This is a twist on a recipe in the latest issue of Fine Cooking. In the Fine Cooking version, the scallops were tossed in a mixtue of citrus and Asian ingredients for a quick marinade. I wanted to make mine a salad so I patted the scallops dry, seared them and the marinade ingredients became the basis for an easy vinaigrette.
I love scallops for a quick meal and the jumbo sea scallops at Heller’s Seafood this week were pristine and just perfect. Wherever you shop, look for dry scallops. Wet scallops are soaked in a preservative phosphate solution. The solution preserves and whitens the scallops and causes them to absorb more water. So when you cook wet scallops they don’t brown as well or not at all because of the extra liquid. They can also have a soapy taste. Dry scallops are shucked and shipped packed on ice with no preservatives. Therefore they have a shorter shelf life and are fresher when you buy them. Dry scallops come with a higher price tag, but they are fresher and you are not paying for water weight.
It’s fairly easy to tell the difference, wet scallops are bright white because of the phosphate solution and dry scallops are ivory or pinkish. Don’t hesitate to sniff them, the scallops should smell like the ocean. When in doubt, ask, and if they don’t know, run! You shouldn’t be shopping there anyway.
Prepare scallops by first removing the tough abductor muscle, it peels off easily. Then I pat them dry on both sides with paper towels. I coat a non-stick skillet with a neutral oil (vegetable or canola). Be sure that your skillet will hold the scallops without crowding them, you want to sear, not steam them. I turn the heat up to high and wait for the first sizzle. I add the scallops to the pan in a clockwise fashion with any extras in the middle. That way I know what scallop has cooked the longest. Now is the hard part, cook the scallops without moving them until a little peek (lift up the spatula a bit) shows a deep golden crust. Be sure not to overcook, you want the middle to stay tender and sweet. Two to three minutes per side will do.
Gremolata is made from parsley, garlic and lemon zest and is the traditional topping for braised veal shank or osso buco. This version takes on a definite Asian flair using cilantro, garlic, sesame seeds and lime zest. These flavors harmonize perfectly with the sweet scallops. The marinade for the scallops included mirin, lime juice, ginger and sesame oil. In case you didn’t know, mirin is a type of rice wine, like sake but mirin is sweet and has a higher alcohol content. When you are looking for sesame oil it should be the dark variety. Both mirin and dark sesame oil are readily available in the Asian section of the supermarket. I used these flavors with a little additional honey to dress my salad greens with. I chose baby arugula, but a spring mix or baby spinach would work well too.
This dish comes together quickly, both the gremolata and the vinaigrette are easy to make. It is just important to take the time to cook the scallops correctly. This recipe can be doubled and is perfect for a first course or part of a small plates dinner.
Scallop Salad with Gremolata and Asian Vinaigrette
Ingredients for the scallops
- ½ to ¾lb dry packed sea scallops (about 6)
- A neutral cooking oil, canola for example
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions for cooking the scallops
- Remove the tough abductor muscle from the side of each scallop (some scallops are sold with the muscle already removed). If you feel any grit on the scallops, rinse them under cold water. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels; surface moisture impedes browning.
- Heat a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the oil and heat until quite hot. Pat the scallops dry once more and put them in the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Season with salt and pepper and let sear undisturbed until one side is browned and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the scallops and sear until the second side is well browned and the scallops are almost firm to the touch, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat, transfer the scallops to a plate, and set them in a warm spot while you finish the other components of the recipe.
Ingredients for the sesame cilantro gremolata
- ¼c finely chopped cilantro
- 1T toasted sesame seeds
- 2t finely chopped garlic
- 1t lime zest
Directions for the sesame cilantro gremolata
- In a small bowl, combine the cilantro, sesame seeds, garlic and lime zest. Set aside.
Ingredients for the dressing
- 3T mirin
- 1t grated ginger
- 2t fresh lime juice
- 1t honey (or more to taste)
- 3T sesame oil
Directions for the dressing
- In a small bowl whisk all the ingredients together. Set aside
Final Assembly of the salad
- 4-5 cups of baby arugula, spring mix or baby spinach
- Place the greens in one medium or individual salad plates.
- Top with seared scallops
- Sprinkle gremolata on the scallops.
- Dress greens and scallops lightly with dressing.
- Serve immediately.