Quick-Fire Dinner for Eight | Seared Scallops with Cilantro Lime Sauce

As a person who lives in the moment, one of my greatest joys is spending time with people I love, in a setting where time stands still. Given no barrier, my ideal dinner party would be held in the garden, include seven courses, and take five hours. And the intermezzo would include a tour of the backyard chickens.

Then there’s this thing called reality, which has its own set of limitations. People have schedules to keep; flights to catch and families to get home to. So more often than not, modern get-togethers have condensed, abbreviated rhythms.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to host such a succinct affair. Dinner for those who were able to stay had to be arranged and prepared, then consumed in exactly one hour and fifteen minutes. (And then I blew the first thirty minutes of that socializing.) Thankfully, planning ahead allowed me to light a fire, scuffle quickly and get it all together.

On the menu: pan-seared scallops, topped with a sauce of cilantro and lime. A staple in my bag of tricks because with a little planning, it takes less than five minutes to cook and serve. There are, however, three rules you’ll need to follow to make your quick-fire a success:

  1. Buy the right scallops. Look for U/10 dry packed diver scallops. U/10 means you get less than ten per pound (meaning, they’re large), and dry packed means nobody doused them in a gooey liquid meant to preserve their color. Diver means somebody (a diver) went down to the bottom of sea to hand-pick the scallops. Naked, un-preserved scallops scallops are the single key to good scallops. If you can’t find “diver” scallops, look for the word “dry.” Don’t waste your time with scallops that are advertised as “wet” or have “water added.” The consequence of not buying the right scallops: biting into a beautiful food that tastes gummy, and/or dense: No flavor, very sad.
  2. Get some tasks done ahead of time. It takes less than five minutes to whiz the sauce in the blender, but then it takes another couple of minutes to wash your appliance. And it takes another couple of minutes to rinse and pat dry your scallops. So do yourself a favor and get these done ahead of time. Then when it’s time to cook, simply pull them out, sprinkle with salt, and drop them into the pan. The consequence of not prepping ahead: 5-10 minutes. Or if you have an hour to cook and feast, this is 10%-20% of your time.
  3. Serve the scallops immediately. This is a food that’s meant to eaten at the counter. It has a shelf life of about 90 seconds, so if you wait too long, well… it’s not as bad as styrofoam, but it’s just not great, either.

One last note: European salted butter.

The end. Enjoy!


Seared Scallops with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Serving Size: Serves 6

Fresh scallops, seared in a hot skillet with butter and grape seed oil, then served warm with a sauce of cilantro, lime and garlic.


  • • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • • 1 bunch cilantro, with stems cut off
  • • ½ cup grape seed oil
  • • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • • ¼ lime, peeled from skin
  • • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • • 12 U/10 fresh, dry-packed diver scallops
  • • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • • 1 tablespoon European-style butter, salted
  • • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil


  1. Minute 1: Pulse first eight ingredients together in Vitamix (at level 4-5) or food processor. Set aside with teaspoon in small bowl.
  2. Minute 5: Rinse scallops and individually pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle tops and bottoms with kosher salt, set aside.
  3. Minute 8: Warm a 10” skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and grapeseed oil. Let the oil get hot, to the point where you start to see smoke.
  4. Minute 10: Using tongs with plastic ends, gently place 6 scallops into the hot pan. Leave space in between each scallop. Let scallops sit still for a few minutes without moving them, then flip upside-down when golden brown on the bottom. Cook scallops for about one more minute, when the second side is browned.
  5. Minute 15: Remove from heat, top each with a drop of cilantro lime dressing, and serve immediately.


Source: Rustic Garden Bistro

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  1. says

    It was such a pleasure to dine at your table last weekend and to tour the chickens (I’m in love with the silky). Everything you made was wonderful and will end up on my list of favorite things to cook. I especially loved your cilantro lime sauce that not only graced your roasted red pepper puree, but dressed your scallops to perfection. Can’t wait to make it!

  2. says

    Kim, these look beautiful Scallops are a special treat at our house and I agree with you what are the right kind to buy and prepare. Thanks again for a special day last Saturday and I’m sorry I missed dinner!

  3. says

    My dear friend, your impromptu dinner was fabulous! Great quality ingredients, simple preparation, and excellent execution – I was in heaven!
    Thank you again for your hospitality; you do it with great skill and a great smile:)