Scallops with Ajo Blanco and Pickled Grapes

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Scallops with Ajo Blanco and Pickled Grapes

Recipe adapted from Ryan Poli, Tavernita, Chicago

Yield: Serves 4

Cook Time: 25 minutes



2 cups water

1½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup red wine vinegar

20 green grapes, halved

Ajo Blanco

1½ cups 1-inch fresh bread cubes from a half loaf of rustic-style bread

1¾ cups water (preferably filtered or bottled)

1 cup skinned raw almonds, roughly chopped

2 small garlic cloves

2½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar

Kosher salt


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for serving

½ celery stalk, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped cucumber

2 tablespoons finely chopped marcona almonds

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Kosher salt

16 large sea scallops


1. Make the pickled grapes: In a large saucepan set over high heat, boil the water, sugar and vinegar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. In a large bowl, add the grape halves, pour the vinegar mixture over the grapes and set aside to cool completely. Use a slotted spoon to remove the grape halves and set aside.

2. Make the ajo blanco: In a large bowl, cover the bread cubes with ½ cup of water and set aside for 20 minutes. Drain the bread and squeeze out the extra liquid, then place the bread in a blender. Add the almonds, garlic and ¾ cup of water and purée into a smooth paste, adding enough of the remaining ½ cup of water to yield a very smooth mixture. Add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream to emulsify the sauce. Pour into an airtight container, stir in the vinegar, season with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

2. Make the scallops: In a small saucepan set over medium heat, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the celery, cucumber and almonds and cook, stirring often, until warmed through, about 1½ minutes. Add the pickled grapes, then stir in the sherry vinegar and salt and turn off the heat.

4. Season both sides of the scallops with salt. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat until nearly smoking, 1½ to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the scallops and cook until golden brown, about 3½ minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 3½ minutes longer. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

5. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the ajo blanco in each of 4 shallow bowls. Divide the grape mixture over each serving of ajo blanco, top with 4 scallops, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

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