This colorful dish looks like sunshine and it transitions well from late winter into spring. Winter oranges are still available and seafood always reminds of spring and being out on the water boating when the weather warms up. It would also make a lovely lunch during Easter weekend when you're looking for something fresh and light. Blood oranges would be a striking combination to the navel oranges, but when I went to the market, I found I had missed their season. I’ve made a note to try this recipe again when I see blood oranges in the market next year.
The citrus flavors make a refreshing counterpoint to the rich seared sea scallops. Scallops aren’t particularly difficult to prepare. You just need to be very careful not to overcook them, because if you do, they will be tough and chewy and very unappetizing.
I think the most difficult thing about scallops is finding the correct ones. Dry pack scallops are the very best money can buy and I encourage you to seek them out. Here's a link that will explain what dry pack scallops are. If at all possible you want to avoid scallops that have been soaked in brine. Why? Because they are very difficult to near impossible to brown properly and, to me, they leave a bit of a tangy aftertaste in your mouth. Scallops should smell and taste like the sea – fresh.
I upped the amount of oranges called for in this recipe because the navel oranges I’ve been buying have ended up small by the time I removed their skin. If it turns out you’ve bought an extra orange or two, no problem, just juice them for breakfast the next day. The oranges in this recipe are briefly sautéed just to heat them through, so take care not to overcook them. The olives were a last minute idea for our own special touch because we think that the brininess of olives pairs well with citrus.
Pan-Seared Scallops with Sautéed Oranges
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano, serves 4
4 navel oranges, or 2 navel oranges and 2 blood oranges
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound large dry-packed sea scallops
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro leaves (or parsley if you don’t care for cilantro)
Assorted French olives, optional but delicious
Peel the oranges and cut into thin rounds, reserving the juice, and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the cumin and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dry the scallops with a paper towel and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the scallops and cook until browned underneath, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and cook until just firm to the touch but still translucent in the center, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Take care not to over-cook the scallops or they will be tough. Transfer the scallops to a plate and keep warm.
Add the vinegar and reserved orange juice to the pan and cook until reduced by half, then add the orange slices and cook for 1 minute. You are just warming the oranges, not actually cooking them. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Return the scallops to the pan along with any accumulated juices and stir to coat with the sauce. Transfer the oranges to serving plates and top with scallops. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and assorted French olives if using. Serve immediately.