Tag Archives: Asparagus

Seared Scallops with Asparagus, Tomatoes and Sausage over Creamy Polenta

Pan Seared Scallops with Polenta

This was one of those random dinners that started out simple but, as I surveyed my refrigerator, became more complex (but not complicated). I have to admit that I’ve struggled a bit with polenta in the past. A former boyfriend’s Italian family always had a party on July 4th when all of the men cooked polenta outside over a big pot. The secret was the inclusion of the stinkiest cheese they could find. I’ve tried multiple times to replicate the recipe, but my polenta always ends up dry. This time, however, I managed to incorporate the cheese and keep the polenta creamy. And, let’s be honest, can you go wrong with seared scallops, asparagus, tomatoes, and sausage? To quote Bryan  (“We really rocked this one out of the park.”)The final dish was seared scallops with an a light orange sauce served over creamy polenta topped  with roasted asparagus and tomatoes, sausage, and fried shallot rings Although there are a lot of steps and you have to manage a few things at once, I wouldn’t say it’s hard. I recommend reading through the whole recipe/instructions first to get a general idea of the steps.  I hope will give it a try and enjoy this simple dish with amazing complex and complimentary flavors.


For the Polenta:

  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Polenta
  • 1/3 Cup Macarpone Cheese
  • 2 TBS. Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper

For the Scallops and Sauce (serves 4):

  • 12 Large Sea Scallops (or plan 3-4 scallops per person)
  • 4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped
  • 3-4 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice

For the Toppings:

  • 16 Asparagus Spears- trimmed to leave only the tender tops (usually top 3/4)
  • 1/2 Cup Grape (or Cherry) Tomatoes – cut in 1/2
  • About 2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 6 Sausage Links (or about 1/2 Bulk Breakfast Sausage)
  • 1 Large Shallot- sliced into thin rings
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Salt and Pepper


Begin by preparing the fired shallots. Put slice shallots in a bowl of cold water. In a small- medium sized saucepan, heat about 1 1/1 cup of vegetable Oil (you want about 1 1/2 – 2 inches of oil in the bottom of the pan). Heat oil to a temperature of 350 degrees. Put flour in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge shallot rings in flour. When oil reaches 350 degrees, fry shallot rings ( a few at a time) until crispy and golden brown. Transfer fried shallots to a piece of paper towel to drain.



Next, prepare the polenta. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and water to a low boil (a hard boil will scald the milk). Add the polenta and stir constantly to make sure no lumps forms. Once polenta starts to thicken a bit (5 minutes or so), you don’t have to be as constant with the stirring, and you can begin preparing some of the other components. The polenta will take anywhere from 20-35 minutes to really thicken; just be sure to stir it every couple of minutes to keep from clumping.



In a medium sized saute pan, heat 2-3 TBS. Olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until garlic just begins to brown. Add orange juice and bring to a boil, reduce to a steady simmer to reduce (go back and tend to polenta for a bit).

In the meantime, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus and tomatoes on a plate or shallow bowl and coat in olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer asparagus to a baking sheet or dish and set aside (go back and tend to the polenta for a bit).

Add scallops to the boiling sauce which should have reduced a little. Cook the scallops in the liquid for about 3-5 minutes (depending on size of scallops). Remove scallops from liquid and set aside. Continue cooking sauce for another 5 minutes or so until reduced by another 50 percent (go back to tend to the polenta for a bit).

Put the asparagus in preheated oven and cook for about 8-10 minutes until asparagus is just browned, but not mushy. Add tomatoes to baking tray and cook for another minute until tomatoes are just softened.

In a small saute pan, cook sausage (breaking it up into small crumbles) thoroughly.

At this point, the polenta should be thickened, (but not dry and stiff). If not, continue cooking. When polenta is thickened, add mascarpone cheese to polenta, cover and remove from heat.

Pour all of the scallop cooking liquid  into a bowl or ramekin and set aside. Turn the heat to high, return the scallops to the pan and sear until browned, turning once to sear both sides. Once scallops are seared, return reduced cooking liquid (sauce) to pan.

Assembling the dish: Add a scoop of polenta to the center of each plate (or shallow bowl). Add 3-4 scallops on top of scallops. Add a small smattering of sausage crumbles, arrange the asparagus and tomatoes around the polenta. Drizzle additional sauce over scallops and top with a few crispy shallot ring.

Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto (pictured with Lemon, Garlic, Herb Roasted Chicken)

Risotto is one of my favorite side dishes and a great alternative to pasta or regular rice. My Dad, who has never been known for his culinary skills, went through a risotto making phase, and his fascination with the dish was contagious. I guess I am sort of my Dad’s successor as the family risotto maker. Although risotto is somewhat labor intensive, it is not at all difficult. You can experiment with a variety of different ingredients and flavors or follow any multitude of recipes that are available. It can be served as a side dish, first course (as is the primary tradition in Italy), or, with the addition of meat or seafood, it can hold its own as a main dish. This recipe can be altered by using just mushrooms or just asparagus, but I enjoy the contrast of flavors produced by using both ingredients.


  • 2 Cups Risotto
  • 4-6 Cups Chicken Broth  (substitute Vegetable Broth for Vegetarian)
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
  •  1 Bunch Asparagus chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1Package (typically 8 oz.) Mixed Wild Mushrooms*  Chopped
  • 2 TBS. Finely Chopped Shallot
  •  2 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 3 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  •  Salt and Pepper to Taste

* You can buy gourmet wild mushrooms in a package; if not available, use any combination of your choice, such as crimini, shitake, portobella, maitake, or whatever is available. You can always substitute regular white or button mushrooms, but the flavor in the wild mushrooms, in my opinion, is always better.


In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a steady simmer. Heat 2 TBS. olive oil in a saute pan. Saute shallots, asparagus and mushrooms until tender. Set aside. In a Medium- Large Saucepan, heat 2 TBS. butter and remaining TBS. olive oil. Add risotto and stir until risotto is well coated.  Add sauteed shallots, asparagus, and mushroom mixture to risotto. Add 1/2 cup wine and heat through, stirring constantly.Begin adding simmering broth to the risotto one ladle at a time. Stir constantly. Once broth is almost completely absorbed, add another ladle of broth, stirring constantly. Continue this process until risotto is creamy and tender to the bite (about 20-30 minutes). You may not necessarily use all 6 cups of broth. Stir in Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper as necessary and serve immediately.