Seared Scallops with Creamy Spinach and Leeks

As a ten year old girl, there is no way I ever imagined myself blogging about scallops and spinach.  First of all, in 1971, there were no personal computers and no internet..and thus no such thing as blogging.  Then there was the matter of my intense dislike of all things green and swimming creatures.

After all, I was the kid who when treated to lunch at the legendary seafood restaurant Bookbinders, in Philadelphia, ordered a hamburger.  I was also the kid who spent most Sunday suppers at my grandparent’s home, frantically trying to conceal my peas under my mashed potatoes.   I suppose my parents took some comfort in the fact that every now and then I would eat a pickle.  You know, pickles are green.

Indeed, my culinary transformation has been as remarkable as the tech revolution.  Because here I sit decades later, giddy with excitement over the meal I made last night: a bed of cream spinach and leeks topped with seared scallops, fresh ciabatta and a fragrant Pinot Gris from Oregon.  And, thanks to the marvels of microchips and mysterious things that happen in the airwaves, I can share this recipe with you.

One point I need to emphasize: this creamed spinach is rich and flavorful beyond belief.  So if seafood isn’t your thing, feel free to make the spinach and serve it with a grilled filet mignon, roasted lamb chops, or a sauteed chicken breast.  Of course the seared scallops are in this case, total icing on the cake.  Remember the four simple rules of scallops:

  • buy fresh, preferably dry packed scallops
  • pat them dry
  • season only at the last minute and
  • get that oil as hot as possible before adding scallops to pan

This meal is minimal prep and comes together in about 15 minutes.  Nice for a busy weeknight and yet elegant enough for a dinner party, served with a dry sparkling wine.

Oh Bookbinders, had I known then what I know now…

Seared Scallops with Creamy Spinach and Leeks

2-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
10-12 oz. baby spinach (about 12 loosely packed cups)
2 medium or 1 large leek (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, and rinsed (about 1 cup)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
10 large dry-packed sea scallops
4 tsp. vegetable oil

Melt 1/2 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the spinach and cook, tossing with tongs, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer with tongs to a colander set over a bowl; let drain and cool slightly. Repeat with the remaining spinach (adding a tad more butter if necessary). Squeeze handfuls of the spinach to release as much liquid as possible.

Discard any liquid in the skillet. Melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat and then add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add the wine, raise the heat to medium high, and cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until it’s thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt, a generous grind of pepper, and the nutmeg. Stir in the cheese and gently fold in the spinach. Keep warm.

Pat the scallops dry and remove the side muscle if still attached. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering hot. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the pan and cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until just opaque in the center, about 2 minutes more. Serve the scallops over the spinach.

Serves 2-3 adults

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