Seared Scallops with Cilantro Pesto

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A few weeks ago, my fellow foodie and good friend Barb and our hubbies took a cooking class together—the kind where you get to have a hands-on lesson and then enjoy the gourmet fruits (or in this case, seafood) of your labors.  The title of the class offered here in Chicago was “Escape to the Cape”—and that’s as in Cod, my friends—a place near and dear to my heart.

I must admit that it was with a bit of amusement as I read what we would be making for our escape to the Cape:  New England Lobster Rolls (check!), Seared Scallops with Fresh Cilantro Pesto (not as Cape Cod-ish), Low Country Shrimp Boil (say what?), Jalapeño and Vermont Cheddar Cornbread (hmmm…), and Blueberry Crumble.  I’d say the chef was slightly mixed up geographically, especially with the mention of the Carolinas’ Low Country.  Geography notwithstanding, the four of us were in agreement–the food was all very delicious.

For me, a trip to Cape Cod isn’t complete until I have my fried scallop plate with French fries, cole slaw, ketchup, and tartar sauce.  I dip half of every scallop into the ketchup and the other half into the tartar sauce.  Then I bite down the middle so that I get a taste of each with every bite.  Heaven!

When I’m not indulging in fried scallops, I get them either seared or broiled and dressed with lemon, butter, and parsley.  I never would have thought to pair scallops with a cilantro pesto and was a bit dubious about what it would taste like.  Happily, it was a delicious and novel approach to the traditional scallop recipes I’ve eaten over the years.

I guess I just plain love scallops no matter how they’re cooked.

One year ago:  Green Split Pea Soup with Ham Hocks

Two years ago:  Halloween Witch Finger Cookies, Candy Corn Cookies

Seared Scallops with Cilantro Pesto

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  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or baby spinach leaves (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 tbl. toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. sea scallops (about 12)
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • 1 tbl. butter


Place cilantro, parsley (or baby spinach), pine nuts, garlic, zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in bowl of food processor.

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Pulse until minced.

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With processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth; set aside.

IMG_4982 (575x485)Rinse scallops and be sure to dry very well; otherwise, the scallops will not sear properly.  Sprinkle scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.

Add 1/2 tablespoon each of oil and butter to large sauté pan and heat until hot and shimmering, about one minute.  Add half the scallops, one at a time, flat side down; sauté, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent fat from burning, until scallops are well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Using tongs, turn scallops, one at a time; cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer, depending on size.  Do not overcook, or the scallops will become rubbery!

Repeat cooking process using remaining halves of oil, butter, and scallops.

Serve scallops with a dollop of pesto.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer.

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Source:   Recipe from a cooking class I took at Marcel’s Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn, IL

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