Not here

A couple weeks ago, it seemed that everywhere I looked people were enjoying ramp season – like here, and here, and even here. But – and this is the important part – not here. That is, not here, in my house, in California. Where I am.

If these impossibly hip foraged delicacies can make Alana Chernila feel that she’s “looking on at the cool kids from afar,” well – I am a whole lot farther afar than Alana, as measured both in coolness zone and in time zone. Ramps just don’t grow here. And if they did, I probably wouldn’t know the people who knew how to find them. Excuse me, forage them.

But don’t worry – as much as I would love to taste ramps some day, this is not a pity party! No, no. This is a scallop party!

Scallops? you say, surprised. But Hannah you don’t like scallops.

Ah, no, you’re right. I eat most anything, and love most fish, but normally I’m not so much of a non-fin-having-fish person. But my husband … my husband loves scallops so much, and I love my husband so much, that one time at Nobu 57 I ate something that he ordered off-menu, where they sliced the scallops onto our dish as they served them – that is to say, those scallops were NOT DEAD YET when they put them on our plates. I love sushi. But as I regularly try to explain to Jacob, there is a difference between raw fish and alive fish. Or alive fish-like-things. Quick shout out to cousin Melissa for braving it with me. (And yes, it was actually, sadly, predictably delicious).

Where am I going with all this?

For the first time in my life, I cooked scallops. I had all this bright, crisp asparagus ready for roasting and I was thinking butter, greens, springtime … fish. But they were just unloading a pile of fresh bay scallops into the display case when I got to the fish counter, and for whatever reason I had a flash of Kyle’s exuberant face when we ate those other scallops, so many years ago. So, it turns out that sometimes love looks an awful lot like a container of small, creamy white, vaguely cylindrical sea creatures.

I prepared them with a slurry of butter and green garlic from the farmer’s market. The scallops were creamy and slightly sweet, the butter was – well, butter – and the green garlic was almost like eating a romantically whispered hint of garlic, or a beautiful idea of garlic, rather than garlic itself. Those lovely little garlic shoots were sweetly fragrant, thinly streaked with purple … come to think of it, they almost look like ramps.

Well, we live in hope. After all, scallops are one thing I never thought I would see in my kitchen – so for next year’s ramp season … I guess you never know.

Bay Scallops with Butter and Green Garlic
Simple, tasty, and full of springtime goodness. I turned to Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food for my scallop cooking method. The sauce is just butter and garlic – letting those delicate green garlic flavors really shine. 

3/4 pound bay scallops
1-2 teaspoons canola oil
4 green garlic stalks, cleaned and thinly sliced (if you have ramps, I imagine they would make an adequate substitute … )
2 tablespoons butter
Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat. Once it is hot, pour in canola oil, just enough to coat the pan. Turn the heat to high, and add the scallops – do not crowd them, since they need space to brown. Cook for three to four minutes, tossing in the pan as they cook – don’t overcook. Better to slightly undercook them, actually, since they are coming back in the pan in a moment. Remove the scallops from the pan (they should be starting to get toasty brown edges, but still be mostly white). Reduce heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan. Add the sliced green garlic, and saute for about a minute. You want to soften it and release the fragrance, but not let it get anywhere near mushy. Return the scallops to the pan and toss gently for about thirty seconds, to coat with the butter and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm, with oven roasted asparagus and crusty bread.