This vivid citrus shellfish salad is sexy looking with its beautifully browned sweet morsels of sea scallops, vibrant and juicy orange segments, slippery white pickled onions, and bright green parsley leaves. In winter when temperatures drop and the days are short, let this sun-soaked salad whisk you and your love away to a romantic tropical island beach for a quiet dinner alone on Valentine's Day. It can be put together in under thirty minutes, giving you time for more important things.
This is another dish that falls into the “small plate” category for a light, healthy meal. The ingredients are simple and you probably have a jar of pickled cocktail onions sitting in your refrigerator right now that you keep for martinis. I’ve used navel oranges, but ruby red grapefruit segments or blood oranges would also be lovely. Wild caught shrimp could easily stand in for the more pricy sea scallops.
When you select scallops, be sure to look for the dry-packed ones, as opposed to wet-packed scallops, which are sitting in phosphate brine. Jay Harlow offers this advice from Sally’s Place on buying scallops. “When shopping for fresh or thawed scallops, look for ivory or creamy-colored meats, even as dark as a light tan; a stark, bleached white can be a sign of heavy phosphate treatment. There should be little or no milky liquid in the tray, another sign of heavy soaking. In fact, the best dry-packed scallops are often a bit sticky. A fairly strong sweet-briny aroma is also not a problem, but a fishy or sour smell indicates spoilage.”
Jay sums up how to cook scallops in one simple sentence. “One of the best ways to treat scallops is like little filets mignons -- seared in a hot skillet until the outside is browned and a little crusty, and the center is anywhere from rare to medium rare.” Thank you Jay. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Scallops with Orange and Onion Salad
Adapted from Food & Wine – makes 8 first course servings or 4 “small plate” meals
4 large navel oranges (or ruby red grapefruits)
3 tablespoons drained pickled cocktail onions
2 tablespoons packed flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds sea scallops, preferably dry pack
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Using a very sharp paring knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Carefully cut in between the membranes to release the orange sections into a bowl. Discard all but one tablespoon of orange juice from the bowl. Stir in the drained pickled cocktail onions and parsley leaves and season with freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
Pat the sea scallops dry with a paper towel and season them all over with salt. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and heat until it is shimmering. Cook the scallops over moderately high heat, taking care not to crowd the scallops in the pan. Turn once until they are crusty brown and just cooked through, about 3 - 4 minutes total, depending on the size of the scallops. Do not overcook the scallops or they will be tough and rubbery. Remove them immediately from the pan onto a clean paper towel.
Spoon the pickled-onion-and-orange salad onto small plates and arrange the scallops around the salad. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, some freshly ground black pepper, and serve at once.