A Dinner for a Leader: Supporting “The Trotter Project”

I grew up with Charlie Trotter, we both graduated from New Trier High School. Later we met again when I had the opportunity to cook with him at the James Beard House in New York. That was 1997 and from that day forward, we stayed connected. When Charlie passed away this November, it was devastating to the industry, not to mention his family and friends… and to me. Charlie was a leader. I was happy – and proud – to follow.

The Trotter Project honors the legacy of Charlie through programs, services and events promoting culinary and personal excellence. Its mission is to create a sense of community among individuals dedicated to these principles. It is a project that I feel honored to promote. It is my intention to raise funds and awareness for it. My special dish this weekend is planned to do just that.

My Arborio Crusted Sea Scallops creation is my favorite Charlie Trotter-inspired dish. Charlie featured an Arborio Crusted Oyster dish in his seafood cookbook years ago. That’s where the inspiration sparked.

Please consider trying the recipe and making a donation to The Trotter Project. Charlie Trotter Day is a good idea; the culinary center in his name is an outstanding one. I hope to play my small part in pushing both along.

For more information on “Charlie Trotter Day”, watch the video:

I think of Charlie almost every day. We are now responsible to carry on his focus of excellence in the house he built for the culinary world to come together and celebrate all things delicious.

(serves 4)
For the puree:
1/2-cup mirpoix (diced onion, celery, carrot)

Boil 4 fresh redskin potatoes ahead of time and hold at room temperature.


1 medium eggplant (diced)
2 sunburst squash (diced)
4-Tbs sofrito (finely diced red pepper, jalapeño, onion, garlic, cilantro, vegetable oil)
2-Tbs olive oil
1-Tbs seasoning salt (kosher salt, white pepper, ground cumin seed)
1-Tbs La Chinata (smoked paprika)
1 lemon (juiced)
1/4-cup chopped parsley and oregano

Toss all, place on a sheet pan and roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Then, place in a processor and add a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Run until smooth.

To serve, combine the following in a sauté pan over medium flame and stir for 3 minutes:
2 sunburst squash (diced)
1/4-cup mirpoix
2-Tbs olive oil
2-Tbs sofrito

Remove from the flame and add the eggplant puree at room temperature. Place on the back of the stove.

Puree 1/2-cup Arborio rice until powder in a spice grinder.


Dip scallops in egg whites. Then roll them in the Arborio flour.  Season with the seasoning salt (described above).

Place 3 scallops per person in a large sauté pan with 1/4-cup of grape seed oil preheated over medium to high heat.  Turn scallops after a minute or two when golden brown.  Repeat the process on the other side and transfer them to a dry pan to place in a hot oven.

Plate by adding 1-Tbs of sour cream to each plate.  Then flatten with a spoon.  Add 2 spoons of eggplant caviar and 3 slices of boiled potato, then add the scallops (3 per plate) and a handful of pea sprouts. Finish the potatoes with salt and herb.

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