Coriander-crusted sea scallops with fava purée

Fresh fava beans have a noticeable starchiness when they are pureed; the texture is creamy and thick, without being heavy. Their subtle green color suggests--to me, anyway--that delicate fava beans want a light (as in less filling) companion on the plate, other spring vegetables (grilled spring onions, asparagus or wilted chard, spinach or kale) or seafood. Halibut, salmon, cod and sautéed shrimp all pair just as nicely as the scallops pictured below. If using jumbo scallops, three per person is plenty.

I've been making this dish for 25 years, since working in San Francisco. The combination of flavors has a permanent place in my “flavor bank,” meaning it's not only worth repeating every spring, but eagerly anticipated.  Mint and tarragon are both thriving in my spring garden, so I harvested a handful for this batch. However, it's cook's choice for this recipe: parsley, chives, fennel tops, even pea shoots tips, complement fava beans. 

The purée holds well when served warm, but it is also nice cold; use it the same way you would hummus, for spreading, dipping and topping.  

Makes 4 servings


2 pounds fava beans in their pods 

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

Zest and juice of one lemon

6 to 8 mint leaves

6 to 8 tarragon leaves

1-1/2 pounds (12 jumbo, or 16 to 18 smaller) scallops OR  fish (four 4 to 5 ounce filets)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon chili flakes

2 small fennel bulbs, outer layer peeled, bottom trimmed and split in half (or other spring vegetable mentioned in head note)


Remove and discard the outer skin of the fava pods, and set aside the beans for blanching.

Meanwhile, bring 6 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil over high heat. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and several handfuls of ice. Set aside.

When the water is  boiling, add the fava beans and blanch 2 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat, strain the favas and transfer them directly to the ice bath. When they are cool, remove and discard the opaque white "skin" encasing the beans. Drain the peeled beans.

Put the fava beans in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade.  Add the mint, tarragon, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt and a splash of water. Puree the ingredients until smooth, adjusting the flavor with additional seasoning and acid as needed. If you are preparing everything to serve the same day, scrape the puree into a pan for heating.

Preheat the oven or grill to 375 degrees F if you are grilling your fennel or other vegetables. (You could also sauté them.)

Season the scallops or fish with salt.  Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to coarsely grind the seeds or flakes, adding more of one ingredient if  desired. Sprinkle one side of the scallop or fish with the spice mixture.

When the grill is hot drizzle the spring vegetables with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Grill the vegetables and set aside to keep warm.

To prepare the scallops or fish, heat a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat.  When the pan is very hot, add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil and wait until just before it starts to smoke. Add the scallops or fish to the pan, seeded side down, and sear until golden brown; you may have to reduce the heat slightly. When they are golden, with a nice crust, turn the scallops or fish over and remove the pan from the heat, to set the inner flesh. Rest the pan on a cooling rack, if you are holding the fish there, to slow the cooking process. Heat the fava bean puree, if desired.

To serve, spread a large dollop of fava bean puree over the bottom of each plate.  Arrange the scallops or fish on top, along with the grilled spring vegetables.  Squeeze and little lemon over the plate and serve with rice or a salad.