If you're having trouble getting your bearings with this one, think of the recipe as part Indian and part classic steakhouse. At the base is a fairly traditional Indian spinach recipe, like one for saag paneer—just, you know, without the paneer. It's full of spices like cumin and turmeric, bulked out with tomatoes, and then finished off with a bit of heavy cream. It's that last ingredient that somehow made me think of creamed spinach, which is a dish forever linked in my brain with the steakhouse.
Of course, the most obvious way to tie the spinach to the steakhouse would have been to go with a big hunk of beef. And though that would have undoubtedly worked, I wanted something to lighten up the plate, and not just steamroll over the proceedings. Enter scallops. Sautéed over high heat until golden brown on both sides, the scallops are buttery but still supple, with a very slight sweetness. As odd as it sounds, the pairing works.
- 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, minced (about 2 tablepoons)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 teaspoons garam masala, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to season scallops
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- 12 large scallops
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a medium-saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add cumin seeds and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until they start to change color, about 15 seconds. Add red onion, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion starts to brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in the cayenne, 2 teaspoons garam masala, turmeric, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add a handful of spinach leaves and stir until wilted and bright green. Continue adding a handful at a time until all the spinach has been added. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until spinach releases its liquid to form a sauce, 5 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, dry the scallops on paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add the scallops and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about three minutes. Flip each and cook until brown on the other sides, about 2 minutes. When done, set scallops aside on a plate.
Turn off the heat for the spinach, and stir in the remaining teaspoon of garam masala and then heavy cream. Divide spinach mixture between four plates. Top each with 3 scallops. Serve immediately.