Sometimes, it’s all in the accessories. I first made this recipe a year ago when I was experimenting with cilantro in a gremolata and decided to combine it with seared scallops. The scallops were served with a simple spring pea purée and garnished with the gremolata. The dish was beautiful to look at, and the peas exuded a soft sweetness that married well with the briny scallop. Since then, it has been a favorite go-to recipe for special occasions – the figurative little black dress in my cooking repertoire.
But, like any wardrobe, recipes can stand a tweak from time to time. Maybe it was my mood or maybe it was the dreary weather, but when I made this recipe the other day, I craved a little extra zing. So, I made a few additions to the pea purée: fresh ginger and a pinch of cayenne. The result was delightful. The extra touches bolstered the flavor of the purée, distinguishing it from the sweet scallops while complementing the assertive lemon cilantro gremolata. Like a special scarf to the figurative little black dress, these culinary accessories were the flourishes I needed to make this recipe sparkle.
Seared Sea Scallops with Gingered Pea Purée and Lemon Cilantro Gremolata
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer
For the Cilantro Gremolata:
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Pea Purée:
2 cups shelled English peas
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
16 large sea scallops, about 1 1/2 pounds
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Prepare the Gremolata:
Combine the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside.
Prepare the Pea Purée:
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the peas. Cook until peas are tender. Remove from heat and drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Combine peas, garlic, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne in bowl of food processor. Purée until smooth. Add some of the reserved water (approximately 1/4 cup) to thin to desired consistency; the purée should not be too thin. Discard remaining water. Transfer purée to a bowl and keep warm.
Pat scallops dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the scallops, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, turning once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining scallops.
To assemble, spoon pea purée on serving plates. Top with scallops. Sprinkle scallops and purée with gremolata. Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.