Delicious Orchards: The Exotic Bazaar In My Own Backyard

Delicious Orchards (or “The D-O” for short), is a food lover’s paradise located in Colt’s Neck, New Jersey. It began as family farm back in the early twentieth century. The business expanded over the years but remained predominantly an agricultural enterprise. In the late 1950’s, an entrepreneurial member of the family began to sell apples from a makeshift farm stand. It was an immediate success. The business grew from these humble roots into the thriving retail operation it is today. The store still sells a wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables along with produce and other food products from around the world.

The D-O provides a source of inspiration for me whenever I can’t decide what to cook. I never really know what I’m going to buy beforehand. I usually wander around the entire market like I’m exploring an exotic bazaar somewhere. Whatever catches my eye gets placed in the basket.

The journey always begins in the bakery. Substantial assortments of freshly baked goods are on display just past the front doors. All baking is done on the premises. Bread, rolls, donuts and homemade pies are available year round.

The meat and fish departments can be found in an alcove to the right of the bakery. These are newer, well-received additions to the D-O. Cold cuts and charcuterie are the mainstays of the meat department along with a modest selection of meat and poultry cuts.

The fish department is small but well sourced. There are only eight to ten selections to choose from. Most are harvested from local waters. On this particular day, jump scallops from Barnegat Light, NJ were featured. “Wow, they look great” I thought to myself.  “I haven’t made scallops in a long time…” Visions of perfectly seared little alabaster orbs flashed through my mind. I promptly ordered a pound and placed them into my basket. My next stop was the produce section to plan the rest of the meal.

Produce is displayed in two separate areas at the D-O. The main space contains fruit and root vegetables. A smaller room in the back holds the balance of the bounty. Shopper traffic is channeled through the main area by a row of display bins strategically positioned down the center of the room. In the summertime, these bins are filled with peaches and plums. As autumn arrives, the contents are replaced with apples and pears.

Apples at the DO

After a lap around the main area, I turn the corner and head into the back. The room is awash with color. Purple eggplants, yellow squash, orange carrots and dark leafy greens are on display. Each one would make a fine accompaniment to the scallops. Deciding which ones to serve was the challenge.  

Color at the D-O

My first selection was a dozen or so firm, round Brussels sprouts. Each one still clung to the stalk. I was thinking more about size than taste when I placed them into my basket.  The sprouts were about the same size as the scallops and would look nice on the plate when served. 

Brussels Sprouts

Then I noticed an unassuming case of wild mushrooms. Their subtle earth tones seemed lost in the surrounding array of vibrant colors. Golden chanterelles beam next to pale grey oyster mushrooms. Rich brown shitake and portabellos were contrasted by humble white button mushrooms. 

Mushrooms

A deep, earthy flavor memory from long ago suddenly returned to me. “These would pair nicely with the scallops” I decided.  The dish would combine the briny taste of the ocean with the earthy flavors of the woods. The menu was set. I enthusiastically gathered my selections and headed to the checkout area.    

Granted, The D-O may not be as mysterious or exotic as a real bazaar, but the quality and selection of provisions they offer more than makes up for it. And you don’t have to haggle over price with the check-out clerks when they ring you up.

Ingredients:

For scallops:

  • 1 lb dry sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the risotto cakes:

  • 1 recipe of faux risotto (Recipe can be found under “Rice” in this blog’s recipe section)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Bread crumbs (preferably panko)
  • Vegetable oil

For the mushroom ragu:

  • ¾ lb mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, oyster, shitake, cremini, etc.)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

For the Brussels sprouts –

  • ¾ lb Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Prepare the risotto cakes (no stir method) –

Prepare 1 cup of faux risotto. Stir in the rosemary while rice is still warm. Spread rice mixture evenly across a small roasting pan or baking dish. Cover and set in refrigerator until you are ready to make the rice cakes.

Prepare the Brussels sprouts –

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim away the bitter outer leaves of each Brussels sprout and slice them in half. Coat them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Arrange sprouts cut-side down on a metal roasting pan. Roast in the preheated oven until the bottoms are golden brown and each sprout has been cooked through. Keep warm until service.

Prepare mushroom ragu –

Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium sauté pan until the foam subsides. Add shallots and sauté until translucent. Add wine and simmer over medium high heat until it has been reduced to one tablespoon. Add mushrooms and thyme. Sauté over medium heat until mushrooms has released their liquid. Add cream and continue sautéing until mixture reduces slightly. Keep mushrooms warm until service.

Finish the rice cakes –

Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan until a tiny pinch of bread crumbs sizzle when dropped into the hot oil. Cut the desired size cakes from the pan of cooled rice with a ring mold or the edge of a small glass.  Dredge each cake in flour, then dip in egg wash, and coat with bread crumbs. Fry each cake until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and keep warm until service.

Prepare the scallops –

Gently blot each scallop dry with a paper towel. Season them evenly with salt and pepper.

Heat vegetable oil until just barely smoking in a large frying pan. Sear the scallops on both sides until golden brown. Serve with rice cakes, Brussels sprouts and mushroom ragu.

Pan Seared Scallops

Enjoy.

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