Blowtorch Scallops With Spinach and Heirloom Tomato Water 4.000

Dayna Smith for The Washington Post

Jun 11, 2014

Stunning yet simple, this entree is a foolproof way to give scallops a sear without overcooking them. Superfood components beyond the pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and honey: tomato, olive oil.

Make Ahead: The tomato water needs to ferment/rest for 24 hours. The scallops need to cure for 45 minutes. The pickled leek (a necessary garnish) can be used as soon as it's cooled, but tastes best when you allow 2 days' rest in the refrigerator.

Where to Buy: A small culinary torch is the surprise cooking implement needed here, but a 14-ounce propane torch from the hardware store is less expensive and what lots of professional chefs use. White soy sauce (shiro shoyu) has a less-earthy flavor and is lighter color than regular soy sauce. It can be hard to find locally; light-colored soy sauce may be substituted and is available at Hana Market in the District and at large Asian markets.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • For the tomato water
  • 9 ounces heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons white or light-colored soy sauce, plus more for garnish (see headnote)
  • 1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin seed oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • For the spinach
  • 10 stem-on baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • For the scallops
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 8 dry-pack U-10 scallops, each cut in half horizontally
  • Pickled leek rings, for garnish (see NOTE)
  • Roasted, unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds, for garnish


For the tomato water: Line a fine-mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth; suspend it over a bowl.

Combine the tomatoes, soy sauce, olive oil, the 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin seed oil and the fish sauce in a food processor. Pulse until liquefied; transfer to the strainer to drain (at room temperature) for 24 hours.

For the spinach: Pinch off any tough stem ends on the spinach.

Heat the oil in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant and warm, then add the spinach and sprinkle with the Old Bay. Cook just until the spinach is shiny and starts to become translucent; it should not be totally wilted. Remove from the heat.

For the scallops: Whisk together the honey and Old Bay until well blended; pour into a shallow dish large enough to hold the scallop halves in a single layer. Turn the scallops to coat all over. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Place the marinated scallops in a metal baking pan or on a surface that won’t be harmed by the flame of a torch; discard any remaining marinade. Use the torch to sear each scallop for 6 1/2 to 7 seconds; they will look charred but not cooked through. Turn them over and torch the second side for a second or two; the scallops will contract a bit but still will look mostly uncooked.

Line up individual plates. Arrange 4 scallop halves on each plate, first-torched side up. Spoon equal amounts of the tomato water on and around them. Drizzle a few drops of pumpkin seed oil around each plate. Place a few of the cooked spinach leaves on each plate, then scatter pumpkin seeds and pickled leek rings over each portion.

Serve right away.

NOTE: To pickle the leek (without added salt), combine a scant 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, a scant 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, a scant 1/2 cup water, 5 whole black peppercorns and 2 green cardamom pods in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil over medium heat, then remove from the heat. Cut the white part of a young leek crosswise into very thin slices; add to the pickling liquid and stir to separate the slices into rings. Cool completely. Use right away, or, preferably, transfer with liquid to a container, cover and refrigerate for 2 days.

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Recipe Source

From Bryan Voltaggio, chef-owner at Range and Aggio in Chevy Chase.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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