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Seared Scallops with Greens and Orzo

Chard stirred into the rice-shaped pasta provides a vegetable component to this risotto-like dish, transforming it into the perfect base for quickly browned sea scallops. The quick pan sauce gains bright flavors from sherry vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 3 cups plus 3 Tbs. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped greens, such as red chard, Tuscan kale or escarole
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 lb. large sea scallops
  • 3 Tbs. sherry vinegar

Directions:

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the orzo and stir until it begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the 3 cups broth and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the orzo is almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chard and stir until the orzo is tender, the greens have wilted and the mixture is creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley, 1 1/2 tsp. of the thyme and the lemon zest. Season the orzo with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 Tbs. of the butter. Remove from the heat, cover and keep warm.

Season the scallops on both sides with salt, pepper and 1 tsp. of the thyme. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the scallops and sauté until almost springy to the touch, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the scallops to a warmed plate. Pour off the oil from the fry pan. Add the vinegar and the 3 Tbs. broth to the fry pan and boil until syrupy, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat. Add any scallop juices from the plate. Swirl in the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Divide the orzo mixture between 2 warmed plates and top with the scallops. Drizzle the pan sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp. thyme. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Quick tips: Red chard lends a festive color to this dish, but any cooking greens will work well. The sophisticated but simple recipe can be easily doubled to serve company. Cooking the orzo with a technique used to prepare risotto gives it a luxurious, creamy texture. Store orzo and low-sodium chicken broth in your pantry; both are great for quick-cooking meals.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast, by Kristine Kidd (Williams-Sonoma, 2011).