Sea Scallops with Saffron Spinach Rice

Big, luscious sea scallops are my favorite seafood. Although they may seem a bit pricey they are actually a pretty good value because they are 100% protein with virtually no waste. Where I live we are fortunate to sometimes get fresh scallops from Long Island. When they are available I buy extra and freeze them. Frozen scallops are not a bad alternative if you can not get fresh. Whether you are buying fresh or frozen, just make sure that you are buying so-called “dry” scallops that have not been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, a preservative that adds water to the scallops. Besides the fact that with “wet” scallops you are paying for a lot of water, that water makes it impossible to sauté them properly. Scallops are delicate so be sure to err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking. No one likes little rubber morsels.

A word about saffron: it is indeed the world’s most expensive spice, but a little goes a long way. Buy good quality saffron from a reliable shop or online source and indulge yourself is a dollars worth of luxury once in a while!

For this recipe, prepare the rice and let it cook for about 15 minutes before you start cooking the scallops. The rice can wait a few minutes; the scallops can’t.

Serves 2.

The Rice


  • ½ cup basmati rice
  • ¼ tsp. saffron threads
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ½ small onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • ½ cup frozen chopped spinach
  • ½ cup white poultry or seafood stock, or water
  • ½ tsp. salt


Rinse the rice well in several changes of cold water, drain, and set aside

Sprinkle the saffron threads onto the boiling water in a small bowl. Set aside to bloom for at least 10 minutes

Heat the butter in a medium pot with a tightly fitting lid over medium heat and sauté the onion until softened but not colored, about 3 minutes. Add the rice to the pan and sauté, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes. Put the frozen spinach in the pot and stir until thawed, about 1 minute. Pour over the saffron and its soaking water then the stock, using it to rinse any saffron left in the bowl. Season with salt, bring to a boil, and then simmer over very low heat for 20 minutes. Check that the liquid has been absorbed. If not, return to the very low heat for a few more minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

The Scallops


  • 8 ounces sea scallops, about 10 to 12 depending on the size
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine


Remove the tendons from the scallops if they are still on and pat them dry (save the tendons to make scallop butter). Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Melt half the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. (I prefer an uncoated pan for this recipe because I don’t have to worry about overheating it.) When the bubbling has subsided add the scallops and sauté for about 1 minute on each side. Remove to a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots to the pan. Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, turn the heat to high, and boil it down until it starts to thicken. Off the heat, stir in the remaining butter. When melted return the scallops and any juices that have accumulated in the plate to the pan and toss for a few seconds to rewarm. Serve over the rice napped with the sauce.


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