Spice Crusted Scallops ♯

Aziza is a Moroccan restaurant in the Little Russia area of San Francisco and reputed to be the best restaurant serving this cuisine in the city. I have never been there (yet), but saw the recipe below attributed to its chef in an old magazine found in my doctor’s office one day while awaiting my annual wellness exam. Its spiciness spoke to me, so I scribbled the directions on a scrap of paper. I just had to try it out!

I later saw, via internet magic, that it was not still offered on their menu at that time. I thus found no reviews of what others thought. But, let me say, if you are one intrigued by Moroccan flavors, I think you will be thoroughly pleased by this dish.

Scallops are a lean protein source and need to be cooked quickly over high heat to prevent drying and to brown the outside for a delicious caramelized flavor. Because they are so lean, they also require some form of fat while cooking. Further, they are mild in taste and need a flavor booster. The recipe below addresses these concerns with outstanding results.

  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp white peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
  • 18 large fresh sea scallops
  • ½ tsp <salt>

Rinse the scallops and pat them dry with paper towels just before cooking. If they have too much moisture on the outside, the spices won’t adhere properly and they won’t brown properly.

Toast the spices in a medium frying pan over medium heat until fragrant and the coriander seeds are light golden, about 4 minutes. Coarsely grind the seeds in a mortar or spice grinder* and pour onto a plate.

Heat the oil in a 12” nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, <salt> the scallops and dredge them, top and bottom, in the ground spice seed mixture.

As a rule, scallops are cooked until just done or until opaque. If overcooked, they will be tough and dry. Cook the scallops in the oil until golden underneath, about 3 minutes. Then flip them over and cook their other sides until just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t crowd the scallops in the pan or they will wind up steamed. Cook them in batches, if necessary.

Serve brown side up with a drizzle of spiced pan juices over the top.