When I think and talk about the qualities of good cooking, I often find myself referring to the Chinese concept of yin-yang. This ancient philosophy of the Taoist religion believes that opposites such as fire and water, hot and cold, light and dark, male and female, are essential parts of our world, working together to help produce the beauty and wonder all around us.
To me, the same idea applies to food. I find that some of the most exciting dishes to eat are those that combine opposites in perfect balance -- not just hot and cold but also spicy and sweet, tangy and salty, crunchy and soft, and so on. Recipes that offer such contrasts often provide some of the greatest satisfaction, too, pleasing from first sight to last bite. And one big bonus of such yin-yang preparations is that they naturally slow down the eating process, leading those who enjoy them to consume less food. How wonderful it is when delicious food can promote good health as well!
And, of course, there are also the contrasts between the varying colors of the mixed salad greens (purple radicchio, dark-green watercress, pale yellow endive), the pale green of the sauce, and the ivory-toned scallops tinged in the skillet to a golden brown finish. Sounds beautiful, doesn't it?
Equally beautiful for home cooks is how easy this recipe is to prepare. You can make the sauce and the salad dressing in advance. The scallops don't need vary long to marinate, but that can still be done a short while ahead. That advance preparation, in turn, means you need to do only a few minutes of final cooking before you can put an absolutely beautiful and delicious dish on the table -- one that will have everyone who tastes it declaring your mastery as a creative chef. And you don't have to tell them how easy it was.
SEA SCALLOP SALAD WITH COLD CUCUMBER SAUCE
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course
2 organic green onions, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Large pinch red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound sea scallops (about 8 large scallops), trimmed of connective tissue, cut in half horizontally
2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 cups organic mixed salad greens such as radicchio, endive, and watercress, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
4 tablespoons Chinois Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Cucumber Sauce (recipe follows)