Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

With the sunshine and warmer weather, an Easter weekend tradition in our house is to celebrate our love (and the food!) of the beautiful South Carolina Low Country. I usually serve a version of the classic Low Country dish, Shrimp and Grits, but, this year tried this scallop and cauliflower grits adaptation. We absolutely loved it!

This recipe was adapted from Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef, via Sur la Table.com. I puréed the vegetables instead of juicing them for the sauce, used riced cauliflower, and doubled the garlic. Amazing.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

For the Cauliflower Grits:

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds riced cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

For the Scallops:

  • 2 medium whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • 16 sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the Cauliflower Grits: In the microwave, steam the riced cauliflower for 4 minutes, or until very tender.
  2. Combine the steamed cauliflower with Parmesan, garlic, and enough cream cheese to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. Prepare the Scallops: Combine the tomatoes, pepper and carrot in a Vitamix, food processor, or blender. Puree.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to pan in one layer. Sear the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden. Remove scallops to a platter.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil to skillet.
  8. Add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  10. Slowly whisk in puréed vegetables and bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. To serve: Serve scallops on top of cauliflower grits with sauce spooned on top. Garnish with scallions and extra black pepper, as desired.

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Seared Scallops with Bacon-Braised Chard

More CSA chard! Just when my husband thought that he couldn’t eat any more greens, I cooked them with bacon and topped them with scallops. 🙂 I served this dish with corn muffins on the side too- just to be absolutely sure that he would be happy.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Top Chef Stephanie Izard. The scallops are first pan-seared and then basted with butter halfway through the cooking process over lower heat. Rich and delicious!

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 2 thick slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 3/4 pounds rainbow chard—stems sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick, leaves cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 large sea scallops (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  1. In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
  2. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and stir until tender but not browned, 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato and cook until it begins to break down, 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chard stems and cook until crisp-tender, 4 minutes.
  6. Add the chard leaves and cook over moderately high heat, tossing, until wilted, 5 minutes; drain off any liquid.
  7. Add the soy sauce and cook until the leaves are tender, 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
  8. Dry the scallops and season with salt and pepper.
  9. In another large skillet, heat the oil until just smoking. Add the scallops and cook over high heat for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  10. Turn the scallops and add the butter. Cook, spooning the butter on the scallops, until just white throughout, about 3 minutes.
  11. Spoon the chard onto plates, top with the scallops and serve.

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Scallops and Polenta

I have a soft spot for quick, easy, and pretty comfort food dishes! This dish is very reminiscent of one of our household favorites- shrimp and grits. Traditionally, we make that special dish from Charleston, South Carolina at Easter-time. Maybe this version should be our fall variation! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, via The Gourmet Gourmand. We ate it with sautéed broccoli rabe and broccoli on the side. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup dried polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand; do NOT use instant polenta for this recipe)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano (I also added a little bit of shredded Gruyère)
  • 8 sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • 3 T grape seed oil
  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs of fresh herbs such as oregano, parsley, and/or thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

To prepare polenta:

  1. Bring water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.) While whisking, slowly add the polenta. Whisk frequently to avoid lumps. When mixture begins to spit, turn heat down to simmer (polenta should intermittently bubble and pop, but not rapidly).
  2. Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, until polenta is thickened and soft and pulls away slightly from the edge of the pot. Add the grated cheese and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and about 1/4 tsp of salt.

To prepare scallops and sauce:

  1. Pat your scallops dry and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a regular or cast-iron skillet, bring the grape seed oil to high heat. When pan is very hot, add scallops and sear for about 3 minutes. Flip the scallops and sear on the opposite side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until scallops are cooked to your liking. Remove scallops and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until butter is lightly browned and smells nice and nutty. Turn off heat. Finish sauce with lemon juice (carefully! It will bubble and spit). Quickly pour into bowl or serving vessel to stop the cooking process. (It can be strained through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, if desired.)
  4. Serve scallops over bed of polenta, with a drizzle of the brown-butter sauce and minced herbs.

Note: Cooking the scallops in oil vs. butter allows you to sear them at a higher temperature for optimal sear marks and will give you more control over creating your browned butter sauce without burning the butter.

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Seared Scallop Bites

We have a few gold standard appetizers in our house. This is one of them- we have made it for YEARS. It is simple and elegant.

I don’t know if it started when we were on a tighter financial budget, but we use half of a scallop on each bite-sized appetizer. The scallops go further- of course- but they also cook faster and are more buttery as well. Why mess with perfection? 🙂 The recipe is adapted from Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford with Lori Lyn Narlock.

The original recipe provides instructions to make parmesan crisps to serve each seared scallop on. The first time I ever made this dish, I attempted to make these crisps (with much frustration)… never again! From then on we have always used bite-sized melba toast instead and they are absolutely perfect (& much easier!). With slivers of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano topping each toast- spectacular!!

Yield: Makes 12 bites

  • 6 sea scallops, each sliced in half (in height), yielding 12 equal disks
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • white truffle oil, optional
  • 12 bite-sized melba toast
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh chives
  • 12 thin slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I use a vegetable peeler)
  1. Dry the surface of the scallops with a paper towel; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt 2 T of the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add half of the scallops (make sure not to overcrowd) and cook until barely cooked through.
  4. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
  5. Wipe out the skillet and return to the stove over medium heat. Melt the 2 remaining T of butter in the skillet.
  6. Add the remaining scallops and cook until barely cooked through, about 2 minutes. Set aside with the other scallops.
  7. To assemble: Top each melba toast with a sliver of Parmigiano-Reggiano, then top with a scallop. Drizzle with white truffle oil, if using, and sprinkle with chives.
  8. Serve immediately.

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