Seared Scallops with Garlicky Polenta & Chimichurri

A simple romantic dinner, perfectly cooked scallops bedded in creamy polenta and topped with racy spoonsful of chimichurri.

Seared Scallops with Garlicky Polenta & Chimichurri ♥ A simple romantic dinner, perfectly cooked scallops bedded in creamy polenta and topped with racy spoonsful of chimichurri.

Restaurant-Worthy Scallops, Perfectly Cooked At Home. Real Food, Fast & Healthy. Mere Minutes to the Table. Another Quick Supper, a Kitchen Parade Specialty. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Low Fat. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free.

Blue-Ribbon Recipes? Nope. Blue-Ribbons Seashells.

My first blue ribbons at the local county fair came in grade three – not for hearty homemade bread; not for a flaky, tender pie crust; not for a perfect garden tomato; not for a knitting project; not for sewing a simple apron; not for raising a calf or a lamb.

No, those first ribbons were for two collections of Gulf-Coast seashells, one of miniature shells with an angel wing an inch long, a coquina the size of an ant, a tiny red crab as small as a child's fingernail.

Now both collect dust (ha, irony there, eh? a pair of collections collecting dust?) on a basement shelf: there’s no throwing them away but there’s no living with them either.

Even in the 1960s, scallop shells were some rare, especially the flat bottom halves, I think we called them "fan shells"?

A county fair entry in grade three, a display box of miniature seashells collected by Alanna Kellogg on Florida's Gulf Coast in the mid 1960s.

ABOUT MY SHELL COLLECTION This is the miniature shell collection from the third grade. The shells are remarkably tiny, only a half-inch to three-quarters inch big. All the shells are in good shape, the horseshoe crab (the large beige creature with the tail), not so much. All these shells were collected by my grandmother and me on the Gulf Coast of Florida near Bonita Springs in the mid 1960s. Canadians, you'll laugh: the collection is housed in what appears to be a scarf-size Christmas gift box from Eaton's.

Choose Scallops for a Healthy, Protein-Packed Seafood

These days, scallops (the seashells) seem somehow old-fashioned and arcane, where scallops (the meaty mollusks) are the modern delight of dieters and gourmands alike.

This is my favorite way to cook scallops, easy enough for a romantic weeknight dinner and impressive enough for a weekend dinner party.

The outer edges are crispy, the centers creamy and warm. Rarely does a protein taste so rich for so few calories.

About This Recipe

This is a fast and healthy romantic meal for two, just skillet-seared scallops on a bed of creamy polenta dotted with the Argentinian parsley condiment called Chimichurri which is very similar to basil pesto which would in fact be a fine substitute especially during summer, see Homemade Fresh Basil Pesto Without Cheese.

The distinctive ingredients are the scallops; the garlic and cheese in the polenta; and the parsley-scented chimichurri.

Ingredients for the scallops = large scallops + salt/pepper + olive oil/butter

Ingredients for the polenta = fine yellow cornmeal or fine polenta + garlic + salt + cheese

This is an attractive dish, it plates really beautifully. Just swirl the polenta across the bottom of a plate or shallow bowl; top with the round, meaty scallops cooked until crispy on the edges; then dot with chimichurri. Dig in!

The recipe is written as dinner-for-two but scales up easily.

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Seared Scallops with Chimichurri & Garlicky Polenta ♥ A simple romantic dinner, perfectly cooked scallops bedded in creamy polenta and topped with racy spoonsful of chimichurri.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes (not including the chimichurri)
Serves 2, easily multiplied
  • CHIMICHURRI, my recipe for Chimichurri, preferably made 24 hours before serving
  • 1/2 pound (225g) large scallops
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced small
  • 4 tablespoons polenta (see TIPS)
  • 1 ounce feta cheese

SCALLOP PREP Arrange the scallops on a double layer of paper towels, pat dry, then season both sides with salt and pepper. Leave the scallops on the towels to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. (Make the polenta while the scallops rest. There’s plenty of time to dress some salad greens too.)

GARLICKY POLENTA In a saucepan, bring the water, salt and garlic to a boil on medium high. Stirring continuously, slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water. Let the polenta cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove from the heat, stir in the feta cheese until it melts. Set aside but keep warm.

SEARED SCALLOPS Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (see TIPS) on medium high, add the scallops flat-side down and let cook, without moving so that the bottom side will sear, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the butter, then turn the scallops over with tongs and cook for another minute. While the scallops cook, tilt the skillet to pool the butter, spoon it over the scallops. The scallops are done when their centers are opaque.

TO SERVE If needed, rewarm the polenta and spoon onto warm plates. Arrange the scallops on the plates, then dot with chimichurri sauce.

ALANNA’s TIPS Choose a skillet large enough so that the scallops won’t touch sides while cooking. Large scallops are the size of a marshmallow. I’ve also made this recipe with tiny bay scallops. They work fine but are easy to overcook: it helps to take the skillet off the heat after turning the scallops. I’ve also followed this same technique with frozen scallops, just be sure to thaw them beforehand. If needed, place a package of frozen scallops into cold (yes, cold) water for 30-60 minutes to thaw. No cheating with the microwave, the scallops need so little cooking that just thawing in the microwave will overcook them. Look for packages labeled "polenta" if you like but really, polenta is just a prettier name for yellow cornmeal. The Garlicky Polenta recipe relies on "quick" polenta or "quick" cornmeal that pours like very fine, dry sand. If you happen to have the wonderful but coarser stone-ground cornmeal, you'll want to adapt the recipe for Microwave Green Chili Cheese Grits.
Scallops Only, Per Serving: 154 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 44mg Cholesterol; 202mg Sodium; 3g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 19g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 4 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 2 & myWW green 3 & blue 2 & purple 2 & future WW points

Scallops & Polenta, Per Serving: 266Calories; 10g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 57mg Cholesterol; 501mg Sodium; 19g Carb; 1g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 23g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 7 & SmartPoints 7 & Freestyle 6 & myWW green 7 & blue 6 & purple 6 & future WW points
RECIPE INSPIRATION Chimichurri is usually paired with grilled meat, especially beef. The idea to use it with scallops came from Cook This, Not That, reviewed in my recipe for Easy Margarita Chicken.

More Recipes for Romantic Meals

~ Valentine recipes ~
Warm Baked Feta & Tomatoes with Shrimp ♥ TikTok phenomenon worth the hype as an appetizer, casual meal or pasta feast.

Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet, another Quick Supper ♥, three colors of bell pepper plus corn, peas and fresh basil. Easy Weeknight Dinner. Budget Friendly.

Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi with Creamy Tomato Sauce ♥ A Veggie Venture, worthy of a special occasion or a relaxed weekend meal, light and airy and slightly cheesy.

Leave Room for Dessert

~ dessert recipes ~
Chocolate Decadence Cake ♥, the ultimate chocolate experience, a dense, moist and ultra-rich almost-flourless chocolate cake. Serve in small slivers!

Lemon Pudding Cake ♥, the old-fashioned lemon dessert, lemon cake on top and lemon pudding on the bottom, now with raspberries or blueberries.

Raspberry & Red Wine Granita ♥, an icy-cold raspberry slushee for grown-ups. Just three ingredients, no ice cream maker, just a freezer and a fork.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ scallop recipes ~
~ cornmeal recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I've often found polenta to be bland. Can't wait to try this one out and I'll be getting some local Nova Scotian Digby scallops this saturday at the farmers market. Thanks for a great recipe choice for them.

  2. I love the flavors in this recipe and scallops are an all time favorite in our home. I like your use of feta in the polenta - I look forward to trying it.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna