Grilled Scallops With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Once again last week, a visit to the market offered up inspiration for this dish. The markets are full of  fresh bunches of scallions (green onions). Peppers are starting to appear but I have frozen roasted red peppers in the freezer (for just the occasion like today) and a walk to the fish and seafood stand led me to fresh, plump and firm scallops. They smelled of the sea, they were not swimming in liquid and I was long overdue for them.

In Greek, scallops are called “Xτένια” (ch-ten-ya) and they appear in the market in the winter time, usually fresh and still in their shells. I don’t see scallops in their shells here all too often and that makes it harder when determining whether your scallop is fresh (preserved with the aid of chemicals).

When choosing scallops (like with any fish or seafood), your nose is the first sense that will never fail you. Take a deep sniff of your scallops. They should smell slightly sweet and of the sea. Any hint of “fishyness” should ring the the alarm in your head. Avoid them, pick something else and if still no luck, try another fish monger.

The scallops should be dry, not swimming in any liquid where  they lay on display. Many fish mongers will add a chemicals or water (or both) to lenghthen the shelf-life. A weird aftertaste is usually the giveaway and liquid will leech out of the scallops when they are cooked. Obviously, both are bad.

To successfully sear, grill or pan-fry a scallop, they must be patted-dry – no liquid whatsoever. Simply seasoned and then placed over hot, hot heat. Remember: dry scallops and very hot heat = beautifully seared scallops. The seasoning I chose for this dish was a simple oregano fleur de sel (afrini) and fresh ground pepper. Last year I received a package of dried herbs and flavoured fleur de sels from Botano in the southern coast of Crete and I’ve used this oregano flavoured sea salt on fish, seafood and pork.

Today’s dish makes good use of your gas or charcoal grill: seared thick and juicy sea scallops, charred red peppers that are then sweated, peeled and then pureed. The red peppers are then blended with some grilled scallions, some fresh garlic and olive oil and lightened with just a bit of strained Greek yogurt. With me so far?

The starch in the dish is a saffron pilaf that has a wonderful crunchy texture with the addition of toasted angel hair pasta at the very end. In Greek, an angel hair type pasta is sold as “φιδέ” (fee-dai) and it’s often sold in dry nests. Fides can be purchased at your local Greek grocer or you may place an order with Christos Marketplace.

I heated some homemade seafood stock, added a pinch of saffron threads and allowed them to steep for a few minutes (or until the liquid turns gold from the saffron). I add the saffron-infused stock to the rice, some olive oil and some leftover shellfish I had and I baked the rice (I prefer baking to stove-top). The crunchy aspect of the saffron rice was made my toasting some “fide” pasta. Read the rest of the recipe and find out how I did it!

Grilled Scallops With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

(Serves 4)

16 large sea scallops, patted dry

Oregano fleur de sel *

fresh ground pepper

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

2 roasted bell peppers

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

the green tops of 4 scallions, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

salt to taste

1 tsp. of Boukovo (or chilli flakes)

2 Tbsp. of strained Greek yogurt

Crispy Saffron Pilaf

1 cup of long grain rice

1/4 cup of “fide” or angel hair pasta, broken-up with your hand

2 1/2 cups of seafood or vegetable stock

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

pinch of saffron threads

(handful of seafood is optional)

  1. Pre-heat your gas grill to high. Place your red peppers and scallions directly on the hot grill and char on all sides. Remove and place in a bag and seal or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Allow to sweat for about 20 minutes or until you can safely handle them. Peel the skins, remove the stem and seeds and chop up the peppers and place in your food processor and puree.
  2. Now snip the root end of the scallions and discard plus peel and remove any of the charred exterior and then coarsely chop. Place a small skillet on your stove-top over medium heat and add the olive oil, scallions, garlic and red pepper puree. Slowly bring to a bowl while mixing and then take off the heat, adjust seasoning, add your Boukovo (chilli flakes) and the strained Greek yogurt and stir until combined. Reserve and keep warm.
  3. In the meantime, let’s make the crispy saffron rice. Bring your stock (seafood, vegetable or chicken) to a boil and place in your baking vessel. Add a pinch of Saffron threads to the hot stock and cover. Allow the saffron to bloom for 5 minutes. Add your olive oil, the rice, seafood and stir. Place in a pre-heated 400F oven for 45 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. In the meantime, add a Tbsp. of olive oil into a small pan over medium heat and crumble and add the “fide” (angel hair pasta) with your hands and stir.
  4. Continue to stir until the pasta is just translucent, after 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar, stir to coat for a minute and take off the heat and reserve. When the saffron rice is cooked, add the toasted pasta to the rice, fluff and mix the rice thoroughly with the toasted fide pasta.
  5. Pre-heat your gas/charcoal grill. Thoroughly brush the grill surface and ensure no residue remains. You are looking for a high heat. Take your scallops out of the fridge and pat-dry. Inspect the scallops to see if the muscle has been removed. If not, simply tear off this small flappy piece and discard (tough). Season both sides with the oregano fleur de sel and some fresh ground pepper. After about 15-20 minutes when your grill is very hot, wipe the grill surface with a towel that’s been dipped in vegetable oil and wipe the grill surface to lubricate.
  6. Place your seasoned scallops on the grill and cook for about 2-3 minutes a side (or until they do not stick). Remove from the grill and keep warm.
  7. Place your saffron rice pilaf into a funnel (or other mold of your choice) and pat down with a spoon. Place your plate over the mold and then invert. While holding the plate and rice mold, gently give a jerk to release the rice from the mold. Now spoon some roasted red sauce where each scallop will lay and place the scallop on the sauce. Garnish with chopped chives or scallions and a drizzle of extra-virgin oil.
  8. Serve with a Boutari Moshofilero white.

