Seafood Antipasto Salad

Monday, March 12, 2012

I was watching an older episode of Giada on TV the other week and saw her make this. It was one of those dishes that I saw, promptly bought the ingredients for, and made it the next day without hesitation. It's perfection: light and healthy but just packed of amazing flavors and bold colors, it's an irresitable combination of grilled seafood and vegetables tossed with orzo pasta and a lemon-herb vinaigrette. In her version she used calamari (squid) which I would have used (minus the tenticles...I hate the tenticles...) but my local Whole Foods were out. So instead I used bay scallops. Naturally bite-sized and full of sweetness, they worked just perfectly I thought, and frankly won't even bother making this again with the squid; the scallops were so good. Eggplant and zucchini marinated and grilled add color and flavor, and instead of grilling and chopping tomatoes like Giada did, I simply added halved grape tomatoes for freshness and a boost of insane gorgeous red color. I added lemon zest and fresh thyme to my vinaigrette and the result was insane.

This recipe comes together literally in minutes -- less than 20 minutes you'll have a complete meal. It can be made in advance if you'd like to serve this as an appetizer for a dinner or bbq side, or perfect for a party. You can add virtually any vegetable and seafood combo you like; I plan to try this again adding muscles and clams as well. This recipe makes a hearty 4 portion or smaller appetizer portion for 6. Enjoy!

Seafood Antipasto Salad
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (that includes the tail!)
1/2 lb bay scallops (frozen or fresh is ok; defrosted thoroughly if using previously frozen)
1 japanese eggplant, ends trimmed then cut into thirds
1 large or 2 smaller zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into thirds
2 scallions, chopped small
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 lb cooked orzo pasta, drained
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling 
1 Tbsp lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped

Wash and rinse the shrimp -- remove the shells (including the tail) and devein if necessary. Pat dry with a paper towel and set aside. Pat dry the scallops and set aside. Season the shellfish with salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle some olive oil on top. Toss gently to coat and set aside. Lay out the eggplant and zucchini onto a baking sheet or board, and drizzle with some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat the vegetables well with the oil and seasonings.

Heat a grill pan (or you can use an outdoor grill as well) to medium-high. Grill the eggplant and zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes, flipping once. Remove to a cutting board. After the veggies are grilled, add the shrimp and scallops* and grill until the shrimp is firm and turn pink, and the scallops are firm and turn opaque. The shrimp should take about 1 minute and the scallops around 40 seconds. Remove and set aside.

Chop the eggplant and zucchini into bite-sized pieces. In a large mixing bowl, add the orzo. Add the eggplant and zucchini, the shrimp and scallops, the tomatoes and scallions. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, some salt and pepper to taste, and thyme. Pour vinaigrette over the pasta salad and toss to combine well. Top with the mint, give another quick toss and serve.

*Scallops these small (if you're using bay scallops) will fall through on a regular grate for an outdoor grill. Either you use a vegetable griller or saute with some olive oil in a pan (stovetop or even on the grill outside). If you're using an indoor grill or grillpan, then the scallops are fine. You can also use larger scallops, but allow more time for cooking then.

Giada boils the orzo in chicken broth which would add some amazing flavor. Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian friendly version, or just salted water is great as well.

Italians generally don't add cheese to fish or pasta dishes involving fish. I'd stay away from adding some grated parmesan on top of this, especially since in my humble opinion I don't think the flavor goes particularly well with scallops or squid for that matter. If making this dish with just shrimp then some parmesan certainly won't hurt it; or try creamy feta cheese for a lovely salty bite!

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