Fresh scallops are crisped in extra virgin olive oil to create a golden-brown exterior and soft interior. Spicy, nutty, smoky roasted red pepper sauce is absolutely delicious–you may want to consider doubling it to have on hand as a dip for fresh vegetables or spread for toast. Freshly roasting the peppers yourself lends the best flavor, but a jar works well too and will save you some time. From there, just 20 minutes and this restaurant-quality dinner is on your table!
Prep the scallops. Rinse the scallops under cold water. If they have a small abductor muscle attached to the side (also known as the “foot”), pull it off and discard it. Pat them dry with paper towels, then place them between two layers of paper towels and set aside.
Toast the almonds. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer. When your oven is hot, add the almonds and toast, tossing occasionally until they’re golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the sauce. If you roasted the bell peppers yourself, peel away their skins and tear them into strips, discarding the seeds. Add to a food processor, along with ½ cup of the toasted almonds (save the remaining for later) and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic, chili flakes, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Blend until smooth. If the mixture seems too thick, blend in a little more olive oil. Taste to check the seasoning—the dip should taste salty and spicy. Set aside.
Get ready to cook the scallops. Crush the remaining almonds in a mortar and pestle, or use a knife to finely chop. Remove the paper towel from the scallops and pat dry with another clean paper towel. The more moisture you can remove, the better caramelization you will achieve. Lightly season the scallops with salt.
Sear the scallops. In a stainless-steel pan over medium heat, heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the scallops and cook without nudging for 1 ½ minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 1 ½ minutes. Both sides should have a golden caramelization.
Serve. Serve the scallops on top of the red pepper sauce. Finish with a sprinkle of crushed almonds, smoked paprika, chili flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy.
High heat is essential to sear the scallops without overcooking them, and will prevent sticking. Do not add the scallops until the oil is smoking (and turn on your oven vents!).