Leeks are one of my ‘splurge’ items at the grocery store. Usually sold with a ridiculous mark-up in price, I grab scallions or onion instead.

But because I do so much enjoy leeks, I had the bright idea to grow my own. Save dollars, help my carbon footprint and have something new and different to take care of in the patio garden. Little did I know the growing time would far exceed the package’s stated 120 to 170 days.

Eight months after planting, two of my three leeks were the size of a medium store-bought leek, about 1″ in diameter. The third drank too much up from the coffee ground fertilizer, was stunted and resembles a scallion; I’ll let him grow longer but my hopes for a spurt this late in the game aren’t great.

After their efforts my star leeks deserved a proper showcase. As luck would have it, jumbo sea scallops were on sale this week — another ‘splurge’ item. I have a recipe for creamed leeks with slow-scrambled eggs served on garlicky crostini that I adore, and thought it would be perfect to match with the scallops. In place of bread we chose to incorporate orzo. Voila, an elegant entrée.

Serve with a chilled Riesling.

Caramelized Scallops with Creamy Leek Orzo [serves 2]

Printable recipe

For the leek orzo:

2 large or 3 small leeks, rinsed well and sliced into 1/4″ rounds

2 T butter

1 t sugar

pinch of salt

2 T crème fraîche, heavy cream or sour cream [I used half heavy cream, half sour cream]

1/4 c orzo

+ + +

For the scallops:

1 T olive oil

6 jumbo sea scallops, rinsed well and patted dry [if the muscle is still attached to the side, simply pull off and discard]

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 T freshly grated lemon zest, optional

In a medium skillet over medium-low, heat the butter until foamy. Add the leeks, sugar and salt; stir to coat. Cover and continue to stir every few minutes to avoid burning, about 15 minutes, until the leeks are fragrant, soft and almost melting. Add 1 T water if the leeks are looking really dry, and adjust the heat as necessary if they begin to brown.

Add the crème fraîche [or heavy cream or sour cream] and cook the leeks a minute or two more, stirring all the while. Set the skillet aside.

In the meantime, cook the orzo and the scallops. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt well and add the orzo, cooking according to package instructions or until al dente. Drain and reserve 1/4 c cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in another medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper. Place scallops in the hot oil and sear until golden, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes [a scallop should pull away from the pan when it’s ready to turn]. Gently flip to the other side and cook until opaque, another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove the scallops to a plate.

Add the leeks, orzo and reserved cooking liquid to the scallop skillet. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan and stir lot around. Put a big spoonful of the creamy leek orzo in each bowl and place three scallops on top. Garnish with the lemon zest, if desired.

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen