entertainingfoodFood & Drinkin the kitchen withkristina gillrecipes

in the kitchen with: smoke & pickles’ relish (part 1)

by Kristina Gill

Today is a really special recipe on the ITKW column.  I’ve written a bit before about the collaborative process of submissions on the column– sometimes the recipes are obvious choices and the images fall into place.  Other times there’s a dialogue of how we and the author can work together to convey the best of their talents.  The process with Dan George, of rock star caterers Smoke & Pickles, was very fluid and amazingly positive from the very beginning.

Through an extended exchange of emails, we were able to come up with a concept that would convey in images and writing exactly who Dan is, what he does, the importance of his team members, and of course the food he loves most.  He worked with photographer Paul Clancy and artist Alyn Carlson (whose home you probably fell in love with last summer) to produce this beautiful In the Kitchen With.  It’s a two-part piece, the second part will run later in the summer.  This is truly one of the most special pieces we’ve worked on since the column was launched and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

CLICK HERE for Dan’s Grilled Scallop and Rhubarb Relish recipe after the jump!

Why Dan Chose These Recipes:

I discovered that smoke and pickles were meant for each other as Pickle Chef at the Back Eddy restaurant in Westport, Massachusetts. My job there was to pickle our farm harvests from spring through fall according to world-wide techniques and flavors. Then I would present them to the chef for pairing with other foods on the menu-many of them wood-fired.

These two recipes, and the name of my catering company too, are all about that attraction of opposites: The savory flavors, soft textures and earth tones of grilled, or barbecued foods seem forever in search of the contrasting tang, crunch and color of fresh pickles and relishes.

Red and green rhubarb grows in my garden. Tart and chewy, it begs for sugar and heat. Though heat can make rhubarb mushy, pre–salting preserves some of its crunch.

Nearby New Bedford is the sea scallop capital of the world.

Lucky me. I love fresh scallops. The searing heat of the grill intensifies and sweetens their subtle flavor as it tans their ivory complexions.

Lucky scallops. When coupled with the flamboyant relish of their dreams, they jump for joy.

Rhubarb Relish

1 pound fresh rhubarb, diced
3 tablespoons kosher or other course salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 onions peeled and diced small (2 ½ cups)
¾ cup cider vinegar
¾ cup cranberry juice
½ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons of peeled, fresh ginger
1 jalapeno, minced
1 or 2 limes, zested and juiced
¾ cup dried cranberries

Salt and drain the rhubarb
In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the rhubarb with salt. Let stand for an hour or two. Drain the bowl of liquid that will have formed and squeeze away more liquid from the rhubarb itself before returning it to the emptied bowl. Set aside.

Saute the onions
In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, get the oil hot but not smoking. Add the onions and saute, stirring until they just begin to brown-11-13 minutes. Add to the bowl of rhubarb.

Make the pickling syrup
In a medium, non-reactive sauce pan, combine the vinegar, cranberry juice, brown sugar and stir. Bring just to a simmer and stir again to completely dissolve the sugar.

Pour the hot syrup over the bowl of rhubarb and onions. Let cool 15 or 20 minutes before adding remaining ingredients and combining well.

Best to wait an hour or two for this relish to “pickle”.
Yields 3 or 4 cups
Keeps well for a month or two

How to Grill Scallops

The Scallops:
Large, fresh, dry sea scallops work best.
They should weigh about an ounce each and not have been pre-frozen.
“Dry” means not having been immersed in a solution to prolong shelf-life and increase weight. A telltale sign is if they’re sitting in a little milky puddle.
Best use “Sea” scallops vs “calico” which are much smaller, sometimes farm-raised far away or the Nantucket “Bay” scallop that is delicious but small, delicate, short seasoned and expensive.

The Fire:
We like to use wood charcoal. Hot works best for searing. Best to bank your coals, ie., pile them to one side of your grill allowing for a range of cooler temperatures as you move downhill  from the highest coals.

The Grill:

Needs to be clean and hot

The Technique:
Toss the scallops in enough vegetable oil to lightly coat them but not so much as to drip into the fire to cause flare-ups-about 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil per 1 pound of scallops. Salt and pepper to taste while you’re at it.

Place them on a hot grill over banked coals. Wait at least 2 minutes for a crust to form on their bottoms before turning or they might stick and lose a little face.
Get any reluctant ones to release their grasps by pressing and sliding a thin-bladed spatula under them upside-down.

After searing both sides, finish the scallops by moving them to the cooler outer edges of the fire for another minute or two before plating them.

The Pay-Off:
A sweetly crusted surface and a firm, warm, moist middle.

Suggested For You


  • Wow looks turbo yum! I’ll have to try these this weekend! Thanks for the mouth watering post!

  • @ashley english : Thank you Ashley! All the credit goes to Dan, Paul, and Alyn, I just sat by with my jaw on the ground at how amazing it all is, and then in sadness that I couldn’t eat those scallops!!!

  • Yum! Quick question on the rhubarb relish – when does the ginger, jalapeno and lime go in? Thanks!

  • What a beautiful posting Kristina. We did eat those scallops and wished you could have been there. Dan is catering my daughter’s wedding in a month and I’m counting the days.

  • I love you, New Bedford scallops. You remind me so much of my college years. I love you, rhubarb. You remind me so much of my childhood. This is a perfect match up. I will be making this.

  • Do tell where that lovely green platter came from – sticks and stones? I’m a big fan of Westport and scallops – thanks for the great post!

  • just made this! YUMMO but there are dried cranberries in both the ingredients arrangement and in the finished product, but none mentioned in the recipe. How are they used?

  • The ginger, jalapeno and lime are three of the 4 “remaining ingredients” that get added about 20 minutes after the hot pickling syrup is poured over the rhubarb and onions and has had a chance to cool a bit.
    I now see that although we photoed the 4th such ingredient- 3/4 cup of dried cranberries, I forgot to list it in the recipe text.
    Sorry. They also are added after the poured syrup has had a chance to cool.

  • Sorry I didn’t pick this up in editing, Kelly! But thanks for pointing it out, and thank you also to Dan for the clarification.

  • “Smoke and Pickles” was at the Westport River Winery on June 19th for “A Taste of Westport” and this was one of their featured relish dishes… IT IS FABULOUS!

  • Just got done making the rhubarb relish – totally awesome! Good with chips and on salmon. My only problem was finding rhubarb! The local farmer’s market didn’t have it nor the area grocery stores. I ended up finding it in VT of all places – we were up there for a long weekend. Bought enough for two batches so I’m hoping it will freeze well. Yum!!!!

  • whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, many people are hunting around for this information, you could help them greatly.

  • This article is incredibly effectively written also it contains a lot of useful details. I’m pleased to discover ones recognized method of crafting that write-up. This help it become quick will be able to comprehend and put into action. Many thanks for spreading with people.