Curried scallops with cauliflower and coconut soup *
4 first-course servings or 2 main-course servings
This soup is thick enough to hold the scallops on its surface. The scallops are cooked for 30 seconds on their second side, so their texture is just right by the time you eat them.
* About that asterisk in the title: You don't have to serve this as a soup. Passing the cauliflower mixture through a fine-mesh strainer is time-consuming. As delicate and delicious as the silky soup is, the yield is fairly small. If you opt not to strain the cauliflower-coconut cream purée (but still season it), it can act as a soft bed for the scallops and yield enough for 4 first-course servings. Adapted from "The Perfect Ingredient" by Bryn Williams (Kyle, $35, 256 pages).
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 small head cauliflower, finely chopped (preferably in a food processor; about 7 cups)
1 cup homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut cream (the thick cream from the top of 1 or 2 cans of coconut milk)
Pinch fine sea salt, plus more to taste
4 large dry-pack scallops (not soaked or packed in water)
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, cut in half
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat without allowing it to brown. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat; cook for 2 to 3 minutes (again without letting it brown). Stir in the broth and coconut cream; increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook just until the cauliflower is soft. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to a blender. Purée to form a smooth soup.
Pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Season with the salt and sugar to taste. The yield is about 1 1/4 cups. Partially cover and keep warm over the lowest possible heat setting.
Heat a heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat.
Use a paper towel to pat the scallops dry. Sprinkle them on both sides with the curry powder.
Pour the oil into the hot skillet and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the scallops and cook for 2 minutes on the first side until lightly browned on the edges, then turn them over and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate; season lightly with salt and a brief squeeze of lemon juice.
To serve, divide the soup among individual small, shallow bowls. Rest a scallop at the center of each portion. (For 2 servings, divide the scallops between bowls.)
Per serving (based on 4): 280 calories, 8 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar