Serves 2 people
2 ears of sweet summer corn
1 fennel bulb, shaved thin
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
basil, a few sprigs
neutral oil (like avocado)
Prepare the tomato corn salad first as the scallops take only minutes to cook. Shuck the ears of corn and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels. I like to lay down the ear flat on the board and cut from the top to the bottom with one slice. Rotate the corn and continue. Once the corn has been cut, stand it on its end and scrape the “corn milk” with the back of your knife. It has lots of sweetness and flavor. This is a raw corn salad so use corn only in the peak of summer. You can substitute blanched frozen peas if it’s not summer.
Place the corn in a bowl along with the cut tomatoes and shaved fennel. Use a sharp knife to cut the fennel or very carefully use a mandoline (USE THE FINGER GUARDS). Use your hands to rip the basil leaves into the salad. Dress the salad with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, juice from half a lemon and salt. Taste to and adjust the salad accordingly.
Cook the scallops. Heat a cast iron or other large pan on high heat. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season them with salt.
Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter. The oil has a higher smoke point which will allow us to sear the scallops while the butter has flavor.
Carefully place the scallops in the hot pan. There should be an immediate loud sizzle. Give the scallops lots of room and resist the temptation to move them (cook in batches if needed). Let them cook for 1 min 30 seconds. There should be a golden brown crust that forms. Flip and cook for another 1 min and 30 seconds. Remove from the pan.
Plate some salad on the plate and place the scallops on top. Add another squeeze of lemon on top. Serve immediately.
Look for scallops that are dry-packed or diver-caught. Most of the scallops sold are wet packed which means they are treated with a preservative that helps them retain moisture. Avoid scallops that are slimy, wet looking and smell. Use the Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium to buy sustainably harvested scallops.