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Dinner Tonight: Sea Scallops alla Caprese

Some days, I'm happy fall is here—like last week, when I was slurping down a hearty roasted beet soup—but other days, the idea that all the summer produce is disappearing is enough to put me in a bad mood.

This week, there was a bit of silver lining, though: gorgeous heirloom tomatoes were on sale. I immediately turned to a recipe I never got around to cooking this summer from Mario Batali's Italian Grill: a gorgeous Caprese salad paired not with milky mozzarella, but sweet fresh scallops instead.

Taking a cue from the piazza style of cooking (which produces similar results to the Spanish technique of cooking seafood a la plancha), this recipe calls for cooking the scallops on a blazing hot surface inside a grill. Luckily, a good cast iron griddle will work just as well—the ones that fit over two burners are perfect if you've got one—giving the scallops that gorgeous golden crust (any skillet that's not non-stick and can be preheated very hot will do the trick if it's too cold outside). From there, it's pretty familiar: grilled red onion, a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, and fragrant basil over the whole mess. For me, it was all a lovely goodbye to summer.

Note: For best results, use "dry" sea scallops, which have not been treated with a phosphate solution to help them retain moisture. "Wet" scallops will exude a lot of liquid when you cook them, making searing nearly impossible. If there is any milky white liquid in the scallop container at the fish market, they are most likely the wet variety. A large, heavy-bottomed cast iron or stainless steel skillet can be used in place of the griddle.

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