Scallop salad fits perfectly with warm nights
A few weeks ago, I taught my first cooking class of the new season. The colorful menu featured dishes suited to the summer days ahead and boasted bright, clear flavors. For the main course, there were grilled steaks topped with a spicy chipotle sauce, polenta squares with corn, and fresh green beans scented with garlic. A warm rhubarb strawberry crumble made a tempting dessert.
The most popular dish of the night, however, was the opener -- a vibrant salad of pan-seared scallops, an avocado salsa, and mixed greens tossed in a lime-cumin dressing. The students loved this special salad and suggested that it could easily stand on its own as a light entree for warm weather.
The salad could be served with a basket of crusty bread and cups of chilled soup for a summer lunch or supper, and would make an impressive, but not complicated, main course. For the avocado salsa, diced avocados and tomatoes and chopped red onion are tossed in a lime-olive oil dressing seasoned with cumin, crushed red pepper and cilantro. This salsa can be prepared several hours ahead. At serving time, the scallops are quickly sauteed, the greens tossed in some of the same dressing used for the salsa, and the salads assembled.
Try this salad as a starter or as a light main course for summer entertaining.
Pan-Seared Scallops, Avocado Salsa with Mixed Greens in Lime Cumin Dressing
For the salsa :
• 2 teaspoons lime zest
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (juice of 4 to 5 limes)
• 3 medium-size cloves garlic, minced
• 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1 ripe medium-size tomato, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1/4 cup chopped red onion
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
For the scallops and mixed greens :
• 18 large sea scallops, side muscles removed and discarded
• Olive oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 4 cups mixed greens, such as a mesclun mixture
To prepare the salsa : Whisk together in a small bowl the lime zest and juice, garlic, crushed red pepper, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, several grinds of black pepper and olive oil.
Place the avocados, tomatoes and red onion in a medium-size, nonreactive bowl, then pour half of the dressing over them and toss gently to combine. Reserve the remaining dressing for tossing with the lettuce greens. Season the salsa with more salt, if desired. (The salsa and vinaigrette can be prepared 5 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)
At serving time, add the cilantro to the salsa and mix well.
To cook the scallops and assemble the salad : Pat the scallops dry. Place a large, heavy skillet (cast iron works particularly well) over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan lightly. When hot and just beginning to smoke, add enough scallops to fit comfortably in a single layer. Saute until cooked through to the centers, for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper, and remove to a side dish.
Toss the lettuce greens with just enough of the remaining dressing to coat lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the greens and mound high in the center of 6 salad plates. Surround each mound of salad with 3 scallops equidistant from each other. Spoon some salsa between the scallops on each plate. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the scallops.
Makes 6 servings.