Scallops have become a go-to ingredient on Top Chef over the years, to the point where both judges and fans have often criticized “cheftestants” for using them as somewhat of a crutch. It’s easy to understand why the tasty mollusks are so often chosen, especially in the heat of the moment: Sweet, buttery, and luxe, yet not terribly expensive, they can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways, and — most of all — are incredibly quick to cook. Though they are great any time of year, I love this fresh, springtime preparation, which balances a trio of vibrant green vegetables with a simple gremolata made with lots of fresh mint.
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Scallops & Peas
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 pound medium-thick asparagus, tough ends trimmed, spears cut on a diagonal into 1-inch lengths
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or thawed frozen peas
- 1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach (5 cups packed)
- 1 pound dry sea scallops, rinsed, tough muscle removed, scallops patted dry
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the gremolata: In a bowl, stir together the mint, lemon zest, and garlic; set aside.
For the scallops and peas: If using pine nuts, place them in a small, dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the asparagus and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
Heat another tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, just until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables.
Wipe out the skillet. Season the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the scallops and cook without touching until the bottoms are deep golden, 2 to 3 minutes, then turn and cook until just cooked through, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Transfer the scallops to a plate.
Gently toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the gremolata, then divide among serving plates. Top with the scallops. Sprinkle with the remaining gremolata and the pine nuts if using. Drizzle with a bit of oil and serve.
The cookbook that Top Chef fans have been waiting for, from the celebrated judge who makes delicious food and inspired cooking accessible for home cooks.
Gail Simmons is a beloved figure in the food world who has been a popular judge on Top Chef, the number-one rated food show on cable television since its inception. In Bringing It Home, Simmons shares her best recipes and food experiences. From her travels, exploring global flavors and keeping detailed diaries, to her Top Chef culinary adventures with the world's most notable chefs, she is always asking: "How can I bring this dish home to my own kitchen?" Her goal is to make fabulous recipes using accessible ingredients and smart, simple cooking techniques for successful family meals and easy entertaining.