*You may purchase oregano fleur de sel from Botano.gr or simply take 2 parts coarse sea salt and 1 part dried oregano and pulse it with your food processor, store in a jar.

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© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

© 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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23 Comments for “Grilled Scallops With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce”

says:

Scallops are one of my favorites. I usually just grill them quickly with lemon juice but your red pepper sauce looks lovely and easy to make! Nice to have a change of pace. The presentation with the cone of saffron rice is perfect.

says:

Beautiful pics and excellent writing Peter, great effort! I’m quite jealous because I love scallops but can’t find fresh ones where I live. Any other seafood, no problem. But scallops, only frozen, and that’s not for me. Suffice it to say, you’ve really whet my appetite with this one.
Greetings from Gib,
Brian

says:

Absolutely delectable! I saw scallops in their shell with their roe for the first time at Borough Market. Have you ever eaten the orange roe? I would love to know how it tastes. (We are a little seafood deprived on the Canadian prairies.)
I love roasted red pepper anything – especially ajvar. You must know what that is. Do you? I wilt just thinking of it. I do make my own, but when in the former Yugoslavia, the peppers there are meatier and have a depth of flavour second to none. I have not found anything similar here, though we do have magnificent produce available to us.
I will be doing some sous vide scallops, soon – and searing them… and comparing them to ones not done the sous vide way first. I love them. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Valerie

says:

I’m with you! I’m paying attention! Oh hells yes. I love scallops and am always looking for new ways to use them….we have a lot here. LOL Love a good sauce Peter…fabulous.

says:

That’s a beautiful meal. i love scallops and I love red pepper sauce. And I really love that conical timbale of pilaf. I would have loved to see a photo or 2 of the mold and/or technique to create it. Next time?

says:

Great tips about selecting scallops. I didn’t know about the chemicals used to extend their shelf-life. I’ll definitely be asking my fishmonger a few questions the next time I’m there. I love your pyramid of rice!

says:

Peter,
Scallops are one of my favorite food. My yiayia in Greece said she’s never seen scallops there before. Is that accurate?! Nonetheless, amazing presentation of the rice. I use the good old method that our mom’s used with packing the rice into the coffee cup and turning it upside down. LOL…i’ll give the cone a try next time. Keep up the great recipes!!

says:

Loving that rice cone you got there. I never actually had scallops in Greece before! Maybe it’s more of a Northern Greece thing? Nonetheless yours look delish, especially with the pools of oil..mmmmm

says:

Beautiful dish. I love χτένια. I know it’s very hard to find them in Greece but here in Holland they are available widely. I’ve never tried them grilled.
The saffron pilaf looks amazing.
Magda

says:

Great dish; I had clipped a similar recipe years ago (I never tried it) it was a Spanish dish with lobster and fideos also cooked in a saffron broth; I like your technique of cooking the rice in the oven, I was just surprised that you fry the fideos and add them at the end! the sauce sounds yummy; I like your tips on buying the scallops, I just never bother to sniff any fish, which is bad!

says:

Gorgeous recipe Peter – and gorgeous colours! That saffron pilaf tower is very impressive! Excellent charring on the scallops too and I bet that roasted pepper sauce is perfectly sweet and summery.

says:

I love scallops and this is a great way to enjoy them. They look absolutely beautiful on that plate … too good to eat!

says:

Absolutely delectable! I saw scallops in their shell with their roe for the first time at Borough Market. Have you ever eaten the orange roe? I would love to know how it tastes. (We are a little seafood deprived on the Canadian prairies.)I love roasted red pepper anything – especially ajvar. You must know what that is. Do you? I wilt just thinking of it. I do make my own, but when in the former Yugoslavia, the peppers there are meatier and have a depth of flavour second to none. I have not found anything similar here, though we do have magnificent produce available to us.I will be doing some sous vide scallops, soon – and searing them… and comparing them to ones not done the sous vide way first. I love them. It will be interesting to see how it goes.Thanks for the inspiration!Valerie
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