Pan Seared Scallops

There are few main courses so elegant yet so simple. Scallops are very tender and have a lovely mild, sweet taste, so the less you fuss, the better. The trick is to sear them quickly in a hot pan so that the outside gets a crisp, brown crust and the inside remains tender and creamy.

  • Recipe Serves 4
  • 20 large sea scallops (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups hydroponic watercress, tough stems trimmed
  • Italian parsley for garnish
  • Olive Tapanade

Remove the membrane from the side of the scallops and discard. Pat the scallops dry and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Heat a heavy 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil then arrange half of the scallops in the hot pan. There should be enough room between the scallops so they sizzle rather than steam. If your pan is not large enough to hold the scallops without crowding, sear them in more batches. Cook the scallops until they are brown and caramelized on each side, about 2 minutes per side. The scallops are done when they feel barely firm to the touch and faintly opalescent in the very center. Make sure you do not overcook scallops as they can become tough. Transfer the scallops to a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm. Repeat with the remaining scallops, adding 1 more tablespoon of oil to the skillet.

Mound the watercress in the center of 4 large plates. Arrange the scallops on top of the watercress, then spoon the tapenade over scallops. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve with Crostini or toast point.

Zov’s Kitchen Note: When shopping for scallops, look for ones that are ivory or cream-colored, or even as dark as light tan; a stark, bleached white scallop can be a sign of heavy phosphate treatment. There should be little or no milky liquid in the tray, another sign of heavy soaking. The best dry-packed scallops are often a bit sticky. A fishy or sour smell indicates spoilage.