We all know fish is always a recommended ingredient of a healthy eating plan, but what about mollusks? Let’s take scallops, for example. Well, they’re an excellent source of vitamin B12, good for your cardiovascular health and essential for helping keep homocysteine levels low (lessens the risk of heart disease), and your energy levels high.
Also, they are a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. Scallops are rich in Omega 3 and particularly low in saturated fat. On the downside, they are rather high in cholesterol. So, as with many foods, everything in moderation.
Where and when to find the best scallops?
The west of Scotland along with Cornwall and the Irish waters arguably produces some of the finest scallops; there are also prime scallop beds in Cardigan Bay Wales. However the dredging season in Wales has been postponed from 1st November 2009 until 1st March 2010 because of dwindling stocks, but the waters around the UK continue to provide us with great results.
Although they are seasonal and it is best to buy them fresh, you can buy frozen all year round, but they do loose some of their texture when frozen. Water expands when frozen, and will inevitably break down some of the delicate cells within the scallop, so when you sear them in a hot pan, and the water is released it becomes more of a steamed dish.
How to pick the best from what’s on offer?
When you’re buying scallops ask the fishmonger if they’ve been soaked in water. Although they may appear plump to look at, if they’ve been soaked in water, it will impair the texture and flavor. They weigh heavier too; you don’t want to be paying for water! Check the color, and firmness, if they’re unsoaked, they will appear creamy rather than white, again soaked scallops will look white. Make sure there’s no browning on them. Use your nose; fresh scallops will be either odorless or have a very slightly sweet aroma.
Ask the fishmonger if they have already been frozen, you don’t want to go home and refreeze defrosted ones; you’ll need to cook them first! Even better is to buy them in a closed shell, a good fishmonger will open and clean them for you if you are a bit squeamish! Hand dived scallops are more environmentally friendly, and you won’t end up with the excess grit collected from the dredging process often used to collect them. They will be more expensive, though.
If you’re lucky enough to find a fishmonger who sells them with the shell you can actually determine how old the scallop is. It will have concentric rings lying across the shell; count one for each year of growth. They are commercially harvested between 6- 8 years old. Always choose a fishmonger or supermarket that has a first-class reputation for having fresh deliveries. If you’ve never tried scallops, then you’ve missed out on one of the most delightful cuisines the sea has to offer. They are the most delicate of foods, with a sweet aroma and soft meaty texture and have no comparison to shellfish.
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