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Scallops & Peas with Mint Gremolata

SERVES 4

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.

INGREDIENTS

Mint Gremolata

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.