutes. Check from time to time and add a bit of water if they look like they are drying out.

After they are done, drain them, throw them in the food processor with the last 1/3 cup chicken broth, squid ink, cumin, coriander and a pinch of kosher salt and whiz until smooth. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Set aside

8 scallops
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
butter
extra virgin olive oil


To assemble:

Make sure the beet puree is at room temperature and the lentil puree should be at room temperature or just a bit warm.

On each plate, smear a bottom layer of beet puree, then add a dollop of lentil puree in the centre of the beets on each plate.

Heat a frying pan over med high heat until it's very hot. Melt at least a tbls of butter in the pan. Salt and pepper the scallops.

When the pan is very hot (test with a drop of water - it should sizzle immediately) drop in the scallops and sear them for 1 1/2 minute, turn them over and sear on the second side for another 1 1/2 minute.

Remove the scallops with tongs and put two on each plate. Drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil over each scallop - maybe a tsp or so each plate. Make a little mound of the crispy beluga za'atar on top of each scallop and then sprinkle extra around each plate.