Scallops and Fish Steaks or Fillets with Tomatoes and Peas

Umido di Cappe Sante e Pesce con Pomodori e Piselli

Here is an example of how I let the market manage my cooking decisions. While staying in the Hamptons, I had gone to see my friend John of the Wainscott Seafood Shop about a nice piece of fish to grill or sauté and, finding a portly red snapper, I let him slice it into lovely fat fillets. As he was wrapping it, he said, “If you can use some bay scallops, these just came in an hour ago.” How I was going to use them I didn’t know yet, but I act on the principle that if you are buying fish and happen to find some that wriggles or nearly so, you get it and later figure out what to do with it.

On the way home I spotted peas at one of the farmstands. I snapped a pod open, and tasted the peas that popped in my mouth like bubbles of sugar. I now had three superfresh ingredients without any apparent relation to one other, but I resolved to use them all that same day before a single one of them could lose its bloom.

I was reminded of a dish from one of my earlier books—squid, tomatoes, and peas—which Victor and I adore. From squid and peas my thoughts turned to the stew I make with squid and fish steaks. I had the fish and the peas. I didn’t have the squid but, even better perhaps, I had those superb scallops. Ecco! The scallops replaced the squid and out of two recipes, I made one.

In a perfect world, you would use only freshly picked young sweet peas and freshly landed bay scallops. In this world, however, you can still achieve rather delicious results with frozen peas, which are to be preferred to old, starchy fresh peas, and good-quality sea scallops, if the bay are not available. There can be no compromise on the fish steaks; they must be absolutely fresh.

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  • 1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes or 1 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and cut up
  • 1Âľ pounds fresh young peas in the pod or a 10-ounce package small frozen peas
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • Chopped chili pepper, â…› teaspoon or to taste
  • Salt
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 pound firm fish fillets with skin on or fish steaks


  1. If you are using fresh tomatoes, peel them by dipping them in boiling water for 1 minute, then squeeze off their skin. For this dish, any tomato-peeling technique you find practical is satisfactory (see Working with Tomatoes). Halve the tomatoes, scoop out their seeds without squeezing, and chop up coarsely.
  2. If using fresh peas, shell them.
  3. Put the olive oil and chopped onion in a 12-inch sauté pan or skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook the onion, stirring it from time to time, until it becomes colored a pale gold.
  4. Add the tomatoes and chili pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, as described in the Note, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Add the peas and a pinch of salt. If you are using fresh peas, add ½ cup water and cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the peas. If you are using frozen peas, no water is required and 5 minutes’ cooking is sufficient.
  6. While the tomatoes and peas are cooking, wash the fish fillets or steaks, wash the scallops, remove their white filament, cut them in half if they are large sea scallops, and pat both fish and scallops dry with kitchen towels.
  7. When the peas are done, make room for the fish by pushing the peas and tomatoes to one side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Put the fish in the pan, skin up if they are fillets; cook for 5 minutes; add a little salt; then turn the fish over gently, cover the pan, and cook for 3 more minutes.
  8. Uncover, add the scallops, and cook briefly just until their translucent color becomes a flat white. Taste and correct for salt and chili pepper, and serve promptly.