Seared Scallops with Herbed Spring Pea Pesto
With the arrival of spring, we’ve been loving the return of bright green everywhere, be it in our yard, covering the forest floor behind our house, or in the veggies in our groceries. In particular we’ve been loving fresh English peas and have been putting them into pretty much everything we can think of. The kids are of the mind that shelling the peas is basically the most fun activity ever. In fact, one evening I was able to halt an epic episode of tired crying on the part of Caroline by letting her shell the peas for dinner. It was miraculous.
I originally had a completely different recipe idea in mind for this pea pesto, which I have since forgotten. Over the weekend it slowly evolved in my mind until this combination emerged – an herbed pea pesto to accompany seared scallops. Thankfully the butcher shop had just gotten in some gorgeous diver scallops and I knew it was meant to be. Like most recipes involving scallops, the preparation of this dish is incredibly simple but the final product feels fancy. I paired this with the citrus salad with hazelnut vinaigrette and it was a fantastic spring meal – vibrant, fresh, and light. If you haven’t tried your hand at homemade scallops yet, let this be the recipe to break you in. You’re going to love it.
Yield: 4 servings
For the pesto:
- 1½ cups shelled English peas
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
- 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more as needed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the scallops:
- 1-1½ lbs. large sea scallops
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4-6 tablespoons clarified butter
- ½ cup white sugar, spread on a flat plate
To make the pesto, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the shelled peas and cook briefly, about 60 seconds, until bright green and slightly tender. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add in the garlic, basil, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Process first in pulses to finely chop, and then let run until the mixture has smoothed out. Add additional olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time as needed until the pesto has the texture of a loose paste with minimal lumps. Set aside while you prepare the scallops.
Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet on medium-high for 2 minutes. Add the clarified butter and swirl to coat the pan. When the butter begins to foam, prepare the scallops quickly. Working efficiently, coat one side of each scallop in sugar, grasping the sides and using a gentle twisting motion to help the sugar adhere. Place the scallops sugar side down in the skillet and sauté for 2½ minutes. If the sugar starts to brown too quickly, reduce the heat. Flip the scallops over and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and serve immediately over the pea herb pesto.
Note: Scallops need to be cooked just so, so be vigilant. No checking social media while they are cooking! If your scallops are exceptionally large, you may need to increase the cooking time just slightly. If necessary, sacrifice one by slicing through the middle to check for doneness. It will be worth it for a perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth scallop experience.