Seared Scallops over Saffron Couscous Salad with Citrus Olive Vinaigrette

This is my ideal healthy meal. It’s got a good balance of satiating fat, carbs, lots of greens, and some lean protein. Succulent scallops, briny and bright olive vinaigrette, toasty saffron couscous, and wilty spinach and herbs — I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it! If you are intimidated by searing scallops, fear not! They are truly one of the easiest “fancy” meals you can make at home. Just make sure to buy “dry” diver scallops and use a quality cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel pan to get that good sear.


  • Cook scallops on the same day you purchase them. You want them at the peak of freshness.
  • Make sure to buy large scallops labeled “dry.” Some scallop producers will soak their scallops in a saline solution to keep them fresh longer. These will release a TON of water when you try to sear them, making browning pretty much impossible. Same goes for small bay scallops.
  • Avoid teflon/non stick pans when searing scallops. You want a cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel pan. These pans will get hot enough to get a good sear.

Serves 2


For the citrus olive dressing

  • 1.5 tbsp finely minced shallot
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped olives, see note about types*
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • ½ tsp diamond kosher salt (or more or less to taste)
  • Pepper, to taste

For the salad 

  • 1 large pinch saffron
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1.5 cups chopped mixed herbs- parsley, cilantro, and dill
  • ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ¾ cup toasted pearl couscous
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Chili flakes to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter (optional for dairy free)
  • Salt to taste

For the scallops

  • 8 large diver scallops, labeled “dry” 
  • Salt
  • Canola or vegetable oil (or any other high heat oil)
  • 1 tbsp butter (optional for dairy free)

*For olives, I like these wrinkly black olives. They are briny, very savory, and not too overpowering. You could also try nicoise or another purple olive. For green olives, I would stick to castelvetrano


First, make the dressing

  1. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Then, prepare the salad components

  1. Bring a pot of very salty (salty like the sea) water to a boil. This will be for your couscous (eventually).
  2. If you have a small mortar and pestle, gently grind the saffron into a paste. Pour over 1 tbsp of warm water and set aside. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can just pour water over your saffron. Set aside.
  3. Place the spinach, chopped herbs, and pine nuts in a large bowl and set aside.

Then, prep your scallops

  1. Line a plate with a paper towel and place scallops on top. Pat scallops dry to the best of your ability.
  2. Salt the scallops on both sides, then top with an additional paper towel and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. This process draws out any additional moisture.

Then, cook your couscous

  1. Add your couscous to the boiling water and boil until tender (like pasta). This should take about 10-15 minutes, but check your package for cooking timing.
  2. Drain the couscous and return to the pot, do not turn the heat on.
  3. Add butter, saffron and water mixture, paprika, and chili flakes. Stir to combine.
  4. Taste and add salt (I needed a decent amount here).
  5. Cover the pot and set aside.

Sear your scallops

  1. Preheat a large cast iron, stainless steel, or carbon steel pan for about 5 minutes over medium – medium high heat. 
  2. Remove the scallops from the fridge. Use a paper towel to dry off any moisture that was released. 
  3. Lightly salt the scallops again. 
  4. Once your pan is VERY hot, add enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan and let come to temp for 10 or so seconds. 
  5. Add the scallops, making sure not to crowd the pan. Let sear on one side for 1-2 minutes, or until very golden brown. Do not move at all during this time. 
  6. Gently flip each of the scallops and cook for another minute or so. 
  7. After the minute is up, turn the heat to low and add the butter. Gently baste for another 20-30 seconds. Remove the scallops from the pan. 

Put it all together

  1. When the scallops are almost done searing, add the warm couscous to the bowl of spinach and herbs. Toss to combine.
  2. Add enough dressing to coat (tasing for your desired amount). You may not need all the dressing here.
  3. Divide the salad into two bowls and top with 4 scallops each. Top the scallops a small amount of olive dressing if desired.