After nearly two weeks straight of soups, stews, and other hearty fare consumed to chase away the flinty chill of deep winter, I felt compelled to make something light and dainty for dinner - especially since the air has warmed and sweetened over the past few days! A flavorful vision of seared scallops, one of my favorite "dainty" foods, and a citrusy, piquant sauce immediately came to mind. My local fine foods grocer has a huge cache of blood oranges right now, so I picked up a few for the sauce cause - it's always a little thrill to slice into a blood orange and see vivid wet crimson, striations of rust and oxblood, when the eyes are primed to expect plain orange.
A small knoll of bitter greens and little ruby-red jewels of pomegranate scattered around the plate completed the scallop scene. It was exactly the kind of delicious and delicate dinner for which I yearned! If you have heavy winter food fatigue as well, you should give this one a go.
Seared Scallops with Blood Orange Sauce and Bitter Greens
Makes 2 servings
*6-8 sea scallops
*Juice of 2 blood oranges (about 2/3 cup)
*1 teaspoon dry sherry
*1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
*2 cups assorted bitter greens (I used rocket, dandelion greens and chicory)
*Seeds from about a quarter of a pomegranate
*Tiny lengthwise snips of a scallion, for garnish
*1 1/2 tablespoons butter + canola oil
Wash and dry your greens and winnow the pomegranate seeds out from within the annals of the fruit, set aside. Rinse and thoroughly pat dry your scallops, making sure to trim the muscle off the sides if need be. Lightly toast the peppercorns until fragrant and grind into a powder in a spice grinder.
Meanwhile, melt the butter with a dribble of canola oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium-high and season the scallops with the pinch of peppercorn dust and kosher salt on each side. When the skillet is hot and the butter has foamed, lay the scallops in and sear on each side for about a minute and a half. Remove to a warm platter, reduce the heat and add the the orange juice, sherry, and the rest of the ground peppercorns to the skillet. Stir, scraping the bottom, until the liquid has thickened and reduced, which will likely happen quickly. Divide the greens and scallops between two plates. Pour the pan sauce through a small sieve and over the scallops, and then scatter some pomegranate seeds around the perimeter. Garnish the scallops with snips of scallion.