During the late 90s, I worked as a waitress at a sushi bar. My knowledge of sushi and Japanese cuisine is a compilation of facts dispensed to me by almost everyone on staff there, from the manager to the line cooks and other waitstaff, but mostly from Chef F.
Chef F. was a diminutive but imposing man, and had the ability to swing between having a fierce temper to being completely introverted and absorbed in his work to being a sort of a kind mentor—sometimes all in the span of one evening. Because of his volatile temper, I always initially approached and responded to him with extreme reservation as I felt out his current mood. One night, as I came back into the kitchen after serving octopus to some guests, Chef F. said to me, in his heavily accented English, with extreme seriousness:
Erin-chan. Never eat octopus that’s not cooked.
Me: Why not?
The suction cups will stick to the insides of your cheek.
Me: … how do you remove them?
Instead of answering me, his serious expression morphed into a smile before he let out a good-natured laugh as I pretended to scowl at him. So when he explained to me what a scallop was a few nights later, I refused to believe him, thinking it was another one of his jokes. He then showed me where the adductor muscle was on the interior of the shell, and I remember thinking it was gross at the time, but not gross enough to stop eating them.
Although I have no idea where Chef F. is anymore, I would love to serve him these vegan scallops, and see his reaction to them. Made from king oyster mushroom stems, these are texturally and visually beautiful, and can be used in an endless array of applications. Here I’ve paired them with a garlic and wine-kissed pea puree and a rich cashew cream sauce, finishing it off with a sprig of fresh dill to help balance out all of the flavors. This is an easy and pretty appetizer to make, and would be nicely followed by a minted pea soup or a cheese-stuffed ravioli, served with crusty bread and a light white wine.
VEGAN SCALLOPS WITH PEA PUREE AND WATERCRESS
Yield 2 servings
for the pea puree
- 1 tsp vegan butter
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 TB dry white wine
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/3 cup broth
for the cream sauce
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in cold water overnight and drained
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 TB full-fat coconut milk (skim the top portion off the top of the can)
- 1/2 tsp coconut vinegar
for the king oyster stems
- 1 TB vegan butter
- 1/3 cup water
- 2-3 large king oyster mushroom stems, sliced into scallop-sized pieces, then soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to one hour
- dill sprigs
- extra whole peas
- watercress leaves
To make the pea puree
- Heat the vegan butter and oil over medium-low heat. Add in the minced shallot and saute for about a minute. Add in the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Increase the heat to high and once it starts to sizzle, add in the white wine and saute for 1 minute more. Add in the peas, stir, then add in the broth. Allow the mixture to come to a medium simmer, then reduce the heat back to medium low and reduce to a low simmer for about 5 minutes more.
- Allow the mixture to slightly cool, then transfer to a blender and puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a container and allow to chill until ready to use.
To make the cream sauce
- Place all of the cream ingredients into a blender. Puree until smooth, then transfer to a container and allow to chill until ready to use.
To make the king oyster stems
- Melt the vegan butter over medium heat. Add in the mushrooms in a single layer, then drizzle the 1/3 cup water over the top. Place a lid over the top and allow to steam for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid carefully, then flip the mushrooms over, and saute for 5 minutes more, without the lid. Check the bottom of the mushrooms for a good caramelization, then flip and allow the other side to caramelize.
- Place some of the pea puree on a plate, add a mushroom on top, then drizzle with some of the cream. Add a sprig of dill and garnish with whole peas and watercress.