Scallops with mustard and balsamic, on a bed of arugula.

When winter starts to turn, spring changes my kitchen.  Asparagus slithers in, artichokes make a big entrance.  Strawberries begin to take the place of oranges and, most importantly, I start serving practically everything on a bed of greens.  Lamb chops, pork, canned tuna, even steak.  Peppery, spicy arugula is my green of choice, but butter lettuce, spinach, young kale, and even a mesclun mix can find its way to the bottom of my plate.  I almost feel sorry for it—always underneath the protein, like the overweight girl on the cheerleading team, having to lift up the stupid thin, blonde ones, with their bird legs and super-cute boyfriends and well-managed ponytai—not that I have any personal experience or anything…

But unpleasant high school memories aside, I’d like to give the bed of spring greens its due.  They are, for me, the best part of the meal.  Greens make the perfect bed for protein—they can be dressed with a pungent dressing, too strong for a salad, because the protein’s fat and juices will even everything out.  I like that it gives me a chance to wield heavy amounts of mustard, or use a tart balsamic vinegar with nothing else—I’m not sure why, but I like that.

This meal uses both mustard and balsamic, and they both—spicy and tart—compliment sweet scallops like nothing else.  Scallops need a bit of muscle in the way of flavor, in my opinion, because their sea-scented sweetness, while great on their own or with cream, can become too much without any contrast.  And as delicate as they look, a scallop’s flavor can stand up to the strongest mustard sauce.

But I’m inclined to say, all would be nothing if not for the arugula.  Its peppery flavor is almost as strong as the mustard and vinegar it’s dressed with but it adds a new dimension—vegetal, fresh, biting greenness underneath it all.  Kind of like spring, and the green grass that has been seemingly right under the snow and dirt all winter, that is just now peeping into the world, gearing up for the season.

Scallops with Mustard Sauce and Balsamic, on a bed of Arugula

Serves 2

  • 4-6 cups arugula
  • drizzling of balsamic vinegar
  • 6 dry sea scallops, abductor muscle removed
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • a small handful of sliced scallions, optional

Arrange arugula on a serving platter and drizzle balsamic vinegar over leaves, without mixing and dressing them.  Get a nonstick pan very hot, adding a bit of olive oil.  Once the oil starts to sputter, place the scallops onto the pan.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until they are browned, then flip so that you can brown the other side, another 2-3 minutes.  Remove scallops, arranging them on top of the arugula.

Add shallot to the pan.  Stir to heat them and then add the white wine.  Let the wine reduce by  half, then turn off the heat and add the water and mustard.  Reduce a little bit more, so the sauce begins to thicken, then add the butter piece by piece, whisking or swirling the pan so that it eases into the mustard and creates a thick, creamy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over scallops and arugula, mixing everything together to get the sauce and balsamic to lightly coat everything.  Sprinkle with scallions.  Serve.

*Arugula can be arranged on platter and drizzled with balsamic a few hours a head of time.

24 thoughts on “Scallops with mustard and balsamic, on a bed of arugula.”

    1. Truth be told, it doesn’t have to be great balsamic. I’m loyal to a 3 buck Aceto di Balsamica (the brand is Alessi) and I use it on most everything. I actually find the really good stuff to sweet and I’m a sucker for tartness. (Though I’ve recently found a new obsession with spicy red radishes drizzled with a really good balsamic.)

      Thanks for dropping in Amanda!

    1. Oh yes, a treat that sadly we never share with everyone! Scallops are only in our budget when we are serving the two of us. (Hehe, sorry friends and family, but if you want this, you gotta pay up!)

  1. Adore arugula (we call it rocket over here) and always have it growing in my garden during the summer months. Read somewhere recently that it’s no longer a “trendy” green and got really mad! The idea of fashionable food bugs me.

    I’m not a scallop fan at all but wonder if I’d like them like this. It’s that fishy sweetness that puts me off them. Your idea of balancing them with biting green and mustard might just change my mind.

  2. Seriously delightful combinations suggested and I have tried almost exactly this myself, but not in the longest time. You know the feeling when a food memory is triggered or you stumble across something which you used to make? Well, this is now a must have and must have today thought.

    Thanks for the lovely memory. I’m off to find some scallops!!

  3. Hi everybody

    Do you guys know this website?

    Well, it is not mine, so i do not consider this a “Spam”, but it sure have a lot of great recipes like yours.
    It is kinda of a “full collection” of easy recipes…try the “Sinfully rich homemade chocolate pudding ”

    Tastes great!

  4. I love arugula and am so glad Steve is coming around to it. I can also imagine that the scallops blend well with these strong flavors. We actually got burnt out on scallops last year for a bit, but have rediscovered the love with new flavors. Thanks for another good one.

  5. It’s only 9:00am as I read this, but I want scallops all of a sudden. Funny.

    Delicious looking dish Robin. We love scallops too and use them the same way you do- just for ourselves. I think this method may be the next way I serve it.

  6. Not far from you (just east of the intersection of Rtes. 263 and 413 in Buckingham, PA) is an organic, hydroponic farm that produces a variety of greens. They sell to the public, as well as to restaurants, although their hours are limited. I believe they call themselves Blue Moon Acres and, as they are hydroponic, are open year-round. They also sell fresh cut flowers and edible flowers.
    May be a good source for the greens you use.

    1. It’s about two miles before you get to Buckingham Seafood…maybe a half-mile past the 263/413 light, just beyond the auction gallery. Have you tried the she-crab soup from Buckingham Seafood?

  7. Arugula has such an interesting taste. A bit surprising when I first tried it — I thought “peppery” was a bit of an exaggeration but it turns out to be the perfect word to describe it.
    Great way to welcome spring!

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