March 28, 2011

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto

Risotto, to me, is an ultimate comfort food. It’s creamy, starchy, and warm – all attributes of comfort food in most people’s minds. And while this version is gluten and dairy-free, and relatively low in undesirables as far as healthfulness is concerned (it’s not comprised of processed foods and has a moderate amount of healthy fat), it’s still on the “special occasion” list for me, as it is a less-healthy grain than say, brown rice. That being said, this is deliciously indulgent without wrecking your waistline. And with the bright flavors of lemon and fresh herbs, it’s also a lovely dish for spring.

I originally found a lemon risotto over at What’s For Lunch Honey, and this recipe is based off of Meeta’s. Of course, I adjusted to my needs and what I had on hand, much to our delight as we sat down for dinner the other night. With a few seared scallops to top our risotto, suddenly, all was right with the world. We slowed to savor each bite – the scallops were so unbelievably sweet, which elevated the sunny notes in the risotto. It was a comfort dish for sure, but a lighter version – one that definitely welcomes spring.

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto, inspired by What’s For Lunch, Honey

1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 carrots, diced

1 t fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 c Arborio rice

1/2 c light white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

2 lemons, zest and juice

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 T chopped fresh tarragon

1 lb sea scallops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

2 T hulled pumpkin seeds (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a simmer. In a large skillet or low-sided saucepan, heat oil to medium heat and add onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. If vegetables start to color, lower heat – you want them soft, but not brown. Add rice and continue to saute for another minute or so, stirring, to make sure each kernel is coated with oil. Add wine and deglaze pan, stirring to ensure any bits are scraped up. Cook, continuing to stir, until wine is nearly evaporated. Add a ladle-full or two of the stoc into the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is nearly absorbed, and add another ladle. Continue with this process until the rice becomes plump and gives up a lot of starch, making the rice appear creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. Once your rice is nearing done, bite into a piece to check the doneness. In the center of the rice grain, there shouldn’t be more than a pinhead-sized white dot. This is al dente.

Meanwhile, while you are stirring your rice and it’s nearing done, pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat another skillet to medium-high heat and add oil. Once hot, add scallops and allow to cook undisturbed for a minute, or until scallop releases easily from the skillet and has a golden brown crust. Turn over and sear the other side. Be careful not to overcook the scallops – you want them to be slightly firm and not mushy, but you definitely don’t want rubbery. This should only take a few minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Once your risotto is al dente, add lemon zest, juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs and stir in. Serve immediately in low, shallow bowls, and top with a few scallops. Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds over as garnish, if desired.

Serves 4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

12 Responses to “Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto”

  1. Alta, that looks AMAZING! I have never had or made risotto and I’ve been contemplating it. My husband loves scallops, so this would be perfect for our fish/seafood Friday dinners.

  2. This looks absolutely divine :)

  3. This does sound like the ultimate comfort food! I am a complete scallop lover and this recipe looks amazing! I will totally make this soon! Now I am totally craving it.

  4. I know a scallop lover who would appreciate this. Just beautiful.

  5. A great sounding scallop recipe. We love scallops, but they sure can be tricky to cook with, you sure can’t over cook or under-cook them. I have done so many bad batches and they aren’t cheap that you can just throw out and start again, we have eaten many a rubbery scallop over the years.
    Look forward to trying your recipe, maybe this weekend.

  6. That looks amazing Alta. I don’t make risotto often enough … and with scallops! Incredible.

  7. Beautiful dish! I was thinking about risotto yesterday, and here comes your great recipe — with simple instructions to help me through it. I’ve only had risotto a few times, and wasn’t sure then how it was different from plain white long-grain rice. Thus, I overcooked it, but even so, it still had such a unique flavor and texture. I’ll definitely be trying this soon!

  8. Pingback: Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto from Tasty Eats At Home | Celiac Handbook

  9. Scallops are one of those things that just scream “fancy restaurant” to me. In other words, I’ve never even attempted to cook them, and I am extremely impressed at your constant ability to cook outside the box. Pretty much everything you make seems to me like it belongs on a restaurant menu, and that would be a restaurant I would frequent all the time!

    • hunterslyonesse and Pat – you should try risotto cooked this way (lemony or not – you can always just start with onions, wine and broth, and finish with butter and Parmesan, if you can do dairy) It looks intimidating, but it’s really not. It’s just not something you can leave on the stove and forget about. But personally, I love the need to stir something like it – it’s soothing for some reason.

      Valerie, Wendy, Kim, Alisa, My Medifast – Thank you! I’ve become a scallop lover overnight because of this. Now it’s my duty to seek out good sales on scallops!

      Iris – you pretty much made my day with your comment! Thank you!

  10. Alta…when are you coming over to make dinner? I haven’t thrown together any risotto for at least, oh, 9 months. Maybe longer. We love it. Yours is actually healthier than mine because I use lots of butter. I’m going to try your version and see what Joe says. I’ve got herbs growing right outside that will work perfectly.

    Hugs to you,
    Amy

    • Amy – I love risotto with lots and lots of butter (and Parmesan), but I love this version because it’s dairy-free and the brightness of the lemon and herbs makes it so you don’t miss all of the butter and cheese. Let me know what you think!

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