I’ve been craving citrus… Maybe it’s my body’s way of telling me I’m a little vitamin C deficient this week. Who knows? The one thing I was certain of was that I wanted to nosh on more than an elementary school snack of orange “monkey slices.” You know, when you slice whole oranges into fun little bite size wedges, pop one into your mouth, and flash your biggest monkey grin? Yes, I still do this from time to time – huge turn on for the husband. Anyhow, today I was feeling slightly more sophisticated. My mind drifted off to a bed of baby field greens adorned with a medley of blazing citrus segments and plump seared sea scallops finished with a sweet basil vinaigrette. Are you with me?
Fortunately, we’re still in the midst of citrus season and there are countless varieties of fruit readily available at the market. I opted for my most treasured navel (Cara Cara), an Italian blood orange, and a ruby red grapefruit, but any combination of your favorite fruits would work well. I chose basil for the vinaigrette for a few reasons: (1) It’s my favorite herb (shhhh… don’t tell my paramour, cilantro); (2) I wanted to do something a little more unexpected than mint, which is oft the go-to herb for savory fruit salads such as this; and (3) It’s peppery earthy flavor contrasts nicely with the bright acidic flavors of the fruit. Lastly, I selected scallops to headline because, quite simply, I haven’t had them in a while and their mildly sweet flavor pairs extraordinarily well with the citrus family.
And since we’re on the topic, let’s talk about perfectly seared sea scallops. A couple of years ago while vacationing in St. John, we had the pleasure of meeting The Waterfront Bistro‘s chef, Erica, during a chance encounter at a local bar. Waterfront is one of the island’s finer dining establishments and a few days prior we had enjoyed the most amazing tender seared sea scallops while sampling food for our rehearsal dinner. After she graciously listened to us singing our praises about her impeccably prepared mollusks, she explained two simple steps to achieve that perfect sear at home:
- Gently pat your scallops until completely dry and then sprinkle with salt. If there is any moisture, they will not achieve that desirable caramelized crust.
- Melt butter and oil in a very hot pan and cook them in a flash – about two minutes or less on each side. This will result in that perfectly browned exterior and slightly translucent melt-in-your-mouth fleshy interior.
So as you can see, with a little TLC and a couple of quality ingredients, these plump pillows of protein are truly no fuss no muss treasures from the sea and the perfect addition to this seasonal and bright citrus salad.
Citrus Salad with Seared Sea Scallops and Herb Vinaigrette
1 Cara Cara navel orange
1 blood orange
1 ruby red grapefruit
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
4 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp. thinly sliced basil leaves
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
3 cups baby field greens
1 lb. wild sea scallops (about 10)
Use a paring knife to carefully carve away the skin, pith, and membranes of each fruit until the pulpy flesh is exposed. Slice each fruit into 1/4-inch thick round slices. Halve two of the grapefruit slices. Set these aside along with all of the orange slices. Reserve and refrigerate remaining grapefruit for alternate use.
Combine shallot, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and emulsify the dressing until thickened and completely blended. Stir in the basil leaves and set aside.
Rinse the scallops in a colander with cool water. Clean them by removing the tough side muscle if still attached. Use paper towels to thoroughly pat them dry until there is no moisture remaining and then lightly sprinkle both sides with salt.
Heat vegetable oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the scallops when the butter is completely melted and begins to foam. Cook for approximately 2 minutes or until the underside is caramelized. Flip and cook for 1 – 2 additional minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. Remember that you don’t want to cook the scallop all the way through. The outsides should be browned and the inside should be translucent and slightly jiggly when done.
Toss mixed greens with desired amount of dressing and divide evenly between each plate. Top greens with citrus segments, red onion, and scallops. Drizzle lightly with more dressing. Serve immediately.
A few notes:
- To take the bite out of red onions, soak slices for 10 minutes in an ice water bath.
- Once the scallops hit the pan, don’t move them around until it’s time to flip or remove. This will help you achieve that caramelized crust you are striving for.
- The scallops will keep cooking after you remove them from the skillet. It’s best to err on the side of caution and remove them from the heat a few seconds sooner than you think.
- I found that one slice of grapefruit per salad was plenty of bitterness for me and any more might be overkill. However, feel free to use more if that’s what you like – it’s your world!
- Any remaining dressing can keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.