I tend to forget about scallops for most of the year because here in Maine we have the supreme luxury of eating our seafood only at its peak, freshly caught, in season. But then the marquee at my local supermarket proclaims “Scallops! First of the Season!” and the pick-up truck selling just-caught scallops out of huge coolers parks itself in plain sight and I start furiously cooking these sweet bivalves – first just in my head, then on my stove and in my oven.

SCALLOPS GRATINEED IN SCALLOP SHELLS WITH TOMATO

Sweet scallops nestle in an ever-so-slightly spicy fresh tomato mixture and roast just until done. It’s a simple, pretty and delicious scallop preparation. If you have large scallop shells, use them for this dish, positioning them on large dinner plates surrounded by something like orzo or rice pilaf and spears of steamed broccoli.

Serves four.

1½ cups seeded chopped fresh tomatoes, any type

¼ cup chopped shallots

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin, plus 1 tablespoon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

½ teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on scallops

¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for sprinkling on scallops

1½ pounds bay scallops (see note)

Paprika for sprinkling on scallops

2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, shallots, garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Divide tomato mixture between four large scallop shells or spread in the bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Place in the oven and roast uncovered until hot, bubbly, and the juices are rendered, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove dish(es) from the oven and place scallops atop the tomato mixture. Drizzle or brush the scallops with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and paprika. Return to the oven to roast until scallops just turn opaque, about 5 minutes.

Spoon some of the tomato mixture over the scallops, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

NOTE: If bay scallops are not available, use large sea scallops and cut them in half.

SCALLOP STEW, SLIGHTLY UPDATED

A very traditional scallop stew is white-on-white and completely unadorned, tasting of nothing more than its essential ingredients – fresh sweet scallops and pure creamery milk and butter. Here’s a slight variation, treated to a contemporary facelift with the addition of a couple of herbs, but with its lovely and delicious soul intact. Considering the price of scallops these days, I deem this company fare, and would accompany the stew with cream biscuits or common crackers, a salad of dark leafy greens tossed with sliced pears and toasted walnuts, and finish with a substantial dessert such as apple crisp or pumpkin pie.

Four main course servings.

2 cups whole milk

2 cups half-and-half

1 small onion, quartered

1 branch leafy celery top

4 parsley sprigs, including stems

1 teaspoon salt

1 large bay leaf, broken in half

1/3 cup finely chopped celery stalk

1½ pounds scallops, halved crosswise if large

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, half-and-half, onion, celery top, parsley, salt, and bay leaf. Heat over medium heat just until bubbles form around the edges, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 more minutes to infuse milk with the flavor of the seasoning vegetables. Strain out the vegetables and discard, returning the flavored milk to the saucepan. (Base can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

Add chopped celery to the flavored milk and simmer, covered, over low heat until it softens slightly, about 5 minutes. Add scallops, chives, tarragon and cayenne. Simmer gently, uncovered, until scallops are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, stirring until it melts. Season with freshly ground pepper and adjust other seasonings to taste. Ladle into shallow soup bowls to serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.