Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seared Salsa Negra Scallops and Guacamole.

I don't intend to make this a food blog, but this and my next entry will be food related because this recipe is so good that I want to share it, the subject of my next post is also fun to share and involves some kitchen science with observation, and it'll get me back on the blogging horse.  So here we go.

During the summer in a hot kitchen one goal is to have the oven running for a little time as possible.  This is an especially desirable goal in a small NYC apartment, where the kitchen can heat the whole place up.

Seafood cooks really quickly, can be delicious, and fits nicely with my new healthy eating habits.  Scallops are one of my favorite seafoods and this recipe highlights them beautifully along with fresh asparagus.  The recipe calls for white asparagus, which is a little sweeter and less bitter than the green variety, but green will substitute nicely so long as it's well-roasted and feels more summery than something grown in the basement.   Don't be shy; make sure there are some serious sear marks on the asparagus from the broiler.  It requires total oven time, including preheating, of less than 20 minutes.  If you have an outdoor grill, this is even better.  You can take the whole thing outdoors with your prepared guacamole.

Scallops are easy to cook.  There are three tricks.  First, dry your scallops as much as you can.  There should be no water apparent on the scallops' exterior.  Any exterior water will boil, steaming the scallops, and at the same time will take energy from the pan which should be going to sear the exterior of the scallops.   Here, that also means wiping as much of the marinade off as is practical.  The second trick is to get your grill or pan blazingly hot before adding the scallops.  The related third trick is not to overload your pan.  My 10 small scallops seared perfectly in a 12-inch tri-ply frying pan but if you have larger scallops, a smaller pan or a pan with less impressive heat transfer characteristics you may want to work in batches.  The goal of all three of these tricks is to sear the outside of the scallops to a golden brown before the interior overcooks.  3-4 minutes per side should get you that flavorful sear on the outside and a tender and sweet but not raw-tasting center. 

I started with a recipe from DNAInfo, a local internet-only newspaper.   The idea there turns out to have been a great one, though the recipe is kind of a mess.  I substituted a salsa negra for the chipotle in adobo.  My salsa recipe came from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine, a book which I consider indispensable, but a quick Google will get you no end of good recipes.  I also removed the cilantro from the marinade, as it didn't really add anything and unless you got every bit off of the scallops it scorched on the grill/in the skillet.  And I dispensed with their perfectly adequate but unnecessary guacamole recipe.  Use your favorite guac and puree it to get it to a softer-than normal texture. 

Salsa Negra Scallops with Guacamole
Prep Time: 30 minutes | Cook Time: 12 minutes | Serves: 2-4, depending on the size of the scallops.


• 10 large dry sea scallops (drained, rinsed and thoroughly dried with a paper towel to get rid of any excess moisture)
• 2-3 tbsp Salsa Negra
• 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed into a paste with some salt
• 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
• 3 tbs. olive oil, divided
• 1 bunch white asparagus
• Salt and pepper
• Garlic powder
• A few tablespoons of your favorite guacamole,  pureed to a creamy texture if necessary
• Several sprigs cilantro, for garnish.


1. Combine 2-3 tbsp salsa negra,  garlic, measured ground pepper and 1 tbsp of olive oil and add the scallops. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to a half hour.
2. If the guacamole is not already extremely creamy, add some lime juice and blend with a stick blender until it is sufficiently creamy to spread with a spoon.
3. Preheat the broiler.
4. Meanwhile, trim the ends off of the asparagus, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and place on a baking sheet or pan in a single layer.
5. Broil the asparagus until browned and just barely tender, about 12 minutes, turning once or twice. Set aside.
6. Preheat a grillpan on the stovetop on high heat. Alternatively, heat a large skillet or frying pan with the remaining tbsp of olive oil, also over high heat.
7. Remove the scallops from the marinade, wiping off as much excess as you can. Season with salt and pepper and place on the grill or in the pan.
8. Sear 3 to 4 minutes and then flip and sear the other side for another three minutes.  The scallops should be seared to a golden brown on both sides. 
9. Plate the scallops on top of the asparagus with some cilantro garnish and a spoonful or two of the guacamole on the plate.

This post contains one or more links to an affiliate page at  If you make a purchase though the linked page I will receive compensation from Amazon. 

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