Garden State Seafood Panzanella Salad

Fish and shellfish from New Jersey coastal waters form the basis for this satisfying salad from Jim Weaver, chef/owner of Tre Piani in Princeton and president of the Central New Jersey chapter of Slow Food.

By invitation of the state, "I came up with this recipe to represent New Jersey in the first All-American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans in 2004," says Jim Weaver, chef/owner of Tre Piani in Princeton and president of Slow Food’s Central Jersey chapter. "I like it because it makes use of local seafood and produce in an Italian style. It is also very easy to make."

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

8 Little Neck Clams
4 large Sea Scallops
3 oz. Calamari
3 oz. Monkfish
½ cup large diced Jersey Tomato
½ Cucumber julienne or preferably cut on a mandoline to resemble spaghetti
¼ fennel bulb julienne (reserve a few fronds for garnish)
4 Basil leaves cut into fine strips + a couple whole leaves for garnish
1 Scallion cut on the bias into thin slices (reserve the green top for garnish)
 ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves sliced
½ tsp. Sea Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1 cup water
3 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 large baguette

Method:

For the bread:

–Remove the crust from the bread and cut into1/2 inch cubes.
–Lightly toast the bread in a 350 degree oven and set aside. You will need about ½ cup of toasted bread cubes for the recipe. The rest of the bread can be used for the optional garnish described below if desired.

For the vegetables:

–Cut the tomato into large dice.
–Julienne the cucumber and fennel.
–Slice the garlic cloves.
–Cut the scallions into small slices on the bias.
–Chiffonade the basil (i.e., cut the leaves into fine strips).
–Reserve some scallion tops and fennel fronds for garnish.
–Keep all this chilled until ready to use.

For the seafood:

–Skin the monkfish and cut into bite-size pieces.
–Rinse the clams of any sand.
–Peel the abductor muscle from the sides of the sea scallops.
–Peel and clean the squid; pull the tentacles and all that are attached from out of the tube. Cut the tentacles off just above where they start and discard the beak and eyes. Also remove the tough clear membrane from within the tube and discard. Slice the squid into ¼ inch rings.
–Keep all the seafood well chilled until ready to prepare.

–Heat a large saute pan and add the olive oil.
–Season the scallops and monkfish with salt and pepper and sear them until browned on the outside; remove from the oil and reserve on a plate on the side.
–Add the garlic and let brown slightly.
–Add the calamari and give a quick toss.
–Next add the clams and the water, season lightly with salt and pepper.
–Cover until the clams begin to open and then return the scallops and monkfish to the pan.
–Cook covered until all the clams open, or about 1 minute. You may have to add more water if the clams do not open; you just want to make sure that you have about ½ cup of liquid left when the dish is finished.

To assemble:

–Put the cut vegetables into a large bowl with the basil and season with salt and pepper. —Add the bread cubes and toss with the vegetables.
–Just before serving toss in the hot seafood and half the cooking liquid.
–Portion onto plates, garnish with the scallion sprigs and fennel fronds and pour the remaining seafood broth around each plate.
–Serve immediately.

Optional garnish:
–Make toasted bread ring molds by taking a large baguette and slicing it lengthwise into ¼ inch slices.
–Grease metal ring molds with olive oil and wrap the bread around them.
–Tie with kitchen string and bake until golden brown in a hot 350 degree oven.
–Remove from the oven, let cool, remove the string and carefully remove the bread from the molds.
–You can put these in the center of your plate and fill with some of the salad for a dramatic presentation. Also garnish with the fennel fronds, scallion top, and fresh basil leaves.

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