SEARED SCALLOPS WITH PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Before my parents left for a recent trip to Italy, they asked us what we wanted them to bring back. Immediately, my mind went in the direction of food. Olive oil, maybe? Could they grab all the cheese? Then my mom suggested leather gloves and we agreed that'd be a very useful gift (this was in February when the temps kept dropping and the snow piled high). We sent them off with drawings of our hands and they returned with stunning, lamb's wool-lined gloves. Of course, now it's 70 degrees and I'm sitting here wearing shorts and flip-flops, so we'll have to wait until the fall to bust them out. My mom was generous enough to also split a bag of dried porcini mushrooms she procured during their travels.  "They said it'd be great in a risotto." And as soon as she said it, I couldn't get it out of my head. That perfect spring-time dish... warm and hearty for those cooler nights. If you wanted to simplify the meal (and keep it vegetarian), the scallops can certainly be omitted, but I was craving seafood (ok, I'm always craving seafood) and that sweet ocean flavor meshed perfectly with the lemony risotto. 

SEARED SCALLOPS WITH PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO

SERVINGS
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3 1/2 cups boiling water
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Place porcini mushrooms in a large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over mushrooms and soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Strain the liquid into a large pot. Chop mushrooms and set aside.

2. Add the vegetable broth to the same pot containing the mushroom liquid and set over medium-high heat. 

3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large sauce pan (or risotto pan) set over medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic, thyme, and porcini mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.  

4. Stir in the Arborio rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and give it a stir. Cook until the wine is fully absorbed. 

5. Add the broth to the pan one ladle at a time, making sure to stir the risotto frequently. When the broth has been absorbed, add another. Continue with the remaining broth and cook risotto until it's tender. Once cooked, stir in peas. 

6. Mix the lemon zest and most of the Parmesan into the risotto.

7. Dry the sea scallops with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper.

8. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter on high heat.  Once it begins to smoke, add the scallops and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until it has browned on one side.  Using tongs, flip the scallops and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the size of the scallops.

9. Divide risotto into bowls. Top with scallops and garnish with more chopped parsley and lemon zest.