Seared Scallops with Chimichurri
and Garlicky Polenta

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

Seared Scallops with Garlicky Polenta

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, pie, 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?) on a basement shelf: there’s no throwing them away, 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’? 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.

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 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 a prettier name for yellow cornmeal.
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, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


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 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 they 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.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE 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 3.5, PointsPlus 4

Garlicky Polenta Only, Per Serving: 112 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 12mg Cholesterol; 456mg Sodium; 17g Carb; 1g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 2.5, PointsPlus 3
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.

Miniature Shell Collection by Alanna Kellogg, age 8

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.

TIS THE SEASON: This Week, Years Past

Finnish Fruit Tart Lentil Soup Vincent All Courses Lavender: An Easy Romantic Dinner On-the-Run Breakfast Bars Cinnamon Sugar Cookies Poblano Steaks Roasted Pear Salad Cut-Out Spice Cookies Rustic Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Carrots Chimichurri

More Recipes for Romantic Meals

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Lavender Steak & Lavender Potatoes Quick Supper: Date-Night Chicken Roasted Salmon & Asparagus

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© Copyright 2011 Kitchen Parade

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