Scallops with Baby Kale, Spinach, and Pistachio Pesto

I really love cooking and eating scallops, and it is always easy to find great local ones in the Long Beach Island area (look no further than Ahearn’s!) when I am down the shore visiting my parents. This weekend, I had lots of ideas in my mind about what to cook with scallops, but most of all I wanted something bright and somewhat healthy, to cap off a long holiday weekend of rich, heavy food. I settled on making a non-traditional pesto with leafy greens and pistachios. To complement the scallops, I made sure to pack it full of lemon juice and zest.

Drying out the scallops

I got two pounds of scallops for four people. This was a little bit overkill, but I figure it’s better to have extra than to leave people wishing there were more. I seared them off in clarified butter. For tips and more details on how I usually prep and cook scallops, see this post.

For the pesto, I used:

  • A 5 oz. tub of baby kale
  • An 8 oz. bag of spinach
  • A 6 oz. bag of shelled pistachios (most are for the pesto, but set aside a handful to chop up for plating)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Some fresh grated parmigiana reggiano

I filled up the blender with a few handfuls of the greens and pistachios and some of the cheese, then added a little lemon juice and started processing. I used the tamper to press the greens down, and continued to add a little bit of everything but the olive oil until I had used all of the kale, most of the spinach, all of the lemon juice, about a full handful or two of cheese, and most of the pistachios. I tasted it to make sure the flavors were all blending well and that it had the balance I wanted. When the puree tasted right to me, I turned the blender on low and slow drizzled in the olive oil, letting it mix with the sauce. I continued adding oil until the mixture was emulsified and had a creamy, but still fairly thick, texture. I put the pesto in the fridge for about two hours to let the flavors soften and meld.

When I was ready to make dinner, I cooked a pound of spaghettini until almost done, then drained it, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. I tossed the pasta in the strainer with a little butter, so it wouldn’t stick together. I added two or three tablespoons of butter and a few scoops of the pesto into the hot pasta pot, and put it back on the stove on low. I added some of the pasta water to thin the sauce out, then put the pasta back in the pot and tossed it all together, cooking for two or three minutes. You can add more of whatever you need – the cooking water, butter, or pesto, to get it to taste right. I used a ton of the pesto, so the finished pasta was aggressively bright (from all the lemon juice), flavorful, and packed with healthy greens. I served the scallops over the pasta, and sprinkled some chopped pistachio nuts on top to finish the dish.

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