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Seared Sea Scallops with a Garlic, Tomato, and Olive Compote Recipe

Course: Main Course
Total Time: Under 2 Hours
Skill Level: Moderate
Cost: Splurge
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 Seared Sea Scallops with a Garlic, Tomato, and Olive Compote

Photo by: Joseph De Leo

This full-flavared compote also works well with salmon, tuna, swordfish, and even grilled chicken. Serve the scallops with some angel hair pasta tossed with a little of the compote. When buying scallops, look for ones that have not been chemically treated. Often called “dry” scallops, they brown better and have more flavor.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and root ends trimmed off, but cloves left whole
  • About ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water until soft, drained, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 large sea scallops (1 to 1¼ pounds), side muscle removed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


To make the compote:

Put the garlic in a small saucepan. Add enough olive oil to cover the cloves completely; the size of your pan will dictate how much oil you need. Bring the olive oil to a simmer, turn the heat down to low, and cook the garlic until it’s very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a bowl. Add 1/3 cup of the olive oil and reserve the rest in case the compote needs more. (The garlic-infused oil is also great on its own.) Let the garlic cool to room temperature. Add the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, shallot, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Mix the ingredients gently with a rubber spatula so as not to break up the tender garlic. Season with salt, if necessary, and pepper. Allow the flavors of the ingredients to blend for at least 15 minutes before serving. (The compote will taste better if it has more time for the flavors to meld; it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days; allow it to come to room temperature before serving.)

To cook the scallops:

Pat the scallops dry and season them well with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the scallops to the pan, leaving space between them. Cook without moving them until well browned on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. With tongs, turn each scallop over and cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the scallops to continue to cook in the pan for another minute.

To serve:

Add additional olive oil to the compote if it seems dry. Spoon some of the compote on each plate. Arrange the seared scallops on top and sprinkle with the parsley.


Wine suggestions: If it’s summer; I’d go for a really good rosé from Provence or a Sancerre or a Chinon rosé from the Loire. Other good options: a Tuscan Saucignon Blanc or one from New Zealand, specifically the Marlborough area.

© 2003 Gordon Hamersley

Editor's Note

Nutritional information is based on using 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.


Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

551kcal (28%)
69mg (7%)
13mg (22%)
37mcg RAE (1%)
30mg (10%)
996mg (42%)
6g (32%)
48g (74%)
2mg (12%)

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