Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Simple Sauteed Scallops Salad (Mother's Day Recipe)

It was my lucky day when I stumbled upon a one-day-only sea scallops sale at my local Whole Foods. While I adore scallops, they're normally priced outside my budget and therefore a very rare treat. So, seeing them on sale at a ridiculously low price, I picked up some of these plump, delicately-flavored and naturally low-fat & high protein morsels of goodness from the sea.

Scallops sometimes get a bad rap because of the light, attentive touch it takes to cook them. In fact, scallops can be downright intimidating to home cooks because they (the scallops, not the cook) can go from still-raw to overcooked and rubbery in mere seconds. That said, one benefit of scallops cooking so quickly that they require your undivided attention only for a few minutes, unlike other "tricky" foods that demand a much longer time commitment.

As with most seafood, the secret to perfectly cooked scallops is to remove them from heat just before they're fully cooked, because the residual heat in them will finish the cooking process in less than a minute. Specifically with scallops, you want to remove them before the middle is completely opaque (when viewed from the side the middle is still translucent rather than solid-white like the top or bottom).

And now for a confession: My original intent when making this recipe was to sear the sea scallops so that they'd have that eye-catching golden-brown color to contrast with the bright green of the baby lettuce bed. Alas, my pan and butter were not sufficiently hot at the time I added the scallops, and I also used too much butter for the amount of scallops. So instead I decided to call this recipe "simple sauteed scallops salad" rather than the trendier, more lofty-sounding "seared sea scallops over mesclun." If you prefer to sear the scallops, by all means go for it; the finished dish will be delicious either way. This recipe would make a lovely Mother's Day recipe, by the way.

Sea scallops
Seafood-friendly seasoning blend, e.g., Gentlewoods Natural Safari Rub, Caribbean Key Lime Spice, or Tennessee Whisky Lemon Pepper & Herb seasoning
Mixed salad greens, e.g., mesclun or baby lettuces
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper (preferably sea salt & freshly ground black pepper)

*Note: There are no ingredient amounts in this recipe because they're unnecessary: It will work for any number of scallops, and you can use any seasoning blend you like as long as it's not too robust or intense (you still want to taste the scallops, and their delicate flavor can be overwhelmed). You probably need no more than a Tablespoon (if that) of butter for a pound or so of scallops -- I used 2 Tablespoons, which was too much.

Too much butter!
Pat the sea scallops dry with paper towels and place in a single layer on a plate. Generously sprinkle on both sides with seafood seasoning -- I used the Safari Rub from Jim's Own -- and set aside.

In a large bowl toss together the salad greens with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste -- you want to dress the lettuce lightly and not drown it in oil or lemon. Transfer dressed greens to individual serving bowls or plates.

Melt a little bit of butter in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the scallops to the very hot butter and cook (or sear) on both sides for about 2 or 3 minutes per side: The goal is to cook most of the way through but not completely, which means you'll want to remove the scallops from the pan while the middle is still slightly translucent.

When ready, remove pan from heat and use tongs or a slotted spatula to transfer the scallops from the pan to the salads. Squeeze just a little bit of lemon juice over each salad and serve.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  Did you know you can order fresh sea scallops online and have them express-delivered to your home? Click here to buy sea scallops.


  1. Carole's Chatter is collecting scallop dishes today. This is a nice one. I do hope you pop over and link in. This is the link . Cheers

    1. Hi Carole, thanks for the compliment and the invitation to share! I've linked this recipe to your blog, and also my recipe for Scallops & Bok Choy with Ginger-Scallion Sauce, and left a comment on your blog. Thanks for dropping by here, and hope to see you again!
      Zestfully yours,

    2. thanks for adding to the collection, Gloria. I hope to see you again soon. Cheers