Scarlet Seared Scallops

As with most of my more unusual meals, this one started out with a “what if” moment. I was walking through Eataly having just bought a pound of beautiful dry scallops, contemplating what to do with them. Searing them off and topping with some type of pan sauce seemed a little boring, and yet when I scanned my scallop cooking vocabulary, “seared” and “raw” were the only two words that came to mind.

Since I couldn’t seem to come up with a more creative way to cook them, I decided to think about the sauce. My first thought was that perhaps if I seasoned the scallops right, I could just omit the sauce. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun to play with color.

Scarlet Seared Scallops

When it comes to food, color is often an afterthought. A garnish thrown on at the end to brighten a dreary braise, or a stripe of sauce painted onto a plate. Rarely is it the centerpiece of a dish; and yet color conveys so much emotion. How far would Picasso and Van Gogh have gotten if they didn’t have color to work with?

I decided that these coral colored beauties needed a color make-over. Something that would dial up the visual appeal to ten, while adding some interesting flavor. Red wine was my first thought, but I was worried that the acidity in the wine may “cook” the scallops. Then, I saw a bunch of baby beets sitting there, just waiting to unleash their potent color onto my scallops.

Remembering I had some baby artichokes sitting in the fridge, I decided to serve the scarlet scallops along with a colorful variety of vegetables. Walking through the produce section, I picked up some Cipollini onions for flavor, but then realized there was a strange irony about putting something that vaguely resembles scallops on a plate along with the scarlet bivalves. I also wanted to have something yellow or orange on the plate to round out the color palette and decided to go with cherry tomatoes. Since it’s not summer, and I really wanted to bring out their sweetness, I roasted them in the oven first.

It may seem like a lot of work, but all the prep can be done up to a day in advance, and it’s not quite as much work as it may seem at first glance.

Scarlet Scallops

serves 4

1 pound “dry” scallops (dry in this context means they haven’t been soaked in plumping agents)
1 medium beet, roasted, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water

12 fresh baby artichokes
12 small cipollini onions
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper

to serve
2 tablespoons cultured butter
chopped chives

Do all the prep up to a day in advance.

Marinate scallops: Put the beet, salt, lemon juice and water into a blender or food processor and puree the beet. You may need to scrape the sides of the container down a few times. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add some more water until it forms a thick puree. Dry the surface of the scallops and trim off any white dangly bits (these are tough muscles). Put the scallops in a bowl and cover with the puree. Toss it a few times to make sure the scallops are totally covered in the puree, then cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. You can marinate them for a shorter period, but they will not be as red.

Prep artichoke: Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes until you reach a part where the bottoms of the leaves are a yellow color. Trim the stem off and any dark green bits clinging to the bottom of the heart (green=bitter). Then trim the top 2/3ds of the artichoke leaves off. If you have trouble cutting through the leaves, you either need to peel off more outer leaves, or you need to trim down lower. Rub the cut edges with a lemon to keep them from turning brown. Add the trimmed artichokes to the boiling water and cook until you can easily pass a toothpick down the middle of the stem (about 10-15 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the hearts into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Give them a gentle squeeze to remove excess water, and place them on a paper towel lined plate while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Prep the cipollini’s: Add the onions to the water you just boiled the artichokes in. Cook until the onions are tender (about 5 minutes). Transfer to a bowl of cold water to cool, then trim the ends and peel the onions. Add to the artichokes and set aside.

Prep the cherry tomatoes: Toss the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and black pepper, then spread them out on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven and turn it on to 400 degrees F. They’re ready when they are collapsing and are lightly browned (about 30 minutes).

When you are ready to cook everything, wipe off all the extra marinade from the scallops, lightly salt and pepper them. Get a large chef’s pan or two smaller cast iron skillets very hot. Meanwhile heat up a saute pan and add the butter.

Add a splash of oil to pan(s) you are searing the scallops in and place the scallops about 2″ apart. If they are too close together, the pan will cool off too much and they’ll end up steaming. If your pan was hot enough they should sizzle right away and you should not see liquid pooling in the pan. Meanwhile, add the prepared artichokes and cipollini onions to the pan with the butter, add salt and pepper and saute while the scallops finish.

When you have a nice seared crust on one side of the scallops, flip them over and sear the other side. The color makes it difficult to tell when they are done based on the opacity of the sides, so I relied on the color of the sear and how firm they were (the more firm they are, the more well done they are).

Arrange the scallops on the plate, top with the artichokes, onions and cherry tomatoes. Garnish with the chives. I also threw on some arugula tossed in olive oil for a little extra color.

  • Peter Minaki

    Scarlet’s a good name, slut-red works too! 😉 The scallops look fab and the plate is very colourful with the other veggies’ rounding out the spectrum.

  • VeggieGirl

    GORGEOUS scallops!

