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Sauce vierge for scallops and other recipes for late-summer tomatoes

Mexican salsa is easy, but there are other international options to choose from.

Seared scallops with sauce vierge.
Photographs by anthony tieuli / food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.
Seared scallops with sauce vierge.

When I have gorgeous tomatoes and want to make salsa, my mind reflexively snaps to a typically Mexican pico de gallo or an Italian-inspired salsa fresca with garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. But there are other international options, starting with my chunkier-than-usual take on the classic herby, lemony French Sauce Vierge. It’s a natural partner for seafood: Try the recipe for seared scallops here, or go with your favorite grilled fish, shrimp, or clams. Then two salsas from the Caribbean that get heat from the habanero or Scotch bonnet chilies common in the islands. Beyond a bowl of chips, you can serve them with fish, cooked chickpeas, eggs, or on a roasted or grilled sweet potato.

Sauce Vierge

Makes about 3 cups

If you can't find fresh chervil, look for a fresh seafood blend, which often includes chervil, tarragon, and dill.

1½    pounds ripe local tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

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Salt and pepper

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¼      cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)

¾      teaspoon pressed or grated garlic (about 1 medium clove)

1         teaspoon finely grated zest and 1½ tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

1/3       cup extra-virgin olive oil

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3        tablespoons finely chopped fresh chervil

3        tablespoons minced fresh chives

2        teaspoons minced fresh tarragon

In a strainer set over a bowl, toss the tomatoes with ½ teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, at least 30 minutes. Gently shake the strainer to drive off more liquid, discard it, and blot the tomatoes with paper towels.

In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add 2½ tablespoons each of the chervil and chives and the 2 teaspoons tarragon and toss to combine. Set aside to rest and meld flavors, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with the remaining chervil and chives and serve at once.

VARIATIONS 

Sauce Vierge With Parsley

Makes about 3 cups 

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Follow the recipe for Sauce Vierge, omitting the garlic and substituting 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley for the chervil, chives, and tarragon.

Sauce Vierge With Basil

 Makes about 3 cups

Follow the recipe for Sauce Vierge, substituting 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil for the chervil, chives, and tarragon.

Simple Pan-Seared Scallops

Anthony Tieuli
TIP: In addition to purchasing “dry” scallops — not treated with chemicals to extend freshness —  two more steps are important for a good sear. First, dry the scallops thoroughly before cooking them, and second, leave them alone in the pan until you turn them over.

Serves 4 

This may be one of the quickest and most elegant summer meals ever.

2        tablespoons olive or neutral oil

1½    pounds "dry" sea scallops, straps removed, dried with paper towels

Salt and pepper

2        tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Sprinkle half the scallops with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste; add them, flat sides down, to the skillet and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Off heat, add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet and tilt the pan to distribute as it melts. Using tongs, carefully turn the scallops and cook, again undisturbed, until second side is browned and interior is medium-rare (the sides are firm and all but very center is opaque), 45 seconds to 2 minutes longer (remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking). Briefly swirl the scallops in the skillet to coat with butter, remove them to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and set aside.

Carefully wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining oil, scallops, salt and pepper, and butter. Serve at once with Sauce Vierge.

Roasted Habanero and Tomato Salsa

Makes about 3 cups 

Roasting tempers the heat in incendiary habaneros and Scotch bonnets, but they’ll pack a punch regardless. You may want to wear latex gloves when you work with the roasted chili pepper. Adapted from Modern Caribbean Cuisine by Wendy Rahamut.

1½    pounds ripe local tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

Salt and ground black pepper

1         medium-large habanero or Scotch bonnet chili pepper

1½    tablespoons olive oil

1         teaspoon ground coriander

2        teaspoons pressed or grated garlic (about 2 large cloves)

1         tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/3      cup thinly sliced scallion whites and greens (about 2 large)

In a strainer set over a bowl, toss the tomatoes with ½ teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, at least 30 minutes. Gently shake the strainer to drive off more liquid, discard it, and blot the tomatoes with paper towels.

Meanwhile, with the rack in the center position, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chili pepper in a small ovenproof dish and roast until soft, about 6 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili, mince the flesh, and set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and coriander, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, stir to mix, and set aside off heat to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, minced chili, coriander-garlic oil, lime juice, ¾ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste; set aside to rest about 1 hour. Add most of the scallions and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve at once.

Trinidadian-Style Tomato Choka

 Makes about 3 cups

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, press or grate the garlic and sprinkle the salt over the chili and chop for dear life, until it’s a paste. If you’re not keen to turn on the oven, grill the tomatoes whole over a hot flame until charred and blistered all over.

3        pounds (about 6 medium) ripe local tomatoes, cored, halved crosswise, and seeded

¼      medium sweet onion, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced (about 2/3 cup)

5        medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1½ tablespoons)

2        teaspoons minced seeded habanero or Scotch bonnet chili pepper (about 1 medium), or to taste

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1         tablespoon olive or neutral oil

With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, arrange the tomato halves cut side down, and roast until the skins shrivel, about 10 minutes. Set a large strainer over a bowl, place the tomatoes cut side down in the strainer, and allow to drain about 15 minutes. Discard the skins and liquid.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the onion with cool water, soak about 30 minutes, drain, blot dry, and set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, chili, and ¾ teaspoon salt to a paste. Add the tomatoes and another ½ teaspoon salt, and stir, crushing the tomatoes as you go. Add the onion, but do not stir it in; set aside.

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it’s just beginning to smoke, about 2½ minutes. Carefully pour the hot oil over the onion and stir to mix. Adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary, and black pepper to taste, and serve. (Keeps, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 4 days).

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to cooking@globe.com.