Welcome to February! That wonderful month where we focus on all things red and romantic! Oysters, chocolate, and all things pink and red rule the first half of the month. Since it’s just about time to start focusing on what you might make for your romantic dinner for two, I thought I’d start putting some simple to prepare (but still totally impressive) ideas out there. What could be more romantic than seared scallops with bright red beets and sweet little butter-braised radishes? Nothing! Looking for a first course? Check out this beet soup with sour cream hearts or the fresh and healthy citrus and avocado salad with rainbow carrots and walnut vinaigrette!)
Not just for Valentine’s Day, this dish is perfect for any kind of anniversary, celebration, or romantic dinner for two. Though it looks expensive and complicated, this romantic dinner can be put together fairly easily and quickly, and actually doesn’t cost an exorbitant amount, which makes it a fantastic option for Valentine’s Day! Rather than dropping a fortune at a restaurant, you can light some candles, open a bottle of wine, and serve this dish, which takes only about six to ten scallops, a beet or two, a bunch of radishes, a few leaves of greens or herbs, and some oil, butter, and seasoning. It looks expensive, it appears that you spent hours toiling away in the kitchen, but the reality is, you’ll have time to spare and money that you can spend on a little extra chocolate and champagne, making you look like the most romantic partner on the planet!
This is the sort of deceptively simple and healthy-ish dish that could be perfect for any romantic dinner or celebratory evening, or even a fun treat for just yourself, so even if Valentine’s Day isn’t your thing right now, you could still give this recipe a try! For this dinner, three to five scallops per person will be just perfect. If you are serving more than three people, you’ll want to add another beet and another bunch of radishes to this recipe, just double (or triple) the recipe as you go.
Cleaning the scallops is actually two parts: you want to rinse them and pat them dry to make sure that you get rid of all of the sand, but you also want to remove the little tough piece on the side. It’s really easy: you’ll see that little piece off to one side, and pull it away from the rest of the scallop. If there’s a muscle that goes all the way around, gently remove that as well. (Pictures below.)
The technique for cooking scallops is much like the technique I shared in the recipe for the salmon with sesame-cucumber salad and the petrale sole recipe. You’ll get a pan nice and hot with a little oil, carefully add the scallops, reduce the heat, and cook them until one side becomes golden. Then you’ll flip them over, add a little butter, and cook them for just a minute on the other side. Overcooked scallops have a texture much like rubber bands, unlike scallops that are just cooked a little bit less than all the way through. Scallops that are cooked properly are soft, mild, and gentle, never tough and rubbery.
If you want to roast the beets for this sweet little dinner for two, that’s great! Feel free to follow the recipe and technique I used in the roast beet salad recipe. For this dish, though, I boiled the beets, peeled and cut, in water with a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a lot of salt. That touch of acidity and color make simple boiled (or roast) beets even more wonderfully flavorful than they already are. (That bit of vinegar also cuts back that “dirt” flavor that some people don’t like when it comes to beets!)
Save a little of the water you cook the beets in for the puree! If your blender is like mine, it will need a little assistance when it comes to pureeing, and that beet cooking liquid has a ton of flavor that you can utilize. Just be aware that if your beets weren’t clean going in, that water has dirt in it, so you may want to skip the cooking liquid and use a little water (or better yet, cream! If you use cream, you’ll have a pinker puree, which will make for a lovely color on the plate!)
Romantic Dinner for Two: Seared Scallops with Beets and Butter-Braised Radishes
- 3-5 scallops per person
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 2 tsp butter
- 1 large or 2-3 small beets, washed thoroughly, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
- Cold water, to cover
- 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbs salt
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 bunch radishes, washed, and cut into halves or quarters
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Fennel fronds, small leaves of chard, baby arugula or spinach, Maldon salt, good quality olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper
- Generously salt the scallops on all sides
- Get a pan nice and hot, add the oil, and heat until almost smoking
- Turn down the heat and carefully add the scallops. Don't move them around or touch them, just wait until you can see the bottom begin to color around the sides of the scallops. (2-4 minutes)
- Carefully flip the scallops, add the butter to the pan, and cook for one more minute. Bonus flavor points: spoon the butter over the tops of the scallops as they finish cooking!
- Add the ingredients to a pot, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beets are tender all the way through, approximately 35-45 minutes.
- Remove beets from liquid, reserving liquid if the beets were completely clean.
- Puree in a blender, adding just enough reserved cooking liquid (or water or even cream!) until completely and totally pureed. You can't puree this too much, so just go for it! Taste, and adjust seasoning.
- Add the ingredients to a small pan and bring to a low simmer. Cook until radishes are tender and liquid is evaporated.
- Put a large spoonful of puree on the plate, dragging your spoon through to create a swoosh (or smear). Plate the scallops and radishes on the puree, and garnish with what you choose. Enjoy!
(You can reserve a little cooked beet and dice it, tossing it on the plate if you want to change up the plate a little!)
Looking for more gorgeous and healthy dinner recipes?
You might like the Spicy Citrus Chicken Breast, the Petrale Sole with Celery Root, Black Lentils,and Pomegranate Vinaigrette, and the The Best Homemade Gluten-Free Ravioli Recipe with Fresh Ricotta and Balsamic Roast Cherry Tomatoes.