The most unlikely ingredients often come together to create the most wonderful flavours. Complement and contrast - between, say, sweet and sour, creamy and earthy, the sea and the soil, as in this rich dish - are enormously pleasing to the palate. You'd get tired of eating and tasting the same old thing all the time, wouldn't you? I know I would.
So the brininess of the scallops, the nuttiness and sweetness of the squash, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the spinach, the silkiness of the olive oil and the tartness of the vinegar unite here to give your taste buds a treat.
Over here in Blighty we'd serve this up during the winter, the butternut being a winter pumpkin. But your air conditioning practically makes it winter every day in the UAE - at least indoors - and with "winter" squashes grown somewhere around the globe all year long and thus readily available, you can have it any old time.
Scallops are funny little things. The bivalve is native to all the world's oceans, with wild ones most common in the north Atlantic, and China far and away the leader in the aquaculture of them. Small or large, wild or farmed, it doesn't matter what you use. Just buy what's in the market, and you'll find that a quick grilling cooks them through but keeps them moist and sweet. You might rub them with a bit of olive oil first so they don't stick to the grill, though.
The Italian in me loves the poplar mushroom, with its beautiful brown colour and firm texture, just like the lovely Sophia Loren I remember from my callow youth. You might not be able to find the poplar in the market, but you should be able to order it online. Frankly, the white button mushroom will suffice as a substitute, but it's rather boring.
Decidely not boring is the finish to this dish, and once you've made your first batch of balsamic vinegar glaze, you'll find lots of uses for it. Put equal amounts of balsamic vinegar and water and a quarter of that amount of brown sugar into a sauce pan, and let it simmer. The crowning glory will be yours.
MAKE IT YOURSELF
Grilled scallops, roasted squash purée, poplar mushrooms, baby spinach salad
1kg butternut squash
60ml olive oil
3 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
240g poplar mushrooms (Italian mushrooms) or white button mushrooms
200g baby spinach
15g balsamic vinegar glaze
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat grill.
2. Cut the squash into eight even pieces.Wrap in aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
3. Once squash is baked, unwrap and scoop out the flesh, discard the skin, and blend in a food processor with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. At medium temperature on a hot grill, grill the scallops for three minutes on each side. Season and keep warm.
5. Sautée the mushrooms in a dash of olive oil in a hot pan. Once cooked, chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
6. To assemble, spread the hot squash
purée on the bottom of a deep dish and place the grilled scallops on top.
7. Toss the spinach in a bowl with the sautéed mushrooms, season and spread on top of the scallops. Finish by drizzling with balsamic vinegar glaze, and serve.
This dish is offered at Frankie's Restaurant & Bar, which features Friday Brunch and the new CuiScene restaurant. Call 02 654 3238 or e-mail email@example.com