Stop me if I've said this before ... I know I can be a bit of a rosemary bore ... but ... speaking of rosemary, have I told you about our plants?
Rosemary has been one of my favorite herbs ever since my first visit to Tuscany many years ago, where I was entranced by the way it grew like a weed along the roadsides, permeating the air with that distinct piney perfume.
Ever since, wherever we have lived, I've dutifully planted one or two bushes in our yard every spring, enjoyed it through the summer and fall, then watched nervously over the winter, where - in these latitudes at least - there's about a 50-50 chance of losing it in a killing frost. (Our rosemary seems to shrug off temps above 10F, but a deep freeze of 5F or below will invariably do it in.)
We've had great luck with our current batch (a closeup detail of one is is pictured above in our HTML/graphics edition and online in the archives), which has made it through two winters now and is well on its way through a third. I'm thinking about draping the larger one with sheets tonight, when a bone-chilling drop to the low teens is forecast.
This grandfather of temperate-zone rosemary stands a good four feet tall and has spread out to a span approaching eight feet, with a trunk a good bit thicker than my thumb. I'd like to save it. But the truth is, it provides far more rosemary than we can ever use in the kitchen.
As much as I enjoy sniffing it and watching it grow, my culinary uses for rosemary are fairly limited: I slip sprigs into slits in leg of lamb, along with plenty of garlic. I might throw some in the skillet when I'm sauteeing steaks or lamb chops - the rosemary flavors seem to make the meat even better with Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometimes I'll tuck a couple of sprigs under the breast skin of a chicken before roasting. And that's about it. In other words, I own a rosemary factory, but the amount I use in a year would probably cost me about a buck and a half if I just picked it up at the produce stand.
The other night, though, I came up with an rosemary-wasting concept that I think I'll be trying again: Break off long sprigs of the stuff, strip off and discard the leaves, and use the stems as skewers for all sorts of good things. These highly aromatic bits of wood not only hold the food together but infuse it with a delicious, surprisingly subtle variation on the familiar rosemary aroma.
Here's a surprisingly quick and easy treatment for fresh scallops wrapped in prosciutto and skewered with rosemary stems, then pan-seared in butter. It would serve equally as well as stunning appetizers or, as we did it, a classy seafood main course that would do credit to the menu at the fanciest eatery.
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
A dozen large fresh sea scallops (about 10 ounces or 1/3 kilo)
Except for a bit of necessary dexterity in the initial assembly, this may be as simple a recipe as I'll ever give you.
1. Put the prosciutto on a cutting board and slice it into 12 thin strips of approximately the size and shape needed to wrap around each scallop like a wide belt.
2. Pull off the rosemary leaves (discard them, or let them dry and save them for another day), and break the denuded stems into a dozen 2-inch pieces.
3. Wrap each scallop with a piece of prosciutto and skewer it with one of the rosemary stems.
4. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it's sizzling. Put in the scallops and sear on one side, then turn and sear on the other, taking care not to overcook. Fresh scallops are best cooked just until they're opaque, no more than two or three minutes. Plate and serve. (No, don't eat the rosemary stems.)
WINE MATCH: A rich, full-bodied white is called for. A white Burgundy would be perfect, or a Rhone white, or a rich Fiano or Greco from Southern Italy. I tried a New World alternative, L'Ecole No. 41 2000 Columbia Valley Semillon fron Washington State. It wasn't bad, but a little oaky for my tastes. Next time I'll go with something from Europe ... or maybe try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
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Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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