  • Kayla

    I love how you played with colours. This looks beautiful:) There’s beauty in simplicity:)

  • Stephanie Russell

    Marc, this is by far my most favorite thing you’ve made! *Big Grin*

    I was starting to wonder if you were going to post about this. I’m so glad you did. The scallops look absolutely stunning. They look just so darn haute! And with the pop of orange from those tiny cherry tomatoes — it truly just pulls everything together very nicely.

    I agree that people need to think about color, vibrance, and generally bring more “life” to their dishes. In the words of Randy Jackson, “We got a hot one here tonight!” :-p

  • Lori Lynn

    Brilliant Marc!
    Coloring scallops has so many possibilities.
    Your photo is gorgeous, worth all the work just in that one shot. And I bet it tasted pretty good too.

  • the indolent cook

    Such a fresh and vibrant presentation. Beautiful!


    The beet colored scallops look beautiful!

  • Anonymous

    What a great idea! It looks amazing! =)

  • Sabrina Modelle

    Ooh, I love it. So pretty. Beets are the best and most fun thing to play with. I actually have a litttle jar of beet powder and one of hibiscus powder for coloring things too. I never thought of doing scallops though. Totally genius.

  • Melody Fury ♥ Food!

    Great idea, Marc! Brilliant colours and presentation.

  • Freshlevant

    Love the colors! Very enticing.

  • Profrip

    absolutely beautiful. I’m going to try this

  • Jen

    Beautiful! The scallops look like beets (which I love :)

  • Anonymous

    This is such a lovely dish to welcome Spring.

  • Rachel {Mother’s Mementos}

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  • Sharlene

    This is immensely creative and gorgeous. Love.

  • Rhonda

    Bright and lovely. A perfect dish for a Sunday brunch!

  • Charissa

    I love scallops, but have only had them once. Last fall we were by the sea, so of course we had to try something different. I had some scallops and WOW, they were amazing…wish seafood was cheaper!

  • Gourmantine

    Love idea of combining scallops and beet!

  • Anonymous

    I like this cause I”m always looking for something fun to do with scallops.

  • Fresh and Foodie

    This is so unbelievable! Wow, I Just love it. Gorgeous.

  • tasteofbeirut

    Mark you are so clever! We use beets in Lebanon to pickle our turnips a nice pink, never thought of coloring scallops with it: you are brilliant man!

  • Jackie

    Wow, this is beautiful! Nice job, Marc. I love that pop of colour – do the beets lend a sweetness to the scallops as well?

    I went to Eataly when I was in town with a friend for lunch – little bit overhyped, I feel. But I imagine the produce is actually pretty good, just don’t have a meal there. Sorry to have missed you this trip, but there’s always next time 😉

    Jax x

  • Christine (Cook the Story)

    Truly beautiful. The colors: Oh my!. I’m curious about the flavor on the scallops? Did they take on any of the beet’s sweet cabbaginess (or sweet not-quite-cabbaginess, not sure how to describe the flavor) or was it only the color that was transferred?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It takes the color and some of the sweetness, if you didn’t see the
      color you wouldn’t know there were beets in it.

  • Eftychia

    Lovely colors! Very nice presentation.

  • rita

    i wouldn’t have thought to color or marinate scallops like that. that is one fantastic-looking dish! it’s almost spring, and that will be a good one to serve.

  • hungryandfrozen

    I haven’t been to your blog in a while – forgot how fresh and gorgeous it was! Love the look of those scarlet scallops, that’s cool that you made colour so central.

  • Jacky

    These are so beautiful! Beet color is so fun to play with too; we just made beet ice cream with Guinness chocolate cake mixed in and the bright red color mixed with the cake’s dark brown was beautiful. The ice cream was delicious too :)

  • JulieVR

    These are amazing!!

  • Emily Monaco

    Wow… this is absolutely gorgeous. I love scallops but have run out of ways to make them after beurre blanc and beurre rouge. Time to buy some!

  • Lori Fredrich

    Gorgeous, gorgeous. And you’re right — throwing a splash of color in there every now and again makes cooking the “same old thing” way more fun. Love the fact that you used the naturally brilliant color of the beets for this seasonal dish. Making me swoon.

  • Megg (PopArtichoke)

    This is one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve seen! Color is never an afterthought to me (as an artist turned cook) but I doubt I’ve ever been this successful. :) Love the idea…can’t wait to try it!

  • Muneeba

    that’s insanely gorgeous!

  • Mytse77

    a beautiful piece of artwork/food

  • Min {Honest Vanilla}

    Wow this is really beautiful! Mmmm makes me want to go out and buy some scallops and beets right now :)

  • Lynda

    I’m thinking of doing this recipe onSunday evening..what would you suggest for sides and or a salad? I worry about clashing with the sweetness of this dish!


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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