Stay in Date Night- Al Fresco Style


Spring is upon us. The weather is becoming nicer, and here in Arizona it is absolutely beautiful! It is this time a year that I romanticize the idea of Al Fresco dining; setting a simple patio table outside, and preparing a light but satisfying meal, vibrant in color and flavor. Just imagine a nice, crisp white wine, paired with some fresh seasonal fare, all enjoyed along side your love.  Seriously, does it get more romantic?

Of course, we could go to a restaurant that offers outdoor dining, or we can set the stage ourselves. We can turn whatever outdoor space we have into a rustic, bright dining experience. So gather some fresh wild flowers, and prepare this elegant, effortless springtime meal, and I assure you will enjoy!

Bay Scallops Au Gratin over Parmesan Risotto with Roasted Asparagus


Bay Scallops Au Gratin

(adapted from Ina Garten, with some personal tweaks):


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto minced ( I just ask the deli counter for 3 thin slices)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons Pernod (optional) (
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 pound fresh bay scallops or sea scallops, quartered
  • Lemon, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 2 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

To make the topping, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly until combined. Fold the panko in with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Preheat the broiler, if it’s separate from your oven.  Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and distribute them among the 2 dishes. Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the topping is golden and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. If you want the top crustier, place the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes, until browned. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley

Parmesan Risotto:

So I have to admit, Eco Farms Organic Parmesan Risotto is the best!! Tastes homemade, looks homemade, and is super easy! What’s not to love?  You can find this gem in the Organic aisle at Safeway. I promise you, it is authentically delicious!!  Prepare as instructed, and then I add about ½ cup grated parmesan cheese at the end just for some extra creaminessJ

Roasted Asparagus:

1 lb fresh asparagus

2 tbs Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450, toss all ingredients and roast for about 10-12 mins. You can prepare these alongside your scallops and they will come out of the oven together.

All in all, this meal will be on your patio in 30 minutes, Perfecto!


Jennifer Rzepecki lives here in Phoenix with her husband Mark, daughter Lola (18 months) and son, Mark Austin (4 months).  Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Jennifer and her family relocated almost 4 years ago and are enjoying all the Valley has to offer! Read more about Jennifer on her blog.


  1. Jennifer,
    I made these last week. Amazing!
    As a desert girl I was a bit intimidated by the scallops, but it was SO easy!
    Thanks for broadening my culinary horizons…


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