Giving scallops a dusting of paprika

January 27, 2007|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

When good friends who live in Washington telephoned recently to say that they would be in town for several days, I immediately marked a date on the calendar when we could get together.

Originally, I had thought that we might dine out, but while testing recipes this past week, I realized that a new dish I had been working on would make a perfect entree to serve four. That recipe was for sauteed scallops dusted in smoked paprika, served atop a mound of saffron and orange-scented couscous.

Spanish smoked paprika is different from bland grocery store paprika and even from the more celebrated Hungarian paprika. It is made with pimiento peppers that are slowly smoked over oak wood, then ground to a fine powder.

It imparts a wonderful smoky accent and a hint of sweetness to foods, and is available in gourmet stores and in some groceries. I am crazy about this distinctive spice, and decided to use it along with cumin and some black and cayenne pepper (for a touch of heat) as a rub for large sea scallops.

After a quick pan-frying, the scallops are a rich mahogany brown and look striking served with golden couscous seasoned with saffron and orange zest. For serving, I garnish each plate with an orange wedge to squeeze over the fish. The scallops and couscous take less than 30 minutes to prep and cook - ideal for a weeknight, which is when our dinner will be held.

As sides, I've planned a spinach and walnut salad tossed in a red-wine vinaigrette and a loaf of warm sourdough bread purchased from a local bakery. For dessert, there will be dark chocolate pots de cremes (decadently rich little puddings) topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate and coffee. A simple menu for a foursome on a cold winter night!

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

Scallops With Smoked Paprika and Orange Couscous

Serves 4


2 cups water

4 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1 1/2 cups instant couscous

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 teaspoons grated orange zest


1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika (see note)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

12 extra-large sea scallops (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), side muscles removed

kosher salt

olive oil for sauteeing scallops

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 orange wedges

For the couscous, in a medium saucepan with a lid, add water, olive oil and saffron, and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and stir in couscous, salt, butter and orange zest. Cover and let stand at least 5 minutes or longer while you prepare scallops. Fluff couscous with a fork before serving.

For scallops, mix together the paprika, cumin, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Spread mixture on a dinner plate. Pat dry the scallops and roll each one on all sides in the mixture.

Coat the bottom of a large, heavy skillet with a thin layer of olive oil and place skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough scallops to fit comfortably in a single layer and saute, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and continue, adding more oil if needed, until all scallops are cooked. Season scallops with salt.

To serve, spoon a mound of couscous on each of 4 dinner plates and top each serving with 3 scallops. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of parsley and with an orange wedge. Squeeze the orange wedge over the scallops before eating.

Note: Spanish smoked paprika is available in gourmet food stores and in some groceries. I used a brand called El Rey de la Vera with great results. If you can't find smoked paprika in a local store, you can order it online from Penzey's at

Per serving: 497 calories, 32 grams protein, 15 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 55 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 62 milligrams cholesterol, 478 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.


Spinach and walnut salad with red-wine vinaigrette

Warm sourdough bread

Scallops with smoked paprika and orange couscous

Dark-chocolate pots de cremes

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